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Royal Signals

1960s Service Life and Locations Re-Visited.

During the sixties Tony served for six years in the Royal Corps of Signals. Serving in the armed forces was an unforgettable experience, as is evident by the many websites devoted to service memories and friendships. This is my small contribution.

RS Emblem & motto.

This is 'Mercury' the messenger of the Gods, aka 'Jimmy', the Royal Corps of Signals emblem. Hover over it to see the Corps motto. It means Swift & Sure.

In 2006 I discovered Google Earth (GE) and Google Maps (GM). These gave me the idea of revisiting the places I served at to see how they look now. I've included some memories, events, scenes and sounds of the time.

During the '60s the Royal Signals had bases and personnel around the world. A booklet of the time (from which the front cover, a few photos and some adverts are shown in the adjacent slideshow) refers to personnel of the Royal Signals being deployed in Berlin, Gibraltar, Malta, Cyprus, Libya, Aden, Bahrein, Kenya, Malaya and Singapore. And seconded to units in Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Rhodesia/Nyasaland, the Arabian Peninsula, including Aden Protectorate Levies and Trucial Oman Scouts. In Washington, the Caribbean and South Afica. In addition, NATO in Norway, France, Turkey, Bangkok and the islands of Gan (I was scheduled to be posted to Gan but it was cancelled) and Christmas Island in the Pacific. And of course Germany and Belgium. The opportunities for overseas postings were immense - in fact they were an odds on certainty.

Click here to see the Pay Scales when I enlisted.

The majority of my service was spent in Germany, most of which Jean spent with me. My last tour was 8 months in Singapore and Malaya. Due to the short duration, I was unaccompanied and it was referred to as a 'Cooks Tour' (as in holiday not as in chefs or because it was hot).

Below are the places associated with my - as you were - our time with the Royal Signals. I've included the occasional photograph to show how it was at the time. There are more photos to see at the bottom of this page and in the Galleries, Royal Signals section - see button on menu above or click here.

Each unit also has an aerial view, courtesy of GE, in which I've marked out the unit area as best I can recall. Hover over the image to enlarge it. If you want to see the area as it is now there's a button that opens a GM view of the area in a floating window. If you wish you can resize the window.

Click the titles below to see the information. And hover the mouse over any text that is a different colour to the normal.

 

11th Signal Regiment, Catterick Camp, Yorkshire

on Sun, 14/11/2010 - 10:16am

Like so many others, this is where my service life in March 1962, began - 'The Depot'. Here's where we stopped being civvies and started learning how to be soldiers. Six hectic weeks of basic training. Spit & polish, square bashing, weapons training, map reading, command structure and army tea (which, rumour had it, was laced with bromide). If you'd never kept a tidy locker, pressed your clothes (with sharp creases in the right places), made your bed and bed pack or bumpered a floor, this is where you learned and didn't forget. And of course every time you moved it had to be at the double.

Troop photoHere's the happy band of 24 sprogs, Troop Officer and NCOs, near the end of our six weeks (hover over to enlarge). I'm second from right in the middle row. Third from right is 'Jock' Robertson and fourth from right on the back row is Don Burns. This was taken after the inter-troop boxing match in which I 'volunteered' to take part. This was my first and last boxing match. The bout was three 1 minute (felt like 10 minute) rounds. We were matched by weight. My opponent was short & stocky and had boxed previously. He won. Watching was always enjoyable and it was all done properly. It was a big night that took place as each pair of Troop's completed their training. I'd attended two or three before ours. The whole regiment were marched there to watch and were joined by the 'officers and their ladies'.

Battle dress with coarse shirts was still issued at this time. This meant wearing 'ammo' boots
British Army Ammunition Boots with metal studs, toe and and heel plates.
and webbing (gaiters and belt) with plenty of brass fittings - requiring boot polish, Blanco, Brasso, brushes, dusters and spit. Oh! and candle and spoon to really get a smooth, shiny finish on those toe caps
'Bulled up' toe caps
. When first wearing your boots it took a little while to get used to them, particularly stopping or turning sharply, without finding your feet going out from under you. The smooth concrete floors in the barrack block, had sprogs going in all directions - usually down. Near the end of training, battle dress was replaced by No.2 Dress with the peaked cap, as still worn today. Some tried to emulate the Guards regiments by making the cap peak point down instead of out but then had to buy a new cap because we weren't the Guards.

TonyHere I am after the boxing match. It must have been Sunday as I'm in civvies. The photo's taken outside the Sandhurst block and behind me can be seen where we'd spent so many leisurely hours - one of the drill squares (church!) and beyond that (over my left shoulder) the gym (where I rashly volunteered for the boxing match). During kit and room inspections items of kit or bedding that didn't meet the required standard could be seen on this grass having flown out the barrack windows to the upper left. This was a sign that the inspecting NCO was not entirely satisfied with the turnout of one or more 'earywigs' [sic] (as we were oft' called).

About the first time we formed up in our new army kit, we were marched down the road to the barbers for short back and sides. "What's under your beret is yours. What's not is mine." said the troop sergeant. When we next fell in some brave soul asked, "Where are we going now, Sergeant? "We're going to church, lad", came the reply. We were then marched onto the drill square and the same brave soul said he thought we were going to church. The sergeant replied, "This is my church and I'm your God." And at this church you saw many funny incidents as we learned to drill, with and without weapons, but woe betide if you were caught laughing.

A group of us in the Yorkshire DalesOne week of training was spent under canvas in the Yorkshire Dales. This was to put our newly acquired map reading and compass theory to practical use finding 'trig' points and rendezvous locations from map references - find them or miss lunch. It was our first encounter with 'compo' rations, the field cook house and shaving in half a mug of tea after having downed the first half. Here's me and my tent mates in our nice new combat dress. On the far right is an ex-miner (I think his name was Geoff) who, coming from Yorkshire, referred to boots as booits. I don't recall seeing any of them again after basic training.

We wore our No.2s (with web belts and ammunition boots) for our pass out parade and, for the first time, to the rousing sound of the Band of the Royal Signals - what an uplifting experience. We marched off with loads of bounce and swagger to the Corps quick march - we were soldiers now.

You can hear part of the march by clicking the play button below. (If you see an f in a box it's a Flash file icon. Click it to see the player.)

(If you don't see the player, click here to download the mp3 sample.)

TonyJeanAfter passing out we were given a leave pass. I was able to get home to see Jean (my fiancé). It was a tedious and overlong journey by public transport but well worth it. The return journey involved sitting onboard the Catterick train in the early hours of Monday morning at Darlington station waiting for other trains to make the connection. Eventually, at about 5.30 a.m. we arrived at Camp Centre station then made our way to our units. This was a regular weekly service until the late 60s. (Click here for a history of the line and station with photos.) The station and line are now gone.

On our return we all went to a trade training regiment to learn the technical skills we had joined to learn and carry out. For me, this meant 8th Signal Regiment.


From 1961-64 the home of 11 Sigs. was at Vimy Lines, Catterick Garrison. The 2002 GE view below of the area still has a few recognizable features from 1962 but some have since disappeared.

Google Earth view

The large building (a Sandhurst block) in the upper part of the picture is where we were billeted. The ground floor housed the regiment's support services - offices, laundry, cook house, etc. Barrack rooms were on the upper floor with each wing accommodating two Troops.

The Gymnasium building is still there. The Medical Centre (where we used to queue up for our jabs) and the NAAFI have gone. Someone always seemed to be playing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (aka Wimoweh) on the NAAFI jukebox and I didn't like it but the memory of it persists. A short medley of this and other popular jukebox plays of the time can be heard below.

(If you don't see the player, click here to download the mp3 sample.)

The drill squares are now car parks and a new building with grassed area. In fact there seems to be much more grass and shrubbery where I remember two very large drill squares with - to ensure our drill programme was maintained during inclement weather, thus avoiding demoralized squaddies - drill sheds for the use of.

The houses to the right have replaced very old buildings where we did our arms training and the Quarter-Master's Store where we received our first kit issue - for the use and wearing of.

Click this button to see latest map of the area above.


8th Signal Regiment, Catterick Camp, Yorkshire (1)

on Sun, 14/11/2010 - 4:34pm

After basic training you went to either 8 or 24 Sigs. for trade training. I went to 8 Sigs. (Loos Lines) and was trained as a Telegraph Technician (Tele.Tech.).

No Sandhurst blocks here. Instead there were wooden 'Spider' blocks. Actually it was an improvement because they were echo free and quite snug. They had a 'drying room' that was kept really warm for drying wet clothing/washing. It was a very very tempting place to visit when doing a guard duty on a cold wet night. But great care had to be taken to not fall asleep in there - as some did.

Group photo outside barrack room

Here's a few of us during our T3 course helping Bill Thompson out the fire exit in our leg of the spider. I'm 2nd down in the middle. Next to me is Don Burns and in front of us is John Leppington. Standing left is Roy Evers and right is Dave Allen. I can't remember the name of the Irish lad at the top.

Bill, Don and I met in basic training and did our T3 together. Later I was with Bill in Germany and saw Don in Singapore. I then lost contact with both until over forty years later.

This is where I did my first guard duty, armed with a pick-axe handle when on stag. What was it? Two hours on and four off if I remember right. I somehow managed to get 'Stick Man' once, thus avoiding the stags on that guard.

Having by now been introduced to and enjoyed 'compo' rations many of us found that hardtack biscuits were quite tasty topped with either cheddar cheese or golden syrup. Together with a mug of hot cookhouse tea or cocoa (not coffee - that was dire) they made a very nice snack during the evening in the barrack room. A number of us made sure we always had the makings in our lockers. (There are a number of websites covering compo rations. Click here for compo rations, and for a USA slant with photo click here for hardtack. If you'd like to try them for yourself, this UK site sells current issue Army rations.)

Any spare time we had we would spend at either the Camp Centre cinema, the Harewood Club
NAAFI Harewood Club.
, the swimming pool opposite the Harewood or the indoor one at Sandes Home followed by a meal there. If we had to be in camp on a Saturday morning, thus couldn't get home, as soon as we were off duty a few of us (one of whom was Gerry Aitken
Gerry Aitken 1962 - later became godparent to one of our daughters.
and sadly I can't recall who the others were) would get the bus to Richmond
Richmond from the castle.
, then on to Darlington. We'd have a wander around to see what was on at the cinemas (I think there were three, one of which was the Odeon). We'd choose one for later then go and have a Chinese meal (with chips of course) (my first Chinese was here). After the meal we'd see our chosen film then catch a bus back to camp - no boozing. Sunday's in Catterick were dreadful, deadly dull days.

A musical association from this time is of the NAAFI at morning break (they sold these lovely cream buns dusted with icing sugar) and on the jukebox was "Come Outside". Whenever I hear it I am right back there.

(If you don't see the player, click here to download the mp3 sample.)

Another popular song of the time, written and recorded by Carole King, always reminds me of the Harewood Club
Harewood Club Lounge, Catterick. c.1962.
- do you know the one I mean? (Answer below.)

Jean on Francis BarnettBefore I joined up I owned a Francis Barnett motorbike - seen on the upper right with Jean. I'd not used it during basic training but having experienced public transport I now began using it to get to and from Catterick. This was my first motorbike - a 197cc two stroke. It was a nice bike but was under-powered for regular use to Catterick so I traded it for a Triumph T21
Triumph T21 350cc twin.
. Jean on Velocette Due to some mechanical problems I only kept it a short time, changing it for a Velocette Viper 350cc - seen on the lower right with Jean. (We usually wore crash helmets although they didn't become compulsory until 1973.) However, one winter night on my return to Catterick my interest in motorcycling ended. It rained for the whole journey and although I wore a Belstaff Trialmaster
Belstaff Trialmaster jacket c.1962.
suit, dubbined fur-lined boots and gauntlets with inner gloves I was very cold and wet long before my journey was over. When I next went home I got rid of the bike and began hitch-hiking to and fro.

Hitch-hiking was the favoured mode of transport for many squaddies. It was usually quicker and more direct, almost like having your own vehicle. Each journey was an adventure because you didn't know what was going to stop and how far it would take you. The difficult part was each end of the journey getting to & from the A1 and, for me, having to resort to using the bus near home because local traffic didn't stop. At that time the A1 had sections of single carriageway, dual carriageway and, for me, one section of motorway, the Doncaster Bypass - the A1(M). There where plenty of roundabouts and some built-up areas that you went through, e.g. Boroughbridge and Ferrybridge. A very busy, quite small roundabout was at Wetherby where traffic either continued south or west to Leeds. We hitched in uniform then because people on trunk roads stopped for servicemen. From Catterick I always started at the northern roundabout of Catterick Bridge bypass (very difficult to get a lift on a straight stretch). As they came off the roundabout there was a row of squaddies with their thumbs stuck out. There were good lifts and bad lifts. Bad lifts were slow ones and no roundabout drop-offs. Coming back one night I was at the start of the A1(M) and got a lift in an Aston Martin DB3
Aston Martin DB3 c.1960.
. The driver had on full safety harness (as did I) and crash helmet (I had my beret). He entered small roundabouts at 70 mph and exited at 90 mph. Breathtaking.

Towards the end of '62 we heard another new recording artist, Dionne Warwick. Below is a reminder of it, made over 40 years later.

(If you don't see the player, click here to download the mp3 sample.)

In February 1963, having spent 11 months at Catterick, I attained T3 status (and thus my first stripe), and was posted to 608 Signal Troop, Germany. My weekends hitch-hiking home to see Jean were over for the time being but were to resume when I returned later for my T2 course.


Google Earth viewThis 2002 GE view of the area has few recognisable features from 1962-64. In Loos Lines there is little evidence of all the buildings there once were. Apart from the guardroom, these had all been wooden as I recall. What remains is the parade square where we used to form up on fire drills and guard duty, and the few minor roads that joined Loos Road that runs from the bottom left of the picture.

Click this button to see latest map of the area above.


(Answer: Carol King, 'It Might As Well Rain Until September'.)

(If you don't see the player, click here to download the mp3 sample.)


608 Signal Troop, Viersen, Germany (1)

on Mon, 13/12/2010 - 5:03pm

My first operational posting was to 608 Signal Troop, Germany early in 1963.

It was my first time out of the UK and first experience of flying. Bill T and I flew from Manchester
Early 1960s Departure Lounge
Ringway
Early 1960s apron and terminal building
(as the airport was then called) to RAF Wildenrath, Germany. It was in a Vickers Viscount
My first flight was in one of these.
turboprop operated by British United Airways.

The winter of 1962-63 is on record for being a bad one throughout Europe. The UK had a lot of snow so we were not surprised to arrive in a snow covered Germany. Transport was waiting to take Bill to his unit but there was none waiting for me. (The next time I saw Bill was about a year later.) I spent the night in transit at Wildenrath. Next day transport arrived to collect me and I was taken to 608.

Once outside the RAF base I had my first close-up look at the country where I was to spend (though unknown to me at the time) the next four years as I was driven about 20 miles
2010 Google Map view of route
(on the opposite side of the road) through snow covered countryside and villages to Viersen. It seemed so different. German road signsDifferent signage on roads was the first thing I noticed, soon followed by different looking buildings and vehicles. The most commonly seen cars at that time were Volkswagens galore, Mercedes-Benz, Ford
Ford Taunus 17M 1959
and BMWs. But there were all sorts of other vehicle makes I'd never seen or heard of - Opel
Opel Kapitan 1955
, Wartburg
Wartburg 311 deluxe
, Glas
Glas Goggomobil T250 Sedan
, Simca
Simca 1100 c.1962
. It all seemed very different. And everything was in German. Verstanden?

I didn't know until I arrived that the Troop was attached to an RAOC unit at 15 ABOD. I arrived to find only a R. Signals Staff Sergeant and a German civilian female clerk. The Troop was being disbanded and everyone else had gone - I guess someone forgot to read the signal. I spent about two weeks there while they sorted out where I was to go. Life was very, very different from being in a training unit.

The base was manned by German civilians with only a relatively small UK military contingent. The few junior NCOs and Privates who 'lived in' were billeted at 17 RVD, Ayrshire Barracks, Mönchengladbach (another RAOC unit). Myself and four or five RAOC lads were transported by army bus every day between 17 RVD and 15 ABOD - a 16 miles
2010 Google Map view of route
round trip. Google Earth view My billet was a room to myself in an old house. The house was one of a number providing barrack and office accom. and is in the centre (labelled Barrack Rooms) of this 2004 GE image. It has since become a preservation area, which is why it still exists today.

Ayrshire Barracks (17 RVD) was situated on what had previously been a Luftwaffe airfield and in the 1960s was a British Army stores base for military vehicles of every description. The area where the tanks and armoured vehicles were stored is now a football stadium and the home of Borussia Mönchengladbach (once a top class football club). The stadium can clearly be seen in the GE image above. Apart from the preserved houses and what remains of the Luftwaffe main runway there are few recognizable features from 1963.

Click this button to see latest map of the area above.



16th Signal Regiment, Krefeld, Germany

on Sun, 19/12/2010 - 3:35pm

After my sojourn at 608 Sig. Trp./17 RVD I was posted to 16th Signal Regiment, Krefeld (about 10 miles NE of Viersen). On transfer I was given leave to return home during which Jean and I were married. Five days later my leave pass expired and I returned to Germany to 16 Sigs. It was 3 months before I saw Jean again.

View of main entrance

Bradbury Barracks is where 16 Sigs. (and 16th Regt. RA) were based. In the above link, the second photo (Guard Room) shows the fields opposite the main gate (shown left). I remember trekking straight across that field a few times from a pub we frequented. We used either the track or road to get there. But after coming out of the pub after a bier you got your bearings from the camp lights and off you set.

I was back in a barrack room again (although I later moved to a two man room with Martin Prior) and putting some of my Tele. Tech. training to use 'down the hole' in the comcen workshop maintaining Creed 7B teleprinters, perforators and 6S tape readers.

At some point later we began working shifts of 8hrs. on, 24 off, 15 on, 24 off. Each night shift had one Tele. Tech. to man the Workshop and one Line Tech. to man System Control. Both were allowed an evening break and when your Line Tech shift buddy (mine was Martin Prior) went off to the NAAFI you had to take over in System Control. After a few times it wasn't a problem although there always seemed to be something new cropping up. One of our duties in System Control was to monitor signal strength (ZBZ 1 to 5) and switch transmission to the alternative mode when strength dropped. We also had to contact the BundesPost and report "Der lietung von wherever bis Krefeld ist kaput." With such fluid Deutsch we didn't need to shout to be understood. They would call back when the line was no longer 'kaput'. I was quite nervous the first time I was left with responsibility for System Control.

I didn't drink or smoke when I arrived but did both before I left about a year later. Looking back there were a number of 'firsts' and one 'last' during my time at 16.

  • I saw the last National Serviceman there posted out. He was given VIP treatment.
  • The first contingent of Signals WRAC were posted in bringing about quite a change in many squaddie's behaviour and off-duty appearance about camp.
  • I heard and heard of The Beatles for the first time (due to the WRACs selecting them on the cookhouse jukebox). This was one of them. You probably know it.

(If you don't see the player, click here to download the mp3 sample.)

  • I was introduced to brandy & coke, German mustard, German bier and ticks on beer mats. And to pay for these, the Deutschmark (£1 = 11DM).
  • I learned my first words of squaddie Deutsch. Guten abend. Zwei bier bitte. Noch zwei. Wie viele, bitte? Danke schon. 'wiedersehen. And of course, Vie gater schtraps. To which the correct response was Schwarz, danke.
  • Buying cigarettes (I didn't smoke until I came here) and buying them in packs of 200. Rothmans tipped as I recall. (It was sometime in the late eighties before I eventually gave it up.)
  • Seeing the effect ultra violet (UV) light had on white objects - all aglow in every bar. I'd never seen anything like it, as I suppose most Brits hadn't at the time.
  • I had my first Halb haenchen mit fritten
    Half chicken & chips (schmecken gut)
    from the Balkan Grill after 'shooting through' for a few beers in Krefeld.
  • I had my first of many trips to Holland.
  • I also had my first go at sailing - more on that shortly.

Krefeld Postcard

In the postcard above the top left pic shows the main tram stop that we used in town. Two types of tram operated from that stop - the local tram and the inter-city tram (the yellow tram). The inter-city used a wider track and went to Dusseldorf. The tram-line from camp is at the bottom. We used the tram between the Eisstadion terminus and the Ostwall/Rheinstrasse junction. The yellow Volks' at the bottom of the pic would get the view of Rheinstrasse seen in the top right pic. I bought Jean an Omega wristwatch from a Jewellers on the far left of that pic.

View of Tivoli beachThe 'we' I refer to was Keith Durrant
Keith Durrant fixing something - he never stopped.
, 'Jock' Wishart, Dave 'Piggy' Poole, Martin Prior, Dave 'Punchy' Ayres, Cliff Monks, Ken Northey and others. During the summer of '63 we sunbathed (kein bier) down the road on the man-made 'beach' behind the Tivoli bar. After coming off shift this was a pleasant place to relax on a nice summer morning. At lunchtime we'd either go back to camp or have 'ham und eier'
Ham and eggs (schinken mit ei)
(as we called it) with a bier.

In the early summer Keith and I decided to join the sailing club run by Capt. Boast. The Regiment had two GP14 sailing dinghys. Our joining doubled the membership because I only recall two other members - Dave Tanner and a WO. Our sailing took place at a Dutch sailing club off the Maas canal in Roermond, Holland. On our first visit a Bedford 3 tonner
Bedford 3 ton truck with rear canvas cover.
took us and the two GP14s there and we then assembled them. Us and boats at jettyThereafter, over the summer, Keith, Dave and I travelled in the back of Capt. Boast's Merc' every (shift permitting) Saturday (with his family in front) and spent a very relaxing and pleasant day away from camp. I'd only ever been in a row boat before so there were a few things to learn. One of which was capsizing the boat then righting it - that water was cold.

About mid-June I got a two week pass and return flight home. This time the airports were Dusseldorf and Gatwick
Gatwick Airport Postcard c.1963.
. I hadn't seen or spoken to Jean (telephone contact was possible but difficult to arrange) for three months so it was almost like meeting for the first time. I stayed with her at her mum & dad's place. It's funny but when you met people during leave one of the first things they'd say was "When do you go back?" and it was the last thing you wanted to think about. There were about 50,000 of us in Germany then but on leave you would have people say, "Oh! so-and-so's serving in Germany. Do you know him? The two weeks were soon over and it was to be four months before I saw and spoke to Jean again.

Back in camp, apart from sailing our free time was spent either on our pits listening to BFBS radio (I particularly enjoyed '1800 Club' with record requests from British Forces in Germany), socializing in the mess, eating in the cookhouse (you had to take your own mug and utes), going to the 'pics' at the AKC cinema on camp, taking a stroll to a country pub or going down town to either look around the shops or drink in the bars. All the bars had UV lighting which helped to create a great atmosphere with the pop music of the time. Click on the player below to hear a short medley of popular UK and German recordings of the time.

(If you don't see the player, click here to download the mp3 sample.)

At some point during that summer the whole regiment carried out military training in the field. Groups of about 50 of us at a time, chosen from different sections of the regiment (so that it could continue to fulfill its normal role), spent a week under canvas in a wooded area near the Dutch border (it was near to Venlo, which at the time meant nothing to me). It was quite novel as I hadn't been under canvas since basic training. We learned about various military field crafts and things like 'thunder-boxes' and 'desert roses'. One night, for a bit of fun, we held a court marshal of one of the officers on the charge of 'having provided sharp edged desert roses'. Map showing routeFor a night exercise platoons were halved and put on different trucks with the tarpaulins down so you couldn't see out. They went off in different directions and stopped occasionally to offload a half platoon. This was to simulate a parachute drop that split each platoon. The first task was to establish from our maps, compasses and the area (in the dark), where we were. Each platoon had a rendezvous location as a map grid reference so once you found out where you were, you then located the two points on the map then made your way to the platoon rendezvous point. You had to be careful because there were army vehicles (the supposed enemy) nipping about trying to find you. I was responsible for my half platoon so had the maps & compass. I recall making our way through a boggy area (about half way) and later lying in a field of cabbages near a road when a wagon stopped and squaddies jumped out. My group quickly and quietly crouched and moved quickly away. Two fields later when we paused I realised the compass was missing - I'd left it where we were lying. I had to go back to retrieve it - which luckily I did. We got to the rendezvous but the other half never turned up. Our objective was another map reference but we lost so much time waiting for the others that we gave up and found our way back to camp. You can imagine the reception we received when we got in at about 2 a.m. having failed.

As winter began 'Jock' Wishart and I were posted back to 8 Sigs. Catterick for our T2 course (see second part of 8th Sigs.). We returned to 16 Sigs early in '64 and after a few weeks I was posted to 614.


Google Earth viewThe 2002 image to the right shows Bradbury Barracks layout as it was. Much of the barracks remain so it was easy to mark out the buildings I knew. The Comcen relied mainly on BundesPost provided land lines, but in a field on a small hill in the upper right corner of the site (now a car park) there were radio transmitter-receiver vehicles and aerials for use when lines went down - as they often did.

Click this button to see latest map of the area above.


8th Signal Regiment, Catterick Camp, Yorkshire (2)

on Sun, 23/01/2011 - 1:50pm

Group photo outside 'H' block barrack.

Toward the end of 1963 I returned to 8th Sigs. for my T2 course (getting my second stripe on passing). This time the accommodation was less than salubrious. It was in an old brick 'H' block in Marne Lines with a stove at one end of the room that we had to keep well fed or freeze. Ah! Such fond memories. It was like living in the film "Carry On Soldier". Here's a few of us who shared this billet. Left to right are 'Jocks' Robertson and Wishart, Jim Saunders, me, can't recall, and finally, Ted Edwards.

Someone had an Austin A40 Farina
Austin A40 Farina Mk-I c1960
and he liked to get home (Newton Abbot - a good distance) when he could so he was happy to get help with the petrol. His A40 had a heater and a radio - optional extras in those days. The lift was quite regular and saved a lot of hitch-hiking time. I also managed to get a lift back with him on a Sunday night by getting to a pick-up point in Leicester by 10 o'clock. One Friday - 22 November, 1963 - on the way home came the news on the car radio that President Kennedy had been assassinated. I remember where we were when we heard it. We couldn't believe it.

Drawing on blackboard

Our billet had at some time served as a classroom because at one end it had a large scrolling blackboard. To cheer the place up a bit over Christmas, 'Jock' Wishart drew this on it. It includes his version of 'Jimmy'
Wishart's version of 'Jimmy'.
with Andy Capp and Flo (Andy's wife). Once met, you were unlikely to forget 'Jock'. Among my memorabilia I found a write-up he'd done in the style of a newspaper report of a football match. It must have been typed on a teleprinter and is his version of a match we had one wintery sports afternoon (Wednesdays). Jock's Football Match Report. He would always see the funny side of things and make us laugh.

Three things that stick in memory from my T2 are:

  • My 21st birthday occured whilst on the course. An unforgettable non-event. I spent part of the evening in the NAAFI and that says it all. It was dismal.
  • One lunchtime in the cookhouse I was distracted by someone as I made my way to my table. I held my main course in one hand and puddding in the other. My pudding dish held a good serving of runny custard. I stopped to reply to whoever and when I turned to continue I looked down to find my custard dish had tipped slightly and discharged a fair quantity over 'Jock' Wishart's head. He was transfixed, frozen, as custard ran off his hair and down his face. I don't have a pic of that but wish I did.
  • Near to the cook house there was a wooden building that inside looked as if it might have been a small theatre at some time but was very basic. About once a fortnight or so we had a free film show. There was a main feature followed by 'artistic' shorts by 'Warwick Films'. They were usually well attended.

View toward 8 Sigs.Group photo on shortcut

I've included the next photo because some of 8th Sigs. buildings can be seen (hover over to enlarge). The large building on the right is at the riding stables. Those to the left are Loos Lines and on the far left, the start of Marne Lines. The photo was taken on a short-cut between 8 Sigs. and Camp Centre. (There are now buildings where it was taken.)

The photo on the right, taken after the one above it, shows us on our way to Sandes Home for a cuppa - it was near the end of the course in January '64. From the left, Norman Troughton, Jim Saunders, 'Jocks' Hare and Robertson and yours truly. I didn't see any of them again after the course.

There are more pictures taken on the course in the Galleries, Royal Signals section - see button on menu above.

My musical association of this time is from one of the films that was released at this time and I saw at one of the cinemas - 'From Russia With Love'. Below is a mix of samples of the soundtrack theme and vocal by Matt Munro.

(If you don't see the player, click here to download the mp3 sample.)

When my T2 was over it was back to Germany and 16th Sigs. but as I was to find, it was to be for only a short time before moving on again. I loved Germany but I was away from Jean. No more weekends with her. I needed her with me in Germany.


Google Earth view

This 2002 GE view of the area provides no evidence of Marne Lines presence here. There is no sign of the many buildings, parade square or road. It's not surprising the buildings have all gone as they were past there sell-by date when we were there, particularly the 'H' blocks. But now you would never know any of it ever existed. In this area my labels had to be positioned by faded memory. I can't image the number of squaddies that must have been trained here, ate in the cookhouse and drank in the NAAFI. All sign has disappeared in a relatively short space of time. From what I've discovered elsewhere, what began in 1945 as 1st Trades Training Battalion, became 8th Sigs in 1959, finally passed into Corps history in 1994 - 30 years after our T2.

Click this button to see latest map of the area above.


614 Signal Troop (Park), Bracht, Germany

on Thu, 27/01/2011 - 4:45pm

My posting to 614 (about 20 miles WSW of Krefeld) came unexpectedly and at short notice. It was about April (1964).

614 was between Bracht and Brüggen
2010 Google Map view of 614 & 3BAD locations.
and was attached, for support services (barracks, cookhouse, etc.), to 3 BAD (an RAOC unit). 3 BAD was then the largest ammunition base in Western Europe and consequently was in the middle of nowhere. For those in barracks there was no adjoining town (as there was at 16 Sigs) to which you could go for entertainment. There was only the AKC cinema and the NAAFI. The barracks (Marlborough Barracks) is now a caravan park and hostel which can be seen by clicking here. 614 Signal Park was situated adjacent to the main entrance to the ammunition base.

Troop photoThis photo (courtesy of Bill) shows most of the Troop before I arrived (hover over to enlarge). Sitting L-R are S/Sgt Pearson, Major Robert Salisbury (OC), Sgt. Tony Sammut. Standing L-R are Bill Thompson, Dave Wormald, 'Geordie' Harding, Dennis Stevens, Ernie Calder (REME), 'Pop' ?, 'Barney' Barnes, Ken Muller, Richard 'Taff' Brain, Brian Streetly, Pete LeGros, Joe Ratcliffe. There were also six German civilians. For example, 'Joe' in the workshop, Melita in the troop office and Carl her husband, the carpenter.

Life at 614 was very different to 16. I was in the technical workshop with Bill, Dave, Tony and 'Joe'. With a chess game and crossword in play, our main task was to test n-thousand field telephones
Field telephone type 'F'.
held in storage. Utterly boring. Thankfully, other duties broke the monotony and took me out and about driving (after I qualified for my military driving licence). 'Taff' Brain was the unit driver, soon to be joined by 'Dixie' Dean, but when they were busy one or more of the other troop members assisted with the driving duties.

A Mon-Sat routine was the mail run to Rheindahlen. This was done in either the Hillman Husky
Hillman Husky Series 3.
or Austin 1 tonner
Our Austin 1 Ton truck with L-R 'Biff' (he was before my time) and Dennis. (Photo courtesy of Dennis.)
. But there were other runs and for some I used a Bedford 3 tonner
Bedford 3 Ton truck.
. I loved driving the 3 tonner because of the commanding view you had and the sound the tyres made on the road as you drove along.

On the Rheindahlen
2011 Google Map view of Rheindahlen centre showing regular calling points.
run after dropping off and picking up the mail at the Sorting Office I parked at the NAAFI shop, did any shopping and then popped into the WVS shop for newspapers, magazines, and whatever, then into the cafe for elevenses before heading back. I found the various trips very enjoyable and I got to see much more of the country that I'd now been in for over a year and at no cost to me.

Click this button to see the latest map of Rheindahlen.


Driving wasn't the only alternative activity. The troop and civilians spent some time and effort converting the storeroom by the tech. workshop into a social club. When I arrived it was finished and in use. View of Club interior.They'd made a first class job of it and were running it as a proper concern - including draught German beer. The lads in barracks took turns as bar staff and it was open every lunch time and evening when requested by troop members for their use and their guests. Some nights it didn't open. Other nights there was a good crowd. The OC and his wife often called in.

The photo below (courtesy of Bill) is when the club opened with Bill taking a turn on bar duty.Bill behind the bar. We used to take our lunch breaks in there and play quite competitively on the fussball table
Fussball table - ours was a dark wood finish.
. Tony Sammut and others preferred playing the one-armed bandit. To get everyone together enjoying themselves, themed evenings were also held occasionally and these were always well attended by all troop members, wives and guests.

The first one I attended was a Tramps Ball where everyone was required to dress smartly - not! Those living in barracks raided the civilian lockers and put on whatever we could find - it was all returned afterwards. Just about everyone dressed shabbily. Two tramps and young lady.The evening was a big success and others followed including an outside event with a pig roasted on a spit. A whole new bar was built under the two tier storage with a fenced area in the yard (the area in shade in the bottom GE view). This was a special for officers and their families from other units and the OC's boss. We were hosting it and therefore worked as waiters or bar staff for the whole evening. It was amazing to see, with seats and tables made from big and small cable drums, coloured lights strung around and music from the club record player.

"Taff" Brain bought a Renault Dauphine
Renault Dauphine 1960.
and would (when he wasn't washing, polishing, valeting and admiring it) take a few of us for a night out to some of the local bars and over the German-Dutch border into Venlo and Roermond. A favoured bar in Venlo was the "Blue Note" where jazz was played and they served beer as this bar bill
A receipt I kept from one visit.
shows.

The club bought a VolksBus
Volkswagon Volksbus - similar colours to this.
(second-hand) so that troop members without cars could enjoy group trips to various places. I can only recall going on a group trip once somewhere - Pete Roberts drove.


I now hadn't seen Jean for about three months and I wanted her with me so I found some accommodation for us, got the OC's OK, went home and brought her back with me. (Three years would pass before we saw the UK again.) Our journey was by land and sea and when we got to Liege we found some of our luggage wasn't on the train. (It was mainly Jean's clothing and it was over a month before we saw it again.) We travelled on and spent the night in Roermond then travelled on next morning to be picked up at Venlo station
Venlo station postcard, 1964.
by 'Taff' Brain. I then learned that the accommodation had been let to someone else so we had nowhere to stay. Missing from the troop photo is Sgt. Jack Quayle
Jack and Colleen Quayle. (Courtesy of Dennis.)
. He and his wife Colleen let us stay with them for a few days then we moved into the Hotel Neuenhofen
Hotel Neuenhofen, Brüggen, 2008.
where two RAOC families were also staying. The paved area in the picture was then the main road through Brüggen, but the hotel entrance is as we knew it. We stayed there about three weeks.

GE View of BrüggenWe then found rented rooms (two) at a bar, also in Brüggen, and set up our first home together. We lived over the bar for about a year, and Jean became very adept at cooking on a two plate electric hob. The bar was owned by Henry
Heinz (wearing hat), Hannalore (his wife), his nephew and son at the rear of the bar.
(as Heinz wished to be called), who was a great landlord, spoke English and enjoyed a good laugh. He became a very good friend to us. During this time we saved for a car and eventually bought a new Renault R8
Our Renault R8 (R1132) (1964).
. As I recall, it cost £470, which in 2009 was equivalent to £7,100 using the RPI or £15,100 using average earnings. Saving for it required us to live very frugally but we did it and could then get out and about more. We were now able to go to Venlo and Roermond, visit my mates Keith and 'Jock' Wishart at 16 Sigs. and meet their wives Patsy and Maureen, and at Christmas (1964) drive along snow covered roads to pick up Keith & Patsy to spend Christmas day together at 'Jock's' place near Düsseldorf.

Raising glasses. We also attended 614 Troop dinner party in the club with everyone in their Sunday best. It was quite a gathering of all troop members and wives plus guests. Jean wore a brown corduroy suit she'd bought from 'C&A' in Venlo with a pair of brown suede shoes her mum & dad had sent her. All the ladies were presented with floral buttonholes to wear. As usual at 614 events, a very good time was had by all with dancing to The Beatles, Dave Clark Five, etc., - on record of course, although many British groups were playing live in German bars then. Here's a sample below.

(If you don't see the player, click here to download the mp3 sample.)


In May 1965 I had to report to 16 Sigs in preparation for a review by the Queen and the Duke during their visit to Germany. It was the first time since ..... (don't mention the war) that the British monarch had visited Germany. It turned out to be quite an event. A group of Royal Signals from the Krefeld area were assembled, briefed on the programme ahead and told what was required of us. Of course we were inspected and drilled to make sure we were up to scratch - and politely advised if improvement was required. The review was held near Sennelager (120 miles east of Krefeld) and we travelled there on the Sunday to our accommodation in what was described as 'cavalry barracks'. We were billeted in what had previously been stables with hay troughs on the walls. Our beds were old double bunks and a pile of palliasse covers were at the door. We were instructed to fill them next door. Next door was a barn filled with straw. That night some went to sleep on top of a big sausage shape. We had two rehearsal days (Mon & Tues) with the review on Wednesday 25th May
The programme front.
. We were transported each day and fed (packed lunches and tea from urns) at a forming up area off the review area (Bad Lippspringe Sports Arena) where we joined other Royal Signals. The area was huge with vehicles and squaddies from every branch of the army in Germany, as can be seen by clicking this link to see the participants. It was quite a logistical exercise. We rehearsed forming up, marching on, dressing off, standing to attention and at ease a number of times, royal salute, and marching off. There were 6000 of us plus 700 bandsmen. It took some time for all this to happen. By the time those on the outer reaches heard a command those nearest had carried it out. The Queen and Duke attended two reviews that day - mounted and dismounted. It was an opportunity for the army to show off and it certainly did that. The Queen & Duke went by in the back of a Land Rover about 20 yards in front of me. Marching on and off to the massed bands was incredible as was the sound of 6000 pairs of boots swishing through the grass.

It can't have been long after my return to 614 that the unit was disbanded (not, I hasten to add, because of something I'd done at the review). Some were posted out and the rest of us transferred to become 608 Signal Troop (Eqpt.). I couldn't believe it. I was going back to Viersen.


A lot of photos were taken at 614. In addition to the above, a few more are available in the Gallery here and many more can be seen at the Royal Signals Contact Site created by Brian Streetly.


The 2007 GE view below shows locations relevant to the Bracht to Brüggen road on the right. The row of married quarters where Jack and Ernie lived are still there. I recall eating fritten mit mayo
Chips and mayonnaise.
in the chippy.GE view of 614 & 3BAD

Google Earth viewThe lower GE view is a close-up of the Park with labels to indicate the purpose of some buildings (hover over to enlarge). All other parts are the yard and storage sheds. This 2007 view of the Park (not the outer area) looks just as it did when it closed in 1965. Sometime after 2007 the buildings were demolished and area cleared. It's surprising that it lasted so long. When this article was created in Feb. 2011 the button below showed the same view.

Click this button to see the latest map of the area above.