Memories: Rita Jaye

Memories of life at 'H' Group transmitters by Rita Jaye, née. Barnsley

I joined the BBC in 1943. I was directed there instead of joining the Wrens. The Corporation had started to recruit women now the men had been called up. I was sent to serve on an "H" group transmitter! These were a group of some thirty or so transmitters scattered around the country in secret places so the nazis wouldn't know where we were. The Home Service was radiated about thirty miles. In case of invasion they could become the secret radios.

I was told to report to the "H" group in a village called Christmas Pie (yes really). I arrived there (it's near Guildford) to realise they hadn't told me where the transmitter was.

After wandering about for a while in desperation I asked someone walking by if they knew of a BBC building. "Oh the secret station - it's over there." She pointed to a heap of bricks in the middle of a field.

I went to the heap of bricks and knocked. A bright lady answered. She said that Geoff had gone to meet me but not knowing what I looked like he had come back. This was the sort of "Dad's Army" outfit I came to know.

There was an elderly man (the Engineer in Charge), a couple of local boys waiting to be called up, about three older women recruited at the beginning of the war, and a couple of girls.

We took readings from the many dials and phoned BH control room every hour to let them know we were still there. The transmitter was staffed for twenty-four hours a day.

I witnessed history being made when Richard Dimbleby came straight from Farnborough air base with his recording of the raids over Germany. His equipmemt was enormous and recorded on discs. Stanley Maxted also came, fresh from Normandy.

In case the dastardly nazis got to the transmitter we were to smash the rectifiers.

"What are the rectifiers" I asked.

"Not sure, ask Geoff." Geoff was one of the boys.

"Where are they?"

"Ask Geoff."

I met up with Geoff much later at 200 Oxford Street as a studio manager. Thankfully we never had to smash the rectifiers.

I enjoyed Guildford, made good friends, went riding on days off, and I was sorry to leave.

Then on to Ipswich to do a maternity relief. I had lovely digs with a great couple. This transmitter was underneath the Ipswich swimming baths. We descended stairs to the caverns underneath the baths, dark and swarming with cockroaches. It was a larger set up because in addition to local "H" group transmitter we also "fed" the American Forces Network (AFN) from their main studio to some ten airbases.

We were invited once to the base of one and taken in a jeep to an evening dance. We couldn't believe our eyes, not the blaring dance music but the FOOD. It was laid out on a long table, cream cakes, ham, cheeses. All manner of goodies that to a rationed bunch of girls seemed like another world, we ate as much as we decently could!

While at Ipswich I made one of my really good BooBoos. Every morning we had to plug the AFN to the many bases, this meant getting hold of about a dozen "double-enders" and plugging them in. My senior, a rather dour woman, decided to leave me to do this, she vanished, cockroaches courteously making way for her. I plugged everything in, hoping for the best.

"Let us pray" intoned the reverend. "Hey you sad SACs rise and shine" bellowed an American voice. For some reason I had superimposed the AFN on the daily service. The rev plodded on, fighting a losing battle with Frank Sinatra who bade us come out, come out wherever we were. Phones rang all over the place. I was helpless, my senior shot in, scattering the cockroaches. To say she turned a whiter shade of pale would be an understatement. The rev prayed for us as Glen Miller wanted us to get in the mood. My senior ripped the double-enders out to a final "amen". There was a great fuss, the EiC was in trouble for letting a senior allowing me to do the cross plugging.

I do remember, too, the thousand bomber raids. All those Flying Fortresses with a deafening roar, wave after wave after wave, then, hours after, a faint drone getting louder. They were coming back with so many many gaps in the formation, fuselages torn and some trailing smoke.

We learned later how many hundreds of young airmen lost their lives on these raids.

I wasn't sorry to leave Ipswich. It was a gloomy place and I hated beetles.

Next was the lodge on the estate of Suttons (where the seeds come from). It was lovely and I made good friends there. I was on shift with Eva Hinds. She was, I think, the only woman ME and she had an engineering degree. I think the EiC loathed her and made it as difficult as possible for her. She had escaped from Singapore with her husband, taking off in a yacht. She was on the last ship taking her firm's records with her and was bombed all the way for miles. No EiC would bother her.

He would give her orders to build something on night shift, she was stripped for action, heavy duty bra, rather baggy bloomers (she liked freedom of movement), fag hanging from her mouth, eyes narrowed. Working with her soldering iron, I haven't the faintest idea what she was doing. I did the readings, maintained the logs and made cups of tea.

Next morning the Prince of Darkness arrived, seized pliers and wrenched at the work hoping it would fall apart. No such luck, dearie. He shambled off to his den.

Came VE Day. I cycled through the streets. Bonfires were lit and the pubs were overflowing.

Eva sailed back to Singapore to join her husband. Their lovely house was wrecked, occupied by the Japanese. His firm were so pleased at them saving their records they gave him a small island off Mallaca!

Then home and on to 200 Oxford Street!

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