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RE full dress is issued to musicians. It combines a busby (with a white plume out of a grenade socket on the left and a blue bag on the right), scarlet tunic (blue facings and yellow piping) and blue overalls with the broad scarlet stripe adopted in 1832. Busbies were first embraced after the 1856 amalgamation, a right that came with the grenade badge.
In 1870 the German folk melody, Path across the Hills, and the march, Wings, composed by 'Dolores' (Ellen Dickinson, the daughter of an artillery brigadier) were arranged by Bandmaster Newstead as the corps march. British Grenadiers was substituted by order of the Duke of Cambridge as being more correct for a grenade-badged corps but Lord Kitchener intervened to restore Wings in 1902. British Grenadiers is now recognised as the second corps march.
A sapper directing one of the Corps of Royal Engineers' versatile tractors. (MoD)
Members of the RE mess would be familiar with the singing of 'Hurrah for the CRE', the song of the sappers in South Africa. The rank of sapper in the RE equates with private in other corps.
RE responsibilities developed over the years to give engineering support to keep the army moving (armoured vehicles for breaching obstacles, earth moving, road building, bridging and mine detection); counter-mobility (impeding enemy movement with obstacles, minefields and demolition); defence (building, water supply, concealment and deception) and airfield construction and repair.
Officers new to the RE had to be 'gauged' through a heavy drinks cabinet as an initiation to the mess. Aspirant subalterns would be stripped of scarlet mess jacket, waistcoat and spurs, fed between the shelves of the 'gauge' and beaten with rolled newspapers until ejected back to their fellow subalterns.
The Corps of Signals was formed in 1920 out of the Royal Engineers' Signal Service, which had evolved over sixty-six years from cable telegraph, through Morse, flag and lamp signalling to heliographs, telephone, wireless and even pigeon post. It was the
Signaller with radio equipment installed in the back of a Land Rover
Duke of Wellington who first organised a system of dispatch riders during the Peninsular War. The Morse code and electric telegraph, invented in 1837, were used in the Crimea and perfected in the colonial wars that followed. During the First World War the RE Signal Service grew to 70,000 men, so necessary had the science of signalling become to modern warfare.
In the defence cuts of the 1990s the corps was reduced to ten signal regiments, an electronic warfare regiment and five independent signal squadrons, some 8,000 personnel in all. The Satellite Communications Regiment and the Tactical Communications Regiments employ a large range of equipment to provide essential information to commanders in the field and operations centres around the globe via voice, data and IT systems.
Corps headquarters were located at Catterick until 1967, when they were moved to the School of Signals at Blandford Forum in Dorset, the headquarters of the Telegraph Troop in 1872.
The blue peaked cap is worn with the corps badge, the figure of Mercury (the winged messenger) holding a caduceus, poised on a globe, with the corps motto Cert a cito (Swift and sure) below7, and a crown above. Mercury was the brainchild of Maj Beresford of the Telegraph Battalion RE in 1884.
Yeomanry regiments transferred to the corps in 1920 as its TA element were allowed to keep their own badges and some other items of uniform.
No. 1 dress 'blues' are plain except for the broad scarlet RE stripe on the trousers and the black belt worn by the Signals with this order of dress.
In combat/barrack dress signallers may be identified by their age-old sleeve flash, which is diagonally divided white/blue, and the corps stable belt, which is banded light blue and green with a blue dividing stripe to represent communications over sky, land and sea respectively.
The corps band is issued with full dress, which is RE pattern, except that the busby has a scarlet bag and plume, the scarlet tunic a simple cuff design, and spurs are worn. Dress spurs testify to the cavalry origins of the corps and the mounted sections that operated in the field with cable carts before mechanisation in the 1930s.