Someone once said that there is nothing new under the
sun, and this includes historic reenactment.
There were two magazines published in 1958. THE SAPPER from June
1958 and THE SOLDIER from July 1958.
The Sapper said, in part:
|"Shades of 1858", says the article from THE SAPPER
magazine, Vol. 5 No. 1 from June 1958, "complete with side
whiskers! Six lucky Sappers who are attending the British Columbia
From left to right we have:
Capt. G. R. Gathercole (25th Fd. Engr. Regt.), S.S.M. W. A. Foster
(25th Fd. Engr. Regt.), Sgt. D. G. Tucker (12 S.M.E. Regt.), Cpl. N.
E. Miller (17 Port Trg. Regt.), L/Cpl. M. G. King (Sch. Mil. Svy.),
Spr. K. G. Thomas (Works Service)
Photo: 'The Soldier'
Across the top of the arch behind them it says: "THE CORPS OF ROYAL
ENGINEERS TO THEIR COMRADES WHO FELL IN THE WAR WITH RUSSIA
And underneath "UBIQUE QUO FAS ET GLORIA DUCUNT UBIQUE"
THE ROYAL ENGINEERS PARTICIPATE IN THE CENTENNIAL CELEBRATIONS
To mark the pioneers work done by the Royal Engineers during these days
which the province is now commemorating the Corps Committee has arranged ,
at the request of the British Columbia authorities, that one officer and
five O.R.s, uniformed and armed as for 1858, will participate in the
various centennial celebrations in conjunction with a similar party in
modern dress from the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers.
In addition the Corps is to present to the City of New Westminster an
enlarged replica of the Corps badge. This plaque will be hung at the
entrance to the City hall and will serve to remind all who pass of the
longstanding association between the 'Royal City' and the Royal Engineers.
Since the main events take place during the summer months, the party
arrived in B.C. early in May. They are stationed at the Royal
Canadian School of Military Engineering, located in the same Chilliwack
country surveyed almost 100 hundred years ago by Captain Parsons and his
small party. From there, joined by a similar detachment from
the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers, but uniformed and armed for 1958,
to emphasize the continuing Sapper tradition, and accompanied by the band
of the Royal Canadian Engineers in pre-war scarlet, they sally forth to
take part in the province of British Columbia's Centennial.
By this joint effort it is intended not only to reflect the work of the
Royal Engineers in the early days, but to illustrate the fact that
although the Corps left the province some 50 years ago, its work has, and
is being perpetuated and carried forward by its offspring, the Corps of
Royal Canadian Engineers.
And from the July 1958 Soldier:
crossing the square of the 150-year-old Brompton Barracks rubbed their
eyes in disbelief. There, drilling in a style Brompton has not seen
for nearly a century, was a party of Sappers resplendent in scarlet tunics
and black busbies with their plumes, and armed with Lancaster percussion
rifles. As the men passed their officer, who was wearing a cocked
hat, the sergeant saluted with his left hand!
But this was no dream and the figures were
not ghosts. They were Sappers completing a three-week course with 10
trades Training Regiment at Chatham, learning how to drill in the style of
the 1850s, how to clean percussion rifles and to make their own
Gathercole inspects his men at Brompton barracks before the detachment
flew to Canada.
Below: Drill, 1858 style.
Left to right: Captain Gathercole, Warrant Officer W. Foster, Sergeant
D. Tucker, Lance-Cororal N. Miller, Lance-Corporal M. King, and Sapper
This apparently retrogressive
step by the Royal Engineers was the result of an invitation from British
Columbia to send a detachment of Sappers to celebrate the centenary of
Canada's most western province which stretches north along the Pacific
coast and astride the Rockies to the snowbound vastness of Alaska and the
are taking place throughout the year in British Columbia and the
Royal Engineers' detachment, which flew to Montreal and from there to
Vancouver in a Royal Canadian Air Force place are staying there until
August. Arrangements were made with the Centennial Committee by
General Sir Ouvry L. Roberts, Colonel Commandant of the Royal Engineers,
who is at present living in Canada.
The Royal Engineers were asked to take part in
the celebrations because the Sappers were there at the beginning of
British Columbia's history.
A four-foot square carved and painted wooden
plaque--an enlarged replica of the Royal Engineers' badge of 1858--is to
be presented by the Corps to the City hall and will serve as a reminder of
the long-standing association between the "Royal City" and the Royal
Captain G. R. Gathercole, the Royal Engineers' party consists of Warrant
Officer W. A. Foster of 25 Corps Engineers Regiments, Sergeant D. G.
Tucker and Sapper K. G. Thomas of 12 School of Military Engineering
Regiment, Lance-Corporal N. E. Miller of 17 Port Training Regiment, and
Lance-Corporal M. G. King, School of Military Survey. They were
selected by Captain Gathercole on the recommendation of the commanding
officers of the various units, the aim being to have as wide a
representation of the Corps as possible ( the detachment in 1858 was also
a carefully chosen body of men representing every trade and calling that
might be useful in setting up the framework of the Colony).
For the centenary visit, some uniforms of the
period were modified from other old uniforms in the Royal Engineer's
Museum and two completely new sets were made to the 1858 pattern.
Some clothing, including the busbies and belts, was borrowed from the
Royal Army Ordnance Corps. The regimental tailor at Brompton has a
busy time producing these uniforms for which the belt badges were cast in
the Sapper's workshops at Chatham.
Six Lancaster percussion rifles, bayonets and a
scabbard of the exact pattern used by Sappers 100 years ago, were loaned
by the Royal Artillery Institution from their Rotunda collection at
Woolwich. Other bayonet scabbards were made in 25 Field Engineer
During their visit to Canada the Sappers are
stationed at the Royal Canadian School of Military Engineering, in the
same Chilliwack country surveyed by Captain R. M. Parsons, one of Colonel
Moody's officers, and his small party of 100 years ago.
To read the original articles, please click the appropriate button ,at
the very bottom of this page.
And then there was this entry in our guest registry
|Your site brought back fond memories
for me because during my time in the Royal Canadian Engineers [RCE],
while at the Royal Canadian School of Military Engineering [RCSME]
at Vedder Crossing [Chilliwack] in 1958, I was fortunate enough to
be selected to be a member of the so-called "Old Guard", consisting
of soldiers from the Royal Engineers [RE] who had travelled to BC
from England, especially to celebrate the founding of the province.
A "New Guard" was formed from [other] serving soldiers from RCSME
[also named Camp Chilliwack].
Because the RE contingent was short two men, they asked for two RCE
sapper volunteers, of English background, which Ken H and myself
were from [Leeds and London respectively], and which is how we came
to be with the Old Guard rather than the New.
We trained in 1858 marching and rifle drill for three weeks [done at
a slower pace than today], then spent the rest of that scorching
summer travelling throughout the province performing the "Changing
of the Guard" ceremony at dozens of settlements from Victoria to
Prince George, resplendent in authentic, but stiflingly hot red
uniforms of the era and ending with a noisy but crowd pleasing 'feu
de joie' fired from genuine 1858 rifles. The drill was usually
performed in association with other celebratory events, and so there
were usually large crowds each time. One memorable performance was
when Princess Margaret inspected the Guard at Fort Langley.
Your article was of even more personal interest to me, because I
made my career in the same kind of survey work described in your
work. As a matter of fact a number of us 'old military surveyors'
are now in the beginning stages of a book that we hope to publish
covering the first hundred years of surveying undertaken by Canadian
military surveyors, following the transfer of that responsibility
from the RE to the Canadian Army in 1903. Despite a gap in time, it
should complement nicely, an article such as yours.
Thus, with our curiosity piqued, we contacted the fellow who signed our
guest registry, Mr. John Cobbing, to ask if he had anything he would share with
us about the Centenary Celebration in 1958 ...
For those of you on dial-up, the next page has many graphics and will
take a bit of time to load but is well worth the wait. Thank you.