Last Updated: 14 October, 2014

1.0     Introduction

The Corps of Royal Engineers along with the Royal Regiment of Artillery, the Royal Corps of Signals and the Army Air Corps form the British Army’s Combat Support Forces. The Corps of Engineers is typically known as the Royal Engineers or RE.

In 2012, the Combat Support Capability Directorate (CSCD) brought together the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers in one central authority.

The Royal Engineers offers a number of trades for its personnel:

  • Geographic Technician: is responsible for compiling, preparing and managing geographic data from a variety of sources, as well as conducting terrain analysis.
  • Electrician: mainly concerned with electrical installation work, power generation and distribution.
  • Fitter General (Equipment Mechanic): involves servicing, maintaining and repairing some of the Army’s huge range of mechanical equipment.
  • Fitter (Air Conditioning & Refrigeration): the installation, operation and maintenance of in-service and civilian static refrigeration, ventilation and air conditioning equipment.
  • Heating & Plumbing Engineer: assembly, installation, maintenance and repair of heating and plumbing systems.
  • Design Draughtsman: take design information and use it to produce engineering drawings to facilitate all kinds of Army construction projects.
  • Draughtsman (Electrical & Mechanical): produce and maintain electrical and mechanical engineering drawings for building projects.
  • Construction Materials Technician: investigation and testing of materials used in construction tasks to provide critical design information.
  • Surveyor: collection of survey data, advising on it, assisting in design work, and controlling line and level on building projects.
  • Bricklayer & Concreter: uses traditional and modern bricklaying plus concreting skills to construct foundations, floor slabs, solid and cavity walls for general building work and high-density blockwork for reinforced structures.
  • Fabricator (Metalworker): involved in the construction and repair of metal-based objects for both military equipment and civil construction.
  • Carpenter & Joiner: construction, including the planning, setting out and building of timber structures using timber and fittings.
  • Building & Structural Finisher: preparing and finishing surfaces both in existing facilities and as part of new construction projects.
  • Plant Operator Mechanic: operation of earthmoving and construction vehicles (plant).
  • Engineer Logistics Specialist: administrative side of obtaining, maintaining and issuing the vast range of equipment the RE requires.
  • Communications Information Systems Specialist (CIS): design and construct communication networks, allowing all aspects of the Engineers to communicate with both voice and data.
  • Armoured Engineer: operate and maintain the Challenger 2-based Trojan and Titan vehicles.
  • Driver: drive and operate a whole range of vehicles, from Land Rovers to specialist bridge-layers and cranes.

2.0     Training Hierarchy

The Royal School of Military Engineering forms part of the Army Recruiting and Training Division (ARTD), commanded by the Director General Army Recruiting and Training (DG ART), a Major General, who in turn reports to the Commander Force Development and Training (FDT), a Lieutenant General.

During the 2013/2014 training year the ARTD was re-subordinated back to the Adjutant General’s Corps (AGC), also under the command of a Lieutenant General (OF-8), and at the same time absorbed the Collective Training Group (CTG).

The Defence Diving School is a part of HMS Excellent which forms part of the Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) organisation, commanded by a Rear Admiral, who in turn reports to the Chief of Naval Personnel and Training, a Vice Admiral.

Figure 1 highlights the current Royal Engineers training landscape.

Figure 1: Royal Engineers Training Landscape

Figure 1: Royal Engineers training landscape

3.0     Royal School of Military Engineering

The Royal Engineer Establishment was founded in 1812 by Major (later General Sir) Charles Pasley. It was renamed the School of Military Engineering in 1868 and was granted the ‘Royal’ prefix in 1962.

Historically, Royal Engineers can rightfully lay claim to the military inceptions of photography, ballooning and flying, searchlights, diving and torpedoes, telegraph and signalling, steam-driven motor transport, postal and courier communications, railway and port operations.

Today, the Royal School of Military Engineering (RSME), commanded by a Brigadier, provides training in all engineering disciplines, providing the unique range of skills that are fundamental to the Royal Engineers as well as delivering military working animals, handlers and maintainers. Royal Engineer skills include the command and management of engineer tasks, combat engineering, technical and professional engineering, communication, watermanship, driving specialist engineer vehicles and artisan skills such as electrical and bricklaying.

The RSME is based at Chatham in Kent, Minley in Surrey and Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire. It is the largest residential construction college in Europe and currently runs 675 courses a year, of 95 varying types, over 315,500 man-training days, with 4,000 trainees, of which over 400 gain civilian qualifications.

Royal Engineers – or Sappers as they are more commonly known – have been present in every conflict involving British Forces throughout the world since the late 18th Century, hence their motto ‘Ubique’ (meaning ‘everywhere’).

Today, in partnership with Holdfast Training Services, the RSME looks to:

  • Lead military engineering science and its real-world application with an undisputed worldwide reputation;
  • Deliver internationally acclaimed lifelong learning; and
  • Deliver innovative, relevant vocational, graduate and postgraduate training, education and applied research across a range of faculties supported by world-class systems, processes and infrastructure

3.1     Soldier Training

3.1.1  Phase 2a: Generic Specialist Training

On completion of Phase 1 initial training, all Royal Engineers proceed to the RMSE site at Minley to complete their Phase 2a training in which they will qualify as a combat engineer.

The 9-week course teaches soldiers combat engineering skills such as how to clear mines, construct bridges and cross water obstacles. On successful completion, soldiers are awarded their Royal Engineer Stable Belt and officially become a Sapper.

3.1.2  Phase 2b: Artisan Training

On completion of Phase 2a, Sappers start their Phase 2b training. For most trades, this means artisan trade training at the RSME site at Chatham in Kent. Course lengths vary and can last up 53 weeks, at the end of which Sappers will be posted to their first Regiment. For some this will include further training as a paratrooper, commando or an explosive ordnance disposal specialist.

All successful graduates of their Phase 2b courses are awarded a Military Engineer Class 2 qualification for their particular trade.

The RSME promotes and supports through-life learning and at some time in the future, most Sappers will have the opportunity to return to the RSME to further their trade training and, in some cases, gain additional military and civilian qualifications.

3.1.3  Phase 3: Career Training

At some stage during their careers, most Sappers return to Chatham to continue their professional development. This phase of their training is known as Phase 3. Phase 3 training can be split into 3 main categories:

  • Trade training: Sappers have the opportunity to further their trade skills and gain additional military and, where appropriate, civilian qualifications. For many this will be achieved in artisan training at Chatham.
  • Command and Leadership training: on promotion, Sappers take their respective Junior Command, Section Commander and RE Senior Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) courses. These courses provide them with the necessary command and supervisory training they will need to operate effectively in their unit.
  • Professional engineering training: the Professional Engineering Wing delivers advanced technical training to foundation degree standard for selected junior NCOs in order to deliver force infrastructure, reconstruction and development projects on operations. High-quality tradesmen may apply to attend Clerk of Works/Military Plant Foreman courses.

3.2     Officer Training

3.2.1  Royal Engineers Troop Commander Course

Following Phase 1 initial officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS), Royal Engineer officers proceed to Command Wing at the RSME where they complete the six-month Troop Commanders’ Course.

The course, which is split between the Minley and Chatham sites, aims to provide the Corps of Royal Engineers with trained and motivated commanders and leaders through operationally-focused command and leadership training.

With particular emphasis on engineering principles, doctrine and tactics, the training provides the necessary technical, supervisory and administrative knowledge to command engineer soldiers in peacetime and on operations.

On passing the Troop Commanders’ Course, officers are posted to their unit where they become a Troop Commander. This may entail further training as a paratrooper, commando or explosive ordnance disposal specialist.

3.2.2  Further Command Training

During their commission, high-quality officers may be selected to attend the Battle Captains’ Course and/or Squadron Commanders’ Course where they will get the necessary command and supervisory training required to operate effectively in their unit.

3.2.3  Further Technical Training

Individuals may apply to attend the Geographic course at the Royal School of Military Survey where, on successful completion, they will be awarded a Master of Science (MSc) degree or Professional Engineer Training at the RSME where they will also be awarded an MSc degree and be well placed to apply for Chartered Engineer status.

4.0     Royal School of Military Survey

The Royal School of Military Survey (RSMS) is a joint services survey training facility associated with the Royal Engineers. The RSMS operates under the command of the Defence Intelligence and Security Centre (DISC), a division of the Defence College of Intelligence and is located in Hermitage, Berkshire.

RSMS consists of three training wings: Geospatial Information Management and Geospatial Exploitation, based at Hermitage, and Imagery Intelligence, based at Chicksands in Bedfordshire. To exploit the growing synergies between Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) and Imagery Intelligence (IMINT) all geospatial and imagery analysis training and education is now the responsibility of RSMS.

  • Geospatial Exploitation (GE) Wing: soldiers are taught the how to collect geospatial data using the latest digital capture methods including handheld Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), Imagery Exploitation and 3D feature extraction, in-depth analytical techniques using powerful GIS software, 3D Visualisation, and terrain analysis. Together, these subjects are key elements in increasing the knowledge and understanding of military Commanders during their planning process.
  • Geospatial Information Management (GIM) Wing: is responsible for the provision of the fundamental principles of map science and cartography, key elements in ensuring the quality of products is of the highest standard. Information management in the modern day is fast becoming a growth area. Of course, the work of ME (Geo) soldiers is highly regarded and to ensure that the ‘customer’ has the most up-to-date information, efficient and timely dissemination is vital.
  • Imagery Intelligence (IMINT) Wing: is responsible for the training of UK Armed Forces in the principles and practices of imagery analysis and full motion video interpretation up to a training performance standard. The operational workplace then takes the raw recruit up to the operational performance standard through on the job training.

4.1     Training

RSMS provides all of the training to Royal Engineers geographic officers and soldiers, as well as navigation courses to the rest of the Defence community.

Courses taught at RSMS range in duration from three days to 14 months. Geospatial education and training for Royal Engineer (RE) Geographic Officers, Defence personnel, and international students is provided through the MSc in Defence Geographic Information awarded by Cranfield University since 1993.

From August 2009, this course has been developed into an MSc in Geospatial Intelligence to provide opportunities for Defence personnel to achieve an MSc through a variety of delivery modes including full time at Hermitage, part time, and distance learning. The change was in keeping with the evolution of defence survey and was very little more than a name change.

The premier course offered by RSMS is the 14 month resident Army Survey Course (ASC). The ASC is designed to be a demanding programme focusing on the various fields pertaining to geospatial information and its application within the defence community. Successful completion of the ASC results in the conferment of an MSc in Geospatial Intelligence from Cranfield University. In this relationship RSMS is responsible for course content, while Cranfield University is involved with oversight and program accreditation. Cranfield University and RSMS faculty meet regularly to ensure that each student is attaining the high standards required for graduation. Fully successful students graduate from Cranfield University, Cranfield Defence and Security (CDS) during the July following the course (Cranfield University, 2014). Previously students graduated from the Defence College of Management and Technology, based at Shrivenham, Oxfordshire.

Trade training for RE Geographic Technicians is recognised through a Foundation Degree in Applied Computing (Defence Geographic Information) accredited by Sheffield Hallam University (SHU). A recent development has been the addition of a Bachelor’s Degree in partnership with SHU to provide RE Geographic Technicians with the opportunity to further develop their technical and academic competencies. In addition to the accredited courses, RSMS also delivers a range of specialist courses to Defence personnel, including Imagery Analysis, Full Motion Video Interpretation, GPS, Map Reading, Land Navigation, Geographic Information Systems and Terrain Analysis. The school is based at Denison Barracks in Hermitage, Royal County of Berkshire.

5.0     Defence Diving School

The Royal Navy and the Royal Engineer Diving Establishment (REDE) combined their diver training assets to form the Defence Diving School (DDS) at Horsea Island in September 1995. The Army wing of the DDS is known as the Diving Training Unit (Army) (DTU(A)).

5.1     Training Courses

The DTU(A) offers the following courses for Officers and Soldiers of the Royal Engineers and 17 Port & Maritime Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps:

  • Army Diver Selection Course (SEL): the aim is to select those Officers and Soldiers suitable for training as Army Divers. DTU(A) assess physical fitness, diving aptitude, ability to learn new information and attitude towards military Diving. Only those who are selected can apply for the next course.
  • Army Diver Class 2 Course (AD2): the aim is to train Officers and Soldiers, who have successfully passed an Army Diver Selection Course, in the use of SABA MOD 1, in-service self contained equipment in techniques that will allow them to operate at depths of up to 30m, as a member of a Unit Diving Team. The 5-week course includes first aid, underwater search techniques, demolitions, minor repair, object recovery and removal and fast water search.
  • Army Diver Class 1 Course (AD1): the aim is to train Class 2 Army Divers in the use of the Open Space Diving System (OSDS), in-service surface demand equipment, in techniques that will allow them to operate at depths of up to 50m, as a member of a Unit Diving Team. The 6-week course includes underwater engineering, concreting, hydraulic tools and decompression diving.
  • Army Diving Supervisor Course (ADS): the aim is to qualify Class 1 Army Divers as Army Diving Supervisors or a percentage of personnel for training as SABA supervisors by means of assessing them in the following supervisory roles over 5 weeks; local agency tasking in both OSDS and SABA, fast water tasks and deep diving tasks.

5.2     Fitness Standards

Within one year of attending a selection course, potential divers must pass a stringent medical examination at their Unit and must also ensure that they are physically fit and mentally robust. The Divers Personal Fitness Test (DPFT) must be passed on day one of the course:

  • Complete a 1.5 mile run to be completed within 9½ minutes; after 1.5 mile squadded run in 15 minutes.
  • Complete a minimum of 8 x under-grasp heaves.
  • Complete a minimum of 40 x flat sits ups in 1 minute (hands on temples).
  • Complete a minimum of 16 x dips.

5.3     What sort of person are Unit Diving Teams after?

Due to the nature of diving, not everybody is suited to be an Army Diver. Unit Diving Teams often operate independently with minimal support in very arduous conditions. This requires fit, keen, motivated young soldiers. They must be able to act independently, think laterally but also be a strong team player. There is no requirement for previous diving experience. Qualified Divers attract Specialist Pay as a recruiting and retention incentive. Note that Army diving, unlike the Royal Navy, is an additional qualification to soldier and trade skills and not a full time employment.

6.0     Royal Engineers Centre for Personal Development

The Royal Engineers Centre for Personal Development (RE CPD) aims to provide information and guidance regarding personal development to Royal Engineers personnel and those who command or train them.

7.0     Cost of Training

In 2012, it was estimated that the cost per soldier recruit for Phase 2 training for the Royal Engineers was £24,220 to £81,870 (HC, 2012).

8.0     Further Reading

RSMS (Royal School of Military Survey) @

9.0     References

HC (House of Common Debates) Daily Hansard – Written Answer, 12 June 2012, Column 449W. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 12 March, 2014].

Royal Engineers Centre for Personal Development:


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