HMS Anderson - Ceylon

Discussion in 'Top Secret' started by Tom OBrien, Oct 10, 2012.

  1. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    Anyone done any research into HMS Anderson which was the base from which Signals Intercept and Code-breakers (?) operated in Ceylon. I would be very interested in seeing if I could find a list of officers based there in 1943.

  2. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    I'm researching a great uncle who served in the RAF during the Second World War and have found a letter addressed to him at the following unit address: S.E.C.S RAF Ceylon. Does anyone know what the S.E.C.S. stands for? The date was November 1943.

  3. geoff501

    geoff501 Achtung Feind hört mit


    Anyone done any research into HMS Anderson which was the base from which Signals Intercept and Code-breakers (?) operated in Ceylon. I would be very interested in seeing if I could find a list of officers based there in 1943.



    If you use the NA Discovery search engine:

    Advanced | The National Archives

    and search on "HMS Anderson", you will find some records of this location.
    If you can't get to Kew, a couple of chaps on here can obtain documents for you at reasonable cost.

    I've no idea what S.E.C.S. is.

    Also noted: "Records for 1941-1943 do not survive."
  4. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    Many thanks, I've found a file containing the "History of HMS Anderson" which is were I'll start. I've also found a reference to a RAF Experimental Signals Centre (ESC rather than SECS) but perhaps another place to have a look as my great uncle is recorded as being a Flight Lieut. (Technical Branch - Signals).


  5. geoff501

    geoff501 Achtung Feind hört mit

    I did find a genealogy forum where someone had posted some photos of HMS Anderson, but the link was dead, it was from around 2006. Google finds a few references.
  6. geoff501

    geoff501 Achtung Feind hört mit

    Michael Smith's 'The Emperors Codes' has some references to Anderson. Seems to have been a Navy Code breaking intercept/station. Connected to Hut 7 at Bletchley Park, so most of the staff seem to have been civilian code breakers and some WRENS working on Japanese JN25 codes. Might not be enough in the book to interest you, but there are two photos of the camp.
  7. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    Many thanks again for the reference, I will add it to the list of books to look at.


  8. Jayne987

    Jayne987 New Member

    I was just wondering if you have found out what SECS stands for?
    I have a number of letters from an RAF chap which he addresses as SECS, R.A.F. Ceylon, dated 1943/4 .
    I've tried searching his name and service number but can find no further information.

  9. Mike Coombs

    Mike Coombs New Member

    My mum was a wren (cipher clerk) and was married at the time to Harold E. Bennett, who was as far as I know a Naval Intelligence officer, also based at HMS Anderson, and 8 years her senior (at the time that would have made him approximately 45). I have a couple of letters from her to my uncle in 1945 that came from HMS Anderson. I have a letter from July 1943 c/o NBI in Mombasa, East Africa. I'm actually trying to find out more about her service history, particularly in Singapore as she told me she was on the last (or one of the last) boats out when the Japanese invaded. She apparently divorced Harold Bennett after the war and married my father. I don't know any more than that at the moment. I don't know whether this will be a help to you or not as you were talking about HMS Anderson in '43, but I thought I'd contact you anyway in case.
    bamboo43 likes this.
  10. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    At a guess this article 'Sri Lanka’s Secret Sigint Stations' from 2018 is written by a Sri Lankan researcher, on an aspect of UK SIGINT in WW2 and beyond which I knew nothing about. Worth a read, especially how 'perfidious Albion' hoodwinked the locals for so long the facility was innocuous.
    Tom OBrien likes this.
  11. Charlie Ellis

    Charlie Ellis New Member

    Evening. I'm currently sitting with my Aunt Peggy who recently celebrated her 100th birthday. Peggy served at HMS Anderson and also Bletchley. She says Anderson was destroyed when they left on orders of Churchill. She has some good stories of her time there!
    dbf likes this.
  12. John Phelps

    John Phelps New Member

    My father worked at Bletchley Park and was sent to Colombo in 1944 where he worked until the end of the war. In 2018 I visited the premises where they were originally based on the Galle Road in Colombo. I know they moved from there in 1944 to nearby premises but I am not aware of any destruction of their premises.
  13. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    In 2018 a book by Ashley Jackson, “Ceylon at War” was published which devotes 4 or 5 pages to HMS Anderson and its activities.

    After moving back to Ceylon in Sept 1943, it was based at the Anderson Golf Club, 6 miles from the RN Colombo HQ. Offices were in single storey huts mostly with rattan roofs. It had 100 receivers listening in to intercept Japanese signals, particularly naval signals. There were over 1200 staff in 1944 with plans to increase it to 1700 many of whom were Wrens. There was a Wrennery on Galle Road to support it.

    If it was built on a pre-war golf course, then it was probably cleared at the end of the war to return it to its proper purpose! Post-war Singapore and Hong Kong became the hubs for RN administration etc.

    Edit:- Anderson Golf Course is today known as the Royal Colombo Golf Course
    Royal Colombo Golf Club - Wikipedia
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2020
  14. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    So from Ewens post above does SECS mean perhaps??

    S.. E.. Communications Section

    Maybe the first S is Signals?

    Signals Encryption and Communications Section

    Just thinking out loud


    Seems Ceylon was the centre for passing info around in that part of the world
    The Invisible Weapon
    Named “H. M. S. Anderson”, this grew into the main British radio listening and cryptanalysis centre outside Britain

    HMS Anderson Signals Intelligence station in Ceylon
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2020
  15. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    Good morning TD,

    I'd hang my hat on South East Command Signals (whilst being happy for my hat to be knocked off if wide of the mark!)

    Kind regards, always,

  16. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    A BBC News item today, regarding a WREN getting her WW2 medals today on her 100th birthday:
    Link: Essex World War Two veteran gets medals on 100th birthday
    JohnH and JimHerriot like this.
  17. Kerry MacDermott

    Kerry MacDermott New Member

    Greetings from Australia
    Just spotted this forum today and found it fascinating.
    My mother died recently at 97, and it was not so very long before that l discovered the role she played in the war.
    Plucked out of uni where she was studying meteorology, she found herself in very short order at a mysterious country estate known as ... well you guessed it - Bletchley Park in the uniform of a 3rd Officer, WRNS.
    Not sure how long she spent there, but l think she was transferred to the listening station in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, in 1943 or 43 where she worked on Japanese naval signals. This was presumably HMS Anderson, although l never heard her use the name.
    Not much is known about what she did there other than meeting and marrying my father, a very dashing RNVR Lt Cdr who was based at Trinco and, towards the end of the war, flying Seafires. Naval wedding, guard of honour, all that sort of thing, honeymooned in the Vice Admiral's villa at Bandarawela after which our house on the north coast of Ireland was named.
    I have visited Sri Lanka twice in an effort to retrace their steps. What a magic country!
    That's it for now except to say I'm living in rural New South Wales where life is warm, tranquil and almost COVID-free
    4jonboy and davidbfpo like this.
  18. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Clearly 'Trinco' in full is Trincomalee, which was a key British base:
    See: Trincomalee - Wikipedia

    The town of Bandarawela is a colonial hill station: Bandarawela - Wikipedia
  19. Kerry MacDermott

    Kerry MacDermott New Member

    Sorry, yes - 'Trinco' was indeed Trincomalee, in the north east of the island. I never knew the location of the listening station where my mother served. I assumed it was at or near Galle, south of Colombo. The Galleface Hotel seems to have been the venue for most of the formals attended by my mother and father. I can only guess at the logistics, but he was a pilot...
    Bandarawela was indeed a hill station in those days. When I went to visit a few years ago it was a slightly run-down little town. In the hills, of course. Close to the wonderfully scenic railway which runs from Kandy to Ella
  20. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Just listened to a Bletchley Park talk on SCU / SLU by David Abrutat (GCHQ Historian) and he had two slides that showed HMS Anderson. It was the home of 357 WU (Wireless Unit I expect) and a second showed direct links to GCCS @ BP and the SLU @ Delhi; with onward links to 222 (RAF) Group and CBI 1 (ET).

    Not clear if the talk will be made available afterwards, normally they are not.

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