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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Sappers Network – Advertisement

From RERHQ

Sappers Network Ltd is set up to deliver and run an online employment support service and network for Corps’ Service Leavers, Reserves and Veterans looking for work.  It compliments the support available from MOD and other career transition support organisations.

More information can be had at their website.

 

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Bulletin: 17th July 2017 – South East Group REA Annual General Meeting

The Chairman, President and Secretary of the branch attended the SE District REA Group AGM on 15th July.  The group is under new management and the meeting was chaired by Lt Col Will Robinson RE, CO of 1 RSME Regt and RSM, WO1 Kevin Rank RE.

Each branch attends and reports to the district controller.  Our report about branch activity can be viewed here.

When the minutes arrive they will be posted but in summary the role of the group leader was to foster connections in the community and the welfare and benevolence of ex-soldiers was his main concern.  The agenda covered benevolence, welfare and finance.  All in good fettle.

RSM said that the Corps Memorial Weekend in September, which he is planning is quite special and as such mostly free to veterans.  (Please let the secretary know if you are attending as a branch member).

The REA AGM is coming up in October (if you want to go to the dinner on 14th October as a member of the branch, or sapper Sunday please let me know asap).

Dates of events and some details where available are covered in our updated diary here.

Sec.

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Bulletin: 16th July 2017

2017 Annual Command Support Symposium Dinner

 

 

This year, at the invitation of Capt Jon Woolley RE, I was honoured to be invited to the command support branch annual symposium dinner on 15th June, to represent the REA Radio Branch.

Before dinner I was privileged to meet Brigadier Matt Bazeley RE, Commandant of the RSME, and had the opportunity to meet the CO of RE Warfare Wing. Major Gurung the OC of the CSB and the Signals Officers of the Corps.

The symposium had gathered signals officers, QMSI’s, Senior and Junior regimental signals instructors from the whole corps, and branch members to update them on technical and training matters.  It was attended by over sixty senior RE Signals personnel and I was delighted to be able to pose with them for the course photograph, something I last did at Chattenden in 1993.

At dinner I was seated in the company of the youngest soldiers there, which gave me a rare opportunity to gain a further view of life at the practical end of signalling.  The lasting impression I will take from this, is that the room was very much buzzing with confident and lively people devoted to their trade, just like it always has been, for decades.

Dinner itself was of a very high standard and afterwards, the SMI of REWW gave his customary welcome to the guests, while taking an opportunity to re-stock the mess wine cellar with port 🙂

Brigadier Bazeley then delivered an after dinner speech that included a view of the corps seniors from all branches of the corps.  He very kindly included the REA in this and I was quite impressed to get a mention several times by name (Stu!) in connection with the business of preserving the heritage, association and esprit de corps through our branch and CSB which is a unique branch of the corps in its own right.

Stuart Dixon

Branch Secretary

 

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Bulletin: 19th April 2017 Branch 2016 AGM and Visit to RE Command Support Branch

Most of us know it as the wing.  Some of us know it as work and others as school but to all combat signallers or CIS Operators in the Royal Engineers it is more or less home.  According to the song, that’s where you hang your hat.  Nowadays it is called the Command Support Branch (CSB) of the RE Warfare Wing at Gibraltar Barracks, Near Camberley in Surrey.

On Friday 21st April 2017 the REA radio branch were lucky enough to be hosted by Captain John Woolley RE who is the current AI, for our annual get together and AGM.

Our mission was mainly to do with developing our branch of the REA and you can see the full details of the meetings here.

The main outcome of the meeting was the committee who attended,  Tom Milne, Mac MacDonald and me caught up, gaining a little insight into the lives of the RE signallers today.  (We are getting on a bit, and we sensed things had changed), (but we aren’t so sure now).

Itinerary for the day

After some preliminary work and the AGM which was held in the officers mess,  Capt Woolley then gave us a tour of the CSB and an overview.

His talk gave us a pretty good view of the pressures the corps were under as the army re-organises post Afghanistan and Iraq, and with the expectations of recent accommodation reviews. Several layers of change were in progress and this included a much closer reliance on reserve forces.

Army Accommodation Review

There was some pressure to amalgamate signals training into one school, however standards were a concern.  The  corps has its own unique training standards which it does not see available elsewhere.

Capt Woolley explained that in the Royal Engineers signalling is very tightly knitted to command and control and linked to all aspects of the corps engineering and logistics work.  The corps unique training requirements and its leadership give it a certain amount of supremacy within the army and these are major factors in determining the type of training CSB gives.

Savings

As everywhere the corps comes under pressure to save money and often technology is widely believed at a senior level and by the other arms as a means to achieve economy.

Consequently there is a surfeit of technology and training solutions which don’t always fit the corps requirement.

The CSB aims to retain realism within its programmes.  This tends to get lost in current simulations and computer based coursework.  CSB sees the type of training it delivers as highly necessary experience it gives to familiarises the soldier with operating equipment under the conditions he or she would expect to find on deployment.  The wing has found no substitute for field exercises, from operating and carrying man-packs to vehicle operation.  Screen based systems just don’t provide that, nor are there any simulators that can.

Manpower

The same pressures on manpower exist today as they have in previous generations – Signallers and CIS operators are dual roled as drivers, armourers and logistics, etc which override their comms role.

The increased reliance on reserves has meant that to get them to the required standard has meant drawing the courses into the annual programme at the CSB instead of relying on unit training.  A departure from the traditional method of training to class 2 level in units.

 

Training and Development

As Captain Woolley outlined the current state of training and development, we noted the differences between the various generations of technology and training.  These were remarkably few, thanks mainly to a change in the threat.  However the technology was obviously more advanced, as were the simulators.

The classrooms and training aids were familiar to the ex-instructors from the radio branch as we walked through.  Capt Woolley outlined the pitfalls inherent in the design of the computer based training classroom and the proposed improvements to the conference room.  This had dilapidated and was due to be upgraded.

BOWMAN Simulator.  The vehicle based BOWMAN System simulator is an impressive high tech design able to provide operators with practice using scenario based simulations.  Combined VHF\HF and UHF network configurations were available.  The built in electronic countermeasures were explained as well as the various devices in each vehicle – a land rover chassis suitably racked with the various BOWMAN system components.

Changing Threats

Capt Woolley explained the changing threat had meant that training had also changed.  As it went through the last twenty years of conflict the scenarios demanded different techniques due to the distance between HQ and Troops.  Recently little or no long range communications were used and the local UHF Network was prominent.

More recently the threats of the previous cold war conflicts had returned.  The branch was deeply involved in restoring the skills it requires in extending its range, with an increased reliance on HF.  The newer equipment still had the HF Voice Modes available for example – Antenna and propagation theory remain on the syllabus.

These techniques required a different training experience and they had to bring in some senior instructors to provide those skills.  (Radio Branch said it had helped in the past with this and has the resources to exercise and develop HF training.  The message about (old) technology was brought home as we visited the training area surrounding the CSB.  Here were simulators to practice Line laying and obstacle crossing much of which has been the case since the telephone was invented.

Capt Woolley explained that, where we thought by now digital secure systems might have been expected to phase this out, it was very much part of the modern syllabus, moreover Telephone and Line equipment hadn’t changed much, the unit level switchboard (ULS) which came into service in the 70s, for example, was still in service.

 

 

Wherever I hang my hat….

It was obvious to us that CSB retains our history in many forms.  For a fleeting moment we were able to go back in time as the names and photographs of many friends, students and instructors are emblazoned on the corridor walls and in the instructors and conference room.  There was a plan to digitise, retain and refresh some of this which was a work in progress.

 

 

As we said goodbye to Capt Woolley and thanked him, we could not help reflect where home would be if some of the changes being mooted happened.

It was a very useful day and interesting to hear that the corps has our legacy and heritage in mind as we develop our part of the REA.

 

Stuart Dixon

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Bulletin: 11th April 2017

2016 Annual General Meeting

The deferred 2016 AGM will be held on 21st April at 1200 Hrs at the RE Command Support Branch at the address below:

3 RSME Regiment
Royal Engineers Warfare Wing
Gibraltar Barracks
Blackwater, Surrey
GU17 9LP

Items and submissions for the agenda please to the branch secretary by no later than 18th April.

The minutes of the 2015 AGM are available here

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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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