The Corps March

32/36 Troop Royal Signals, June 1951 Instructors Sgt Hogan, Lcpl Hook,
Lcpl Jackson
(I am second in from right second row, marked with an X)




Len and his wife Mavis today, August 2007

My Life in the Royal Signals
by Len Payne 1951 - 1966

I enlisted into the Royal Signals on May 21st, 1951. Basic Training was at Somme Lines, Catterick, 32/36 Troop, under the instruction of Sgt Hogan, Cpl Searles and Lance Corporals Hook and Jackson, the SSM was  Jimmy Derwent, who was later to be my RSM in 6 Armd. Div.
Because of my previous Army Cadet training I was promoted to Acting Lance Corporal, and took part in the training of my fellow recruits in foot drill, weapons training and map reading.

Basic training completed in July,  I was posted to 4 Training Regt. to start trade training.After passing out as Operator Keyboard I was selected to start training as a Cipher Operator under Sgt Upton, who would have been right at home at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party.

Part of the course curriculum was to be able to sing all the verses of the Lambton Worm in a Geordie dialect.  Another four months saw the initial intake of seventeen trainees whittled down to just four, and on January 9th, 1952 I passed out as a Cipher Operator and was promoted to Corporal. 

Arriving at the Depot Regt. Saighton Camp, Chester, where I am sure I was the only corporal in Corps history to lose a whole troop of 120, returning Middle East time expired men in a snowstorm, I was put on a draft for B.A.O.R. and joined the newly reformed 6 Armoured Division.


3 Div          
6th Armoured Division          
Cyprus District          
Guards Brigade          

HQ Melf

Aldershot & District          

British Army of the Rhine


1952 - 1954


6 Armoured Division was reformed in 1952 as part of 1 Corps to counter the Warsaw Pact countries threat to Europe, it was fully equipped to deal with any threat that might be presented and life was, to say the least, interesting.As a new division we were constantly in the field training to hone our skills and work as a team with the other three divisions in 1 Corps, 7 Armoured Division, 11 Armoured Division and 2 Infantry Division.  It soon became evident to the Divisional Cipher Officer that life in a Div HQ was not my cup of tea and a posting to 20 Armoured Brigade was arranged.

20 Armoured Brigade under the command of Brigadier Timmis was located in Munster, it contained some crack units, the famous 17/21 Lancers, equipped initially with Centurion tanks, 6 Royal Tank Regiment also with Centurions, the King's Dragoon Guards equipped with Dingo Scout Car's, 2nd Royal Horse Artillery and The King's Royal Rifle Corps as our infantry support. All in all a formidable unit.

Len Payne was in his element, as a cipher operator at brigade level there was no day to day sitting in an office on rotating 8 hour shifts as was the case at Div HQ,  I was left alone with very little contact from Division until we went on the next field exercise.  I quickly became absorbed into 4 Squadron life, with little cipher work to fill my time,  I was assigned as Troop Corporal and Signal Office Superintendent, I also acted as Squadron Office Superintendent and Pay Clerk and spent a considerable amount of time with the line troop picking up as much knowledge as I could. When the time for another field exercise came around I would have another cipher operator temporarily attached from Div HQ to assist me.  While in the field I exercised my cipher trade as well as being Signal Office Super and NCO i/c Base Linemen.  This was the best posting I had during my service, and my two years at 20 Armoured Brigade (1952/1954), turned me from a newly promoted inexperienced cipher corporal, into a fairly competent NCO.

Then came the blow, after a bit off a "dust up" with some German police, I found myself on a Slow Boat to China, only instead of China I landed up in Korea as a member of a unit with I am sure the longest name ever devised, The British Commonwealth Forces, Communications Zone, Signal Squadron, or Britcom for short.



I am seated second row from front right hand side X marks the spot!

The Common Soldier

He is called a Common Soldier, he comes from many lands,
He fights in steaming jungles, he dies in desert sands,
He sweats upon the drill square, he fears the sergeants eye,
He is the first to march away, among the first to die.
He cares not for daunting odds, nor seeks a place to hide,
He is but a Common Soldier, with another at his side.
He takes no joy in death or causing hurt to others,
He is but a soldier, and all soldiers are but brothers.
He will though fight his countries foe,
He will pass the point where few men go,

He takes misfortune in his stride,
He takes success with quiet pride.
He is given tawdry medals, to be hung upon his breast,
He is quietly contented, he was called, he passed the test.
He is called a Common Soldier, always fighting in the van,
He is called a Common Soldier, but a very Uncommon Man.
He faced the Roman, Turk and Hun,
He was seen at Vimy and Bull Run,
He served with Monty, Ike and Moore,
He took the heights - he stormed the shore.
He fought his war, for it was the last,
He then fought others, to repeat the past.
He fought again to free Kuwait,
He fought again, but not with hate,
He saw the enemy, a simple man,
He saw the spectre of Saadam.
He knew too what must be done,
He knew he might die under desert sun.
He knows his worth for across the lands,
He hears the cheers and marching bands,
He knows too that his time has come,
He knows his duty was bravely done.
He stands alone among the throng,
He is bowed and bent, but inward strong,
He was once a Common Soldier, a small part of the plan,
He was once a Common Soldier, but a very Uncommon Man.

to all my brothers I never met

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 copyright©Len Payne 2006