Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   www.SilverHawkAuthor.com   
 
Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RCEME)

Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RCEME) 

Data current to 22 Oct 2020.

    

Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

The Corps of Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RCEME provides army engineering maintenance support. From the 1980s to 2013 it was called the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Branch.  The Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers came into being officially on 15 May 1944, with the fusion of various elements from the Royal Canadian Engineers, Royal Canadian Army Service Corps and Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps, following the model of the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers (REME).

With the increase of mechanized equipment during the Second World War, the need to have one corps dedicated to service and maintenance thereof was becoming increasingly apparent. Trucks had become the de facto means of transportation and logistic support, armoured vehicles had replaced cavalry, weapons were becoming more complicated, as well as the advent of radios and radar, it was apparent that the previous model of having a different corps for each job was inadequate for a modern, mechanized army.  The original RCEME structure incorporated 25 different trades and sub-trades, employing specialists for each particular job in order to train and deploy them in time to meet the war's demand. While it was somewhat bulky, it was nonetheless a centralized structure for maintaining the Army's everyday equipment which was more efficient than the previous system of having each corps perform its own equipment maintenance, and also allowed for a greater degree of specialization within trades.

The Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RCEME) officially came into being on 22 Feb 1944, with the fusion of various elements from the Royal Canadian Engineers (RCE), Royal Canadian Army Service Corps (RCASC) and the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps (RCOC), following the British model of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME).

With the increase of mechanized equipment during the Second World War, the need to have one corps dedicated to service and maintenance became increasingly apparent.  Trucks had become the de facto means of transportation and logistic support, armoured vehicles had replaced cavalry, weapons were becoming more complicated, as well as with the advent of radios and radar, it was apparent that the previous model of having a different corps for each job was inadequate for a modern, mechanized army.

The majority of RCEME  (pronouced REME, even though there is a "C" in it) technicians were, and still are, vehicle mechanics, but the original RCEME structure incorporated 25 different trades and sub-trades, employing specialists for each particular job in order to train and deploy them in time to meet the war's demand.  While it was somewhat bulky, it was nonetheless a centralized structure for maintaining the Army's everyday equipment which was more efficient than the previous system of having each corps perform its own equipment maintenance, and also allowed for a greater degree of specialization within trades.

The RCEME Corps badge consisted of a laurel wreath, three shields, the Tudor Crown surmounting, and the letters R.C.E.M.E. on a scroll underneath.  Emblazoned on the shields were: on the first, three lightning bolts, which represented the telecommunications trades, three cannons, which represented armament, and a large gear, representing the vehicle mechanics.  On the second shield, above the three cannons are three cannonballs, which are larger than the cannons.  This came from the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps (RCOC), which in turn inherited it from its British counterpart, the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC).  There has been a misconception that its significance goes back to the Crimean War, when ammunition shipped to the front was too big to fit in the cannons, and was intended to remind the members of that Corps of how imperative doing their job well was (though it was not really their fault; it was the manufacturer's mistake) however this is untrue.  In the first place the Board of Ordnance, adopted the Arms (from which the Ordnance Shield derives) as early as the mid 17th Century, a good hundred years before the Crimean War started.  At which time the shield was used by the artillery as well!  The Arms were approved by the King in 1806, and the grant of Arms by the College Arms particularly states that they be the same as those previously in use.

Secondly, in good heraldic design, not only to show the charges, which in this case are the guns and shot, symbolically and sometimes exaggerated, but that these charges should fill the shield in which they are placed without losing the balance of the design as a whole.  The placing of the cannonballs in the chief and the guns in the lower two-thirds of the shield illustrate this aspect of recognized heraldic design.

The regimental march is a medley of "Lillibullero" and "Auprès de ma blonde", just as REME had chosen.  The RCEME did choose some things different from their British counterparts.  The regimental slow march is "The Flower of Scotland", and St. Jean de Brébeuf was named the patron saint.  (You can hear it here: https://rcemecorpsgemrc.ca/our-history/rceme-marches/)

Each division had a central workshop, where major repairs would be conducted, and within the division, RCEME units would be embedded to effectuate certain repairs (1st Line) on the spot.  This included light aid detachments, which could deploy quickly to recover or repair equipment on the line, or in transit to the front.  The RCEME triage system was divided into three groups: 1st Line, which would be embedded in the operational units, would carry out routine maintenance and minor repairs; 2nd Line, which was located in field workshops back from the front, carried out major overhauls and full component replacements; 3rd Line would be responsible for reconditioning and rebuilding equipment.  Though the location of each and various tasks have changed, the structure is still in place today, with 1st Line maintenance platoons / troops embedded in combat units, while 2nd Line is located 20 minutes to 2 hours away, but still in theatre, and the only 3rd Line workshop in service is 202 Workshop in Montreal.

In 1949, the RCEME Corps adopted a new badge, nearly identical to the British one which had been struck in 1947.  It consisted of a white horse (a mustang, as opposed to the Arabian horse of the British badge) superimposed over a lightning bolt, with a chain fixed around its neck running down its back, standing on a globe, to which the other end of the chain is attached, which pictured the Western Hemisphere (whereas the British badge pictured Europe, Africa, Australia,  Antarctica and Asia). Behind the horse's head was a scroll with the letters R.C. on one side of the head, and E.M.E. on the other, surmounted by the Tudor Crown (commonly and mistakenly called referred to as the King's Crown).

The only modification ever made to this badge was in 1952 when Elizabeth II ascended to the throne, and the Tudor Crown was replaced with St. Edward's Crown.

During the 1950s, the RCEME Corps was reorganized to accommodate the postwar structure of the Army, and many trades were combined, due to the need to have specialists quickly fielded for the war no longer existing.  Young craftsmen (as privates in the corps are called) trained in their trade at the RCEME school, titled the Royal Canadian School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (RCSEME), located at CFB Kingston, Ontario, then deployed to the various squadrons and troops of RCEME to perform their trades.

In the mid 1960s, Canadian Army planners were again looking to streamline the structure of the Army, and beginning in 1965, various models were proposed for combining the elements of maintenance, supply and transport for each brigade into one unit.  The result was the formation in 1968 of service battalions, each consisting of maintenance, supply and transport companies, while craftsmen who had previously belonged to RCEME squadrons and only attached to the combat unit, were incorporated directly into the unit, and administered through the unit's chain of command rather than the RCEME squadrons and troops, which ceased to exist.  RCEME ceased to have its own autonomous chain of command; they worked for a service battalion with Supply and Transport, or a service company or squadron within a combat unit.

1968 also saw the unification of the Canadian Forces, which saw the RCEME Corps disbanded, and replaced with the Canadian Forces Land Ordnance Engineering Branch (CFLOEB).  Several RCEME trades were shed off and went over to the Air Force, such as machinist and metals technician, the Radio and Radar Techs and the RCEME flag, which consisted of three horizontal stripes of dark blue on top, yellow in the middle, and red on the bottom, received a fourth stripe: light blue, to represent the Air Force personnel now working the LORE workshops.  In spite of the RCEME Corps being disbanded, Canada's craftsmen continued to wear the old cap badge until 1973 when a new one was introduced.  The new badge was an oval in shape, had a wreath of 10 maple leaves, which represented Canada's ten provinces, and on a blue field, which represented the Air Force, were a lightning bolt, superimposed on two crossed cannons, superimposed on a Wankel-type piston (the symbol the Society of Automotive Engineers) and surmounted by St. Edward's Crown.

The 1970s also saw more trades added to the LORE Branch, and existing trades condensed.  For example, all the trades pertaining to repair of vehicles were grouped together into the vehicle technician's trade, all weapon-related trades were combined into the weapons technician trade, and all electrical trades were grouped together into the electro-mechanical technician.  All the material-support trades were transferred to the air force.

In the 1980s, it was confirmed that the organization of materials support was inadequate for the army's needs; some trades were performed by vehicle technicians, such as auto-body, others by air force trades, such as machinists, and welding was divided between the air force's metals technician and the army's vehicle technician trades.  In 1985, these were all combined into the materials technician's trade, belonging to the LORE Branch.  It was also around this time that the LORE title was decided to be inaccurate in its description of the craftsmen's trades.  After several proposals (including odd ones such as CREME), the title Land Electrical and Mechanical Engineers was finally settled upon for a new title.  The badge did not change.

The concession to adopt the EME letters spurred an interest in reviving tradition, and bringing the horse badge back, which was spearheaded by Brigadier General Jim Hanson, Chief Warrant Officer John Sloan and Chief Warrant Officer Ron Roy, and led into the early 1990s.  The new badge would have to be modelled on the old horse, but at the same time, reflect the changes in the army and in the trades that had occurred since.  The new badge had several proposals.  It would definitely include the letters EME and GEM (Génie électrique et mécanique) in place of the former RCEME title.  The original proposal had the title GEM on one side of the horse's head, and EME on the other, so that it conformed to the pattern of other Commonwealth services, but it was decided that "GEMEME" would not be used, and it was thus reversed to EME GEM to conform with CF rules on signs. (On documents and other items that include both French and English, the English goes on the left and the French on the right.) There are other subtle differences between the old horse badge and the new one, such as the collar of fleur-de-lis being replaced with four maple leaves, and the horse's nose being shortened to accommodate three letters in front of it instead of two.

The RCEME are charged with the maintenance of all electrical and mechanical equipment in use in the Canadian army today. The branch is broken down into five trades:

  • Vehicle technicians: whose task is to repair and maintain anything that operates with an internal combustion engine, including heaters, chainsaws and outboard motors, as well as staff cars, Jeeps, trucks and armoured vehicles.
  • Weapons technicians: are responsible for maintenance of all weapons employed throughout the army, from bayonets to advanced air defence artillery systems, as well as Coleman Company stoves and lanterns, and locks, safes and high security containers.
  • Electronic-Optronic technicians: the previously named fire control systems technicians were originally a collection of two dozen other trades, but were condensed into three, then into one. They maintain and repair optical systems, electronic targeting systems, laser and infrared ranging and targeting systems, air defence anti-tank systems, night vision equipment, etc.
  • Materials technicians: have a very diverse job that stretches from being a welder, to repairing tents, to auto-body and carpentry. This is the most recent arrival to the RCEME trade group, added in 1985, and formed from a number of various army and air force trades.
  • EME officers - maintenance officers are responsible for managing and leading RCEME workshops, both in garrison, and in the field, by making technical, administrative and tactical decisions that determine the unit's effectiveness and operational capacity.

On 19 April 2013, the Minister of National Defence announced the restoration of the name of Corps of Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers School (RCEME School) (Ecole d'génie électrique et mécanique royal canadien) at CFB Borden, Ontario, conducts training for Electrical and Mechanical Engineering officers, Vehicle, Weapons, Electronic-Optronic (formerly Fire Control Systems) and Material technicians. RCEME School conducts individual and specialized training for the Regular and Reserve forces. The school offers 54 different technical courses for approximately 900 students.  The RCEME School has five companies: Headquarters Company, Regimental Company, Artisan Company, Weapons Company, and Vehicle Company.  The majority of RCEME technicians are craftsmen and corporals, while master corporals, sergeants and warrant officers act as supervisors, and captains, who make up the bulk of RCEME officers, command maintenance platoons/troops in a unit's service company.

Wikiwand: CET course material, CFSEME Regimental Coy, CFTSG Borden, CFB Borden, Ontario. Instructor: Beresford, Sergeant T., C.D.; The Canadian Soldier: D-Day to VE Day by Bouchery, Jean Editions Histoire et Collections Paris, 2003; EME Journal, Issue 1 - 2005, Department of National Defence Publication, 202 WD Montreal, 2005.

The author's uncle, Warrant Officer Carl Skaarup, served with the RCEME.

 (CF Photo)

Carl J. Skaarup, 4th row, 2nd from left, RCEME course, 3 Feb - 26 May 1958.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3574228)

Personnel of the 1st Armoured Brigade Workshop, Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RCEME) working on the engine of a Sherman tank of the 5th Canadian Armoured Division, Italy, 13 October 1943. 

The engine is a Chrysler A57 multibank. Five 250.6 cu.in. L-head inline six cylinder engines placed around central shaft, driven by a sun gear arrangement. 30-cylinder 1,253 cu.in. 370 hp.  M4A4 Sherman's used this engine, and had a longer hull to fit it.  Most were used for Lend-Lease.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3780239)

C SQN Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians), M32B3 VVSS armoured recovery vehicle (ARV) operations on the Imjim River, Korea, 25 July 1951.  The ARV's name is "CONTENTENTED COW", commanded by RCEME Sgt Gord Hunter.