On This Day…

On the 1st October 2011 the line belt was withdrawn from Royal Signals working dress

By the early 2000s the Lineman had become Driver Lineman and by the late 2000s the trade was Driver Lineman Storeman. In 2011 it was felt that the title Driver Lineman Storeman no longer accurately described the trade and the name of the trade was changed to Communication Logistic Specialist (CLS). At the same time line training was removed from specialist trade training, instead it  was delivered to Royal Signals soldiers of all trades as part of the basic signalling skills package.


Role of the Lineman

When the Corps was formed in 1920, Lineman was an essential trade and included four specialisations. For short distances Linemen laid copper cabling by hand, while for longer lays they used the horse-drawn cable wagon. These wagons were modifications of artillery gun carriages and remained in service until 1937, when they were replaced by mechanised cable layers and later by line-laying Land Rovers. Leather harnesses and brass buckles were used to strap the horses to the cable wagons. These were prone to snapping and so the Linemen wore a spare strap as a belt around their waists. The belt would also be used as an aid to climb telegraph poles when more permanent communications were needed. Linemen wore the belt with pride and the line belt became part of their working dress.


Skills evolve to meet changes in technology

Throughout the 20th century the role and responsibilities of the Lineman evolved in line with changing technologies. Thus the Lineman developed the skills necessary to lay, test and repair fibre optic and coax cables as well as the ubiquitous D10 twisted cables. Similarly, new tasks appeared in response to changing military needs.

During the Cold War, the Soviet army became proficient at locating and destroying the sources of radio transmissions. British field HQs were therefore separated from the ‘radio villages’ and ‘antenna farms’ from which radio transmissions were made. Linemen had the task of laying the long lengths of cable which connected these to the HQs. HQs moved every few hours and this meant the Linemen were extremely busy.

The increasing requirement for fixed communications systems within British military airfields, operating bases and barracks led to an important change in role in the 1970s. The TeleMechs and then the Installation Technicians took responsibility for the more static environments: maintaining and repairing the Army’s fixed telephone systems and fibre optic networks. The Linemen then looked after the more mobile environments, installing and testing different types of field communication cables and telephones.


Roger So Far

The illustrated Corps Centenary book

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Linemen in Burma.

Cable on display at the museum

Fibre optic cable