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History

The Corps of Royal Engineers was formed in 1856, when two organisations were brought together: the Royal Engineers, comprising entirely of officers, and the Royal Sappers and Miners, being the other ranks.

Both corps, with units scattered throughout the world, had their headquarters at Woolwich, where there was a small bugle band.

In 1835 a Corps Bugle Major was appointed, who worked hard to improve upon the standards of these early musicians, to such good effect that in 1847 they were invited to perform at a banquet given by the Chancellor of Cambridge University, which was attended by HRH Prince Albert.

In 1856 the Royal Engineers and the Sappers and Miners amalgamated, and became known as the Corps of Royal Engineers with its headquarters at Chatham.

From 1880 a full RE Symphony Orchestra began to emerge. It became so popular that in 1887, at Queen Victoria's command they performed at Buckingham Palace for a State banquet on the occasion of Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee.

The growing reputation of the Engineers Band during this period was not restricted to their musical activities; they also had a football team of some note, and in 1880 the Band Club won the local challenge cup. Later, Rochester Invicta and the Band Club joined forces to form the first Chatham Football Club, which in the 1888-1889 season had a successful run in the England Cup, beating such clubs as the London Caledonians and Nottingham Forest, the latter match proving to be a challenging fixture that was only won after three replays.

During the First World War in 1916 and 1917 the Band toured the forward areas in France and Belgium, giving some 175 concerts to the troops and travelling over 1800 miles. Following the cessation of hostilities, the Band made a further tour of the war areas.

In February 1919, the Continental Daily Mail reported that, 'Last evening the Band of the Royal Engineers gave a magnificent concert to the men at the Hotel Moderne, Place de la Republique, Paris, where 4,500 troops were entertained'.

In 1936 the Corps Band played at the funeral of King George V. With their scarlet tunics and bearskins, they were unfortunately mistaken for a Guards Band, and to avoid such confusion in the future it was decreed that busbies would be substituted for the bearskins, in time for the Coronation of King George VI in 1937.

In 1941 the Band moved north to Ripon, Yorkshire, with the School of Military Engineering and the Headquarters of the Corps. During the war years the Band toured continually playing to the British and allied troops in the United Kingdom. Following the cessation of hostilities in 1945, the band returned to its home in Chatham.

On 4 May 1946 the Band embarked from Liverpool on a Middle Eastern tour. The Band toured through Egypt, Palestine, Transjordan, Syria and the Lebanon. A symphony concert was given in Nazareth to an audience of 2,500, including 700 Polish refugees. The Band finally set sail for home from Port Said on Christmas Day, 1946.

In 1952 the Band played at the funeral of King George VI, also the Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II. In August of the same year the Band embarked on a further tour of the Middle East returning in November. In 1957 the band visited Africa for the celebrations to mark the Gold Coast's transition to the Republic of Ghana, the first sub-Saharan colonial nation to achieve independence.

In 1972 the Band spent four weeks in Gibraltar, during which time the Corps received the Freedom of the City of Gibraltar and played in St Michael's Cave and Gibraltar Cathedral.

The Royal Engineers Band has appeared at numerous state occasions, Royal Tournaments, Edinburgh Military Tattoos and national sporting events. It has also played for the opening of some of this country's greatest engineering achievements; including The Channel Tunnel and the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge. Despite various cutbacks, the Sappers have maintained an outstanding military band and also an excellent orchestra, and remains today one of the premier bands in the Army. It continually achieves wide public recognition through its many broadcasts, recordings and concert performances.

In recent years the Band has travelled extensively throughout Europe, Australia, The Falkland Islands, Hong Kong, The Middle East, Uzbekistan, South Korea, Canada and Dominican Republic.

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