SAPPERS IN THE WEST
Army Engineers in Western Australia
by Graham McKenzie-Smith
Army engineers have played an important role in the defence and development of WA since the earliest days of the Colony when 20 Coy Royal Sappers and Miners arrived with the first convicts in 1851 to build the roads, water supplies, drainage systems and public buildings that allowed the colony to prosper.
The first Australian army engineer unit were formed at Fremantle in 1910 to operate the searchlights for the coastal artillery and a field company was formed in 1911. The Kitchener reforms of 1912 which established a structured Australian Army changed these to 35 Fortress Coy and 13 Field Coy, with the later being the only unit created at that time which is still on the Order of Battle today.
The WA sappers of 3 Field Coy fought the Turks at El Kantara, Egypt in February 1915, three months before the landing at Gallipoli and later served there and on the Western Front, as did the WA sappers in 6 Field Coy, 3 Tunnelling Coy and 5 Broad Gauge Rlury Op Coy.
In World War 2, AIF engineer units raised in WA served in England, the Middle East, Malaya, New Guinea and Borneo, while WA militia units served in NT and New Guinea. As the Army in WA was built up to include three divisions, 68 separate RAE units worked in WA. While other units trained and waited for a role, the sappers worked, building camps, developing water supplies and constructing roads and bridges. Although the camps were only temporary, the roads, bridges and water supplies allowed the area between Perth and Geraldton to be developed as an important agricultural and mining area.
Since the war, a range of sapper units have continued to contribute towards the defence and development of the state. Between 1949 and 1990, 22 Const Sqn built most of the camps and facilities used in the state by other army units (especially SAS Regt), as well as building roads and other facilities in WA, New Guinea, Sabah, Fiji and Tonga. 13 Field Sqn, while training for their field role, also regularly trains by constructing community facilities. Under AACAP, sapper units regularly deploy to remote indigenous communities in WA and NT. Individual WA sappers have also deployed on operations to Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, Namibia, Timor, Solomon Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Sappers in the West" covers the contribution made by sappers and their units to the defence and development of Western Australia for over 160 years.
Hard cover book, 355 pages, 21 pages of Index, 3 pages of Glossary,
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© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 24 August 2014
This page last updated 23 January 2020