Signaller reflects on advances in technology

Signaller Catherine Welsh, of the 1st Combat Signal Regiment, stands next to a Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle at Robertson Barracks, Darwin. Photo: Warrant Officer David Millard

Signaller reflects on advances in technology

One of Darwin’s 1st Combat Signal Regiment’s youngest signallers has learnt a lot about how the military has adapted to technological changes, from World War I to now. 

Signaller Catherine Welsh, from Warwick, Queensland, was born in 2000 and finds it hard to contemplate what life was like in the military for those in her trade before the digital age.  

Since joining the Army and the Royal Australian Corps of Signals (RA Sigs), Signaller Welsh has become accustomed to being the youngest in the group.

The Communication Systems Operator (computer technician) often finds herself in conversations with the older members of the unit as they reminisce about the ‘good old days’ and the technology they used. 

“Dial-up” came up in conversation the other day – I’d never heard of it before,” Signaller Welsh said.

“It has always been as simple as turning the computer on and opening a web browser without a thought of having to do anything else.

“Basic computer fault-finding was already a strength of mine after watching my parents struggle with emails.”  

Today, computer systems operators like Signaller Welsh deploy on operations across the globe connecting soldiers to their family and friends in Australia through email and social media. 

This access to instant communication has vastly improved soldier welfare and is perhaps one of the most differentiating characteristics of modern warfare. 

Looking at her khaki slouch hat which bears the RA Sigs corps badge featuring Mercury, the messenger of the gods, Signaller Welsh acknowledged that before dial-up and the Internet communications worked very differently. 

“Communications technology evolved quickly: the Anzacs started with heavy and bulky radio sets with limited communication between the battalions,” she said. 

“By the end of World War II, signallers were using lighter and much more advanced equipment that could be taken into the battle space on a soldier’s back. 

“The Anzacs faced many challenges, especially mobility. Our modern Army has become so much more mobile with the vehicle capabilities and lighter, more compact equipment.”

The capable computer tech may have never seen an old fashioned telegraph or fax machine, but she’s learnt about many new things that exist outside life behind a digital screen since joining the Army. 

At the same time, she’s developed a greater appreciation for the era she was raised in, especially during the COVID-19 crisis facing the global community.    

She hopes the technological advancements of today will help Australians commemorate the Anzacs from the safety of their own home this Anzac Day. 

“In the 21st Century there are countless ways to connect with people all over the world. This Anzac Day, I know people all over the world will find ways to connect to commemorate the Anzac spirit,” she said.

 “I will personally take the time to think about those soldiers who had to carry radio stacks on their backs and who had to trouble-shoot with equipment on the verge of death. 

“This makes me appreciate what our Army has evolved into and how lucky we are to have the equipment and capability we have today.”

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