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THERE is, associated with the British army,
a body of trained men, who combine the
discipline and daring of the soldier and the
sailor with the dexterity of the artisan.
This body, which is now known as the corps
of Royal Sappers and Miners, began with a
very small beginning less than eighty years
ago, and had at first as limited a sphere of
action as could well be chosen, the Rock of
Gibraltar. But since its first institution,
recent as that is, it has sent men out to
labour in all corners of the earth, at works of
peace as well as of war; it has sent men up
above the clouds to do their work, as
Sergeant Steele can testify, who on Ben Lomond,
making observations with Professor Airy's
zenith sector, saw the clouds in a wide plain
of glittering silver five hundred feet beneath
him. Some tourists went up through the
clouds for the express purpose of saying that
they had done so; but, above the clouds they
found an encampment of Sappers and Miners
going quietly about their usual work. As
they go up into the air, so they go down into
the sea. They were Sappers and Miners who
were busy in removing the submerged wreck
of the Royal George, about whose timbers
and guns at the bottom of the sea they
worked, under a pressure that cracked the
strongest cask sent down empty as if it were
an egg-shell. There, Corporal Jones of the
Sappers and Miners, while at the bottom of
the sea in his Siebe's dress, happened to come
close upon his friend, Private Skelton, and
could hear him singing at his work,—

    Bright, bright are the beams of the morning sky,
         And sweet are the dews the red blossoms sip;

which was the first intimation of the fact
that the voice of a diver could be heard
under the wave. As for the burrowing of
these brave men under the earth, notoriously
that is their most ordinary duty. But it is
not only in sapping and mining for the
destruction of the hostile towers of offence,
that the Sappers and Miners work under the
surface of the earth. The works of peace are
as familiar to them as the works of war.
When there was a sewer at Woolwich
poisoning the troops, and ordinary workmen
dared not venture upon its repairs, volunteers
from the Sappers and Miners made it sound
and whole, and did not suffer in health by
their act of courage.

Sappers and Miners have approved
themselves bold men upon the water. Once,
when the storm-flag was hoisted at Gosport,
and no boats would venture out, the Success
frigate with a part of a detachment of this
corps on board, was in danger of parting
from her anchors and drifting to sea. Her
lieutenant was on shore, anxious to get on
board and save her; but the civil divers,
used to perilous boat service, said that no
boat could live in such a sea, and the Port
Admiral would not permit the lieutenant to
go out, except on his own responsibility. He
braved the perils of the deep with four
Sappers to help him; they managed the sail;
they lay down in the boat to convert
themselves into ballast; they baled out the water
with their boots. They reached the frigate;
and, by intrepid exertion, got on board, while
their boat was being dashed like a log against
the vessel's hull. So the good ship was saved.
When, during the Peninsular war, small
vessels were sent facing a wintry sea, to form
a pontoon bridge near the mouth of the
Adour, a high surf was found foaming on the
bar, the tide was furious, the native crews
were terrified and ran below to prayers, refusing
to navigate the boats. But the Engineers
and Sappers on board, by their firmness, got
the small fleet through. The sea swallowed
up one vessel, and another was dashed to
pieces by a mighty wave, but the hazardous
duty was performed. The bridge was
punctually built, by labour night and day; and
though, from the violent heaving of the
vessels, it was unsafe to fix the planks in the
intervals between them, yet there were not
wanting Sappers and Miners who thought
less of the danger than of the prompt execution
of the service.

How bold they have shown themselves
to be in the deadly and perilous breach,
how courteous and active in such service
as that of our great Hyde Park Exhibition;
how faithful and enduring when in the
train of travellers who, under government
patronage or direction, have explored
the deadly Niger, traversed the deserts of
Africa, or dry Australian wilds, this country
partly knows, and ought wholly to know.

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