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You are in: Hereford and Worcester > About Worcestershire > Droitwich calling

Droitwich Transmitter

Droitwich Transmitter

Droitwich calling

Find out how the Droitwich transmitter played a role in helping the Allies win the Second World War.

Today, the transmitter in Droitwich broadcasts BBC radio programmes to the nation, but during the 1940s, it was used to protect the Midlands from air raids and to send vital messages to the French resistance in occupied Europe.

But secret documents released for the first time this year have shown that the Germans were using our own transmitter against us.

The transmitter in Droitwich was one of the handful in Britain capable of broadcasting to radios right across occupied Europe.

Secret messages were sent to the French Resistance using the transmitter, but those inputting the messages like Bridget Searle from the BBC French Service, often didn't know what they actually meant:

"They were rather silly messages, 'the rabbit is going down his hole', 'the door should be left open.'"

Bridget Searle, BBC French Service

"I just typed some of them and heard them going out, I am not entirely sure I realised how important they were.

"They were rather silly messages - 'The rabbit is going down his hole', 'The door should be left open.'

"They didn’t really make much sense. Of course it was after I realised their importance”

These messages gave vital pre-arranged orders to the resistance in France, and although people in Droitwich didn't understand them - they knew their importance.

The gates to the Droitwich Transmitter

The gates to the Droitwich Transmitter

So it seems though did the Germans...

Spies in our midst

German intelligence was watching and listening to Droitwich all the way through the war.

Not only were their spies taking photographs, their codebreakers were paying special attention to the secret messages.

Former BBC engineer John Phillips now knows about the covert operations of the enemy:

"During the D-Day landings a photo unit from the RAF found an old airfield and lots of photos of Droitwich transmitting station, but they were not taken from the air, they were taken from the ground….so obviously there was some sort of spy activity, which enabled photos to be taken."

Secret documents recently revealed by the British Security Service show that the Germans also somehow managed to get their own messages broadcast.

Either by placing an agent within the BBC or the security services, or by supplying fake messages, enemy intelligence was also being broadcast from the Droitwich transmitter.

D-Day

In summer 1944, the Droitwich transmitter played a part in the D-Day landings.

The date of the landings was broadcast in code in part of a poem. Then the day before the 6 June landings, messages were sent to the resistance to carry out acts of sabotage.

The following morning the allies landed on the beaches of Normandy...

In a small way, the Droitwich transmitter had helped towards the overall allied victory.

last updated: 04/12/07

Have Your Say

Do you have any stories about the Droitwich transmitter? - let us know if you do...

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Colin Bick
I worked here in the early 70's. High power LW do odd things! eg a rusty girder in one of the site outhouses propped up against a window merrily detecting and audibly vibrating to the current LW broadcast.

Colin Wheeler
In 1952 I recall an aerial rigger falling out of the lift near the top of one of the 600 foot masts when it slipped 6 feet.

Hayden
I use to live by it!!!

Bob Cooke, Amateur Radio Call Sign VE3BDB, Orillia
As I type this I am listening to what I believe is the Doitwich transmitter on 198 CPS (Hertz). I can hear voices but cannot make out what is being said, because the signal is not strong enough. It may be a news broadcast. There is also a navigation beacon, probably in the south USA, identifying in Morse as DAL or DIW or similar. There is interference from static. Is this the Doitwich transmitter that I am hearing in voice?

mike jones
my father, norman jones worked as an engineer for 33 years up to 1966. during the war i only saw him occasionly because of shift work. he never talked about the war to me. one day i saw the fire of coventry in the distance. why did BBC droitwich never recieve a visit or the nearby militiary radio establishment? in 1957 i stayed in holland for 8 weeks. one man from eindhoven talked about radio droitwich during the war providing british reports on the german activities in holland and the nature of their oppression.

Max Sinclair
The Ball at the foot of the mast is Porcelain made by the Steatite Co Stourport to electrically insulate the mast.

Colin Wheeler
Back in 1952 a aerial rigger fell out of one of the lifts near the top of one of the 600 foot masts when the lift slipped 6 feet. The tallest masts used to rest on a 2 inch ball bearing. In the early 1950s a situations vacant advert apeared in the window of the Redditch labour exchange for Aerial Riggers to work at 600 feet, preferabley ex Royal Navy and the wages on offer were 18 per week

Max Sinclair
The transmitter was sited at Wychbold because the massive salt content provided a considerable earthing strength for the signals.I was told this by Mr Humphreys who was station engineer for many years.

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