Royal Engineers

At the beginning of the 19th century the Royal Engineers in the Medway Towns consisted of the CRE (Chief Royal Engineer) and his staff who were involved in building various defences. There was also a company of the Royal Sappers and Miners who did not amalgamate with the Royal Engineers until 1856 As a result of the under-performance of Wellington’s engineers in Spain a Royal Warrant was issued for the creation of a Royal Engineers Establishment for the training of Engineers. This Establishment was chosen to be housed at Brompton Barracks (see significant buildings) as the Chatham Lines were an ideal training site and the River Medway provided a suitable area to practice pontooning.

Captain Pasley was selected to run the Engineers Establishment as he had written much about the need to such a place and had been testing his theories on education of engineers with his own company at Plymouth. The Royal Warrant was signed on 12th April 1912. By the 12th May Pasley was at work at Chatham training engineers. The Royal Engineers Establishment later became the School of Military Engineering in 1868 and in 1962, the Royal School of Military Engineering (RSME).
Today the RSME is the British Army’s centre of excellence for military engineering and explosive ordnance disposal training. The school is spread across several sites in the south of England but the Headquarters remain at Brompton Barracks. Nearly all members of the Corps of Royal Engineers pass through Brompton Barracks at some point in their career.

Military Riot in Brompton

“On Wednesday, an alarming riot, which at one time assumed a very serious character, took place in Brompton, between several soldiers of the Royal Engineers and the 18th Royal Irish Regiment, whereby some of them on both sides were so severely hurt that they had to be conveyed to the hospitals. One of the Royal Engineers had one eye nearly knocked out, and a private of the 18th was so severely beaten about the head that he lies in a very precarious state. Twenty others of both corps are more or less injured.

There is no doubt from all that can be learned that the 18th had fully made up their minds for the row as they appeared in the streets in parties, averaging from 20 to 30, assaulting and maltreating every Engineer they happened to meet, no matter whether he was a non commissioned officer or a private. Their ruffianly conduct coming to the knowledge of the Engineers, they gathered in a body and came to the assistance of their comrades, when a general melee took place. The inhabitants feeling convinced that some serious consequence was likely to ensue, owing to the excited feelings of the men, sent information to the Garrison for assistance, when several strong pickets were despatched to the scene of the disturbance.

After making several prisoners, the parties succeeded in restoring order, and returned to their barracks.

There appears to be some ill-feeling existing between the two corps, which, it is said, originated in the Crimea on the 5th of November, when a general row took place between them on account of the Engineers having made an effigy of one of the Russian generals, and mounted him on a dromedary, which the 18th considered was done to resemble the Pope.

The whole affair will be rigorously sifted by the military authorities”.

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