1968 was a year of great change with the Regiment rapidly relinquishing its static role and taking up the mantle of providing long range mobile multichannel communications from anywhere in the world. In retrospect, this change went smoothly with only minor delays while awaiting equipment and systems to become available
A separate HQ Squadron was formed to consolidate the administrative functions of the Regiment into a single squadron at the start of 1968. Additionally 4 Squadron was formed under command of Squadron OC Maj J.M. Newman to administer the proposed Force Rear Link Signal Troops.
14 Signal Regiment Organisation as at 31 March 1968
At Bampton, 3 Squadron had received instruction from DCN (Army) that the RAF and Army DCN services were to be combined and work started on this by the end of March 1968
14th Signal Regiment officially became part of Army Strategic Command on 1st April 1968 although the transformation from a fixed COMCAN unit to a mobile “Force Rear Link’ unit had begun in 1967. During early May 1968, WOI (RSM) R. Jagger handed over to WOI (RSM) H. Miller.
Throughout 1968, preparations were made for the handover of the Relay Centre and TARE to the RAF. Installation Troop were heavily involved with installing more equipment, upgrades and modifications to the TRC. Additionally there were weekly training courses being held by the TRC staff to familiarise the RAF operators with the systems. Major C.F. Bushell assumed control of Relay Centre, Boddington on 20 June 1968.
Plans were made to re-locate the Regiment to Norton Barracks, approximately 3 miles north east of Worcester selected. This was a historic barracks having been completed in May 1877. Although it was historically the ‘home’ of The Worcestershire Regiment since 1881 and still held the RHQ, the barrack incumbents in 1968 were 1st Royal Irish Regiment whose rear-party finally vacated on the 15th December 1968.
After many weeks of preparation, 14th Signal Regimental Headquarters, HQ Sqn and 4 Sqn, moved, from Robinswood Barracks, to Norton Barracks during the week 30 November – 6 December 1968. This necessated up to two convoys per day, loaded with stores and equipment travelling the approximate 30 miles between Gloucester and Worcester via the M5. 1 Squadron and the remaining troops were left at Gloucester and OC 1 Sqn was appointed Camp Commandant of Robinswood Barracks.
Amid all the other changes, a change of Commanding Officer took place in January 1969 with the new CO, Lt Col J. A. Baker, taking over from Lt Col F.D. Williams MBE
February 1969 saw the first E21/R241 exercise (Ex. BLUNDER IV), where the 635 Troop equipment was used with manpower supplemented by 636 Troop. The first operational deployment by the Regiment came about in March 1969 when, with elements of 645 Troop and 30th Signal Regiment were sent to Anguilla in The West Indies on Op. SHEEPSKIN.
On 10 March 1969, 4 Squadron was re-organised and took over command of 643 Signal Troop (Force Rear Link) and 645 Signal Troop (Force Rear Link). 5 Squadron was formed and took over command of 635 Signal Troop (Force Rear Link) and 636 Signal Troop (Force Rear Link). Shortly after, 6 Squadron was formed to take over command of 617 Signal Troop (Force Rear Link Satellite) and 618 Signal Troop(Force Rear Link Satellite).
At Bampton, 3 Squadron and Installation Troop had completed the layout changes and upgrades to meet the requirement of the single consolidated DCN service, by the end of March 1969. This work, combined with the installation of eight new H 2102 receivers gave the station its highest capability in its history.
14 Signal Regiment Organisation as at 31 March 1969
Equipment, stores and personnel continued to migrate from Gloucester to Worcest during the first half of 1969 including the re-location of 602 Signal Troop (Special Comms) who joined the Regiment in Norton Barraks continuing the association of sharing administrative facilities. 2 Squadron HQ also moved to Norton Barracks during this time with the DCN station run down to troop status. There was also a change of RSM in May 1969 when WOI (RSM) D.H.M. Rumsey took over from WOI (RSM) H. Miller.
Robinswood Barracks was officially closed on the 1st July 1969 when 1 Squadron moved to Norton Barracks. By mid-August only a small rear–party remained to finally hand over the barracks to the M.P.B.W. and Barracks on the 5th September 1969 bringing to an end a 15 year residency in Gloucester.
Comcen Boddington (and TARE), after an official ceremony on the 1st July, was handed over to the RAF on 8th September 1969. Throughout its 15 years operation, Comcen Bodding (or TRC Boddington as it was better known) was always busy, with the highest traffic figures (transmit and receive) achieved during January 1969 when a total figure for the month recorded was 264,548 messages with a received message reject figure of only 1.8%.
In September 1969, the receiver site at Weald, Bampton in Oxfordshire was handed over to 90 Signals Group, RAF with the remaining elements of 3 Squadron joining the Regiment in Noreton Barracks from 8th September. This ended a continuous Royal Signals association with the site that began when the Corps was instrumental in building it in 1943 and had been manned by 3 Squadron since the Regiment was formed in 1959.
On the 1st October 1969, the individually numbered signal troops (except 647 Signal Troop) were disbanded and came under command of the new 1, 2 and 3 squadrons as A, B, D, E, S, and T Troops. Squadrons 4, 5 and 6 ceased to exist having been replaced by the new 1, 2 and 3 Squadrons. Although it was the original plan to have a C Troop in 1 Squadron to provide for the D11 detatchments, manpower and the proposed phasing out of these stations ensured that this was never the case even though the Regimental History does show an organisational chart with C Troop included.
The transmitter station at Droitwich was finally closed down on 31st December 1969 with the DCN Troop also ceasing to function on that date. Thus by the end of 1969 all elements of 14th Signal Regiment (excluding 647 Signal Troop) were located in Norton Barracks, Worcester. The Droitwich site and buildings were retained by the Regiment and made use of continuously until 1976 for exercises, trials and training. Another use for the now dis-used 2 Squadron accommodation at Witton Camp was in January 1970 when a block of flats in nearby Kidderminster were found to be unsafe. A total of 60 civilians were accomodated between 15th January and 2nd February in an operation commanded by OC HQ Squadron.