History of the Royal Signals

A journey through time

Certa cito

A combat support arm

Formed in 1920

Royal Signals are responsible for installing, operating, maintaining and running telecommunications equipment and information systems.

Warrant signed by Winston Churchill

A Royal Warrant was signed by the Secretary of State for War, the Right Honourable Winston S Churchill, giving the sovereign’s approval for the formation of a ‘Corps of Signals’. Six weeks later, on the 5th August 1920 His Majesty the King conferred the title ‘Royal Corps of Signals’.

WW2 losses

World War Two saw 4,362 members of the Royal Signals give their lives. We will remember them…

Formation of the Royal Corps of Signals 1920

 Towards the end of WW1 the face of warfare evolved from trench warfare to a new warfare, a carefully coordinated attack – involving infantry, armour, cavalry, artillery and aircraft – resulting in the Germans’ most significant defeat since the outbreak of the war. This new warfare required increasingly sophisticated communications from ever more technically astute, competent and specialist soldiers and so the decision to form the Corps of Signals was taken. Due to various policy delays the formation of the ‘Corps’ was delayed until 1920.

The Corps of Signals was formed on the 28th June 1920 when a Royal Warrant was signed by the Secretary of State for War, the Right Honourable Winston S Churchill, who gave the sovereign’s approval for the formation of a ‘Corps of Signals’.Six weeks later, on the 5th August 1920 His Majesty the King conferred the title ‘Royal Corps of Signals’

Formation of the TA

When the Territorial Army was formed on 1st October 1920 its territorial signal units became part of The Royal Corps of Signals.

The Indian Signal Corps

The Indian Signal Corps was also set up in 1920 with British officers and ranks from the Royal Corps of Signals working alongside Indian Signallers; between 1920 and 1940 one third of Royal Signals personnel were serving in India.

Museum exhibits include a 10 inch Heliograph which is the largest used by the British Army and was only used in India.

Royal Corps of Signals today

Combat Support Arm  – Protecting the British Army’s weaponry from attacks

 

 The Work of The Corps

First in, last out

Royal Signals soldiers fight alongside front-line troops, control and resource operations and understand, assimilate and respond to the pressures and urgent needs of commanders and staff. When required Signals’ specialists will conduct electronic warfare – intercepting and jamming enemy communications.

As a combat support arm The Royal Corps of Signals largely controls the means by which intelligence is passed to the decision makers and the mechanisms by which decisions and orders are communicated. Frequently among the first in to conflict Royal Signals soldiers have the technical and tactical skills to provide and operate Field Headquarters and to ensure commanders have battle-winning information. 

Within the modern-day electronic battlefield, with its increasingly complex, sophisticated and often hidden enemy Royal Signals soldiers and officers are responsible for ensuring the British Army’s sophisticated weaponry and command and control systems are protected from cyber, nuclear/ non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and other attacks. 

 

Supporting humanitarian missions

Problem solving, team-work, tactics and technical skills

Royal Signals are among the first to support humanitarian missions – restoring and maintaining lines of communication and setting-up essential, secure Headquarters – to ensure help and support is efficiently dispatched to where it is most needed.

Royal Signals support the Army’s battle with cyber and information assurance

Royal Signals continue to support operations at home and worldwide. 

14th Signal Regiment in Afghanistan

Jimmy Royal Signals Museum, Blandford
Signals service pre 1920

Signals service pre 1920

By the end of WW1 there were some 70,000 signallers. In 1918, at the Battle of Amiens, trench warfare was largely replaced by the birth of modern warfare.

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Corps history WW2

Corps history WW2

Throughout World War Two (WW2) members of the Royal Corps of Signals served in every theatre of war. By 1945 The Corps had expanded to a serving strength of 8,518 officers and 142,472 soldiers; more than today’s entire British Army.

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Phantom

Phantom

Shortly after the demise of Poland a GHQ Liaison Regiment known as ‘Phantom’ was established.

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Special wireless groups

Special wireless groups

During WW2 Signal intelligence was crucial to the Allied victory with a number of Special Wireless Groups established prior to and during this period.

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Women, secrets and signals

Women, secrets and signals

Women were not part of the Royal Corps of Signals during WW2 but a number of women from the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) with special skills were selected for training as radio operators.

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The inter-war years

During the years between the two World Wars the Corps grew in strength and had personnel serving in various overseas stations – Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Ceylon, Egypt, Jamaica plus many other ‘out – posts of the Empire’. The largest portion of the Corps was based overseas with one third concentrated in India. In Britain the most innovative area for regular signals units related to the establishment of armoured forces. The provision of more specialised signals units remained the province of the Supplementary Reserve and the Territorial Army, which formed and supported units for GHQ troops, lines of communication for air force liaison and anti-aircraft units. A key weakness of the British Army Order of Battle remained the lack of Signals units at corps level, this changed during WW2.

Cold War Era

Cold War Era

Cold War Era 1947-1991 Since 1945 Royal Signals personnel have participated in all conflicts involving the nation. The end of WW2 did not bring universal peace. Mutual distrust between the Soviet Union and the remaining Allies was already apparent in 1945 during...

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Northern Ireland – Op Banner

Northern Ireland – Op Banner

At its peak in 1972, the Army’s strength in Northern Ireland was 28,000. The Corps was the second largest element in the security force, after the infantry.

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On this day 31st July

On this day 31st July

On this day in 2007 Operation Banner – the operational name for the British Armed Forces’ operation in Northern Ireland – came to an end.

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On this day 21st April

On this day 21st April

On this day in 1974 he Northern Ireland conflict between republican and loyalist paramilitaries, British security forces, and civil rights groups, claimed its 1000th victim.

The Royal Corps of Signals provided communications for commanders and staff at brigade and theatre level, as well as the infrastructure to enable patrols on the ground to communicate with each other and with higher and lower commands.

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On this day 7th April

On this day 7th April

This day in 1972 saw the Birth of Heli-Tele in Northern Ireland and 45 years earlier, in 1927 the first public demonstration of a one-way videophone occurred between Herbert Hoover and officials of A T & T.

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Falklands War

Falklands War

In 1982 Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.The conflict was to provide a severe test of the Royal Signals’ versatility.

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Iraq – Op Telic

Iraq – Op Telic

On 20 March 2003 a coalition force invaded Iraq. British involvement, code named Op Telic, was primarily to eliminate weapons of mass destruction.

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Roger So Far

The Corps Centenary book ‘Roger So Far” celebrates many of the Corps’ achievements during its first 100 years.

This hardback, illustrated coffee table book is packed full of stories about people, units and events in the context of campaigns, technologies and equipment. RRP £30 with discounts for Regular, Reserve and Retired Corps members.

Buy now from the Royal Signals Museum Shop

Royal Signals Bosnia

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