The Royal Engineers Museum (REM) Collection has been developed by the Corps of Royal Engineers over the last two hundred years and now forms one of the most important military collections in the UK.
The historic significance of the Collection was recognised in 1998 with the official award of Designated status, marking it as a pre-eminent collection of national and international importance.
The Library (including the archive) were founded in 1812 when Major Pasley founded the School of Military Engineering. The Chatham library was such a success that in 1847 a Central Library was established in London. By 1862 libraries were also established at 16 home and 19 overseas stations. It clearly became very difficult to control such a widespread organisation and the tendency in later years was to close the overseas libraries and return the books to England or dispose of them locally. In 1951 a permanent and fitting home for the Library was established in the old lecture theatre in the HQ School of Military Engineering building, Brompton Barracks.
The Museum was formally established by the Institute (later renamed “Institution”) of Royal Engineers in 1875. However, the original collection was largely drawn from a ‘model room’ of engineer equipment started by Major Pasley at Chatham in 1812 and a collection of memorabilia begun in 1839 by Sgt Maj James Forbes at the Royal Sappers and Miners depot in Woolwich. The latter being brought to Chatham in 1856.
In 1912 the Museum was established in the North Block of Brompton Barracks in what had originally been the Chapel (now the RSME Auditorium). After two world wars and many other campaigns the collection outgrew the space available and it moved to its present location in the Ravelin Building, where it was officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen on 20 May 1987.
The Ravelin Building was designed by a Royal Engineer architect and opened in 1905 as the Electrical School of the Corps. The ground floor houses galleries illustrating the history of the Corps to the end of the Second World War and the magnificent medal collection. The courtyard, originally open, was roofed over in 1990 and now houses displays showing the post-war history.
After decades of separate management the Corps’ library, archive and museum collections, were combined under the single management of the REM in the early 2000s. In 2021 this process was completed with the creation of a new Research Centre as well as archive and library store facilities that enabled the entire historic collection of the Corps of Royal Engineers to be housed within the Ravelin Building
The Collection now comprises over 1 million items and preserves the heritage of Britain’s military engineers throughout the 300 years of their existence. From continental wars with France, conquest and empire, through two World Wars and to the present day, the story of personal experience, as well as the scientific and professional development of military and civil engineering, is told in archives and by objects drawn from all corners of the World.
The REM is a registered charity (no. 295173) with the object to collect, preserve and present accessibly the history of the military and civil work of the Corps of Royal Engineers and to educate and promote scholarship therein for members of the Corps, the wider Armed Forces and the general public and, thereby, to contribute positively to the proficiency, reputation and efficiency of the Corps, the recruitment and inspiration of its members and the benefit of the public.