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Directorate of Telecommunications
SOURCE (circa 1970s)

“…………………and then, while drifting about on this better than ever refurbished Website, I came across the newspaper article about CCE at Harrow. It reminded me of the two periods I served at CCE, June 67—Nov 67, and Mar 73—June 74. Ray Stoodley was the CWE in charge, Sammie Hood  in the Stores, and Jim Sproson the RWE for London Region.

Joe Portanier was a visiting CWE, who spent a lot of his time at the Civil Defence College at Easingwold in Yorkshire, later to be called UKWMO. He was responsible for all Civil Defence communications equipment, including the new 1 plus 6 equipment made by AT&T. This was a single Carrier Freq. on which there were 6 sub-carriers. New exciting stuff.

The people who were planned to use the 1 plus 6 were the ROC (Royal Observer Corps), in communications with the RSGs, (Regional Seats Of Government) in the event of War. There were three RSGs in the Cranbrook Depot area, the deep basement at Dover Castle, Tunbridge Wells at Hawkenbury, and at Horsham.

In my earlier Cranbrook WT days I had accompanied the SWT on routine maintenance visits to Dover and Hawkenbury. I remember seeing cages stacked with tins with simple labels, Baked Beans, Potatoes, Sausages, etc.  I never visited Horsham. An article by John Leake, and photos of the inside of Hawkenbury, are shown on pages 12 to 23 of Intercom No 7. 1975.

On my second period of service at CCE things had changed. Someone talked about the “SOURCE”. It was said in hushed undertones that sounded as if they were talking about something from outer space. I was intrigued and asked Jim Sproson what it was all about. He said “it was nothing to do with him” I eventually found there was something going on in the sub-basement, so I went to see what I could find out about the “SOURCE”.

Down below I found the door locked. And then, behind me came Harry Hurrell. I hadn’t seen Harry since our early days as WTs at Cranbrook in the very early 1960s. These were the days of Home Office Communications Branch, under Commander Best, and before we became a Directorate.

After our greetings I asked Harry what he was up to. He said he, and only he, worked “down below”. He unlocked the door and said “come on down”. He took me into the sub-basement and there, in the corner was what looked like a Lead Lined Cabinet.
Around were unpacked boxes and others obviously awaiting packing. He then took me to the “Cabinet”. Outside was a control desk, a door into the “Cabinet” and racks of  “Dos Meters”.

RadiationIt turned out that what Harry did was to calibrate Dos Meters. Dos Meters measure “Radiation”.  In times of a Nuclear Attack on this country, the Royal Observer Corps would measure Radiation. They were to pop up out of their Dugouts, which were dotted all over the South East, and elsewhere I suspect, and the information transmitted to the RSGs.

Harry would put Dos Meters onto racks, wheel them into the Cabinet, secure the door, and switch on the “No Entry Lights” and “Sirens” from the control desk. He would then remotely open the door inside the Cabinet to expose the “SOURCE” to the Dos Meters. After the right amount of time the door to the “SOURCE” would be closed and the Dos Meters exchanged.

 The newly calibrated Dos Meters were then sent to the Civil Defence Store at Weedon. And that was it. Needless to say Harry always wore a Dos Meter himself, but it explains why some people at CCE, when talking about the “SOURCE”,  always crossed their hands in front of their sensitive parts as if they still had hopes of bearing children. Harry was quite a bit older than me and maybe he was not quite so worried.

One of the big events at CCE was when the “SOURCE” needed to be exchanged, when it’s Radiation started to fail. A large van, similar to a security van of today, would come to CCE, escorted by police cars, with lights and horns front and rear, stopping all traffic. They would arrive and depart to and from AWRE Aldermaston. Perhaps this was the reason for the uproar in the local press about what was going on at CCE??.

Acknowledgement: John Maloney

page updated: 22/07/19

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