BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

BBC Homepage
BBC History
WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site

Contact Us

Switchboard Operator (SHAEF)

by historycentre

Contributed by 
historycentre
People in story: 
Mrs Sylvia Kay (Pte S Needs) and Pte Kay Callaghan
Location of story: 
Bushey Park, Kingston Upon Thames and Fort Purbrook, Cosham
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A3094238
Contributed on: 
06 October 2004

I am a volunteer working for the BBC's People's War Project and am writing this story on behalf of Mrs Sylvia Kay.

Here is my war story:

April 1944, we girls were at Bushey Park, Kingston Upon Thames, attached to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) manning the chaotic switchboard there. My friend, Pte Kay Callaghan and I were manning the General's (General Eisenhower's) private switchboard, known as the "Red Board". We had a direct line to Winston Churchill on the board.

The weather was very hot, and we dragged our beds out of our huts at night, to sleep outside! The buzz-bombs started coming, and there were gun emplacements all over the camp. We saw the General a lot - he was always on the go.

About the middle of May, things went very quiet - we sensed that something was imminent. We were told we were moving the next day, but not where. Next day we piled into the lorries, and then arrived at Fort Purbrook, Cosham, near Portsmouth (to sleep under canvas!) A switchboard had been set up in Cosham Forest. After a few days, the rain started. It went on and on - it was a sea of mud in that forest, and the Americans had to put what I think were "pontoon roads" down or we might have drowned!

June '44 arrived, lots of frantic calls were being made. About the 4th, it went quiet once more.

On D-Day itself, we were on duty, the board was very quiet, hardly any lights showing at all, then suddenly it was bedlam - we were receiving the very first allied calls from Cherbourg! "Operation Overlord" completed!

(It was nice being in on a piece of history!)

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

Archive List

This story has been placed in the following categories.

D-Day+ 1944 Category
Hampshire Category
icon for Story with photoStory with photo

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy