The Wire Article From September to October 1969  
                                                       
 

14th Signal Regiment Worcester

  • Visit by the SCL-in-C
  • Boddington Communication Centre handed over to the Royal Air Force after 15 years operation by the Royal Corps.
  • 14th Regiment gain second place for British Army in NATO target selection competition.
 
                                                       
 

Visit of the Signal Officer-in-Chief

Making his first visit to a Regiment since assuming his appointment, Major-General P. F. Pentreath, M.B.E., visited us on the morning of Wednesday, 8th July.

Although our satellite ground station was unfortunately away, we were able to show him some of the other equipment that enables us to carry out our Force Rear Link role. Possibly more important, he met and chatted to a good proportion of the keen young soldiers who make that equipment go.

Within a busy programme, which included visits to all Squadrons based on Norton Barracks, General Pentreath found time to visit the Sergeants’ Mess, Where R.S.M. D. H. M. Rumsey re-introduced old friends and introduced new acquaintances.

We were delighted by the interest shown by the S.O.in-C. in all aspects of the ‘ new look ’ 14th Regiment, and hope that he enjoyed seeing us just as much as we enjoyed meeting him.

     
                                                       
     

Hand-over of Boddington Communication Centre to The Royal Air Force
By the last Royal Signals O.C., Major Charles Bushell

The red light still burns in the main corridor of the Comcen, Boddington, with beneath it the words “if the light is out tell the D.S.O.” But it’s a Royal Air Force Officer who will receive the mysterious warning now. (Older readers may recall an amusing article about the Boddington red light, written by Major Willie Hughes and published in THE WIRE about a decade ago). Boddington has been ‘rationalised’ and, in a ceremony, held on July 1st, the Corps’ best-known comcen was handed over to the Royal Air Force.

Our long association with this part of the world began in 1938, when the CNW (standing for Cheltenham Net Work) telephone exchange was built. During the war it was expanded to include the main DHN switching centre for the West Midlands.

It was in 1954 that the more familiar main building was opened by H.R.H. The Princess Royal. It was named No. 1 Signal Centre, but soon acquired the title under which it best became known, “TRC Boddington.”

In 1964, Boddington became automatic and, with the introduction of TARE, was almost ‘tapeless.’ So it assumed a new title, ‘Relay Centre, Boddington.’ A final change of name came this year, when by decree (DCI (GEN) 42/69) it became ‘Commcen Boddington.’

 
                                                       
 

In its 15 years of existence, Commcen Boddington has earned a justified reputation for efficiency and innovation. It has become a Corps property that has been shown to countless ‘visitors with considerable pride.

The ceremony to mark the handover was simple and extremely effective. ‘On parade was a 30 strong guard from 14th Signal Regiment, with a similar number from the Royal Air Force. The reviewing officer was Brigadier D. P. Rennick, Controller, DCN (a previous CO. of 14th Regiment, incidentally). After the inspection, Lieutenant-Colonel J. A. Baker, C.O., 14th Regiment, addressed all present, and then officially handed over the keys of Boddington to Wing Commander J.J. F. Long, C.O., Royal Air Force, Stanbridge. In accepting the keys, Wing-Commander Long expressed his thanks to the Regiment ‘for the harmonious way that the transfer had been accomplished.

The parade presented arms as the Corps flag was lowered and the Royal Air Force flag raised. Then, to the strains of the Corps March, played by a RAF band, 14th Signal Regiment, led by Major Charles Bushell, the last a Royal Signals O.C., Boddington, marched out of the centre through the ranks of R.A.F. guard, commanded by the new O.C. Boddington, Squadron-Leader Norman Harvey, as the R.A.F. staged a fly-past. Before the parade, Colonel Baker had presented Wing-Commander Long with a commemorative plaque to place on the door of the Boddington Briefing Room. He had sent a farewell message to-all connected stations and, whilst Brigadier Rennick and a party of senior Army and R.A.F. Officers toured the centre, the replies arrived. Perhaps the most touching were the ones from Canada and Singapore.

     
                                                       
                         

The Canadian message read: “

The circuit from Boddington to Canada has not only joined two nations, it has also been a connection between Royal Signals and RC. Signals. It is with sincere regret that we terminate this association. Many thanks for your co-operation and understanding over the years. - Au Revoir.”

Whilst Singapore was even more generous with theirs;

“During the l5 months in which our Communication Centres have been connected, 14th Signal Regiment (Royal Signals) has gained the respect and admiration of all ranks. You leave Commcen Boddington with the knowledge that the reputation earned by your Regiment will be difficult for the Royal Air Force to equal and impossible to surpass. All ranks of this Communications Centre join me in wishing 14th Signal Regiment good luck and good fortune.”

This, from a Royal Air Force Commcen was praise indeed! And so an era has ended. Boddington no longer belongs to the Corps. For the next four months, a rear party of two, Major Jim Cheshire and W.O.1 (F. of S.) Hughie Morrison will remain. The fact that Major Cheshire will be the last officer to leave is ironic for, as W.O.II Cheshire, he was on parade in 1954, when the centre was opened.

14th Regiment, in its new tactical role, continues to work into Boddington, and certain of the civilian staff, notably Mrs. Saltmer, the Chief Clerk, and Miss Hoare, in charge of Stats, will remain with the Royal Air Force. In addition, 10th Regiment will continue to be responsible for CNW Exchanges. 14th Regiment will exercise ‘Freedom’ rights from time to time, and so the Corps will not easily be forgotten in this part Gloucestershire.

 
                                                       
 

First Army Award in Exercise ‘Royal Flush’

Exercise ‘Royal Flush,’ a photo-reconnaissance competition for the NATO air forces, was first held in 1956 at the French Air Force Base, Lahr, Germany, The aim is for the NATO ground forces to select and camouflage suitable tactical targets Which have then to be discovered and identified by the various NATO Tactical Air Forces. In addition to the prizes awarded to the individual aircrews and photo interpreters, a trophy, the Kielmansegg Trophy, is competed for by the Army units producing the targets.

This year targets were provided by most of the NATO assigned forces, including the ground forces of Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The air forces of Belgium, Canada, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the U.S.A. had the task of seeking out these targets.

For the first time, 14th Signal Regiment was amongst the British Army units assigned to the task of target selection, and the responsible officer, Second-Lieutenant Robin Richardson, found his fellow competitors very reluctant to divulge any information on what constituted a good target.

The trophy, which has usually been won by the German Army, went to Belgium, but, for the first time, the British Army had a place. Captain John Gryspeerdt, representing the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Tony Baker, went to Bruggen, in Germany, to collect the handsome silver eagle, second prize, from the Chief of Staff, SHAPE, General Horace M. Wade, U.S.A.F.

                           
                                                       
     

Date-Line Beef Island (II)
By W.O.1 (F. of S.) Jarratt
14th Signal Regiment

FURTHER ‘to our note of last month, Exercise ‘Long Wave’ has now passed into the Troop history. Though not our most successful exercise, communications were achieved direct from Beef Island to U.K. in spite of a real estate shortage on the island which prevented proper deployment of the station.

Unusual for an air portable detachment, transport to and from the Caribbean was by sea, and our stalwarts rapidly developed a rich vocabulary of nautical terms, plus an intimate knowledge of the ship’s structure, the result of ‘volunteering’ to assist with "the endless task of removing coats of paint and applying new ones.

The LSL (Landing Ship Logistics) is a modern and complex ship, which goes far to destroy the image of the old troopship; troops’ accommodation is in small dormitories with built-in settees. Ablutions (h. and c) include fresh water showers, the recreation room is fitted with closed circuit TV, over which films are shown, and the whole ship is air-conditioned. From daily experience, we can add that the vehicle deck is big enough for PT parade of 100 men!

Among the various leisure activities on board was a team knock-out quiz series, in which our -team, comprising Corporal Wye, Lance-Corporal Pickering, Signalmen Muir and Brebner, emerged triumphant after demolishing teams from RYE, RA, R.C.T, and Apprentice Tradesmen elements. Inevitably, the Foreman, W.O.1 Jarratt, was obliged to defend his reputation for impartiality he was quizmaster throughout.

Of Beef Island itself, little can be added to our previous report. Having completed the airfield construction, 53 Field Squadron, R.E., have withdrawn completely whence the population reverts to almost nil. Consisting largely of dense forest and scrub, the island faces possible development as a holiday resort. But in any event, B Troop were there!

 
                                                       
 

Exercise Saturnin - British Honduras May-July, l 969
Contributed by Captain M. L. P. Brock
14th Signal Regiment

This was the first and last overseas exercise of 635 and 636 Signal Troops; When we went we were numbers and when we came back we were ‘Delta ’ and ‘ Echo ’ Troops, part of 14th Signal Regiment at ‘Worcester. Not that we haven’t always been part of the Regiment, but with numbers one always feels that bit more independent!

A real tryout of our E21 stations

Since October, i967, the two Troops have been waiting for the E21 stations to arrive, and eventually they were delivered in late ’68 and early’ ’69. After a little training on the equipment, everyone knew roughly what it was all about, and a week’s exercise, working to Cyprus from Worcester, soon proved whether or not we were fit to take part in an overseas exercise. The answer was ‘yes,’ but it left serious doubts as to whether the station was reliable enough to go on a seven-week exercise with literally continuous working for five weeks. However, we crossed our fingers and faced EAST (correction, WEST).

We then decided to try and find British Honduras in an Atlas, without much success, until Signalman Woods (on loan to us from 30th Signal Regiment for the exercise) volunteered the information that he had just returned from there and he thought he might be able to find it! He did, and we then saw that BH is on the east coast of Central America and its capital is Belize City. With this information and a brief from Captain John. Gryspeerdt, our Technical Adjutant, who somehow fiddled his way out there on the ‘recce,’ we all developed our own mental pictures of the country; mainly pleasant pictures of a warm Caribbean climate, with plenty of sea, sun and sandy beaches. We were in. cloud cuckoo land until we actually arrived.

     
                                                       
                         

Helped by the Anguilla flap?

The preparations for the exercise were vast, as essential equipment and spares were not forthcoming until three weeks before we were due to leave. This was entirely due to the fact that the detachment was put on unofficial seven days stand-by to go to Anguilla and, of course, all the spares and equipment we had been waiting six months for, started pouring in. We will never know whether or not we would have got the spares for the exercise if it hadn’t have been for the Anguilla panic. However, by the time the day of departure came, we were just about ready to go. There were five R.A.F. Hercules scheduled to take the 35 men and the E21 station to BH, the first one leaving on 2nd May, two on the 3rd, one on the 4th,; and the last one on the 5th. Four were routed through Gander, Newfoundland, and the fifth through the Azores and Bermuda. Sergeant Dave Stokes reported enjoying his flight as N.C.O.-in-charge of the fifth flight!

The journey out went smoothly, but very uncomfortably (as all those who have flown in RAF. Hercules will appreciate), and all the flights arrived in BH without any serious delays.

A Little on the warm side

On arrival in BH our mental pictures of the Caribbean were quickly forgotten as we climbed out of the aircraft, still in combat-kit trousers, and into the mid-morning sun. The temperature was well up into the 90's and the humidity likewise, and it was like this for most of the exercise. By the time the aircraft had been unloaded, everyone ha-d almost dissolved, and several pools were plainly visible on the red-hot tarmac. Signalman F. U. B. Williams was an. early casualty and, if he hadn’t been dismissed from the unloading party, would probably have spent the entire exercise in hospital.

 
                                                       
 

In the main communications were good

We were accommodated by HQ. British Honduras Garrison, and. all the facilities available to the garrison were offered to us during the time we spent in BH. For this we would like to thank them all sincerely. Also a word of thanks to all the garrison staff, who looked after our administrative needs so well, and a mention of our fellow communicators out there, Captain Don White and his merry band in 633 Signal Troop (Caribbean), who helped enormously, especially when our circuits were not working! To get on to the communications part of the exercise, which is the main subject for this narrative. We were scheduled to Work five phases of communications: Phase 1to Boddington, Phase 2 to Stanbridge, Phase 3 to Malta, Phase 4 to Cyprus and Phase 5 to Boddington again. In the main, the communications were good, although no outstanding traffic times were, achieved, It was proved that the station was capable of Working Contingency Rear Link circuit ’ over these distances. The Phase to Malta was the best, and it was possible to establish a voice link and three telegraph channels working ISB. The voice link proved to be a great bonus, as problems could be discussed verbally instead of on the teleprinter.

Visited by the Governor

So much for communications. During our stay in BH we were able to see quite a lot of the country, the Mayan Temple ruins at Altun-Ha, various Cayes, or islands (which are numerous between the mainland and the barrier reef), Mexico (or at least part of it), the Bamboo Bay Inn (where visitors are able to feed the catfish in the canal below and where Commanding officers lose their jackets), and various other places of interest. As has been hinted, our Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Baker, visited us during the exercise and stayed with us for a week, flying back to U.K. on the first Hercules to leave on the recovery phase of the exercise. Whilst the C.O. was there, the Governor of British Honduras, Sir John Paul, visited the exercise and, after meeting members of the detachment, was entertained in, the Officers’ Mess.

 

   
                                                       
     

When it was time to leave BH most of the detachment were glad to be going home, as time seemed to go very slowly during the last fortnight, when it was a matter of finding things to do. The communications phases had finished on 17th June and all the equipment had been packed ready to move.

Getting home wasn’t easy

On the _ return trip there _ were again five Hercules flights. Two were on 20th June, the remaining three on the 4th, 5th and 6th July. As everyone climbed on the first four flights, the O.C, was watching, thinking to himself that he would be leaving on 6th. July with Sergeant Jack Storey. However, this was not to be. The first four flights got away with a few minor delays, but the last one seemed to be fated. Twice it took off and twice it returned within an hour. The first time the aircraft wouldn’t pressurise and the wheels wouldn’t go up. The second time the- radio equipment under the flight deck caught fire. Then a replacement aircraft was sent for.

This duly arrived within four days and, after everything had been loaded again, it took off for Nassau. It actually got to Nassau before anything went wrong. This time it was the radar equipment. New equipment and a fitter was sent out from U.K., but apparently the wrong equipment had been sent. More delays while the correct one was sent out. Eventually, after five very expensive days (the only thing we could afford to do was stay in bed), the aircraft was passed as serviceable and the journey continued without further mishap.

 
                                                       
 

The Corps gets about

Whilst in Nassau the O.C. and Sergeant Storey were entertained admirably by a fellow Signaller, Sergeant Gratten, who is reputed to be the highest paid Sergeant in the British Army and is in charge of the Royal Signals Detachment stationed there.

Once back in Worcester, everyone remarked on the colour of our knees, which had turned several shades darker during the two-and-half months in BH. Little do they know that it cost most of us at least five layers of skin to get it, and cost the doctor a fortune in calamine lotion.

Whilst we were out there we were visited by H.M.S. Sir Tritram, which just happened to be carrying Captain Noel Clark, W.O.1 (F. of S.) Jarratt and members of ‘Bravo’ Troop, 14th Signal Regiment, who were off to Beef Island for Exercise ‘Long ‘Wave.’

Altogether a very enjoyable and instructive exercise, despite the frustrations of trying to get home again, join 14th Signal Regiment and see the world!