The Royal Engineers, Miners & Military Artificers
Up to the early 18th century, engineers had been attached to the Army for specific campaigns but there was no permanent structure.
The Royal Engineers were formed in 1716 as an all-officer corps and remained so until they amalgamated with the Royal Sappers & Miners in 1856. The Royal Engineers were highly trained specialists, but there were very few of them. Until 1811 they wore blue uniforms, very similar to Royal Artillery, but they were often used for front of line reconnaissance and were sometimes mistaken for the French so in 1811 their uniform was changed to scarlet.
The engineer soldiers were in a different regiment, which from 1798 was called the Royal Military Artificers. There were again very few of these, and they were mostly occupied in fortresses construction. Originally only a single company of some 50 personnel served in the Peninsula as scattered detachments, some of whom were used to supervise works on the Lines of Torres Vedras in Portugal. A second company arrived in 1811 and also a small detachment with the pontoon train. Their officers were all ex-NCOs promoted from the ranks.
In April 1812 this shortage of engineer soldiers was tackled by restructuring the Royal Military Artificers as the Sappers and Miners (given Royal status as the Royal Sappers and Miners from 1813), and expanding this into some 2,800 men in proper companies commanded by Royal Engineer officers.
Unlike other regiments in the British army, the officers of the engineers and the artillery regiments were promoted by seniority and upon merit and not by purchase.
310gm Limited edition of 50 c/w authentication certificate
Illustration by David Higham