34 (Northern) Signal Regiment (V)
As a result of the strategic review of reserves it was announced on 28 April 2009 that the regiment was to be disbanded
TA regiment comprising:
- RHQ and HQ (Northern) Squadron - Middlesbrough
- 49 (West Riding) Signal Squadron - Leeds
- 50 (Northumbrian) Signal Squadron - Darlington
- 90 (North Riding) Signal Squadron - Hartlepool
34 (Northern) Signal Regiment (Volunteers) was formed on 1 April 67. It was formed mainly from two old Territorial Army Regiments, 49th (Yorkshire) and 50th (Northumbrian), but also included personnel from the Royal Signals Army Emergency Reserve, the Yorkshire Yeomanry, 151 Brigade Signal Squadron, 336 Brigade Signal Squadron and Royal Corps of Transport, the Royal Engineers and many others.
Two of its operational squadrons took their numbers from 49th and 50th Regiments while the third was numbered 90, after the 90th Signal Regiment (Army Emergency Reserve). There is no doubt however that 34 is proud to have as its parents 49 (West Riding and North Midland) Armoured Division Signal Regiment, 46 (North Midland) Divisional Signals (today 90 (North Riding) Sign Sqn), 60 Signal Regiment (see 38 Signal Regiment(V) for more details) and 50 (Northumbrian) Infantry Division Signal Regiment. With the outline established the complex and laborious task of fitting people into the new establishment began. Although, in theory, there should have been enough officers and men in the two parent Regiments to more than man the new one, in practice there were a number of complicating factors.
Firstly, there was the TAVR "commitment". To the TA soldier the TAVR commitment, with it's "obligatory days" and liability for full-time service, was at first a formidable challenge. Many felt that it would be too demanding. And initially too there was several classes of volunteer; the majority was Class IIA, equivalent to the present day norm- but there was also Class IIB, somewhat equivalent to the AER with a lower commitment; there was Class I with a greater liability and also Class IV (the band) with a lower commitment and liability. Volunteers of all classes had to be accommodated.
Secondly, there was a major problem with rank and trade structures. Among the Officers there was an over abundance of Majors while among the soldiers certain trades were severely unbalanced against the new establishment.
Thirdly, there was geography. In the TA days there was less readiness than there is now to serve far from home and thus with the concentration on Teesside, Darlington and Leeds, large numbers of otherwise enthusiastic volunteers, on Tyneside, in York etc, were effectively "disenfranchised".
Finally, there was age, and many of the 'old and bold' were excluded on that basis alone, removing a lot of experience 'at a stroke' but also loosening some of the stronger ties of conservation traditions. In the longer term this allowed the new Regiment to develop its own identity more quickly.
Lt Col SP Irwin, the Commanding Officer of 50th Regiment was elected as the first Commanding Officer of 34th (Northern) Signal Regiment (Volunteers). Major GC Beadle, the Training Major of the 50th also continued in the new Regiment. The Honorary Colonel designate, Brigadier CC Fairweather was at the time a power in the inner circles of the Volunteer Army. Months of hard work by these three and by the Squadron Commanders designate, led up to the first coming together of 34th (Northern) Signal Regiment amid stacks of "Larkspur" crates on 1st April 1967.
The story of the Regiment since then can be told as a series of facts, dates, establishments and so on. These are vital, but a Volunteer Regiment remembers the passage of time in terms of Annual Camps and Commanding Officers and so the story of 34th (Northern) Signal Regiment (Volunteers) must be told in these terms. Inevitably, it must be told by someone who has experienced it and therefore its telling will to some extent be subjective, but without it the flavour and the value will be lost. The bare facts must be recorded too, to provide a skeleton on which the more personal story will form the substance. But first a brief description of how the new Regiment related to the old.
Regimental Headquarters was, and still is, at Brambles Farm in Middlesbrough, in a post war TA centre. In the same location were HQ Squadron commanded by Maj SH Knight, and 90th (North Riding) Squadron commanded by Maj RM Stewart. These two squadrons, although the majority of their officers and senior ranks were former members of the 50th Regiment, contained a very large element of entrants from other Arms, prominent among them a contingent from the Yorkshire Yeomanry who were given permission to retain their distinctive 'running fox' badges. In New Harewood Barracks in Leeds, another modern TA Centre was 49 (West Riding) Signal Squadron commanded by Major GJ Malcolm. This squadron was essentially completely formed from former members of the 49th Regiment. In the Bradford Armoury in Darlington was 50th (Northumbrian) Signal Sqn commanded by Maj RW Fawcett, mostly made up of former members of the 50th Regiment. Unofficially, there was a detachment of 90 Squadron on Tyneside, in unofficial accommodation but, as will be described later, determined to maintain a Royal Signals presence in the area.
ROLE The Regiment became part of 12 Signal Group (Volunteers) whose Headquarters were in the Duke of York's Headquarters in Chelsea. Also in the Group were 36th (Eastern) Signal Regiment(V), 40th (Ulster) Signal Regiment(V) and 81 Signal Squadron(V). The mobilisation role of this Group was defined as the provision of an area communication system between the Channel Ports to the rear boundary of 1 (BR) Corps in BAOR, in conjunction with the Regular Regiments of 4 Signal Group. Within this Group role, 34 Regiment was tasked with providing the area communication system in the Rear Maintenance Area. Over the years, the detailed requirements of the role have changed, although the area of operations, between the Rhine and the Dutch border and centred on Rheindahlen, has remained the same. For most of the period the Regiment has provided commcen "M", between the rear areas and the Corps rear boundary. The various base ordnance depots in the Monchengladbach area, and various Headquarters in the Rear Maintenance Area are linked into the area system by Commheads, or Logistic Message Centres (LMCs), working via a major message handling commcen.
EQUIPMENT To carry out it's role, the Regiment was equipped, soon after its formation, with C41 Radio Relay sets. The associated terminal equipment was initially less than adequate, with the elderly and temperamental S+DX and 7B teleprinters. By 1972, however, the more reliable TTVF 4/12 and Siemens T100 teleprinters had taken over and on-line cipher equipment had been added so that the Regiment could provide secure telegraph communications compatible with those provided by 4 Group.
To carry this equipment, originally 1 ton box-body vehicles were provided. Originally the terminal equipments were mounted in similar vehicles, but within a few years the concept of centralised terminal equipment necessitated the devising of rather do-it-yourself arrangements in Cargo 4 tonners. Again, essentially, purpose built box-body vehicles were provided. The radio relay equipment was transferred to "fish fryers", 1 ton trailers, somewhat to the chagrin of the operators who liked the comfort of the K9s, as were the terminal and message centre installations at the logistic message centres.
Radio, the staple of the old Divisional Regiments, have played a minor role. Landrover-mounted C11s were retained from the start to be used for initial engineering and administration purposes. In addition, a large number of civilian Pye sets, the FM60 and FM10 were provided, to be used for "customs communications" into the LMCs.
Some line-laying equipment was retained for laying radio-relay tasks and locals, but no trunk-line capability was required. SDS services were not specifically catered for, but enough vehicles were available for occasional special runs.
ESTABLISHMENT AND PERSONNEL
Initially, the Regiment's establishment was 601 all ranks, including the LAD and the Band. The communicating squadrons were made up of "brick troops", medium radio-relay and control centre troops. In 1970, the communication requirements were increased and the resulting increase in the size of the control centres resulted in an increase of 95 to the establishment. At this time, two different types of control centre troops were established, the larger, knows as Tyne A to provide communications centres, and the small (Type B) to provide Commheads in LMCs. In 1974, a further establishment review resulted from the new Royal Signals trade structure and a revised commitment in BAOR.
These changes caused a reduction in establishment to 658 including a new troop, the BRLSC troop, intended to provide one shift of switchboard operators for the main JHQ switchboard.
The strength in 1967 was initially 452, only 75% of the establishment. Recruiting became a high priority and 95% was achieved after the Spring Recruiting Campaign of 1969. 100% of the new, higher establishment was achieved in May 1972 and strength remained at or just below this level for many years.
The alterations to trade structures necessitated a major and continuous training effort which involved Regimental resources and much assistance from Regular units, particularly the Training Brigade in Catterick and the Army Apprentice College at Harrogate. The rewriting and training of technicians has always been a major problem, though never so acute, that the Regimental technical performance has suffered, and geographical recruiting variations have caused problems of balance between the operating squadrons.