“Zeitgeist” (Spirit of the Times)

The task of sponsoring the BAOR picture commission was accepted in January 2014 by 1ADSR (now 1 Sig Regt. The task of representing such a long period of service in Germany was a challenge, and the concept adopted was that of representing the changes in equipment and uniform through time to the present day. The eventual painting was produced by the selected artist Stuart Brown.

The approach chosen was to create a single scene, at first sight looking quite natural, but on closer inspection revealing the chronology and significant landmarks of our presence in BAOR. The former Soviet listening station on the Brocken is shown in rather sinister low cloud, redolent of the all-pervasive Soviet threat of the time. Just visible through the trees is the Bismarckturm, named after the Iron Chancellor who played a key role in the development of modern Germany, with the Schloss at Bisperode, the focus of many exercises, indicated left. Flying above the forest are a pair of RAF Harrier ground attack aircraft, for which Royal Signals provided tactical field communications.

The first element (left) is a Bruin communications vehicle, with soldiers erecting the radio mast, wearing 1950s battle dress. Included are a Lineman and a Dispatch Rider. The next element depicts an armoured Headquarters with interconnecting penthouse tents. The vehicle on the left is an AFV 439; the figures wear 58 pattern webbing and carry the SLR personal weapon. The third element shows a Bowman Land Rover with operator, the foreground figures wearing CS95, and carrying original pattern SA80 rifles. The final scene reveals a modern day operator on TacSat, wearing Osprey body armour and carrying the SA80 with the new fore grip attachment. A female soldier is included in this group, which is complemented by a MAN truck with communications mast.

The Rhine defines Germany both physically and emotionally, and identified the role of so many signallers, namely those of the British Army of the Rhine. It has featured prominently in the consciousness of Royal Signals, bisecting the rear and forward zones, in which so many of the Corps operated, exercised and lived. The progression of equipment and soldiers demonstrates the evolving role of the Corps, from NATO defence to Out of Area operations, and exemplifies the combination of our Corps ethos with the environment and soul of our hosts across the decades – the Spirit of the Times, or in German, Zeitgeist.

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