The Y Service 1939-1945

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Description: Harpenden 39 -45.jpg

The first posting for many of the new Op Spec B3's was to No 1 Special Wireless Group (1 SWG)known as Rothamsted (Harpenden), a large manor house outside London. The first tasks for the members of the new operators, was as checks (general "gofers") they were only be allowed to sit on a wireless receiver under the supervision of a Real operator. When the powers to be considered the new operator to be efficient, then and only then would he be accepted on to the strength of the Group. But until then they would remain a SO (M) TB troops on attachment and could be returned to the holding Company at any time.

Watches were at this unit based on that no one was required to work on the same day of the week during the same hours; there were three-watch in every 24 hours. The watch cycle began at 00.01 hours on the first day and terminated at 08.00hours and the men would sleep until 16.00 hours after which they were free until 00.01 Hours The same routine existed on the second day, but on the third day the watch began as usual at 00.01 and ended at 08.00, but the men returned to the set rooms at 16.00 until 23.59 hours. On the fourth day the men would be available for practice Infantry skills, or such other delights as military minds could devise, from 09.00 until 12.00 and went on watch at 16.00 until 23.59.The same was true of the fifth day. On the sixth, seventh and eighth days the watch ran from 06.00 to 16.00 after which they were free for 32 hours before starting the next cycle. Thus they worked for nine watches of eight hours duration each in eight days and the next 32 hours break allowed some to go to London for recreation.

It was a rule for all operators to be on Watch 15 minutes before its scheduled start time in order to learn from the operator being relieved the state of the net and to remain on Watch 15 minutes after its scheduled end, in order to hand over to the next relief and to clear up outstanding paper work. Due to the size of staff working within the manor not all could be billeted in the grounds of the manor so some were billeted outside the manor. This would take up to thirty minutes each way in travelling time so that this would reduce the off duty time, to less than seven hours in which to have a meal, sleep, wash have a second meal and prepare for the return to the set rooms. Smoking was forbidden in the set rooms due the high risk of fire from a badly extinguished fag which could set alight the large amount of paper around the set rooms .

Each watch could have has many as 100 operators listening to many types of enemy transmitting stations, from the local military officer's asking for more stationary to a bomber group, forming up over France, for a raid over London. From every message logged and sent on to Station X (BP) a little more of the jig saw was put together of how, when, who & what the enemy was thinking and planning It has been said by many that the work done by 'Y' Service and Bletchley Park shorten the World War II by two years and saved thousands of Allied lives.

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