The vital repair and maintenance role for the Australian Army is provided by the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RAEME).

Although the Corps is “young” it has already developed proud traditions. It is fully combatant and Workshop Units and Corps members have served with distinction during war wherever Australian troops have been involved since the formation of the Corps during World War II. The late Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, in giving praise to the Corps stated:

“They exist to keep the punch in the Army’s fist. They are a new Corps, born in the late war, they have done magnificently and have won their spurs in battle”.

The date of the formation of RAEME as a corps was 1 December 1942 however, the evolution of the Corps reaches back into earlier Australian military history and before, even back to earlier armies of England.

With the development of firearms, cannon and mortars the responsibility of Ordnance Officers became more important and their armourers and artificers were tradesmen of particular high skills. Those “craftsmen” started a tradition of skills and pride in their workmanship, which is evident in todays RAEME soldiers. The name “Craftsman”, a proud and noble designation from the time immemorial, is the rank exclusive to RAEME private soldiers.

From the arrival of the first fleet in 1788 until their withdrawal in 1870, defence of the colonies was entrusted to British troops. Until Federation on 1 January 1901, each of the colonies was responsible for its owndefence forces. In Victoria, the Ordnance Commissariat and Transport Corps was formed in 1886 and Richard Harding Esquire, a qualified engineer from England, was appointed the first Inspector of Ordnance Machinery on the 19 September 1888 with the honorary rank of lieutenant and with a staff of 12 Armament Artificers. Present day RAEME professional engineering officers can trace lineage to Richard Harding, the first officer appointed by Australian forces to fill an engineering appointment.

After Federation and the amalgamation of the State Defence Forces, the Ordnance Department of the Commonwealth Military Forces was formed. The Chief Ordnance Officer (COO), a civilian, and civilian storemen were the focal point of Ordnance activity in the military districts. The technical advisor to the COO in each military district was the Ordnance Mechanical Engineer (OME) and in the Army Headquarters in Melbourne was the Principal Mechanical Engineer (PME) who was technical advisor to the Master General of the Ordnance.

Small Ordnance Workshops in each military district were staffed by military members named Australian Army Ordnance Corps (P), ( AAOC(P) ), and civilian public servants who filled the trade positions of wheelwrights, blacksmiths, saddlers and carpenters.

Artificers were transferred to the Engineering Branch of the Ordnance Department however, those serving with artillery companies or batteries remained attached. The Armament Artificers, known as the “Corps of Armament Artificers” came under the command of the Inspector of Ordnance Machinery. Lieutenant Harding, promoted to Honorary Lieutenant Colonel, was appointed to that position in 1909 and remained such until his retirement in 1925.

In 1914, the Corps of Armament Artificers were mobilized for active service and by the time the war had ended their numbers had increased to 55. Corps members distinguished themselves during the war; many of whom served overseas with Australian Artillery units and three were awarded Military cross for bravery.

Between the wars the Army establishments were reduced. However, after the Minich crisis of 1938, limited expansion of the Army was authorised and the Ordnance Workshops undertook the reconditioning of the Army’smobilisation stores held by the Ordnance Service. The AAOC(P) personnel augmented by temporary civilian tradesmen, upgraded the equipment predominantly of artillery nature. This included adoption of 6 inch Naval guns for land service and modification of 18 pr and 4.5 inch Howitzer field guns for pneumatic tyred wheels. In 1938 the first intake of Army Apprentices were authorised, serving their time in various Military District Ordnance Workshops.

At the outbreak of the 2nd  World War in 1939, the responsibilities of the Mechanical Engineering Branch of the AAOC were more limited compared to later as other Corps such as Engineers, Transport and Signals were also responsible for mechanical maintenance. However, as the war continued, the commitments of the AAOC(P) increased dramatically due to the increasing sophistication of the Army’s technical equipment.

The problem was not unique to the Australian Army and in its endeavour to keep pace with the trend towards machine warfare the British Government commissioned a committee to investigate the various aspects for the best use of skilled tradesmen in the services. The “Beveridge Report” recommended that a new Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) be formed to assume the responsibilities of the workshop organisation of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps as well as certain repair functions of the Royal Army Signals Corps (RASC) and Royal Engineers (RE). This took place on the 1st October 1942.

The British proposal had been studied by the Australian Army, it was accepted in principle and adapted for Australian requirements. General Routine Order (GRO)G465 authorised the formation of the new Corps of Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (AEME) as part of the Master General of the Ordnance Branch.

GRO 0578 ordered the new Corps to take effect in two phases:

Phase 1 of AEME to be the transfer of personnel of the Mechanical Engineering Branch of the AAOC on the 1st December 1942: and Phase 2 of AEME to be the transfer of unit maintenance tradesmen on 1st May 1943.

Until victory in 1945, AEME units and personnel were involved in all phases of war. They served in Egypt, Palestine, Libya, Cyrenacia, Greece and Crete, Syria, Malaya, New Guinea and South West Pacific.

In recognition of service during the 2nd  World War a numbers of Corps including AEME were granted the title of “Royal” by King George VI on the 10 November 1948.

The Corps today continues to be responsible for ensuring the Army’s equipment operates reliably and efficiently and is expeditiously restored to useful condition after failure or damage.

With rapidly changing technology and ever increasing operational requirements of the battlefield the Corps will continue to have heavy demands placed on it.

The foundations laid by the members of the Corp in its short history provide a sound basis for meeting these future challenges.