The Victorian Corps of Engineers History

The Royal Australian Engineers have a long and proud history dating back to 1860 when a number of citizens of the Colony of Victoria perceived a need to form a military forceful the defence of the colony from outside threats such as the Russians.

The origins of the Royal Australian Engineers date back to 15 November 1860, when the Corps of Engineers was founded in the colony of Victoria by Peter Scratchley. By 1876, five of the six colonies—New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia—had raised their own engineer units. These were amalgamated on 1 July 1902 as the Corps of Engineers. At this time, the corps consisted of field, fortress, telegraph, electric and submarine mining companies. On 19th March 1907 the small regular engineer component was granted the prefix “Royal” however, the militia remained the “Australian Engineers” until 31st January 1936.

Major-General Sir Peter Henry Scratchley, K.C.M.G., R.E.

Major General Sir Peter Henry Scratchley KCMG (24 August 1835 – 2 December 1885) was special commissioner for Great Britain in New Guinea 1884–1885 and defence adviser for Australia.

1860 Duke of Rothesay Hotel, Melbourne

In 1860, a number of citizens of the Colony of Victoria perceived a need to form a military forceful the defence of the colony from outside threats such as the Russians.

A group of these patriotic citizens met on 7 November 1860, at the Duke of Rothesay Hotel then located on the East side of Elizabeth St, now number 24, between Flinders St and Flinders Lane, to discuss the possible formation of a Corps of Volunteer Engineers.

After drafting up a set of rules and discussing these with the then Capt Scratchley of the Royal Engineers, who incidentally was involved in the design and supervision of the construction of coastal defence works for most of the major Australian ports including Port Phillip Bay.

The following week on 15 November 1860 these citizens again met at the Duke of Rothesay Hotel and officially formed the Victorian Volunteer Corps of Engineers.

The Duke of Rothesay Hotel, Melbourne
Plaque located on the wall of 24 Elizabeth Street Melbourne
This plaque was unveiled on 12 November 1972 by the Governor of Victoria, His Excellency Maj Gen Sir Rohan Delacombe K.C.M.G., K.V.C.O., K.B.E., C.B., D.S.O., K.St.J..

1860-1863 St Kilda Road, Melbourne

The members of the Engineer Corps held their early parades at a temporary barracks that were built in 1852 for the 40th Regiment (Infantry). The barracks were located on the East side of St Kilda Rd on a site that now forms the Queen Victoria Gardens

Victorian Volunteer Engineers 1861

1863-1865 Beehive Hotel, Melbourne

In 1863 the Engineer Corps moved into the city area, establishing an Orderly Room in the Beehive Hotel.

1866-1877 Lygon Street, Carlton

For the period 1866-1877, the Victorian Volunteer Engineer Corps is listed in those annual Melbourne and Suburbs Street Directories as occupying a acre allotment in Lygon Street Carlton. At that time it adjoined the Northern boundary of the then Trades Hall Literary Institutes 10 acre Crown Grant, situated the North East comer of Lygon and Victoria Streets 

Early official maps of Carlton (held by the state Library) also record this occupancy. The site was described on a subdivisions Plan as being lot number Parish of Jika Jika. Section I8 at Carlton. 

During 1887 the Trades Hall and Literary Institute was granted a Crown title to this ¼ acre site for the construction of a female Operatives Hall. During the 1920’s this was demolished to enable an extension to Trades Hall building to be undertaken. 

On processing the application for the ¼ acre Crown grant. Colonial Government correspondence (State Office) records that the Secretary for Lands. The Military Commander Colonel TB Hutton of such intent, adding “On inspection of our plans the land question is shown as a Reserve for the Voluntary Engineer Corps but I can find no trace of any formal reservation of the land, therefore I would respectfully request you to let me know before the 12th inst what claim the Volunteers have to the land now and if any by what authority

Major FW Bull on the 10th April replied on behalf of Commandant, “the land in question was formerly in occupancy of the Voluntary Engineers and upon it was erected their Orderly Room, but the material has recently been removed to their Engineer Depot in Wellington Parade and the Military has given up all claim to the land’

For quite a number of years following the re-establishment of their Depot in Wellington Parade the Corps continued to occupy their Lygon Street building. 

The Victorian Volunteer Engineer Corps throwing a Pontoon bridge across the Yarra 14 December 1870

1868-1894 Wellington Parade South, Jolimont

1868 the Victorian Volunteer Engineer Corps moved to a 4 ha site on the South side of Wellington Parade South.

This had originally been Capt Lonsdale’s house till 1854 which was a prefabricated house built by the Royal Engineers in Sydney and shipped to Melbourne. It was used as the Corps HQ. There was a horse paddock, parade ground and training area.

1869 a pontoon shed was built on the South bank of  the Yarra upstream from Princess Bridge for watermanship and bridging training. In 1871 the shed was removed by the Government in order to make room for the embankment of the ornamental lake which forms a portion of the Government House domain. It was re-erected and enlarged on the other side adjacent to CPT Lonsdale’s old house that was now being used by the Victorian Engineers as an Orderly room after moving from Lygon Street.

1870 the Victorian Government established a seperate Torpedo and Signals Corps on 4 November 1870, but in 1875 they transferred to the Engineer Corps.

January 1884 the Volunteer Corps was disbanded and a Corps of Engineers was approved and the first regular Victorian Engineer unit was the Permanent Section of the Torpedo Corps.

In 1885 a Victorian Government return dated 30 June 1885 listed 10 Regular soldiers (the Permanent Section)seventy Militia men in the Torpedo Corps and 101 men in the Engineer Corps

June 1886 both corps were merged the Corps of Engineers. The torpedo men, their unit was renamed the Submarine Mining Company, Corps of Engineers and was based in Port Melbourne. Now numbering 63 all ranks, they were also responsible for searchlights.The Field Company at Jolimont, now with a telegraph section had a strength of 99.

In 1889 the Victorian Railways system was expanding and the State Government decided the site was required for railway purposes and therefore it was time to move again, this time to Alexandra Avenue back on the South side of the Yarra about 200 meters East of where the old pontoon bridge and shed were and the Jolimont buildings were moved again. m-

Capt Lonsdale’s house in 1877 and the Jolimont Depot to the right
1880 Map of Melbourne
Plaque located on the corner of Wellington Parade South and Jolimont Rd, East Melbourne.

Extract from the Argus Newspaper 11 September 1875

1894-1934 Alexandra Avenue, Melbourne

During the period 1890 – 1891 the Sappers dismantled their buildings in Jolimont and re-erected them on the new site at Alexander Avenue after the railways wanted the area.

It eventually included a large parade ground, HQ buildings, Staff housing, stables, machinery sheds and magazine.

17 July 1894 – The official Occupancy date.

1901 – Australian Federation occurred and the colonial units became part of the Australian Army.

1 July 1902 – The Victorian Engineers became the Corps of Australian Engineers

4 October 1907 the Regular Army became the Royal Australian Engineers and in 1936 the Militia became part of the Royal Australian Engineers

1912-1918 – 10 Field Company First AIF – Alexandra Parade, Melbourne

1 May 1921 – Reformed as 10 Independent Field Squadron at Alexandra Parade, Melbourne

1 July 1901 The Corps of the Australian Engineers formed

 The Corps of the Australian Engineers was formed from the amalgamation of the existing Corps of Volunteer Engineer units of the Commonwealth.

1934- 1991 Swan Street, Richmond

The Swan Street Depot housed various Engineer units including Militia, Citizen Military Forces and Army Reserve.

Many Victorian Engineer Troops volunteering or being called up for service including National Servicemen mustered here.

1 July 1948 – RAE 3 Division (CMF) units re-raised at Swan St, Richmond

1948 – 1st troop of 10 Independent Field Squadron (Armoured) moved to Swan St from Alexandra Parade

1948 – 3 Field Engineer Regiment RHQ and LAD at Swan Street

1948 – 2 and 8 Field Squadrons at Swan Street

1953 – 6 Engineer Group Formed at Swan St, Richmond

1960 – 6 Engineer Group re-designated 6 Construction Group at Swan St, Richmond

1964 – 3 Field Engineer Regiment RHQ and LAD move to Dublin Road, Ringwood East

1964 – 2 and 8 Field Squadrons move to Dublin Road, Ringwood East

3 November 1991 – The units left for Oakleigh Depot because again the land was required by the Government

Plaque located outside Olympic Park Melbourne

1947 – Marine Parade, Abbotsford

1947 – 16 Construction Squadron – Marine Parade Abbotsford

1952 – Re-designated 16 Field Squadron – Marine Parade Abbotsford

1952 – 29 Corps Field Park Squadron & Light Aid Detachment – Marine Parade Abbotsford

1964 – 16 Field Squadron relocated to Dublin Road, Ringwood East

1949 – 1956 Adjacent to Ringwood Station

1949 – The 2nd troop of 10 Independent Field Squadron moved to a training depot on railway property near the Ringwood East railway station from Alexandra Parade Depot

1956 – The timber training depot was demolished and re-erected at Wonthaggi and the Squadron moved to the new training depot at Ringwood East.

1951-1975 South End Road, Yallourn

1954 – Dublin Road, Ringwood East

1954 – 2nd troop of 10 Independent Field Squadron moved to Dublin Road from Ringwood station,

1964 – The 1st troop of 10 Independent Field Squadron moved from Swan Street, Richmond and both troops became 10 Field Squadron.

1964 – 8 Field Squadron moved from Swan Street, Richmond

1964 – 2 Field Squadron moved from Swan Street, Richmond

1964 – 3 Field Engineer Regiment moved from Swan Street, Richmond

1964 – 16 Field Engineer Regiment moved from Marine Parade, Abbotsford

1975 – 10 Field Squadron becomes part of 7 Field Engineer Regiment

1987 – 8 Field Squadron disbanded

1991 – 10 Field Squadron (Independent) joins 2 Division Engineers to give combat support to 4 Brigade

1992 – 7 Field Engineer Regiment became 7 Engineer Support Regiment

30 June 1995 – 10 Field Squadron (Independent) is disbanded.

1 July 1995 – 7 Engineer Support Regiment is re-designated 4 Combat Engineer Regiment

1 July 1995 – 10 Combat Engineer Squadron Formed as part of 4 Combat Engineer Regiment

1 January 2007 – 8 Field Squadron re-raised as 8 Combat Engineer Squadron formed as part of 4 Combat Engineer Regiment

3 December 2012 – 4 Combat Engineer Regiment that includes 8 and 10 Combat Engineer Squadrons amalgamated with 22 Construction Regiment

November 2014 – 22 Construction Regiment changed over to 22 Engineer Regiment

1975 – Monash Road, Newborough

1991 – North Road, Oakleigh

November 2014 – 10 Combat Engineer Squadron moved to 22 Engineer Regiment – North Road, Oakleigh

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