- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Gerald Openshaw
- Location of story:
- Bletchley Park
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 30 November 2005
This story has been submitted by Jean Holmes of the Lancashire Home Guard on behalf of Gerald Openshaw and has been added to the People's War site with his permission.
I had to tell everyone that I was in the army, a corporal in the Royal Signals, but I was actually stationed at Bletchley Park as a morse code expert.
I was a radio ham before the war, an expert in sending and receiving messages in morse code. I was recruited to be a member of the Radio Security Service at Bletchley Park, where I spent my time “stealing”, or eavesdropping on the German messages. Many radio hams were secretly recruited and worked from home as civilians.
When I was called up I was officially a corporal in the Royal Signals, but I was paid by the Foreign Office. Then corporals received £6 per week, but I received £7. Obviously I had to sign the Official Secrets Act. The military police didn’t know how to treat us as we had a pass and they were told that we were to be given every assistance.
Since the war I have kept in touch with other operatives through radio. Bletchley Park is now a museum, preserved for posterity through the BP Trust.
The government realised that radio amateurs were more highly skilled in morse code than freshly trained service personnel. The German operators also used a specialised language. There is an international code for specific questions and replies. for example, “Where are you? is QRA? “What time is it?” is QTR?
When I was due for demob I was asked if I would like a job at GCHQ at Cheltenham, but the GPO telephone service at Blackburn had kept my job open for me throughout my time in the army. They had paid into a Post Office savings account the difference between the money I would have been earning and the pay of a corporal in the army. When I started work for them again and they realised I had been earning more, I had to repay about £50.
It has been good to be able to speak about what I did during the war. For years I was never allowed to tell anyone.
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