05 Oct Ramblings of a Past Master
Ramblings of a Past Master
So this is it. After 2,407 days at the helm of our great Corps, it’s time to pack my bags and sail into the metaphorical sunset (or wherever retired Generals are supposed to go).
I took over as Master in March 2014 from Lieutenant General Robert Baxter, who was in turn preceded by General Sir Sam Cowan. I was patently aware that I trod in the footsteps of giants. Unlike my predecessors, as Director Capability and latterly as Deputy Chief of the General Staff, I had the advantage of operating at, or close to, the helm of Army business. So my ability to influence the forward shape and direction of travel of the Corps was made that much easier.
I’ll leave you to be the judge on whether we have made positive progress. But what Key Performance Indicators could we use to help us decide?
· Organisationally, we have said farewell to 2 Signal Brigade, to Hybrid and Multi-role Signal Regiments, to 3 Division Signal Regiment and to 7 Signal Regiment (the Mighty Seventh).
· Geographically, after some 70 years, we departed Mainland Europe. For the older BAOR warriors amongst us, this was a poignant occasion. Images of snow-clad forests on Exercise FLYING FALCON, and of massive troop movements on Exercise REFORGER will linger long in the memory banks.
· In terms of heritage, many will mourn the departure of the Royal Signals White Helmet Display Team, and of the Corps Band. While there may have been logic underpinning each of these changes, it is hard not to look back with fond sentimentality at their astonishing track-record. For me, the roar of the Triumph engine on Hawke Square, and the image of the lone piper playing the last post framed by the last rays of the dying sun will always be the seminal moments of our annual Corps weekend at Blandford.
· And we mourned the loss of two past Masters, both legends of our Corps. Generals Ian Sprackling (Sprackers) and John Badcock were irreplaceable. Both were life-long servants to the Corps. We owe them both an immense vote of gratitude.
· 3 Division Signal Regiment rose phoenix-like from the ashes. 15 Signal Regiment has been re-branded. The creation of 247 and 249 Gurkha Signal Squadrons strengthened the Corp’s close relationship with the Brigade of Gurkhas whilst the return of 280 Signal Squadron showcases our continued support to NATO operations. And the formation of 13 Signal Regiment has provided an Army focus for defensive cyber operations in the land environment. To my mind, these are all positive developments.
· The move of two signal regiments into Perham Down shifts, or maybe splits, the Corps’ Centre of Gravity. As a Corps, we need to think through the opportunities that this presents, in terms of individual career management, in terms of equipment husbandry and of optimising administrative support. This is ‘work in progress’.
· The unwelcome arrival of COVID-19 opens a new battleground. I have nothing but admiration in the manner in which our Corps has responded to the challenges presented by lock-down and in supporting national resilience measures in proactive, energetic and positive fashion.
· Although COVID-19 placed a damper on Corps 100, we can look back on the Salisbury gathering with enormous pride. And in ’Roger So Far’, we have a fantastic publication which I
hope will grace the coffee tables of households across the nation. If you don’t have a copy, buy one now!
· Finally, we recognised that the demands of the digital age placed a new emphasis on the intellectual and professional character of our Corps. Working under the banner of ‘Technical First, Soldier Always’, we created the CADUCEUS programme to drive through transformation in the people and training lines of development. At the very top of the Army and of Defence, our Corps is acknowledged as thought leaders in the delivery of people change. And my conversations with many of you at unit level have reinforced my strong belief that; in developing a commercially recognised talent based framework, supplemented by continuous professional development; we are doing the right thing and doing it well.
· The superb, unstinting support given by our Corps Headquarters and the RSA to those serving and retired soldiers in time of need.
· Our close affiliations with professional organisations (BCS, WCIT, IEEE and the like), corralled within a shrewd and progressive RSI framework.
· The strong bonds of friendship we enjoy with colleagues from other nations, from other services and from other cap-badge identities.
· The superb support that we continue to enjoy from our Colonel in Chief, Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal.
· The strength that we draw from across our 3Rs community.
· And finally, the contribution that is made each and every one of you.
Being your Master of Signals has been a singular honour, a unique privilege and a source of great joy to me. My thanks go to you all for your unswerving support.
Salaams and Certa Cito