Jul 082016

Barbara Marion CulletonWe are sad to announce the death of Barbara Marion Culleton who passed away peacefully on Sunday 19th June at Maise House, the Royal British Legion Nursing Home, Bexhill-on-Sea.

In 1933 aged 15 Barbara Culleton arrived in London on her own and found digs and secretarial work.

On the 9th September 1938 the Women’s Branch of the British Army the ‘Auxiliary Territorial Service’ was formed. Within two months Barbara had enlisted into Princess Louise’s Kensington Regiment as a volunteer (as ATS privates were then called).

The day before war was declared she was embodied into the Army and was posted to the War Station Railway Training Centre at Longmore and remembers having to help put rolling stock back on the tracks.

It was in July 1941 while she was at her next posting to 12 Field Training Regiment RA at Bordon that she was first Interviewed and told that she had been selected to become an officer. She was asked to consider being involved in training for ‘urgent, very secret and possibly dangerous’ work.


On the 3rd May 1955 Captain Barbara Culleton WRAC was awarded the Territorial Decoration for serving her Country. She continued to serve until 12 December 1968 when she reached the upper age limit and so reluctantly had to leave. Barbara Culleton had served her Country for 30 years.

We will remember them.

Jun 272016

Chirnside 1 Special Duties Branch Out Station 5

Today we have added an extensive update to the previous report on the Special Duties Branch hidden radio hide codenamed ‘Chirnside 1‘.

Thanks to the very kind new owners our team were allowed in to record this most rare of top secret WW2 locations.

Take a video tour inside the hide, hidden under an outside privy, and read the full report here. 

Our thanks to Dr Will Ward, Martyn Allen, Nina Hannaford and Chris Perry for their cracking work to get this online.

May 212016

Inside the WWII secret wireless station, or IN-Station in Norwich, which has just been protected as a scheduled monument. The entrance to the third chamber, which is where the escape tunnel begins from © Norfolk Historic Environment Service.A secret Second World War bunker built on the orders of Winston Churchill lay hidden under a Thorpe St Andrew estate for almost 70 years.

A secret Second World War bunker built on the orders of Winston Churchill lay hidden under a Thorpe St Andrew estate for almost 70 years.

Its entrance is behind a bookcase, its aerial was disguised in a tree with the feeder cable under the bark, and there was an escape tunnel in case its operatives were discovered.

Now the underground wireless station, on private land at Pinebanks, off Yarmouth Road, has been protected as a scheduled monument by the government on the advice of Historic England.

The rare IN-Station, also known as a Zero Station, was part of a mysterious secret wireless network operated mostly by civilian agents.

Wireless stations were set up in 1940 by Winston Churchill in response to the increasing threat of German invasion.

Pinebanks in Norwich picture by Adrian Judd for EN

Pinebanks in Norwich picture by Adrian Judd for EN

It is thought that just 32 of the bunkers were built in England during the Second World War, with just a dozen discovered so far and the Pinebanks bunker is one of the most intact examples.

The station, which received messages from OUT-Stations in enemy-occupied areas, was found by a retired groundsman in the gardens of Pinebanks in 2012.

It has now been awarded special protected status to preserve it and to celebrate its history.

Heritage minister David Evennett said: “This underground wireless station is a rare and unusual example of our Second World War heritage and deserves to be protected.

“It is a reminder too of the often forgotten role so many civilians played in the war effort often acting in secret and undercover.”

The recruits in Churchill’s Secret Army, also known as the British Resistance Organisation, had to verbally swear to secrecy, with one hand on a Bible. In some cases even their families knew nothing of the role that required them to leave their homes regularly at night.

Historic England’s Tony Calladine said: “This amazing place that has survived intact played a highly secret but vitally important role in preparing us for a feared invasion during the Second World War. Because so much information about the stations was either hidden or destroyed, this small but significant dugout has great potential to teach us about a relatively little-known area of our 20th century military history.”

A spokesman for Ocubis Ltd, development manager for site owner Berliet Ltd, said: “We have been liaising with BDC and Historic England and, as we have always stated, will ensure the setting of this historically important former Norwich WW2 IN-station in Thorpe St Andrew is preserved.”

It is thought that the bunker was built under the Jarrold family’s tennis court at Pinebanks in the 1940s.

Details only emerged after the family’s former gardener, who had to sign the Official Secrets Act, told a young groundsman about the construction work he had witnessed.

The gardener did not disclose this until after his retirement, and he did not reveal the location, with this emerging later.

Winston Churchill had set up a secret army unit called GHQ Auxillary Units with a particular branch known as Special Duties, and wireless stations were built as part of this.

Civilian volunteers living in the most threatened coastal areas of the country were trained to spy and report on German military activities from within occupied areas, with their messages received by IN-Stations like the one at Pinebanks.

Details about their locations and construction were kept secret and very little documentation of the stations exists.

Information was protected in case they should be needed again in the future.

Historic England is asking the public to come forward with information about family members who were trained to be civilian spies, or any clues as to where the remaining 20 IN-stations lay hidden.

Email communications@HistoricEngland.org.uk

Report by Sam Russell (Eastern Daily Press)


Jul 012015

Captain Ken WardCaptain Ken Ward was an integral part of the development of the Special Duties Branch (A secret radio network set up around the country to broadcast German movements post invasion).

Ken was a Royal Signals Adjutant who started work in the SDB with 16 other radio hams. Ken made the radio sets before installing them in the coast stations. He then taught the operators how to use them as well as maintaining them.

Once installed teams of 2 would go out from wherever they were based and visit the stations, change and charge the batteries.

Problems with the early radio sets resulted in Ken agreeing to make a new one. In about 3 weeks flat he had produced the TRD, which was an all in one box.

Our thanks to research by Bill Ashby & Ken’s daughter Kate for this bio.

Read more about Ken’s military career and Aux work here.

Jun 222015
Copyright Katie Hart - Just Regional

Copyright Katie Hart – Just Regional

Jill Monk from Aylsham in Norfolk has passed away at the age of 89.

During the war Jill worked for the Special Duties Branch (part of the Aux Units) as a message courier for her father’s secret radio station. This was cleverly hidden in the coal hole of the family house at Aylsham where he was a doctor.

Jill would be sent out at night, commonly on horseback, to deliver any messages they had received. The messages were hidden inside split tennis balls and deposited via a disguised pipe. Jill had two horses, one chestnut, for riding during the day, and one black, for night exercises when she would ride cross-country.

See more about her work below.

Towards the end of the war Jill became a radar operator at the Chain Home Radar Station in Stoke Holy Cross. In 1946, she competed at the Aylsham Show on her then favourite mount, Merry Monarch, a horse she had also favoured, because of its dark coat colour, when out at night delivering secret messages. She remained a regular competitor at the Aylsham Show for many years, first as a horse rider and later as a judge and sponsor of the Highland Pony in-hand classes.

Her remarkable story is catalogued both in ‘With Britain in Mortal Danger’ and ‘Churchill’s Underground Army‘ by John Warwicker or you can read our interview with her here.

May 192015

Widworthy Special Duties Out Station 2

Thanks to research by Chris Perry and Nina Hannaford we have published a new report on the Widworthy Special Duties Branch OutStation, code named ‘Chirnside 2’ in Devon.

Widworthy appears to differ to most OUT Stations in the area which were often within the gardens or grounds of the “Key Man” who operated it.

“Chirnside 2” was located in a dugout in Widworthy Wood half way up the hillside overlooking Widworthy Church and Widworthy Barton. It may well have been placed here due to the lack of wireless reception at the “Key Man’s” home.
This has left it difficult to identify the operator.

Read their complete report here.


Mar 302015

Wivelscombe SDB - 6Today we have added information on the Special Duties OUT station known as Golding 4 in Somerset. The info and images have been supplied by CART’s Devon CIO, Nina Hannaford and Aux researcher Chris Perry.

The secret wireless was sited at Captain Wight Boycott’s home Oakhampton House (sometimes recorded as Oakhampton Manor) Wiveliscombe. The site has been recorded as being in the attic but it is known a dugout was present so it COULD have originally been placed in the attic whilst the dugout was being built.

“Runners” would then have brought messages to the dugout.

In Devon messages these were left in secret compartments (Quite often message bolts) hidden in gate posts (see above) and this would have been ideal at the location though we cannot prove this happened here.

Read the full report here


Feb 242015

Hawkchurch SDB 2

Aux researcher Chris Perry with assistance from Nina Hannaford has today published a report on a Special Duties Out Station.

The report is about the wireless site, recorded as “Hawkchurch” Out Station, on the Devon / Dorset border (in Devon from 1896) which is actually in the nearby hamlet of Fishponds Bottom which is in Dorset on the edge of the Vale of Marshwood.

The wireless was located in a “chicken shed” at the rear of a house locally known as “Briscoe’s Farm”.

Read their detailed report here

Jan 242015
Roy Russell during the Second World War (Pic: Dorking Advertiser )

Roy Russell during the Second World War (Pic: Dorking Advertiser )

Roy Russell from Fetcham was an integral part of the secret radio network known as the Special Duties Branch, set up by Winston Churchill in 1940 and a part of the Auxiliary Units.

Roy started off as an ordinary infantryman and it was only when questioned by his enlisting officer that his career became clear.

“He asked me what I liked and I said music. He then asked me what sort and I said Brahms, Beethoven and Mozart, which he said was enemy stuff. I said I loved all music anyway and he said I would do well in the Royal Corps of Signals. These words would change my life.”

After joining the Corps he trained in Morse code and went on to intercept coded messages from German planes during the Blitz.

He later did officer training and was given his own area of the secret communications network covering parts of the North Sea and Channel coasts in the South East. The centre, near a cinema in Sevenoaks, was highly secretive and concealed in case of enemy invasion.

Mr Russell said: “It was hidden in a copse and to get in you had to find a little squar-ish stone with a cross on it which hid a square top of a metal rod. I would use a crank handle to raise a manhole-like circle covered in grass off of the ground, and step down a ladder.

“There would be a small chamber with shelving and an ammunition box so anybody who found it would think it an abandoned arms dump. But on one of the shelves was a piece of wire and if you pushed this through a hole it would cantilever into the set-room.”

You can see a similar location in Norwich here.

Roy’s secrecy over his wartime experiences lasted for 50 years after the war and he only told his story after receiving a phone call from Aux Writer John Warwicker.

He said: “I feel very proud of being part of it because it’s part of the war that not many people know about. It’s totally unbelievable and it seems very cloak and dagger, but it wasn’t like that for us.”

Roy Russell with the medal given to him in 2009 by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown. (Pic: Dorking Advertiser)

Roy Russell with the medal given to him in 2009 by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown. (Pic: Dorking Advertiser)

More than 60 years after the war ended, Mr Russell finally received recognition for the vital part he played in the Allied victory.

Because of the confidential nature of his work Mr Russell received no recognition for his efforts until he received a letter and medal from then Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009.

In the post-war years, Mr Russell became a successful screenwriter for much-loved TV series including The Saint, Dixon Of Dock Green, Tales Of The Unexpected and The Onedin Line.

He also wrote several documentaries, including one on Prince Charles called Pilot Royal, and another on Sir Francis Chichester’s epic voyage around the world, called The Lonely Sea And The Sky.

Throughout his career he was an active member of the Writers Guild of Great Britain and was awarded their Laurel Award for his services to the Guild.

Roy died on January 8 2015 after a five-year battle with Alzheimer’s.

His wife Barbara, 96, told the Dorking Advertiser: “He was the most marvellous husband, absolutely perfect; so good that we never had a single quarrel in 70 years of marriage.”

Sources: Surrey Mirror, Dorking Advertiser, BRA Archive. 

Jan 062015

Edgarley SD 2Edgarley ‘Chirnside Five’ – Special Duties Radio OUT Station has today been added to our Special Duties Branch microsite.

The Special Duties wireless set was recorded as operating out of a hut or box at Edgarley Manor Farm, Edgarley in Somerset. This was concealed as, or part of, a chicken house that was located between the farm house and Wick Lane.

There is some doubt over the actual operators of the station but the landowners (Captain) Kenneth and Dorothy Marsh have ideal credentials to be involved. Locally it is suggested a woman was the main operator.

Read Nina Hannaford’s full report here