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