103 Signal Squadron 50th Birthday in Townsville

By Chris Brown OAM
(Callsign Bullworker)

Chris 'Bullworker' Browm


Well it’s come and gone.  The long awaited 50th Anniversary of the formation of the Independent 103rd Signal Squadron (103 Sig Sqn) for service in South Vietnam, providing tactical communication for the 1st Australian Task Force, designated as part of the coalition of Foreign Forces, committed to support the Government of South Vietnam, against an insurgence, and hostile bid, by North Vietnam with its communist intent on defeating the South.

Now, all that may sound long-winded, but at the time when I was a young 20 year old Signalman, it sounded pretty serious to me and my mates.  So with that, I am glad I hung around for the encore 50 years later, just recently, planned, presented and choreographed by the 3rd Combat Signal Regiment (3CSR) in Townsville.  No need for a history lesson here about 103 Sig Sqn.  But it is relevant to remind members that our unit existed as a Squadron of 1 Signal Regiment since 1960, as a semi-autonomous Combat Operations Signals Squadron supporting the Brigade units in Holsworthy Barracks and in Victoria.  

This was no ordinary unit birthday celebration.   At the same time this was also an Operational Memorial Dedication Service for 3CSR, in its involvement with numerous NATO forces, in its many humanitarian peacekeeping missions, and the Regiments role in providing tactical and strategic communications support for Allied Forces also, involved in the many warlike conflicts around the world.

 103 Sig Sqn 50th Birthday  Dedication of a number of plaques at RHQ, 3CSR to the Regiment’s operational service, 6 Nov 2015.

103 Sig Sqn 50th Birthday
 Past members of 103 Sig Sqn L-R Derek Webster, Lofty Evans, OAM and Col Roger Joy, AM at the new dedicated Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Plaque.   Roger is a past OC of 103 Sig Sqn and both Derek and Lofty are volunteers at 3CSR, helping to maintain the Regiment’s History.

It is a good time to be alive, when many of my contemporaries are no longer here, to experience the accolades of genuine respect for a unit, whose brief beginnings had an extraordinary life.  And to think throughout decades of Army reorganisation and change, the unit still has its original designator…103 Sig Sqn likewise104 Sig Sqn.  For that I am grateful, for it gives us all a sense of belonging and ownership, of a unit which is continually called upon throughout the ages to do what it does best, and that is to establish and maintain communications.   As an original member of the Squadron, I was very proud just to be there in the Regiment, to be part of the celebration.  The unit is still alive and kicking, as past members and current members have shown, when they all came together for a week, in a party of brotherhood, mateship and family.  I have never experienced an occasion like this since I retired 26 years ago.

Corps Week

The Birthday celebrations were concurrent with our own ‘Corps Week’ hosted by 3CSR.  An event coup, born out of desire, to at last have our own Corps Week in Townsville fearlessly fought for by the CO, Lt Col Craig Tidswell.  The Corps Week activities went off without a hitch and the program was expertly acquitted by a well organised team of officers and diggers.  In blistering heat the events just kept rolling along.  It was the 10 aside Rugby matches that created so much interest. This was where Signal Units put up their best men to bash each other for pride.  And they did.  Even the CO was in there getting whacked, giving it and taking it.  The crowd was impressed by the passion all round.  The reunion was at the Regimental Boozer where each day there was time allocated for the whole Regiment to take part in meeting and renewing friendship over a beer or two, complimented by a smorgasbord of food for each occasion.  The Melbourne Cup was celebrated also, and well and truly presented and managed by non-other than Ian ‘Gomer’ Haycock, former 104 Sig Sqn warrior and RASigs RSM.  A man who made such a task look so easy, and at the same time teaching the young and inspired, who wanted to learn how to conduct a Melbourne Cup Calcutta.

103 Sig Sqn 50th Birthday
Gomer and Bullworker working up the troops, during the Melbourne Cup boozer function at the 3CSR.

Birthday Celebrations

The Parade was an absolutely outstanding.  Perfect drill and formation.  Everybody was so impressed.   The 1RAR Brass and Drum band were just simply amazing.  They started the day as a Military Band on a Ceremonial Regimental parade during a sweltering morning, and morphing into a ten piece rock band at the function in the Casino, that would have left AC/DC band for dead. No one wanted them to stop playing and the crowd just did not want to stop partying.

 103 Sig Sqn 50th Birthday
3CSR with the Princess Anne Banner at the 50th Anniversary Parade for the forming of 103 Sig Sqn for service in South Vietnam.

At this point, I have to thank the CO for his kind invitation for both Gomer Haycock and myself to officiate as Masters of Ceremony for the Regimental Ball held at the Townsville Casino.  The Ball was a huge success and attended by at least 400 people.  The planning and preparation for the week activities, the Ceremonial Parade and the Regimental Ball is a credit to the Regimental Management Team, who had the responsibility to organise, practice and deal with difficult logistical requirements to make sure activities went ahead without a hitch. This Team is a credit to the CO and the Regiment.

103 Sig Sqn 50th Birthday
103 Sig Sqn 50th Anniversary Ball, held at the Townsville Casino. 
1RAR band did some great rock music at the Casino function!

Well Gomer and I did our job. It wasn’t a B1 and B2 performance but quite slick actually.  I just let Gomer cut loose, and the crowd of course responded well to him.   I did my bit by justifying my appearance in giving the audience a short story of how it all started for 103 Sig Sqn in early 1965.  I went through the preparation of the unit for war, and the difficulties we encountered in deployment and maintaining communications while we were in South Vietnam.  I felt that my experience was important to impart to the younger members of the Squadron, even though it is somewhat dated now, and most probably irrelevant, given the super technological equipment the unit deploys today.

103 Sig Sqn 50th Birthday
A few good looking old and bold roosters at the 103 Sig Sqn 50th Anniversary Ball.

In Summary

It was an honour to be present in Townsville for the 50th and I believe our new Regiment and 103 Sig Sqn members are left in no doubt, that they not only belong to a very proud tactical Squadron, but they are part of it, and will always remain part of it.  Because they own it now, it belongs to them, and they have a duty to make sure that we never forget those who served and take time to remember.

About the Author: Christopher Brown, OAM (AKA Callsign Bullworker) is an original member of 103 Sig Sqn and served in South Vietnam in 1966/67 as an L/Cpl Operator, Keyboard and Radio (OKR).  He served 31 years in RASigs and retired as a Major.

3CSR Plaque on the occasion of 103 Sig Sqn 50th Birthday

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