The Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey ran a I SPY week during the Winter Half Term. A few LEFARS members (also volunteers, the Radio Group, at the Royal Gunpowder Mills) provided a themed display over the period of Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd February.
The display items were selected from the LEFARS collection (looked after by John Mulye G0VEH) and the personal collection of David Coles M0IDF. The period covered from World War II to early Cold War. Clandestine radios included a WWII B2 Spy set and a WWII Paraset, also a 1940s PCR receiver on medium wave and SIS station, including HRO
receiver and Wadden Transmitter MKII, receiving CW on 40m. A wire straddled across the room worked very well, low noise levels all weekend and CW stations from France and the Netherlands being received.
Other exhibits showed receivers as supplied to the Volunteer Interceptors (“VIs”) and Y Stations listening initially for German spies in the UK and later intercepting German military traffic under the Radio Security Service (RSS).
Dave M0IDF had set up a SIS Field station closely following a photo taken in Holland in 1944. The Imperial typewriter, used to fill in the message forms, was a great attraction for young and old. Especially the young – children enjoyed seeing the letters appear and the mechanical effort required with typing.
In keeping with the “hands on” theme, visitors had a chance to try out some (fairly simple) coding exercises and send their name in Morse code. Alan Schiffman G4GQL issued 75 Morse certificates on Friday, our busiest day (photo below). In all, over 110 were completed over three days. We ran out of complimentary pin badges and stickers.
We had a selection of coding examples and sheets to take away including a code wheel to make at home (organised by David Priest M0VID).
Other attractions were the Field Telephones, most of the children had not seen or used a telephone handset before!
John Mulye G0VEH had an Ordnance Survey map from the 1940s – key installations of interest to spies, e.g. airfields, were missing.
A selection of books and additional information covering spy activities over the period were on display.
Thanks to the following members of the RGM Radio Group for their help and support over the three days :-
David Coles John Mulye Alan Schiffman David Priest John Ray
The LEFARS collection and also items from David Coles’ collection, in keeping with the event, will be seen at the Victory in Europe Weekend 8th to 10 May at the Royal Gunpowder Mills.
[photo credits: David Coles, John Mulye, John Ray, Royal Gunpowder Mills]