The Corps of Royal Engineers in the First World War

This section of the Long, Long Trail will be helpful for anyone wishing to find out about the history of the units of the Royal Engineers. The war of 1914-1918 relied on engineering. Without engineers there would have been no supply to the armies, because the RE’s maintained the railways, roads, water supply, bridges and […]

Composition of a Royal Engineers’ Field Company

The Royal Engineers carried out a number of different roles for the army both in the battlefield and along the lines of communication. The various specialisms were organised into different types of units. These units were attached to Divisions, or to larger formations at Corps, Army or even GHQ. The main ones, of which there […]

Renumbering of the Territorial Force Royal Engineers in 1917

Men serving in the Territorial Force got new numbers in 1917 and a great deal can be determined about their service from these numbers. This page should help you understand what it all means. Background The renumbering of the Territorial Force in 1917 Changes to the numbering of TF Royal Engineers was promulgated in Army […]

Railway Construction Companies of the Royal Engineers

The extraordinary sophistication of military railways in the Great War. At Richborough in Kent, a whole new port was built to expand Cross-Channel supply shipping capacity. Among its features was what we we today call a “roll-on, roll-off” ferry – for railway trains. Among the many tons moved from Richborough were complete trains carrying tanks, […]

The Gloucestershire Railway Construction Companies of the Royal Engineers

Background See this general history of the RE Railway Construction Companies Imperial War Museum photograph Q10336.¬†Construction work at the Locomotive Depot at Rang-du-Fliers, 25 June 1918. Raising of the companies A meeting took place in Cheltenham on 22 December 1914, at which it was explained that War Office permission had been granted for the raising […]

Light Railway Operating Companies of the Royal Engineers

The mangled ruins of part of the light railway after a direct hit on a trainload of ammunition. Amidst the debris are damaged shell cases. The light railway was used to transport casualties and supplies within the Ypres area. From Birr Cross Roads casualties were transferred to motor ambulances to be transported to the advanced […]

The Fortress Companies of the Royal Engineers

The Fortress Companies at the start of the war On 1 August 1914 there were 11 Fortress Companies at home and 15 overseas, all on coastal defence duties. Some were entirely for Electric Light (that is, searchlight) duty; others also had Works responsibilities. On mobilisation, men of the Territorial RE took over the home stations, […]

The Special Companies of the Royal Engineers (poison gas)

The Special Companies at the start of the war No Special Companies existed in 1914. They were a war time invention. The Great War was the first in which chemical weapons were deployed. There was great moral shock and outrage at the first use of Chlorine, released by the Germans against defenceless French troops in […]

Tunnelling Companies of the Royal Engineers (underground warfare)

The war on the Western Front bogged down into siege conditions by November 1914. Both sides faced the need to break through the enemy’s defensive entrenched positions. It was not long before an ancient art was remembered and used most effectively: mining under the enemy lines, placing explosives and blowing them up. In some areas, […]

Artizan Works Companies of the Royal Engineers

The Royal Engineers’ Artizan Works Companies were made up of skilled men from a variety of trades and were used for a wide range¬†of work, initially hut construction and road making, in the lines of rear communication. The information below comes from the history of the Directorate of Works (National Archives WO161/2) unless stated. Locations […]