Royal Signals Trades

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The Royal Signals Trades are the employment specialisations of the Royal Corps of Signals in the British Army. Every soldier in the Corps is trained both as a field soldier and a tradesman. There are currently seven different trades, each of which is open to both men and women:

  • Communication Systems Operator: an expert in military radio communications.
  • Communication Systems Engineer: an expert in data communications and computer networks.
  • Royal Signals Electrician: an expert in maintaining and repairing generators and providing electrical power.
  • Driver Lineman: an expert in driving, laying line and installing cabling.
  • Installation Technician: an expert in installing and repairing fibreoptics and telephone systems.
  • Electronic Warfare Systems Operator: an expert in intercepting and jamming enemy communications.
  • Technical Supply Specialist: an expert in managing and accounting for communications equipment.

Initial Training Common to All Trades[edit]

Every tradesman trains first as a soldier at the Army Foundation College at Harrogate or the Army Training Regiment at Winchester or at the Army Training Centre, Pirbright, in Surrey. Recruits complete a 14-week course which teaches basic military skills such as military drill, how to handle and fire a weapon, how to live and work outdoors and how to tackle an assault course. In addition they develop their stamina and fitness.

On completing his or her initial training every soldier then moves to 11th Signal Regiment at Blandford Camp in Dorset to commence their trade training.

Trade Skills and Training[edit]

Communication Systems Operator[edit]

Communication Systems Operators form the largest trade in the Royal Signals and are trained to operate secure digital radio systems, satellite communications and wide-area computer networks. Their course at the Royal School of Signals lasts 28 weeks and covers the following disciplines:

  • Area communications systems.
  • Mobile multi-channel microwave radio relay.
  • Civilian and military satellite communications.
  • Public switched telephone networks.
  • Information systems training.
  • Keyboard skills and elements of the European Computer Driving Licence.
  • Driving cars (with and without trailers) and, in some cases, Large Goods Vehicles.

At the rank of sergeant selected Communication Systems Operator go on to become Yeomen of Signals.

Communication Systems Engineer[edit]

Communication Systems Engineers are the technical experts of the Royal Signals. They install, maintain and repair the British Army's battlefield communication networks and information systems. Their course at the Royal School of Signals lasts 36 weeks. Their training includes the following elements:

  • Basic computer software systems: how to install computer workstations into a systems network and then maintain, engineer and control these systems.
  • Information systems: computer systems training and other skills required to complete elements of the European Computer Driving Licence to Level 2 standard.
  • Radio: HF to UHF and Bowman radio equipment, satellite and theatre-wide area digital communications networks.
  • Teleconferencing: operating video teleconferencing equipment and digital telephone exchanges.
  • Service management: providing help-desk support and troubleshooting.
  • Driving: cars (with and without trailers).

At the rank of corporal Communication Systems Engineers can be highlighted for potential supervisory roles. These roles are Foreman of Signals or Foreman of Signals (Information Systems).

With the merging of the two trade groups, Systems Engineering Technicians and Information Systems Engineers these supervisory roles are still being scrutinized to match the new trade group. At present the Foreman of Signals deals with the technical aspect of Squadron life, working with the squadron technical workshops, dealing with 1st and 2nd line inspections and holding and maintaining the sqn master works register and technical inventory.

The Foreman of Signals (Information Systems) deals with the information systems aspect of life within a squadron, arranging for information systems courses relevant to the Squadron assets, network management and the deployment and tracking of squadron Information system equipments.

Whilst both supervisory trade groups act independently, there is a need for the two to interact and exchange information on a regular basis.

Royal Signals Electrician[edit]

Royal Signals Electricians install, maintain and repair field-distribution power supplies and lighting. They are responsible for the mechanical and electrical repair of the Army's field generator systems. Their course at the Royal School of Signals lasts 25 weeks. It covers the following disciplines:

  • Electrical engineering theory and practice: the skills required to repair and maintain power distribution equipment, generator and battery systems.
  • Safety practices and procedures: preventing electrocution.
  • Driving: cars and Large Goods Vehicles with or without trailers.

Driver Lineman[edit]

Linemen drive, maintain and service vehicles from cars to Large Goods Vehicles. Their role includes the movement of hazardous materials, constructing field cable routes and laying fibre-optic cabling. Their course at the Royal School of Signals lasts 6 weeks. It covers the following disciplines:

  • Installing and testing different types of field communication cables and telephones.
  • Antenna rigging skills: working on high masts in difficult conditions.
  • First aid and safety: the correct and safe way to wear a harness and climb telegraph poles.
  • Computer skills: elements of the European Computer Driving Licence.

The final stage of training for Driver Linemen is 14 weeks at the Defence School of Transport at Leconfield, East Yorkshire, learning how to drive cars and Large Goods Vehicles both with and without trailers.

Installation Technician[edit]

Installation Technicians install, maintain and repair the Army's telephone systems and fibre-optic networks, including cable infrastructures, local area networks, closed circuit television and video conferencing systems. Their course at the Royal School of Signals lasts 40 weeks and covers the following disciplines:

  • Repairing, installing and maintaining telephone networks.
  • Copper and fibre-optic cabling skills.
  • Working at heights
  • Elements of the European Computer Driving Licence
  • Driving cars with and without trailers

Electronic Warfare Systems Operator[edit]

Electronic Warfare Systems Operators are responsible for intercepting and disrupting enemy radio transmissions. They deploy alongside Intelligence Corps linguists, and some work with bomb disposal teams. They train alongside Communication Systems Operators on a 23 week course at the Royal School of Signals, followed by a five-week aptitude course and a 17-week Communications Exploitation course at the Defence College of Intelligence, Chicksands in Bedfordshire. Their training covers the following disciplines:

Technical Supply Specialist[edit]

Technical Supply Specialists are responsible for the storage and distribution of technical supplies, both on base and when deployed on operations. Managing technical stores is the core responsibility of this trade, but Supply Specialists must have a thorough understanding of the communications equipment used by Royal Signals units. Their course at the Royal School of Signals lasts 13 weeks and covers the following disciplines:

Supervisory trades[edit]

Staff sergeants and warrant officers work in one of five supervisory rosters:

Candidates for YofS and FofS are selected from the Operator and Technician trades for training to first degree and Honours degree respectively. Both are obtained through the Royal School of Signals Blandford whilst being validated by Bournemouth University.

Subsequent employment[edit]

After basic and trade training most Royal Signals tradesmen are posted to the Field Army as Class 3 trained soldiers in the rank of signaller. Communication Systems Engineers and Electronic Warfare Operators, however, leave training as lance corporals. After a year's experience all tradesmen become eligible for upgrading to Class 2 and a pay rise. Throughout their careers tradesmen attend further training courses (including upgrading to Class 1). Promotion is based on experience, ability and merit. Depending on their trade, upon reaching the rank of sergeant, soldiers may apply to join one of the supervisory rosters, which brings extra responsibility and qualifications. Alternatively, soldiers from any trade may choose to follow a career path at Regimental Duty, in which they specialise in delivering military training and, if successful, fill roles such as squadron sergeant major, regimental quartermaster sergeant (RQMS) and regimental sergeant major (RSM).

Soldiers from any trade can volunteer for service with airborne forces or as a Special Forces Communicator, a small number may undertake All Arms Commando Course for service with 3 Commando Brigade.

Signallers of all trades may apply to join the Royal Signals Motorcycle Display Team, better known as the White Helmets.

Commissioning[edit]

Signallers may apply for commissioning, either as a Direct Entry officer undertaking the complete training package at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, or as a Late Entry officer, undertaking a short commissioning course at Sandhurst. LE Officers are employed as Traffic Officers, Technical Officer (Telecommunications) or General Duties based on experience as a Yeoman of Signals, Foreman of Signals or Regimental Duty.

References[edit]

(1) Intelligence, IT and Comms