The British Army’s Military Engineers – Engineering Solutions – Everywhere.
Known as Sappers, these soldiers have the special task of battlefield engineering. They obtained the name Sapper for the technique of sapping, mining tunnels under defensive walls to undermine them or digging trenches advancing towards enemy positions known as Saps. Rapidly developing into the Royal Sappers and Miners, The history of the Royal Engineers goes back over three hundred years during which it has taken responsibility for providing the army with artisan tradesmen – from plant operating, bomb disposal and armoured engineers (who do it with tanks), to painting and decorating and postal and courier services and map making. Several specialist army corps and institutions have been started by the RE such as the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Corps of Signals and sappers helped to found the Ordnance Survey.
The corps history is embedded in Kent and the Medway Towns although the REA now operates 130 Branches throughout the UK and it has international and national branches. In Gravesend sappers, have been garrisoned in the town since Tudor times and before the Napoleonic War, servicing the fortifications around the river Thames in defence of London. A Royal Engineer, Major-General Charles George Gordon, CB commanded the local Garrison from 1865. Famous as Gordon of Khartoum, he left a legacy in Gordon’s School, the national memorial to General Gordon founded in 1885. Not more than 100m from his home on the Gravesend waterfront, in 1914 a pontoon bridge was built to enable ammunition to be transported from Essex to Kent and for troops to be able to move across the river in the defence of the capitol. Many Watermen and Lightermen from the town have seen service in the corps, manning craft during port operations. The Mulbery Harbour was constructed in and around the area and shipped to Normandy on D-Day. RE Bomb Disposal and Searchlight units were operated in the area during the blitz and during and after WW2 the town has hosted its own Territorial Army Units. Many servicemen and women have met their sweethearts while serving in the area and settled in the town.
The Gravesend Branch of the REA meets every month on the first Tuesday at the Gravesham Court Community Centre in Parrock St at 7:30 PM. A full programme of events is operated throughout the year. Royal Engineers who served or are serving or people interested in the corps of Royal Engineers are welcome.