Royal Signals

In about 1972 it was felt by me and others that the time had come for me to hand over the section to John Davies.   I returned to the army and began to see if I could get the REME section to function.  They had a landrover, but it soon became clear that there was not way that we could legally have boys driving the landrover in the valley.  All insurance systems prevented it.   I went to Catterick to the REME to do some training in a simple way on landrovers and learnt a little about them.  But it was just not possible in the valley with our system to do anything useful.  We did not have a  pit and I soon discovered that I had a greater theoretical interest in motors than practical patience and skill – the sort which I saw that Fr Richard had.  So i told Fr. Simon that the REME was not on and could I try signal.


I had some success with signals.   I learnt about he equipment which I was naturally quite interested in. I wen to Blandford to do a course on the new kit which was coming in call the Larkspur. and later this was replaced by the Clansman range.  We managed to get on the Schools net with 48 foot masts just before the bounds wall.  the possibility of good communications from our side of the valley was small and we never did better than we did with these masts which stayed until they were require by the army.  before and since communications have been non existent.   Not even the experts from Catterick have been able to get us going.   During this period we used the old boiler room of the gym, and later this became the wind-room technicians room, under Douglas Kershaw.

I managed to get the old metal work shop in the old buildings opposite the carpentry shop.  David Powell, a JH parent friend in the carpet trade gave me some carpet tiles and we turned it into a good room both for technical work and as ac classroom.  Signals set up some antennae for us and helped us get the kit going, but with regard to the schools net we failed.

It proved to be quite extraordinarily difficult to get all the radios working at the same time properly – innumerable exercises with great imagination fell apart because the radios did not work – Fr. Simon learnt his lesson but beginning to depend on them for Field days and then despairing of them.   This was the time when the great signals war film. A BRIDGE TOO FAR was begins screened, and it was consoling to find that in the greatest para invasion the whole thing was gummed up because of the signals failure.  Field days were a combination of challenge, nightmare and a splendid dinner.  The challenge was thinking up something new – usually this involved visits to RAF stations but this was not very challenging to the boys.   The signals we sometimes tried out own exercises, sometimes went to Catterick  8 Signals Rgmnt. at other times we linked with the army exercises.   I once organised an overnight exercise with the 90 RAF section on the hills above Ilkley.  It was never repeated and I discovered that I was really not an outdoor type nor had the scouting facility for doing those things – I did not really like sleeping in tents.  Br. Henry, I remember was a stalwart support of the exercise and ran one end of the camp. This was my first meeting with Bernard  who used to drive for Appleby the Ampleforth garage and coach owner – we must have used Appleby’s bus, he later was a Eucharistic minister in the village and drove the local van round the estate .  After the exercises there would be the CCF dinner .  this was a massive affair. In my early days with Fr. Peter it would be in the Fairfax Arms Gilling because the publican was a friend of  Fr. Peters’ – Frank Amies.  All the officers would be in blues (army) – the only time they were worn unless they went to camp and the others were in service dress.   Friends would be invited especially Brigadier Loring who was a long time friend – his sons were in the school and one of them was killed in Aden.  There would be toasts but no speeches.   Later these evens went to the Feversham Arms when the Gonzalez’ son was in St. Aidan’s.   The evening was always enormous fun – Ted Wright, Eric Boulton,  Edward Corbould, Timothy Wright, Simon Trafford, were the stalwarts, and often Anthony Ainscough was invited as a guest. In the early days the RSM was not invited but later Fred Baxter was.  We would also have those who had helped us on the Field Day.  The Dinner was a little present and thankyou to the officers in the monastery who did not get much out of the work they put in.  The other officers were paid for field days and camps.