42 Engr Regt

42 Engr Regt (Geo) arrive at RAF Wyton

‘With a little help from Fougasse!’

At precisely 1400 hrs on 10th July 2014 three teams of runners from 42 Engr Regt (Geo) arrived at RAF Wyton having carried their Regimental and Squadron flags 120 miles from Hermitage in Berkshire.

42 Engr Regt (Geo) is a JFC specialist Royal Engineer unit that provides geographic support to all elements of UK Defence and, in a symbolic gesture to mark its relocation from Denison Barracks to RAF Wyton, three  teams of six personnel completed an arduous run between Hermitage and Wyton under the Exercise name ‘FOUGASSE FLAGS’.

The relocation of 13 Geo Squadron and 16 Geo Support Squadron from Hermitage to Wyton is all the more significant as they join 14 Geo Squadron, who arrived from Monchengladbach, Germany in summer 2013. 14 Geo Squadron had been based in Germany since the end of hostilities in WWII and the flag raising ceremony marked the collocation of the three squadrons for the first time.

Intended as a fitting and memorable way of marking the regiment’s move, Exercise FOUGASSE FLAGS delivered exactly what it set out to do; move the Regimental, 13 and 16 Squadron flags over a 120 mile route by foot inside 24 hours. And so, having set out from Hermitage at 1400 hrs on the 9th July, the three flag teams arrived at the gates of RAF Wyton exactly 24 hrs later. Proud of their achievement and looking far from dishevelled, they were met by their Squadrons and a large number of Station personnel who had gathered for the Regiment’s flag raising ceremony.

Speaking ahead of the ceremony, WO1 William Robinson, 42 Engr Regt (Geo)’s RSM said: “This endeavour is the final symbolic act of moving both the regiment and the Royal Engineer Geographic Centre en masse from Denison Barracks to RAF Wyton; its new home within JFIG. The run has been a huge undertaking and reflects the selfless commitment that has gone into making this move possible.”

The RSM continued: “It is great to see the Station come together to celebrate this momentous occasion, as 42 Engr Regt (Geo) arrive after years of planning and recent hard work. Operating from our new home at Wyton, we are now better placed than ever to prepare for Operational Deployments and our wider Defence requirements, knowing that we are at the very heart of Defence Intelligence (DI) capability. The soldiers are very happy, and see huge opportunity in this move to brand new technical and living accommodation, purpose-built for our specialist Geographic Support role.”

The arrival of 42 Engr Regt (Geo) is the final piece in RAF Wyton’s transformation into a DI hub, ahead of JFIG reaching Full Operating Capability in September 2014. Indeed, the arrival of the regiment marks the largest intake of Army personnel into RAF Wyton in its 98 year history, its airfield having first opened in 1916 with the arrival of the Royal Flying Corps during WWI. There are now over 350 Army personnel at RAF Wyton, the Station’s Strength now in excess of 1500.

Overseeing his Regiment’s relocation to Wyton, Lt Col Richard Blunt, CO 42 Engr Regt (Geo) said: “Our relocation sees the collocation of all three regular Squadrons for the first time in the Regiment’s history into newly built Regimental Lines at Wyton. We are also joining with other elements of JFIG, and so completing the first phase of PRIDE (Programme to Rationalise and Integrate the Defence intelligence Estate). This represents a great opportunity for us as a Regiment to develop our capability in the new Contingency era for Defence in conjunction with other DI assets.”

Brig Nick Davies, Comd JFIG and Lt Col Blunt both addressed Station personnel at the flag raising ceremony, which included 42 Engr Regt (Geo) personnel already working at Wyton. Lt Col Blunt explained the  significance of ‘Running up’ the Regimental and Squadron flags and detailed the feat of those who participated in the run. He said: “This event has been a resounding success and I would like to thank the runners and organisers for all their hard work in planning and participating in this challenge.”

He also took the opportunity to tell those gathered about the Regiment’s wish to raise money for Cancer Research (UK) as a result of the Exercise FOUGASSE FLAGS run. He said: “The charity has been chosen due to the loss of Cpl Colin Clark RE, a member of the Regiment who died from this horrible disease in 2013. Doing this with Colin in mind has been a real motivating factor for many of the individuals taking part in the run.”

In his address to 42 Engr Regt (Geo), Brig Davies said: “I would like to add my congratulations on what has been a seamless and well organised move. I especially applaud the style in which you announced your arrival at Wyton and the symbolic way you have moved your Regimental and Squadron flags from Hermitage to Wyton.”

Brig Davies added: “Your arrival marks the completion of JFIG’s reorganisation. As Operations in Afghanistan scale down, your new facilities will afford you every opportunity to refocus on future missions, whether in response to the unexpected or as part of planned Contingencies, so keeping our country safer in the future. It’s also ideally suited for you to maintain your technical skills in between deployments.” The flag raising  ceremony saw all three flags raised simultaneously; the youngest member of each of the three flag teams bestowed the honour of raising their particular regimental or Squadron flag. Having raised the Regimental Flag, Spr ‘Jonty’ Pope (22) said: “It was a real thrill being asked to raise the flag. Everyone who took part in the run understood the significance of what we were doing and we all got a big buzz when we entered Huntingdon over the  Town Bridge with our flags held high.” The final part of the run saw the teams carry their unfurled flags around Huntingdon’s ring road, before climbing one last hill up to RAF Wyton.”

After the ceremony, and looking remarkably fresh from the flag run, Capt Phil Ryder, the regiment’s Adjutant said: “It was a privilege to be asked to represent the regiment in Exercise FOUGASSE FLAGS. I ran four legs of the relay, personally completing about 20 miles. Although our departure from Denison barracks was quite tough, taking on some quite undulating terrain in the Berkshire Downs and the Chiltern Hills, the relative flatnessof Cambridgeshire was a welcome sight.”

Exercise FOUGASSE FLAGS… a Sapper’s perspective

…Those of us selected to participate, trained for a couple of weeks, gradually increasing our five-mile relay stints until we could do four legs, one after the other. Set off by the RSM, it was great to be cheered out of Denison Barracks by the guys from the Royal School of Military Survey – Thanks lads…

…Despite being told to curb our enthusiasm, and not to race, we set off at such a gruelling pace that we ended up well ahead of our 24-hour schedule. Although the decision to take a well deserved break at 0200 hrs seemed a sound one, it didn’t really pay off as our couple of hours sleep weren’t exactly the best, and everyone’s legs had seized up, making it difficult to get back into our stride…

…We pushed ourselves to the end, arriving in Huntingdon just in time to unfurl the flags and run them over the Town Bridge and around the ring road. We all felt very proud running together in our teams…

…We got to RAF Wyton at exactly 1400 hrs and the three flags were raised outside the new RHQ building. Everyone understands the significance of Regiments relocation and that the flag raising ceremony marked the first occasion that all three Squadrons had been together…

…What a great experience for everyone involved. Not only did we mark this historic occasion by completing a physically demanding challenge, we also raised money for charity, and that has touched all of us in one way or another…

…One lesson we all learnt was that we should have been a little more ‘tortoise’ than hare, as on this occasion it didn’t pay to run at a speed of a thousand gazelles, and my aching muscles are testament to that!

What is ‘Fougasse’?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the work of 42 Engr Regt (Geo), it is likely that you won’t be familiar with the term ‘Fougasse’. So, the question that needs to be asked is; what is Fougasse?

By definition, a fougasse is an improvised mine constructed by making a hollow in the ground or rock and filling it with explosives (originally, black powder) and projectiles. Fougasse was well known to military engineers by the mid-eighteenth century but was also referred to as early as the sixteenth century. This technique was used in several European wars, the American Revolution, and the American Civil War. The term is still used today to describe such devices.

OK. So you now know what a fougasse mine is and its link to military engineers. But why does the term remain so significant to Four Two?

As is the will of military units to adopt and nurture nicknames, often adapting humorous illustrations to breathe life into its chosen logo or maxim, so Four Two came up with its own; a character they call Fougasse, and at first sight some sort of run of the mill globe carrying soldier. However, Four Two will tell you that their Fougasse is no ordinary run of the mill soldier. His origins are a thing of legend, but he’s instantly recognisable to them and can be found everywhere you find soldiers with maps. He’s more than just a logo or a badge. With a rifle in one hand and a globe over his shoulder, Fougasse is the embodiment of the Military Cartographer; Soldier First – Geographer second. Or is it the other way round?

Clearly significant, but who is responsible for designing the Fougasse character?

Born in 1887, Cyril Kenneth Bird, better known by his pen name ‘Fougasse’, was one of the most influential cartoonists of the time. A Royal Engineer himself, he was seriously injured at the Battle of Gallipoli during World War I and invalided out of the British Army. However, he was best known for his editorship of the satirical magazine Punch and his World War II warning propaganda posters.

His drawings were considered innovative, with a style that was both unique and popular. They were featured in many advertising campaigns and, as well as designing many posters for the London Underground, he also contributed to several British newspapers and magazines, including the Graphic and Tatler. During World War II, he worked unpaid for the Ministry of Information, designing humorous but effective propaganda posters, including the famous “Careless Talk Costs Lives” series. It was during this time that he reputedly sketched the character that Four Two call Fougasse.

Although Cyril Bird, alias ‘Fougasse’ died in 1965, aged 77, his drawings live on in the Fougasse character adopted by Four Two. Sometimes a small bronze statuette given as a farewell gift, and regularly used as a logo on the back of sports vests, Fougasse plays a big part in the lives of those in Four Two, even expressed as a term used in the naming convention for the regiment’s military exercises.

So you see, it really isn’t the whimsically madeup name you thought it was and, as 42 Engr Regt (Geo) folk will tell you; anything can be achieved with a little help from Fougasse!