Langley Times

Langley's newspaper since 1931

Wednesday 11 August 2004
Front page

photo by John Gordon

Living History
Cpl. Edward Hebb, Sapper Steve Amery and Cpl. Scott Newing of the 1 Canadian Combat Engineer Regiment in Edmonton learned about their forefathers, the Royal Engineers, during a visit to Fort Langley o Monday.  They dressed in period costume and performed tasks that engineers performed in the 1860s.

Engineers trace their pioneers roots.
Monique Tamminga
Times Reporter

Fifty-five engineers from 1 Combat Engineer Regiment are retracing the steps of their forefathers this week.  They started their journey at the Fort Langley National Historic Site on Monday.

The Edmonton-based group will retrace the steps of engineers who helped develop B.C. in the 1800s.  The four-day professional development opportunity will see the group travel to Hope, Yale, Harrison Lake, and Barkerville from Aug. 9 to 12.

The stop at the Fort had engineers dress in period costume, and spend half the day re-living engineer tasks that took place from the mid- to late 1800s, including barrel making, surveying, blacksmithing, milling, as well as mounting a guard on the Fort.

"It allows us to get in touch with who the Royal Engineers were," said Lieut. Price of the regiment.  "Starting at the Fort puts us in the right mind set."

It was Price's first time at the national park.

"It's amazing, the way of life here, a lot of what happens here ties in to out community (Edmonton) with the military," he said.

The primary goal of the tour is for professional development, Price said.

After a day at the Fort, the group travelled to Hope, where they visited Christ Church, which was planned and designed by the Royal Engineers in 1861.

While in Hope, the engineers also had an opportunity to meet with veterans at the Hope Legion, where they ate a meal and told stories.

Visiting historic Mile 0, of the Cariboo Road in Yale, the engineers saw firsthand the challenge the engineers had building this road to the interior.

From Yale, the engineers will travel to Alexandra Bridge, one of only two crossing over the Fraser River which was constructed by (SEE page 4)

[page 4]

the Royal Engineers and was in use until 1962 when the new highway was built.

The engineers' next stop will be the Turnbull switchbacks, where they will learn about the feat of building those paths by hand from the valley floor to the top of the mountains.

On the third day, the engineers will visit the alternate route through Harrison Lake, which was abandoned after the Cariboo Road was built through the Fraser Canyon.  The engineers will also visit the Bridge River First Nations Band in Lillooet, where they will learn about culture and  take part in a traditional fishing and salmon lunch.

To conclude the visit, the engineers will travel to Barkerville, where they will learn about the Gold Rush and how it necessitated the construction of Cariboo Road, allowing the miners to mine further up the Fraser Canyon.

The Canadian Military Engineers celebrated 100 years last year.

Engineers sent 'to conquer nature'
Thomas Edelson
MertroValley News

Before Canada was granted independence and British Columbia was still known as New Caledonia, a contingent of British Army Engineers came to the Fraser Valley in 1858 to build roads, facilitating the exploding economy of the gold rush.

In the mid-1850s, just as gold fever became epidemic, the first governor of British Columbia, James Douglas requested Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton to send a regiment of infantry to the new province.  Instead, Lytton wisely sent a regiment of Royal Engineers to start building the road that would eventually become part of the Fraser Canyon Highway.

These engineers would eventually become the Royal Canadian Engineers (RCE) in 1904.  This Canadian regiment went on to serve in the agony of Flanders in the First World War, on the fatal beaches of Dieppe and every theatre in the Second World War, in Korea and afterwards serving with NATO in West Germany.  In 1977, the regiment was redesignated 1 Combat Engineer Regiment (1CER) and went on to serve in the First Gulf War and later, the Balkans.

The re-enactment trip this week is important to the regiment, says Major Chris Swallow, who will lead the re-enactment expedition.

"Tradition is very important to the Armed Forces," said Maj. Swallow.  "It's important to honour our history and because this is our 100th anniversary, it's an excellent way of looking back.

"Some of the soldiers will be in period dress to relive the time period," said Maj. Swallow.  "Some will be in the old Red Scarlets, while others will be dressed in their regular combat greens."

During a stopover at the Hope Legion 228 on Monday night, the public were invited to come have a drink and listen to their incredible story, presented by soldiers, again some in period dress.  The talks included the story of McGowan's War and The Pig War, which were two minor skirmishes in Yale between dissident miners and the Royal Engineers.

On September 2, 1858, a ship carrying 146 soldiers and 20 officers, left Gravesend, England for the new world.  Lytton gave a farewell speech to the men:

"Soldiers, you are going to a distant country, not, I trust, to fight against men, but to conquer nature; not to besiege cities, but to create them; not to overthrow kingdoms, but to assist in establishing new communities under the sceptre of your own Queen.  For those noble objects, you, soldiers of the Royal Engineers, have been specially selected."