Wool Outstation

Wool, Dorset
Call sign
Osterley 6
Special Duties Personnel
Role Name Posted from Until
Operator Mr Albert James Speed Unknown 20 Jul 1944
Runner Mr William Alfred Dowding Unknown 20 Jul 1944
Runner Mrs Esther Elizabeth Drew Unknown 20 Jul 1944
Runner Mr Arthur Hammond "Jack" Newey Unknown 20 Jul 1944
Runner Mr John Nichols Unknown 20 Jul 1944
Runner Mr Norman William Henry Talbot Unknown 20 Jul 1944
Runner Mr John Graham Walker Unknown 20 Jul 1944
Station description

After the war, Wireless Operator, Bert Speed showed his daughter the underground wireless hideout. This was in a small wood on high ground just south of his Burton Cross home. She did not go inside so was unable to describe the interior. Alf Ellis, Royal Signals Sergeant, gives a map reference in his diary of work undertaken which is for the junction of the access road with the road from Wool to Owermoigne. This road is quite quiet as it does not directly lead anywhere, except to access the fields between the convergences of two main roads. The site of the OB is now occupied by a post war underground reservoir, which also needed to be built on high ground like the outstation. It is likely on an underground site like this that the aerial would have been concealed on the top of horizontal tree branches, with the feeder cable buried beneath a section of bark cut out for the purpose, then glued back in place. 

Bert Speed was particularly friendly with John Nichols, the publican of Ship Inn, who may have been one of the network of runners or spies linked to each outstation. Both men would obviously have been well placed to be in contact with a large number of people in the course of their business, even after an invasion, without attracting suspicion. He is also remembered to have frequently whistled a short refrain in the years shortly after the war. "Dar did did e dar dar did did e daar daar". It has been speculated that this might have been a recognition sign with his contacts. Not whistling it might indicate something was wrong and to ignore him. A July 2014 account from Coombe Keynes resident Michael Drew fills in more of the pieces. He had moved to the village, a short distance from Wool, in 1933 with his family. His father, John Drew had given up farming due to poor health and they moved into the Coombe Keynes vicarage. At the outbreak of war, the vicarage was nominated as the village ARP and First Aid centre, with John’s wife Esther as ARP coordinator, distributing gas masks and such like. By June 1940, John Drew had enlisted in the Dorset Regiment and three of his sons were also in the Army, with a daughter working in a shipyard. Michael Drew was attending Dorchester Grammar school, while his mother also helped with the Women's Voluntary Service, Women's Institute and Land Army. Despite, or perhaps because of, all these roles, she was also a courier for Auxiliary Units Special Duties. Michael understands that her role was to pass messages from Mr William Alfred Dowding, the landlord of the The Castle Inn, West Lulworth to Mr Norman Talbot the postmaster at Wool, who would pass these onto a wireless operator. Mr Dowding would leave the message in an old Oxo tin in a tree stump close to Coombe Church.

Michael reports daily trips to find Cow Parsley in the hedgerows to feed to their rabbits (kept for food not pets), which provided cover for checking for messages. Mrs Drew would also regularly visit The Red Lion pub in Winfrith despite being teetotal, since the public bar was divided by curtains, which allowed her to speak to a another person without either seeing who they conversed with. This account obviously makes it more likely that John Nichol, from the Ship Inn was involved. John Graham “Jonnie” Walker, publican of the Black Dog at East Stoke was also mentioned as a possible contact of Bert Speed. (He was later publican at the Weld Arms, East Stoke, though Edwin Bonham. Aged 68 in 1941, was the wartime licensee here). Quite separately, Dorset Auxilier Fred Simpson thought that Mr Newey, publican of the Black Bear Inn in Wool, had a wireless transmitter, though given the above account, possibly he was yet another link in the network.

Map Location

Wool Outstation


Correspondence with Diana Parry and Yoland Brown
Additional information from Roy Martin, Alan Watson and Alan Brown
Alf Ellis information via Arthur Gabbitas
Site visit May 2014