A British Army unit that has helped protect the Falkland Islands since 1998 has been honoured with its own crest for the first time in recognition of its now permanent base on the archipelago.
The 303 signals unit has been presented with a new crest after it was approved by Her Majesty The Queen and supported by Nigel Philips CBE, the Governor of the Falkland Islands.
Mr Philips, a former communications officer in the Royal Air Force, said he was delighted to unveil the crest, adding:
"Andy Sturt, outgoing 303 Signals Squadron Leader, who is moving on from his post, said it was a huge honour to be Officer Commanding at the time his unit was presented with a its own crest."
He told Forces Radio BFBS presenter Chris Keen:
"This normally only happens once for any single unit. If the unit is disbanded and reformed the same crest is used. It’s a really big thing for the unit because it means they’re here to stay.”
All British military units which are considered to be independent, have something that signifies their presence and if it is significant enough as a formation, it will receive a crest.
Before a crest can be approved a design will be put together and send to the college of arms where the master of heraldry will consider whether or not it is appropriate.
The crest comes directly from the queen with her signature on it, but before that, she will make sure it is appropriate and right.
The words 'Safeguard The Right' at the bottom of the crest comes from the motto of the Falkland Islands 'desire the right'.
'Desire' was the name of the first English ship to spot the Falkland Islands and the word safeguard nicely describes the mission and role of the unit.
303 Signals Unit was formed on 12th November 1962 at Mukeiras in Aden. Its role was to provide Air Surveillance cover, to warn British interests of potentially hostile aircraft approaching from Saudi Arabia.
Air policing was carried out by a flight of 8 Sqn Hunter aircraft, under the control of 303 Signals.
In January 1965, the unit was relocated to Khormaksar to monitor flights utilising the far east air routes. The Unit’s role was expanded to include a radar watch over air refuelling operations that were becoming more frequent along the far eastern route through Gan.
Following 303 SU’s return to the UK, the unit was held as a command reserve until being disbanded in 1968.
The history of the 303 Signals Unit in the Middle East is reflected by the presence of the crossed sabres and crescent moon which can be seen on the new crest.
After the Falklands Campaign in 1982, an Air Defence Network was established to defend the airhead and police the airspace around the Islands. The system comprised of three radar sites situated at Mount Kent, Byron Heights and Mount Alice and 303 Signals unit was once again stood to.
In 1998, the Control and Reporting Centre also known as CRC Griffin became fully operational at Mount Pleasant Airfield and 303 SU assumed responsibility for the whole of the Falkland Islands Air Defence Ground Environment.
This new crest formally recognises 303 Signals as being an operational unit, and gives anyone who serves within the unit their own identity.