WELCOME TO 14 GEOGRAPHIC SQN ROYAL ENGINEERS!
They have arrived! After all the planning and packing 14 Geographic Squadron Royal Engineers (14 Geo) have arrived at their new home here at Wyton. Approximately 70 personnel and a whole range of vehicles and equipment have been transported from Germany to the new Roy Lines buildings. Families have begun to settle and children are getting ready to start the new school term in September.
Who are 14 Geo?
Most individuals who have served in Germany will have benefitted from the work of the Sqn and they have left behind there a legacy of sustained support to the Garrisons and units of BFG and numerous products we all rely on day to day. During nearly seventy years in Germany the Squadron’s primary role has been to provide geographic support to HQ ARRC and 1 (UK) Div often on major exercises. More recently it deploys a constant flux of geographic technicians to support Op HERRICK and its associated exercises. In addition others will be more familiar with the day to day products printed by 14 Geo such as the JHQ map and the ever present BFG Route Planner.
Traditionally the Squadron was made up of surveyors, cartographers and printers engaged in the production of mapping and overlays to assist military staff in planning and execution of operations. Later, with the advent of the digital mapping and geographic information systems, these core skills became complimented with the addition of high-end Geo analysis, 3D visualisation and the provision of web services such as GeoViewer (Fig 1) to put the information at the fingertips of those who need it. All this predominantly provided by junior soldiers deploying to the point of need, ensuring the Geo Analyst of today has a formidable array of skills to bring to bear. Still trained in the art of cartography they are also required to understand geodesy, hydrogrophy, meteorology along with the ability to manipulate intricate datasets to produce complex predictive analysis to answer the critical questions of decision makers.
History 1825 – 1995
The Squadron was formed 4th April 1825 at Chatham as the 14th Survey Company. Under a Royal Warrant the company moved to Belfast in July to commence the survey of Ireland, a task which was completed within 17 years. Further moves followed with a transfer to Preston to undertake surveys of Northern England and Scotland, eventually returning to Ireland to be based in Dublin in 1879.
During the Great War, 1914 -1919, the 14th Survey Company was reorganised as the 14th Army Troops Company RE as listed in the RE Order of Battle as Corps Troops in Egypt. Taking their part in the victorious campaigns of the Egyptian Expeditionary force in Egypt, Sinai, Palestine & Syria the company was engaged in more traditional engineering tasks. Bridgehead defences, water supply, forward area defences and construction of roads and shelters were the order of the day. Of note, in September 1916 the Company completed a 20 ton heavy bridge over the Sweetwater Canal at Serapeum West.
Post war the Company reformed as 14th Survey Company RE returned to Dublin to continue the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain relocating to Edinburgh in 1920. The Company, for the first time, lost its independence and was absorbed into the newly formed Survey Battalion RE at Southampton.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, 1939-1945, 14 (Corps) Field Survey Company, as part of the British Expeditionary Force, moved to France in September 1939. Tasked with producing large scale mapping, defence work overprints & carrying out triangulation, work was a constant even during the withdrawal to Dunkirk at which point they were forced to destroy the printing presses to avoid them falling into German hands.
The Company regrouped and, whilst occupying several locations back home including a brewery in Dunstable (information suggests that the brewery had been emptied of beer prior to their arrival, though this information does come from company members at that time!), continued to support the war effort as part of the Home Forces of Eastern Command. With the threat of German invasion the Company was soon involved in home defence work on fixing coastal defence artillery and radar instillations along with the production of vital map stocks. The 6th June, following months of planning, saw the Allies commence operation OVERLORD landing troops on the Normandy beaches. Leading up to the invasion the Company was extensively engaged in the provision of mapping and imagery to support the planning process. The Company crossed the channel on D+14 as part of the British Second Army and immediately engaged in the production of enemy defence overprints, intelligence and goings maps and local surveys along with producing large quantities of mapping. The company worked at speed, on the move and all hours, supporting and moving with the Headquarters. This continued throughout the Allied advance until the surrender.
The Company remained in Germany forming part of the emerging British Army of the RHINE (BAOR). In 1947 the Company was re-designated as 14 Field Survey Squadron RE. Several locations became home during their time in Germany including Tela Bks in Ratingen which was renamed Roy Barracks, after General William Roy who was responsible for the survey of Scotland. (Fig 2)
In 1977 the Squadron took responsibility for 3 BAOR Map Depot and took the name 14 Topographic Squadron subsequently renamed 14 Independent Topographic Squadron RE on the 1st May 1988 granting the OC powers of a CO.
History 1995 – today
The Squadron moved to Ayrshire Barracks Monchengladbach in the Spring of 1995, its last home in Germany and during the last few years Squadron personnel have been almost constantly deployed alongside other UK, NATO and UN forces (Fig 3) throughout conflicts in the Balkans and Middle East. The Sqn deployed as a Unit on several occasions during this time including Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan but has continuously deployed individuals to provide specialised support to Operations at all levels including Sappers to support Battle Groups and Special Forces in forward areas of Afghanistan. In 2012 a team was deployed in support of Op OLYMPIC, the Irish Guards having been tasked to assist with security at the Eton Dorney site requested some analysis be done on the perimeter surveillance cameras and observation posts. The team were able to provide a series of products which demonstrated the camera coverage and identified a number of vulnerable areas (Fig 4).
Recent years have seen the Squadrons commitments increase with the ever growing demand for geographic support both in preparation for and on Operations. The Cartographer of old is now a multi-faceted technician who is able to deliver bespoke mapping, high-end geo analysis, visualisation, web services and survey.
The move to Wyton and the newly built Roy Lines complex will see the Sqn reunited with 42 Engineer Regiment (Geographic) under the Joint Force Intelligence Group banner. An uplift in equipment is imminent including increased capacity to provide Geo information to military networks in the field and a bespoke lightweight vehicle, TIGAS (Tactical Information & Geospatial Analysis System) to enable deployment alongside formations on mobile operations. As to what the future holds, only time will tell, but rest assured the maps will keep coming.
WO Wayne Bowden, who has done much of the preparatory work at Wyton for the Sqn’s move said: “It’s good to see everyone here at last after all the hard work and planning. The Sqn is already starting to get involved in Station life and were honoured to be involved in the Freedom of Huntingdonshire Ceremony and Parade. ”