RSA Bedford Branch
Visit to Royal Hospital Chelsea 2009
The North End Social Club
Meetings commence at 2000 hours.
The Annual General Meeting of the Branch takes place on the last Tuesday in February with reports on the previous year’s business, accounts and funds, plus elections of Branch officials.
Bedford RSA History Highlights
Current branch membership is approximately 65-70 with between 10 and 15 attending monthly meetings.
Records show there was a Branch in Bedford during the 50’s but little is known about it. Bedford Branch reformed in 1979 following an inaugural meeting; since then we have held regular Monthly Meetings in a variety of locations.
In 1996 Northampton Branch closed, as a result we now take members from Northampton, Harpenden, Luton, Milton Keynes, Wellingborough and Dunstable. Members wishing to stay with the Bedford Branch after they have moved from the area can do so by paying the £5 annual subscription (for which they will receive a regular newsletter and be invited to attend our Annual Branch Dinner). We hold numerous social events. To find out more see a recent copy of my ‘Newsletter’.
Since 1981, between four and twenty five Branch members have attended the Annual Royal Signals Reunions both when at Catterick and subsequently in Blandford.
Bedford Branch has its own standard, dedicated in the presence of our Colonel in Chief, Princess Ann on 4th July 1983 at The Catterick Reunion; how proud we all were. Whenever the opportunity arises our Branch Standard is paraded with honour.
Origins of 54 (East Anglian) Signal Squadron
Origins of the Regiment date back as far as the 16th Century. 54 Signal Regiment can be traced back to 1915 with the title ‘East Anglia’ appearing circa 1908.
In 1559 Queen Elizabeth 1 issued instructions for the muster of a regular City of London Militia. One of these trainee bands was the Tower Hamlets Regiment – an element of which later became the Royal Corps of Engineers (RE). In 1858 it appears that the Scientific College at Kensington applied to form the ‘Middlesex Corps’ of three Engineer battalions – 1st London RE, 1st Middlesex RE and 2nd Tower Hamlets RE. The latter was eventually raised in 1868 and a section of this unit served with 26 Field Company RE in the South African War.
Cadet Engineer Corps at Bedford Grammar School
In 1885 Captain Glunike, a Master at Bedford Grammar School and a retired Engineer Officer of the German Army, formed a Cadet Engineer Corps at the school. For administrative purposes this was attached to the Tower Hamlets Volunteers. The Cadet Corps flourished and early in 1900 it was proposed to raise an Engineer Corps in the town of Bedford. In the spring of that year the Corps was authorised as ‘1st Bedfordshire RE (Volunteers)’ with an establishment of four companies. Major Glunike assumed command and the Cadet Corps was attached to it. The new unit was so popular that in 1902, it was increased to six companies. There is still a Royal Engineers Combined Cadet Force at Bedford School.
East Anglia Division
On the inauguration of the Territorial Army in 1907 the 1st Bedfordshire RE (Volunteers) became the East Anglian Divisional RE, with two Field Companies and a Divisional Telegraph Company. The latter was formed at Bedford on 4th April 1908 under the command of Captain R Wilson and had an establishment of two Officers and 38 other ranks. This Company was mobilised in 1914 under the command of Captain H J Randall. The 54th Divisional Signal Company was dispatched as part of that Division to Gallipoli. The 54th Division and Signal Company subsequently served in Egypt and Palestine until the end of the war, when the Company was disbanded in 1919.
In 1920 the 54th (East Anglian) Divisional Signals was formed at Stratford, with one Company based in Bedford. In 1939 it was transferred to the regular establishment as 4th Divisional Signals, serving in the Far East.. The unit was subsequently disbanded to provide units for 21st Army Group. 54 Divisional Signal Regiment was reformed at Bedford in 1956 and subsequently moved to Cambridge in 1961. At this point the Regiment incorporated two London based units. In 1967 the unit was reduced to a Squadron and remains part of 36 (Eastern) Signal Regiment.
In 2006, 754 and 756 Signal Troops became part of 60 (Royal Buckinghamshire Hussars) Signal Squadron. On the 18th March 2006 a formal dinner was held at 54 (EA) Signal Squadron SHQ to mark the farewell of the two Bedford Signal Troops. Alongside serving members of the two Bedford Troops ex-members of Bedford were invited to attend. Since that time the Squadron has had many Squadron Commanders and has gone through many changes in role and equipment.
Update – Email from Duncan Kerr sent 29 Sept 2009
As the first OC of 54EA Signal Squadron I feel saddened that the Squadron has passed into antiquity. When we formed under the TAVR banner in 1967 and attended our first camp with 44 and 45 Squadrons, the drive was to integrate the squadrons into 36 Regiment under Lt Colonel Eric Smith with Major Brian Prophet as 2IC.
In 54 Squadron it was good to see so many of the faces from the old 54 EA Signal Regiment and welcome new members from the AER Signals and other units. It was also good to see that the powers that be could be flexible and that we managed to keep WO1 Peter Hurst on the books beyond his retirement day so that we still had an experienced SSM known to all to ensure that we had a solid team of NCOs. We were also very lucky in that new officers who were drafted in and I was particularly pleased to welcome Captain Des Fuller as my 2IC (Des was later to take command of 45 Squadron). The Troop Officers were mainly from 54 Regiment and included Captain John Beswick from the 2 Squadron 54 Regiment Luton Detachment and Lieutenant Chris Gale (Later Colonel) from 1 Squadron 54 Regiment.
Our new role brought the ladies into the picture; it has always been my firm opinion that their contribution to the Squadron and its operations was excellent and their high expectations for the handling of traffic set a worthy challenge to our radio and line operators and technicians.
Lt Colonel Smith proved to be a hard but very effective driver and his hard work was apparent in 1968 when 36 Regiment went to BAOR and performed in a very professional manner. 54 Squadron was lucky to be based for the exercise with the Canadians at Fort Henry near Soest. We performed well, struck up an excellent relationship with the Canadians and even impressed them to the point that they thought that we were a “crack regular unit”.
Throughout the next few years the primary focus was on making sure that the Squadron could communicate properly. In the early 70s, after I handed over command to my 2IC Captain (then Major) Brian Mottram, I had the opportunity to watch the Squadron in action in Germany as a Staff Officer and was pleased to see that communications were sound, Since that time the Squadron has had many Squadron Commanders and has gone through many changes in role and equipment. Despite the fact that I live out on the Canadian West Coast I have been able to keep relatively well informed. My service with 54 EA Signal Squadron was over 40 years ago but I am still proud to wear Jimmy on my blazer pocket and say that ‘I served’.
Major DG Ker TD
Royal Signals (Retd)
First – OC 54 EA Signals Squadron (TAVR)
Join your local RSAMembership of The RSA is open to any person – Regular, TA/Reserve, National Service, ATS, WRAC – who served with the Corps
Bedford RSA Committee
|Brig P A Dally CBD DL
Robert (Bob) Major
|VICE CHAIRMAN||Michael Taylor|
|SECRETARY||Trevor E. Holyoake|
|TREASURER||Robert (Bob) Major|
|VISITING OFFICER||Larry Everett (Associate Member)|
|COMMITTEE MEMBERS||Mr J D Wakefield
Mr R A D Gorringe
Mr M J Taylor
Mr Alan Welch
Mr E Isaac
|AUDITORS||Robert Sheridan & Arthur Wheeler (Associate Member)|