The front cover of issue 1 of THROUGH, The Official  Journal of Signals 8th Australian Division.

The above is the front cover of a 36 page first issue of the Journal of 8th Australian Division Signals, dated December 1941. Their previous publication (a pamphlet) had been called "The Morse Key-Toe". This was to be a periodical to cover the various phases, activities and talent of Signals 8th Aust. Div. The name "Through" comes from a famous painting of a dead Signals linesman in Flanders in WWI, with his pliers and a telephone beside him, after having run the telegraph wire through the field of battle.

The 8th Australian Divisional Signals was formed on 1st July 1940 under Lieutenant-Colonel J. H. Thyer. The first parade was on 29th July at Liverpool, NSW. They trained at Ingleburn and Bathurst before embarking for the Asian region.

The 8th Division was based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaya and then moved to Singapore. On 23rd July 1941, Lieutenant-Colonel C. H. Kappé replaced Thyer as CO of Signals, 8th Australian Division.

The significance of this publication will become apparent if you think about what happened in Malaya/Singapore shortly after December 1941. A state of emergency was declared on December 1st, the Japanese first bombed Singapore on December 12th, the allied forces retreated from Malaya on 12th of December and they surrendered on 15th February.

As a result of comments about the authenticity of the emblem on this cover I did some research on Mercury and the Signal Corps. The Emblem shown is not identical to either the official UK or Australian version but is probably a stylised version authorised or drawn up for the magazine.

Signals were initially part of the duties of the English Army Royal Engineers and included semaphores, lights etc. Then in the 1850’s, with the invention and introduction of telegraph and morse code, the RE took on the laying and operating of telegraph lines where needed for military purposes.

From 1857 Field-Marshall Sir John Fox Burgoyne had been recommending the formation of a separate Signal Service. His persistence paid off because in 1869 a Signal Wing was formed within the RE. Hey, don’t be concerned at the time lag – Burgoyne was appointed as chief engineer for the Crimean war at the age of 72 and didn’t retire till the ripe old age of 86. He had time on his side! Burgoyne’s other claim to fame was that he was the illegitimate son of an English Army General who fled to France to escape his creditors, putting a bit of a damper on his military prospects!

In 1870 the English Government took over a number of private telegraph companies in England to form the General Post Office Telegraph Company. Because the telegraph systems were in disarray the army was brought in to help, which it did by forming Postal Telegraph Companies with men from the Royal Engineers Signal Service, to work alongside Posts & Telegraphs staff and be paid from the GPO budget.

The first specialist signals group within the RE was C Telegraph Troop in 1/9/1870. I don’t know what was special about this Troop.

In 1884 C Troop and the Postal Telegraph Companies were amalgamated as the Telegraph Battalion, Royal Engineers and got its emblem which included Mercury, at the suggestion of Major CFC Beresford, the new CO.


In 1908 the name Telegraph Battalion was discontinued and it became Royal Engineers Signal Service. So it took from 1857 when Burgoyne suggested it, to 1908 to instigate his Signal Service??? Well you can’t rush these things.

In 28/6/1920 the RESS became a separate Corps, the Signal Corps and on 5/8/1920 the King gave approval for it to become the Royal Signal Corps.

In 1920 the original crest was “on a base of an oval band inscribed Royal Corps of Signals a globe, a figure of Mercury the whole ensigned with the Imperial Crown.”


In 1929 King George approved a motto and a new uniform badge, as distinct from the above, which remained as the hat badge. The badge was now “ a globe central on a scroll bearing the motto, thereon Mercury the whole ensigned with the Imperial Crown.”


 The motto is “Certa Cito” which is literally “Reliable Information Quickly” but the Corps prefers “Swift and Sure”.

In 1946 approval was given to adopt the newer badge for all purposes. Mercury and the globe are in silver, the rest in gold, and laurel leaves complete the design. In 1953 Queen Elizabeth 2nd requested the Crown of St. Edward replace the Imperial Crown.


Other Commonwealth countries used the same basic crest with variations as shown below.


The origins of the Royal Signals cap badge - 'Jimmy'

As outlined on the web site of the Royal Corps of Signals.

The cap badge is heraldically described as; "The figure of Mercury holding a Caduceus in the left hand, the right hand aloft poised with the left foot on a globe all silver above the globe a scroll inscribed 'Certa Cito' and below on each side six laurel leaves all gold, the whole ensigned with the Crown in gold."

But to every member of the Corps it is affectionately know as "JIMMY". So what are the origins of the badge and its name? Nobody can be exactly sure, but to believe the most widely accepted theories you must trace the history of communications units in the Army back to the formation, in 1870, of 'C' Telegraph Troop, Royal Engineers. The Troop served with distinction in the Ashanti and Zulu Wars and by 1884, because of the growth in communications requirements, it was decided to form 1st and 2nd Divisions of the 1st Telegraph Battalion, Royal Engineers.

Major CFC Beresford was the initial Commander of the 2nd Division and he was determined that it should have its own emblem (or 'device' as he called it). Although he had asked the Battalion for suggestions there was none better than his own, and so the figure of Mercury was adopted. It was first used in the Battalion magazine, Military Telegraph Bulletin, on 15 September 1884, and was also used on headed notepaper.

It is thought that the inspiration for Mercury came to Major Beresford from the statue of Mercury that his father had probably purchased at the Great Exhibition at Hyde Park in 1851. This had then been set up in his garden in Camberley. The statue was passed to the Royal Signals in 1977.

The new device was liked by the soldiers and so on 9 May 1891 Major Beresford and Lieutenant CJ Elkington RE presented a mace or 'bandstick' to the Band of the Battalion. The handsome bandstick had a figure of Mercury at the top. This was also passed to the Royal Signals at a later date and now resides together with the statue in the Corps Museum.

Mercury was never used by RE communicators as a badge. It was not until the 'Corps of Signals' was formed that the question of a badge came into being. Following the decision of King George V to grant the 'Royal' title the first cap badge of Mercury was approved on 24 March 1921. This was of the initial pattern with the oval band surrounding it. The Corps changed its style of badge in 1946 to that currently used. "Certa Cito", meaning "Swift and Sure", was also included at this stage.

There are a number of theories as to why "JIMMY" was adopted as a term of endearment for the emblem. The most widely accepted is that it came from a very popular Corps boxer, called Jimmy Emblem, who was an Army Champion in 1924 and represented the Corps from 1921 to 1929. It was certainly referred to as "JIMMY" in official correspondence in the early 1930's.


The information above comes from:
“Through to 1970 – Royal Signals Golden Jubilee” published in 1970 by the Royal Signals Institution.
“The Vital Link – the story of Royal Signals 1945-1983” published in 1989, author PhilipWarner.
The web site of the Royal Corps of Signals http://www.royalsignals.army.org.uk 
For the history of the Australian Signal Corps you need to refer to Theo Barker’s book “Signals – 1788-1947” which I can’t find at the moment.

Please note, this article is copyrighted.