Engineers, Sappers or artisans have in one form or the other remained part of an army ever since the birth of a fighting force. Evidence of the work of the earliest military engineers can be found in many parts of the world; Hill Forts of Europe in Iron Age, Fortifications protecting City of Zimbabwe of lost civilization and not the least, the Great Wall of China built in 3 BC.
Engineers as part of any force are first fighting soldiers and then as specialist trained, are required to solve problems of movement and survivability of own forces and ensure measures to impede the enemy. Yet as “Men of Crisis”, they are fore bearers in natural calamities or in critical nation building role, world over. Word “Sapper” was derived from word ‘Sap’ meaning “deep and narrow trench to undermine or weaken the enemy fortifications. So, Sappers were entrusted to dig saps and mines the fortifications and thus named as “Sappers and Miners”.
On Independence, the Corps of Engineers of the Pakistan Army was born, out of the Corps of Royal Indian Engineers, whose progenitors were the Corps of Pioneers, which were established by the East India Company toward the end of the 17th century A.D., on Presidency basis.
The Corps of Sappers and Miners was, thus, formed out of the selected Pioneers. The title of Bengal Sappers and Miners was adopted by the Bengal Pioneers in 1819, the Bombay Pioneers were converted into Bombay Sappers & Miners in 1820, and the Corps of Madras Sappers & Miners came into being from the famous Madras Pioneers in May 1931. The permanent location of the three Corps’ of the Sappers & Miners was decided as under:-
This history of the Corps of Engineers is as old as the end of the 18th century. The corps of sappers and miners in India, not only, carried out the military engineering tasks but also performed the role of railways, submarine mining and signals. There were nearly twenty campaigns and wars including both the world wars (i.e. 1914 -18 and 1939‑45), in which our predecessors took part in the 200 years of their life and earned battle honors as listed in the end. The Bengal sappers and miners were conferred the title of “King George Vth Own” in 1910.
The Royal Corps of Pakistan Engineers was allotted 10 Field Companies, 4 Field Park Companies, a few specialist units and one Army Engineers Group after independence. The bulk of the engineer units and optees, which came to Pakistan, belonged to the Bengal Group and Bombay Group of Royal Indian Engineers. When Pakistan became a republic in March 1956, the Corps changed its designation from Royal Pakistan Engineers to Corps of Engineers. Since Independence, Corps of Engineers have participated with zeal in all battles, important operations, natural calamities and nation building tasks. The progressive past is a narrative of Sappers performance as well as gradual development from a small organization to its present multifarious and multifaceted sizeable establishment which includes the reorganizational, restructrual changes in conjunction with par excellence in technical education and proven skills. All were designed to meet the emerging and vibrant requirements primarily of the Army and Nation in general, so that it can accept any challenges in peace and war commensuration with its role. Corps of Engineers rightly so have motto “Rooh – e - Rawan”, the moving spirit.
To support the Army in all its combat operations, so that the move of the Army is facilitated in offensive operations and the move of the enemy is impeded while own Army in defense. Engineers are also responsible for the survivability of the Army. Engineers are, thus, those soldiers who “First to enter and last to leave the battle field”.
Engineers are also trained to fight as infantry, and Corps of Engineers is proud recipient of various battle honors for gallantry actions in infantry role, in addition to performance as combat sappers.
In addition to national Building tasks, Corps of Engineers maintains few specialized outfits, which are meant for survey, bomb disposal, and can undertake these tasks to limited extent.
The engineers tasks especially opening of & constructing roads and tracks were enormous and resources scanty. The terrain was difficult, hills were precipitous and there were no roads; engineer operations were thus hazardous. Sappers constructed and maintained hundreds of miles of roads, took guns to the highest ridges by ingenious methods, destroyed enemy's Line of Communication and other installations. They have Laid/removed thousands of mines and created innumerable road blocks. The Sappers are made substantial contribution for the freedom of that part of Jammu & Kashmir, which is now called Azad Kashmir.
The Engineers played a role in not only defending their homeland but also in capturing enemy territory. The Enemy, who had all the advantage of surprise in launching attacks in various sectors, was halted in the shortest possible time by rapid demolition of bridges, laying of mines and denying all the routes of his advance.
Three bridges of different classifications for crossing of tanks and other vehicles were built on Rohi-Nullah and BRB Canal, which facilitated attack on Khem Karan.
Seven bridges on BRB Canal and Hudiara drain were demolished mostly under enemy fire & Artillery shelling. Thousands of anti-tank and anti personnel mines were laid. In the enemy’s dream of capturing Lahore was falsified.
Demolition of Jassar Bridge in the face of enemy brigade group was most challenging and perilous task for the engineers. All the avenues of advance of the enemy in Sialkot, Zafarwal, Chawinda and Pasrur sectors were completely denied by laying thousands of anti tank and anti personnel mines.
Engineers supported the fighting troops in offensive as well as defensive-operations by providing crossing over Manawar Tawi River. Improving / building and maintaining tracks / roads and laying as well as breaching the minefields.
In West Pakistan as well as in East Pakistan, the Engineer units also performed their role as Infantry under adverse circumstances. One of our battalions captured an enemy position after a bitter fighting in Sulemanki Area and was awarded the battle honour of "PAKKA 71". Another engineer battalion not only provided prompt engineer support for a brigade crossing by unconventional methods and improvisation for capture of Chhamb, but it also made a gap of 600 yards in 45 minutes for the armour in Chhamb Sector. It fought as infantry and annihilated an enemy platoon. This battalion got the Battle Honour of "Chhamb 71". An engineers battalion supporting an Infantry Division in Rann of Kachh laid 80,000 Anti Tank and Anti Personnel mines. This figure indicates how much engineer effort, energy and skill was involved for such a colossal task. The desert was used by engineers troops to their best advantage, while enemy seemed reluctant to venture away from roads and tracks.
Some of the works carried out by the military engineers before independence, and which are assets to Pakistan are listed below:-
Some major projects undertaken after independence are:-
Corps of Engineers participated, whole heartedly, in United Nations Humanitarian & Peacekeeping Missions as part of Pakistan Army Contingent. Pak Engineers have done extremely well as peacekeepers and builders in numerous UN missions.
Natural calamities like floods, earthquakes, failure of communication networks etc call for organized engineer support. Corps of engineers has undertaken these tasks in the past and may be required to act in aid of civil power in future as well. Flood relief tasks are planned and monitored by the army formations under centralized control of Engineer Directorate. Engineers play a key role in this operation. Before the flood season, the engineers inspect all the protection bunds and other precautionary measures, which are necessary to combat the flood menace. They advise the civil Government to improve the efficiency of such measures.
Since independence, sappers have been intimately involved in multi-dimensional activities of wide spectrum. In times of natural disasters, sappers have responded with silent resolve and deep commitment to alleviate sufferings of distressed people and assisted in reconstruction and rehabilitations, may it be floods, earthquakes or other disasters. The Corps of Engineers responded the call of nation, when-ever need arose, and it preformed admirably to redress the sufferings of their fellow country-mates. Some of major catastrophic events are as under:-
|During War 1965||2||2||18||69|
|During War 1971||17||4||52||176|