In using earth-return circuits we could experienced induction: the telephone lines picking up fragmentary signals of speech or morse signals from cable lines lying close to one another.
The use of wireless was a vital aspect of the Battalion's communications. It allowed units to keep in contact whilst on the move: when advancing to contact the enemy or during an attack or holding captured ground whilst repelling a counter-attack. Wireless enabled the Battalion Commander and the officers commanding rifle companies and support arms to be readily in touch with one another. In addition, signallers with the different companies and support arms would make sure they updated their officers on the progress of the battle by keeping them informed of important and relevant messages and conversations on the net.
Two signallers with WS18 were attached to each of the four Rifle Companies, Carrier Platoon, Mortar Platoon and Anti-Tank Platoon and the 'control' WS18 was always sited in Battalion Headquarters; the Battalion Commander had a personal WS18 which went with him whenever he left Battalion HQ. The artillery battery in close support also linked-in on the Battalion net and could hear at first-hand the progress of the infantry battle and supplement reports being send to them by their Forward Observation Officer. The advantage to the Battalion was the immediate facility of passing map references for artillery fire when opportunity targets appeared or when we were being held up and needed their help.
Apart from the main Battalion wireless net, the four rifle companies and support platoons (Carriers, Mortars and Anti-Tank) had their own WS38 Nets to their sub-units. Also, there was a Brigade net operated by the Royal Signals, linking the Battalion Headquarters to Brigade Headquarters, and to the two other infantry battalions and the Field Regiment Royal Artillery. It was on this wireless net air support could be requested, as in Flushing when we called in rocket-firing Typhoons to deal with stubborn enemy pill-boxes.
As the WS18 transmitter and receiver being separate circuits, the signaller had to tune them to each other in order the radio set could transmit and receive on exactly the same frequency. This procedure began by setting transmitter tuning dial to the frequency required, the signaller then pressing the microphone pressel switch to transmit a 'mush' signal whilst adjusting the aerial tuning dial until the maximum aerial current registered on the test meter. When successfully done, speaking into the microphone produced a series of radiating kicks on the test meter. To tune the receiver, the operator tuned to the selected frequency and adjusted the dial to get maximum signal strength. That done, the receiver and transmitter were on exactly the same frequency.
From our experience during battlefield conditions we found the main disadvantage of WS18 was the weight of the battery and its short life in continuous operation of about 8 to 12 hours..
Netting is the operation to tune all the Battalion's WS18 to each other, so they working on exactly the same frequency. In accordance with the diagram above, the netting was to start at 1700 hrs when Control would transmit the tuning call Nebraska repeatedly for two or three minutes, the Control operator ending the tuning call with the signal Tuning call ends. After brief pause, a follow-up signal is sent Hear netting call, net now. The Control operator does this by pressing the pressel switch in the microphone handle for a period of two to three minutes; this sends out a continuous signal [see photo No. 3 Hand Carbon Microphone]. Whilst this signal is being transmitted the operators at outstations press a plunger on the sender panel connecting the master oscillator valve which reacts to the transmitted signal from Control. It searches until it finds the zero point in the incoming frequency - a beat note - and when it does, the frequency of the master oscillator is the same as that of the incoming signal. Outstations having found the 'zero point' are now operating on exactly the same frequency: they are 'netted' to each other and able to speak and receive each others signals.
The netting procedure is brought to an end when the Control station sends the signal Netting call ends. Again a short pause before Control sends Hello all stations Love One, report my signals. All stations Love One over.
Each station when changing from receive to send do so when they press the pressel switch in the microphone handle. When the switch is pressed whatever is said will be transmitted. Procedural discipline by stations is necessary: more than one station endeavouring to transmit at the same time cancels out each others signals. Discipline is needed to wait until a transmission ends with the signal Over (when a reply is expected) or Out (when transmission is ended). The 'golden rule' was pause to make sure the airways were clear before pressing the pressel switch.
An improved version of WS18 was made available in 1943. The replacement WS68 had a different frequency range: WS68P, 1.75-2.9MHz; WS68R and T, 3-5.2MHz. It also had a much improved reception range of up to 10 miles and had the facility of crystal control (pre-set frequencies).