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Everything You Wanted to Know About Joining the Sappers....Part 1

chimera

LE
Moderator
Many moons ago @wedge35 created an awesome thread aimed at those looking to join the Corps, answering all of those questions that you were either afraid to ask or the old sweats were being asked over and over again.

Over the years it has become a bit out of date, so here is a new updated version:

Contents

1) Trades and Training
2) RE Regular Units (and Postings)
3) 'What Will I Be Doing As A....'
4) Paras, Commandos, EOD and Other Gucci Stuff
5) Corps Culture
6) Civvie Strasse
7) Further Information

1) Trades and Training

There is no other part of the Army which offers such a wide range of trades and skills. As a teenage (or any other age) scrote, knocking on the door of the recruiting office and looking to join the Royal Engineers, a wide range of jobs are available to you. Your BARB score (i.e how well you do during the initial computer-based test) will determine which trades the Corps will consider you capable of training for. Take note: you can have so many GCSEs they're bleeding out of your arrse, but fcuk this one up and you could well be sorely disappointed at the trades you're offered.

Everyone in the RE is trained as a combat engineer as well as tradesman of one sort or another. This is inescapable and if you don't fancy it, try the REME or the RAF instead. I'll cover what combat engineering involves in more depth later on.

There are 18 second (or artisan) trades. Your second trade can be any one of the following: Electrician (Sparky), Equipment Mechanic (Fitter), Plant Operator Mechanic (POM / Planty), Bricklayer and Concreter (Brickie), Building and Structural Finisher, Carpenter and Joiner (Chippy), Fabricator, Construction Materials Technician (CMT), Design Draughtsman, Draughtsman Electrical and Mechanical (E&M), Geographic Technician (Geo Tech), Armoured Engineer, Engineer Logisitic Specialist (Log Spec), Heating and Plumbing Engineer (Plumber), Fitter Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVAC), Driver, Communications (Signaller), Survey Engineer (Surveyor).

The are other more gucci trade streams and skills that can be entered later; Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Search, Diver, Para, Commando etc: these are covered separately below.

Points to note: The names in brackets in the list above are what the trades are commonly refered to as - don't go into the ACIO and say that you want to be a 'plant operator mechanic brackets POM stroke planty'. The official names of trades are changed all the time by strange people with nothing better to do who inhabit a world that you won't see until your hair is falling out and you're dragging the kids around Tescos. This is primarily to keep the P&Fs (sorry, Building and Structural Finishers) happy, ensuring they get their regular hit of solvent fumes whilst knocking up workshop signs. The old signs - which cost untold hundreds in materials and labour - are then dumped into skips or appear as decorations in bars or in the downstairs sh1tters of strange ex-SNCOs who can't let go.

You will do your basic training at either the Army Training Centre (ATC) Pirbright (if you are over 17 and a bit) or the Army Foundation College (AFC) Harrogate if you are still in nappies. At Pirbright (or possibly another ATC) you will follow the same basic 14-week course as any other non-infantry recruit to the army. Information of this course is available in abundance on the Joining Up (Regular) board, as is info on the 42-week course at Harrogate. You will learn the same military skills as adult recruits with extra education, leadership and life skills thrown in, all supervised by people who basically like to hang around small boys. Neither course is rocket science but top-tips include showing enthusiasm, getting as fit as possible in advance and keeping your gob shut about wanting to be in the SAS in the future. No prior knowledge of military subjects whatsoever is required (including cadets) and can even be a positive disadvantage. Oh, and any instructor under the age of about 40 who tries to large it with horror stories about how they used to get regularly filled-in in training in their day is talking sh1t.

Combat Engineer training takes place at the Royal School of Military Engineering in Minley, Surrey. Located quite close to the towns of Aldershot and Camberley, you will be trained and accommodated in Gibraltar Barracks (universally known as 'Gib'). There are a shed load of different modules covered, some of which are easier and / or more enjoyable than others. These include demolitions (blowing stuff up), mine-warfare (trying to ensure that things don't blow up), watermanship (dicking around in boats), bridging, airfields and roads, water supply, field fortifications etc etc etc. Best to take things as they come. Like trades, the names of these modules also frequently change and some people will tell you that field forts are now known as something like 'HZFFG'. Ignore such people. You will get wet, tired and muddy and PT will be harder than in Phase 1 training. Again, if that doesn't appeal, see the advice to join the RAF above.

Trade training for most trades takes place at the Royal School of Military Engineering in Chatham, Kent. The exceptions being Geo Techs who train at Hermitage, Armoured Engineers at Bovington, Res Specs at Pirbright, Drivers at Leconfield and Signallers who get to hang around Minley for a bit longer. If your trade needs a C+E licence (or you are lucky enough to have a slack 10 weeks on your hands), you will also do some training at Leconfield - where assorted civvies and loggies will make you wish that you'd married your childhood sweetheart and took that job with HSBC. Trade course lengths vary - ask your recruiter or, alternatively, don't worry about it, you'll be getting paid after all. As for Chatham itself, it is the place that Sappers love and hate in equal measure. The barracks is one of the oldest still in use, although the accommodation is mostly new, and that gives in an ambience all of it's own. The social life is great and the local wildlife really needs to be seen to be believed. It could quite possibly be one of the times in your career that you look back on most affectionately - God help us all. These things change depending on who's in charge at any particular time but Chatham tends to be a bit more laid-back than Minley. Just don't shoot the Adjutant's wife with an air rifle and if you prefer boys to girls, The Ship in Rochester is the place for you. London is less than an hour on the train from Chatham and if you don't spend a whole month's wages in Soho while you're there, you really haven't lived.

2) RE Regular Units (and Postings)

The Corps is sub-divided into Regiments, which are further divided into Squadrons and then Troops. The RE being a large and diverse organisation, there are various weird and wonderful other units, most of which are employed doing things that would make an ordinary Sapper's brains bubble out through his nose. But for your first posting, it is almost a given that you will be sent to a Regiment, of which there are 12; 11 based in England, and 1 in Germany. Numbers vary but Regiments generally have about 600 blokes, Squadrons 100+ and Troops 30(ish). The “normal currency” in the Sappers is the Squadron: ask a Sapper who they belong to, and he/she will invariably give you a squadron number.

You could end up in:

21 Engineer Regiment – Currently based in Ripon, North Yorkshire, but due to move a few miles up the road to the less picturesque Catterick Garrison. Consists of an HQ Squadron and two close support field squadrons. It also has two Army Reserve squadrons.

22 Engineer Regiment - Based near Tidworth, Wiltshire. Consists of an HQ and Support Squadron and three close support Armoured Engineer Squadrons.

23 Parachute Engineer Regiment - Based near Woodbridge, Suffolk. Supports 16 Air Assault Brigade and consists of an HQ Squadron, and two Parachute Squadrons. It also has an Army Reserve parachute squadron.

24 Commando Engineer Regiment - Based in Chivenor, Devon. Supports 3 Commando Brigade and consists of an HQ and Support Squadron and two Commando Squadrons (plus another from the Army Reserve).

26 Engineer Regiment - Based near Tidworth, Wiltshire. Consists of an HQ and Support Squadron and three Armoured Engineer Squadrons.

28 Engineer Regiment - Just reforming at RAF Honnigton. It will become the Defence NBC Unit.

32 Engineer Regiment - Based in Catterick, N Yorks. Consists of an HQ and Support Squadron and two close support field squadrons. Like its neighbour 21 Regt, it also has two Army Reserve squadrons.

33 EOD and Search Regiment - Based in Wimbish, Essex, 33 is one of the RE's two Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiments (Bomb Disposal in common parlance). Consists of an HQ Squadron, one RE EOD squadron, one RLC EOD squadron, and two Army Reserve squadrons.

35 Engineer Regiment (EOD and Search) Based in Wimbish, Essex, along with 33 it is the other of the RE's two Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiments (Bomb Disposal in common parlance).

36 Engineer Regiment - Based in Maidstone, Kent. Consists of an HQ and Support Squadron, a Field Squadron and two Gurkha Squadrons. Nice if you like boney curry and ritual goat abuse.

39 Engineer Regiment - Based in Kinloss, north Scotland. Employed in the Force Support role. Consists of an HQ and Support Squadron, three Field Squadrons and a Field Support Squadron. It is more “construction” focused, and also is the focus for support to the RAF. You are more likely to practice your artisan trade here than in most of the other units.

42 Engineer Regiment - the Corp's geographic dudes. Based in Wyton, Cambridgeshire, along with a zillion other RAF and Army intelligence geeks. Consists of a Geographic Support Squadron and two Geographic Squadrons. It also has an Army Reserve squadron.



In addition to the Regiments listed above, there is also an organisation called 170 (Infrastructure Support) Group, who are based in Chilwell, Notts and who get up to things that are vitally important to the army but a complete mystery to your average Sapper. Organised into Specialist Teams Royal Engineers (STREs), rather than Squadrons, they deal with technical areas of engineering like fuels, water development and reaching level 876 on Tetris. You could go there as a first posting but it is much, much less likely than being sent to a Regiment. Most of the STREs share a barracks with the Reserves Mobilisation and Training Centre (RTMC), which is responsible for processing TA soldiers and confused, out-of-shape ex-regulars who have been called up for full-time service. The barracks also has the worst cookhouse this side of Romania and, consequently, just over the road, the busiest Tesco cafe in Europe.

Regiments tend to be located in one place for considerable periods of time - barring operational tours and exercises of course, and often squadrons deploy individually. In general, 'normal' regiments will usually deploy together as a Regiment or as individual Squadrons. Specialist regiments (EOD, Geographic etc) virtually never deploy in their entirety, instead deploying Squadrons, Troops or composite groups.

You will submit a Posting Preference towards the end of training and every few years after that. Do not, under any circumstances, believe that what you put down will be reflected in where you are actually sent. A top tip is not to be too specific - instead of writing down a particular regiment, put down an area (Southern England, Northern England/Scotland, or Germany). This will maximise your chances of at least being in the general area of where you want to be. Another top tip is not to be too concerned about where your first posting is - it's all much of a muchness at your level and the chances are that you'll go on ops no matter where you end up. Another top tip is when compiling a list of Units on Arrse, just say 'every regiment has an HQ & Support Squadron' rather than typing the phrase out 14 fcuking times.
 
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I'm only seeing parts 1 & 2 now, for some reason. Nicely done - witty and informative, just like most Sappe... a few Sap... this one guy in the Elizabethan Club in Cyprus. The Greek barman.

A lot has changed since I was in, nice to see an update :)

Wedges Ubique
 
Genuinely that sounds ace.:mrgreen:

If I could do it again.....

Most bootnecks I know with 17/18 year old kids are pushing them towards the engineers as a sensible option for joining up

Wots appened to 59 Cdo?
 
Genuinely that sounds ace.:mrgreen:

Most bootnecks I know with 17/18 year old kids are pushing them towards the engineers as a sensible option for joining up

My old man and uncle were sappers (37 years of service between them), and myself and two of my brothers are sappers. Just me and my brothers have served in 21, 22 armd, 28 amphibious, 32 armd, 33 EOD and 35.

The R.E has the perfect blend of trade and green army stuff and less of the barrack BS.
 

X59

LE
Genuinely that sounds ace.:mrgreen:

If I could do it again.....

Most bootnecks I know with 17/18 year old kids are pushing them towards the engineers as a sensible option for joining up

Wots appened to 59 Cdo?

59 ceased to be an independent Sqn and are now a sub unit of 24 Cdo Engineer Regt.
 

chimera

LE
Moderator
35 is getting disbanded.
 

chimera

LE
Moderator

chimera

LE
Moderator
More updates and information:

 

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