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1st sussex engineers

The meaning of «1st sussex engineers»

The 1st Sussex Engineers was a Volunteer unit of Britain's Royal Engineers raised in Eastbourne in 1890. It became the engineer component of the 44th (Home Counties) Division of the Territorial Force, but its units saw action with Regular Army formations on the Western Front, at Salonika and in Italy during World War I, and in North Russia and Turkey after the war ended. During World War II its units were in the Battle of France and at Alamein, in Sicily, on D Day and the subsequent campaign in North West Europe, including the Rhine crossing. Detached companies fought in Tunisia, Italy, and Burma, where one was involved in the decisive Battle of Kohima and the assault crossing of the Irrawaddy. The unit continued in the postwar Territorial Army until 1967.

The enthusiasm for the Volunteer movement following an invasion scare in 1859 saw the creation of many Rifle, Artillery and Engineer Volunteer units composed of part-time soldiers eager to supplement the Regular British Army in time of need.[1][2] However, it was not until 1890 that an Engineer Volunteer Corps (EVC) was raised in Sussex. Its instigator was George Frederick Chambers, a barrister from Eastbourne, with the support of the Commanding Royal Engineer (CRE) for the South-East District and against opposition from local dignitaries and the 2nd Sussex Artillery Volunteers, who feared competition for recruits in the town. Towards the end of 1889 Chambers called a meeting to get the minimum 60 volunteers required, obtaining 105 names including a complete fife and drum band. The requisition was sent to the War Office, and the 1st Sussex Engineer Volunteer Corps officially came into existence in Eastbourne on 24 May 1890. Initially the company headquarters (HQ) was at Eastbourne Redoubt, then from April 1891 at 38 Commercial Road, Eastbourne. It was attached for administrative purposes to the 1st Middlesex EVC. It formed two additional companies in 1892, B at Newhaven and C at Seaford. From 1892 it was attached to the 1st Hampshire Engineers EVC and then became an independent unit from May 1895.[3][4][5][6]

Frederick Savage, headmaster of Seaford College, was commissioned as a Captain in the 1st Sussex EVC in 1891 and formed a Cadet Corps at the school that year. In July 1895 he was promoted to Major in command of the 1st Sussex EVC. Further cadet companies were formed at University and St Leonards Collegiate Schools, Hastings, in 1906 and 1907 respectively.[3][5][6][7] D Company of the 1st Sussex EVC was formed at Chalvington in 1896, but attempts the following year to raise three or four more companies were unsuccessful.[6]

After Black Week in December 1899, the Volunteers were invited to send active service units to assist the Regulars in the Second Boer War. From 70 volunteers, the 1st Sussex Engineers selected its detachment of one officer, one sergeant and 25 other ranks to work with the Royal Engineers (RE).[8][9] They were sworn in on 18 January 1900, underwent training at the RE depot at Chatham, Kent, and embarked at Southampton aboard the Tintagel Castle with similar sections from 11 other EVCs on 10 March. The ship arrived at Cape Town on 31 March where the first duty for the sappers was to unload balloons and gas cylinders for the RE Balloon Section. The Sussex Section was then given its assignment, which was to 23rd Field Company, RE, at Ladysmith. This entailed re-embarking and sailing to Durban, then proceeding by rail via Pietermaritzburg. The section spent three weeks repairing siege damage at Ladysmith, then with 23rd Fd Co it joined 4th Division's advance towards Newcastle. The main job for the sappers was to repair drifts (fords) so that the transport and artillery could cross the numerous rivers, but providing water supplies for the horses was also important. During the four-day Battle of Belfast the sappers were involved in digging trenches and gun positions. The force then drove the Boers out of Lydenburg into the Mauchsberg Mountains, where the sappers were employed to get the guns forward from ridge to ridge. After reaching Kruger Post, the column returned to Lydenburg, where the sappers built a six-span square timber bridge over the Crocodile River, sangars and water supplies.[8]

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