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BVT remembers the Sappers at ANZAC

April 25th 2016 marks 101st ANZAC Day celebration.  There are currently over 20,000 New Zealanders who have recently served in the military.  It is important to remember that these young men and women who served their country also need our support. The theme of this year’s appeal is “remember to care” – encouraging New Zealanders to honour the memory of the service people who have gone before, by supporting those still with us. Please support the RSA’s ‘Remember to Care’ 2016 Appeal.

BVT would like to draw attention to the role important role that Engineer’s have played in the military.  

Sapper is the name for a military engineer. As you have private for the infantry, if you are an engineer you are a sapper. The term comes from the French military.  It referred to a person who excavated trenches under defensive musket or artillery first to advance the army’s position in relation to the works of an an attacked fortification, which was referred to as sapping the army fortifications.

History of the term Sapper

A sapper, also called pioneer or combat engineer, is a combatant or soldier who performs a variety of military engineering duties such as bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, demolitions, field defences and general construction, as well as road and airfield construction and repair. They are also trained to serve as infantry personnel in defensive and offensive operations. A sapper’s duties are devoted to tasks involving facilitating movement, defence and survival of allied forces and impeding those of enemies.

Saps were excavated by brigades of trained sappers or instructed troops. When an army was defending a fortress with cannon, they had an obvious height and therefore range advantage over the attacker’s guns. The attacking army’s artillery had to be brought forward, under fire, so as to facilitate effective counter-battery fire.

This was achieved by digging what the French termed a sappe (derived from the archaic French word for spade). Using techniques developed and perfected by Vauban, the sappers began the trench at such an angle so as to avoid enemy fire enfilading the sappe. As they pressed forward, a position was prepared from which cannon could suppress the defenders on the bastions. The sappers would then change the course of their trench, zig-zagging toward the fortress wall.

Each leg brought the attacker’s artillery closer until the besieged cannon would be sufficiently suppressed for the attackers to breach the walls. Broadly speaking, sappers were originally experts at demolishing or otherwise overcoming or bypassing fortification systems.

History of New Zealand Sappers

The Corps of Royal New Zealand Engineers is the military engineering regiment/corps of the New Zealand Army. Linton Camp has been known throughout the Army as the traditional home of the Engineers. The role of the Engineers is to assist in maintaining friendly forces’ mobility, deny freedom of movement to the enemy, and provide general engineering support.

The Corps was formally established by a notice in the New Zealand Gazette of 15 January 1903, backdated to 15 October 1902. Since that date New Zealand Engineers served with the Expeditionary Force sent to Samoa, the New Zealand Expeditionary Force sent to the Middle East during the First World War, two field companies and a field park company, plus a number of specialist forestry and other units with Second NZ Expeditionary Force during the Second World War,[1] with 3rd New Zealand Division in the Pacific, as well as in Korea and Vietnam.

From November 1973 there was a significant reorganisation of the Engineers following the end of Compulsory Military Training. Full control of all RNZE operational units in New Zealand was placed under HQ Field Force Command. HQ Force Engineers within Field Force Command supervised the various units: 1 Field Squadron attached to 1 Infantry Brigade in the Northern Region, three squadrons in the Central Region under HQ Logistics Support Group (2 Field Squadron, 6 Ind Field Squadron, and 5 Support Squadron), while 3 Field Squadron as part of 3 Infantry Brigade was located in the Southern Region.[2] This order of battle lasted generally until the early 1980s.

The 2nd Engineer Regiment is housed in Linton Military Camp that is situated approximately 10 km South of the City of Palmerston North. Raised on 1 July 1993 the regiment is now the only military engineer unit in the New Zealand Army.[3] 2nd Engineer Regiment is to generate and sustain Engineer Troop and Squadron level command and control competent in combined arms operations in order to meet directed outputs. The School of Military Engineering first moved to Linton Camp in June 1953 but now comes under the control of Army Schools in Waiouru.

Since 1945, regular Sappers have played an increasingly important role in the New Zealand Army. Apart from their efforts in several smaller conflicts in Asia, they have applied their skills to a variety of tasks in support of the community and, more recently, have been heavily involved in peacekeeping operations, including those in Cambodia, Loas, Sudan, Pakistan, Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, East Timor, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Sinai and Solomon Islands from 1989 to the present day. Disaster relief in the form of structural rebuilding and repair of services among the South Pacific islands is also an important task on an as-needed basis.The Kiwi Sapper has an enviable record of courage, dedication and determination – qualities that have established the Corps reputation for exemplary service over a hundred years.

NZ Army Engineers

Present day Sappers

Corps of Royal NZ Engineers

The New Zealand Defence Force describes the The Corps of Royal NZ Engineers provides obstacles to hinder enemy movement and assists with the movement of our own troops. The Engineers are also the Army’s builders and can construct roads, airfields, buildings, wharves and water wells. They are the Army specialists in mine warfare and have developed an expertise in training ‘de-miners’. If you think you have what it takes to be a ‘Sapper’ check out this link.

For more information about Sappers:







Visit the The Engineer Corps Memorial Centre in Linton Military Camp, Palmerston North, NEW ZEALAND