No 8 ATS ‘Y’ Wing, Queen Ethelburga’s School, Harrogate

Discussion in 'Top Secret' started by Capt Bill, Jun 13, 2011.

  1. Capt Bill

    Capt Bill wanderin off at a tangent

    ATS W/268600 Smollan, Rita.

    As part of my ongoing Smollan research, Im trying to source some info regarding the Y Wing at Harrogate and coming up with very little. Does anyoone know of any memoires, books etc that could help me put a bit more accurate info together as to the work they were doing?

    found this snippet courtesy of the BBC that gives me a glimpse into life in the 'Y'

    On 9 July I enlisted at Guilford in the ATS as a volunteer, and did three weeks' basic training at Queens Camp, Guilford. I was then posted to Douglas, Isle of Man, for four months to train as a Special Wireless Operator, Royal Corps of Signals. Our billet was a row of hotels on the seafront next to an Italian Prisoner of War Camp. The local population was very welcoming.
    Posted to Yorkshire
    In December 1943 I was posted to 2 Company, 1 Command Signals, Queen Ethelburga's School, Harrogate, Yorkshire, as a Special Wireless Operator, B111. I subsequently passed further tests and qualified as SBO B11. We worked in shifts to cover 24 hours a day in a cycle of four days. The shifts lasted between seven and nine hours, during which we listened and recorded transmissions often through static and interference.
    The wireless station was in an isolated place out on the moors, and we tended to lose touch with the real world. It was hard work and living in a barrack room for part of the time, especially in the winter when it was bitterly cold, was not easy. We took it in turns to light the barrack room stove and the accepted method was to kick it and say 'Light, you swine!' - sometimes it worked! I found adjusting to barrack-room life quite easy - as one of five children I did not worry about lack of privacy.
    The food was plain and but adequate. On one occasion during our break I well remember being given a cold baked bean sandwich. We had to keep our knife, fork and spoon with us at all times and were responsible for washing them ourselves. I remember once coming home from night duty and sleeping with my head resting on my fork. There was huge camaraderie among the girls, which I have never subsequently encountered in any other situation.
    A very long bath
    During my time in Harrogate, my sister in the ATS married just prior to the invasion when all leave was cancelled. I was at that time living in a barrack room with 27 other girls, one of whom was the unfortunate Lance Corporal supposed to keep us in order. Wearing a borrowed suit of civilian clothes, I crept out of the barrack room and out of the camp through a hole in the boundary. I heard what I thought was one of the guard dogs patrolling the boundary - it wasn't, but whatever it was, it gave me the fright of my life. Anyway, past the Guardroom and to Harrogate and home to London for the wedding, then reverse the journey to creep quietly back to my bunk bed where everyone else was sleeping peacefully. The hapless LC had missed me but had been told that I was over in the school having a bath - a very long one!
    The job ended with VE Day (7 May 1945). I was posted to London and did nothing much at the War Office. I think the Army was rather desperate to know what to do with us. After a while I was posted to Catterick Camp for further training as a Wireless Operator, sending as well as receiving.
    We then had to re-enlist either for cookhouse work, probably as an orderly(!), for office work or as a switchboard operator. I was going back to office work when de-mobbed, so chose SBO. I was posted to Devon, somewhere near Newton Abbot, for training (with plenty of cider) then posted to Tilbury and billeted at Grays. While there, I was offered a stripe with a view to staying in the Army and taking a commission, but I wanted to get back to my life in the real world and refused. I was demobilised on 1 October 1946. I still have my AB64 and ATS Release Book.
    Civilian life again
    I found it very difficult to settle back into civilian life, particularly to work office hours. Simple things, like having to decide what clothes to wear after three and a half years of wearing a uniform, were difficult. It was hard to communicate with such a varied group of people in the office and to turn back into an individual.
    On reading through this, it seems very trivial in comparison with the experiences of the men on active service who fought and all too often died for their country. We did the best we could, however, and hopefully made some contribution towards ultimate victory.
    Gwendoline Alice Jones (b.3 May 1922)
  2. Oldman

    Oldman Very Senior Member

    Y Station referred to in your post would have been the station better known as HMS Forest Moor, Just off the A59 near Blubberhouses about 5 miles from the school.

    Y-stations were British Signals intelligence collection sites initially established during WW1 and later used duringWWII. These sites were operated by a range of agencies including the Army, Navy and RAF plus the Foreign Office (MI6 and MI5),GPO.
    The "Y" stations tended to be of two types, Interception and Direction Finding. Sometimes both functions were operated at the same site with the Direction Finding (D/F) hut being a few hundred meters’ away from the main interception building because of the need to minimise interference. These sites collected traffic which was then either analysed locally or, if encrypted passed for processing during World War II to the Government Code and Cypher School established at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire.

    The living quarters referred to were also separate to the main school buildings at Queen Ethelburga’s school. The school was at that time in use as a hospital and up the road was the Royal Signals camp at Penny Pot, known to generations of signalers as the Army Apprentice College,.

    The accommodation huts were pulled down with the school during the development of a housing project in the mid 90's.

    The Harrogate Advertiser had a person by the name of Malcolm Neesom (Not sure of spelling) who used to run a weekly article on old Harrogate, you maybe able to get in touch with him through the local paper and see if he has any information on this subject or point you in the right direction.

    The station at Forest Moor was not under the navy until the late fifties/early sixties and closed in 2003
  3. Capt Bill

    Capt Bill wanderin off at a tangent

    cheers Oldman

    Many thanks

    here is the young lady in question
  4. Oldman

    Oldman Very Senior Member

    On my travels I will ask around the older members of the community and see if there is anyone who remembers or their parents remember the girls.
    Having said that there was a lot of service people around Harrogate at that time so they may have just been included in the rest of the ATS in town

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