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.

About admin

Enigmatic to the core I went to school in Bolton and Manchester and ended up joining up at Manchester in ’69 enlisting in the corps of Royal Engineers. My aspirations were quite vague at that age and I was persuaded to drive for a living and occasionally operate radios instead of flying fighter planes:). Having then learnt my trade and obtaining my centurion tank driving licence, my early career saw plenty of action on Soltau tank ranges and the obligatory tours as a radio op in the infantry and engineer roles in Northern Ireland -2 years all in. Operating the radio took my fancy (even after a four month tour following a super fit troop commander around on patrols with a 43 pound radio on my back) – it was something I would eventually be able to teach. After 20 years I ended up in the position of QMSI (look it up) before diversifying into an IT Role with HQ Engineer in Chief. This was early days for IT in the RE and having studied it in my spare time to an acceptable level – aided and abetted by an elmer with excellent skills on the BBC Micro (G3WOV, See also below) and the Nienburg Computer and Electronics Club, eventually I became a CIS WO – one of the first in the corps with any Command, Control, Communication and Information Systems Experience – qualifying as a systems analyst and amongst other things, training at the school of military survey in Geographical Information Systems. In the history of the corps IT was so new at this time, the laptop was only just becoming cheap enough to afford and there weren’t many people around who had one in the military. But when the UN went into Bosnia it became an essential tool no officer could be seen without. When this was realised I ended up purchasing a roulement scale of IT kit and devising the first ever Windows and office software training course in the RE, and then delivering it as pre tour training package – with Alan Lewis (Wordperfect, SuperCalc and Paradox). It was in those days that Alan Lewis introduced me to CIX and Compuserve. (No internet, just dial up bulletin boards then). Interestingly when TCPIP took off with email I was offered shares fairly early on in Demon Internet – oh how I wish I had taken that up. There was then this period when data communications became fashionable and I remember working a rear link via 300 baud packet between Chattenden Barracks and the Falkland Islands in the early nineties. At least three hundred packets got through before the novelty wore off:) Not much of a record, but interesting to see how packet took off and declined in quite a short space of time and how TCP\IP has flourished – so much so that the address space has already filled up when it wasn’t supposed to:) I took up amateur radio whilst serving at Tidworth in ’78 due mainly to a great elmer, G3WOV. Here, besides breaking my leg and taking up shortwave listening, I did four jobs of note; Detachment to Cheshire Police HQ during fire strike – signals corporal, Married Gillian, passed the REA and Morse test and promptly after that found myself abroad monitoring a ceasefire in Rhodesia. The newly acquired radio licence came in handy as they kindly lent me a brand new PRC320 with which to practice on during those lonely nights in the bush (and live ammo). See here http://5820-99-114.com/TCRU/?cat=48 – After that I spent the next 10 years in 21 Engineer Regiment in Germany where I held and used the callsign DA1CY and then DA2DI (on the second tour). Occasionally purloining the CLANSMAN Kit for the odd QSO. While stationed in Nienburg I had the lovely experience of raising my daughter – Sammy and on the second tour my son Tom was born. They reckon it was something in the water. While here on the first tour I had a sked with VP8API (look it up) on 1.10.82. Ian was on tour clearing up after the Falklands war. Interestingly – while calling him on my 100 watt TS120S transceiver and dipole I was called back by 4K1A in Antarctica. I could not believe he gave me five and nine. The cold war being what it was I think the operator was curious because he was asking me where my friend was – (not obvious). Between tours in Nienburg I had the great pleasure of teaching TA Soldiers in 75 Engineer Regiment (V) radio skills – I think I took away as much learning as I imparted. Worked PRC349 to PRC349 from Snowdon to the Cat and Fiddle in Cheshire on Whip Antenna for a bet (work that one out). One memorable part of this was spending a great deal of time designing computer software with a really good RSO who could program in Basic to generate Slidex and MAPCO Keys. We finally nailed what must have been the most boring job in the army, and then they supersede it with BATCO. I had the job of converting the regiment to that. While living in Failsworth, I encountered a lifelong friend, Ian, G6TGO for the first time. We have had occasional skeds ever since – we are still trying to get the 351/2 to work between Gravesend and Manchester – (Close). Notably on my second tour in Nienburg I got the time to practice combat engineering in between radio stags and having got the hang of command and control using BATCO which was fraught, I analysed the radio messages we were sending during an exercise and noted how much time it would save if we formatted them differently – BATCO was a problem and it was costing the corps days and hours it would not afford in a war. On realising this I produced the first Engineer Secure Orders Cards (ESOCS) on my Amstrad PC using DTP. Uncannily surreal, but I also lived for a time in the same flat as Spike, G4AKQ but ten years or so later, and then after becoming good friends with him even more years later I discovered we had that in common when I read the address on his QSL Card. Now settled in Gravesend I had the honour to further serve in both the police and the NHS. Firstly as a network manager – how cool? Straight out of the army and straight into a network manager’s job with the same money and a half again. Then one day I spotted a project of note with the police, as technical lead on a county wide rollout project for their Digital AIRWAVE Radio system. How time flies, they are now planning its replacement. Since then I have had many exploits with cost saving IT Projects for the NHS and I can see them replacing some of those systems soon. It will soon be time to retire however not before I save them another few million. Now I work for a mental health trust – I can see both sides of that particular coin having acquired a little black dog at some time in my career, which is not uncommon – I am so glad mental health and the military mindset have become hot topics for discussion :) Check me out on Facebook and LinkedIn. My favourite quote: “What the fcuk do the engineers know about IT and communications?”

Will let you guess where that one came from :). Having used and taught LARKSPUR, CLANSMAN, and now glimpsed the Bowman Radio Systems (which was being specified as I was in EinC) I realise that just about everything I have worked on in the Army, BATCO, MAPCO, Slidex, Griddle, VP, SOCs Morse Code, Map reading and Marking skills have been digitised and encrypted to the Nth degree. That’s why I am creating a digital record, – before I become obsolete myself or worse – TRON.

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