The Special Duties Royal Signals were set up in September 1940 when Colonel Gubbins recruited Captain John Hills. He recognised the potential of numerous wireless amateurs now serving in the forces and through the Radio Society of Great Britain brought them together at Bachelors Hall in Suffolk. The first formal Auxiliary Units (Signals) War Establishment was created in February 1941 and wireless trials commenced as the new sets were produced.
The Royal Signals men travelled around the country setting the initial Wireless Networks. Once this task was complete, there was a Royal Signals team allocated to each Network Area. This consisted of three or four men whose job was to maintain and repair the wireless sets and aerials across the Network and also to deliver the lead acid batteries required to operate the sets after charging and collect depleted ones to recharge. Each team was issued with either a "Tilly", which was an Austin or Morris light utility truck based on a small car, or a two-seater Austin car, or sometimes a motorcycle.
There was also a small Royal Signals Headquarters section which covered several Network Areas consisting of a Lieutenant and a Sergeant, plus a technician, along with a driver. They supervised the work of the Area teams.
Unfortunately we only have very limited information about which Royal Signals men were in which Areas. They are also known to have been rotated quite frequently.
In early September 1944, as Auxiliary Units Special Duties was being being wound up, a group photo of almost all the Royal Signals men was taken at Coleshill House. A surviving named copy of this photo is our only evidence for many of these men that they ever served with Auxiliary Units. Because we lack any other details about so many, we have listed all of the Royal Signals men below. A small group of men was missing, as they were at Balmoral, providing communication for the Auxiliary Units guarding the King and the rest of the Royal Family.
The names on the photo are as follows:
Back row: Hemstock, Cain, Ellison, Bevan, Clowes, McLearey, Leaverland, Pettitt, Harvey, Sims, Casey, Bayldon
2nd row: Gilbert, Shipley, Prior, Ferguson, David, Hewitt, Larkin, Greening, Mackie, Caldow, Foard, Gabbitas, Winsbury, Crawley
3rd row: Higgins, Harvey, Nicholson, Dudding, Gray, Escott, Furmston, Eagleton, Brown, Montgomerie, Dodds, Murrow, Duffell, Wright, Marshall, Baker, Davey
4th row: Bartholomew, Gambles, Ferguson, Dunford, Orr, Cash, Allen, Morris, Shooter, Davis, Dallimore, Martin, Healey, Lindeman, Cropper, Mackender
Front row: Joan Hayman, Judson, Ellis, Spencer, Moriarty, Weatherhead, Shanks, Major Green, Thimont, Fletcher, Dabbs, Chalk, Millie, Air, Parnell
Absent: Bradley, McNab, Booth, Nicolson, Robinson, Harrison
For more on these men see our Royal Signals Support page here.