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Royal Australian Engineers

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Royal Australian Engineers

Royal Australian Engineers
Active 1 July 1902 – present
Country  Australia
Branch Australian Army
Type Corps
Role Military Engineering
Nickname Ginger Beers
Motto Ubique (Everywhere)
Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense (Evil be to him who evil thinks)
Anniversaries 18 June (Waterloo Dinner)[1]
Engagements RAE is not awarded Battle honours.
Colonel-in-Chief Queen Elizabeth II
RAE Banner

The Royal Australian Engineers (RAE) is a corps of the Australian Army (although the word corps does not appear in their name or on their badge). The RAE is ranked fourth in seniority of the corps of the Australian Army, behind the Staff Cadets, Armoured and Artillery Corps. The corps was formed by the amalgamation of the various colonial engineer corps of the States and territories of Australia in 1902[2] and since then has served in various conflicts including World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War. The corps has also served on numerous peacekeeping operations and was heavily involved in the Australian contribution to the war in Afghanistan.


The origins of the Royal Australian Engineers date back to 15 November 1860, when the Corps of Engineers was founded in the colony of Victoria by Peter Scratchley. By 1876, five of the six colonies—New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia—had raised their own engineer units. These were amalgamated on 1 July 1902 as the Corps of Engineers. At this time, the corps consisted of field, fortress, telegraph, electric and submarine mining companies.[1][3] After Federation the small regular engineer component was granted the prefix "Royal"; however, the Militia remained part of the "Australian Engineers".[4]

In 1911, the Australian Corps of Signallers was absorbed into the Engineers as the RAE Signal Service. Four years later, in July 1915, all members of the Survey Section RAE, separated to form the Australian Survey Corps. During this period the School of Military Engineering was established at Moore Park in Sydney. During World War I there were approximately 40 engineering units raised as part of the First Australian Imperial Force.[5] These units included field engineering units, tunneling companies, railway units and signalling squadrons which served at Gallipoli, the Sinai, Palestine, France and Belgium.[5] Following the end of the war the School of Military Engineering was disbanded.[5]

On 1 January 1925 the RAE Signal Service was separated to form the Australian Corps of Signals. This was followed in 1932 by the Survey Section separating to form the Australian Survey Corps.[2] The regular Permanent Force and reserve Citizen Military Forces (CMF) engineer units were brought together in January 1936 as the "Corps of Royal Australian Engineers".[4] In 1939 the School of Military Engineering was re-established at Steele Barracks in Liverpool, New South Wales, where it remains today.[2]

Engineers at Tarakan, 1945

During the inter-war years the RAE maintained a force of 233 regular troops and a militia force of 1,750.[5] With the outbreak of World War II, however, the corps was expanded greatly, eventually reaching a peak of 32,984 men in 1945.[5] RAE units of the Second Australian Imperial Force and militia served in North Africa, Malaya, New Guinea and Borneo campaigns.[5]

Following the end of the war the size of the corps was once again reduced. Nevertheless, the various units and sub-units of the RAE have been deployed on many overseas operations since 1945. During the Korean War there were no formed engineer units deployed by the Australian Army, although individual members of the RAE were deployed with the 1st Commonwealth Division.[5] Later, RAE units deployed as part of the Australian commitment to the Malayan Emergency, Confrontation and the Vietnam War. They have also been deployed overseas to carry out construction work in New Guinea.[5]

During the Vietnam War the RAE maintained a force of about 1,000 personnel in South Vietnam where they served as part of the [5]

Since the late 1980s members of the Corps have been involved in combat and peacekeeping operations in Namibia, Rhodesia, Pakistan, Kurdistan, Cambodia, Somalia, Rwanda, Bougainville and Mozambique as Timor Leste, the Solomon Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan.[5] On 1 July 1996 the RAE reabsorbed the Royal Australian Survey Corps.[5]

Corps titles

Over the course of its existence, the corps has held the following titles:[5]

  • July 1902 to September 1907 – "Corps of Engineers"
  • September 1907 to January 1936 – "Australian Engineers"
  • On 31 January 1936, the corps was given Royal Assent, and was subsequently renamed the "Royal Australian Engineers".



The motto of the Royal Australian Engineers is Ubique (Everywhere),[6] a motto shared with RAE's parent corps, the Royal Engineers. This motto was bestowed by King William IV in 1832 in recognition that both Sappers and Gunners were not entitled to carry Regimental Colours and typically served as small detachments instead of a whole unit.[7]

The original motto of the RAE, adopted at Federation was Facimus et Frangimus (We make and we break) and appeared on the engineer hat badge up until 1947 when it was replaced by Honi soit qui mal y pense. It now only appears on the Corps Cipher.[7]

The current Engineer hat badge features a leather garter adorned with a crown and the motto Honi soit qui mal y pense (Evil be to him who evil thinks), mirroring the motto of the Order of the Garter.[8] This honour was awarded to the RAE in 1947 for their efforts during World War II.[7]


The Royal Australian Engineers also adopted the Royal Engineers practice of calling their private soldiers "Sappers", in recognition of the fact that the very earliest engineers had been primarily concerned with driving saps (tunnels) both towards the enemy lines, and underneath fortifications.[1][9]


Although the corps does not carry official regimental colours such as those carried by infantry units,[2] the basic Royal Australian Engineers colours are blue and red. Typically, however, Unit Colour Patches, consist of a red feature on a purple field.[10] The banner depiction of the colours consists of a red field with two horizontal blue bands near the top and bottom of the field.[11]

Waterloo Dinner

The Waterloo Dinner is an annual dinner for commissioned officers held by units of the Royal Australian Engineers, although some smaller units may permit other ranks to attend. It is traditionally held on or about 18 June in commemoration of the first dinner, held by members of the corps at Gallipoli in 1915 to celebrate the completion of Watson's Pier at Anzac Cove.[1] In recognition of the officer who led the construction of the pier, Lieutenant Stanley Watson,[12] a signals officer within the Royal Australian Engineers an officer of the Royal Australian Signals Corps attends each dinner as a guest. The name Waterloo was used because the first dinner was observed on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.[1][13]

Current roles

The RAE provides combat engineering, construction and other technical support to the Australian Defence Force. Its main roles are to provide mobility and counter mobility capabilities to the Australian Army and its allies. This means enhancing the ability of friendly forces to move while denying movement to enemy forces. In order to provide these capabilities, engineers are required to conduct many tasks including penetrating minefields, locating and disarming booby traps, clearing unexploded ordnance, conducting explosive demolitions, purifying water, surveying, and building and maintaining roads, airfields and bridges. The Corps also performs the majority of the Australian Army's demolition tasks and is trained to fight as infantry if needed.[14]

Current structure

An RAE sapper assigned to the International Stabilisation Force, Dili, Timor Leste, 2010

The corps has both Regular and Reserve units, which are situated across the country within the Army's three regular manoeuvre brigades – the 1st, 3rd and 7th Brigades – and within the Reserve 2nd Division.[15]

The current Regular units are:[15]

Sappers from 1 CER, 2009

The current Reserve (part-time) units are:[15]

Order of precedence

Preceded by
Royal Australian Artillery
Australian Army Order of Precedence Succeeded by
Royal Australian Corps of Signals


  1. ^ a b c d e "The History of the Corps of Royal Australian Engineers". The Australian Army Museum of Military Engineering. Retrieved 4 April 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Corps of Royal Australian Engineers". Land Forces of Britain, the Empire and Commonwealth. Archived from the original on 27 December 2005. Retrieved 19 November 2010. 
  3. ^ McNicol 1977, pp. 166–167.
  4. ^ a b Dennis et al. 2008, p. 464.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "RAE History". Department of Defence. Retrieved 11 July 2009. 
  6. ^ Jobson 2009, p. 152.
  7. ^ a b c "Corps Mottos". Royal Australian Engineers Association of Western Australia Inc. Retrieved 28 August 2007. 
  8. ^ Jobson 2009, p. 126.
  9. ^ Jobson 2009, p. 96.
  10. ^ Blackwell 2008, p. 64.
  11. ^ Coate, Ian; Coate, Sue. "RAE Art – 100 Years of Engineering". Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  12. ^ Fielding, Jean P. (1990). "Watson, Stanley Holm (1887–1985)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Volume 12. Melbourne University Press. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  13. ^ Jobson 2009, p. 98.
  14. ^ "The Royal Australian Engineers". Who We Are. Australian Army. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  15. ^ a b c "Engineer Corps Officer". Defence Jobs. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 

Further reading

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