Arthur Le Duc

Photo:Arthur Le Duc pictured with his wife Helen on their wedding day in 1944.

Arthur Le Duc pictured with his wife Helen on their wedding day in 1944.

Helen Le Duc

Recollections of wartime service as a Leading Telegraphist for the Navy

Between 1941 and 1945 Arthur Le Duc served as a Leading Telegraphist for the Royal Navy whilst stationed on Russian Convoys, and was attached to RAF Cheadle, Staffordshire.

Intercepting Morse Code

After Arthur had finished his training at HMS Royal Arthur he was billeted to Brighton. After attending a lecture at St Dunstan’s School for the Blind he was posted to a civilian billet for four months. He regularly attended St Dunstan’s School to undertake training for Morse Code from Post Office Operators, until he was able to receive 30 words per minute. Arthur was, by this time, aware of the secretive nature of his work, as he was responsible for intercepting Morse from Germany.

The Y Service

After his training was completed Arthur was posted to Cheadle in Staffordshire to begin his work for the Y Service (the RAF interception service).  Arthur’s role was to intercept enemy Morse, particularly from the Zenits – unarmed aircraft that operated on a daily basis within a specific area, and transmitted weather reports and important messages regarding sightings of convoys. The speed from which messages emerged from the Zenits reinforced the necessity of translating as quickly as possible.

Arthur was then transferred to another room where he began to listen to live traffic in order to intercept messages. There were approximately 60 personnel, seated in six rows of ten, which comprised civilian Post Office Operators, WAAFs, LACs, Navy personnel and American Air Force men. They watched for German activity and if they spotted anything unusual they would call out and the comptroller would tap into the set. If it was necessary, Arthur was required to continue listening to a specific group in order to log all activity. Traffic clerks collected messages once they were received.

In Northern waters

Arthur was posted abroad to Scapa Flow – they were stationed ashore and waited for signals which told them who was to be deployed in the various ships stationed in the Northern waters. The men were independent of the Royal Navy as they acted on behalf of the Y Service, often resulting in friction. They were responsible for searching frequencies as they passed through Scapa Flow, in order to avoid detection by the North Sea Zenit. When convoys passed through Murmansk they were at even greater risk, and Arthur monitored the traffic of the relevant operational groups. Whilst the Navy initially did not listen to the information provided by the Y Service, this was to change – the convoys were later protected by air cover and, after some notable disasters, those in command began to utilise the observations of the telegraphists.

'Exciting and fascinating'

Arthur was stationed on five carriers between 1941 and 1945, and the time which he spent on them was ‘exciting and fascinating’. After the war ended he returned to England and was stationed in Wimbledon where he learnt Japanese Morse within a month. Arthur did not need to put these skills into practice – after his course finished the atomic bomb was dropped.

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This page was added by Malin Lundin on 16/01/2012.

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