Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

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Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Cap Badge
Active 1 October 1942 – Present
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Size 6 Regular Battalions, 2 Training Battalions, 2 Integrated Battalions, 2 Army Reserve Battalions, also Sub Units attached to most British Army Units
Garrison/HQ Arborfield
Motto "Arte et Marte" (By Skill and By Fighting)
Ceremonial chief HRH Prince Philip
British Army arms and services
Flag of the British Army.svg
Combat Arms
Royal Armoured Corps
Army Air Corps
Combat Support Arms
Royal Artillery
Royal Engineers
Royal Corps of Signals
Intelligence Corps
Combat Services
Royal Army Chaplains Department
Royal Logistic Corps
Army Medical Services
Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Adjutant General's Corps
Small Arms School Corps
Royal Army Physical Training Corps
General Service Corps
Corps of Army Music

The Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME; pronounced phonetically as "Reemee" with stress on the first syllable) is a corps of the British Army that has responsibility for the maintenance, servicing and inspection of almost every electrical and mechanical piece of equipment within the British Army from Challenger 2 main battle tanks and WAH-64 Apache helicopters to dental tools and cooking equipment.


Prior to REME's formation, maintenance was the responsibility of several different corps:

World War II's increase in quantity and complexity of equipment exposed the flaws in this system. Pursuant to the recommendation of a committee William Beveridge chaired, the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers was formed in October 1942. Maj Gen Sir E. B. Rowcroft, who was instrumental in its creation, was appointed the first director of the Corps. The Corps had the rare honour of being granted the 'Royal' prefix at its inception. In addition, the Lillibullero was selected as the official Regimental March of the REME.

Phase I[edit]

Such a major re-organisation was too complex, however, to be carried out quickly and completely in the middle of a world war. Therefore the changeover was undertaken in two phases. In Phase I, which was implemented immediately, REME was formed on the existing framework of the RAOC Engineering Branch, strengthened by the transfer of certain technical units and tradesmen from the RE and RASC. At the same time a number of individual tradesmen were transferred into REME from other corps. The new corps was made responsible for repairing the technical equipment of all arms with certain major exceptions. REME did not yet undertake:

  • Those repairs which were carried out by unit tradesmen who were driver/mechanics or fitters in regiments and belonged to the unit rather than being attached to it.
  • Repairs of RASC-operated vehicles, which remained the responsibility of the RASC; each RASC Transport Company had its own workshop.
  • Repairs of RE specialist equipment, which remained the responsibility of the RE.

Phase II[edit]

In 1949, it was decided that "REME Phase II" should be implemented. This decision was published in Army Council Instruction 110 of 1949, and the necessary reorganisation was carried out in the various arms and services in three stages between July 1951 and January 1952. The main changes were:

  • The transfer to REME of most of the unit repair responsibilities of other arms (Infantry, Royal Artillery, Royal Armoured Corps etc.).
  • The provision of Light Aid Detachments for certain units that had not possessed them under the old organisation.
  • The provision of new REME workshops to carry out field repairs in RASC transport companies. Maintenance of vessels of the RASC fleet whilst in port was given to the fleet repair branch, a civilian organisation who came under the R.E.M.E umberela.

This organisation was also responsible for arranging and overseeing ship refits.

Cap badges[edit]

After some interim designs, the badge of the Corps was formalised in June 1943 for use as the cap-badge, collar-badge, and on the buttons. It consisted of an oval Royally Crowned laurel wreath; on the wreath were four small shields at the compass points, each shield bearing one of the letters of "REME".[1] Within the wreath was a pair of calipers.[2] Examples of these early badges can be found at the REME Museum. In 1947 the Horse and Lightning was adopted as the cap badge. This badge has a strong significance to the role of the Corps. The cap badge consists of a Crown denoting the 'Royal' status granted them, the Horse and Chain represent the harnessing of mechanical power whilst the Lightning Bolt represents Electrical and the Globe represents the application of Engineering worldwide.

Maj Ivan Hirst REME and Volkswagen[edit]

At the end of the war, the Allies occupied the major German industrial centres to decide their fate. The Volkswagen factory at Wolfsburg became part of the British Zone in June 1945 and No. 30 Workshop Control Unit, REME, assumed control in July. They operated under the overall direction of Colonel Michael McEvoy at Rhine Army Headquarters, Bad Oeynhausen. Uniquely, he had experience of the KdF Wagen in his pre-war career as a motor racing engineer. Whilst attending the Berlin Motor Show in 1939 he was able to test drive one. After visiting the Volkswagen factory he had the idea of trying to get Volkswagen back into production to provide light transport for the occupying forces. The British Army, Red Cross and essential German services were chronically short of light vehicles. If the factory could provide them, there would be no cost to the British taxpayer and the factory could be saved. To do this though, a good manager with technical experience would be needed.

Maj. Ivan Hirst was told simply to “take charge of” the Volkswagen plant before arriving in August 1945. He had drains fixed and bomb craters filled in; land in front of the factory was given over to food production.

At first, the wartime Kubelwagen was viewed as a suitable vehicle. However, once it became clear it could not be put back into production, the Volkswagen saloon or Kaefer (Beetle) was suggested.

Hirst had an example delivered to Rhine Army headquarters where it was demonstrated by Colonel McEvoy. The positive reaction led to the Military Government placing an order for 20,000 Volkswagens in September 1945.[3]

REME today[edit]

REME Full Dress Home Service Helmet with Brunswick star cap badge.

With minor exceptions only, the Corps is now responsible for the examination, modification, repair and recovery of all mechanical, electronic, electrical and optical equipment of the Army beyond the capacity of unit non-technical personnel, notable exceptions are so called 'C' plant vehicles which on the most part is carried out by Royal Engineer Fitters and 'ALC Vehicles' and Field Electrical Power supplies (FEPS).

REME currently has its Regimental Headquarters collocated with the trade specific Class 3, Class 1 and Artificer training of Electronic and Aeronautical Technicians at 11 Training Battalion REME based in Arborfield Garrison, in Berkshire. Class 3, 1 and Artificer training of Electro/Mechanical trades of REME and various related training to other units within the British army and the Navy and Air Force is conducted at 10 Training Battalion REME, based at Bordon, Hampshire. [4]

Both sites are scheduled to close and relocate to the former RAF Lyneham under the Defence Technical Training Change Programme (DTTCP) where they will both be part of the Defence College of Technical Training (DCTT)

REME employs both male and female personnel in all roles.

Within REME there are a total of six regular, two integrated, two training and two Army Reserve battalions:

  • Regular Army
    • 1 (Close Support) Battalion REME, based in Catterick, provides equipment support to 4 Mechanised Brigade
    • 2 (Close Support) Battalion REME, based in Germany, provides equipment support to 7 Armoured Brigade
    • 3 (Close Support) Battalion REME, based in Germany, provides equipment support to 20th Armoured Brigade
    • 4 (Close Support) Battalion REME, based in Tidworth, provides equipment support to 12 Mechanised Brigade
    • 6 (Close Support) Battalion REME, Based in Tidworth, provides equipment support to 1 Mechanised Brigade
    • 7 (Air Assault) Battalion REME, based in Wattisham, provides equipment support to 16 Air Assault Brigade
  • REME Training Battalions
    • 10 Training Battalion REME, based in Bordon, provides trade training to regular soldiers as well as army reserve soldiers as Vehicle mechanics, Armourers, Recovery Mechanics, Metalsmiths and technical support specialists as well as conducting equipment courses.
    • 11 Training Battalion REME, based in Arborfield, provides trade training to Electronics Technicians, Avionics Technicians and Aircraft Technicians.
  • Integrated (mixed Regular and Army Reserve) 'Force Support' battalions
    • 5 (Force Support) Battalion REME, HQ based in Bordon, Regular troops based in Tidworth, Reserve troops based in Northampton, Rotherham and Scunthorpe
    • 101 (Force Support) Battalion REME, HQ based in Wrexham, with sub units in Prestatyn, Coventry and Manchester
  • Army Reserve
    • 102 Battalion REME, HQ based in Newton Aycliffe with sub units in Grangemouth and Newcastle upon Tyne
    • 103 Battalion REME, HQ based in Crawley with sub units in Redhill, Ashford and Portsmouth

Note: The five REME (Close Support Battalions), although embedded within the Brigade, are under command of a Commander Equipment Support working at a Divisional Headquarters; these Battalions are Divisional troops.

REME also have soldiers attached to most units in the British Army to provide first line support for specific unit equipment, these soldiers are usually part of a Light Aid Detachment (LAD) or Workshop (WKSP).

REME also maintains the REME Museum of Technology, which is situated at Arborfield Garrison and which is open to the public.

REME assists service leavers from the Corps to find future employment on completion of their colour service through the REME Association Job Agency REME soldiers on leaving the Army invariably end up in a technical role in the civilian sector and are in high demand due to the qualities and qualifications they have from working within what is a high pressure environment.

REME's patron saint is St Eligius; he is the traditional patron of all smiths, metal workers, and craftsmen. His commemoration is held every year on or around the first week of December.

List of Directors of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering[edit]

The head of REME is officially known as Director of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering.

  • Major General Denis Redman (1960 to 1963)
  • Major General Sir Leonard Henry Atkinson (1963 to 1966)[5]
  • Brigadier Stephen Tetlow
  • Brigadier Martin Boswell

Notable former personnel[edit]

  • Northern Ireland international footballer Maik Taylor was a lance corporal before going into professional football and his father was a staff sergeant. Taylor still maintains ties with the unit's football team.
  • Guy Wittingham, Manager and former player of Portsmouth Football Club was a Corporal in REME.


W. Durie "The British Garrison in Berlin 1945-1994, No where to go" Verlag: Vergangenheits, Berlin May 2012 ISBN 978-3-86408-068-5.

  2. Craftsmen of the Army Vol 2 1969-1992,(1996)
  3. Craftsmen of the Army Vol 1 1942-1968, (1970)

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Royal Army Medical Corps
Order of Precedence Succeeded by
Adjutant General's Corps