photo by John Gordon
Cpl. Edward Hebb, Sapper
Steve Amery and Cpl. Scott Newing of the 1 Canadian Combat Engineer
Regiment in Edmonton learned about their forefathers, the Royal
Engineers, during a visit to Fort Langley o Monday. They
dressed in period costume and performed tasks that engineers
performed in the 1860s.
trace their pioneers roots.
from 1 Combat Engineer Regiment are retracing the steps of their
forefathers this week. They started their journey at the Fort
Langley National Historic Site on Monday.
group will retrace the steps of engineers who helped develop B.C. in
the 1800s. The four-day professional development opportunity
will see the group travel to Hope, Yale, Harrison Lake, and
Barkerville from Aug. 9 to 12.
The stop at the Fort
had engineers dress in period costume, and spend half the day
re-living engineer tasks that took place from the mid- to late
1800s, including barrel making, surveying, blacksmithing, milling,
as well as mounting a guard on the Fort.
"It allows us to get in
touch with who the Royal Engineers were," said Lieut. Price of the
regiment. "Starting at the Fort puts us in the right mind
It was Price's first
time at the national park.
"It's amazing, the way
of life here, a lot of what happens here ties in to out community
(Edmonton) with the military," he said.
The primary goal of the
tour is for professional development, Price said.
After a day at the
Fort, the group travelled to Hope, where they visited Christ Church,
which was planned and designed by the Royal Engineers in 1861.
While in Hope, the
engineers also had an opportunity to meet with veterans at the Hope
Legion, where they ate a meal and told stories.
Visiting historic Mile
0, of the Cariboo Road in Yale, the engineers saw firsthand the
challenge the engineers had building this road to the interior.
From Yale, the
engineers will travel to Alexandra Bridge, one of only two crossing
over the Fraser River which was constructed by (SEE page 4)
the Royal Engineers and
was in use until 1962 when the new highway was built.
The engineers' next
stop will be the Turnbull switchbacks, where they will learn about
the feat of building those paths by hand from the valley floor to
the top of the mountains.
On the third day, the
engineers will visit the alternate route through Harrison Lake,
which was abandoned after the Cariboo Road was built through the
Fraser Canyon. The engineers will also visit the Bridge River
First Nations Band in Lillooet, where they will learn about culture
and take part in a traditional fishing and salmon lunch.
To conclude the visit,
the engineers will travel to Barkerville, where they will learn
about the Gold Rush and how it necessitated the construction of
Cariboo Road, allowing the miners to mine further up the Fraser
The Canadian Military
Engineers celebrated 100 years last year.
Engineers sent 'to conquer nature'
Before Canada was
granted independence and British Columbia was still known as New
Caledonia, a contingent of British Army Engineers came to the Fraser
Valley in 1858 to build roads, facilitating the exploding economy of
the gold rush.
In the mid-1850s, just
as gold fever became epidemic, the first governor of British
Columbia, James Douglas requested Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton to send a
regiment of infantry to the new province. Instead, Lytton
wisely sent a regiment of Royal Engineers to start building the road
that would eventually become part of the Fraser Canyon Highway.
These engineers would
eventually become the Royal Canadian Engineers (RCE) in 1904.
This Canadian regiment went on to serve in the agony of Flanders in
the First World War, on the fatal beaches of Dieppe and every
theatre in the Second World War, in Korea and afterwards serving
with NATO in West Germany. In 1977, the regiment was
redesignated 1 Combat Engineer Regiment (1CER) and went on to serve
in the First Gulf War and later, the Balkans.
The re-enactment trip
this week is important to the regiment, says Major Chris Swallow,
who will lead the re-enactment expedition.
"Tradition is very
important to the Armed Forces," said Maj. Swallow. "It's
important to honour our history and because this is our 100th
anniversary, it's an excellent way of looking back.
"Some of the soldiers
will be in period dress to relive the time period," said Maj.
Swallow. "Some will be in the old Red Scarlets, while others
will be dressed in their regular combat greens."
During a stopover at
the Hope Legion 228 on Monday night, the public were invited to come
have a drink and listen to their incredible story, presented by
soldiers, again some in period dress. The talks included the
story of McGowan's War and The Pig War, which were two minor
skirmishes in Yale between dissident miners and the Royal Engineers.
On September 2, 1858, a
ship carrying 146 soldiers and 20 officers, left Gravesend, England
for the new world. Lytton gave a farewell speech to the men:
"Soldiers, you are
going to a distant country, not, I trust, to fight against men, but
to conquer nature; not to besiege cities, but to create them; not to
overthrow kingdoms, but to assist in establishing new communities
under the sceptre of your own Queen. For those noble objects,
you, soldiers of the Royal Engineers, have been specially selected."