Heritage & History

What is Canadian Military Engineer History?

Throughout history, military engineers have been innovators, in the forefront of harnessing nature and machines to serve our needs. The early application of the engineering discipline was military engineering. Indeed, the term “Civil Engineer” came about to distinguish those engineers who practised the profession uniquely in the civil sector.

Unadorned by an adjective, an engineer was presumed to be military. In many cases, it has been the military engineer who has been responsible for the application of a new technology to warfare and, once mastered, that field has often devolved into a new and separate corps. For example, with the introduction of gunpowder, cannon were sometimes under the control of an engineer and ordnance trains were often commanded by engineers. The guns themselves were later handed over to the artillery and mechanical transport was handed to the new transportation corps. Signalling had its origins with the Royal Engineers in Crimea and it was an engineer responsibility to provide communications up to the brigade level. A separate signal corps was only established in the Canadian Army after the First World War. Submarine mining also had its origins in the Royal Engineers before it was transferred to the Royal Navy. Ballooning and heavier-than-air machines were also a Royal Engineer responsibility until the First World War when separate air forces were formed.

A good background of the history of Military Engineering and of Canadian Military Engineering is found at Chapter 1 of  Customs and Traditions of the Canadian Military Engineers".

Official History of Canadian Military Engineers

The Military Engineers’ Association of Canada and the Military Engineering Institute of Canada have produced the History of the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers and The Canadian Military Engineers in three volumes with a fourth volume in production. The books can be ordered individually or as a set. Click here for instructions.

Other Sources of Canadian Military Engineer History

There are several excellent online sources of Canadian Military History information to get a person started on research:

  • The Canadian Military History Gateway provides access to a major collection of historic material.
  • The three-volume series, “Canadian Military Heritage,” at the Directorate of History and Heritage is a good dealing of the broad subject. The interactive publication can take a couple of hours to peruse but is worth the time invested.

The Canadian Military Engineering Museum

If you need help in researching specific areas of Canadian Military Engineering history, The Canadian Military Engineering Museum located at CFB Gagetown may be able to help.  You can find them at http://www.cmemuseum.ca.