The Biggs' Boys

By Ken Stofer

Copyright 2001-2006 Ken Stofer, All Rights Reserved

The Wireless Operator

   Communications were the lifeline of the Royal Air Force. Had the lines of communication failed, organized co-operation between headquarters, groups, squadrons, aircraft etc., would have been practically non-existent. Owing to the conditions of warfare those lines of communication were more essential than ever before.

   During World War Two a wireless operator's course consisted of a period of initial training at a recruits' centre, where he received instruction in the morse code up to a speed of 12 words per minute, this being followed by a three month's course at one of the wireless schools where he received theoretical and practical instruction together with further morse training up to a speed of 18 words per minute. This course didn't compare very favourably with those given prior to the expansion of the Royal Air force, when the course lasted for at least twelve months and the passing out standard required was a practical and theoretical knowledge of all wireless and electrical equipment in the service; petrol generating sets, ability to carry out repairs to all equipment and a morse speed of 25 words per minute.

   On leaving the training school the operator was only partially trained and it can be said that for his first three months at a unit he was completing his training.

   There was a large range of equipment and wireless duties in the service, and the operator was called on to undertake any of them. If on detached duty he had to rely on his own efforts in case of a breakdown. A selection of the duties a wireless operator was called upon to perform were: at the Main station, aircraft operating maintenance, direction finding, radio-telephony, army co-operation, wireless intelligence, motor boats, armoured cars, W/AG (wireless operator/air gunner). To cite only one example, a fighter pilot is instructed by radio-telephone when to take off, and when airborne he receives various courses, heights and patrol lines on which to fly, from the sector controller, as the latter receives information as to the movements of the enemy aircraft which he is to intercept. And quite possibly he depends on radio-telephony to guide him home again.

   Should this line of communication fail the pilot would be flying without any information as to enemy aircraft movements after he had taken off and interception would be practically impossible.

   Also by means of certain wireless equipment fitted in the aircraft the sector controller knew the position of any flight of aircraft at any time during their flight. This system was entirely automatic and required no attention by the pilot other than switching on at the moment of the flight. Pilots who lost themselves during an engagement or for any other reason could call a direction finding station, receive their position and, if required, a course to steer which would bring them back to their aerodrome.

Copyright 2006 Ken Stofer, All Rights Reserved

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