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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Special Wireless Operator ATS

by lindodd(nee Battle)

Contributed by 
lindodd(nee Battle)
People in story: 
Linda Battle (now Dodd)
Location of story: 
Isle of Man, Harrogate and Beaumanor
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
26 January 2005

On 5th May 1943, aged 18, I left home in Leeds to join the ATS. I did not travel far as my training centre was at Queen Ethelburga's School in Harrogate. After four weeks basic training I went to the Isle of Man for six months where I learned to be a Special Wireless Operator with 'Y' Group Royal Corps of Signals. We lived in hotels on the sea front at Douglas near an Italian Prisoner of War Camp. For some reason we were not issued with PE kit and had to run to Derby Castle for PE past where the POW's lived, clad only in khaki issue bloomers and a cotton vest. It must have been the highlight of their day as they crowded to the wire to shout encouragement! We started training in classrooms learning how to print the alphabet in the simplest and quickest style. We learned about Ohms Law, the Stratosphere, the Appleton Layer and finally Morse Code, spoken verbally by the instructor, slowly at first until we reached a reasonable speed, then we learned Morse sent by a key operator.
In November 1943 we went back to Harrogate which by then was an Intercept Station. We were taken to work on Forest Moor by trucks and when we arrived for our first shift found the place was only half built. There was sleet and snow and we traversed to the huts by way of wooden planks laid over muddy ditches. The toilets were very basic -no doors, just pieces of khaki cloth to hide our modesty.
The huts where we worked were called 'set- rooms' each filled with wireless sets called HRO's. The Morse signals we picked up on earphones were in code which we wrote on to WT Red Forms that were sent on to Bletchley Park (Station X) for decoding.
We moved from Ethelburga's School in 1944 to Hildebrande Barracks when the American Hospital moved out. In 1946 I was transferred to Beaumanor in Loughborough where I was in the same set-room as a chap called Eric Millhouse who wrote a very funny little book, based on his experiences as an operator. It was written in the style of the Bible and was called 'The Chronicles of St Upid'.
I met my husband in Harrogate and we were married after we were de-mobbed in 1947.

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