During operational use we found that the WS18 did not always stand up to the rough treatment of the battlefield. Unfortunately, the valves were fragile, and Pye Limited said after the end of the Second World War there was a weakness in the filament support springs which fractured too easily which severely limited the effectiveness of the WS18. Each wireless had a set of spare valves but whereas the Signals Platoon stores had a valve testing kit, the wireless operator in the field had to change each valve in turn until he found the faulty valve. It took valuable time; often under difficult circumstances.

 

8RS Signallers in action with WS68 Pontius Pilate's Bodyguard, Vol 2,
Robert H. Paterson

(The Royal Scots History Committee 2000)

The relatively short working life of the battery was another major shortcoming, plus the fact they were very heavy to carry, especially when having to manoeuver a satchel of spares when advancing under enemy fire. We also found that the WS18 had a tendency over time to drift off frequency and one more problem for the signaller to be on the alert to detect and deal with.

The limitations of WS18 were clearly demonstrated during the 7th/9th RS attack on the German Command Post located in the area of the Grand Hotel Britannia in Flushing . During the crucial stage of this ferocious battle there was only one Rifle Company WS18 working back to Battalion Tactical Headquarters. Two other rifle companies and the Carrier Platoon (dismounted) also in the front line of the attack were without communication as the WS18s were unable to receive or transmit. It was a night attack and the approach made through flood water waist deep and often chest high, and this necessitated the two-man signal team holding their WS18 out of the water and carrying the set on their shoulders, as everyone was doing with their rifles, machine-guns and mortars and to continue to carry them shoulder-high despite coming under artillery fire as the advancing column got close to the objective. The sea water must have affected most of the WS18s, and this had resulted in only one outstation in communication whilst three other WS18s were out of action. This led to the decision by the Battalion Commander to move forward from his Tactical Headquarters to be up alongside the attacking companies and was severly wounded whilst doing so. To the great sorrow of all his comrades in the Signals Platoon, the C.O.'s signaller carrying a WS18 was killed.

On another crucial occasion, wireless failed the test of the battlefield.  I with another officer was briefed by the Brigade Commander to find a route for a battle-group in amphibious Buffalos to approach the west of Middelburg and be able to get into a position to launch an attack on the capital of Walcheren, occupied by 2000 Germans. We set off in a Buffalo which made its way through heavily-flooded terrain, whilst encountering mines and overhead explosive charges. Having determined it was possible for a battle-group to get into position to attack Middelburg, we decided to return and report to Brigade Headquarters in Flushing. To our dismay the Buffalo manoeuvering to avoid overhead explosive charges got stuck when one of its tracks became trapped on the span of a concrete bridge hidden from view under the grubby sea water. Despite jettisoning non-essential heavy-weight gear to try and re-float, we were still marooned. We wanted to get a message to Brigade using the Buffalo’s WS46, but it would not work. Rescued by the Dutch Resistance in a rowing boat we eventually waded our way back to Brigade Headquarters hours later than anticipated. Later that day a company battle-group followed our route and surprised the German garrison and took the surrender of Middelburg. Mr Louis Meulstee, a leading authority on Wireless for the Warrior <www.wftw.nl/wireless/wireless> was surprised the radio had failed to work at that crucial moment. He understood the WS46, designed for beach landings, would function even if submerged in sea water. However, on this occasion WS46 did not stand up to the conditions of the battlefield.

During the First World War signallers often laid cable in the form a ladder so that if a strand or strands were destroyed by shelling the remaining parts of the cable ladder might be able to complete the circuit and telephone communication maintained. Although we did not follow that practice, we often laid an extra length of cable to loop round a particular road junction or obstacle to try and ensure whatever occurred at that particular hazard the telephone connection would work.

Linesmen seeking to trace a break in a cable, especially at night, would generally run the cable through their hand until the end of the broken line was found. Or having experienced an earlier break, go straight to that 'trouble' point. Linesmen usually worked their way from the switchboard's external terminal board along the cable route, at intervals using the lineman's telephone to get through to the Signals Office switchboard to check that so far so good. They would continue along the cable until reaching a point when they were unable to contact the switchboard and knew they had narrowed down the area where the break had occurred.

Locating and mending breaks in cable lines in the forward areas always involved special risk. German fighting patrols wanting to capture a prisoner would cut a telephone cable and prepare an ambush and attack the linesmen. A 7th/9th RS Platoon commander in a forward position had a telephone link to a standing patrol and when it ceased to work he courageously led a couple of men to find the break but the party were ambushed and in the fight the officer was killed and the two men taken as P.oWs.

Lance-Corporal R. T. (Ty) Smith 8RS

Killed by enemy
action whilst in charge of a Rifle Company Signals Terminal on the Foreshore, Lowestoft 1941.

These brief remembrances of the Second World War are dedicated to all infantry signals platoon signallers. They were not Royal Corps of Signallers but infantrymen, trained to use the rifle and Bren machine-gun, prepared to fix bayonet in close combat, throw Mills 36 grenades and dig slit-trenches. Their unique training and skills ensured they could operate and maintain wireless sets, lay and repair cables lines, send and read morse code signals and map read their way across country. Because of these additional skills they were inevitably in the forefront of the fight and near to those who had the responsibility to command and lead in the battle.

Signal Sergeant David Douglas 8RS


Awarded the Military Medal for his brave action in supporting his forward Signal Terminals

at the Gheel Canal 1944.

I recall their keen young faces and see them now, the Signallers of the 7th/9th and 8th Battalions of The Royal Scots who gave their lives as they strived to do this crucial job of maintaining communications, keeping our Battalions strong and purposeful as we fought to defeat the enemy . . . which we did!

● − ● − ● [AR] end of message

 

 

 

 

Page Links ~ 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20,

21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30,

31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43,

44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50 Index