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Old 15th Aug 2019, 1:06 pm   #1
SteveCG
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Default Servicing 'Secret Listeners' radios in the 2nd World War

This post came about after reading the .pdfs attached to post no. 2227 in the AvoMultimeter Survey item in the forum's test equipment section. These give dates for Avominors and possibly more interestingly Universal Avominors.

It can be seen that there are quite a few dated to 1941 and 1942 - yet elsewhere it has been said that whilst AVO advertised their meters during the war they really were only available to folk and organisations involved in Government's war work.

I was wondering whether the number of these meters in civilian marking may indicate that they were issued to people whose work was such that they could not go to normal radio shops to get radios that had developed a fault repaired?

Now, we know about the secret listeners from various books that have been published over the last 20 to 30 years. They were civilians working from home with Government supplied radios listening out for possible a couple of hours each night on frequencies they were given. They were listening for morse signals from enemy agents etc. Since they were at home this work had to be kept 'hush-hush' from nosey neighbours as well as friends. So what did they do if their receiver developed a problem. A repair van turning up at their door would arouse suspicions, as would strange visitors. So after they reported the problem were they sent a repair kit is a small parcel? This parcel could easily have a small test meter in it along with parts and instructions - such as a Universal Avominor. This would be a far less conspicuous way of proving assistance to the many thousands of listeners.

Perhaps somebody may know what actually happened...

Last edited by SteveCG; 15th Aug 2019 at 1:08 pm. Reason: Aaagh the title has a typo! Mods please edit it to 'Secret Listeners'
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Old 15th Aug 2019, 4:22 pm   #2
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Default Re: Servicing 'Secret Listeners' radios in the 2nd World War

I do not know what actually happened, but I suspect that the sets involved were relatively simple and that most likely faults were found by simple substitution of valves and perhaps other components.
Supplying an Avominor and spare parts would probably cost more than a complete replacement radio.

Some users would be able to consult pre war textbooks, and MIGHT have had a test meter.
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 1:05 am   #3
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Default Re: Servicing 'Secret Listeners' radios in the 2nd World War

A lot of the listeners were radio amateurs well atuned to building their own gear, so fixing them would be a simple task as long as parts could be attained (and I suspect there would have been a process in place to do that).
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 2:10 am   #4
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Default Re: Servicing 'Secret Listeners' radios in the 2nd World War

Most Voluntary Interceptors were hand picked from the membership list of the Radio Society of Great Britain, so they were all established radio amateurs or short-wave listeners. Their transmitters would have been impounded at the outset of the war.
These guys would have no need to call out a repairman, many of them would have designed and built their own equipment from scratch. By definition they would have been ineligible for military service, or employed in a reserved occupation, they would only be too glad to "work from home" in this important role, doing what they loved most.
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 6:15 am   #5
G3VKM_Roger
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Default Re: Servicing 'Secret Listeners' radios in the 2nd World War

Hi All,

I've no information on VIs being supplied with test gear but early in the war amateurs were asked to loan or give meters (and possibly other test gear) to the military to aid the war effort.

The only place I've heard of this was in an editorial article by G8ON in the RSGB Bulletin of August 1942 which discusses what would happen to surplus radio gear post-war and whether amateurs would get preferential rates when such equipment was sold off, which in fact did happen. No doubt a search of earlier editions of "The Bull" will find the actual appeal for equipment.

Hope this is of interest,

Roger
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 8:57 am   #6
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Default Re: Servicing 'Secret Listeners' radios in the 2nd World War

Slight correction to my last post, the Bulletin editorial referred to a letter to the editor written by G8ON and published in the same edition, August 1942. The editorial mentions the donations of test gear by amateurs as being "last year", so that puts it in 1941.

Roger
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 11:01 am   #7
SteveCG
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Default Re: Servicing 'Secret Listeners' radios in the 2nd World War

Further thoughts:

I wonder whether the sales records still exist to find out to whom AVO supplied the meters listed in the .pdfs that have war-time date codes?

Following on from earlier comments, I also wonder whether VIs were allowed to buy their own meters (as distinct from the meters being supplied to them) because of what they were doing?

Last edited by SteveCG; 16th Aug 2019 at 11:02 am. Reason: added item
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 12:37 pm   #8
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Default Re: Servicing 'Secret Listeners' radios in the 2nd World War

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveCG View Post
Further thoughts:

I wonder whether the sales records still exist to find out to whom AVO supplied the meters listed in the .pdfs that have war-time date codes?
I doubt if such records were other than for sales to different ministries.

Any records pointing to the names and addresses of individuals engaged in sigint could prove rather nasty if we had been invaded. And around that time, it was considered a possibility and measures were taken to have secret observer/saboteur facilities that could trouble an invading enemy.

David
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 2:25 pm   #9
SteveCG
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Default Re: Servicing 'Secret Listeners' radios in the 2nd World War

To be honest I was only thinking of the Government organisations (Ministries or contractor companies) that the meters could have been sold to.

Did AVO ever keep individual's sales records?
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Old 25th Aug 2019, 2:32 pm   #10
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Default Re: Servicing 'Secret Listeners' radios in the 2nd World War

I've just come across an article in the RSGB Radcom of November 1996 about the secret listeners.

While there is mention of the receiving equipment used (mostly homebrew Eddystone Shortwave Two's, but later some were issued with HRO sets), there is no mention of test equipment or repair arrangements
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Old 26th Aug 2019, 9:58 am   #11
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Default Re: Servicing 'Secret Listeners' radios in the 2nd World War

My grandfather was a VI. I can just recall the Hallicrafters Sky Champion receiver that he was issued with (and sadly had to return afterwards!)
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Old 11th Sep 2019, 9:48 am   #12
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Default Re: Servicing 'Secret Listeners' radios in the 2nd World War

Having just acquired an ex-Royal Navy transmitter adaptor that fits inside the the top lid of a B28/CR100 communications receiver I have been researching this unit. I came across info about a RN service called the RN Volunteer Wireless Reserve and a page from a post-WW2 edition of Wireless World is attached.

Unlike the VIs, who only listened, RNVWR personnel could have radio equipment issued to them to allow them to participate in nets using RN frequencies. Judging from the photo, there was a variety of kit, including the 5G transmitter and the HRO receiver. If I read the article correctly the RNVWR also had Wireless Mechanics in the ranks and presumably they may have been used to maintain sets at bases and homes, although I note the home operators were paid 3 pa for maintenance costs.

I'd be interested to hear of anyone who served in the RNVWR and the home stations they used. I notice that the manual for the adaptor mentions Band 1 TVI filters being fitted to the transmitter, a subject a lot of amateurs would be familiar with!

Cheers

Roger
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