Royal Engineers bridging a stream sometime in 1917. Around 25,000 strong at the start of the war, the R.E. had expanded to well over 300,000 men by 1918.
And these are just a few of them.
The army could not have functioned without the engineers, who were responsible not only for the construction and maintenance of roads,…
…but also operated both railways (above) and inland waterways, as seen in the first photograph, without which supplies could not be brought up to the fighting men in the front line.
And of course they were responsible for maintaining the army’s weapons of war and the crucial telephone & wireless systems that allowed communication between the front lines and command. 1915 saw the formation of the R.E. Tunnelling Companies (and the recruitment of experienced miners from back in Blighty) in response to German mining operations beneath the British lines, and as the war progressed, the engineers’ duties would increase to include quarrying (remember our visit to the boves at Arras), forestry work, dugout construction, underground gas warfare, aerial surveying and the implementation of new camouflage techniques.
The CWGC database gives a figure of 23,736 Royal Engineers who died during the Great War. These are the men who came home.