Brief History of the School of Military Engineering (SME)

The Royal Australian Engineers have been associated with the Liverpool district since before the turn of this Century. Photographs depicting sappers exercising on the banks of the Georges River can be seen in the Museum. The SME can be traced back to colonial times when first established in Victoria Barracks, Sydney.


The SME has been located in other areas of Sydney including Moore Park (now the site of the Sydney Football Stadium), South Head and Chowder Bay at Middle Head (Mosman). It was established on a permanent basis in the Liverpool District in September 1939 in the area known as Hospital Block (not far from Yulong Oval). In 1940 it was moved to the present site and was located with the School of Signals until 1941 when the School of Signals move out.

In 1942 the RAE Training Centre was established at Kapooka Loop outside Wagga Wagga on the same as site as 1 RTB. The centre was used to conduct basic field engineer training for other ranks.

The SME was used to training all engineer officers and NCOs. During the war period, 7450 students passed through the School in twelve different types of courses. At the end of the war the School's staff was decreased and by 1949 it consisted of only five officers and 45 other ranks.

The School remained at this size until 1953 when the Korean War caused the size of the staff to almost double and the range of courses to expand. At this time, the Trade Wing was established and was responsible for trade training and works service instruction. Today this wing is known as the Construction, Mechanical and Electrical (CME) Wing.

The NBC Wing was established in 1963 to training the Army in NBCD. It now trains NBCD instructor for all three service. It also maintains an operational NBC response team that is on call 24 hours a day.

In 1965, Australia's involvement with Vietnam and the introduction of selective National Service gave the school a boost. The staff levels were gain increased and the Depot Sqn (now FE Wing) was expanded to cater for the basic sapper training commitment of 1200 men per year.

Since Vietnam, the size of the School has remained relatively constant with a staff of approximately 250.

Links with the Royal Engineers and US engineers are maintained through an Officer and SNCO exchange system. At present Operations (Ops) Wing is commanded by an American Major and the Plant, Road and Airfield (PRA) Wing is commanded by a British Major. Two exchange SNCO, a US Master SGT and a British QMSI are posted to the FE Wing. Today, the SME trains all ranks of the RAE in following areas:

ARA and ARes Initial Employment Training (IET), specialist training in trades employment and promotion qualifications, young officers from both Australian and overseas in the military engineering and to prepare them for service as engineer officers within their own army, for the management of engineer projects and resources, and practical apprentice tradesmen tasks.

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