Last Updated: 18 August, 2015
The Royal Corps of Signals along with the Corps of Royal Engineers, the Royal Regiment of Artillery and the Army Air Corps form the British Army’s Combat Support Forces. The Royal Corps of Signals is typically known as the Royal Signals.
In 2012, the Combat Information Capability Directorate (CICD), or Capability Directorate Information (CD Info), brought together the Royal Signals and the Intelligence Corps in one central authority.
The Royal Signals offers a number of trades for its personnel:
- Communication Systems Engineer: deal with different forms of digital and satellite communications, wireless and internet based systems, while also working with hardware and software from industry leaders.
- Communication Systems Operator: the linchpin of battlefield communications, ensuring that the officers and soldiers are provided with reliable tactical, area, digital, satellite and mobile communications.
- Electronic Warfare Operator: use sophisticated equipment to eavesdrop on enemy communications and use counter measures to disrupt them, could also work in support of bomb disposal teams.
- Installation Technician: work at the forefront of military communications technology and experts in the installation, maintenance and repair of telephone systems and fibre optic networks.
- Communication Electrician: set up and service the Army’s field power generators on the battlefield and military bases, earn professional trade qualifications, which can open up further opportunities.
- Communications Logistic Specialist: this key trade, known as Communication Logistic Specialist, is responsible for the delivery of the Army’s communications infrastructure.
2.0 Training Hierarchy
The Royal School of Signals forms part of the Defence School of Communications and Information Systems, which in turn forms part of the Defence College of Technical Training (DCTT). DCTT forms part of the RAFs No 22 (Training) Group, commanded by an Air Vice-Marshal (OF-7), who in turn reports to the Deputy Commander Capability and Air Member for Personnel and Capability, and Air Marshal.
3.0 Defence College of Technical Training
As part of the Defence Technical Training Change Programme (DTTCP) driven development of Defence Technical Training, the Defence College of Technical Training (DCTT) formed on the 01 October 2012 from:
- Defence College of Electro-Mechanical Engineering (DCEME)
- Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering (DCAE)
- Defence College of Communications and Information Systems (DCCIS)
With the above colleges having changed to schools on 01 October 2012, the DCTT now has 4 Pillars:
- Defence School of Aeronautical Engineering (DSAE) with the school HQ at Cosford.
- Defence School of Communications and Information Systems (DSCIS) with the school HQ at Blandford.
- Defence School of Electro-Mechanical Engineering (DSEME); initially comprising Borden and Arborfield schools with No 4 School of Technical Training to become subordinate on move to RAF Lyneham.
- Defence School of Marine Engineering (DSMarE) with the school HQ at Gosport.
The DCTT structure is coherent with training volumes in each of the Defence Schools and provides OF5-level command to enable delivery of site functions as Heads of Establishment in the Stations and Garrisons concerned (e.g. Commandant DSAE also the Station Commander of RAF Cosford). The HQ DCTT will be initially based in HMS Sultan, Gosport, but will move to RAF Lyneham no later than the end of 2014.
4.0 Defence School of Communications and Information Systems
The Defence College of Communications and Information Systems (DCCIS), formed on 01 April 2004 as a result of the Defence Training Review, delivers training and education for up to 10,000 service students per annum, ranging from 2-week specialist courses to Masters-level degree packages. On 01 October 2012 the Defence College of Communications and Information Systems became the Defence School of Communications and Information Systems (DSCIS) and a school of the newly formed Defence College of Technical Training. Figure 1 provides an overview of the DSCIS.
Figure 1: The Defence School of Communications and Information Systems
The DCCIS, commanded by a Brigadier (OF-6), is a Defence Training Establishment (DTE) and delivers single Service and overseas CIS training. HQ DCCIS provides the governance for the delivery of Army, RAF and RN CIS training. It also initiates and delivers training and organisational change to support the delivery of training to Service personnel who deliver information and communication services on, and in support of, operations.
The main element of the School at Blandford Camp, 11 Sig Regt (RSS) is the Army’s centre for Communications and Information Systems training for officers and soldiers. The School comprises training delivery and training support elements as well as providing supervisory care for all students undergoing training.
The RSS has training facilities for cable and fibre optics, computer laboratories, mobile radio, trunk and satellite systems. These are backed by a full range of training support facilities, a technical library and both electronic and technical workshops.
The Commandant DCCIS is also the Blandford Garrison Commander and is supported in this task by the Commanding Officer (CO) Blandford Garrison Support Unit. The DCCIS HQ is located in Harrogate Building, with an element in Catterick Building and is manned by staff from the RN, Army and RAF as well as by civil servants.
The HQ provides policy budgetary control as well as direction on the current training regimes in the single Service schools, whilst preparing for future changes to the way that CIS training is delivered across the MOD.
4.1 Blandford Garrison Support Unit
The Blandford Garrison Support Unit (BGSU) is under the command of the Commandant DCCIS, located within Blandford Camp. The role of the BGSU is to provide general support to those elements of DCCIS located in Blandford Camp and all units within the Garrison boundaries. It currently (March 2014) comprises a total of 202 personnel; 65 military and 137 civilian, a small proportion of whom are under command for administrative purposes only, dispersed into a number of separate departments within the confines of Blandford Camp.
The Garrison Headquarters Staff are located separate from HQ DCCIS on the second floor of the Maresfield Building, consisting of; CO BGSU plus several officer grades responsible for general staff duties, garrison security, garrison environment etc. The HQ also houses the Garrison Sergeant Major (GSM).
The 11th (Royal School of Signals) Signal Regiment, ‘The RSS’, is based in Blandford Camp near Blandford Forum in Dorset and is commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel (OF-4).
The RSS provides Phase 2 specialist and Phase 3 career training for all officers and soldiers of the Royal Corps of Signals, together with signallers and computer specialists from across the British Army. Students also come from the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.
The RSS also features the home of the Cadet Forces Signals Training Team (CFSTT) which offers several week-long residential Signals courses each year to both cadet and adult members of the Army Cadet Force (ACF), Combined Cadet Force (CCF), Air Training Corps (ATC) and Sea Cadet Corps (SCC), at Blandford. The CFSTT also deliver several competitions for Cadet Signallers throughout the year.
5.1 Structure of the RSS
Figure 2 provides an overview of the structure of the Royal School of Signals.
Figure 2: Structure of the Royal School of Signals.
Note: Military Support Section moved to 4 (Military Training) Squadron during January 2015.
5.2 Trade Training
All trade groups will leave Blandford having passed their driving Category B and some their B+E licence (if not already held). In addition, soldiers will also be proficient in basic signalling skills, all of which are incorporated within the individual course. If a trade requires a C+E licence, soldiers will undertake training at the Defence School of Transport before joining their unit.
Soldiers will also complete a week of military skills so that they arrive at their unit fully refreshed and current in the Military Annual Training Tests (MATTs). This will be carried out at the end of Trade Training.
For an overview of trade training: 11 Signal Regt, RSS Trade Length Chart
5.3 Induction Course
On arrival at Blandford Camp everyone attends a week-long Induction course. The course is designed to:
- Orientate soldiers to life at 11 (RSS) Signal Regiment;
- Carry out essential administration; and
- Set the required standards which soldiers are expected to meet at Blandford and throughout the rest of their military career.
There are a number of things soldiers should be aware during their time at the RSS:
- On the Friday after arrival soldiers will be allocated to one of the six troops, in which soldiers will remain throughout their time at the RSS. This troop is responsible for soldier’s administration.
- When attending trade training soldiers will be under the control of the RSS between 08:15 and 16:15hrs for the duration of their course.
- There is a graduation ceremony at the end of the trade course, which family and friends are invited.
- Soldiers are expected to maintain the required level of physical fitness – this is assessed during the first week (induction) in Blandford, via:
- A personal fitness assessment; and
- A six-mile force march.
- Leadership Development Training is an integral part of the trade training programme.
- Soldiers are (as at March 2014) entitled to four free travel warrants to return home on leave and 38 working days of leave per year.
- Leave time is programmed into the Phase 2 trade training programme where possible and there are some other opportunities at various times to take leave ensuring soldiers do not miss any critical course instruction or examinations.
- Weekends are usually free, though throughout the year the RSS expects soldiers to attend Inter-Squadron events and exercises which take place over the course of a weekend.
5.5 Communications Troop Commander
On completion of the commissioning course at Sandhurst, officers’ attend the Royal Signals Troop Commanders’ course (TCC) delivered through 5 (Maresfield) Squadron. This course covers subjects as diverse as basic technology and communications techniques, command and leadership, and military and administrative skills. It has a high practical content, and classroom instruction is consolidated by field exercises and simulation. Courses usually have 12 Regular students (domestic and international) with 1-2 Reserve students.
The first major event of the course will most likely be the Corps Dinner Night with the Master of Signals leading the dining-in to the Corps’ Officer Ranks.
The course ‘proper’ will start with an introduction to the joy of Defence Writing and JSP 101. Students will face a number of topics such as NATO Map markings, ITIL and information management planning before moving onto more Signals-centric subjects; for example, electronic warfare, FALCON and SPECTRA.
Students may also be lucky enough to participate in a RSS military skills exercise, usually as Directing Staff (DS) Platoon Commanders, such as Exercise Catterick Culmination (see below) which is geared towards testing the military skills learned by Phase 2 soldiers at the RSS and includes everything from bayonet ranges to harbour drills.
Communications training is provided by Command Support Troop and involves trunk communications and combat net radio (CNR). Trunk training culminates in Exercise Last Orbit where students are given an insight into the planning of a Trunk network and the chance to develop their delivery of communications orders (the bulk of orders up to this point will have been based on the Infantry orders model). CNR training culminates with the week-long Exercise First Glance.
Visits undertaken whilst on the TCC could include the Maritime Communications Support Unit in Portsmouth for a series of informative presentations on how Navy Command provides and supports communication information systems in the Maritime world, including:
- Talks on Royal Marines Communications Squadron capabilities; and
- Also communications in the Land Littoral Manoeuvre environment.
Examples of future job roles for signals officers include:
- Royal Corps of Signals, Captain Appointments (2014)
- Royal Corps of Signals, Major Appointments (2014)
- Royal Corps of Signals, Lieutenant Colonel Appointments (2014)
5.6 Communications Systems Operators and Engineers
On completion of basic training soldiers will travel to Blandford Forum, Dorset, to start their Phase 2 specialist training at the RSS with a 23-week Communication Systems Operator course, followed by a five-week aptitude course. Soldiers will then attend a 17-week Communications Exploitation course at the Defence College of Intelligence at Chicksands, Bedfordshire.
2013 witnessed the introduction of the Communications Systems Engineer Basic Regular (CBER) Class 3 course and the Communications Systems Engineer Upgrade Regular (CEUR) Class 1 course.
During training there are a number of exercises to complete and examples of these exercises include:
- Exercise First Base for Communications Systems Operators Class 3; and
- Exercise Strong Foundation for Communications Systems Engineers Class 3.
These exercises test the installation and configuration of computer networks, currently in a scenario-based environment on an Operation Herrick deployment (although the facility has the ability to progress to reflect future contingent-based operations). There are five locations: Shawqat, Gereshk, Kabul, Lashkar Gah and Kandahar where the networks are deployed and maintained by three-person teams; teams also manage an IT Service Desk, adhering to the ITIL procedures.
During the initial deployment, students begin by ensuring they have full LAN connectivity. They will configure servers and workstations, and establish their local domains. These sites are then interconnected together by a series of WAN links. The set-up and maintenance of inter-site email, service desk and network management applications complete the deployment.
On the exercise, DS place faults on the network, and ensure the Service Desk is manned and maintained. The inclusion of faults, time constraints and the occasional visitor creates exercise realism. Students are also placed in charge of their team for a time, which tests their ability to manage, prioritise faults and delegate work.
A major outcome of the exercise is that students enhance their technical knowledge and develop more personal skills. These skills include leadership, self-confidence and the ability to communicate with others. The IT Foundation Skills section instigated these exercises with these core skills at the heart of training.
5.7 Communication Electrician
After the completion of Basic Signalling Skills, aspirant electricians will start their course ‘proper’ with training delivered by the Power Section. During the initial stages of the electrician course students will learn about engine components and how an engine works, the fundamentals of a job as an electrician in the Royal Corps of Signals within a generator bay in a field Unit. Other training involves:
- Stripping and assembly of the basic in-service generator;
- Service batteries;
- FEPS generators;
- Power distribution equipment; and
- Lighting equipment.
The course culminates with Exercise Southern Lights which tests everything taught during the course.
5.8 Installation Technicians
Phase 2 employment training for installation technicians is via the Installation Technician Basic Regular (ITBR) course.
Initially students will cover subjects such as electronic principles, communications principles and electronic workshops, before moving onto mechanical workshops. Mechanical workshops teach students about hand tools and their safe use, before progressing to using the tools under assessment. After this, the course will progress onto subjects such as underground and overhead cabling, where students will learn to install, terminate and test copper cabling within both confined spaces and also whilst working at height.
During the later stages of the course, at the Cable Systems Section, students will learn a number of subjects ranging from electronic switching systems and line testing, structured cabling, to fibre optic cabling.
The course culminates in a final contextualised exercise in which students will put into practice, and demonstrate, all that they have learned over the previous months. This exercise simulates the full tour experience; therefore there are plenty of early mornings and late nights with each student given the responsibility of team leader in order for them to demonstrate their trade knowledge and leadership skills amongst their peers.
On completion of the final exercise students usually move onto driver training and then military refresher training prior to attending their working units.
5.9 Foreman of Signals
Training on the Foreman of Signals (FoS) course, consisting of three terms, includes ITIL, computer hardware, digital electronics, network security and network management. CCNA, starting with pre-course TMAs, will continue throughout the course.
As part of the FoS course students will undertake 3-weeks with the Command Support Team which puts into practice the theory about antennas and propagation; the culmination to Unit 320.
- Week 1: starts with setting up on the Craddock within Blandford Camp using HF and VHF, in various antenna configurations to RAF Merryfield, 50 miles away. Recording all the results may aid students in their presentations in week 3. Later in the week the course will be split into two syndicates with further testing over a larger range at RAF Manston, Kent. For some students this may be their first time of setting up masts and antennas, so there will probably be a steep learning curve to understand new kit, equipment and language (halyard rope anyone!).
- Week 2: a return to the classroom environment to deliver Combat Net Radio (CNR) orders. The course will be split into three groups, with students rotating through the different roles of operations officer and Foreman each day. The scenarios are usually conducted in the area of Sheffield and will test the students’ knowledge of rebroadcast stations.
- Week 3: consists of Exercise First Glance with personnel from 611 (Communications Training) Troop act as DS. Students will deploy in syndicates to various locations around Dorset and establish HQs, manifesting as an operations room and services for G3, G5 and G6. This will most likely take the form of: receiving orders; packing up; moving to a new location; setting up; establishing a new HQ; and taking on Command as the lead HQ. This procedure will probably occur 7-9 times depending on the number of students (in order to get students through all the various command positions). Most of these orders will be via radio orders and therefore simpler in structure than what is faced in week 2. The course culminates, on the Friday, with syndicate presentations on the tests conducted and results gathered from the CST phase, along with the theory from Unit 320 (theory should match results and rehearse!).
5.10 Military Support Section
The Military Support Section (MSS), part of 4 (Military Training) Squadron since January 2015, provides contextualised assessments to students on a number of courses and includes:
- Communications Systems Engineers Class 3;
- Communications Systems Engineers Class 1; and
- Communications Systems Operators Class 3.
This is an important part of a student’s training, as it assesses everything that they have learnt throughout their respective courses from building servers, to the physical configuration of switches and routers for the engineers and the service desk for the operators. And, through the use of the training facility in nearby Piddlehinton, students are put through their paces to ensure that training has produced confident and efficient soldiers who can carry out their roles effectively and efficiently.
For example, operators on the class 3 course will be placed in a service desk environment and assessed on their ability to react to faults that might occur in a real situation, such as security issues, requests for new equipment and faulty equipment.
In order to achieve its role, MSS provides a number of exercises for students on Phase 2 employment and Phase 3 career courses delivered at Blandford and includes:
- Exercise Aquila Star;
- Exercise Rising Star; and
- Exercise Key Development 4.
5.11 4 (Military Training) Squadron
4 (Military Training) Squadron, commanded by a Major (OF-3), consists of several training teams:
- The Senior Command training Team (SCTT);
- The Junior Command Training Team (JCTT);
- The Potential Non-Commissioned Officer (PNCO) Training Team;
- Military Skills Training Team;
- Physical and Adventurous Training (AT) Team;
- 611 (Communications Training) Troop (Section 5.12); and
- Military Support Section (Section 5.10), moved from 3 (Harrogate) Squadron during January 2015.
The SCTT, led by a WO2 (SMI), is tasked with delivering Command, Leadership and Management (CLM) training to both Senior NCOs (SNCO) and Warrant Officers (WO) of the Royal Corps of Signals (Slowey, 2014). As of the 2013/14 training year, the SCTT delivers 8 SNCO CLM and 2 WO CLM per training year. CLM courses provided by the SCTT are delivered in two instalments:
- Phase 1: Pan-Army CLM phase that is individual training delivered to every Sergeant and WO regardless of Arm or Service.
- Phase 2: Royal Corps of Signals specific training as directed by CD Info.
Outline of the SNCO CLM Course
Day one of the 4-week SNCO CLM course, starting with approximately 30 personnel, consists of a 1.5 mile run (Annual Fitness Test or AFT) and the 8-mile combat fitness test.
During the first two weeks of the course students will participate in the mandated CLM elements
delivered in the classroom, including four battle PT lessons to aid individual assessment of command and leadership. Although there are physical elements to the course there are also academic ones, such as Equality and Diversity (E&D).
The second half of the course, which relies in part on physical prowess, is the Basic Close Combat Skills (BCCS) phase (e.g. section attacks, break contact, CBRN, CIED, BCDT, tactical movement and quick attack estimate). Students will gain the SA (M) 07 qualification during this period (Palmer, 2015).
Skill fade can be a factor, across non-Infantry personnel, due to the fact it is not a feature of daily work. For both Exercise Shakedown and Exercise Final Encounter it would be wise for students to have conducted some revision of Infantry-based skills.
- Exercise Shakedown: is a formative exercise designed to put all students through a series of command appointments at section level.
- Exercise Final Encounter: is a summative exercise which lasts approximately 72-hours and students are expected:
- To carry out section level patrols, which often end in offensive action against the enemy.
- By night to conduct administration at platoon level involving patrols and harbour routine.
- To carry out a final attack against multiple enemy positions.
At the end of the course is the Course Dinner Night with awards for Top Section, Top Student and Top Field soldier presented.
PNCO and JNCO CLMs
The PNCO Training Team provides CLM training to Signallers, usually as part of their Class 3 course and the JCTT provides CLM training to Junior NCOs. During attendance on the JNCO CLM course students are also assessed for the Royal Signals Instructors Selection Board.
Reserve CLM Course
The CLM(R) course is typically 2-weeks in duration, including weekends. This course also starts with a fitness assessment, the AFT(R) or Annual Fitness Test (Reserve). The course focusses on career development, giving students the necessary skill-sets to pass the course and be awarded substantive rank.
The first week of the course involves a large quantity of classroom work, including presentations which are interactive. The syllabus involves: ethos, values and standards; values based leadership; quick attack procedures; casualty extraction; ground patrol training; field discipline; harbour drills; estimates; orders; and basic defence principles.
The second week of the course involves two exercises, following the same pattern as the SNCO CLM above.
5.12 611 (Communications Training) Troop
611 (Communications Training) Troop, formerly known as RADEX (ETT or Exercise Training Troop), delivers training for:
- Communications Systems Operators Class 3;
- Basic Signalling Skills;
- Yeoman of Signals;
- Foreman of Signals; and
- Troop Commanders.
Prior to 2013 Phase 2 soldiers spent 2-weeks with 611 (CT) Troop but during the 2013/14 training year this changed to 3-weeks; split as 1-week blocks over the duration of a course.
The first exercise students undertake is on is Exercise Key Development (KD) 1.2. This exercise concentrates on the fundamentals of a detachment working environment, from basic detachment sighting and construction to antenna theory and practical.
Exercise KD 3 tests students on everything they have learnt up to that point of the course, including KD 1.2. This is achieved by sending 2-3 person teams as RLDs around the Dorset countryside, their intention to set up, achieve voice communications and pass traffic to the headquarters.
The final stage is Exercise KD 4 in which students continue with RLD and HQ roles, but now start with a full pacex including initialisation; deploying a robust and resilient data network across the Dorset area.
Exercise Catterick Culmination provides students with the opportunity to deploy into the field on their first large scale exercise. Designed as a versatile training vehicle to develop agility and leadership through the application of military skills, it follows a flexible format in order to introduce Phase 2 soldiers to military training they would not normally experience in the initial training environment.
There is no set format to the Exercise, with a number of iterations over the years. For example the Exercise could involve Fighting in Built-Up Areas (FIBUA) consisting of ground sign awareness, room clearance drills, explosive method of entry, manual methods of entry, fast-roping, urban casualty evacuation, battlefield casualty drills, vehicle anti-ambush drills and urban confidence course (think running through buildings, crawling through tunnels systems and climbing over roofs).
Although the training is aimed at Phase 2 soldiers, leadership roles are given to Phase 3 soldiers on upgrade courses and officers on the Troop Commanders course. Both Signallers and Section Commanders will need to understand, and perhaps revise, quick battle orders, FUPs, Line of Departure and SITREPs amongst others. Section Commanders, especially, will appreciate the requirement to lead from the front, middle and rear!
6.0 Cost of Training
In 2012, it was estimated that the cost per soldier recruit for Phase 2 training for the Royal Corps of Signals was £13,500 to £53,100 (HC, 2012).
HC (House of Common Debates) Daily Hansard – Written Answer, 12 June 2012, Column 449W. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm120612/text/120612w0002.htm#120612w0002.htm_spnew58. [Accessed: 12 March, 2014].