Praise for operators

I READ, with much interest, the article (Observer, July 12) concerning the work done at Bletchley Park as I too have been sworn to secrecy for many years and only recently have been able to acquaint my friends and family of the work I did while serving in the ATS.

As a permanent civil servant, I was not obliged to register for wartime duties but chose to enlist, hoping to be a radar operator, but this was not possible because of poor eyesight.

As an alternative I chose to train as a wireless operator and, after several gruelling months, was posted to a special wireless station in Derbyshire, recently set up to receive messages sent by the enemy. The work involved ‘round-the-clock’ surveillance of enemy transmitters and the coded ‘traffic’ was forwarded to Bletchley Park, either by teleprinter or sometimes by motor cycle dispatch rider.

We worked on six-hour shifts with a 12-hour interval enabling all four ‘Watches’ to share the burden of the busiest hours. The work required maximum concentration as reception was often of poor quality and, if a signal was received indicating a change of frequency, a frantic search was necessary to ‘keep tabs’ on the transmission.

The unit moved north just before the winter of 1944/45 to a station on the moors eight miles from Harrogate – just imagine the journey, in dead of night, in a troop transport with chains on the wheels!

I am, in no way, decrying the very valuable work done by the codebreakers, but I have, so often, felt that the work of the special wireless operators has almost gone unnoticed; without their efforts, the overall success achieved at Bletchley Park would have been minimised.

Beatrice Davison

Middleton on Sea