The Schoolboy and the Secret Service part 2 – by John Heys G3BDQ

Part 2: The Man With Three Names

 

After the initial letter from Mr. H.E. Eastwood which followed “Stan Lewers” reception of the coded message on the night of 7-8th December 1925 he later received four more letters, all signed “A. J. Allenby”. These letters indicated that Mr. Allenby lived at 46 Clarendon Road, London W11. He did not realise that “Allenby” was a cover name for Mr. Leslie Lambert who incidentally held an amateur transmitting licence and held the call G2ST. I have looked at callbooks and lists that covered 1925/26 but no G2ST is listed. Whether G2ST only used the Clarendon Road address as a cover and place to house his station I do not know. Neighbours would accept that outside antennas and night time lights on (also perhaps some BCI) were just normal for a radio enthusiast but such activities could be transmitting and receiving on frequencies outside the amateur bands.

 

Leslie Lambert was a member of the RSGB and for many years had been a part of the Government Code & Cipher School (GC & CS) based in Whitehall. He might have used his W11 address to contact British overseas under-cover agents. Lambert together with Harold Kenworthy, G6HX (who worked for the Metropolitan Police Radio Section) were successful in locating by DF some

Russian agents who ran a clandestine radio station between London and Moscow. This was a British ‘first’ in the early 1930s.

 

During WW2 Lambert helped to set up the ‘Y’ Service which organised a great number of listeners for German radio signals. Many former G stations whose operators were too old for military service took part in this activity. Again, Harold Kenworthy G6HX was involved. Leslie Lambert joined the code-breakers at Bletchley Park but fell ill whilst there. He was rushed to a Nursing Home in Norwich in December 1941 where he was to die soon after. He had suffered a severe illness in 1937 but recovered enough to continue working until his final illness. For eight years before his death Lambert and his wife lived in a bungalow in Potter Heigham a village on the Norfolk Broads. His death gave rise to great Press activity and obituaries in papers right across Britain. Some of the Press reports still gave his old London address of Clarendon Road, Notting Hill. This address no doubt remained a ‘useful cover’ that insulated his wife and himself from his active security work.

 

When I was a youngster in the 1920s and 30s I was a really keen listener to the BBC and always eagerly looked forward to the fascinating stories that were broadcast by their author Mr. A.J Alan. A.J. Alan was yet another cover name for Leslie Lambert, a fact that that the many listeners to his tales that were being broadcast between January 1924 and March 1940 never knew.

 

He regularly broadcast no more than five times per year, but there were some repeats. Lambert also made some broadcasts over Radio Luxembourg and these were a series of 15 minute programmes entitled ‘Story Telling’. These broadcasts started on July 9th 1939.

 

The death of a very popular broadcaster at the age of 58 resulted in many obituaries that were published in newspapers nationwide. Despite the fact that the War was in progress the papers gave ‘A.J.Alan’s’ correct name. However very little of his work and activities in the Secret Service was revealed. The Daily Chronicle, however, hinted that he was involved in secrets concerning the Naval affairs of foreign countries, and that he was an Intelligence Officer.

 

The BBC stated in its Radio Times issue dated January 2nd 1942 that; “….even now we can give no information about the private life of A.J.Alan, as we are bound by the promise to preserve his anonymity.”

 

I have copies of the obituary columns in the following:-

The Daily Chronicle, The Daily Telegraph, The Eastern Daily Press (Norwich), The Oxford Mail, The Sheffield Telegraph, The Worcester Evening News, The

Manchester Guardian, The East Anglian Times, The Huddersfield Examiner, The Birmingham Post and the Radio Times.

 

The Daily Chronicle describes Lambert as “a tall, slim, monocled figure”. The BBC still holds a great deal of material concerning Leslie Lambert, including the scripts of his stories.

 

Note. I am indebted to the BBC for the information concerning Leslie Lambert and his activities as ‘A.J.Alan’.(BBC Archive, Caversham Park Reading)

RADIO TIMES (INCORPORATING WORLD-RADIO)

Issue dated January2, 1942.

 

“Good Night, Everyone!”

We chanced to be among ‘the few’, even in the BBC, who, knowing A. J. Alan in person, also knew the secret of his identity, which we have always faithfully, kept. In fact, we made a point of remaining singularly uninterested in his other self, aware that he had his own sound reasons for wishing to pre­serve the strictest pseudonymity. We knew only that in appearance and manner he was exactly like the A. J. Alan that most people imagined.

 

It was not the BBC that first turned him into a mystery. Nor was it A. J. Alan.   It was listeners themselves, and the real mystery was that there should have been any mystery at all. In the first place, why should people have ever assumed that A. J. Alan was not his real name?   If he had broad­cast under his real name, would they still have thought it was an assumed one? In the   ‘second place, why should, they have imagined, quite erroneously, that he was someone whose real name was equally, famous?   We cannot explain but we do know that for many years anyone anywhere who confessed to being ‘at the BBC’, was invariably asked two immediate questions: ‘ Are you an announcer? ‘ and ‘ Who is A. J. 1 Alan ? ‘—while the RADIO TIMES continued to receive hundreds of letters making guesses that were wildly wrong.

 

Unique among broadcasters, A. J. Alan fitted into none of the recognised categories, neither Talks, ‘ Variety, Drama, Music, Religion, nor Outside Broadcasts. He was just A. J. Alan, a supreme radio star in his own right, one who could command the admiration of a vast public by sheer charm of personality. He had a genius for the microphone, expressing itself in a technique that seemed to invent itself as it went along.

 

There can never be another A. J. Alan.   But there are thousands of us who will, never be able to think of Jermyn Street, or Chislehurst, or ships’ doctors, or dead sheep, or pink blotting-paper, or visitors’ books without hearing again that urbane voice, -that studied casualness, those little hesitations, that wanton emphasis on circumstantial detail, and, above all, that sudden inevitable anti-climax that left us all up mid-air at the most breathless moment — ‘ Good night, everyone!

 

Daily Chronicle Dec. 17

 

‘A J ALAN’ WAS HOLDER OF THE NAVY SECRETS,

DEATH REVEALS HIS IDENTITY.

With the death, at a Norwich nursing home, of Mr. Leslie Harrison Lambert whose Identity for years was hidden under the name of “A. J. Alan,” the B.B.C. mystery man, the Admiralty has lost one of the keenest brains of the Intelligence Service.

Few men knew the secrets of the British Empire’s naval affairs better than Mr. Lambert, or was more familiar, with everything concerning our naval strategy.

He also carried vital secrets concerning the naval affairs of foreign countries, and it has been’ claimed for him that during the last war he knew more about German naval affairs than any other intelligence officer.

Mr. Lambert, who was 58, was keenly interested in sailing and yachting. His other hobby was short story writing—and broadcasting.

Millions of listeners, to whom his identity was a puzzle, enjoyed his art of building up the tense interest in these stories, which invariably had a surprise at the end.

He broadcast at most about six times a year.

 

SCHOOLMATE’S GUESS

Only one listener succeeded in solving the riddle of “A. J. Alan’s” identity.

Curiously enough, this was when he made his first broadcast to the Empire in 1934, and was at once identified by an old school friend.

His last broadcast was on March 21, 1940.

Tall, slim, monocled, he was a familiar, figure at Potter Heigham, Norfolk, where he had lived for the last five years.

 

“MUGGINS”

The landlord of the inn by the River Thurne told a News Chronicle reporter last night:

” We enjoyed his stories, but he never told any in the village. He was always humorous, as he was on the radio.

” When he came here he bought a boat, a new one. I had to stop the leaks before he used it. He said he would name it Muggins because that’s what he was.”

Mr. Lambert was married. He had no children.

Daily Telegraph Dec. 19

DEATH REVEALS RADIO SECRET

“A. J. ALAN’S” NAME

By Our Radio Correspondent

The death of ” A. J. Alan,” which was announced yesterday, reveals to the public the identity of a broadcaster of ” thrillers” well known since the BBC’s 2LO days at Savoy Hill. He was Mr. Leslie Harrison Lambert, a retired Foreign Office official. He died at a Norwich nursing home.

” My husband let only a few chosen friends share his secret.” Mrs. Lambert said yesterday. ” His shyness would not let him tell anyone else.”

For eight years Mr. Lambert had lived with his wife in the Norfolk Broads village of Potter Heigham. There he was known as a riverside bungalow dweller devoted to boating. The local garage proprietor, Mr. Grapes, who looked after his boat and the post office, knew his broad­casting secret.

Mr. Lambert began to broadcast his ‘stories in January 1924, and he last broadcast on March 21 of last year.

Only once did A. J. Alan’s voice betray his identity. The first time that he broadcast to the Empire an old schoolfellow recognised his voice and wrote to him from abroad.

John Heys G3BDQ from Vital Spark April 2010.

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