Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Cap Badge
Active 1st October 1942 – Present
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Size 7 Regular Battalions, 2 Training Battalions, 2 integrated Battalions, 2 Territorial Battalions
Garrison/HQ Various: Arborfield, Catterick, Bordon, Tidworth, Colchester, Hohne
Motto "Arte et Marte" (By Skill and By Fighting)
Colors Blue Red Yellow
Brigadier Boswell (Director of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (Army) (DEME(A)))
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") 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 II main battle tanks and WAH64 Apache helicopters to dental tools and cooking equipment/utensils.



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.

Phase I

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

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 and to vessels of the RASC fleet.

Cap Badges

Various REME cap badges have been authorised since the Corps' formation and pictures of these can be found at the REME Museum. In 1947 the cap badge adopted the Horse and Lightning. 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 universally.

Maj Ivan Hirst REME and Volkswagen

At the end of the war, the Allies occupied the major German industrial centers 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 lead to the Military Government placing an order for 20,000 Volkswagens in September 1945. [1]

REME today

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

With minor exceptions only, REME 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. REME currently has its Arms and Service Directorate, DEME(A) and Regimental Headquarters collocated with the trade specific Level 2,advanced Level 3 and Artificer training of Electronic and Aeronautical Technicians at 11 Training Battalion REME based in Arborfield Garrison, in the county of Berkshire. Levels 1, 2, 3 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 in Hampshire[2]

REME employs both male and female personnel.

Within REME there are a total of seven regular, two integrated, two training and two TA battalions:

  • Regular Army
    • 1 (Close Support) Battalion REME, based in Catterick, provides Equipment Support to 4 Armoured 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 20 Armoured Brigade
    • 4 (Close Support) Battalion REME, based in Tidworth, provides equipment support to 12 Mechanised Brigade
    • 19 Light Brigade Combat Service Support Battalion—19 Light 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 'black hand' trade groups
    • 11 Training Battalion REME, based in Arborfield, provides trade training to technician trade groups
  • Integrated (mixed Regular and TA) 'Force Support' battalions
    • 101 (Force Support) Battalions REME—102 Logistic Brigade
    • 104 (Force Support) Battalions REME—101 Logistic Brigade
  • Territorial Army
    • 102 Battalion, REME (V)—Regional Forces
    • 103 Battalion, REME (V)—Regional Forces

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 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 (RAJA)

CRARRV, recovery variant of the Challenger 2 used by REME Recovery Mechanics for forward recovery.

Former officers

  • William Russell—left as a Major in 1947; later designed a coffee percolator in 1952, and the world's first automatic electric kettle in 1955, to be sold by his company Russell Hobbs.
  • Ivan Hirst—left as a Major; saved Volkswagen from becoming a part of the spoils of the war reparations act at the end of WWII.
  • Edward Southwell Russell, 26th Baron de Clifford—left as a Lt.-Col.; the last peer to be tried for a felony by the House of Lords (1936) - acquitted.
  • Andrew Figgures

Former soldiers

  • Former Craftsman Martin Woodhouse left the corps in 1973. Using his Bmec training, he founded the garage business Woodhouse Engineering. In 2000, the business was awarded the Motor Trader national award for innovation due to its original use of video in recording every aspect of a cars visit to its works in Rayleigh, Essex and beating many established multi national businesses to the award such as Vauxhall Motors. In 2001, it received a further national award for its after market care. The BBC used its workshops in the making of Rogue Traders, Watchdog and Whistleblower programs from 2001 to 2008. Martin was an expert for all series during this time. He continues to run the business with his wife Wendy to date. His youngest son David continues the family connection with REME and is a serving helicopter technician at Watisham, Suffolk, England.


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

External links

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

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