Welcome to Swanage Army Link.

The Swanage Army Link is a dynamic association that has evolved over nearly 30 years between the Swanage Railway, the British Army, the People of Swanage and the Royal British Legion.

Regular ongoing visits by the Royal Corps of Signals soldiers are core to this Link, as is Team Herston, formed in 2007, bringing together local residents and ex soldiers who work regularly on our core project – the upkeep of Herston Halt.

More recently we have been proud to welcome Heroes Haven into the fold.

Want to know more? See About the Army Link .


Heroes Haven Donations

If you would like to make a donation to the Heroes Haven, please visit their site http://www.heroes-haven.org.uk (opens in a new window) and click on the 'Donate' link in the top right of the page.

Please enter SWCP as the reference.

Profile of an Olympic Torchbearer

Frank Roberts (The Army Link – Swanage)

Eight thousand people were chosen from thousands more nominations to carry the Olympic flame throughout the British Isles and Frank Roberts was one of those.

Frank Edmund Roberts was born in Leeds in 1961. His parents divorced at an early age, and when 11, the three Roberts boys moved to Worksop when their father, a professor in the field of material science, transferred from Leeds to Sheffield University. Following a spell at Worksop College attaining 8 O Levels, Frank joined his two brothers at Valley Comprehensive School completing science A levels. During summer holidays he worked on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway often working alone at Oakworth station, where the Railway Children was filmed; meeting a number of members of the fledgling Swanage Railway Operations Department, who were learning to fire and drive steam locomotives.

At the age of 18, and having played a part at bringing up his two younger brothers Paul and Mark, Frank left home for Harlow in Essex. Once there he commenced his working career with Standard Telecommunications Laboratories for a three year stint working on Rapier missile development. In 1979 he joined the Essex Yeomanry and started training as a Radio Technician, being the first Territorial Army (TA) technician to be trained on the new Clansman radio system.

As the Falklands War was starting, Frank applied for an Army ‘S’ Type engagement, and was attached for one year to 30th Signal Regiment - as a TA Lance Corporal. Bored with too much drinking in Blandford, he volunteered his services during the Easter 1983 ‘Civs Week’, and after a 9-day period had installed the Railways first Strowger electro-mechanical telephone exchange in the Swanage Goods Shed; the room is still in use today.

For the next 22 years Frank, as Telecom Manager developed the internal cable networks and pole route at the Swanage Railway, overseeing the installation of new British Telecom switches as technology and the railway tracks progressed towards Wareham. Crucial to his success was a chance request to the Army, seeking assistance from 15 soldiers; they subsequently worked on the Mid Hants Railway, and collected 30 miles of redundant telephone cable for use at Swanage. During the four week period in the spring of 1984, soldiers from 30th Signal Regiment helped to prepare the Good Friday opening of the first mile of track between Swanage and Herston Halt

At the end of his one-year engagement Frank transferred into the Regular Army one Friday whilst on exercise in Jamaica, and was promoted to Corporal three days later. His Career saw him work on a wide variety of equipments; ranging from teleprinter with paper message tapes and also glass valves inside 10 Kilowatt transmitters in Belize, to battlefield trunk communications systems, and then covert communications systems supporting the Intelligence Corps work in Eastern Germany – all of which are now obsolete! Frank was responsible for Helicopter Television systems in Belfast, playing his part climbing radio masts in the middle of Belfast at the height of the troubles.

Not satisfied with endless days on leave supporting the charity that is the Swanage Railway first, Frank started raising money for various Armed Forces groups. Soon after his arrival in Catterick in 1986, Frank had formed a ‘Port Lodge’, engaging many soldiers in various fund raising ventures, with one common theme - drinking Port!

Soon after purchasing a house in Swanage he stood for election on the Railway’s elected Council of Management, and in 1991 he led a review committee that recommended railway cuts, and the redundancy of three members of staff. This was not an easy time at Swanage Railway, and in the event a dozen members of the paid staff were released by the Company; soon afterwards the true reality of the substantial debts became known. Six months later, having left Northern Ireland he became the Personnel Director of the Railway Company.

Frank’s military career took him back to Germany, two tours of Bosnia in the 1990s, he was engaged in Officer Cadet Training at Southampton, as a Sergeant Major at 3(UK) Division, and then as a Regimental Sergeant Major in Bristol. His last military posting was as Officer Commanding Ulster Troop in 3 (Harrogate) Signal Squadron at Blandford. He received an Adjutant General’s Commendation, and left The Colour Service in September 2004.

He has now served twice on the Board of Directors, and three times on the Swanage Railway Trust’s Council of Management. In 1997 he became the Station Manager at Herston Halt, and for two years from 2004 he became the Railways first Infrastructure Manager.

Frank and a small team raised DM11,000 for BLESMA in Germany, and supported many low-level fund raising ventures. In 2009 he cycled from Greenwich to Paris to raise funds for the Royal British Legion. Since then he has supported various military Swanage Race to Rudesheim events.

Frank’s final military visit to Swanage as a serving soldier saw a two month project to remove the foot crossing across the tracks at Herston Halt. With the exception of the Key Clamp handrails all of the other project expenses were funded from the lump sum received at the end of his military service. 3 (Harrogate) Squadron were again in action in 2009 when in a single afternoon a party of 30 soldiers demolished the rotting timber platform at Swanage, replacing it with a longer and stronger concrete structure re-cycled from a former station on the new Croydon Tramlink route. Again Frank funded the majority of this £16,000 project from his own funds; delivered on time and on budget by soldiers from Blandford and Team Herston.

Professionally, in 2007 Frank commenced work with Stagecoach Rail supporting a small team delivering a £6.8m Ticket Vending Machine installation project. As this work was drawing to a close, he moved to become the South West Trains Station Manager for Staines and Windsor, relishing the opportunity to support Windsor, where generations of the Roberts family had lived, the family music business receiving a Royal Warrant to serve HM Queen Victoria in 1897.

During the 2009 structural changes, with the loss of over 600 SWT posts, Frank’s responsibilities were increased and he now manages 12 stations (13 including Herston Halt!) and 40 staff. In addition to the strategically important Staines station, he oversees Egham and other stations all with their own characteristics. He frequently meets HM The Queen, escorting her to the Royal Train, and he leads various teams who support the extremely busy Reading & Windsor Area. The intensity of the train service is currently being underlined by the extension of most platforms to cater for ten-car trains as from May 2014.

Frank has been a member of the Institute of Directors for nearly 15 years and studied for a Certificate in Project Management at Lancaster University in 2004. In 2009 he graduated with a BSc in Railway Operational Management, becoming a member of the Institution of Railway operators.

Frank’s most recent achievements have been to walk the 633 mile South West Coast Path carrying The Baton in 2011, raising funds for Heroes Haven Swanage, and in the same year he became the permanent Parade Marshal for the Royal British Legion in Swanage. In July 2012 he also became a 2012 Olympic Torchbearer.


Swanage Army Link is supported and supports the following organisations and people: