The Royal Signals Museum exists to preserve the history and traditions of our predecessors in the field of military communications.
The following is an outline of the topics that are displayed within the Museum and are enhanced by the vivid use of graphic panels, display cases, audio-visual aids and tableaux.
- The Crimean War
- The invention of the electric telegraph and its first use in war.
- Royal Engineer Signals from 1870-1900 & Boer War
- The formation of C Telegraph Troop.
- The 1st and 2nd World Wars
- The growing use of the telegraph for tactical purposes.
- Royal Signals in Airborne Units and other Special Forces.
- Encryption, interception and spy radio.
- The Inter War Years.
- The formation of the Royal Corps of Signals.
- Post World War Conflicts.
- An introduction to Royal Signals in British Army of the Rhine.
- Northern Ireland.
- The Falklands War.
- The Gulf War.
- United Nations and NATO Peace Keeping.
- Afghanistan (Op Herrick)
Women at War
The Women at War exhibition aims to engage and enthuse people of all ages, but particularly children by telling the story of women who joined the services and had an active, military role.
The Women at War project aims were neatly summarised by former SOE agent Gervase Cowell’s comment to Her Majesty The Queen, in 1999, when he was appointed MBE and she asked him what he was doing now:
‘I help the old to remember and the young to understand.’
The story of Landgirls and women factory workers during the war is well known but little has been done to depict the role of women within the military.
With particular concentration on the The FANYs, SOE and ‘Y’ Service Women at War illustrates the essential ‘front line’ role of women during the war and in civil emergencies during peacetime.
The FANY was formed in 1907 with the purpose of assisting the Military and Civil authorities in times of Emergency. During the First World War, they had a wide ranging role and by the Armistice had been awarded many decorations, including 27 Croix de Guerre. The SOE and “Y” Service had similarly impressive roles.
This exhibition offers insights into the nation’s heritage and the sometimes hidden but formative role of women within our society. Furthermore it illustrates the bravery, sacrifice and achievements of these women who protected our community and our freedom.
Animals at War
This fascinating exhibition includes:
- A converted bus Pigeon Loft used at the Front during the First World War.
- An expanded display featuring Dogs, Pigeons and other animals which have had important wartime roles in Army signalling.
- The bravery of pigeon ‘William of Orange’ and how he won the animal’s Victoria Cross at Arnhem.
Royal Signals Uniform Display
The origin of British military uniforms can be traced back to the New Model Army raised by Cromwell during the Civil War. His soldiers were uniformly dressed in red and this became the standard colour for British Army uniforms until it was replaced by khaki during the Boer War.
The Corps has a proud tradition of its various forms of uniform. The Corps Band, 34 Signal regiment Band and the Corps Pipes and Drums are colourful examples of Corps uniform history.
The Royal Corps of Signals originally adopted a red jacket for its full dress uniform, but now only the Royal Signal Band continues this tradition.
Military uniforms throughout the ages, from the red jacket through to the well known khaki uniform, can be seen on display in the Museum. UN, Middle East, Gurkha and early combat uniforms are among the uniforms on display in the museum.
Colonel Commandant Display
The first titular head of the Royal Corps of Signals was Lieutenant General Sir John Sharman Fowler, KCB, KCMG, DSO. He was GOC British Forces in China from 1922 to 1925 and was appointed the first Colonel Commandant of the Royal Corps of Signals in 1923, serving in that capacity until 1934. Artefacts brought back from China such as silver and brass bowls can be seen on display.
Some of his personal belongings such as his medals, his silver cup for best rifle shot, plotting scales and drawing set and army issue watch, have been donated to the Museum.
Colonel in Chief
In 1935, to mark the occasion of his Silver Jubilee, King George V appointed HRH The Princess Royal to be Colonel-in-Chief, Royal Corps of Signals. For thirty years Princess Mary took an interest in the Corps until her death in 1965, which was mourned by the whole Corps. The regalia of Princess Mary on display together with other artefacts.
In 1977 Princess Anne was appointed to be the new Colonel-in-Chief of the Corps. Since then, the Princess Royal, has remained in the appointment and Her Highness regularly visits units of the Corps throughout the world.
Middlesex Yeomanry Display
In 1794, faced with the threat of an invasion by the French, the British Government supplemented the Army by raising a volunteer force. Members attended eight days annual training and could be used to defend their local area against civil unrest or foreign invasion. The Cavalry part of this force was known as the ‘Gentlemen and Yeomanry Cavalry’ and in 1908 it became the 1st County of London Yeomanry, providing companies for the Imperial Yeomanry during the BOER War.
In 1920 it became the 2nd Cavalry Divisional Signals and is now represented by 47th (Middlesex Yeomanry) Signal Squadron whose members still proudly wear the unique badges of rank and cap badge of the Middlesex Yeomanry as members of 39 Signal Regiment (V).
The uniform and badges worn by the Yeomanry as well as various trophies and swords are on display. These have been donated to the Museum by the Middlesex Yeomanry.
16 Air Assault Brigade
Learn about the ‘Maroon Berets’
The newest fighting arm of the Army, with a Parachuting capability, providing high-tech rapid response in all theatres of war, is revealed in an exhibition at the Museum. The history and role of 216 (Parachute) Signal Squadron is explained.
The Museum has a fine display of approximately 350 sets of medals. Many of the medals have been presented to the museum by the recipients themselves or by their relatives.
The Medal Memoir Books held in the Gallery contain a short history of each individual whose medals have been presented to the Corps and are displayed in the cabinets. Gallantry Awards Board can also be found within this section.
The Museum is delighted to have acquired the George Cross of Signalman Kenneth Smith GC.
Sport and artistic achievements
The Corps has a long and successful tradition in athletics with members of the Corps representing Great Britain in the Olympics and Commonwealth Games. Royal Signals canoeists have also been highly successful. Sergeant S N Jackson (later Major) won the world championship in 1983 and three other members of the Corps have represented their country.
Within Army competitions units of the Corps have held a wide range of Army trophies for every sport that is played. The Corps has always been particularly strong in rugby, football, hockey, athletics and golf.
Corps members have achieved international status in shooting, squash, gliding, skiing, bobsleigh and fencing. Medals awarded to these achievers are held in the Gallery along with various paintings by artists depicting events throughout the history of the Royal Engineer Signals and the Royal Signals.
The jeep was produced in response to a 1940 tender request for an initial 70 vehicles by the US Army Quartermaster corps. The companies tendering were required to produce a prototype four wheel drive quarter ton payload vehicle weighing less than 1300 pounds within an incredible 49 days. The American Bantam Car and Willys Overland Inc were the only two of the 135 invited companies to respond and 47 days after tendering, Bantam delivered their prototype to the army for testing. Willys in the meantime had requested an extension to 120 days due to delivery issues with axle parts and thus, along with observers from Ford, had a golden opportunity to view the early testing of the Bantam.
The Bantam tested out reasonably well, but reservations were expressed about its power as well as the ability of the Bantam Co to supply the number of vehicles that would be required by the army following the initial small batches. The test Bantam was followed in late 1940 with the delivery of the first Willys Quad on 13th November and ten days later with the prototype Ford Pygmy. The Willys was some 500lbs heavier than the Bantam but outperformed it thanks to the Quads powerful ‘Go Devil’ 60 horsepower engine.
Performance on the Ford model was good as well so the army decided to order 500 of each model for field testing…the rest is history. The Willys Jeep was introduced into the British Forces in 1941. By the end of the war over 40,000 had been used by the Army. It was used extensively in the airborne landings in Europe by the Airborne Divisions. It had a top speed of about 105kph.
For more information see: www.willys-mb.co.uk
The Landrover is painted in this shade of pink as it provided the best camouflage in the deserts of Aden and the Gulf states.
It is equipped with the following communications equipment:
- Wireless Set No 123. A lightweight, miniaturised, High Frequency radio. The operational range is up to 500 miles. It is a morse only set and would be used to work back to a base station.
- Radio set No A41. A man pack VHF set with a working range of 5-10 miles. This set would be used to work to supporting infantry Units.
- Radio set No A43R. This is a ‘ground to air’ radio working to aircraft. It operates in the UHF band. It can also be used as a beacon so that aircraft can ‘home in’ on its signal. Ranges worked vary from up to 40 miles ground to air on a whip aerial, to 130 miles using the elevated discone, working to an aircraft at 30,000 feet.
This ‘Tracked over-snow vehicle’, more commonly known as the Snowcat was in service from 1962 to 1981. It was used as a communications vehicle by 249 Signal Squadron and would have a C42 and C11/R210 VHF suite of radios. The vehicle had a Volvo B18 engine and was capable of 40kph for a range of about 400km.
Operation secret waves
The interactive Centre was created, supported by the National Lottery through the Millennium Commission.
The Museum contains a small gallery where temporary exhibitions can be mounted from material held in the Museum’s reserve collections, from touring exhibitions, or from items on loan from other museums, industrial concerns or private individuals.