Bengal Engineer Group

The Bengal Engineer Group (BEG) or the Bengal Sappers or Bengal Engineers as they are informally known, are remnants of British Indian Army's Bengal Army of the Bengal Presidency in British India; now a regiment of the Corps of Engineers in the Indian Army. The Bengal Sappers have their regimental centre at Roorkee Cantonment in Roorkee city, Uttarakhand. The Bengal Sappers are one of the few remaining regiments of the erstwhile Bengal Presidency Army and survived the Rebellion of 1857 due to their "sterling work" in the recapture, by the East India Company, of Delhi and other operations in 185758. The troops of the Bengal Sappers have been a familiar sight for over 200 years in the battlefields of British India with their never-say-die attitude of Chak De and brandishing their favourite tool the hamber.[1][2][3]

Bengal Engineer Group
Active1803 – present
BranchCorps of Engineers
Regimental CentreRoorkee, Uttarakhand
Motto(s)God's Own
Anniversaries7 November
Decorations11 Victoria Cross
116 Indian Order of Merit
1 Padma Bhushan
17 Shaurya Chakra
93 Sena Medals
11 Arjun Award
Battle honours80
11 Theatre honours
Maj Gen SK Kataria
Colonel of
the Regiment
Lt Gen S.K Srivastava
Engineer - in - Chief
Lt Gen J. S. Dhillon, Padma Bhushan, PVSM
Lt Gen K N Dubey, PVSM

Over the years the Bengal Sappers have won many battle and theatre honours, 11 Victoria Cross, 116 Indian Order of Merit, 17 Shaurya Chakra, 93 Sena Medals and 11 Arjun Awards, the highest number of won by any single organization in the country.[1][4] Lt Gen Joginder Singh Dhillon, commissioned into Bengal Engineer Group in 1936, who commanded the First Republic Day Parade in Delhi, became the first Army Officer to be awarded the Padma Bhushan, in November 1965.[5] Among the three Sapper units of the Indian Army, the Bengal Sappers was the first Engineer Group to receive the 'President Colours' in recognition of its service to the nation, on 12 January 1989, by R Venkataraman, the then President of India, who presented the Regimental Colours to Bengal Engineer Group at Roorkee.[3]

Besides service on the battlefield, the Bengal Engineers also rendered valuable peacetime contributions. The military engineer, Lt. James Agg, designed St John's Church in Calcutta. It was based on James Gibbs's St Martin-in-the-Fields in London and was consecrated in 1787.[6]


The Indian Army Corps of Engineers is one of the oldest arms of the Indian Army, dating back to 1780, when the two regular pioneer companies of the Madras Sappers were raised, as a part of British East India Company army.[7] Prior to its formation, by 1740s British officers and engineers served in the Bengal Engineers, Bombay Engineers and Madras Engineers, formed with the respective Presidency armies, while British soldiers served in each of the Presidencies' Sappers and Miner Companies, namely Bengal Sappers and Miners, Madras Sappers and Miners and Bombay Sappers and Miners.[8][9]

The Bengal Sappers and Miners, as they were earlier known, was originally the Corps of Bengal Pioneers, which was raised from two pioneer companies in 1803, part of Bengal Army of the Presidency of Bengal; one raised by Capt T. Wood at Kanpur as Bengal Pioneers in November 1803,[2] also known as "Roorkee Safar Maina".[10] In 1819, at the conclusion of Third Maratha War, a part of Bengal Pioneers merged with the Company of Miners (raised in 1808) to become the Bengal Sappers and Miners, and raised at Allahabad, with Captain Thomas Anburey as the Commandant. The remaining part of the Corps of Bengal Pioneers was absorbed in 1833.[2] In 1843 'Broadfoot's Sappers', which had been raised in 1840, merged into the Bengal Sappers and Miners.

In 1847 the Bengal Sappers and Miners was renamed Bengal Sappers and Pioneers, and in 1851 it became the Corps of Bengal Sappers and Miners. On 7 November 1853, the regiment moved to Roorkee, where it has maintained its regimental centre ever since.[11] Lord Kitchener's reforms in 1903 saw it redesignated as the 1st Sappers and Miners, which was again altered in 1906 to the 1st Prince of Wales's Own Sappers and Miners.

On the accession of George V to the throne in 1910 it was renamed 1st King George V's Own Bengal Sappers and Miners,[12] with the '1st' being dropped in 1923, to make it King George V's Own Bengal Sappers and Miners. In 1937 it was renamed King George V's Bengal Sappers and Miners, and in 1941 they became the 'King George V's Bengal Sappers and Miners Group' of the Indian Engineers. In 1946 it became the 'King George V's Group' of the Royal Indian Engineers. On Indian independence and partition in 1947, about half of the serving personnel were allocated to the Pakistan Royal Engineers. In 1950 they became the Bengal Centre, Corps of Engineers, after which they became the Bengal Engineer Group and Centre.[13]

Battle honours

Victoria Cross recipients

NameEventDate of actionPlace of action
Duncan HomeIndian revolt1857-09-1414 September 1857Delhi, India
James InnesIndian revolt1858-02-2328 February 1858Sultanpore, India [18]
Philip SalkeldIndian revolt1857-09-1414 September 1857Delhi, India[19]
John SmithIndian revolt1857-09-1414 September 1857Delhi, India [20]
Edward ThackerayIndian revolt1857-09-1616 September 1857Delhi, India
William TrevorAnglo-Bhutanese War1865-04-3030 April 1865Dewangiri, Deothang, Bhutan
James DundasAnglo-Bhutanese War1865-04-3030 April 1865Dewangiri, Deothang, Bhutan
Edward LeachSecond Afghan War1879-03-1717 March 1879Khyber Pass, Afghanistan [21]
Fenton AylmerHunza-Naga Campaign1891-12-02 2 December 1891Nilt Fort, British India [21][22]
James ColvinFirst Mohmand Campaign1897-09-16 16 September 1897Bilot, British India [23]
Thomas WatsonFirst Mohmand Campaign1897-09-16 16 September 1897Bilot, British India [24]


Short Histories:

  • The Indian Sappers and Miners,By Lieut.-Colonel E.W.C. Sandes D.S.O., M.C., R.E. (Ret.), Published by The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, 1948. Extracts
  • K.S. Calendar of battles, honours and awards : King George V's Own Bengal Sappers & Miners from 1803 to 1939, by Rhamat Ullan Khan, ca. 1944.
  • History and digest of service of the 1st King George's Own Sappers & Miners. Roorkee : 1st King's Own Press, (ca. 1911)
  • Regimental history of the King George's Own Bengal Sappers & Miners. Roorkee : KGO Sappers & Miners Press, 1937.
  • Corps reunion and the unveiling of the war memorial. (Roorkee : King George V's own Bengal sappers and miners group, R.I.E),1927.
  • History of the Corps of Royal Engineers, by Great Britain Army. Royal Engineers, Whitworth Porter. Published by Longmans, Green, 1952.
  • The Bengal Sappers 1803–2003, by General Sir George Cooper GCB MC and Major David Alexander. ISBN 0-903530-24-4.
  • The Military Engineer in India, by Lt. Col. E.W.C Sandes. Reprint 2001, Original 1933.ISBN 9781843420422.

First World War:

  • Cunningham, A.H., A Short history of the Corps of King George's Own Bengal Sappers & Miners during the War, 1914-1918. (1930)

Second World War:

  • Pearson, G., Brief history of the K.G.V's own Bengal Sappers and Miners Group, R.I.E., August 1939-July 1946. Roorkee : Pearson, 1947.


  1. Bengal Sappers’ saga of valour The Tribune, 24 November 2008.
  2. Bengal Sappers: 'Sarvatra' for Two Hundred Years Sainik Samachar, Vol. 50, No. 21, 1–15 November 2003, 10-24 Kartika, 1925 (Saka), Ministry of Defence, Govt. of India.
  3. Corps of Engineers, Indian Army Archived 25 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  4. Bengal Engineering Group Archived 1 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine Haridwar Official website.
  5. Unique Achievements Archived 15 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine Bengal Sappers.
  6. "Churches in Kolkata". Archived from the original on 3 August 2012. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  7. Corps of Engineers - History Indian Army Official website. Archived 22 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  8. Indian Sappers (1740-1947) Royal Engineers Museum. Archived 31 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  9. Indian Army Service Records (up to 1947) Royal Engineers Museum. Archived 20 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  10. THE BENGAL SAPPERS National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee. Archived 13 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  11. Institute Time Capsule IIT Roorkee.
  12. "1st King George's Own Sappers and Miners - Officers & Non-Commissioned Officers and Men". Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  13. "King George V's Own Bengal Sappers and Miners". Archived from the original on 30 October 2007. Retrieved 14 November 2007.
  14. Bengal Sappers’ 200 yrs of valour The Tribune, 29 October 2003.
  15. "The Battle of Kabul 1879". Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  16. "Chitral 1895 - Fort Siege". 31 July 2009. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  17. Cassino Memorial Archived 17 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  18. Lieutenant James John McLeod INNES VC Royal Engineers Museum. Archived 23 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  19. Lieutenant Philip SALKELD VC Royal Engineers Museum. Archived 6 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  20. Sergeant John SMITH VC Royal Engineers Museum. Archived 3 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  21. "Victoria Crosses held by the Royal Engineers Museum". 11 March 2014. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  22. "Captain Fenton John AYLMER VC". Royal Engineers Museum. 2010. Archived from the original on 6 January 2009. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  23. Lieutenant James Morris Colquhoun COLVIN VC Royal Engineers Museum. Archived 23 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  24. Lieutenant Thomas Colclough WATSON VC Royal Engineers Museum. Archived 23 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
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