If there is one word that sums up the
role of the Royal Pioneer Corps today, it is versatility.
The modern RPC is a far cry from the days when its personnel
were the Army's labourers. Today their presence is an essential
one for the Army, but there is no single role. The RPC assists
in moving stores, loading and unloading the thousand and one
items the Army needs to move and function, and also provided
dog handlers. But first and foremost the Pioneers are fighting
soldiers and the task they carry out in Northern Ireland is
one inline with that of the rest of the Army.
The main depot and training centre
of the RPC is at Northampton, where recruits go to be trained
as infantrymen. Thereafter they are trained in what is there
central role, namely that of materials and the many forms
of handling equipment the army employs, from Eager Beavers
to dock cranes. This role is carried out not only in direct
support of forward units. At any one time at least 40 per
cent of the RPC strength is serving with other arms of the
Army such as the RE and RAOC. With the RCT the Pioneers not
only assist with the loading and unloading of the vehicles
but also act as drivers and even help in the running of the
The RPC is also involved in man management.
The bases in Germany employ a great deal of local labour for
the hundreds of tasks needed to keep the garrisons and bases
functioning. A large proportion of this local labour is recruited,
administered and supervised by RPC officers and soldiers.
Selected RPC soldiers are trained to
be dog handlers for various tasks. Most RPC handlers are used
in security roles at ammunition and other sensitive stores
depots, being trained for their role by the RAVC.
To top its versatility, the RPC is
also used in an infantry role on occasions and has frequently
been used in this way in Northern Ireland. When the first
RPC units were stationed there, either on roulement or as
part of the Ulster garrison, they had to draw on their flexibility
yet again for they often had to build their own billets and
guard posts while at the same time carrying out their various
Despite all its many modern tasks,
on occasion the RPC has to revert to its original pick and
shovel role. This usually occurs when the corps is in support
of the RE road and bridging units when permanent structures
have to be built - but Pioneers are also involved in the combat
roles of the RE as well.
Whenever the Army has some unusual
task that cannot be met by any particular Corps or Regiment,
the RPC usually finds itself given the job. Such rapid and
varied roles call for a large measure of adaptability and
problem approaches which are met by giving all members of
the RPC a sound grounding in all manner of military skills
ranging from driving to stores management and layout. Senior
NCOs and officers are given considerable training in management
skills and problem solving. To add to its all round capabilities
the RPC often works with the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.