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Epic ride marks 300 years of Royal Engineers

20 September 2016

Royal Engineers have set off on an epic 300-hour cycle ride to Gibraltar, the birthplace of the Corps of Royal Engineers, to celebrate their 300th anniversary.

Nine soldiers from 66 Works Group, part of 170 (Infrastructure Support) Engineer Group Royal Engineers, left the Royal Albert Hall, in London, yesterday and will cover nearly 1800 miles before arriving in Gibraltar on October 1.

The Sappers chose the Albert Hall as their starting point because the Royal Engineers designed and oversaw its construction nearly 150-years ago. The Royal Albert Hall was built between 1867 and 1871 to the design of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Scott, based on a design by Captain Francis Fowke, both Royal Engineers.

Birth of the Engineers

The origins of British military engineering can be traced back to the Anglo-Saxons and King Offa of Mercia. Later, in 1066, William the Conqueror’s King’s Engineer, Humphrey de Tilleul, erected a pre-fabricated fort at Hastings after the battle with King Harold. He was succeeded as King’s Engineer by a monk named Gundulph, who became Bishop of Rochester and famously oversaw the construction of the White Tower in the Tower of London.

In 1415, Henry V raised a permanent 'Office in Ordnance' which included engineer and gunner officers. It was subsequently named the Board of Ordnance.

In 1714, the organisation of the Board of Ordnance was reassessed and the then Chief Engineer, the Right Honorable Brigadier Michael Richards, proposed the formation of a regiment of artillery on a separate establishment to that of the engineers. This was subsequently enacted by Royal Warrant on 26th May 1716 and the Royal Regiment of Artillery and the Corps of Engineers were born.

The Sappers ride out from the Royal Albert Hall in London.

The idea for the celebratory ride came from the Commanding Officer of 66 Works Group, Lieutenant Colonel Simon Millar. He said: “Our motto is ‘Ubique’ which means everywhere and I wanted to reflect that and our history in the challenge."

The team of nine riders, ranging from club level cyclists to recreational cyclists, will be backed up by a six-man support team. They aim to cycle 150-miles a day to cover the route in twelve and a half days (300 hours).

Lieutenant Colonel Millar added: “This is an enormous challenge and tests all the qualities and skills of leadership, organisation and determination, not to mention physical fitness that is to be expected in the Corps. I am proud of everyone associated with this challenge and am confident of their success.”

The Sappers also hope to raise more than £10,000 for The Royal British Legion, The Royal Engineers Association and Cancer Research UK.

You can show your support and follow them on Twitter @ExSapperVuelta

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