The Role of an ATS Officer in Auxiliary Units (Signals)

Junior Commander B Culleton, Coleshill, 1942

The author of this report joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service in November 1938. By July 1941 found herself involved in training for 'urgent, very secret and possibly dangerous' work. Final selection depended on the results of voice tests carried out using a simple R/T set, put together by Royal Corps of Signals personnel/Radio Hams (The originals in a wooden casing).

Then came a period of more detailed training, still at a secret location 'somewhere in Essex', including maintenance of the sets; deciphering/enciphering codes and the use of a rifle and pistol (although these were not issued to us). This was followed by a shortened Course at No.1 ATS OCTU, Edinburgh and subsequent posting to Auxiliary Units with the rank of 2nd Subaltern.

Initially most ATS (Signals) Officers were accommodated, with board, in civilian billets - selected by the local Police; attached to the nearest Area Headquarters for administrative purposes; dependent on the Royal Corps of Signals personnel for providing transport to and from billets to sites and for technical assistance at the 'secret' locations. We were privileged to wear their Corps badges as also, the 'flashes' of the Area Headquarters.

Local requirements most likely varied from area to area but, as far as is known, Control Stations were set up initially by 1/2 operators. Although the main task was to link up 6/8 Out-stations, watches were programmed to listen out for broadcasts by suspect Agents. Any contact had to be reported immediately to the G2 Intelligence at the Area Headquarters. At NO time was Morse Code used.

As soon as a complete network was fully operational it was a case of packing one's bags and being transported to another area, often at the opposite end of the country, to carry out the same procedure all over again. The station left would then be taken over by permanent operators.

Security at all times and everywhere was very tightly observed. No indication was ever given as to numbers of personnel involved; numbers and/or locations of stations. Only as much information as was needed to be known was given out at any one time and certainly, nothing about the existence of the Patrols section of Auxiliary Units. If our identity was ever questioned, officially (e.g. by Military Police) a War Office telephone number was given to each Officer from which further information could be obtained.

Hannington Hall

Towards the end of the year, changes were afoot and in December 1941, my posting came through to Headquarters, Auxiliary Units, Coleshill House, near Highworth, Wiltshire as Administrative Assistant to Senior Commander Beatrice Temple. We were billeted at Hannington Hall, owned by the Fry family, together with Major Maurice Petherick and Captain Charles Randell.

With S/C Temple in command, the role of the ATS in Aux.Units underwent a complete review, was much extended and by November 1943 a new Headquarters Establishment had been fully implemented.

Senior Commander B Temple, Coleshill 1942

This account relates the experiences, as memory serves, of just one of the 'pilot' Officers of Auxiliary Units Special Duties Section (Signals), who helped set up radio links to and from Control Stations across the country, between July 1941 and December 1941 - before the days of 'the secret sweeties' - as mentioned in David Lampe’s book "THE LAST DITCH".


Barbara Culleton

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