Royal Corps of Signals

Royal Signals

Cap Badge of the Royal Corps of Signals
Active 1920 – present
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Branch  British Army
Part of Commander Land Forces
Garrison/HQ Blandford Camp, Dorset
Motto(s) Certa Cito
(Swift and Sure)
March Begone Dull Care (Quick); HRH The Princess Royal (Slow)
Colonel-in-Chief HRH The Princess Royal
Tactical Recognition Flash

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. Colloquially referred to by some as "Siggies". 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.[1] 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.[2] On 1 May 1884, 'C' Troop was amalgamated with the 22nd and 34th Companies, Royal Engineers, to form the Telegraph Battalion Royal Engineers;[2] '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.[3] 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.[3]

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.[4]

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. All personnel were taught to ride.[5]

Throughout the Second World War (193945), members of the Royal Corps of Signals had served in every theatre of war. By the end of the war the strength of the Corps was 8,518 officers and 142,472 other ranks. In one famous episode, 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.

In the immediate post-war period, the Corps played a full and active part in numerous campaigns, including Palestine, 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 the former Communist Bloc forces, providing the British Forces' contribution to NATO with its communications infrastructure. Soldiers from the Royal Signals delivered communications in the Falklands War, the first Gulf War, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, East Timor and the second Gulf War. They are currently deployed in Cyprus (TA) and Afghanistan.

In 1994, The Royal Corps of Signals relocated its training regiments: 11th Signal Regiment (the Recruit Training Regiment) and 8th Signal Regiment (the Trade Training School), from Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire to Blandford Camp in Dorset, where the Royal School of Signals was already based.

In late 2012, 2nd (National Communications) Signal Brigade disbanded.[6] The Brigade Headquarters was previously located at Corsham and the brigade comprised 10, 32, 37, 38, 39 and 71 Signal Regiments, plus 299 Signal Squadron (Special Communications), Specialist Group Royal Signals with 81 Signal Squadron, Land Information and Communications Services Group (LICSG), Land Information Assurance Group (LIAG) and the Central Volunteer Headquarters (CVHQ) Royal Signals.

The Future

The future structure of the Royal Signals will change under Army 2020.[7][8]


Training and trades

Main article: Royal Signals 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,[9] each of which is open to both men and women:

Staff sergeants and 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".

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 Emblen, 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. The corps are also nicknamed 'Interflora's' due to close resemblance of the symbols.


On Nos 2, 4 and 14 Dress the Corps wears a dark blue lanyard signifying its early links with the Royal Engineers. The Airborne Signals Unit wears a drab green lanyard made from parachute cord which dates back to the Second World War. 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 HRH The Princess Royal.


The Corps deploys and operates a broad range of specialist military and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) communications systems.[10] The main categories are as follows:

Royal Corps of Signals units


There are now two signal brigades:

The structure of the Royal signals has changed under Army 2020.[13]

Regular Army

Army Reserve

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.[25] They also, quite unusually, sponsor small groups of signals trained cadets in cadet detachments which are affiliated to a different Regiment or Corps.

Order of precedence

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

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Royal Corps of Signals.


  1. Career paths
  2. 1 2 The Royal Signals Museum: Telegraph TP & Boer War
  3. 1 2 The Royal Signals Museum: Corps History
  4. "Royal Corps of Signals". National Army Museum. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  5. War Office, His Majesty's Army, 1938
  7. "Army 2020, p. 56-57" (PDF).
  8. "Royal Signals Journal, p. 42-45" (PDF).
  9. Royal Signals Careers - Soldier Trades
  10. Royal Signals Equipment
  11. "1st United Kingdom Signal Brigade - British Army Website". Retrieved 2016-02-09.
  12. "HQ 11 Sig Bde - British Army Website". Retrieved 2015-02-10.
  13. "Royal Signals Journal" (PDF). Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  14. "Royal Signals Journal" (PDF). March 2014.
  15. "2 Sig Regt - British Army Website". Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  16. "2 Sig Regt - British Army Website". Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  17. "2 Sig Regt - British Army Website". Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  18. "21 Sig Regt - British Army Website". Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  19. "21 Sig Regt - British Army Website". Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  20. "21 Sig Regt - British Army Website". Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  21. "The Wire" (PDF). June 2013. p. 52.
  22. "The Wire" (PDF). June 2014. p. 62.
  23. "The Wire" (PDF). October 2013.
  24. "The Wire" (PDF). August 2014.
  25. "Homepage of ACF/CCF Signals Training". Retrieved 28 October 2008.

Further reading

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