Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   
Royal Canadian Engineers (RCE), and the Canadian Military Engineer Museum, Heavy Equipment

Royal Canadian Engineers

Data current to 30 July 2019.


The Royal Canadian Engineers (RCE) is the military engineer branch of the Canadian Armed Forces.  Members of the branch who wear army uniform comprise the The Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers (RCE); (Corps du génie royal canadien).

The mission of the RCE is to contribute to the survival, mobility, and combat effectiveness of the Canadian Armed Forces. Their roles are to conduct combat operations, support the Canadian Forces in war and peace, support national development, provide assistance to civil authorities, and support international aid programs. Military engineers’ responsibilities encompass the use of demolitions and land mines, the design, construction and maintenance of defensive works and fortifications, urban operations (hostile room entry), breaching obstacles, establishing/maintaining lines of communication, and bridging. They also provide water, power and other utilities, provide fire, aircraft crash and rescue services, hazardous material operations, and develop maps and other engineering intelligence. In addition, military engineers are experts in deception and concealment, as well as in the design and development of equipment necessary to carry out these operations. The official role of the combat engineer is to allow friendly troops to live, move and fight on the battlefield and deny that to the enemy.

Back in the day, the author was taken on strength as a Sapper with the 56th Field Squadron, RCE, Pleasantville, St. Johns, Newfoundland, on 23 February 1971.

The Canadian Military Engineering Museum is located within the Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering, Mitchell Building J-10 at 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, Oromocto, New Brunswick.  Curator Sandra F. Johnson Penney. The CME Museum website is:

Royal Canadian Engineers, King Edward VII (1901 to 1910), cap badge

After Canadians had taken part in the Second Boer War (which was fought from 11 October 1899, to 31 May 1902, between the British Empire and two Boer states, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State, over the Empire's influence in South Africa), the Canadian Government realized that the defence of Canada required more than just a single infantry battalion and a few artillery batteries as part of the permanent defence force.  In 1903 The Royal Canadian Engineers were founded as the basis of the permanent military engineers, while the militia had the Royal Canadian Engineers.

Canadian Engineers (RCE), First World War pattern cap badge.

One of the first tasks completed by the Canadian Engineers after the declaration of war upon Germany in 1914 was for the rapid development of the Valcartier training site in Quebec.  At its peak size 30,000 men were stationed here before the 1st Canadian Division was deployed to England.

When the 1st Division arrived on the Western Front in Belgium they were accompanied by field companies of the Canadian Engineers (men recruited into the service after the start of the war were part of the Militia branch and not the regulars).  These troops were responsible for construction of defences, sanitation systems, water supplies, bridging, and assisting with trench raids.  Canadian Engineers also served in the Middle East fighting the Turkish Army.

One of the most important functions of the Sappers in the war was to dig tunnels for mines underneath enemy trenches,after which explosives were planted to destroy them.  At the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917, and particularly at the Battle of Messines in June 1917, several such mines were used to win the battle.  The Canadian Military Engineers contributed three tunnelling companies to the British Expeditionary Force, 1st Canadian Tunnelling Company, 2nd Canadian Tunnelling Company and 3rd Canadian Tunnelliing Company.  One was formed from men on the battlefield, while two other companies first trained in Canada and were then shipped to France.

In the war the only Victoria Cross the Canadian Engineers received was earned by Captain C.N. Mitchell his for actions on 8 October 1918 at Canal de I'Escaut, north-east of Cambrai, France.  )This VC is currently held in the CME Museum at 5 CDSB Gagetown, Oromocto, New Brunswick).

In total, more than 40,000 Canadians served as Engineers in the war, with 14,000 on the front on the last day of the war.

Canadians constructing a bridge across Canal du Nord. Advance East of Arras. September, 1918.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, 'MIKAN No. 3194494)

3rd Pontoon Bridging Transport Unit, Canadian Engineers, Officers & N.C.O.s, January, 1919.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3522484)

On demobilization, the permanent force of Engineers was changed to 38 officers and 249 other ranks.  As a matter of honour, King GFeorge V, the Canadian Monarch granted the organization the right to use the prefix royal before its name in 1932.  On 29 April 1936, the Militia and Permanent components were joined to form the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers. 

Royal Canadian Engineers, King George VI cap badge, ca 1936 to 1952.

The Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers expanded dramatically in size to support Canada's war effort.  On 31 August 1939, the Permanent Force engineers included 50 officers (with 14 seconded to other branches of the Canadian Army) and 323 other ranks; the maximum size of the Corps was reached in 1944, when it included 210 officers and 6283 other ranks.

In keeping with British Army practice, company-sized units in the two armoured divisions were called "squadrons" following cavalry terminology.

Formation patch worn by Royal Canadian Engineers attached to the First Canadian Army during the Second World War.

RCE clearing a minefield, Italy, 20 Dec 1942.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3585921)
Engineers of the 7th Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers, clearing a road of mines, Bergues, France, 16 September 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3524448)

RCE sweeping for mines, Normandy, France, 22 June 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3396102)

RCE placing demolition charges, Caen France, 10 July 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3207524)

RCE sweeping for mines, Vaucelles, France, 20 July 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3396138)
Sapper C.W. Stevens of the 18th Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers, using a mirror to locate the igniters underneath a German Teller mine, France, 22 June 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3191657)
RCE clearing rubble to build roads in France, 4 Aug 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3192330)
Soli Dubash, father of Anneke Dubash, is manning the crane in this photo of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division Bridging Troop, RCE, constructing a pontoon bridge across the Ems River at Meppen, Germany, 8 April 1945.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3224531)
Personnel repairing a bomb-damaged truck of the 1st Canadian Railway Telegraph Company, Royal Canadian Engineers, Louvain, Belgium, 6 January 1945.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3392827)
Personnel of the 9th Field Squadron, Royal Canadian Engineers, lifting rails to make a road for Canadian vehicles near the Hochwald, Germany, 2 March 1945.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3529255)
Personnel of the Royal Canadian Engineers (R.C.E.), 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, pushing a storm boat into the Ems River south of Emden, Germany, 28 April 1945.   (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3524899)
  (IWM Photo, MH 9563)
Churchill Infantry Tank Mk. IV (ARK Mk. II) Royal Engineers.  The Armoured Ramp Carrier (ARK) is a Churchill tank without a turret that had extendable ramps at each other vehicles could drive up ramps and over the vehicle to scale obstacles.
 (IWM Photo, H 35790)
Sherman tank using a Churchill ARK armoured ramp carrier to climb over an escarpment, 79th Armoured Division, 13 Feb 1944.
 (IWM Photo, ca 1944)
Churchill ARK Mk. II.  This version had a wider (4 ft instead of 2 ft) trackway on the left hand side side so narrower vehicles could also use the ARK.  These were conversions of the Ark Mark I in mid-1944. The "Italian Pattern" Ark Mk II ( initially called "Octopus") was produced in Italy using US ramps on Churchill Mk III chassis and did not have trackways on the tank itself (vehicles drove on the tank's tracks).
 (IWM Photo)
A Churchill tank uses a Churchill Ark to scale a sea wall, 79th Armoured Division, Saxmundham area, 11 March 1944.

 (Author Photos)

Churchill Infantry Tank Mk IV RE, (Serial No. BW9229), Great Eastern Armoured Ramp (Serial No. WD No T172796/D), only survivor.  Great Eastern Tank Ramp, although designed in 1944 the Great Eastern ARC was not available before 1945 and not in time for the D Day landings, still based on the Churchill it was fitted with two ramps, one 27ft long and the other 25ft long. This was to enable higher obstacles to be traversed than the normal ARK’s.  Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario.

The folowing units served in Canada and in Europe during the Second World War:

1st Canadian Infantry Division, 1st Field Company, 3rd Field Company, 4th Field Company, 2nd Field Park Company.

2nd Canadian Infantry Division, 2nd Field Company, 7th Field Company, 11th Field Company, 1st Field Park Company.

3rd Canadian Infantry Division, 6th Field Company, 16th Field Company, 18th Field Company, 3rd Field Park Company.

4th Canadian Infantry Division, 6th Field Squadron, 8th Field Squadron, 9th Field Park Squadron.

5th Canadian Infantry Division, 1st Field Squadron, 10th Field Squadron, 4th Field Park Squadron.

6th Canadian Infantry Division in Pacific Command, 20th Field Company, 25th Field Company, 26th Field Company, 7th Field Park Company.

7th Canadian Infantry Division in Atlantic Command, 15th Field Company, 23rd Field Company, 27th Field Company, 5th Field Park Company.

8th Canadian Infantry Division, in Pacific Command, 21st Field Company, 24th Field Company.

1st Canadian Corps, 12th Field Company, 13th Field Company, 14th Field Company, 9th Field Park Company, 1st Drilling Company.

II Canadian Corps, 29th Field Company, 30th Field Company, 31st Field Company, 8th Field Park Company, 2nd Drilling Company.

First Canadian Army, First Canadian Army Troops Engineers, 5th Field Company (unit code 1207), 20th Field Company (unit code 1208), 23rd Field Company (unit code 1209), 10th Field Park Company (unit code 1210).

2nd Canadian Army Troops Engineers, 32nd Field Company, 33rd Field Company, 34th Field Company 11th Field Park Company.

No. 1 Workshop and Park Company, 1st Field (Air) Survey Company, 2nd Field Survey Company, 3rd Field (Reproduction) Survey Company.

General Headquarters (GHQ) and Line of Communication (LoC) Troops, 1st Mechanical Equipment Company, 1st Mechanical Equipment Park Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Battalion, 1st Road Construction Company, 2nd Road Construction Company, No. 1 Railway Operating Company, No. 1 Railway Workshop Company.

Other units: 1st Chemical Warfare Company (in Canada, September 1942 – 31 August 1943), 2nd Chemical Warfare Company (in Canada, September 1942 – 31 August 1943), No.1 Tunnelling Company R.C.E. (in Gibraltar), No.2 Tunnelling Company RCE (in Gibraltar).

Royal Canadian Engineers, Queen Elizabeth cypher cap badge, ca 1952-1970.

On 1 February 1968, the Canadian Army, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force were officially unified as the Canadian Armed Forces.  The Royal Canadian Engineers, Royal Canadian Navy Civil Engineers and Royal Canadian Air Force Construction Division were amalgamated.  However, the new branch went under the name Royal Canadian Engineers until 1973 when the branch was officially named as the Canadian Military Engineers.

Royal Canadian Engineers, cap badge, ca 1970 to present day.

The present day structure of army field units was set on 17 June 1977 with the creation of 1 Combat Engineer Regiment (1 CER), 2 CER, 4 ESR and 5 CER.  The new regiments were each created from one of the squadrons of the former 1 Field Engineer Regiment.

In April 1997, Canada's Primary Reserve reorganized into ten brigade groups and in November 1997, the first reserve combat engineer regiment was created by converting an armoured reconnaissance regiment.  A number of years later the three field engineer regiments, and seven independent field engineer squadrons were reorganized into combat engineer regiments.  Three Canadian brigade groups had more than one engineer unit, and one (38 Canadian Brigade Group) did not have any units at all. Now the field engineer regiments have been redesignated or amalgamated to become combat engineer regiments, and the field engineer squadrons have either been amalgamated to make new combat engineer regiments or reroled as generic engineer squadrons.

38 CBG previously had 21st Field Engineer Squadron, based in Flin Flon, Manitoba.  It was however disbanded in 1995. In 2003, the Fort Garry Horse in Winnipeg, Manitoba, began hosting what became 31 Engineer Squadron in 2012.  The brigade formed 46 Engineer Squadron in Saskatoon in 2012, which was a subunit of the North Saskatchewan Regiment until it gained full strength.  Both squadrons are now subunits of 38 Combat Engineer Regiment.

The Canadian Army's deployment to Afghanistan required considerable use of engineers for road clearance, explosive ordnance disposal, heavy equipment, and combat support.  By the end of the deployment 16 members of the RCE had been killed in Afghanistan.

In April 2013, the title Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers was brought back for the army element of the branch.

Canadian Military Engineer Museum, Heavy Equipment

Centurion Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge (AVLB), (aka No. 6 tank bridge), 4 Field Sqn, RCE, Ex Reforger 74, Eilheim, Germany, Oct 1974. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4816313)


Centurion AVBL, Ex Regensprung, Lahr, Germany, 9 Sep 1975.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4748878) 


 (Author Photos)

Centurion AVBL (aka Number 6 tank bridge), Canadian Military Engineering Museum, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick.  This AVBL carried a single piece bridge mounted on the Centurion that departed from the launch method employed by the Churchill Bridgelayer and used an up and over deployment.  The bridge itself was 52 feet long, significantly longer than its predecessors and 4 feet 8 inches wide, able to accommodate a load class of 80.  The bridge was dimensioned from extensive trials and was the largest single piece that offered a reasonable compromise on mobility.  Although the folded or scissor bridge offered a lower visible footprint, it takes longer to deploy and recover.  Although the single piece Number 6 tank bridge presented a conspicuous target when it was being deployed, it took less than two minutes to put in place.

 (Author Photos)

Beaver Armoured Vehicle Bridge Layer (AVBL), Canadian Military Engineering Museum, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick.  

The Beaver is an armoured, fully tracked vehicle built on the chassis of a Leopard Tank.  It is a highly mobile, rapidly deployable assault bridge that can be used to span natural and man-made obstacles on the battlefield.  The vehicle’s 22 meter-long bridge can support vehicles as heavy as 60 tonnes over streams and anti-tank ditches.  The Beaver is powered by a V-10, twin super charged, 830 HP, multi-fuelled engine.  It is equipped with an NBCD system that provides protection against nuclear, biological, and chemical agents. It is also equipped with eight smoke/HE grenade dischargers.

Specifications: Length: 11.82 m (with bridge).  Width: 4.0 m (with bridge).  Height: 3.57 m (with bridge).  Weight: 45, 450 kg (with bridge).  Bridge Length: 22.0 m.  Bridge Width: 4.0 m.  Width of Bridge Lane: 1.55 m.  Class of Bridge: 60 tonne.  Crew: 2-3.  Engine: Multi-fuel engine, 10 cylinders, 830 hp.  Max Speed: 62 km/h.  Number that were in service: 9.

 (Author Photos)

Aardvark mine clearance vehicle, Canadian Military Engineering Museum, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick.

 (Author Photos)

Linked Belt Crane, DCI, CFR No. 56-06502, Canadian Military Engineering Museum, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick.

 (Author Photos)

Caterpillar D7 Bulldozer on a Bailey Bridge Section, Canadian Military Engineering Museum, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick.

Pontoon for floating bridge, CME Museum.

 (Author Photo)

Caterpillar D7 Bulldozer mounted on a Bailey Bridge, Royal Canadian Engineer HQ, CFB Edmonton, Alberta.

 (Author Photo)

Caterpillar D7 Bulldozer, Royal Candian Engineers, CFB Borden, Ontario.

M4A2E8 ARV, Camp Gagetown, ca 1950s.  (NBMHM, 5 CDS Base Gagetown Photo)

A number of Canadian post war Shermans in Canada were converted into turretless APCs.  This one appears to be in use as an armoured recovery vehicle based on the tow bar attached at the rear, but it may also have been used as a driver trainer.  The headlights and guards on the glacis plate appear to have been taken from a Centurion and the box in the middle of the glacis plate is a Centurion driver's windscreen stowage box.  It also appears that the Centurion tank front fenders have been attached to the front of the Sherman.  The exhausts have been re-routed up the rear of the hull as indicated by the dual stacks.  This is reminisent of privately owned post war Shermans used for logging and other industries.  (Jason Bobrowich)

Centurion ARV, Ex Reforger, Germany, Oct 1974.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4816325) 

 (Author Photos)

Centurion Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV), CFR 54-81334, New Brunswick Military History Museum vehicle park. 

Centurion Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV)

Nine Centurion Armoured Recovery Vehicles (ARV) were purchased for the Canadian Army  in 1954.  The tank turret was replaced by a superstructure housing a winch powered by an auxiliary engine and capable of pulling of up to 90 tons using a system of blocks.  The ARV was armed with a single .30 inch machine gun on the commander's cupola.  It was used by many different units including the RCEME and 4 Engineer Support Regiment at CFB Gagetown for the recovery of heavy armour and vehicles bogged down in the muddy terrain during training operations until the arrival of the Badger ARV.

 (Author Photo)

M578 Light Recovery Vehicle.

M578 Light Recovery Vehicle

The M578 an American designed armoured recovery vehicle in service with the Canadian Army.  It provided maintenance support to mechanized infantry and artillery units and to recover disabled light armored vehicles using its crane boom.  The cab can rotate 360°, and has a 30,000 lb (13,600 kg) capacity winch was run through a crane on the cab.  Another winch, 60,000 lb (27,000 kg) capacity, was mounted on the front of the cab.  The crane operator and rigger both had vision cupolas in the cab roof.  The M578 was designed with systems to be powered even while the vehicle was shut off.  An auxiliary system drove an onboard generator as well as hydraulic pumps which, in turn, supplied drive power to the cab, the boom arm, a pair of winches, and an anchor spade - the latter fitted to the rear of the hull. It was armed with a heavy machine gun fitted on the turret roof.  They have been used at CFB Gagetown by the RCEME and by 4 Engineer Support Regiment.

 (Anthony Seward Photos)

AVGP Husky in action.  

 (Author Photos)

AVGP Husky, CFR 78-37557, painted as 88C, New Brunswick Military History Museum vehicle park.


 The AVGP (Armoured Vehicle General Purpose) Husky is an Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV) operated by a two-man crew.  The Husky is designed to provide mechanical support for the other two AVGP vehicles. The Husky served with the 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise’s), C Squadron, The Royal Canadian Dragoons, 2nd Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment, 4 Canadian Engineer Regiment  and 5th Canadian Division Training Centre at CFB Gagetown until they were replaced by the LAV III.

The Taurus armoured recovery vehicle (ARV) replaced the Centurion ARV in Canadian service.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4728142)

Taurus Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV), 4 CMBG, Ex Certain Sentinel, Germany, Feb 1979.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4849068

Taurus Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV), 4 CMBG, Ex Certain Sentinel, Germany, Feb 1979.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4849071

Taurus Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV), 4 CMBG, Ex Certain Sentinel, Germany, Feb 1979.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4886180)

The Taurus armoured recovery vehicle (ARV) in Canadian service.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4728142)

 (3 Canadian Division Photo)

Badger Armoured Engineer Vehicle (AEV), 3 Canadian Division, Wainwright, Alberta.

The Badger Armoured Engineering Vehicle is designed to provide engineer support to mechanized combat forces. It is capable of performing a wide range of tasks under battlefield conditions including dozing, ripping, excavating, craning, grappling, welding, cutting, winching, and towing”.

The Badger AEV is capable of dozing 270 cubic meters per hour with a maximum dozing speed of 8 km/h. The dozer blade is equipped with two ripper teeth that are used when backing up. The vehicle is also capable of excavating up to 140 cubic meters per hour when fitted with a 1.5 meter wide bucket. It can also be fitted with a smaller 0.8 meter-wide bucket with a capacity of 0.6 cubic meters.  The AEV is capable of operating in a crane mode with a maximum lifting capacity of 7.8 tonnes. The excavator arm can be fitted with two grappling teeth for picking up large objects. The Badger is also equipped with an electric welding and cutting unit and a CAPSTAN winch. The winch as a pulling capacity of 35 tonnes and a cable length of 90 meters.  The Badger is capable of carrying and deploying the class 60 Track Way (portable road sections) as well as fascine (a large bundle of tubes used to fill in anti-tank ditches, creating a crossing site). The class 60 Track Way is carried on the dozer blade and is deployed by the winch. The fascine is carried on the back deck and is placed using the excavator arm with the grappling teeth.  The AEV is powered by a V-10, twin super charged, 830 horsepower, multi-fuelled engine. It is equipped with an NBCD system that provides protection against nuclear, biological, and chemical agents. It is also equipped with eight smoke/HE grenade dischargers.  (

 (Author Photo)

T-LAV MTV-R (Mobile Tactical Vehicle Recovery) Recovery vehicle, equipped with a 20,000 kg winch and an integrated crane.  This is an M113 ARV variant with Palfinger crane, RCEME, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick.

Wisent 2 Armoured Engineer Vehicle, manufactured by the German Company "FFG Flensburger Fahrzeugbau Gesellschaft",  5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick, 24 Nov 2016.
(Thanks Christoph Jenn for the correct ID)

 (Author Photos)

Husky metal detector, 4 Canadian Military Engineer Regiment, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick.

 (Author Photos)

Husky metal detector, 4 Canadian Military Engineer Regiment, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick.

Buffalo, 4 Canadian Military Engineer Regiment, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick.

 (Author Photo)

Bizon Dozer, RCR, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick.

 (Author Photo)

Bison, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick..