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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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Barry Arthur Grainger, Major RE (Retired) RIP G4TOG SK

Barry Grainger has passed away. The family will return his ashes to nature at a private ceremony on the 17th August 2024 on Lake St Claire, (between Ontario in Canada and Michigan in the US.)

Official Notification

The official notification reads as follows:

“Maj(Retired) Barry Grainger RE has joined the Sqn bar.

Barry Grainger, born in 1936 at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England, peacefully passed away 12 July 2024 in Leamington, Ontario, surrounded by loved ones. He was a dedicated family man, military veteran, and cherished member of the community.

Born during a pivotal time in history, Barry experienced the challenges of wartime England, shaping his resilience and sense of duty from an early age. He attended Castle Street Primary School and Portchester Secondary School before embarking on a career that would span over three decades in the British Army.

His military journey began soon after his apprenticeship as a wood machinist, with three years of national service, where he quickly rose to the rank of Corporal. During his service, he met and married Valerie, and together they raised their children Karen and David.

Barry;s career took him across the globe, from Germany to Cyprus and Gibraltar, where he played significant roles in peacekeeping efforts and specialized projects in radio technology. His achievements included leadership roles such as Squadron Sergeant Major of 1st Fortress Squadron and contributions to the Royal Engineers’ signalling school.

Outside of his distinguished military career, Barry was an avid Formula 1 enthusiast, accomplished sailor, and dedicated member of the amateur radio community, known by his call sign G4TOG. “Tubby ol’ grandad”

In retirement, Barry and Valerie settled in, Ontario, where Barry remained an active member of the local radio ham club, embodying his lifelong dedication to communication and camaraderie.

Barry leaves behind a legacy of service, integrity, and love for his family. He will be remembered fondly by all who knew him for his unwavering commitment to duty, his adventurous spirit, and his warm sense of humour.

No flowers, donations or sadness. Celebrate his life with a wee dram of your finest malt or a glass of port or two.”

Barry and the REA Radio Branch

Most Radio branch members will remember Barry Grainger as BG. A top class instructor at the Signals Wing, RSME, where as the Senior Military Instructor (and later when he was commissioned), he spent much time organising many get togethers, courses and conventions, while working in several posts and during many different tours.

(Our apology for the quality of the photograph below but it shows a snapshot of BG in his element with a Regimental Signals Instructors course. (Photo Courtesy of Mac MacCrystal)).

Barry’s lectures were always fun and had purpose. One of the guys in the photo (me) said of Barry, “Personally, he challenged me on one occasion to get a high pass in his favourite subject. This steered my life to some extent and was a moment which I will always be proud of, as he marked me down for a single punctuation error :). (“nobody gets 100%. – 99% then”. (happy with that)). Later I found out for myself the enjoyment you get from teaching antenna theory from memory”.

Technically sound and worldly wise, Barry knew all the tools of the trade and how to use and obtain them. When Green Radio’s had thermionic valves, he used to fault find and tweak them without REME assistance. When Clansman Radio was coming into service, before anyone started teaching it, he tested it by following the round the world yacht race. The sapper team had a portable set on board and were sending back daily updates. One memorable time the signals came direct from Sydney Harbour. His enthusiasm for this spawned a number of legends about the trip and the antennas being used, and most of his anecdotes were rolled out with the new radio’s by the instructors he taught. The Clansman legend, working the world on a mast stay and thirty watts was directly attributable to BG’s telling of the experience. Of course everyone then had to beat that.

If you were in the radio shack (or Den), often he would pop up for a chat, just to see what was going on, or to give a demo. Often there was something new, like data communications (when everyone else was using voice or morse code). Barry knew exactly how it all worked, advising how to select the right frequency for the time of day and area of the world you were going to. (This remains something of a black art – ed).

Barry’s idea was to spread the enjoyment of communications, not just the job. The signal wing, as it was known, was certainly a place for like minded people in his time there.

having spotted this, In January 1997, Barry and others founded the Royal Engineers Association Radio Branch, and he was listed as President at the first AGM in November that year. The branch steadily grew a membership under his leadership, together with Tom Milne G4CMG and Spike Bernard G4AKQ in its early years. There came a point in 2006 when Canada caught his affection. Barry certainly loved the world, and worked different parts of it regularly via HF Radio from wherever he was. If you were going somewhere exotic, he would know just how to communicate with home and he encouraged experimenting as well as tried and tested methods.

(The photo below shows BG at the inaugural AGM of the REARB in November 1997. Bottom row, Your right. The original was attached to the first branch newsletter.)

Please feel free to add you own anecdotes in the comments below.

Cheers Barry, wherever you are.

Stuart Dixon

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David Michael Ferigan – 10th January 1938 to 26th April 2024

Dave F has passed away aged 86. In October 2015 we published the following article following a party to pay tribute to him. Many aspects of his life were covered in tribute at the funeral and this post has been updated with an addendum. The Radio Branch sends its condolences to the family.

Dave F - 311015RE Signalling Community Pays Tribute to Dave Ferigan – from a Bulletin dated 31st October 2015

On Saturday evening, 31st October 2015, members of the RE community of wireless operators, radio operators and signallers and their partners held a party at the King Charles Hotel in Gillingham to pay tribute to Dave Ferigan (aka “Dave F” – G3ZYV).

Recently surviving cancer and in his late seventies, in his life Dave gave 17 years service to the Royal Engineers as a civilian instructor, teaching radio operators.

 

Background

This time was spent developing and teaching communications training at the signals wing in Chattenden Barracks, near Rochester in Kent.  The period covered the latter part of the cold war, the Falklands campaign and others when the army were substantial in numbers.  Subsequently training for military radio communications and electronic warfare was at its peak.  The first battlefield computers started to appear and Clansman radio was reasonably new and mostly serviceable.

His wife Pam and son Sean, will tell you this was a pivotal time in Dave’s life, his service continued right up until shortly after the signal training wing re-located to Minley in Hampshire – where it is now the Command Support Branch of the Royal Engineers.

Status – Legend

Being the only civilian instructor at “the wing”, Dave earned the utmost respect from everyone; fellow military trade instructors, students and military staff, so much so that he became something of a legend.  He managed to achieve this status with just about every level of the command structure, with both the TA and regular soldiers who passed through the wing.  The course photo below, one of several hundred of Dave, shows him with a B1 Signals course circa 1987.

Circa 1987

Circa 1987 – Front second from left

Daves Stomping Ground

Daves Old Stomping Ground in 2004 (Showing Bob Russell)

Dave developed and participated in many of the training exercises – spending a lot of his time either on the roof of the building or in the “den” where he taught students and staff the art of building and testing antennas and running the exercises.  Versatile, he was equally at home teaching any of the subjects in the trade syllabus, but back in the eighties and nineties, he was also solely responsible for teaching the morse code right up until it went out of service.  The number of students leaving the wing with passes in this difficult subject shows Dave’s exceptional patience and teaching ability.

(Ed.  – What I find inspirational about Dave is his quiet, good humoured, determined and infectious brand of teaching.  As many of his close friends and colleagues will tell you he is a social character who keeps an open door for anyone who wants to share in his exploits and antics.) Plus he has this amazing head for heights.

Moving on…

Dave made sure that when the wing moved from Chattenden, all of the facilities were improved or recreated on arrival, negotiating and creating an impressive array of antennas and classroom facilities.  Without his expertise the messaging systems of the period used by the corps would have been less effective; Dave’s whole communications philosophy is to get the message through, securely by whatever means available. A great knowledge of electronics and improvised communications skills underpins this and Dave presents this as an art form.

REtiREment

(Thanks Ian)

One day because of the state of the M25 Dave decided commuting from Gillingham to Minley was no longer worthwhile and retired to a life of fishing in the English Channel.  This “working retirement” lasted for fourteen years.  These days he spends his time on the amateur radio bands.  He still passes his skills on to the local radio club and with his family at home in Gillingham, he regularly receives members of the RE community.

Addendum

David Micheal Ferigan was born on the 10th of January 1938 and Died on the 26th April 2024.  His life was celebrated at Medway Crematorium on 7th June 2024.  In his later years Dave fought off cancer and heart disease until he passed away after an accident at home. 

The Radio Branch was present at the funeral to hear tributes from Ade and Sean covering many aspects of his life including his extraordinary power to multi task and some of his near misses.  

“So remember me as I used to be, not as you saw me last.  And keep me close in memory, in your present and our past”

 

Pictures:  Sean Ferrigan,  Branch Archive

 

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Bulletin: 17th December 2017 – Update on Branch Development Plan

Seasons Greetings!

Summary Dismissal

The branch development plan which incorporated a bid for funds for projects, from one million pounds of welfare funds “available”, has been turned down.  The reason being that the funding committee thought that the radio branch membership was no more than a bunch of radio hams (“11 Strong”).  The application was therefore turned down with caveats:  That the branch should not apply again or break the application up into separate requests.  Effect: Kybosh.

Because those were the only reasons offered and the document was fairly comprehensive, also it contained a snapshot of our social media statistics, indicating continuous interest from 230 people reading our posts it provoked an immediate reaction.  We disputed whether our submission had been read before it was acted upon.  The voluntary effort taken to create it was certainly not a consideration.

Membership Data

To be fair we included in our development plan that there are discrepancies between the REA database (and ours).  While the REA think we have a membership of 11 “radio Hams” we think our numbers are over ninety, taken from data from our web form and historical membership records.  Approx 32 people in that group have amateur radio licenses.   (We contacted all our members when we took over but regular contact is fairly sparse and not enough to confirm annual membership.)

We therefore realised there are large(r) numbers of signallers (and sappers) that are still alive today who have been through our trade training – but without the right data it is impossible to reach out.   This holds us back.  We raised the opportunity at least two years ago.  Our plan was to grow progressively with support.  Also we have known for some time that by improving how we administer the branch it would unlock further possibilities for development across the whole piece.  We have offered support to develop this idea before but we have always felt we were not being listened to, we decided to document it in the plan.

Future of the Radio Branch

We think the survival of the branch depends on growth and have prepared for it.  However we doubted there would be support for the development.  We have seen the impact of trying to meet challenges without support.  Nobody in their right mind wants to do that for long(1).

We now think the branch is unsupported despite much good will shown by CO’s of 1 and 3 Regt RE over the years.

We are unable to grow at our own pace.

We know the REA has a plan (but this had not come to light by the time our development plan was submitted(2)).  We doubted our unique requirements were a part of this as we were not included in the survey interviews and so our plan was compiled from two development meetings at the command support branch and then submitted separately.  This was done voluntarily and the notes circulated and agreed with serving officers and soldiers.  We gave the time we could afford – voluntarily recognising a risk if we didn’t contribute.

Getting Real

Having full knowledge of the issue of the branch being identified as a “small number of hams”, in this committees life, we have always taken steps to be inclusive of all signallers and have bothered to build a following by marketing this.  In the funding committees response, this effort went unacknowledged.

The response was simply not appropriate and we expected better.  It made out we were liars when we acknowledged we had problems.

Professionally we have never seen a funding application process that didn’t include a presentation from the people submitting the application, and a mechanism for reviewing it.

Nor have we ever submitted a plan that has been dismissed without someone recognising the issues and offering support.

The dismissal gives the appearance that the branch operates under a delusion when getting real is the main reason behind airing the plan.

The final point is that when we challenged the way it was dismissed, we said it was dangerous, in the knowledge that it risked scuppering the branch altogether.  The response to this was “over-dramatic”.  We were serious. We know enough about the branch to be able to predict the outcome and be concerned.

Current Situation

The Branch Secretary has resigned as of November 2017.  He has asked to hand over the administration and the assets which include the website and social media accounts while he reverts to ordinary membership.

The branch committee don’t yet have a response to what happened and, as you might expect, there has been no high level contact either way about our response.  This was to handover the admin to prevent any further damaging emails and provide a cooling off period.

NB.  The website belongs to the branch but the annual running costs is a voluntary contribution, this arrangement expires in May 2018 due to the donor reaching retirement age and (1) above.

What are we going to do?

For the future, there is still time to consider the matter.  We think to wait for (2) is out of the question.  If the events above run their course the branch now needs to downsize rather than grow.

A committee meeting is planned for Jan\Feb 2018

Posted in Branch Matters, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Bulletin: 23rd September 2017 – Update on Branch Development Plan

Memorandum

From:      Royal Engineers Association – Radio Branch Committee

To:            The RE Command Support Community

Subject: REA Radio Branch Development Plan


Gentlemen,

The radio branch committee has recently come together with the RE Command Support Branch (CSB) to develop a plan for our trade group that meets the Corps Commanders requirements for the REA.  This is to:

  • Offer a lifelong experience built on esprit de corps, welfare, benevolence and remembrance.  

Joined Up Working

To facilitate discussion, two joint meetings were held at 3RSME.  At these, Branch secretary Stuart Dixon provided a gap analysis between where we are now, and the corps aims.  His report covered work already complete and a forward plan.  It concludes:

Lifelong Association.  Current membership comprises a few dedicated serving members and an ageing core membership.  Most members are ex sappers with a military and social interest in the trade group.  The most active are a special interest group.  This covers continuous personal development and lifelong, individual self teaching in our core subjects; radio, electronics, communications training, the industry and computing.

As a branch we don’t reach anywhere near the numbers of potential members and this is a risk.

  • A number of opportunities exist to fill the gaps between the age groups by reaching out to all eligible members. 

Esprit de Corps.  The current location of the branch causes difficulty.  The CSB has little input to veterans affairs and opportunities to bring serving soldiers and ex RE Signallers together must be created.

  • A shift, re-focusing the REA Branch on its parent unit, CSB is preferred.  

This will create the kind of joined up events which showcase our heritage and skills and allow for the exchange of ideas and information about our lifestyle, welfare and personal development.  Serving soldiers will gain a view of life after military service while ex-sappers will be encouraged to retain the sapper lifestyle during and after their transition to civilian life.  All command support personnel will be eligible.

  • Holding an annual re-union at 3RSME combined with CSB during a major event in the corps programme will have a big impact on the branch.

Army Welfare and Benevolence.  Stuart Dixon said “From the veterans point of view what we did while we served is just as important now as it was then.  While we were young, social life was important.  Alcohol played a big part in life and this can become relentless, leading to poor health in later years.   The importance of this should be emphasised.  The corps encourages people to develop their interests through hobbies and sports.  When we earned our stripes and grew older, we began to take a leading role and our wives, children, hobbies and sport became as important as sapper skills.  What we learnt ourselves supplemented what we were taught and made us the best – and we had fun.

There is a potential to lose some or all of these values at the point of exit from the corps and this can affect well-being.  However the people in our membership generally tend to fare well, because they retain a part of the sapper lifestyle.”  “Having lived it now, I realise mental and physical well-being is a big issue among veterans, as much as it is with serving sappers.  The importance of filling your life with things you enjoy and achievements, and helping others, does far more for a person than prescription drugs”.

  • Combining our assets and modernising them will help to develop the lifestyle in younger soldiers, while retaining and developing life skills, bringing that to the local communities where ex-sappers reside.

Plan.  The forward plan is a number of projects requiring voluntary leadership, management and teaching skills in a number of skill areas.  This is a big change from where we are now, and it requires funding, but the opportunities it creates for volunteering and participation are both challenging and rewarding.

What can you do to help?

This REA Branch is open to anyone in the RE Command Support community.  Please subscribe and keep your subscriptions up to date.  Donations are most welcome. Volunteers are badly needed to carry the plan forward and you are welcome to fill any post identified in the plan which match your skills and experience.

All Meeting Notes and the plan are listed below.  Your comments are welcome.

Notes – Branch Development Meeting No 1

This covers a number of questions you may have.

Notes – Branch Development Meeting No 2

REA Radio Branch_RE Command Support Development Letter

Draft of REA Radio Branch Development Plan Gantt ChartV0.1

This shows a sample of the volunteers required to execute various parts of the plan.

Roger so far?  All comments welcome.

Yours, Aye

The REA Radio Branch Committee

with thanks to OC, Command Support Branch, REWW, Gibraltar Barracks, Camberley.

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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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