Histories of British Columbia usually treat the deeds of the Royal Engineers with awe.  And the accomplishments of these soldiers, both in engineering and in public service, were indeed remarkable.  Yet often the Engineers themselves are portrayed as Victorian-era supermen, a "Noble band of British Heroes” transforming the wilderness, as shown in the Rex Woods painting below.

The LEGEND

   An examination of the letters and journals of the Engineers puts a human face on these heroes.  Officers squabbled amongst themselves, enlisted men drank and deserted, and the work was plagued by accidents, often fatal.  What follows is a glimpse into the daily lives of the soldiers and their families -- the real people behind the legend.  The photograph below should be self-explanatory.

The REALITY

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