Dundee Fortress Royal Engineers

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City of Dundee Fortress Engineers
320th (City of Dundee) Searchlight Battery
126 Army Engineer Regiment
Active 1908–1950
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army (United Kingdom)
Role Coast Defence
Air Defence
Army Engineers
Size Company
Part of 71st Division (1916–18)
51st (Highland) Searchlight Regiment (1938–42)
124th (Highland) Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment (1942–45)
Garrison/HQ Dundee
Engagements North Russia
The Blitz
North West Europe

The Dundee Fortress Royal Engineers was a Scottish volunteer unit of the British Army formed in 1908. Its main role was defence of the harbours and shipyards on the River Tay, but it also provided a detachment that saw active service in North Russia at the end of World War I. In the 1930s it was turned into an air defence unit, in which role it served in World War II. A brief postwar revival ended in disbandment in 1950.

Precursor unit[edit]

When Lieutenant-General Sir Andrew Clarke, Inspector-General of Fortifications 1882–6, did not have enough Regular Royal Engineers (RE) to man the fixed mines being installed to defend British seaports, he utilised the Volunteer Engineers for this task. After successful trials the system was rolled out to ports around the country,[1][2] and a new Volunteer company was raised at Dundee on 5 February 1887 to cover the Firth of Tay, entitled Tay Division Submarine Miners. It moved its headquarters to Broughty Ferry in 1890.[3] For many years its Honorary Colonel was Arthur Fitzgerald, 11th Lord Kinnaird.[4][5]

By 1907 the War Office had decided to hand all submarine mining duties over to Militia units and the Volunteer submarine miners were disbanded. Although most of the units were converted into fortress engineers, this did not happen in the case of the Tay Division, which was disbanded with effect from 2 November.[3][6]

Territorial Force[edit]

Thus when the Volunteers were subsumed into the new Territorial Force (TF) under the Haldane Reforms in 1908, a completely new unit of fortress engineers had to be raised for the Firth of Tay defences. It was entitled the City of Dundee (Fortress) Royal Engineers, with its HQ at 52 Taylors Lane, Dundee, and consisted of a single Works Company.[7][8]

World War I[edit]

On the outbreak of World War I, the fortress engineers were mobilised and moved into their war stations in the coastal defences.[9][10] In August 1914, TF units were authorised to establish 2nd Line duplicate units to absorb the rush of volunteers coming forward.[11] The City of Dundee unit thus formed the 1/1st Dundee Fortress Company, RE, and 2/1st Dundee Fortress Company, RE.[10]

Initially, the 2nd Line were intended as reserve units to allow the 1st Line to go on service, but the 1/1st Company appears to have remained in the coastal defences, so in November 1916 the 2/1st Dundee Company was redesignated as a Field Company, RE, and assigned to 71st Division. When the TF engineers were numbered in February 1917, the company became 548th (Dundee) Field Company, RE.[10][12]

71st Division was a home service formation, responsible for defending the coast of Essex from Mersea Island to Walton-on-the-Naze. Later it became a training division. It was broken up in March 1918. One of its infantry brigades (214th Brigade) had been converted into a Special Service Brigade with attached troops and was earmarked to join the North Russia Expeditionary Force. In the event, 214th Brigade remained in the UK, but 548th (Dundee) Field Company, redesignated as an 'Army Troops Company', did proceed to Murmansk. The advance party landed on 20 June 1918, and was followed by the main body three days later.[10][12]

The force at Murmansk defended the ice-free port facilities and the Murmansk–Petrograd railway as far as Kem on the White Sea, against the threat of attacks by German and Finnish White Guard forces in the closing months of World War II. It continued this duty during the complex postwar political and military exchanges with local Bolsheviks and Finnish Red Guards. It was finally withdrawn in 1920.[13]


When the TF was reconstituted as the Territorial Army (TA) in 1920, the City of Dundee Fortress Engineers reformed at the Drill Hall in Bell Street, Dundee. The contemporary Army List shows this as a single company, though the Dundee Directory for 1922-23 lists both a Works Company and an Electric Light Company.[14][15] By 1927 it consisted of No 1 Company (City of Dundee) (Fortress) RE, listed as Coast Defence Troops in 51st (Highland) Divisional Area.[16]

With the recognition of the increased threat of aerial bombing in any future war, the company was converted into an Independent Anti-Aircraft (AA) Searchlight Company in 1934 as 320th (City of Dundee) AA Company, RE. It gained a Regular RE officer as Adjutant, who was shared with 319th (City of Aberdeen) AA Company (converted at the same time from the Aberdeen Fortress Royal Engineers).[17]

World War II[edit]

With the continued expansion of the TA's air defences, 320th (Dundee) Company and 319th (Aberdeen) Company combined with a newly raised battery at Cowdenbeath in 1938 to form 51st (Highland) AA Battalion, RE.[18][19][20] In August 1939, Anti-Aircraft Command was mobilised and 51st AA Bn took its place in the air defences of Scotland. A year later the RE searchlight battalions were transferred to the Royal Artillery (RA), and the unit became 51st (Highland) Searchlight Regiment, RA (TA), serving throughout the Battle of Britain and The Blitz.[19][21][22][23]

In February 1942, the regiment was converted to the Light Anti-Aircraft (LAA) artillery role as 124 (Highland) Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RA (TA) and it served with Second Army in Normandy and North West Europe.[19][21][24][25][26]


When the TA was reformed in 1947, 124 LAA Regiment was reconstituted as 586 (Highland) LAA/SL Rgt with its HQ at Dundee. This unit was absorbed into 276th (Highland) Field Rgt on the disbandment of AA Command in 1955.[21][27]

However, a Royal Engineer unit was also formed at Dundee in 1947, which was regarded as the lineal descendent of the Dundee Fortress Engineers and derived its seniority (1908) from that unit. Designated 126 Army Engineer Regiment, RE, it consisted of:[28]

  • 240 Field Squadron
  • 274 Field Squadron
  • 275 Field Squadron
  • 320 Field Park Squadron

This TA regiment and its squadrons were disbanded in 1950, their numbers being transferred to 126 Advanced Engineer Stores Regiment of the Supplementary Reserve/Army Emergency Reserve, which itself was disbanded in 1961.[29]

Prominent members[edit]

Captain Lewis Collins, MC, credited with five aerial victories in 1918 as an observer in the Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force, was born in Dundee and originally enlisted as a sapper in the Fortress Engineers.[30]


  1. ^ Beckett, pp. 184–5.
  2. ^ Short et al, pp. 1–4.
  3. ^ a b Westlake, p. 10.
  4. ^ Army Lists.
  5. ^ Burke's.
  6. ^ Quarterly Army List, October 1907.
  7. ^ Monthly Army List, August 1914.
  8. ^ 52 Taylor's Lane at Scotland's Urban Past.
  9. ^ Conrad.
  10. ^ a b c d Rinaldi.
  11. ^ Becke, p. 6.
  12. ^ a b Becke, pp. 101–5.
  13. ^ Lincoln, pp. 176–82, 268–73, 278–9.
  14. ^ Monthly Army List, January 1923.
  15. ^ Dundee Directory 1922-23.
  16. ^ Titles and Designations, 1927.
  17. ^ Monthly Army Lists 1934–35.
  18. ^ Army List.
  19. ^ a b c 3 AA Division 1939 at British Military History
  20. ^ Glasgow Herald 13 January 1938.
  21. ^ a b c Litchfield, pp. 274–5.
  22. ^ 51 S/L Rgt at RA 39–45 Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  23. ^ 3 AA Division 1940 at British Military History
  24. ^ 124 LAA Rgt at RA 39–45 Archived 2008-01-10 at the Wayback Machine.
  25. ^ Joslen, p. 463.
  26. ^ Routledge, pp. 314–5, 319, 326, 366
  27. ^ RA TA Rgts 564–591 at British Army 1945 on Archived 10 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  28. ^ RE TA Rgts 118–432 at British Army 1945 on Archived 10 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  29. ^ RE SR/AER Sqns 240–751 at British Army 1945 on
  30. ^ Aces at The Aerodrome.


  • Maj A.F. Becke,History of the Great War: Order of Battle of Divisions, Part 2b: The 2nd-Line Territorial Force Divisions (57th–69th), with the Home-Service Divisions (71st–73rd) and 74th and 75th Divisions, London: HM Stationery Office, 1937/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2007, ISBN 1-847347-39-8.
  • Ian F.W. Beckett, Riflemen Form: A study of the Rifle Volunteer Movement 1859–1908, Aldershot: Ogilby Trusts, 1982, ISBN 0 85936 271 X.
  • Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 100th Edn, London, 1953.
  • Lt-Col H.F. Joslen, Orders of Battle, United Kingdom and Colonial Formations and Units in the Second World War, 1939–1945, London: HM Stationery Office, 1960/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2003, ISBN 1-843424-74-6.
  • W. Bruce Lincoln, Red Victory: A History of the Russian Civil War, New York:Simon & Schuster, 1989, ISBN 0-671-63166-7.
  • Norman E.H. Litchfield, The Territorial Artillery 1908–1988 (Their Lineage, Uniforms and Badges), Nottingham: Sherwood Press, 1992, ISBN 0-9508205-2-0.
  • Brig N.W. Routledge, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: Anti-Aircraft Artillery 1914–55, London: Royal Artillery Institution/Brassey's, 1994, OCLC 852069247.
  • Maj O.M. Short, Maj H. Sherlock, Capt L.E.C.M. Perowne and Lt M.A. Fraser, The History of the Tyne Electrical Engineers, Royal Engineers, 1884–1933, 1933/Uckfield: Naval & Military, nd, ISBN 1-845747-96-8.
  • Titles and Designations of Formations and Units of the Territorial Army, London: War Office, 7 November 1927.
  • R.A. Westlake, Royal Engineers (Volunteers) 1859–1908, Wembley: R.A. Westlake, 1983, ISBN 0-9508530-0-3.

Online sources[edit]