A brief account of The Admiralty Wireless Telegraphy Training
April 1942 - Spring 1945
West House, Brighton
In April 1942 the Royal Navy Wireless
Telegraphy Training School was opened in Brighton, Sussex to train
communications ratings and WRNS personnel of the Telegraphist
(Special) branch. The school headquarters was established at 29
Queen's Road, Brighton with other sites in Brighton being
requisitioned for the use of the school; the main instructional site
was located in the former St. Dunstan's property at West House,
12-14 Portland Place, Kemp Town.
The St.Dunstan’s organisation, which
cared for war-blinded ex-servicemen, had begun evacuating its
premises in Brighton in the autumn of 1940 when the south coast of
England became a dangerous place to be after the fall of France in
June. The bulk of its operations moved to Church Stretton in
Shropshire but the residential care home that was West House was
relocated to Melplash Court in Dorset. The evacuated buildings were
maintained by a skeleton staff until they were requisitioned by the
War Office; all of its facilities all were destined to be occupied
by the Admiralty for the remainder of the war.
Brighton I and Brighton II
and West House buildings were known by the names Brighton I and
Brighton II but the unit was never commissioned with an official
ship's name. The school was most likely a dispersed sub unit of the
main RN Signals School, HMS Mercury, at Leydene House, East Meon,
near Petersfield, Hampshire. The schools accounts were carried
locally by HMS VERNON (R) the Admiralty Torpedo, Mining & Electrical
Training Establishment at Roedean School for Girls, a mile further
along the coast.
Ratings attending the school undertook the first stage of their
eight month course at West House and were billeted locally in the
Kemp Town area of Brighton. Training was undertaken by naval
officers and civilian instructors who were former G.P.O. employees
with specialist skills.
Telegraphist Clifford Dennison who attended course 72 during 1943
recalls that he was billeted, along with seven others, with Mrs
Morris at 18 Broad Street during his first stint at the school.
Similarly Telegraphist Andrew Linn recalls that he stayed with Mrs
Zirdzins at 7 Dorset Gardens. In addition to dispersed billeting a
room above a garage at no. 26 Edward Street was used as a ratings
school. Brighton naval staff - Click image for full
school. Brighton instructor staff - Click image for full
school. Brighton tyhe entire staff - Click image for
full screen version
Courses at Eastbourne
November 1943 a second wireless telegraphy school was established at
St. Bede's Preparatory School, Dukes Drive, Meads, Eastbourne
to carry out part two of the Telegraphist (S) course; while
attending this school ratings were accommodated at the Eastbourne
School of Domestic Economy, 1Silverdale Road Eastbourne. Ratings
transferred to Eastbourne on completing the initial phase of
training in Brighton, which lasted for three months, for five months
of specialist training. This involved learning to understand enemy
Morse code. In the case of Telegraphist Dennison this was training
in the interception of Japanese Morse code, others learned to
understand German. A three weeks course in the operation of HF/DF
equipment was also conducted at Eastbourne for Telegraphist ratings
training to detect German submarines; these Telegraphist (s0 ratings
were for service on convoy escort vessels.
From Eastbourne ratings returned to
Brighton to finish off and be passed out as Special Operators and
rated Telegraphist (S). Clifford Dennison and others were billeted
at 21 Lower Rock Gardens on their return; Andrew Linn was lodged
with Mrs Early at Marine Parade. Passing out classes had a group
photograph taken, this was done in the garden behind West House.
From Brighton ratings were drafted to RN Barracks to await drafts to
operational units, Clifford Dennison was sent to Ceylon to intercept
Japanese military messages.
The school was
closed in early 1945, and appears to have moved to a location in
Wimbledon; Telegraphist (S) George Smith was sent there after the RN
W/T station in Murmansk, Russia where he worked intercepting German
transmissions, had been closed in early 1945, the need for his
German Morse skills had now passed and he was to be retrained on
Work began to clean up and prepare West House and get it ready for
the return of its owners St. Dunstan's as soon as the school had
finished relocating. St. Dunstan's was able to move their permanent
residents back from Melplash and reoccupy the building in July 1945.
Thank you so much for this! My grandfather Fred Henderson always talked about being seconded here as an instructor since he was the best Morse Code operator in the Post Office. Imagine my surprise when I found him in the third picture, in the middle of the second row.