Sapper History

Illustrated talks by Martin Stoneham - Designed for a general audience.

Click here to download the list of talks.

‘The Unknown Captain, Royal West Kent Regiment’
How, entirely by chance, a 106 year old mystery was unravelled by Martin. - See endnote.

‘...there is some corner of a foreign field that is forever England.’
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission - its foundation in 1917 and subsequent development, its cemeteries and its value to family history enthusiasts.

The Victoria Cross
An outline of its history, its award and some of the more unusual facts about it.

4 November 1918—Seven VCs in one day
Crossing the Sambre-Oise canal referring particularly to the actions of Sapper Archibald, Major Waters & Major Findlay and their fellow Sappers. – See endnote.

The Albert Medal.
A now forgotten medal for gallantry instituted in 1866 whose youngest recipient was only eight years old.

Bailey: the Bridge and the Man
The eponymous bridge, from its development at the start of World War 2, earlier military bridges, its successors and its current military and civilian use. See endnote.

Innovation, Ingenuity, Initiative.
Major General Percy Hobart and the D Day Funnies.  As presented to the Normandy 75 conference of the Royal Engineers Historical Society in October 2019. [20 minutes]

Hobart’s Funnies: before, then and now
Describing the specialised tanks that came to the fore on D Day and have remained in use since then and were on active duty in Afghanistan. [A 40 minute version of the foregoing talk]

The General Officers of World War 1
Short talk
: A commentary on John Singer Sargent’s painting of the General Officers - to view click here
Longer talk: The above plus details of the General Officer casualties in the war.

The Royal Engineers Museum
A former Sapper’s personal view of the roles of the Royal Engineers as displayed at the Royal Engineers’ Museum, Gillingham, focussing on their World War 1 activities.

World War 1: Mons to the Somme
Covering the retreat from Mons to the Marne, the advance to the river Aisne, the move to Flanders and the events of 1916.  Particular reference is made to the higher command of the BEF, various actions of the Royal West Kent Regiment and the work of the Royal Engineers.

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For those with a special interest in the Napoleonic period.

Lt Col Sir Richard Fletcher RE
His military and family life.  He was the Duke of Wellington’s Commanding Royal Engineer for much of the Peninsular War.  His medals can be seen at the RE Museum.

Military Bridging in the Peninsular War
A commentary on the work and achievements of the British military engineers in Portugal and Spain.  Originally delivered at the Wellington Congress, Southampton University.

***** Endnotes *****

‘The Unknown Captain, Royal West Kent Regiment’ – Mrs Prunella Scarlett LVO, the great niece of Captain Cecil Thomas Tuff, who attended the rededication service at Oosttaverne Wood Cemetery with her brother Mr Geoffrey Tuff, recently said: The Tuff family is thrilled that the grave of our great uncle Cecil has been found. We are so grateful to all those involved, particularly the researcher Martin Stoneham, whose initiative it was after reading the names on his local World War I memorial.

Bailey: the Bridge and the Man - From the Sevenoaks Chronicle
The story of the Bailey bridge and the man responsible for a wartime design that helped the allied armies surge through Europe, was told to Probus members by Martin Stoneham in an illustrated talk that captivated his audience.  The Bailey bridge was, as Mr Stoneham described, “the original flatpack”.

The Royal Engineers Museum - IET retired members Group organiser
I found it fascinating and I know, from comments afterwards, that so did my members. The Royal Engineers are clearly an outstanding part of the British army and you demonstrated their skill, achievements and bravery in an interesting and comprehensive way.

4 November 1918—Seven VCs in one day
On behalf of Mott MacDonald [Birmingham office] I'd just like to thank you once again for your brilliant presentation on Monday evening [5 November 2018].  It really proved to be a focal talking point of the evening; I heard so many staff and guests discussing the detail of your research and the clear, poignant delivery.