About Us

About Us

REARB MEMBERSHIP

20150811_090233-1People join the Royal Engineers Association Radio Branch for various reasons.  The majority are serving or ex professional radio operators, combat signallers, wireless operators, and today CIS Operators.  Mostly they serve in the Army command and control system (C2) as Sappers – handling communications between the commanders and RE troops in the field.  For them “home” is considered to be the RE Command Support Branch (CSB) – a training centre where the Command, Control, Communications and Information Systems (C3IS) are practised and developed.

(There is a long history of signalling in the corps dating back before the start of the corps of Royal Signals during WW1.)

According to OFCOM, the UK Radio Communications Agency, Amateur Radio is often practised by professionals in the radio and electronics field as a method of self training and experimentation.  The RE have traditionally used amateur radio as a method of training in basic electronics, batteries and charging and antenna and transmission theory.  To others amateur radio is a hobby.  Forty percent of REARB members are licensed amateurs.  Of these some are field engineers or tradesmen – typical sappers who have taken up radio as a hobby and enjoy being able to develop the skills and communicate worldwide with radio (or computers) in many ways.

The branch is open to all people with an interest in radio communications and electronics who have the Royal Engineers cap badge in common.  Our branch badge is a version of the RE Badge superimposed upon the crossed flags of the British Infantry Signaller.

Being a branch of the Royal Engineers dedicated to Radio Operators, Signallers and IT People has its perks. Being a national branch of the association, face to face meetings are expensive and there is no local branch meeting space. Some members live abroad.

However we meet mostly On air i.e. by radio.
nteregsThis meeting takes place every week on Saturdays. On air is a radio term  – it means over the airwaves.  We just get on the radio and talk to each other by forming up a “net” (or network). This radio network is theoretically world-wide but this usually means we can talk to each other wherever we are and throughout the UK.  We use the frequencies here at the times listed (although this may vary). (One amateur frequency band is shared with the military and military and amateur operators can communicate with each other).

Listen In

Five or six of our members are regulars and in 2015 a net was open on Saturday morning for 52 weeks of the year.  Anyone with a shortwave receiver can listen in. (It will need to have a mode called single sideband (SSB) as opposed to AM or FM). You can find one here on the web at Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker.  If you listen, you may hear other radio amateurs joining this radio net.  It attracts listeners and invites other amateur callers to join in.

Identification
Members have “call signs” to identify us and our locations. (A call sign consist of a short series of letters and numbers to indicate the country of origin, the type of licence and the date it was issued or its purpose like this:

G or Golf = England
3 = Full Licence
R or Romeo
E or Echo

See here for more info about callsigns in the UK

Royal Engineer Amateur Radio Callsigns

The corps has its own unique call signs to identify it on amateur radio. G3RE or Golf Three Royal Engineers is used by the veterans. G3XRE is the call sign of the Command Support Branch of the Royal Engineers.  GB0REM belongs to the Corps Museum in Gillingham, Kent.

Publicity and Commemoratives
We send a post card to people who make contact with us – they need to send us a report on what they hear to earn it.  This is to confirm and to commemorate the contact and they are collectable. Here are some of the cards we have sent out.  All contacts are logged.

Occasionally we set up Royal Engineer related special event stations. These use special call signs to identify us as Royal Engineers and these usually have a special theme such as an event in the corps history. In the last few years we publicised the corps involvement with Chatham and the centenary of the REA by contacting hundreds of other radio amateurs using the call sign GB100REA and GB200REC. Here are the cards we sent out.  With a list of operators and If you follow the links you can also see the log.  Here are some cards we got back.

Virtual Meetings
Being forward thinking we are also emailing each other regularly about branch matters and use Skype and we have a reasonably new presence of Facebook and Twitter. We are developing this so we can have a digital life.

Meetings
A single annual general meeting is held in Chatham each year during the corps memorial weekend – although this usually attracts committee only.

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Bulletin: 2nd February 2017

Dispatch Riders and Mechanics of the 60th Divisional Signal Company, Royal Engineers and their 1914 Triumph 4hp 550cc motorcycles (Courtesy of Imgur)

HQ REA Membership Scoping Study

HQ REA has long been concerned about the challenges of maintaining a growing active membership in changing times and of how to reach out to a different and far more diverse membership.

To address these challenges, and more, the REA has engaged an external consultancy, Hall Associates, to carry out a Membership scoping study. This will provide a health check of our membership, both serving and retired, help determine membership expectations, enable the REA to adapt to recognised changes and advise on how to better discover those within the wider sapper family who are in need.

You are invited to contribute to the study by completing the following online questionnaire – Click here.

On Net 26th Jan 2017

The Branch 80 Meter Radio Net continues into 2017 with all the regulars calling in to G3RE during the month.  We have managed to keep the nationwide net going most weekends in January although Gordon had antenna tuning problems caused by a faulty Auto Tuner and rebuilt his antenna system which has suffered weathering.  A couple of weekends have seen difficult radio conditions so we have varied our timings.  By operating slightly later than 0730 we get the short-range F2 Layer propagation when the MUF comes up to 3.5 Mhz after sunrise.

There was an interesting chat about Digital Voice Modes – now these are “maturing” various members are showing an interest.  My own experiments have been in setting up and operating direct links on D-Star between G6TGO in Manchester automatically routing my signal packets via our local VHF\UHF repeaters – I have a choice of several Internet Gateways Run by the Essex Repeater Group and once linked to one, I can get signals to Ian via his local UHF Repeater – GB7WC in Warrington.  I can use my car radio, a digital handheld or go straight from a computer.  You can track various aspects of operation via computer for example if you want to see what route your signals take or if your QSO partner is on the network.  Lastheard G4IYK will get you the time and date I was last on and if I am connected to the network.  Then you just set my callsign into your rig and PTT.  Simples.

Jacks Local Club is using a similar system from Yeasu Radio called System Fusion which has similar digital infrastructure and everyone is involved to the point the local repeater is overcrowded.

Gordon said his local club were also experimenting with another system (I think he said) DMR which is a Tetra type digital network with its own Motorola Infrastructure and lots of cheap used ex public service sets and commercial radios available.

On the topic of interoperability across three different digital infrastructures, I did a short scouting trip to hook up to listen to DMR users from the DStar Network using the DStar\DMR Gateway.  It was no problem.  For the technical this gateway uses an internet XReflector.  You just set that into your rig and PTT and you’re in.  Simples.  (Thank goodness for google eh?)

The nice thing about Digital VHF and UHF is any class of licence can use it.

 

Miscellaneous

Mike G4ICC and Tom G4CMG are practising with HF Data and Mike is at the stage of testing his new installation. Tom said he would like to have some skeds on PSK31 which brings us back to 40 Meters.  I am looking for SSB or PSK31 contacts during the day with Stations around 600 to 900Km on 4oM.  Any members wanting skeds from Scotland would you please email?  Members at reasignals dot net.

73 de Stu

 

 

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Bulletin: 31st December 2016 – Branch Radio Net – 2016/17 and Presidents Closing Address

Seasons Greetings!

On Net.

https://www.timeanddate.com/countdown/newyear

2016

The radio branch of the REA has had a successful year in its endeavour to operate its weekly radio net on the 80m amateur radio band consistently.  An average of 5 stations per session called in to the club station, call sign G3RE, each Saturday.

 

As he closed the net for the last time in 2016, branch president Tom Milne, G4CMG said today, “We wish all sappers everywhere a happy and prosperous new year” and gave a thought to absent friends and listeners.

2017

Due to radio conditions, G3RE will start the net by listening and testing from 0730 to 0800 and commence the net at 0800 on 80m.  5Mhz is not usually viable for short range communications at those times and therefore won’t be used unless conditions are favourable.

If you find yourself changing frequencies and codes at midnight tonight – especially a happy new year to you all (Ed).

 

73

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Bullletin: 17th December 2016

On Net

Seasons Greetings!

Radio Conditions on the 80m band today were remarkable in as much as they started out poor to fair and came up towards sunrise to strength 9.  The net was good enough for communication.  Given the time of year all stations were around to let the net controller know their whereabouts for the next net which is on Christmas Eve this year.  As I write I am listening to Canadian stations calling each other on the same frequency.

Memory Lane

Jack G3PWK enjoyed our feature on heavy drop which we put on facebook.  He noted it was early days in ’56 especially when dropping ammunition.  Some pallets of white fos, and mortar ammo exploding spectacularly on impact.  Mike G4ICC reminisced about shipping sweaty explosives out from the RSME to fire off in a quarry and travelling through the City of Rochester to get there.  Sometimes risky business.

Digital Hosting

The net covered a lot of topics, but outstanding was Tom Milne’s recent artwork which we all would like to see, this reminded me to say this website is capable of hosting and publishing any branch members digital media and articles and is available as a resource to you.  Tom is an artist and sign writer and has produced many very interesting works.  We look forward to being able to display his work here, alongside the photographs of the many trips he makes on our behalf.

Branch Matters

We called Captain Jon Woolley RE, who is AI at Command Support Branch in Minley.  He updated us on some changes to staff and is happy to host our (late) AGM at the CSB after he returns from a course.  This will allow serving and ex-members of the Corps to gain an insight into how the branch works and expects to develop and the branch to update itself on how the trade is progressing.  We look forward to this in February 2017.

Net Controller – Duty Op G3RE Rota

The current Rota runs out on 31st December.  Would qualified operators please complete the form here or let me know their availability by email.

Best wishes, for Christmas and a Happy new Year.

Stuart Dixon – Branch Secretary.

 

 

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Operation Musketeer 1956 – Suez and El Gamil 60th Anniversary Special Event Station

Image: Airbourne Assault Duxford

Image: Airbourne Assault El Gamil (IWM Photo)

In November, Jack Braithwaite, G3PWK celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the parachute landing at El Gamil in Egypt during the suez crisis, by opening up Two Special Event Stations,  GB6EG (El Gamil) and GB6OM (Operation Musketeer).

 

Jack said:

“I was 3 Troop 9 Para Squadron Wireless Operator. I dropped  at El Gamil with a No 31 Set Plus lots of other gear. My load weighed 125 lbs that did not include the parachute and Kit weapons container.  Quite a few lads had 30 lbs of Plastic explosive . Others had 3.5” Rockets, the first time they had been dropped by parachute.  The 31 Set and the 3.5” Rocket launcher did not last long. We were shelled just after I reached the RV and both were written off”.

Branch Members worked both special event stations in Harrogate during our regular Saturday Morning Net and congratulated Jack on his participation.

Jack also tells us fewer than a dozen men from the troop attended the re-union this year.

See also here

Stuart Dixon

 

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Bulletin: 2nd November 2016

Proposed Changes to C3S Trade

According to Lt Col Stu Brown SO1 RESTORe writing in the Sapper, along with a raft of changes proposed or in progress across a wide variety of trades, the C3S trade is due change.

The corps would like the trade to take on the management and exploitation of information across the corps.  If successful they would lead the army in professionalising this increasingly complex role in a digital army.  In addition the corps are looking to include ME (C3S) soldiers in a trial to go for selection for employment in Cyber Defence in 2017.

Stuart Dixon

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Army Signals in World War One and the role of the Royal Engineers

Introduction
This bulletin is inspired by a series of articles reproduced by the Royal Signals Amateur Radio Society and Published in their journal – Mercury, numbers 172 to 174 in 2016, the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

These articles covered the formation of Military Signalling prior to 1908 during the Crimean and Boer wars as described by the Royal Signals Museum. They focus on the duties performed by Sappers of the Royal Engineers during World War One, with thanks to WAP Weale, GW0WEE who’s introduction is below. This provides links to further accounts of the sappers themselves made available via the world wide web.

Pre World War One – Organisation
14484776_10154135290989751_754980199789314715_nIn 1908 the Telegraph Battalion Royal Engineers based at Aldershot and two companies based in London for telegraph and postal duties formed the nucleus of the Royal Engineers (RE) Signal Service. This organisation provided for the army’s signalling requirements throughout the First World War, it provided motorcycle dispatch riders, and eventually the wireless as it was introduced into warfare however the majority of messages were passed via telephone, heliograph and flags.

 

 

Communications Organisation in 1914
The RE Signals Service, in most cases, was split into smaller units, none bigger than Company size, and attached to Divisions, Corps and Army HQs. As they were attached to the fighting portions of Divisions, so men of the Signals Service saw action and were involved in most battles.

line-laying-team

Line Laying Team

In 1914 each infantry division included a signals company of approximately 162 men, organised into a Company HQ and four sections. No.1 section was responsible for Divisional HQ communications, and Nos 2-4 sections with the divisional brigades.

 

 

 

The normal composition of each divisional company was something in the order of an Officer Commanding (Major), four Lieutenants, one for each section, twenty-five other ranks at Divisional HQ and 132 other ranks spread across the remainder of the division and brigade HQs.

Transportation and Personal Equipment
Signals Companies used horses for transport and had an establishment of about thirty-three riding horses, forty-seven draught horses and four pack horses. Additionally, they had thirty-two pedal cycles and nine motor cycles. With the exception of the Trumpeter, all ranks were armed as infantrymen and carried the Rifle, Short Magazine, Lee Enfield (SMLE) widely known as “the smelly”.

Duties
The most common duties associated with the Signals Service were laying communications wire (over which the telegraph was employed); operating same; repairing same, carrying messages (either on foot or by horse) handling and dispatching of mail (both official and private); constant trade practice and of course the inevitable trench digging and maintenance which they shared with their infantry colleagues. There was also mundane guard duties and maintenance of their horses and equipment.

Artillery Spotting

 

Signallers were also used in forward positions to assist the artillery and provide information on their enemy targets. In these, often isolated, positions the signaller became vulnerable to enemy fire, and many signallers lost their lives.

 

 

 

 

 

Further Accounts:

  • A personal memoir and biography describing the duties of Sapper Arthur Haletrap MBE during world war one can be read here
  • B. Neyland served from September 1916 to December 1919 as a Sapper, in a Royal Engineers (Signals), Wireless Section and his account is posted here.
  • An account by Mike Gater of his father, 252696 Sapper Gater RE is given here.
signalscorporaltrenchwarfare

RE Signals Corporal Operating Trench Wireless

Wireless
With the gradual introduction of the wireless as the war developed so the Signals Companies embraced this new technique. But it never replaced the reliability at the front line of the telegraph in this conflict.  It took some time for commanders and signallers to understand what wireless offered them, and its limitations. For example, while intercept of telephone was common it took time to realise that wireless transmissions could be intercepted by the enemy. (However see here for a more in depth view).

 

Alternative Means of Communication
Where landlines were unavailable or broken by shellfire alternative methods of communication were used. Semaphore, using the army’s one-flag system, was also in use in the early part of the war but was subsequently banned in the trenches as its use was guaranteed to attract enemy fire! Out of sight of the enemy, visual signalling was used which made use of light, either from sunlight (the heliograph) or at night using Lucas Lamps. In all cases messages were sent in Morse Code.

officerusing-fullephone

An Officer using the Fullerphone

The standard field telephone used with landlines consisted of a wooden box containing two dry cells, a magnet generator, polarised bell, induction coil testing plug and a hand-held telephone C Mk 1. Towards the end of 1916 these were being replaced by the Fullerphone and by 1918 many divisions adopted them in their forward positions.

 

Command and Control in 1916

It wasn’t until the 1920s that command and control systems developed into what they are today. As mobile warfare using the tank developed so did the use of radio. The most quoted example of modern mobile warfare is the Blitzkrieg in which combined operations were coordinated by the prolific use of radio. But it is noted line, and dispatch riders also play significant roles as alternative means of communication.
Up until this time it is poignant to consider the traffic handling capabilities of the message handling systems in World War 1. Commanders had a daunting amount of written correspondence to sift through, to glean intelligence and plan operations.

The amount and volume of messaging often led commanders to the point of breakdown and when the army moved to attack, it often had no idea about the size and location of enemy troops until it came upon them, such was the situation at the battle of the Somme in 1916.

We will remember them.

Stuart Dixon

The author acknowledges the Imperial War Museum for its creative commons media and is grateful to Mike Collins for his images used in this article.

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Bulletin: 24th October 2016

Incoming Communications

Please view the following links and respond by Monday 31st October for the proposed trip to NMA – this has the makings of a good day out for not a lot of money:

South East Group Annual General Meeting Minutes

Proposed SE Group trip to the National Arboretum 2017

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Bulletin: 20th October 2016

20161013_102701 Radio Branch Flies its Flag at Key Corps Events

During October the Radio Branch attended several key meetings of the REA and were invited to a VVIP Visit.  Read about it here.

Don’t forget 2016 subscriptions are due.

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Bulletin: 8th October 2016

Minutes of the 69th Meeting of the REA Council

These were recently published by HQREA.

Key Points:

  • Funds are available for projects in the coming year and how to apply.
  • Funding the corps memorial at the national arboretum
  • HQ REA Staffing Review
  • Benevolence in the eight months up until August 2016
  • Vote to make a new £3K Grant to Blind Veterans UK
  • Report on Corps Affairs, Finance and projected budget
  • Guidance on legacy donations
  • Funding REVETT – Mapping RE Trades to Civilian Qualifications
  • REA Membership Scoping Study
  • REA Risk Register
  • REA 5 Year Strategic Review
  • Roles of Trustees
  • AGM Agenda
  • Committee Changes (Trustees)
  • Next Meeting in May 2017
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Bulletin: 29th August 2016

Item 1 – Subscriptions

A big Thank You to the twenty branch members who are up to date with their annual subscriptions.

If you are in the majority of members in arrears then would you please forward your £2 Annual subscription? You can use e-banking or send a cheque to Mike Gater, the treasurer.

Item 2 – Active Membership

Paying subscriptions is one way of showing the branch support but it also helps us, and the REA to gauge its active members.  Recently membership of ex-service organisations like us has taken on increasing importance, as the health and welfare of the military community and the services which support the military covenant are under the spotlight.

Veterans Organisations like the REA need to be able to respond with accurate information and must be able to gauge their size, and impact and also maintain contact with the community.

Social Media

Social Media like Facebook is a great way to keep in touch and more and more members and non members of the branch are showing up this way. On Facebook the REA recently called for sapper social media participants to keep an eye out for ex sappers who could be in difficulty and to feed back information.

Not a Member?  If you are reading this via Facebook or have just tuned into this Blog, and are eligible to become a member, the branch needs your support – Please Join Here

Active Membership Information

The difficulty of tracking which branch members are Active within the REA was highlighted this year.  The branch can only contribute sensibly to the annual REA Membership Census if it has reliable up to date information.  This year  the branch concluded it must work to improve its membership information before the next census.

With that in mind, all members are requested to please complete the update form HERE.

This will help to fill a number of gaps and improve communications going forward.

Best Wishes,

Stuart Dixon,

Branch Secretary

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