Royal Corps of Signals

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Royal Corps of Signals
Royal Corps of Signals cap badge.svg
Cap Badge of the Royal Corps of Signals
Active1920 – present
AllegianceFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
BranchFlag of the British Army.svg  British Army
Garrison/HQ Blandford Camp, Dorset
Motto(s)Certa Cito
(Swift and Sure)
"Technical First, Soldier Always" [1]
MarchBegone Dull Care (Quick); HRH The Princess Royal (Slow)
Colonel-in-Chief The Princess Royal
Master of SignalsMajor General Sharon Nesmith [2]
Tactical Recognition Flash Royal Signals TRF.svg

The Royal Corps of Signals (often simply known as the Royal Signals – abbreviated to R SIGNALS) is one of the combat support arms of the British Army. Signals units are among the first into action, providing the battlefield communications and information systems essential to all operations. Royal Signals units provide the full telecommunications infrastructure for the Army wherever they operate in the world. The Corps has its own engineers, logistics experts and systems operators to run radio and area networks in the field. [3] It is responsible for installing, maintaining and operating all types of telecommunications equipment and information systems, providing command support to commanders and their headquarters, and conducting electronic warfare against enemy communications.




In 1870, 'C' Telegraph Troop, Royal Engineers, was founded under Captain Montague Lambert. The Troop was the first formal professional body of signallers in the British Army and its duty was to provide communications for a field army by means of visual signalling, mounted orderlies and telegraph. By 1871, 'C' Troop had expanded in size from 2 officers and 133 other ranks to 5 officers and 245 other ranks. In 1879, 'C' Troop first saw action during the Anglo-Zulu War. [4] On 1 May 1884, 'C' Troop was amalgamated with the 22nd and 34th Companies, Royal Engineers, to form the Telegraph Battalion Royal Engineers; [4] 'C' Troop formed the 1st Division (Field Force, based at Aldershot) while the two Royal Engineers companies formed the 2nd Division (Postal and Telegraph, based in London). Signalling was the responsibility of the Telegraph Battalion until 1908, when the Royal Engineers Signal Service was formed. [5] As such, it provided communications during the First World War. It was about this time that motorcycle despatch riders and wireless sets were introduced into service. [5]

Royal Warrant

A Royal Warrant for the creation of a Corps of Signals was signed by the Secretary of State for War, Winston Churchill, on 28 June 1920. Six weeks later, King George V conferred the title Royal Corps of Signals. [6]

Subsequent history

Before the Second World War, Royal Signals recruits were required to be at least 5 feet 2 inches tall. They initially enlisted for eight years with the colours and a further four years with the reserve. They trained at the Signal Training Centre at Catterick Camp and all personnel were taught to ride. [7]

During the Second World War (1939–45), members of the Royal Corps of Signals served in every theatre of war. In one notable action, Corporal Thomas Waters of the 5th Parachute Brigade Signal Section was awarded the Military Medal for laying and maintaining the field telephone line under heavy enemy fire across the Caen Canal Bridge during the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. [8]

In the immediate post-war period, the Corps played a full and active part in numerous campaigns including Palestine, the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation, Malaya and the Korean War. Until the end of the Cold War, the main body of the Corps was deployed with the British Army of the Rhine confronting Soviet Bloc forces, providing the British Forces' contribution to NATO with its communications infrastructure. Soldiers from the Royal Signals delivered communications in the Falklands War in 1982 and the first Gulf War in 1991. [9]

In 1994, The Royal Corps of Signals moved its training regiments, 11th Signal Regiment (the Recruit Training Regiment) and 8th Signal Regiment (the Trade Training School), from Catterick Garrison to Blandford Camp. [10]

In late 2012, 2nd (National Communications) Signal Brigade was disbanded. [11] Soldiers from the Royal Corps of Signals saw extensive service during the eight years of the Iraq War before withdrawal of troops in 2011, [12] and the 13 years of the War in Afghanistan before it ended in 2014. [13]

Under Army 2020 Refine a number of changes planned for the Corps were made public in 2013-14. [14] A presentation by the Master of Signals indicated that 16 Signal Regiment would shift from 11 Signal Brigade to 1 Signal Brigade and focus on supporting communications for logistic headquarters. Similarly, 32 and 39 Signal Regiments were planned to shift to 1 Signal Brigade. 15 Signal Regiment would no longer be focused on Information Systems but would support 12th Armoured Infantry Brigade, while 21 and 2 Signal Regiments were planned to support the 1st and second Strike Brigades respectively. Furthermore, a new regiment, 13th Signal Regiment, was planned to form up under 1st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade and work with 14th Signal Regiment on cyber and electromagnetic activity. [15]

In 2017 the Royal Signals Motorcycle Display Team, then in its 90th year, was disbanded; senior officers had complained that it "failed to reflect the modern-day cyber communication skills in which the Royal Signals are trained". [16]

On 28 June 2020, the Royal Corps of Signals marked the 100th anniversary of its foundation. [17] Constrained by COVID-19 rules, many Royal Signals 100 celebrations were organised online, including the #100for100 challenge [18] that involved hundreds of members of the Corps running 100 km for the Royal Signals Charity. The Princess Royal, the Colonel-In-Chief of the Corps, delivered a video message of congratulations, [19] and the Foreman of Signals Course students successfully took a photograph of the Royal Signals 100 badge in space, completing a challenge that was set for them. [20]


Training and trades

Royal Signals officers receive general military training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, followed by specialist communications training at the Royal School of Signals, Blandford Camp, Dorset. Other ranks are trained both as field soldiers and tradesmen. Their basic military training is delivered at the Army Training Regiment at Winchester before undergoing trade training at 11th (Royal School of Signals) Signal Regiment. There are currently six different trades available to other ranks, [21] each of which is open to both men and women:

Staff Sergeant & Warrant Officers work in one of five supervisory rosters:

Whilst SSgts are generally regarded as being Regimental Duty, this roster does not start until WO2 and therefore all SSgts in the Royal Signals who are not supervisory are still employed "in trade".


The Royal Signals Museum is based at Blandford Camp in Dorset. [22]

Dress and ceremonial

Tactical Recognition flash

The Corps wears a blue and white tactical recognition flash. This is worn horizontally on the right arm with the blue half charging forward.

Airborne elements of the Royal Signals wear a Drop Zone (DZ) flash on the right arm of their combat jacket. It is square in shape with its top half white and the bottom half blue. When 5 Airborne Brigade was re-formed for the Falklands War, Signal elements adopted the Airborne Bridges Headquarters DZ Flash but this changed back to its original colours in the mid 1980s.

Cap badge

The flag and cap badge feature Mercury (Latin: Mercurius), the winged messenger of the gods, who is referred to by members of the corps as "Jimmy". The origins of this nickname are unclear. According to one explanation, the badge is referred to as "Jimmy" because the image of Mercury was based on the late mediaeval bronze statue by the Italian sculptor Giambologna, and shortening over time reduced the name Giambologna to "Jimmy". The most widely accepted theory of where the name Jimmy comes from is a Royal Signals boxer, called Jimmy Emblem, who was the British Army Champion in 1924 and represented the Royal Corps of Signals from 1921 to 1924.

It is one of the eight chalk hill figure military badges carved at Fovant, Wiltshire. It is the latest one to be made, as it was placed in 1970 following the Corp's 50th anniversary.


On Nos 2, 4 and 14 Dress, the Corps wears a dark blue lanyard on the right side signifying its early links with the Royal Engineers. The Airborne Signals Unit wears a drab green lanyard made from parachute cord. This dates back to the Second World War, when, following a parachute drop into France, the unit's Commanding Officer ordered all Signal personnel to cut a length of para-cord from their chutes in the event they may need it later in the fighting.


The Corps motto is "certa cito", often translated from Latin as Swift and Sure . It is easily seen on any of the Corps Badges.


The Colonel in Chief is currently the Princess Royal.


The Corps deploys and operates a broad range of specialist military and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) communications systems. [23] The main categories are as follows:



There are now two signal brigades:

The structure of the Royal Signals changed under Army 2020. [28] The listing below shows the present location of units and their future location. [29] [30] [31]

Regular Army

Army Reserve

The Royal Corps of Signals reserve component was severely reduced after the 2009 Review of Reserve Forces, losing many full regiments, with their respective squadrons mostly reduced to troops. [45] [46]

Cadet Forces

The Royal Corps of Signals is the sponsoring Corps for several Army Cadet Force and Combined Cadet Force units, such as in Blandford Forum, home to the Royal School of Signals. [49]

Order of precedence

Preceded by
Corps of Royal Engineers
Order of Precedence Succeeded by
Foot Guards

See also

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Further reading