On This Day…
21st April 1974 NI conflict claims its 1000th victim
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 role of the Royal Corps of Signals
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.
Initially soldiers deployed with Larkspur radios. Larkspur provided secure fixed links between HQs but was ineffective for patrolling in the urban areas where many operations took place. As a result, in the early 1970s the urban (and some rural and maritime) tactical radio systems were replaced by commercial 2-frequency simplex systems using smaller and lighter radios, primarily built by Pye and Storno.
The Pye PF70 weighed less than 2lb. Unlike combat-net radio that sent and received on the same frequency, these transmitted and received on different frequencies. Operators communicated indirectly through ‘talk-through’ sites, installed on buildings and high ground, much like rebro stations. One of the talk-throughs was located in Scotland. The talk-throughs received on the patrols’ transmit frequency and then retransmitted on their receive frequency.
In some areas, military radio nets were still the best means of communications. Royal Signals Technicians did a superb job designing and building electromechanical relays to enable the military nets to be linked seamlessly to the commercial nets. This was known as ‘mess-tin’ technology because the relays were deployed in aluminium boxes.
The Royal Corps of Signals also provided Rear Link Detachments, and support to specialist units such as bomb disposal units, guards at the Magilligan and Maze prisons and squadrons in the infantry role. In addition, the Corps supported Special Forces with bespoke communications.
At the height of of the troubles the total force occasionally reached 20,000 with The Royal Corps of Signals providing the second largest element of the force (only the Infantry provided more).