British Army - The Royal Signals - Royal Signals Summary - a9a1 - Armed Forces



The Royal Corps of Signals (R Signals) is the combat arm that provides the communications throughout the command system of the Army. Individual battlegroups are responsible for their own internal communications, but in general terms, all communications from Brigade level and above are the responsibility of the Royal Signals.

Information is the lifeblood of any military formation in battle and it is the responsibility of the Royal Signals to ensure the speedy and accurate passage of information that enables commanders to make informed and timely decisions, and to ensure that those decisions are passed to the fighting troops in contact with the enemy.

The rapid, accurate and secure employment of command, control and communications systems maximises the effect of the military force available and consequently the Royal Signals act as an extremely significant 'Force Multiplier'. The Corps motto is Certa Cito’ which roughly translates to mean ‘Swift and Sure'.

Functions of military communications

Military communications roles undertaken by the Royal Signals may be divided into three separate functions:

Strategic communications: Communications between the political leadership, military high command, and military administrative and field commands at the divisional level. In terms of capability as opposed to function, modern communications systems increasingly blur the distinction between strategic and tactical systems as a consequence of technological advance.

Tactical communications: Communications between field formations from corps to division through brigade down to battalion level.

Electronic Warfare: The security of own forces and friendly forces communications, and the penetration, compromise and degradation of hostile communications.

Roles of military communications

Communications have enabling capabilities that support all military operations in war and peace. These roles may be summarised under the following headings:

Command and Control

Communications enable commanders at all levels to exercise command and control over their own forces. Communications enable commanders to receive information, convey orders and move men and materiel, and select and position their attacking and defensive forces to maximum effect in order to take advantage of their own strengths and enemy weaknesses.

The capacity to deliver firepower, troops and supplies to any part of the battlefield is crucial to success. From the earliest days of messengers, flags, bugles and hand signals, this has been vital to successful command. Modern electronic communications systems have vastly added to this capacity, increasing the distances over which Command and Control can be exercised - from line of sight or hearing to any geographical area where forces are deployed.

Computerised Command Information

Communications enables commanders to receive information from the field and rear to build up a picture of the state and disposition of their own forces as well as enemy forces. Commanders have always sought to have the fullest possible information on the dispositions and states of both their own and enemy, forces - but were typically limited by restraints of time, space and information carrying capacity.

Computer hardware and software – allied to the geographical spread, bandwidths and data-carrying capacity of modern military networks - have removed many of these constraints. Computer processing power enables information received from all sources to be sorted into meaningful patterns of use to commanders.

Such sources include:

  • Voice and data reports from troops in the field

  • Intelligence reports

  • Mapping

  • Battlefield sensors

  • Multi-spectral imaging from ground reconnaissance units

  • Reconnaissance and surveillance satellites, aircraft, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles

  • Electronic Warfare systems on ground, air and sea platforms

In modern war, to capture the full scope of computer information systems, this communications effect is typically described as Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR)

Electronic Warfare

Secure communications deny the enemy knowledge of own and friendly force activities, capabilities and intelligence (Communications Security. Communications enable the penetration, compromise and destruction of enemy communication systems (Electronic Warfare).


Royal Signals units have the following principal missions:

Communications Engineering: Communications units design, build and dismantle the tactical communications networks at division and brigade levels.

Communications Operations: Communications units operate the tactical communications networks at division and brigade levels, and also battalion and battalion group level in the case of a detached formation. In conventional divisional and brigade level operations, battalions will typically be responsible for their own communications.

Communications Management: Communications units are responsible for the management of the whole communications nexus at division and brigade level.

These missions will need to be performed in all phases of battle:

Offensive: In the offensive: setting up command posts, setting up area communications networks and setting up wire networks to connect battalions to brigades and elsewhere as far as possible. Can set up air portable communications systems shortly after a foothold is secured on an air base.

Advance: In the advance: continuing to keep forward and area communications running and providing logistics and maintenance needs for company and brigade forces as appropriate. Running wire forwards as far as possible with the advance, Setting up alternate Brigade HQs. Relocating and maintaining relay and retransmission points and ensuring communications to rear and flanks remain open.

Defensive: In the defence: re-enforcing command posts and relay points. Increasing the complexity and robustness of wire networks. Providing alternate and redundant communications for all users.

Withdrawal: In the withdrawal: Preventing communications assets falling into enemy hands, setting up alternate command posts on the line of withdrawal, running wire networks backwards to rear. Keeping nodes open and supplying logistics and maintenance support as required.

Non-Combat missions: Communications perform non-combat roles during peacetime, including national peacetime contingencies and multilateral peace support operations in foreign countries.


As of early 2009 the R Signals had a strength of 8,600 personnel. The Corps has 12  Regular Army regiments (including one training regiment), and 11 Territorial Army regiments, each generally consisting of between three and up to six Squadrons with between 600 and 1,000 personnel.

Royal Signals personnel are found wherever the Army is deployed including every UK and NATO headquarters in the world. The Headquarters of the Corps is at the Royal School of Signals (RSS) located at Blandford in Dorset.

Royal Signals units based in the United Kingdom provide command and control communications for forces that have operational roles both in the UK itself, including Northern Ireland, and overseas including mainland Western Europe and further afield wherever the Army finds itself.

There are a number of Royal Signals units permanently based in Germany, Holland and Belgium from where they provide the necessary command and control communications and Electronic Warfare (EW) support for both the British Army and other NATO forces based in Europe. Royal Signals personnel are also based in Cyprus, the Falkland Islands, Belize and Gibraltar.


All Royal Signals officers undergo officer training at RMA Sandhurst (44 weeks) before taking the Royal Signals Troop Commanders Course at the Royal School of Signals at Blandford Camp. Royal Signals officers are expected to have, or to obtain university degree-level engineering qualifications.

Recruit training for other ranks involves two phases:

  • Phase 1 - Soldier training (11 to 21 weeks: apprentices 6 months)

  • Phase 2 - Trade training (7 – 50 weeks)

Every Royal Signals soldier, whether from the Army Training Regiment Lichfield, or the Army Apprentices College Arborfield, carries out trade training at the Royal School of Signals at Blandford Camp. The length of the course depends on the trade chosen, varying from seven weeks up to 50.

All trades will carry out a common module of Basic Signalling Skills and a computer literacy module before specialising. Special Operators attend an introductory course of two weeks at the Royal School of Signals before completing their training at the Defence Special Signal School in Chicksands.

11 Signal Regiment is responsible for the special to arm training for both officers and other ranks. The Royal School of Signals at Blandford Camp conducts approximately 144 different types of courses and numbering over 700 courses run per year.

There are in excess of 5,250 students completing courses throughout the year with about 1,000 students on courses at any one time. These figures equate to approximately some 470,000 Man Training Days a year.