My service in Royal Signals, 1939 to 1946.

Discussion in 'Veteran Accounts' started by Nevil, Feb 21, 2011.

  1. geoff501

    geoff501 Achtung Feind hört mit

    Nevil,

    RSS HQ was Arkley View, Barnet. Perhaps you went there?

    MI8 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    They had a number of intercept stations around the UK used for DF and also many part time volunteers (known as VIs) who were ex radio hams and were skilled at reading the weak morse from enemy agents in Europe. They were organised into groups with local coordinators who sent the intercepts to Wormwood Scrubs. I think RSS use of Wormwood may have been temporary then moved to Barnet. Other RSS place names in the south may be Hanslope and Ravenscroft.

    There were 6 bombs dropped at BP on 20th November 1940, only two caused damage and one was in the copse immediately behind the brick sentry box. This moved Hut 4 off its foundations and it had to be literally pushed back into place.

    Geoff



    Refs:

    Britains Best Kept Secrtet, Ted Enever, Sutton Publishing 1999.

    GCHQ: The Secret Wireless WAr, Nigel West, Weidenfiled and Nicholson, 1986
     
  2. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    Nevil,

    RSS HQ was Arkley View, Barnet. Perhaps you went there?

    MI8 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    They had a number of intercept stations around the UK used for DF and also many part time volunteers (known as VIs) who were ex radio hams and were skilled at reading the weak morse from enemy agents in Europe. They were organised into groups with local coordinators who sent the intercepts to Wormwood Scrubs. I think RSS use of Wormwood may have been temporary then moved to Barnet. Other RSS place names in the south may be Hanslope and Ravenscroft.

    There were 6 bombs dropped at BP on 20th November 1940, only two caused damage and one was in the copse immediately behind the brick sentry box. This moved Hut 4 off its foundations and it had to be literally pushed back into place.

    Geoff



    Refs:

    Britains Best Kept Secrtet, Ted Enever, Sutton Publishing 1999.

    GCHQ: The Secret Wireless WAr, Nigel West, Weidenfiled and Nicholson, 1986

    The name Arkley View is familiar, Geof. However, it sounds like a house name and I recall the place I went to occasionally was a collection of huts similar to those at BP. I am sure I never had occasion to go to Wormwood Scrubs....I would have remembered that! I don't recall the other two names you mention. One of the problems at BP was the multiplicity of places at which one delivered and collected despatches so one was constantly learning new routes. If I had been there longer no doubt I would have remembered more.

    I had no knowledge of what we were carrying, lack of curiosity about that being encouraged at all formations but especially at BP.

    I heard of two bombs being dropped but I never noticed any significant damage so it had obviously been cleared by the time I got there.

    Nevil.
     
  3. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  4. geoff501

    geoff501 Achtung Feind hört mit

    I think the big house in 'Arkley View' may be the place.

    Some photos of huts are here:

    Arkley View

    The DRs get a mention too.
     
  5. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Hi Nevil

    Just realised that I have failed to thank you for this cracking thread of important memorabila.

    Well done !

    Ron
     
  6. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    This thread gets better and better...Well done Nevil for sorting the pics out too. That gets a Pheeew from me :)

    Keep up the excellent work,

    Regards
    Andy
     
  7. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    I think the big house in 'Arkley View' may be the place.

    Some photos of huts are here:

    Arkley View

    The DRs get a mention too.

    Thanks Geof for a very interesting link to Arkley View. I knew in general that this sort of work was being done but had no idea of the detail that is available about it.

    I would say you are right about the location. I downloaded Google Earth (did not have it on this computer) and it fits very well. I also took a look at BP and can see from that why I think of the "DR gate" as being a side entrance rather than a back entrance. Whatever.....I am sure that they kept the DRs coming in and out of that one to minimize the noise for some of the huts!

    I also noticed for the first time your URL to hut 6 .......very impressive indeed! Did you ever work at hut 6 at BP? Obviously you are very familiar with the place and its real activities.....I was only on the fringe, mainly minding my own business and helping to keep the mail running!

    Nevil.

    I also
     
  8. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    hello Nevil

    Arkley View is a road name in Arkley.
    regards
    Clive

    Thanks Clive.....this stirred my memory especially when I took a look with Google Earth and recalled what a hard spot it was to find first time with all road signs and place names removed!

    Nevil.
     
  9. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    This thread gets better and better...Well done Nevil for sorting the pics out too. That gets a Pheeew from me :)

    Keep up the excellent work,

    Regards
    Andy

    Thanks, Andy. Yes, I sort of shuddered when I first confronted having to repost the pictures. However, it turned out to be less formidable that I expected.

    I have posted all the pics I have and have given just about all the DR anecdotes that spring to mind and are likely to be of interest. I am uncertain whether the rest of my somewhat mundane story will be of much interest and I don't want to bore the living daylights out of everyone so I think I should probably call it quits at this point.

    Of course I am still interested in the forum and will chime in when something comes up about which I have some knowledge.

    Many thanks to you and all others for much help and encouragement!

    Nevil
     
  10. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Nevil, If I maybe so bold....Why stop at late 1942-I'd be interested to read about the rest of your service in the current detail as I'm sure other members would.

    Regards
    Andy
     
  11. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    Hi Nevil

    Just realised that I have failed to thank you for this cracking thread of important memorabila.

    Well done !

    Ron

    Thanks Ron for your kind words.

    You obviously had a very "interesting" war. Now I have a bit of time, I hope I can find some write-up about it on the forum. Following this thread has occupied me quite a bit so I have not had the opportunity to fully explore the forum as yet.

    Nevil.
     
  12. geoff501

    geoff501 Achtung Feind hört mit

    Thanks Geof for a very interesting link to Arkley View. I knew in general that this sort of work was being done but had no idea of the detail that is available about it.

    I would say you are right about the location. I downloaded Google Earth (did not have it on this computer) and it fits very well. I also took a look at BP and can see from that why I think of the "DR gate" as being a side entrance rather than a back entrance. Whatever.....I am sure that they kept the DRs coming in and out of that one to minimize the noise for some of the huts!

    I also noticed for the first time your URL to hut 6 .......very impressive indeed! Did you ever work at hut 6 at BP? Obviously you are very familiar with the place and its real activities.....I was only on the fringe, mainly minding my own business and helping to keep the mail running!

    Nevil.

    I also

    Nevil,

    Attached is a photo of the BP DR gate. This entrance is off 'Back Lane', which is a turning off 'Church Green Road'. (taken from the first book I mentioned). looking at modern maps, Back lane no longer exists or is renamed.

    If you visited places in London. you would probably be delivering intelligence reports to whoever was to receive them. These went to various places and were always disguised so as not to appear to be from code breaking. I think Churchill was the only person who demanded to see the raw message decrypts.

    I'm far too young (but not so young) to have worked at Bletchley. I took an interest in codebreaking about 15 years ago, it started by dodging into a bookshop in Shaftesbury Avenue to avoid the rain. I nearly did not buy 'Codebreakers: The inside story of Bletchley Park' by Hinsley and Stripp (highly recommended) as I needed 20 quid to get my car out of the car park. I then started building computer simulations and later broke around 700 original Enigma messages, by computer program (there should be a link on my website to these messages). These were from 'Barbarossa', 1941 and the Flossenberg labour camp, April 1945. I've given up that activity now and do mil research!

    Please hang around, there is much to interest on here and we'd love to hear anything more you have to say.

    Geoff
     

    Attached Files:

  13. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    Nevil,

    Attached is a photo of the BP DR gate. This entrance is off 'Back Lane', which is a turning off 'Church Green Road'. (taken from the first book I mentioned). looking at modern maps, Back lane no longer exists or is renamed.

    If you visited places in London. you would probably be delivering intelligence reports to whoever was to receive them. These went to various places and were always disguised so as not to appear to be from code breaking. I think Churchill was the only person who demanded to see the raw message decrypts.

    I'm far too young (but not so young) to have worked at Bletchley. I took an interest in codebreaking about 15 years ago, it started by dodging into a bookshop in Shaftesbury Avenue to avoid the rain. I nearly did not buy 'Codebreakers: The inside story of Bletchley Park' by Hinsley and Stripp (highly recommended) as I needed 20 quid to get my car out of the car park. I then started building computer simulations and later broke around 700 original Enigma messages, by computer program (there should be a link on my website to these messages). These were from 'Barbarossa', 1941 and the Flossenberg labour camp, April 1945. I've given up that activity now and do mil research!

    Please hang around, there is much to interest on here and we'd love to hear anything more you have to say.

    Geoff

    Yes, I remember the back gate sentry box now I see the picture. About Back Lane, it may have been renamed , as you say. I don't recall the names but looking at Google Maps, I usually came in on Church Green Rd and then right turn to the Park. The only road that seems to fit that scenario is called Wilson Ave.

    The main route in London was to the Cabinet War Room which I believe was near St James Park; then the War Office, Admiralty House and the Air Ministry. But there were many other places around London, out of the city, that were usually covered at the same time; several seemed to be “branches” of those Service Ministries according to the uniforms of the staff..

    Incidentally there was a story told, no doubt apocryphal, of the new DR who stopped a Naval officer on Whitehall and asked if he could tell him which side the War Office is on. The Naval type thought for a minute, then replied: “Ours, I think.”

    Your ability to replicate the work of the code breakers was pretty amazing. I realise that computers have developed a little since BP (<G>) but it must have been challenging, to put it mildly. I'll go back and take a look at those Barbarossa and Flossenberg messages which will be of interest. Do you speak German or are they still as originated?

    I'll take a few days but if you and Andy think there will be some interest in me continuing I will do that with some selective reminiscences.

    Nevil.
     
  14. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    Nevil, If I maybe so bold....Why stop at late 1942-I'd be interested to read about the rest of your service in the current detail as I'm sure other members would.

    Regards
    Andy

    Thanks Andy. I mentioned to Geof in a post a few minutes ago that I will continue with some selective pieces past 1942. I hope someone will tell me when I am finally boring them to tears!

    I guess I should have saved my "past 42" pictures to go along with the narrative for more interest!

    Nevil.
     
  15. geoff501

    geoff501 Achtung Feind hört mit

    ...Do you speak German or are they still as originated?...


    No. But a number have been translated.
    Barbarossa are fairly bland, although they originate from Totenkopf, they are mostly to do with supply logistics, requests for recce, etc. A few are signed by SS war criminals. Flossenburg, which was used for executions in the last few week of the war, are a bit more interesting! It is interesting that the 1941 keying procedures were very sloppy, by 1945 they were tighter, but broke easier by computer. (some '41 messages remain unbroken).

    Don't let me get you carried away, you have to tell us more!
     
  16. geoff501

    geoff501 Achtung Feind hört mit

    The main route in London was to the Cabinet War Room which I believe was near St James Park; then the War Office, Admiralty House and the Air Ministry. But there were many other places around London, out of the city, that were usually covered at the same time; several seemed to be “branches” of those Service Ministries according to the uniforms of the staff..


    You were involved in some pretty important work then!


    The Naval type thought for a minute, then replied: “Ours, I think.”

    :lol:
     
  17. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    The eight-month Officer Cadet Training course took us to a variety of training establishments including a four week Pre-OCTU stint with the Sherwood Foresters at Wrotham Camp, Kent, for infantry training, Aldershot, The Lake District, and Catterick Camp.

    Wherever we were, the training plan was very Spartan, with severe discipline. Apart from the technical training, much of the course was dedicated to making life so miserable that cadets might just give up. A number did so at progressive stages throughout the course and were returned to their units, which was considered a terrible disgrace so one hung on if at all possible.

    As a small example, the process of laying out one's kit for the daily morning inspection at 0700 hrs,
    and the weekly commandant's tour, was so rigorous and time consuming that for the latter at any rate we would set it all up the night before then spend the night in our underwear, and without our neatly folded blankets, on the bare cement floor.

    One good aspect of the pre-OCTU camp at Wrotham was the excellent latrines. They consisted of long sewer pipes with water constantly running through them and perhaps 30 or so holes, with seats (the height of luxury!), cut into them. They were partitioned off but had no doors. Some joker discovered that if you lit a few sheets of newspaper, then floated them down the pipe with the current, one got a very dramatic effect from the cubicles down stream. It was just as well they had no doors.

    Probably the toughest part was the three-weeks spent in the mountains of the Lake District. Winter had started and we were under canvas in a remote valley entirely surrounded by mountains, with very primitive facilities. Each morning we would start the day by marching through a waist-deep river, then spend the rest of the day in wet clothes, marching with full packs, rifles, flash grenades and mortars, up hill and down dale, much of the time wriggling through snow and mud on our stomachs in mock attacks. We used live ammo at specified points for these exercises, which was hazardous for us and anyone around but occasionally fatal for sheep up in the mountains which we sometimes mistook for the white markers we had been told to look out for as our targets for the mortars. On the return to camp we would be required to cross the river by rope, hand over hand, not easy with the weight of kit and rifle when you are already exhausted!

    The latter part of the training was back at Catterick Camp, Regular Army barracks of the Royal Signals, so it had all the amenities. However, the pace was no kinder, in fact relentless, even in the closing weeks. The final graduation parade was attended by the Princess Royal, Hon. Colonel of the Signals. All those in my squad graduated but a few others were not so lucky, having gone through all that misery to no purpose.

    After graduation in August of 1943 as a 2/LT, I was posted to 12 L of C Signals. That posting did not last more than a few weeks and I then found myself in charge of a line section in 2 Army Signals. After a couple of months of that I was happy to be posted to a new unit, 5 HQ Signals, being formed at Regents Park Barracks in London. The unit was the British component of a joint Signals group, with 3118 Signals Service Bn, US Army, to form SHAEF Signals and provide communications for the new HQ being formed under the command of General Eisenhower, the newly appointed Supreme Allied Commander for the invasion of Europe. This was all very much Top Secret at that time, and known as Operation Overlord.
     
  18. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    The combined US-British Signals Group (5 HQ British and 3118 Signals Service Battalion, US Army) reported ultimately to COSSAC (Chief of Staff, Supreme Allied Commander), General Walter Bedell Smith, US Army, within SHAEF (Supreme HQ, Allied Expeditionary Force).

    Many of the people who are now historical figures of World War 2 were part of the SHAEF command, or were familiar visitors there during the period January 1944 to July 1945. The ones I remember (from a great distance of course!) include:

    General Eisenhower (SAC); General Walter Bedell Smith, US (COSSAC); Air Chief Marshall Tedder, Br (Deputy SAC); Air Chief Marshall Leigh-Mallory, Br (Commander, Combined Air Forces); General (later Field Marshall) Montgomery, Br (21st Army Group); General Crerar, Cdn (Canadian 1st Army); General Dempster, Br (British 2nd Army); General Omar Bradley, US (12th Army Group); Generals Hodge, Patton and Simpson, US (1st, 3d and 9th Armies, respectively).

    At the time I was posted to SHAEF, the HQ was in Grosvenor Square with parts, including the Signals and Cipher offices, being in a deep shelter reached through the Goodge St. Underground station. The underground area was huge.

    The combined Signals unit was living in Regents Park Barracks which was a pretty comfortable place. Right across from the barracks, in Regents Park, was a battery of naval guns that were being used as anti-aircraft guns. The concussion from them had long-since blown out the windows on that side of the building. My room was right opposite them and when they fired, which was most nights, the blast would often blow in the plywood nailed over the window opening. Surprisingly, I usually managed to sleep through most of it!.

    I was working shifts in the Signals Office at Goodge St. Station, a large and not very welcome change from the largely outdoor and more independent life I had lived as a DR from 1939 to 1942. The raids on London were still continuing and most nights the sirens would sound, often several times in one night. We were so blasé by that stage in the war that we would ignore the sirens and noise of the bombs and stay in bed. However, our newly-arrived American brethren religiously trooped off to the shelters each time the sirens sounded, as per their standing orders. After a while, they were so exhausted from lack of sleep they changed to our way. You stood a good chance of dying but at least you could get through the day or night without being totally exhausted.

    I did not have too much opportunity for recreation at that time. The hours were long, and sleeping uncertain, so most of the time I was just happy to relax in the Officers’ Mess, or my room with a book, rather than go around the city checking out the pubs. Later that winter, some of us were moved to billets, and a new officers mess, in Harrow outside London, that we shared with officers of our sister unit, the Signals battalion of the US army. We got along with them quite well most of the time. Most of them were fresh from the States and had no appreciation of what had been happening over the preceding several years. They talked as though the war had started in December of 1941 when the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. Most Americans still talk that way even to this day!



    The main HQ, including General Eisenhower and staff moved to Bushy Park, in South-West London, in I think, March of 1944 but most of the Signals activity remained in the Goodge Station facility.

    In May 1944, SHAEF moved to near Portsmouth, on the south coast. The whole coastal area, from Devon to the Thames Estuary, had been sealed-off for a distance of twenty to thirty miles inland. For security reasons, once inside this area, troops were segregated from civilians, as far as possible (but not too successfully), and nobody, military or civilian, was allowed out of the area without high-level permission, a restriction enforced by Military Police on most roads out.. It was an impressive sight in the convoy driving down there, with every field, it seemed, packed with troops, vehicles, tanks and guns. The roads were solid with convoys taking even more into the area. I could not help recalling the time, a little over three years earlier, when even the combat divisions had only a few rounds of ammunition per person and one saw more cardboard decoy tanks than real ones.

    We did not know, of course, the exact date planned for the invasion but, by June 1st, it was obvious it could be only a few days away. In The Solent, the waters off Portsmouth, one could see the assault landing craft loading.

    On June 2nd (I know the date because I still have a copy of the order, a picture of which I posted earlier), I was told to take a Jeep, with a US Army driver, go to a British Ordnance Depot in Yorkshire and arrange for urgent additional supplies for SHAEF Signals to leave for Portsmouth immediately. That done, with the trucks on their way, we detoured through my home town on our way back to base, spending the night at my parents' home.

    I had no trouble resisting the temptation, and cautioned my driver to do the same, to avoid all discussion of what was happening on the South coast at that time, when we joined my father and his cronies at the local pub that evening. The invasion arrangements were the subject of strict media censorship and the subject did not come up. With my father, a veteran of the RA in France in WW1, being such a stickler for doing what is right, he would have been outraged by any such indiscretion anyway.

    We arrived back in Portsmouth just in time for the D-Day announcement on June 6. We did not at that time have any idea as to when we would go over but Signals Office activity was so hectic we had no time to worry about it.
     
    geoff501 likes this.
  19. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    On June 2nd (I know the date because I still have a copy of the order, a picture of which I posted earlier), I was told to take a Jeep, with a US Army driver, go to a British Ordnance Depot in Yorkshire and arrange for urgent additional supplies for SHAEF Signals to leave for Portsmouth immediately. That done, with the trucks on their way, we detoured through my home town on our way back to base, spending the night at my parents' home.

    I had no trouble resisting the temptation, and cautioned my driver to do the same, to avoid all discussion of what was happening on the South coast at that time, when we joined my father and his cronies at the local pub that evening. The invasion arrangements were the subject of strict media censorship and the subject did not come up. With my father, a veteran of the RA in France in WW1, being such a stickler for doing what is right, he would have been outraged by any such indiscretion anyway.

    We arrived back in Portsmouth just in time for the D-Day announcement on June 6. We did not at that time have any idea as to when we would go over but Signals Office activity was so hectic we had no time to worry about it.

    Nevil,
    I imagine your fingers might be sore from the typing, but please keep going.

    Can't imagine how you must have felt when you were unable to hint in any way to your family about imminent events. Would think that your father must have taken some comfort from seeing you when he did.

    Where was your brother at that time?

    Regards
    Diane
     
  20. Nevil

    Nevil WW2 Veteran/Royal Signals WW2 Veteran

    Nevil,
    I imagine your fingers might be sore from the typing, but please keep going.

    Can't imagine how you must have felt when you were unable to hint in any way to your family about imminent events. Would think that your father must have taken some comfort from seeing you when he did.

    Where was your brother at that time?

    Regards
    Diane

    Yes, I will plug along, Diane, as time permits. No doubt my parents were glad to see me and were very welcoming to my driver. At that time, my eldest brother, Eric, was a Major in the Reconnaissance Corps in what is now Ethiopia, with a light tank unit comprising almost 100% Kikuyu tribesmen from Kenya; my brother Alan was a Sgt. DR running mail along the coast between Portsmouth and Dover, although I did not know this when I was in Portsmouth; my younger sister was in the ATS in Northern England; my elder sister was at home with a young daughter while her husband was an Air Gunner/Navigator in Bomber Command. So I guess my parents did have some worries!

    My father was super conscientious and would not have appreciated being told something he was not supposed to know. He worked for Lloyds of London and had a fairly generous petrol ration. At the end of each ration period he went to the ration office and handed in his surplus coupons, telling them he did not want the deaths of any merchant seamen on his conscience. I imagine that the staff must have thought he was a bit nuts to hand in surplus coupons when they were like gold on the Black Market!

    Nevil.
     

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