Monday, 1 April 2013

Fern Leaf and Feather: A military History

Earlier this year I had the privilege of meeting an extremely charming chap (and his lovely wife too) who possessed the title 'Master Poulter', the name given to the person at the top of the Worshipful Company of Poulters (which came into existence in 1368), a body that does great charitable works in the today's world.

The Master Poulter came to present a salver to one of the young emerging soldiers (of which in our regiment there are indeed many I'm proud to say) and more than a few of those present that weekend asked me what the connection with the organisation was. So here's a brief history of our association.

Many of you will, I'm sure, be aware that the Shropshire Yeomanry wear, as a battle honour, upon their mess dress a New Zealand silver fern leaf and in cloth form on uniforms too:

This was presented to them by the New Zealanders in recognition of the support given to 2nd New Zealand Division at Cassino, Faenza and the Advance to the Po.

But not many realise that the Royal Signals, and the 36th Signal Regiment in particular through it's heritage with the 44th (Cinque Ports) from whom it came into being, has an interesting heritage which involves poultry and the wearing of a golden feather as it's battle honour:

The reason for this being that upon their return from the Middle East in 1943 the regiment, becoming part of 30 Signal Corps in France, found themselves engaged in pushing the German forces back until they eventually surrendered in 1945 (a date I'm sure we all knew).

As they did this they found themselves caught up in battle outside Blois and it was there that they routed the Germans and 'liberated' one of the largest poultry farms in the country, saving the chickens and workers from almost certain death. The news of this, coming back to the then Master Poulter, spurred them to recognise this act by awarding them a golden feather (as shown above).

But the connection with poultry doesn't end there, for as the end drew nigh and the Germans took to shooting pigeons in the hope that this would stem the traffic of messages reaching England by use of Carrier Pigeons (for communications in all its forms are part of the Royal Signals) some of those working at Bletchley Park hit on the idea that instead of pigeons, which were well-known as a means of message carrying, perhaps they could work with a form of communication as yet untried, the 'homing chicken'.

This project, quite understandably, failed but once again the Royal Signals and the precursor of the 36th in particular, were there at the forefront of communications technology and pushing the envelope.

And this is the reason for such a strong connection with the descendants of the 36th Signal Regiment - now 36 Signal Squadron of the 37th Signal Regiment (V) and it's proud relationship with the Master Poulter and the Worshipful Company of Poulters.

And the history yields a motto to be proud of: 

Ad praesens ova cras pullis sunt meliora*

*Eggs today are better than chickens tomorrow


Ray Barnes said...

And a happy April 1st to you too.

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Gosh, it is too!