Vanessa was a Royal Engineer in the Territorial Army Reserves from 1989 to 1999
I have served in two units within the British Army Reserves – firstly with the Royal Engineer contingent of the University of London Officer Training Corps and then with the Central Volunteer Head Quarters unit of the Royal Engineers Voluntary Reserves based in Camberley, Surrey and co-located with 3 Regiment (Royal School of Military Engineering) before leaving the unit in 1999 to raise a family.
The Royal Engineers is the branch of the Army that supports front line infantry with various military engineering and technical tasks such as bridge building, bomb disposal, water tower building, drainage and some specialist skills such as train track maintenance.
Within my Unit I trained as a combat engineer and an NBC (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical) warfare instructor.
My main training included bridge construction and in particular the Army’s Medium Girder Bridge (MGB), picture below, used for short span gaps but able to carry heavy loads. The MGB is essentially a large and heavy Meccano set requiring up to 20 Engineers to build.
During my time with the Royal Engineers, I also spent a memorable 2 weeks living in the Regent Park Zoo where we were engaged in a MACC (military aid to the civilian community) task to prepare the refurbishment of the bear enclosure. Quite something to be camping within the zoo grounds and hearing the wolves at night.
As expected, the Army Reserves is a very male dominated environment, and I was the only female non-commissioned officer at the time within the Unit. However, I thoroughly enjoyed my years within the Reserves despite and sometimes because of the strong Army humour (including lots of politically incorrect banter!). I learnt a lot about camaraderie, working together and resilience and of course some rather specialist engineering skills which I’m never likely to need again!