A brief account of  The Admiralty Wireless Telegraphy Training School, Brighton

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

The HQ 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 dinning hall.

 

 

RN W/T school. Brighton naval staff - Click image for full screen version

 

RN W/T school. Brighton instructor staff - Click image for full screen version

 

RN W/T school. Brighton tyhe entire staff - Click image for full screen version

 

 

Courses at Eastbourne

Beginning in 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.

 

Post War

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 Japanese Morse.
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.

 

 

Class passing out photographs

September 1942
Class 20 Class 23 Class 40
Class 44 Class 51 (View back) Class 60
Class 62 Class 63 Class 64
Class 71 Class 72 Class 79
Class 81 Class 82 Class 83
Class 85 Class 86 Class 89
Class 92 Class 95 unknown Class

The majority of these photographs are from the collection of the late Lt. Gardner RNVR one of the schools instructor officers.

Class 72 photograph courtesy Mr. Clifford Dennison

Class 85 photograph courtesy Mr. Danny Siggers

Class 23, 79 & unknown class, instructors and school staff photographs courtesy Mrs. Maureen Stranger

Class 20 photograph courtesy Mrs. Rebecca L S Jackson (nee Stroud) , her grandfather Tel (S) Terence Stroud is back row fourth from left

Class 51 photograph courtesy of Mr. Michael Chambers, his father Headley Alan Chambers is the tallest rating in the middle of the back row.

 

Thanks to Clifford Dennison, Andrew Linn,  and Danny Siggers  for their help in researching this article.

Other sources of information include:

The Second World War Experience Centre - Tel (S) George Smith
http://www.war-experience.org/collections/sea/alliedbrit/gsmith/default.asp

IWM interview - Tel (S) Peter Hart,
http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80020068


Read Clifford Dennison's memories of life as a Tel (S)

Revised 22 April 2016

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Copyright   2012 The Royal Navy Research Archive


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