|RADIO SECURITY SERVICE|
Wartime unpreparedness and the origins of the R.S.S.
|Before the war, only a few of the British Embassies abroad had been equipped with short wave radio. Wireless communications had not been set up for the existing networks of the S.I.S. (Secret Intelligence Service) which therefore had to rely upon such outdated means as secret ink and cover postal addresses. Since, as a matter of course, the Nazis intercepted all international mail to and from Germany, this was hardly satisfactory and the only secure means to communicate with headquarters was by Kings Messenger.|
The Radio Security Service is established to detect enemy spies in Britain
Realising that there might be German agents in Britain, who were operating radio guidance beacons for wireless communication with Germany.
At the beginning of the war MI5 set up a small department, under Major J. Worlledge, to detect enemy radio transmissions. With no previous facilities, this was built up into the highly successful Radio Security Service, (R.S.S.) known by the cover of MI8(c). In order to cope with a shortage of trained staff, working in their spare time radio amateurs were recruited and they became known as Voluntary Interceptors, or V.I.s.
|The managing director of a wine shippers, Ralph Sheldon, who had become Lord Sandhurst in 1933, as an enthusiastic radio amateur had been appointed to develop the organization into an effective force and towards this end for suggestions he approached the President of the Radio Society of Great Britain. During the summer of 1939 many prisoners had been moved out of C Block, in Wormwood Scrubs, and several of the vacant cells were then taken over to become the headquarters for the R.S.S., with a direct teleprinter link to Bletchley Park. It was in one of these cells that the interview with Arthur Watts, the R.S.G.B. President, took place.|
The R.S.S. becomes a success!
Watts recommended that they harness the entire R.S.G.B. Council and this was duly done. If the V.I.s achieved a minimum target each month then they were exempt from other duties, such as fire watching and in fact they became so adept at distinguishing messages of interest, from the routine military and commercial traffic, that some of their interceptions even gave Bletchley Park useful leads in their code breaking. In fact two of the R.S.S. personnel, Walter Gill and Hugh Trevor Roper, had managed to crack low grade Abwher cyphers even before Bletchley Park.
|In September, 1939, the radio receivers of all radio amateurs were confiscated but many of the 'hams' readily volunteered to become V.I.s in their own homes, or join the R.S.S. Initially the messages logged by the V.I.s were sent by the Regional Officers to Wormwood Scrubs but soon the volume became so great that with an increase in enemy aerial activity larger premises had to be sought. Arkley View, in the village of Arkley, near Barnet, was requistioned for the purpose with the secret cryptic address P.O. Box 25, Barnet. There a staff of analysts began|
|their duties but by March, 1940, it had become clear that no enemy signals were originating from Britain. However, enemy signals on the Continent had been intercepted and it was the R.S.S. that first gave warning of the massive German offensive of May 10th. As the threats of a German invasion increased, so efforts to retain the talents of the V.I.s were made and by one directive; 'Find out from your employer if he will release you in the event of an invasion so that as long as you are in unoccupied territory you can put in a full time watch'.
The success of the R.S.S., the fact that it now monitored enemy signals abroad and the fact that some of it's personnel had managed to decode some of the signals ahead of Bletchley Park, began the moves to bring the R.S.S. under the control of MI8 (c), the S.I.S. communications section and from June, 1941, it duly came under the control of Brigadier Gambier Parry, who decided to militarise the set up.
The Secret Service Set up their own communications
Recognising the dangers, Admiral Sinclair, as head of the Secret Service, created Section VIII, his own communications department, immune from Foreign Office intervention and to run this new organization he had chosen Richard Gambier Parry. He set up Special Communications Group No. 1 (SCU1) at Whaddon Hall, another large requisitioned country mansion, deliberately sited near to Bletchley Park.
|The move was definitely a step in the right direction for before the war the Foreign Office only had a small communications department but now, on the appointment of Gambier Parry a decision to lease Hanslope Park, to include the large lodge at Bullington End, in North Buckinghamshire, was taken. This then become the first major radio station of the Foreign Office, run by Major Ted Maltby. In the early months of the war, despite the German advances, several agents in Europe managed to maintain their schedules with Hanslope, at least for awhile.
By early 1943, during their activities the R.S.S. became aware of 'enemy' signals apparently radiating from the local area. On enquiries to the B.B.C.,
|they were then referred to the wireless technical director of the S.I.S., who informed Colonel Maltby that these stations were in fact British 'black' radio stations. In future Colonel Maltby would be given a schedule of all such programs and their frequencies.|
|Back to top|