Mike Hedges G0JHK gives a talk on WW2 Wireless Operators

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Mike Hedges G0JHK gives a fascinating talk about his life as a WW2 wireless operator at the Taplin Centre.

An enjoyable evening was had at the Taplin Centre on June 26th, as Mike Hedges, gave a interesting and insightful presentation about his experiences after joining the RAF on a 3 year short commission in the early 1950’s to become a fully-fledged wireless operator.

After being sent to Cardington and then on to 8 weeks of basic training known as ‘square bashing’, Mike was entered into the number three radio training centre at Compton Bassett which is located a short way North-West of R.A.F. Yatesbury; the number 2 radio school.

Trained in both Morse and radio theory during a course that lasted a not inconsiderable 30 weeks and trained up to 30 words per minute in CW, Mike was then moved on to Lytham-St-Annes where he was kitted out before heading down to Southampton by train to embark on The Empire Trooper, a former German passenger vessel. Capable of carrying a hefty 300 military personnel and 200 civilians, this ship had been captured by the HMS Belfast in 1939, whilst en-route from the U.S via Iceland trying on its way back to Germany, and was then used as a personnel carrier for our military.

The Empire Trooper tested Mikes sea legs and after a queasy time on board, arrived at his first station in Gibraltar before going on to Suez where he initially performed a guard duty role with a .303 rifle while the country was under the presidency of Nassau.

He was then flown on through the blistering heat of Khartoum and onwards to his final destination In Aden. Located at the southern end of the Red Sea, there he finally got to work as a radio operator in the airfield control centre using a variety of radios, including 1154’s, 1155’s and AR88’s. For the ground to air work Mike was using around 100w, and Jakey also pointed out that some of the TX’s were using up to a whopping 8Kw.

Mike went on to explain his CW work with the military planes including Vickers Valetta’s and Bristol Brigands, the Brigands being equipped with heavy armour on the front and rocket launchers to help fight off any ground attacks from the tribal fighters in Yemen.

As Mike recounted various stories of his CW operation from the control tower on his day and night shifts, he noted that on some occasions in particularly poor weather, the buffeting planes made the flying operators produce extended CW ‘dahhs’ as the key was inadvertently held down which made communications interesting if not slightly longer than usual!

It wasn’t uncommon either for the personnel stationed at the base to be sitting in an open air cinema in the evenings to find themselves being deafened by low level planes as they tried to enjoy watching a film.

Finally Mike wrapped his presentation up with an original picture of Kharmaksar in 1951 where his billet was located amidst the encampment which housed the control tower, runway, antenna masts and the rest of the facilities at his post. Apparently today the area is little more than an arid dual carriageway in the desert.

One thing is for certain, after the very enjoyable presentation by Mike it became clear that his passion for amateur radio and Morse code are matched only by his enviable and interesting experiences as an RAF radio operator.

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The ‘Sparks’ badge as worn by Mike G0JHK in the British Royal Signals.

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