On This Day…
On the 6th June 1944 (D-Day) seven Military Medals were earned by Royal Signals
During D-Day – the long awaited invasion of Europe seven Royal Corps of Signals soldiers earned Military Medals (MM). One of these awards was the only Bar (a second award) to the MM to have been earned by a Royal Corps of Signals soldier. As a signalman with XXX Corps Signals in the Western Desert Campaign, Robert Bennett earned his first medal as a driver/operator for the XXX Corps liaison staff, operating ‘under shell fire and through unmarked mined areas’, on one occasion being ‘blown up in a mine which destroyed his jeep entirely and wounded his companion.’
Sole means of communication
On D-Day the main headquarters of XXX Corps remained in England, sending forward a small tactical headquarters that landed with 50th (Northumbrian) Division. Bennett led the signals detachment for this tactical headquarters and commanded a DUKW with which he landed on the beach on the morning of 6 June. He was responsible for establishing a link to Main Headquarters Second Army in England. Taking his vehicle over the uncleared beach he realised that the rest of the tactical headquarters couldn’t land and set up his second set on the Corps Command Net.
Bennet’s medal recommendation records that ‘in spite of the danger to which he and his vulnerable vehicle were constantly exposed’ he provided ‘the sole means of communication for XXX Corps from the mainland on D-Day.’ Lance Corporal Bennett’s medal was presented to him in the Field by General Sir Bernard Montgomery in July 1944.
General Sir Bernard Montgomery presenting Lance Corporal Bennett with his medal in the Field, July 1944.
On the 6th June 1982 two RSIGNALS killed when helicopter shot down during Falklands War
The Gazelle helicopter in which Major Mike Forge and Staff Sergeant Joe Baker were travelling to Mount Pleasant during the Falklands War was shot down. Forge and Baker were both killed.
Major Mike Forge – founder of the Blue Helmets
Forge was commissioned into the Corps in 1961. He commanded the Signal Troop with 24th Missile Regiment Royal Artillery in BAOR, served in Northern Ireland, Cyprus and Belize and was twice seconded to the Sultan of Oman’s Armed Forces. In 1973 he formed the Royal Signals Free-Fall Parachute Display Team the Blue Helmets at the Army Apprentice College, Harrogate. The Team performed at large public events, unit-level events and open days. By 2010 the tempo of operations resulted in the decision to disband the team.
The Royal Signals Sports Parachute Association continues to promote parachuting as a form of adventurous training and sport within the Corps. Forge took command of 5th Infantry Brigade HQ and Signal Squadron just a month before it deployed to the Falkland Islands.
Staff Sergeant Joe Baker
Baker left the Army Apprentice College Harrogate in 1965 qualified as a Radio Operator and joined 216 Signal Squadron. In 1972 (and by then a Corporal) he re-trained as a Radio Telegraphist. Baker became crypto trained and worked behind the “Green Door” in 16th Parachute Brigade Comcen.
With a knowledge of amateur boxing from his younger days Baker was useful in training the successful Squadron boxing team. He achieved promotion to Sergeant continuing to serve with 216 Signal Squadron until in 1976 it re-mustered to become 6th Field Force Headquarters & Signal Squadron. During the Falklands Campaign in 1982 Baker was a Staff Sergeant in 5th Field Force Headquarters and Signal Squadron. He was popular member of the Squadron; fit, enthusiastic, and hard as nails, but approachable and friendly in every aspect of his work and life. He was a good soldier and a great friend to many.
A memorial stone to Forge and Baker has been erected in the grounds of the old church at Caythorpe in Lincolnshire, from where the 1st Airborne Divisional Signals deployed to Arnhem in 1944.