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30 July 2014
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WW2 - People's War

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People sometimes query my operating technique. They wonder if the continual necessity for the erase signal and the ability to talk without saying anything is something you are born with or whether special training is required.
Well, you can forget the former alternative for a start. I have often attempted communicating with new arrivals in their cots and all you ever get out of there are loud noises or unpleasant substances depending on which end you speak into.

No, there is more to operating than reaching for the nearest microphone arid switching on. There are basic skills is to be mastered first. The successful operator must be able to:

Whitewash coal
Peel a potato mountain with a blunt knife
Hurl a hand grenade so that it narrowly misses his foot
Forge a 36 tour pass
And scrub out a gymnasium at three o’clock in the morning

Someone had thought up a cunning security ruse If you were ‘A’ talking to ‘B’, you had to pretend that you were ‘B’ and he was ‘A’. I bet enemy intelligence had a few sleepless nights over that one. This subject was taken fly Lance Corporal Gamble, a dormer school teacher who had an over simplified view of life. He hated the world and everyone in it. He had a fetish about silence arid the chatter caused by a morning eyelid was enough to send him berserk.

Every two weeks we had elocution lessons from an elderly looking Sergeant who’s uniform looked as though Patrick Moore had just moved out of it. He had one of those posh fruity voices like they used to give away with G2 call signs arid he led us to believe that he had condescended to leave his high office it the BBC to Instruct us lads who had come straight from the gutter so that if we were ever considered fit to hold a microphone someone might understand what we were saying. He had a pile of cards bearing passages of prose for us to read aloud and we used to take it in turns to stand up arid be humiliated.

Unfortunately there was (and still is) an establishment which specialised in all these things. Catterick Camp, the refuge of the bewildered where the comforts were Siberian and the tea tasted suspiciously of bromide. In mid 1943 I. with about 25 others made up what was known as 45 Squad under Sergeant Miller. We quickly absorbed all the skills I have just mentioned ( although I did lose a few marks on the coal whitewashing, for missing off a second undercoat ) and we were deemed to be ready for our first encounter with the Morse code. We were taken classroom with a long table and every position had a pair of headphone and Morse key. Sgt. Miller made a rather course joke about the knobs, which I won’t repeat here. We didn’t care for it a t all but just to please him we indulged in a few moments of half-hearted hysteria. This proved to be a mistake because it led him to misjudge the mood of his audience, and he went on to use the same joke four time a day for the next six months.

We also had lessons in procedure. Everything had ti be strictly according to the book. I’m sorry. I have rambled on again. I am keeping you form your supper. The short answer is that if you do want to be like me it does take special training, but, as you must have noticed by now the end product isn’t really worth all the trouble, so If I were you wouldn’t bother.

Written by the late STAN SIMPSON G4ITM. Submitted by kind permission of his wife. Published in the Vital Spark the magazine of the Hastings Electronics and Radio Club in August 1988

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