Military engineers are soldiers specially trained to apply engineering science and technology to war. Their designation as "sappers" refers to their task of sapping - digging trenches. Their tasks include building roads, bridges, railways, airfields, field FORTIFICATIONS, and antitank and other obstacles; laying and removing demolition charges and mines; and spearheading amphibious assaults by preparing invasion beaches for subsequent landings. Volunteer companies served in the militia from 1859, and on 1 July 1903 the Canadian Engineers Corps was added to the Permanent Force. They became the Royal Canadian engineers (RCE) on 1 Feb 1904 and the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers in 1936. They served overseas in both world wars where, in addition to normal duties, they provided mining and tunnelling companies at the front, in Britain, and at Gibraltar. They were deployed in Europe with the CANADIAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE in WWI. In WWII RCE units were involved in operations in North Africa, France, Italy, Holland and Germany.
Engineering units served in Korea, where they built roads, bridges, airfields and camps and did demolition work. The Canadian Forces Reorganization Act unified the three branches of the military in 1968. The military engineers of the Army, Navy and Air Force were brought together to form the Canadian Military Engineers (CME) in 1971. Reorganization of the Canadian Forces in the 1990s added subgroups to the CME to meet the particular needs of each environmental element. The subgroups include the Army Engineer Officers (ENGRS), the Field Engineers (FD ENGRS) and Field Engineer Equipment Operators (FEE OP) in the Land Force (Army), and Air Force Engineer Officers (AF ENG) and Fire Fighters (FIRE FTR) in the Air Force.
In peacetime, Canada's military engineers conduct land surveys, participate in UN peacekeeping duties, and contribute to northern development through the construction of dams, bridges, roads and airfields. They are present on virtually every Canadian military establishment. Their omnipresence proves that their motto "Ubique" (Everywhere) is an apt description.