Letter from Home
The life-size statue entitled “Letter from Home” (though we know it rather irreverently as “The Flasher”) was sculptured by Jill Tweed and Mike Smith. It symbolises the role of the Service – i.e. to provide the link between service personnel and their families at home.
The statue shows a soldier of the Great War (1914-18) reading a letter and is a replica of the statue by sculptor Charles Sargeant Jagger (1885-1934) which stands on Platform 1 at Paddington Station, London. The statue was simply called Soldier Reading a Letter and was erected as a memorial to the men and women of the Great Western Railway Company who lost their lives during the First and Second World Wars.
Our statue – “Letter from Home” , which stands outside the old Guard Room at Inglis Barracks, Mill Hill, was unveiled by HM Queen Elizabeth II, during her visit to PCD RE, MIll Hill on 16 July 1982, as part of the Centenary Celebrations.
Hurrah for the CRE
Good morning Mr Stevens and Windy Notchy Knight
Hurrah for the CRE
We’re working very hard, down at Upnor Hard
Hurrah for the CRE
You make fast, I make fast, make fast the dinghy
Make fast the dinghy, make fast the dinghy
You make fast, I make fast, make fast the dinghy
Make fast the dinghy pontoon
For we’re marching to Laffan’s Plain
To Laffan’s Plain, to Laffan’s Plain
Where they don’t know mud from clay
Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah,
Ooshta, Ooshta, Ooshta, Ooshta
Ikona malee, picaninny skoff
Ma-ninga sabenza, here’s another off
Oolum-da cried Matabele
Oolum-da, away we go
Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah,
History of the Corps Song
It is believed that Hurrah for the CRE was brought to this country by one of the RE Units which served in the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), possibly the 4th or 54th Field Companies.
The tune is fairly certain to be of Kaffir origin.
Notes from the song:
- Mr Stevens = Chief Clerk in the Chief Instructor’s Fieldworks Office (1905)
- Windy Notchy Knight = ex-Warrant officer instructor in the School of Military Engineering Workshops
- Upnor Hard = Wet bridging site, on the River Medway at Chatham
- Laffan’s Plain = Training area at Aldershot, named after Capt Laffan RE
- Ooshta = South African native working cry
- Ikona malee = No money (Matabele)
- Picaninny skoff = Little food (Matabele)
- Ma-ninga sabenza = Lots of work (Matabele)
- Oolum-da = South African native working cry
In 1870 the Commandant of the School of Military Engineering directed that a popular air of the day be adopted as the Corps Regimental March, unaware that The British Grenadiers had already been authorized.
The tune adopted was Wings, a combination of two tunes, Wings and The Path Across the Hills. It was not until 1902 that Wings was officially recognized with The British Grenadiers as the second Regimental Quick March.
The Corps has no official Slow March.
Saint Barbara, is the patron saint of both the Royal Artillery and the Corps of Royal Engineers.
Barbara, the christian daughter of the pagan Dioscorus, lived in Heliopolis, Syria at the time of the Emperor Maximinus Daia. Her father reported her christian devotions to the pagan authorities. They arrested and tortured her, but she refused to recant. At this the judge ordered Dioscorus himself to slay his own daughter. He took Barbara up onto a mountain and killed her with his sword. As Dioscorus was coming down the mountain he was struck by lightening and was killed.
Corps Collect – The words of the Corps Collect are as follows:
O God, whose righteousness is exceeding glorious, may it please Thee to send out Thy Light and Thy Truth so to lead us Thy Servants of the Corps of Royal Engineers that everywhere we may be enabled to do our duty, and so may glorify Thee our Father in Heaven, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
The normal grace to be used before meals is:
“Lord God, we thank you for this food and your provision for us everywhere – Amen”.
If grace is said at the conclusion of a meal, it should be:
“For what we have received, thank God – Amen”.
The Corps Badge and Mottoes
On 10 July 1832 King William IV granted the Royal Regiment of Artillery and the Corps of Royal Engineers permission to wear on their appointments the Royal Arms and Supporters, together with a cannon and the mottoes Ubique above the cannon and Quo Fas et Gloria Ducunt below it. In 1868 the cannon was omitted from the Corps Badge. Since then the actual design of the Royal Arms has changed slightly with each reining monarch.
The mottoes are:
- Dieu et mon Droit which means: God and my right.
- Honi soit qui mal y pense which means: Evil to him who evil thinks.
- Ubique which means: Everywhere.
- Quo fas et Gloria Ducunt which means: Whither duty and glory lead.
Nowadays the Corps Badge is only generally worn on the full dress busby by the RE Band
Corps Monogram or Cypher
The Corps Monogram or Cypher usually used on letterheads and stationery, but not worn on uniform.
RE Cap Badge
Current cap badge for the reign of HM Queen Elizabeth II. The design changes slightly for each new Sovereign.
An embroidered grenade was first worn on the tail of an RE Officer’s full dress scarlet coatee in 1824, and the following year a brass grenade was introduced for Other Ranks of the Royal Sappers and Miners.
The grenade was later worn on the epaulet and then on the collar. The number of flames to the grenade has varied, but in 1922 a nine-flamed grenade, with the motto Ubique below it, was authorized. The Royal Artillery grenade is similar, but has only seven flames.
Swift and Secure
Swift and Secure was adopted as the unofficial motto of the Postal & Courier Services in the 1980s.
The image of the Swift and Portcullis symbolise the speed (swift) and security (portcullis) of our mail and courier services.
The Lord He created the Engineer,
Her Majesty’s Royal Engineer,
With the rank and pay of a Sapper! Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936
Women’s Royal Army Corps
Suaviter in modo, fortiter in re which means Gentle in manner, resolute in deed.
WRAC Regimental Marches
- WRAC Regimental Quick March is `The Lass of Richmond Hill` and `Early one Morning’.
- WRAC Regimental Slow March is `Greensleeves`
- WRAC Pipes is `The Nut Brown Maiden`.
O Merciful God and Father of us all, Whose will it is that we should help one another, give to us, the members of the Women’s Royal Army Corps, grace that we may fulfil the same. Make us gentle, courteous and forbearing. Direct our lives so that we may have courage and resolution in the performance of our duty and hallow all our comradeship by the blessing of Thy Spirit, for His sake, Who loved us and gave Himself for us. Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A short history of the association of WAAC, QMAAC, ATS and WRAC with the Corps of Royal Engineers
During the First World War women were for the first time recruited for service with the Army in a non-nursing capacity. The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) was formed to initially provide cooks and clerks to the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France. But their employment was soon expanded into other administrative areas. Female GPO staff were especially recruited into the WAAC to fill postal and telegraphy positions. Members of the WAAC, who were GPO trained staff, began to serve with the RE (PS) in May 1917 (as did female Telegraphists with the RE (Telegraph) – Army Signal Service). They were employed at the stationary Army Post Offices (APO) in the rear areas of the BEF on the Western Front. After the war they continued to serve in those APOs until December 1919. The WAAC was re designated the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps (QMAAC) when Queen Mary became its Patron in 1918 but was disbanded in 1921.
In preparation for a likely conflict with Germany in the late 1930’s, the concept of a female wing to the British Army was again considered. This lead to the raising of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) on 9 September 1938 by order of George VI. The first women of the ATS to serve with RE (PS) were members of the Berkshire Company ATS, a company of administrators and cooks deployed at the beginning of the war in support of the Home Postal Depot RE (HPD) then located in Reading. They move with the HPD to Bournemouth and then to Nottingham, where the HPD RE was re designated as the Home Postal Centre RE (HPC). It was at Bournemouth that they first became involved in the postal aspect of the work at HPD. By the end of the war the ATS women made up 49% of the total strength of the HPC RE, they were employed in postal and administrative duties. On joining the HPC RE they received 5-6 weeks Postal training before joining their companies. The women soon became the major letter sorting force with each woman expected to sort at least a 1,000 letters per hour during their usual 8 hour shift. After 1944 some of the women were employed in the Base Army Post Offices (BFPO) established in Belgium and Italy in the wake of the retreating German forces. To identify that the women were trained Postal operators and that they served with a RE Postal unit, they wore a RE Bomb on the left breast of their tunic – a tradition that continued until 1992. When HPC moved to Knightsbridge, London in 1947 the ATS were taken off the establishment.
In 1948 the Secretary of State Mr Emmanuel Shinwell, made formal submission to the Crown for permission to raise a Corps of Women for the Regular and Territorial Army. This received the Royal Assent and on 1 February 1949 the Women’s Royal Army Corps (WRAC) came into being. For the first time women in the army became subject to all sections of the Army Act.
Towards the end of 1952 a number of WRAC personnel from B Company 12 Battalion WRAC based at Kingston Gate Camp, Richmond Park, London were employed on general postal duties at the Home Postal Depot on the basis of three women for every two male posts. In 1962 the Home Postal Depot moved to its current location at Mill Hill and in October of that year the WRAC paraded on the barrack square at Mill Hill in honour of a visit by The Princess Royal, Princess Mary who laid the Foundation Stone for the building designed to house the newly formed 12 Company WRAC. In the following years members of the company continued to serve at the Depot as well as being deployed to postal units in Cyprus, Hong Kong, BAOR, and Northern Ireland etc. where they were involved in a variety of postal and courier activities from sorting duties to counter clerk. Their employment within postal afforded them a career structure and promotion up to Warrant Officer level, Margaret Grant was the first of many women to be so promoted and was appointed Member of the British Empire (MBE) for her services to the RE (PCC).
The Army Board decided that on 1 October 1990 WRAC Regular Officers permanently employed with other Corps should be transferred to these Corps, a WRAC officer, Captain Sarah Sherring (later Lieutenant Colonel S Cash), serving with the RE (PCS) become one of the first of women to be commissioned into the Corps of Royal Engineers. A TA WRAC officer, Major (later Colonel) Debbie Oliver, serving with the RE (PCS) TA was also commissioned into the REs and later rose to become the Commander (PCS) TA. In December 1990 the Army Board announced the formation of the Adjutant General’s Corps. This Corps formed up on 6 April 1992 through the amalgamation of RAPC, RAEC, and RMP. At the same time WRAC Postal & Courier Operators were re-capbadged as members of the Corps of Royal Engineers and remained with the Corps until the Postal & Courier Services were transferred to the newly formed Royal Logistics Corps (RLC) in April 1993.
Special thanks to Margaret Grant MBE for her input and contributions.
A Short History of the Royal Engineers (Maj DP Anson RE, Chatham, 1993)
The Post Call – A Story of the Royal Engineers Postal and Courier Services (Col RNRP James (late RE), London, 1982)
Cleft Stick – Newsletter of the Defence Postal and Courier Services Officers’ Association
Barrack-Room Ballads (Rudyard Kipling, Methuen, London, 1900)
The Women’s Royal Army Corps (Shelford Bidwell, Leo Copper, London, 1977)