Department Electra House

The property having been taken over by the War Office, towards this end he moved into Whaddon Hall (pictuted left) at the end of 1939 and shortly to join him was the Oundle educated Harold Robin, who throughout the war held responsibility for the technical side of all the department’s secret broadcast operations. Before the war both Robin and Gambier Parry - as sales manager - had worked for the Philco Company and as for the longstanding occupants of Whaddon Hall, the locally famed Selby Lowndes family, they then moved to Winslow.

Early in 1940, in order to radiate the propaganda programmes Robin was given the task of constructing a short wave transmitter not far from Whaddon and after surveying the immediate area he selected a site in a large field at Gawcott, where two American 7.5KW transmitters were duly installed. The first propaganda broadcasts were then recorded at Whaddon Hall in the gun room, with acoustic damping material draping the walls.The programmes were then sent, via Post Office lines, for transmission from Gawcott. Recorded on 16

Paris House
inch American glass based discs and played at 33 1/3rd R.P.M. the broadcasts therefore had a limited duration of around twenty minutes. Lisa Towse, Gambier Parry's personal secretary and later his wife, spoke and wrote excellent French and at Whaddon, with Gambier Parry's encouragement, wrote scripts for a clandestine station 'Radio Beaux Arts', broadcast from a transmitter in the West Country.

For the administration and other needs of the Woburn operation many typists were recruited. For the most part they came from

Gawcott Radio Station
the Imperial Communications Advisory Board and Thomas Cook and Son whilst such establishments as Keith Prowse Ltd., Derry and Toms and the Dorchester and Grosvenor House hotels supplied the eight telephone operators. Nobody was allowed to give their address or to say what they were doing and as with the secret broadcasters, all letters had to be sent to London for posting.

The military wing of Electra House was still retained in London and so Campbell Stuart regularly shuttled between the two centres in his Rolls Royce, accompanied by three personal assistants and a filing cabinet! This problem of distance also tended to dilute the Department’s influence on the German department of the B.B.C. and this situation was further weakened by the fact that the channel - for conveying the Department’s wishes and suggestions - consisted of two officers provided by and paid for by the B.B.C.! Few at Woburn had any first hand knowledge of Nazi Germany and to amend this situation Ivone Kirkpatrick - head of the Foreign Office Central Department - paid several visits, to provide expert advice. Wounded twice during military service in World War One, having been invalided home he then joined a secret organisation, investigating means of propaganda. He therefore became involved in early trials to drop leaflets by balloon, which met with great success and thus in the Second World War qualified him admirably to assist in the propaganda operations.

Back to top