The sappers are coming, the sappers are coming! August 9th-11th, 2015

Wilds To Riches  22

The sappers are coming! – photo by Pat Curling

The Royal Engineers, or sappers as they were colloquially known, were British soldiers who performed a variety of military engineering duties in British Columbia before, during, and after the gold rush, such as bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, demolitions, field defences and general construction, as well as road and airfield construction and repair. The Columbia Detachment of the Royal Engineers was responsible for construction of the Cariboo Waggon Road (which was spelled with two Gs in 1865), considered at the time to be the “eighth wonder of the world.”

Based in British Columbia with members throughout the Pacific North-West (Canada and the US), the Royal Engineers & Associates Living History Group is an educational unit that re-creates the Military and Civilian families that, between 1858 and 1863, lived in the Crown Colony of British Columbia, as well as Washington Territory.

The Military is comprised of the Columbia Detachment of Royal Engineer officers and men, and their families, who were dispatched to what became, in November of 1858, the Colony of British Columbia to map, survey, and keep the peace in the “savage wilderness”.  The families of those who stayed after the unit disbanded in 1863 were an integral part of the foundation upon which British Columbia was built.

Known as the Columbia District, as well as Oregon Territory –and more simply The Coast– the area was already home to The Civilians: First Nations and Métis peoples, Hudson’s Bay Company employees, and their families.  The HBC set up shop in what is now British Columbia in the summer of 1827, the First Nations were already here, and the Métis children of both were most often the intermediaries between the HBC, the First Nations, and the incoming Military.  Many early Washington Territory families have HBC roots.

The Royal Engineers & Associates Living History Group travels to many of the Forts and National Historic Sites throughout the Pacific Northwest and work closely with Parks Canada and the National Parks Service.  With enough notice, we can field a wide variety of individuals: Engineer officers and enlisted men, scientists, civilians, women and children, and are available for your historic event or presentation.

Come celebrate British Columbia’s engineering history and the sesquicentennial of the completion of the Cariboo Waggon Road from Sunday to Tuesday, August 9th to 11th, at Barkerville Historic Town!

The Royal Engineers - photo by Thomas Drasdauskis

The Royal Engineers – photo by Thomas Drasdauskis