The picture you used on the cover (NCE 2 September) depicted a member of the French Military Engineer's Corps Le Genie. The badge on his arm indicates he is a member of a Civil Defence Unit. While these are part of the military, they are specifically trained and equipped, and placed at the disposal of the civil authorities in order to respond to disasters.
In France they are frequently called on to deal with forest fires, but are equally capable of dealing with major industrial and environmental incidents. Following the recent items in your pages about the work of the Royal Engineers in former Yugoslavia, this demonstrates yet another facet of military engineering (though, alas, not one we have in the British Army).
My role in France is to facilitate contacts between the Sappers of both armies, and some important contacts are being developed between the Royal Engineers and their French counterparts. The ultimate aim, naturally, is to enhance co-operation between our respective Forces rather than compete for scarce resources in war-stricken countries.
Lt Col JD Beaumont RE (G), British liaison officer, Ecole Superieure et d'Application du Genie, 106 rue Eble, BP4125, 49041 Anglers Cedex 01, France