The Wire Article From July to August 1969  






14th Signal Regiment receives first Mobile Earth Station
By Major John Newman

  • * Two Operational Satellite Troops formed.
    * Station can be set up and dismantled in three hours.

On Thursday, 27th March, at a ceremony held at the G,E.C.- A.E.I. establishment at Stanmore, Middlesex, 14th Regiment took delivery of the first of the ‘ Skynet ’ Satellite Communications Earth Stations.

The purpose of ‘Skynet’

Project ‘Skynet’, is intended to provide the country with a world-wide wideband communications system which is highly reliable and not subject to the vagaries of the current HF system.

It consists of a geo-stationary satellite, positioned over the Indian Ocean, so that it is ‘visible’ from the U.K. to the Far East, and a number of earth- stations. There will be five static earth stations, two small ship-borne stations and two medium sized, mobile, air-portable stations. It is the first of the two air-portable stations that the Regiment has received, the second being due for delivery later this year.


Earlier days

14th Regiment has been associated with Satellite Communications since December, 1965, when it was responsible for forming 647' Troop. This Troop, after training, went to Singapore where it manned the Earth Station which took part in the Initial Defence Communications Satellite Project. When 647 Troop returned to this country in December, 1967, to take over the Earth Station at S.R.D.E. Christchurch, it again became administratively part of 14th Regiment. The relay centre at Boddington was also intimately concerned with the I.D.C.S.P. trials.

Two Satellite Troops The two Troops, which have- been raised to become the first operational Satellite Troops, are 617 and 6l8 Troops. They are at present commanded by Captain Ian Kerr and Captain Peter Brunton, and their Foremen of Signals are W.O.1 Jack Coxon and W.O.1 Jim Lawrence. The majority of each Troop have attended, or will be attending, a specialist, four-month course to train them for their new and interesting role.


The equipment

itself The stations are based upon a 20-foot parabolic reflector, which is fully steerable and which automatically follows the satellite as it drifts through space. The electronic equipment is mounted either on the back of the dish or in three air-portable cabins. The low noise receive amplifier is cooled by liquid nitrogen and the production and handling of this has become an interesting new task for the Electrician Drivers of the Troops led by Corporal Colin Pickering and Corporal Mike Reynolds.

For movement by road or by car the station breaks down into seven packages, two which form the antenna mount, three cabins and two 50 KVA generators. These can be mounted on detachable four-wheeled mobilisers.

The station takes three hours to dismantle and pack ready for movement, and can be erected and in operation within three hours of arriving on a new unprepared site.

A very good effort The station was on display at the-University Symposium at Arborfield on 28th March within l6 hours of the Regiment accepting it from the makers at Stanmore. It travelled to Arborfield during the evening of 27th March and six members of 617 Troop then worked through the night to erect the station, assisted by representatives of the makers (G.E.C.). This was completed by 05.00, when everyone was then glad to snatch a couple of hours’ sleep. At 08.00 everyone was back on parade to show off and demonstrate the station working through‘ a satellite, to the assembled university professors and lecturers. Considering that this was the first, time that they had ever seen the station, we consider that this was an extremely good effort.

Well done, 617 Signal Troop!


The ‘new look’

What does 14th Regiment do now that D.C.N. has gone to the RAF? A question we often hear and the answer is--plenty. In the first place D.C.N. hasn’t gone yet although it does go during the year, and in the second place the ‘new look’ 14th Regiment is already forming up in its new home at Norton Barracks, Worcester. The relay centre at Boddington passes to the RAF in July, the receiver station at Bampton in September, Robinswood Barracks closes at the end of the year and Droitwich early in 1970. A lot of the old D.C.N. bloods have gone or are going but their replacements are arriving despite vicious M.P.T. figures. The new C.O. and Second-in-Command, Lieutenant-Colonel. A. Baker and Major C. S. Galbraith are well established as well as the new R.S.M, W.O.1 D. J. M. Rumsey, plus most of 4, 5 and 6 Squadrons.

.We have been proud of our many years’ association with the Army Wireless Chain, then COMCAN and finally D.C.N. but we are becoming even more proud of our new role as a Force Rear Link Regiment supporting Army Strategic Command, equipped with some of the most modern high capacity long haul communications equipment in service: the medium radio squadron with its air portable D11s and D13s working for real in Anguilla and on exercise in Holland, the high power squadron, half of which is on exercise in British Honduras by courtesy of the RAF, five of whose Hercules aircraft air lifted them there, and the satellite squadron which already has the first of its Skynet satellite ground stations - at a mere £1/2m. a throw.


For anyone who wants to use modern radio equipment and to travel the world using it, 14th Regiment is the place. If all our plans materialise and the string of overseas exercises take place it seems probable that every detachment will get abroad at least once during the year and several detachments more often. Interesting places too – various African countries, the Mediterranean and several parts of the Caribbean with Continental Europe as a back-up.

Incidentally, the move from Gloucester to Worcester will not loosen our close ties with the former city and we intend to continue to exercise our freedom of entry into that city. In fact we ‘exercised the privilege during May when we marched past the Mayor and Corporation behind the Corps Band with drums playing, bayonets fixed and swords drawn - and for the first time since the freedom was granted in 1966 it didn’t rain.


‘Freedom’ Weekend

Due to the recent changes in the Regiment’s role and location our Regimental Weekend, to celebrate the third anniversary of being granted the Freedom of Gloucester, had to be split between two cities.

On Saturday, 3rd May, at Worcester, the Regiment played hosts to military guests and local personalities. Within the fine Victorian confines of Norton Barracks the Corps Band, under the baton of Captain Keith R. R. Boulding, Director of Music, played retreat. The band produced a varied programme of music both ancient and modern and ended with the Sunset Ceremony. This was Captain Bonlding’s first ceremonial function in uniform since taking up his appointment and we thank him and the Corps Band for a most impressive display.

This was also the first official public function held by the Regiment since its arrival in Worcester and we had no way of knowing how the local population would react. We are very pleased to say that they gave us overwhelming support – almost literally, for approximately 450 people visited the barracks. To all those who did not get a seat we say “ sorry” and promise to do better next time. The playing of Retreat was ended by the salute being taken by the Representative Colonel Commandant, Brigadier R. H. E. Robinson, C.B.E., E.R.D. Afterwards our guests were entertained at a cocktail party in the Officers’ Mess, and a dance in the Warrant Officers and Sergeants’ Mess.


Sunday, 4th May, brought, an early rise to many of the members of the Regiment as, in the afternoon, we were to exercise the Regimen’s privilege of marching through the City of Gloucester with swords drawn, bayonets fixed and drums beating. This to many Regiments would seem an easy mission but to the present 14th Regiment, still performing its old role as well as its new and with soldiers located in two barracks and five operational centres, quite a major operation was required to bring all our parade together. Also, to many this was their first introduction to their new R.S.M., who himself had only been with the Regiment for three weeks. But as always we came ‘through.’ Before the march through Gloucester the Regiment commemorated the granting of the Freedom of the City with a Service held in the Cathedral. On entering the Cathedral the Mayor, Alderman K. A. M. Hyatt, and members of the city council, were greeted with Bullocks Homage Fanfare by the Corps Fanfare trumpeters. The Corps band, with Mr. John Sanders at the organ, provided the music for the service. The Lessons were read by the Mayor of Gloucester and the Representative Colonel Commandant and the address was given by Canon W. R. Houghton.

After the Cathedral service 140 members of the Regiment marched through the city for the Mayor to take the salute. This was followed by the Mayor and City Council being entertained to tea in the Guildhall by representatives and their ladies from all ranks of the Regiment.


Regimental Regatta

The day of the Regimental Regatta dawned, if that’s the correct word. A light meter could no doubt have detected an increase in the day-light but, on 6th May at the Droitwich puddle, the dark clouds stayed and the rain came down. Needless to say the airs were lighter than light.

The Regimental Inter-Squadron Regatta was under way at 10.30 sharp. The hard Work put in by D.C.N. Troop’s lineman and the Troop Sergeant was, we hoped, paying off. ‘HQ.’ Squadron helped with some excellent cuisine and even 1 Squadron at Gloucester chipped in with the renowned Mr. Sadler and his bar. One should perhaps mention our Regimental Sailing Officer, Major Charles Galbraith, of Daily Mirror fame, who kidded and cajoled but never shouted and whose general staff work made the organisation seem simple.

The day ended with the jetties under water and a win for the ‘HQ.’ Squadron and D.C.N. Troop team (Lance-Corporal Brian Clayton, Major Charles Galbraith and Captain Bob Middleton). 6 Squadron were second and the combined 4 and 5 Squadrons were third.

The prizes were presented by Mrs. D. A. Harbord, the wife of our local doctor who had, in fact, donated the Inter-Squadron trophy.


Royal Signals Inter-Unit Regatta

The Corps Regatta was held on the following day, 7th May, and the ‘dry’ run on the previous day had ironed out any of the slight snags that might have occurred.

The rain had gone and the wind had arrived, almost too much of it in fact.

The teams were from: 37th Signal Regiment (V), School of Signals, Training Brigade, 24th Brigade Signal Squadron, and 14th Signal Regiment.

All appeared to have a good day’s sailing even if the rescue launch was used more than one would have hoped. A watch was lost and various people got wet and cold. Even Sergeant Howie of the jetty party couldn’t resist walking in to see how deep it was!

The ‘crew of the day ’ award must, I think, go to Lieutenant Humphrey Vines and Second-Lieutenant Reynolds, W.R.A.C. They were first across the finishing line in every race sailed except the final of the individual. This feat helped the Signal Training Brigade to take home the winner’s cup, with 37th Regiment as runners-up.


The individual competition was won by Mr. (ex-W.O.1) Stan Barrett. He had persuaded his employer, the local bank manager, to give him the day off to come to the Regatta.

This was 14th Regiment’s fourth ‘go’ at running a Corps Regatta. We are grateful for the support received from other units and were delighted to welcome the visiting Corps ‘sailors.’ Sailing types here look forward to meeting such stalwarts as Lieutenant-Colonel Freddy Ramsbottom and Major John Le Hardy at Corps events during the current sailing season.

Finally, we would like to express our thanks to Lieutenant- Colonel Dudley Lincoln (retd), Secretary Western Command A.S.A., for giving us the benefit of his experience ‘on the bridge’ this year and on previous occasions.


A tale of tiny teeth

Readers who shave to Radio Fours Jack de Manio Show, or read the inside pages of the ‘popular’ press over their bacon and eggs, may have been slightly startled one recent morning to learn of ‘sabotage ’ at a ‘ hush-hush army a signals unit.’ We apologise to any senior officer whose reactions resulted in a sliced chin or impaled lip. As usual, the denouncement came in the last paragraph. The saboteurs were mice with a taste for paper insulation and the result of their efforts was a day of blissful peace with no calls from the outside world. It was interesting to note how the various newspapers, having received identical stories, printed versions completely different in emphasis and content.

Tail piece Although grateful for all the kind offers, we do not want to purchase any mouse-traps and we are not a collection agency for unwanted cats.