RADARC’s connection with Vi’s and Hanslope Park 1939 – 1946.
Suggest reading both as there are lots of documents of details
This is a brief summary based on RADARC member, Ted Handcocks (G5HN) Memoirs of his VI & Radio Security Service (RSS, part of MI6) operations at Hanslope Park Intercept station from 1939 to 1946. A full, unaltered copy of the memoirs of Ted Handcocks can be downloaded as a pdf
RADARC was founded in December 1934 by Gerry Marcuse, G2NM who was RSGB’s rep. for Berkshire. Gerry lived a Sonning near Reading and was already well known for the start of Empire Broadcasting in the early 1920’s from his previous location of Caterham, Surrey. Around this time, Edward Maurice Handcocks of Caversham, Reading became licensed with the call G5HN. He joined the Club as a founder member and soon became very active on phone and CW.
With the approach hostilities in 1939, the setting up of the VI organisation took place and is described extensively at http://www.g3msw.demon.co.uk/index.html . Gerry Marcus G2NM, was a senior figure in the RSGB and became the leader of the local Group. He contacted potential VI’s in Berkshire. I don’t know how many responded, but Club Members G5HN and Wilf Allan, G6GT certainly responded. Both became VI’s and started sending logs in to PO Box 25 Barnet. This was in fact, Arkley View, Barnet, and was the home of RSS Special Communications unit 3 (SCU3). Comments and instructions were returned to the VI’s who put in thousands of hours of monitoring of what turned out to be German Abwehr communications, the German equivalent of MI6. This traffic was entirely hand set morse code, consisting of 3 letter callsigns and 5 figure groups, enciphered on Enigma machines. Large nets of many spies, agents and controllers were set up all over Europe and beyond.
VI Meeting, Leatherhead. G5HN on extreme left.
Most VI’s used simple receivers such the Eddystone All World Two (AW2) or more upmarket model such as the Hallicrafters Skybuddy. G5HN used a very good home built receiver. He purchased at considerable expense, a new Hallicrafters crystal calibrated wave meter to calibrate his own equipment. The Abwehr transmission were often from simple crystal controlled, 1 valve radio transmitters of just a few watts to a long wire antenna. Weak signals were the norm. Eventually in early 1942, a purpose built receiving station was opened at Hanslope Park in Buckinghamshire and SCU3 moved there. This station was to a very high standard, using banks of National HRO receivers and large wire vee beams and rhombic arrays. There were a number of out stations. This organisation was separate from the ‘Y’ Service which monitored military traffic. All organisations used the various HF DF stations set around the UK to locate the source of transmissions. Hanslope Park became the hub of the RSS intercept service but like all other intercept sites, all enciphered traffic went to Bletchley Park for decoding and analysis.
At this point many VI’s were called up as intercept operators, and became full time members of the armed services. They did not all undergo military training but at Hanslope wore army uniform. Another Reading VI, Ernest Trumper, was called up and was also at Hanslope Park. He became G3DAZ after the war.
Below is a very rare picture from inside Hanslope Park, showing the HRO receivers of general search bank 16, the position manned by G5HN, in shifts with others, 24 hours a day.
After the war, most of this operation eventually moved to GCHQ in near Cheltenham.
Most of these “volunteers” returned to Reading and their original occupations in 1946. Ted Handcocks remained at the same address in Caversham until he died in 1997. He was a very active radio amateur and great friend with whom I spent many hours re-living his experiences as a VI. He wrote his memoirs in 1990 and RADARC is privileged to be able to release this valuable archive into the public domain, courtesy of his Daughter, Angela Bennet.
The image below shows the shack of G5HN in the 1990s. The Hallicrafters Wavemeter can still be seen on the shelf. To the right out of site are four, 6ft racks of 1950’s valve AM equipment!!
Vin Robinson G4JTR
Information and data gathered by Vin Robinson G4JTR and Pete Smith G4JNU
Angela Bennet, Daughter of G5HN has given permission for the information above to be available to RADARC