In January 1968, the Regiment was based in Robinswood Barracks, Gloucester. The Commanding Officer at this time was Lt Col F D Williams MBE with WOI(RSM) R Jagger the RSM. The association with the City of Gloucester had been long and beneficial to both. So much so that at 1150 hrs on Thursday 28th April 1966, the Regiment became the first regular Regiment of the Corps to receive the Freedom of Entry into a city. This honour was appreciated by both the Regiment and the Corps. It continues to be celebrated with regular celebrations and parades.
The first ‘Freedom of Gloucester’ Parade – April 1966
(Pictures curtesy Harry Harris, 14th Signal Regiment 1967-1968)
At this time RHQ, 1 Squadron & Installation Troop were located within Robinswood Barracks, 2 and 3 Squadron were elsewhere:
2 Squadron, Whitton Camp, Worcester Road, Droitwich
3 Squadron, Weald, Bampton, Oxfordshire
Droitwich provided the HF transmitter site and Bampton was receivers forming part of the Commonwealth Communications Army Network (COMCAN), a worldwide HF telegraph network operated by the Army. This was later re-named Defence Communication Network (Army) – DCN (A).
Also within Robinswood Barracks at this time, was 602 Signal Troop, but although having administrative facilities provided by 14th Signal Regiment, was operationally independent.
Whilst not a specific regimental location, the staff and operational management of the Tape Relay Centre (TRC) at Boddington was a function of the Regiment being predominantly staffed by WRAC personnel administered by 14th Signal Regt and billeted in Robinswood Barracks. The TRC had been upgraded with Telegraph Automatic Routing Equipment (TARE) with the inauguration having taken place in May 1965. An example of Royal Signals being ‘early adopters’ of computerised message handling. After the introduction of TARE, the use of paper tape was greatly reduced, so much so that the title was officially changed to ‘Relay Centre, Boddington’ in 1969.
TARE proved to be a very reliable system with the record in 1966 showing that “The cost of components replaced over the last twelve months was less than £100”. TARE also handled high traffic loads with the records in September showing “(TARE) Continues to give excellent service, handling approximately seven thousand transactions per weekday.”
It is worth noting that the Relay Centre at Boddington was also intimately connected with the Initial Defence Communications Satellite Project (I.D.C.S.P) trials working with 647 Signal Troop on its return to the UK in December 1967
As an integral part of 14th Signal Regiment, Installation Troop, was utilised to carryout projects on the COMCAN sites plus upgrades and modifications to TARE.
In the mid to late 1960’s, with the reduction of fixed Army garrisons around the world, the military focus shifted to ‘mobility and flexibility’ with troops being moved operationally to locations around the world that had no fixed military communications presence. These mobile forces would require some form of link to the UK via a mobile link into the fixed network and the concept of ‘Force Rear Link’ came into being.
Already equipped with mobile medium power HF radio stations (645 Signal Troop) and being responsible for the formation of a troop well experienced in the developing satellite communications systems (647 Signal Troop), 14th Signal Regiment was ideally suited to take up the mantle of Force Rear Link as the role developed.
14 Signal Regiment Organisation as at 1 January 1968
Between January and March 1968, the Government re-organised the responsibilities of the Armed Services with the RAF taking over the role of combining and operating the fixed Defence Communications Network (DCN) utilising Royal Navy, Army and RAF HF Radio sites with the main UK hub being located at RAF Stanbridge. It was also decreed that there was a final name change (DCI(GEN) 42/69) to the Relay Centre and it became ‘Commcen Boddington’.
To provide the most suitable communication system required for every Force Rear Link scenario, individual signal troops were established under the 14th Signal Regiment ‘umbrella’- Two troops of medium power HF radios, two troops of high power HF radios and two troops of mobile satellite ground terminals (when they became available).