But, to begin with, whilst researching the story with precious little to go on, I was extremely lucky to find a very small book [booklet] tucked in amongst other more academic and voluminous documents more suited for a PhD thesis than a snippet on this our Museum web site, written in 1959 by a schoolie, one Instructor Lieutenant E.J. DWYER B.A., PhD, R.N. His story is succinct and of excellent value to we communicators, who, for generations have heard the expression "H.M. Signal School", roughly where it was and of its demise in WW2 but always in skeleton form with no meat on the bones. This little book plus several pieces taken from other areas during my research period, seeks to redress that gap in our knowledge, although most frustratingly there are some, but now only a few pieces missing which we may find in parts two and three and all that follows - a long story if you have the patience! 

Trying my best to put flesh on the bones, I had to abandon the logic approach,  and to go full on with lateral thinking to even get a foothold on the start of my story.

That start, though shallow it is, was to research the brilliant minds of those engineers who singularly furthered the advance of W/T theory, science and application in the Royal Navy but also elsewhere, were applauded and recorded in archives other than in military circles. Digging deep I came up with these published accolades.

I came across this man recorded as a protagonist, sadly with a short life and the relevancy I seek.

Harold Morris-Airey

Harold Morris-Airey (1880-1927)

1927 Obituary 

HAROLD MORRIS-AIREY, C.B.E., M.Sc, died at Portsmouth on the 19th June, 1927, in his forty- eighth year, having been born on the 10th February 1880, at Crumpsall, Manchester.

He was educated at Owen's College, Manchester, and upon the completion of his degree course was sent to Germany by Prof. Schuster to carry out experimental work in physics under Prof. Kayser at Bonn University, where he continued from 1901 to 1903 as assistant in the physical laboratories.

He returned to Owen's College in 1903 as demonstrator in the Physical Laboratories of the University of Manchester, which post he held until 1906. He devoted much of his spare time to experimental research and published articles on such subjects as wave-length determination in the extreme ultra-violet portion of the spectrum, the rigidity of gelatine, and the resolving power of spectroscopes; also papers con-jointly with other workers on electrical measurements.

He was a very keen research worker and, after demonstrating in the laboratories of Owen's College during the day, would retire to the research laboratory in the basement to his experiments, where one would find him happily employed, alone with his pipe and his apparatus. In 1906 he was appointed Lecturer in Physics at Armstrong College, University of Durham, where he carried out experimental work in wireless telegraphy, which included considerable work in connection with the origin of atmospherics.

In 1915 he was appointed to the Wireless Telegraphy Department of H.M.S. "Vernon," Portsmouth, first as Lieutenant and later as Lieutenant-Commander, R.N.V.R., and there he took an active part in the development of wireless apparatus, especially for naval aircraft. During 1918 he was appointed in charge of the Experimental Wireless Transmission Section, H.M. Signal School, Portsmouth, and held the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, R.M. (unattached): Royal Marines were often appointed as W/T signallers in the earliest of our ships. and especially in ships prosecuting WW1 and well before.

In 1920 he was appointed chief technical adviser to H.M. Signal School, where he was responsible for the technical development of apparatus for wireless telegraphy and allied methods of signalling. He possessed in a marked degree a combination of sound judgment, technical knowledge and imagination. These qualities ensured success in his work of developing apparatus to embody the technical advances made during and after the war. In particular the silica power valve for wireless telegraphy was one of the subjects in which he took great interest, and its success has been in great measure due to his enthusiastic support, especially in the earlier stages of its experimental development. He had a very equable temperament and possessed remarkable self-control.

During the last five years of his life he carried on his work under difficult conditions due to ill-health, but he was always cheerful and optimistic with his colleagues.

He became a Member of the Institution in 1923.

1927 Obituary.


The death of Mr. Harold Morris-Airey on Sunday, June 19, at the early age of 47, means the loss to radio science and technology of a careful and hard-working investigator. Since October, 1919, the deceased had held the post of Chief Technical Adviser at H.M. Signal School, R.N. Barracks, Portsmouth, and thus, within a few months, this establishment has lost two of its chief officials, Dr. Erskine Murray, whose death we recorded in our issue of February 18, 1927, being the other.

Mr. Morris-Airey was the only son of Mr. William Morris-Airey of Crumpsall, Manchester, and was born in 1880. He was educated at Owens College and at the University of Bonn, and later was lecturer in Physics at that university, as well as at Manchester and Durham. In 1906 he was appointed a research professor at Armstrong College, Newcastle, and shortly afterwards began his investigations into radio-communication, a subject which mainly occupied the remainder of his career. At the outbreak of war he offered his services to the Admiralty, and in 1915 was appointed to the Wireless Department of H.M.S. Vernon with the rank of lieutenant R.N.V.R. He took an active part in the development of wireless apparatus for naval aircraft, an application to which the hostilities and the increasing part played by air warfare naturally gave considerable stimulus. He obtained promotion in 1917, and when, in 1918, he was appointed to the general charge of the development of naval wireless transmission, he was given the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the Royal Marines. He received the C.B.E. in recognition of his services during the war. In spite of his official position, Mr. Morris-Airey was a frequent contributor on electricity and optics to the technical and scientific journals, and as recently as our issue of June 10, we published an account of a useful joint paper, in which he and his colleagues went very carefully into the recent progress, which has been made in the development and manufacture of silica valves, an important part of which is the seal, a matter to which he had given close attention." Despite my profound searches, the book "Harold, Morris-Airey [1880-1927] [a biography] on the technical adviser to the commandant to H.M. Signal School Royal Naval Barracks Portsmouth has gone to ground, but it is advertised in my favourite reference web site, viz, the British Library.

The biography can only be read in the British Library Reading Room in situ and it, or any section of it, can be copied on request. Be assured that I have read this biography and it is of great interest to this story, but it is technical in content and very expensive to have it featured here,  where most would not understand it. Even Amazon Books have never heard of it. It is available to the devotee at a cost, but unnecessary in understanding the main purport on my overall story. Note here story line 1.


etc etc to what is not shown in this screen shot!

 I have tried my best to source details on E.J. DWYER, but bearing in mind over sixty years have past since 1959 - cost of booklet measuring 6" x 8" at that time was 7s 6d  when it first was put on sale -  [= 37½p on d-day  = decimal day in 1971] nor can I trace the copyright holder a publisher called Gale and Polden Ltd.  That is unfortunate, but the story, worth telling today especially after great changes made to Portsmouth is still irrevocably linked to his name, which I am pleased to bring it to your attention.

One other name stands out, for Instructor Lieutenant DWYER has provided us with a list of all the CO's of the barracks from day one until 1959, all, with the exception of the first two in 1903 and 1904 both captains, and the rest all except for one Rear Admiral at the start of WW1 are Commodore's. Officers appointed to command barracks were called COMBRAX [Portsmouth in this case]  meaning Commodore Barracks and the one spotted was Commodore L.E. Holland R.N., in 1936.  In 1941 as a vice admiral he was to perish in the Hood.

I also note that E.J. DWYER'S booklet is shown in the British Library catalogues.

My intention is to copy some of E.J.DWYER'S paragraphs on the Hulks, the build of the barracks, the HM Signal School and the Wrens associated with the barracks from the earliest of times for like countless thousands of our women folk they as much as any helped to win the war. As one would expect there are no typos or errors in the printed word but there are a couple of statements which for the  discerning eye might be confusing and one can be found on page 11 of the Hulks section. A second glaring error [printers I would think]  occurs when we get down to the Signal School. Hulks are generally associated with dismasted ships all afloat, some at anchor and the majority alongside wharfs and jetties, but dysfunctional as warships. As you will observe [and importantly so for we communicators] HMS Victory is listed as one of five non operational ships used as  hulks supporting the "General Depot". Victory remained at anchor in Portsmouth Harbour albeit part on the Gosport side, the same as HMS St Vincent [before boys moved ashore into Gosport into Forton Road Barracks vacated by the Royal Marines as HMS Foudroyant had done, but for a lengthy period over on the Portsmouth side.  She moved into her current dock in 1922 and was never dismasted until the great rebuild of this treasured vessel began in earnest at various times of the overall evolution to preserve her. This was her second great overall/rebuild, the first started in Chatham and lasted for two years after Lord Nelsons body was landed for what became his grand state funeral January 1806, to right the wrongs of immense battle damage incurred at the Battle of Trafalgar.   Note she was a signal school but unlike that established in RNB Portsmouth more akin with an STC [signal training centre] than with a school: by this time [pre RNB build] there were only two signal schools proper [fit for purpose], one in HMS Vernon [a group of vessels linked together anchored in Porchester Creek] and in HMS Defiance at Devonport under the watchful eye of  the naval father of W/T communication's Captain [later Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Jackson] First Sea Lord at the time of Jutland in 1916. The other four listed hulks were true hulks and together the five vessels accommodated 4600 men dumped in the 'General Depot' from decommissioning ships while awaiting for newly commissioning ships to "crew-up".  That expression always meant ratings which were the ship's company.  Officers were not and never have been part of the ships company but are always a part of the ships complement.

The first HMS Victory, of 110 guns, was lost with all hands in 1744, when carrying Admiral Sir J. Balchen home, after successfully relieving Sir Charles Hardy, who had been blockaded in Lisbon.

The existing HMS Victory, the second ship to bear that name, was also a 110-gun first-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, laid down in 1759 and launched in 1765. She is most famous as Lord Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

She was also Keppel's flagship at Ushant, Howe's flagship at Cape Spartel and Jervis's flagship at Cape St Vincent. After 1824 she served as a harbour ship.

In 1922 she was moved to a dry dock at Portsmouth, England, and preserved as a museum ship. She continues to be flagship of the Second Sea Lord and is the oldest naval ship still in full time commission.

I have searched high and low for information on H.M. Signal School [other than what is in E.J. DWYER'S booklet] and in the TNA I have found many references to pre WW1 Signals Schools, their modus operandi, meetings, correspondence but all in piecemeal fashion with surprisingly few to do with H.M. Signal School RNB Portsmouth! I wanted my research to be an integral story as far as is possible all these years later and I was just about to give up the ghost up when I had another search of my old faithful British Library, by far the best source of information on any subject bar non. What I found will be used for my second story after I have finished this first story.

Now I start Lieutenant DWYER'S story's as it affects our signal school



My third file is the important one for us. However before we start to read what our friend E.J.DWYER wrote about the signal school in RNB, we need to rid our mind and thoughts about Leydene, and other signal schools and STC's some world wide when we think of Kranji in Singapore, Ricasoli and then Manoel Island in Malta. They are

,in no order of preference or importance:-

signal schools in a communication or correspondence sense of the word. In the English language there are three basic uses/meanings of the word 'signal'

a. SIGNAL meaning a noticeable or unusual success or failure e.g. Leeds United [in my dreams]  had a signal victory today by beating Liverpool 12-0 or, the attack was a signal disaster when we fired all our 15" shells and missed the target every bloody time,

b. SIGNAL meaning a medium or conduct down or along which intelligence travels e.g. a voice pipe, a W/T frequency, a radar pulse, and,

c. SIGNAL meaning an alert, or a message to inform or be acted upon e.g. waving a flag for a specific purpose like passing a winning post or a red flag raised on an army firing range - signal traffic our core business - and a referees whistle signalling a penalty against Liverpool so Leeds actually won by 13-0 - now we are talking!

This Signal School certainly taught communications as we sparkers and buntings understand and get paid for doing so, but other things were of equal importance like for example particularly in the 1930's radar, and throughout its time in RNB on experimentation of the behaviour of radar frequencies way way higher than we communicators were used to and how sound waves travelled through water studying the embryonic days of sonar and Asdics.  Imagine an establishment enclosing ASWE/Dryad, Mercury/Vernon and the frenetic atmosphere that would be produced.  So our first signal school cannot be compared with Leydene or indeed with any other establishment using electronic wizardry and its ability to help destroy an enemy.

With that introduction  you can read the following file and I am sure you will learn something you were never aware of?


The radio callsign of the School was GZU see

Lieutenant DWYER's booklet is a little gem, but since it doesn't contain any maps or plans one would be lost using his words only and in isolation. Earlier in my researches I had been able to source the build plans of the barrack and knew therefore what blocks were what and how they were marked on a permanent basis set into the stonework fabric.  I knew that the Signal School experimental station, built after the opening, had been given the name of 'Nile' after Lord Nelson famous defeat of the French in the River Nile estuary in Egypt, and that all seamen messing areas were given a letter of the alphabet and you will all come to terms with those plans further down the page. The Signal School itself started off with blocks 'K' and 'L' but the expansion was so great and rapid that they also took over the adjoining pair of messes viz 'M' and 'N'. E J DWYER tells us about that expansion in his booklet with  his text reading 'K' 'L' 'M' and 'V', the 'V' for 'N' and in certain circumstances one can see how a draughtsman's  sloppy hand written plan can be misunderstood. So forewarned is forearmed and by scrolling you can easily see how the symmetry of close and adjacent blocks 'K' to 'N' fits in, where the 'V' is definitely an N'. Lieutenant DWYER obviously consulted the same plans I had access to and knowing no differently, put that data into his booklet.

The original barracks had other branches attached with their own messes and classroom. One was the massive amount of stokers on site [a stokers training school as well as a stokers rest home!], but I have covered their legacy to Queen Street further down the page in the bust up they had with gun busters/parade ground training staff. RNB was also the home to the PTI's branch with very fine gymnasiums, and the beautiful barrack clock tower was raised above the central gynasium. However, I am not going to cover their chapter either, suffice to say that they left prematurely to populate a site at Pitt Street next to the Royal Hospital  which eventually was demolished for the Sainsbury super market still trading on that busy corner just outside the dockyard wall.

The barracks were virtually demolished in the 1960-1970 and from 1904 until that time it had changed much during two world wars. I am not going to talk about its changes or fortunes during and after WW2 because as most people know it forced out the Signal School which relocated near to East Meon, with Dryad piping the Signal School move, leaving the dockyard, taking over the Southwick House and Estate just before Leydene house was taken, forced out by German bombing and the very real threat of much more to come.  Concurrent with these moves the Signal School [remember radar as well] experimental division relocated to an Idyllic setting in Haslemere Surrey which became officially HMS Mercury II:  all three moves were in early to mid 1941. This left a big empty space doing nothing in the NE corner of the barracks, but as the war progressed the space was soon put to good use, NOT BY THE RADAR school as is often reported.

However, since the Signal School was in the barracks from 1906 [two years after it opened until 1941, it is fitting to include the WW1 paragraph here, and the paragraphs concerning in between the wars.



 this period of course covered 1918 to 1939 and once again my luck changed because I found a new book written in 1932 with a foreward by the then COMBRAX Portsmouth,  Commodore Hubert Edward Dannreuther D.S.O.  R.N. 2  Nov 1931 to 14 Oct 1932 - who yet adds more details about the RNB Portsmouth, shown below. Commodore later Rear Admiral Dannreuther, had been at Jutland in 1916 in the battlecruiser Invincible  as a commander and gunnery officer which was blown clean in half by a magazine explosion, he being just 1 of 6 survivors from a crew of  1021 souls.


Some add on's in  E J DWYER'S story, namely

the wardroom which is packed full of treasures worthy of a world class museum, much too numerous to discuss here. However I thought you would find this article of interest

and a few more picture to finish this wonderful and very rare booklet.

The men have fixed bayonets of the very long type. The famous clock tower is raised over the central gynasium.

Way back in 1905 when our engine room boys soured the opening celebrations of five-star luxury accommodation after so many years of living in filth and squalor in the hulks of old discarded warships, the Royal Naval official school of signalling was established in the newly opened Royal Naval Barracks to great acclaim,  which unlike its peers at Devonport and Chatham was never uniquely named as was customary where each vessel and establishment was individually given a  name often passed on to new ships replacing old or to shore establishments after a ship was decommissioned without an intended sea-going replacement, but all were subservient to His Majesty's school.

All were named separately  over time, replaced and displaced, and are covered in the many pages in this treasure trove of Snippets and all remained subservient to the embryonic alma mater known only as H.M. Signal School.

That so called souring mentioned above is covered by this web site

First off then, from a huge map of Portsea Island I have cropped off as much as possible not related to my story keeping a resolution which doesn't lead to distortion, and my first picture shows the outline of the RNB Portsmouth footprint: time is circa 1936 little changed from build completion date of 1904. It is not intended to give one a tour of the area, but whilst I am at it, at the top are the basins, docks etc of the dockyard, the green patches are civilian housing developments mainly for dockyard matey's, going left is towards the harbour and right towards the City of Portsmouth.

Now let's move down beyond this picture.


Here below is a close up of the RNB expanded, only now deleting the dotted line and adding in road names.  The area was enormous as many of you may recall. I have cropped it in this fashion simply to keep on board RNDQ's which before that was a Convicts Prison and since, the Royal Marines School of Music, forced out of Deal in Kent their home for many years because of an act of terror by those murdering thugs, the IRA. The Convicts Prison is exactly as built by the Victorians with two floors of Cells. It is just outside RNB and just inside the Dockyard by Anchor Gate and in clear view on the map just above the green patch on the left, marked as Detention Quarters so no longer a civilian prison.

On the bottom is a road way the centre of which is marked Main Gate and to the right marked Edinburgh Road and to its right the City's Roman Catholic Cathedral, the road leading to places like Aggie Westons and the centre of the City. However, to escape the City one stuck close to the Barrack boundary wall following Alfred Road, passing Pitt Street the home of the PTI branch later on and eventually to the A3 moving ever northwards.

 This is a sketch made in 1883 of the Anglesea Barracks. Little wonder that the Army wanted as much parade drilling space as possible and possibly for mass PT drill or small arms training particularly bayonet practice. Eventually, the navy went the other way and placed buildings on the parade ground thereby maximising all available use of the footprint allocated. Note it refers to two of several  gates which afforded Garrison security to the city at this time with many more soldiers than sailors stationed here. Both the Lion and the Unicorn Gates were moved and rebuilt in other parts of Portsea.


In this picture you can see the Anglesea Barracks environment

Compare it with virtually the same footprint as this Crown Copyright OS map of 2020

By contrast you will have seen the footprint of the infantry barracks and below that of the navy barracks it displaced but the one above, a modern ordnance survey [OS] interpretation shows how the buildings we see today in 2020 robbed the barracks of any meaningful parade ground. Similarly HMS Excellent's parade ground has greatly reduced leaving Collingwood as the ceremonial centre!

To avoid a messy scene, here first an un-defaced map of the Barracks clearly showing the lay out. It started life as an army barracks called ANGLESEA BARRACKS which was purchase from the army [War Office] for £150,000. What is now Queen Street was once called Anglesea Road now diverted down past a University building on one side of the road and a civic swimming pool on the other towards Southsea. This was negotiated from 1899 until build completion in the early 1900's and for many years it was referred to as Anglesea Naval Barracks. All I want you to recognise at this point is that there were twelve very large barrack blocks lettered A to N with I and J not used. Unlike many military style barrack buildings of these times they were not given names of famous admirals, just alphabetic letters. They were all built exactly the same although the middle of the blocks as you view them to the left between C-D and E-F had a break in which they created tennis courts.  More about those blocks in a minute. Whilst we are here though, if in the first decade of 1900 you had been by the front gates of the barracks and you looked to your right through the iron railings, way over in the top corner of the barracks was H.M. Signal School

Picture below is of the main entrance gate into Portsmouth Naval Barracks off Queen Street, formerly Anglesea Road. Note the resplendent entrance. The building [in view] far left is the Sick Bay/Dentist.  Closer to the gate with a low pitched roof is the Gun Drill Building. Then into the barracks [in view] three large and handsome buildings which are blocks A, C and E. - blocks B, D and F are out of sight. The Guard House with men on the steps can be seen through the opened gates.


My next picture takes the view above [the un-defaced barrack plan] and amplifies certain aspects of the map and adds things which cannot be obvious and require an explanation. I suppose you might have noticed that there is a CPO's Mess, a WO's Mess, and a Wardroom but no PO's Mess. Of that rather long block to your left marked CPO's Mess a former army block kept over for naval use,  CPO's were accommodated in the northern end of the building and 1st class PO's in the southern end nearer to Queen Street and more noise!   Second class PO's had no special accommodation status but separated from junior rates. That leaves me only to explain the top North Eastern corner of the footprint which you will note was the HM Signal School complex, which from the 1920's onwards desperately wanting space to accommodate experimental works on the lessons learned from WW1. When the signal school first moved to the barracks it had the sole use of one or two blocks at the most, but long before they were forced out of barracks through fear of being bombed out, their footprint was as shown on this map. They had taken over four of the twelve blocks K.L.M and N*, plus a building/space in front of blocks L and K known as the "hutlets". It was perhaps fortuitous that the threat of Germany destroying the naval base came when it did for the Signal School was expanding this time trying to keep up with technology, and  desperately needed to double, even quadruple its meager space, albeit large at that. We all now know how that was achieved, in the main by  a move to a 210 acre plot as was the small part of the  Leydene estate purchased by the Admiralty, but the experimental division wanted its own space by this time and they too moved into a large building now quite separate from the school in Haselmere Surrey,  which proved to be a wise move. It became known as HMS Mercury II.

*Note in the text above referring to this picture immediately below, that a clumsy draughtsman had wrongly marked 'N' Block [alphabetically correct in sequence] as 'V' which was ubiquitously copied without any attempt to correct it. I wonder whether the letter 'V' stood for the 'V' in the name Jervis and wasn't a drawing office error but by design as an act to remember Admiral John Jervis 1st Earl St Vincent?  Admiral Jervis, very much a Portsmouth, Ooops {!} Gosport man, having commanded HMS Gosport then HMS Foudroyant not to mention his illustrious name being blazoned in the harbour with HMS St Vincent and again in Forton Road Gosport with yet another HMS St Vincent.

Below, is just one of several pictures from WW2 before H.M. Signal School relocated to Leydene. It shows a group of Allied officers outside 'K' Block RNB Portsmouth. Note the sandbagging to address the problem of splinters and shrapnel. The official footprint of the Signal School from start to finish 1907 to 1941, took up an enormous area in the NE of the barracks involving four of these twelve humongous barrack blocks, KLM [N or] and a post-build, after moving in, of what were called hutlets immediately in front of L and K blocks which was the Signal School's experimental area.  K Block was the equivalent to Main House at Leydene, the address of the school, CSS's office and staff officers offices as well as classroom used for officer courses. As stated each block was built for "seamen quarters" so many modifications were needed to dived blocks into more appropriate areas for a school infrastructure. One has to remember that 1st class PO's, CPO's, WO's and commissioned officers all had their own respective messes so any accommodation requirements in the signal school were for 2nd class PO's and junior rate communicator's along with their mess, hammock slinging and eating areas thus a three fold function well managed by discipline and a diligent cooks-of-the-mess team.

Having brought down the old Army barracks known as the Anglesea barracks [but really Anglesey after the General commanding Infantry Brigades and one of the heroes of Waterloo, named in his honour] and rebuilding at great cost the new Royal Navy barracks, remember with un-named seamen accommodation blocks but with named facility blocks i.e. Nile for the Signal School experimental block. Come the 1960's, the Admiralty, until 1964 and thereafter the MOD [Navy] decided to name the place [HMS Nelson] and to rename everything that they didn't pull down and rebuild from ground level upwards. This of course meant that the two story blocks became three stories and as often as not more floors up to four or five, with some, like the 1901 Drill Hall remaining just as the army has abandoned it as was the former soldiers barrack block used as naval CPO and 1st class PO's, but the new CPO Mess built in the 1960/1970 revamp, lording it above every other building almost.

It is not a part of this story that the alphabetically named blocks of the 1898-1905 period  became named with traditional naval names after the bulldozing of nearly the entire site and rebuild in the 1960's/70's, but if you are interested, visit the The National Archives [TNA] on line when re-opened post Covid-19 lock down, and source file WORK 41/ and its naval variants  which will tell you all about the block name changes and the major-build/rebuild  programme undertaken to form HMS Nelson but of course at a cost and a relatively long wait!

Still, as a bonus, some useful information about RNB Portsmouth.

Portsmouth Seamens’ Quarters (1899–1903) the large blocks shown as

 Blocks A to N which were  demolished in the 1960s.  These were multi-

floor accommodation blocks. Ground Floor Plans plus first floor and upper floors, with recreation spaces in the areas above.

The Seaman Quarters in Portsmouth  Ground Floor Plan. Drawing numbers

 various. RN Barracks & Subsidiary Establishments (1949). Plan for Works & Buildings, showed great changes, made in the main, to take account of modernity and the social changes beginning to be accepted and demanded universally, including by ordinary jack tar's! 

Although there is a vague mention of the HM Signal School being called Jervis Block at least wrongly by some, there is indelible photographic proof that the School was centred on 'K' block, just one of five blocks in all which formed the Signals environment from the earliest of days from late 1939 onwards after the shock loss of the battleship Royal Oak in Scapa. It seems that the intention of dragging the original block names into the 40's onwards was met by the very obvious sign, in very large letters above the entrance door to the block of SIGNAL SCHOOL. Below yet another picture from scores of others taken from late '39 to '41 and the evacuation from Portsmouth to East Meon. Equally, there is a reference to Jervis block being built in the original conversion from Army to Naval barracks at the turn of the century from 19th to 20th quote up near the Unicorn Gate area and I can only imagine that to be in the group of buildings K to N [or V] blocks. 

Below six hits on the Portsmouth Barracks Signal School from German Bombing 1940-1943, the first in 1941. These were 'A' on the corner of the Experimental building - 'B' on L  block -  'C' quadrant area outside  L block - 'D' on middle accommodation area between L and N Blocks - 'E' on outside of quadrant area  of K block - 'F' quadrant area outside M block.  X1 = near miss in no man's land bordering Unicorn Road - X2 = near miss dropping on civilian housing -X3 = near miss outside WOs Mess - X4 = near miss in no man's land outside barracks canteen - X5 = near miss dropping on Unicorn Gate.  Excellent choice to get the hell out of there, for this provides the truth of what would have happened to the Signal School had it stayed put!

Below a crop showing the Barrack build after the main blocks A-N [omitting I and J] were built but not the WO's Mess or the Signal School Experimental Hutlets, so 1903/4 time?

By the end of the nineteenth century the Admiralty deemed it unhealthy to lodge on hulks,  in some cases the largest warships Britain ever [Duke of Wellington for example, a 131 gun ship]  was now laid-up as an accommodation ship.  By the turn of of the 19th into 20th century times,  much lesser people than Royal sailors had been accommodated ashore in purpose built buildings notably convicts, and for others on a par groups e.g., the police and the marines, fine barracks either in the dockyard itself or in Southsea [Eastney] and in Gosport [Forton Road] areas,  but jack was quintessential fodder and his welfare didn't count for much nor for that matter did the welfare of naval officer cadets and midshipmen who were still coping with the difficult circumstances in a rickety unhealthy ship, namely HMS Britannia! 

At this point the Admiralty dug deep into its pockets and in a relatively short period of time, they had  built barracks in the three main depots, at Shotley, at Dartmouth and had shifted marines from their two barracks [one for artillery and one for light infantry] into Eastney releasing Forton Road for boys from the St Vincent a Portsmouth harbour bound ship, and at the same time shifted boys from the Impregnable at Devonport into barracks at St Budeaux. Now those not at sea albeit still victualled on a sea-going ship, were all now living ashore in modern, clean warm and disease free accommodation on which the navy and its men thrived.

Portsmouth was the finest example of an exodus for their problem was far worse than that at Chatham or Devonport having the largest ships the navy had ever sailed in laid up with thousands of men living in utter squalor and deprivation.

The King, Edward VII, and many fine admirals were concerned over the fate of HMS Victory now long time rotting, for years remaining afloat without maintenance and worried that it would pass from naval memory, decided to perpetuate its illustrious name and so issued an edict that all Portsmouth 'hulk men' about to be landed ashore in what was still being termed the Naval Anglesea Barracks a name official used for many a long year until the second decade of the 1900's saying that all men were to be issued with HMS Victory cap tally's coincident with the exodus from hulks to Anglesea Barracks.  This took a great deal of planning for it was to be the biggest naval parade ever mounted and never again repeated, where four thousand plus men would be marched, all carrying their pathetic belongings from Queen Gate [named after the last Stuart monarch Queen Anne] as was also Queen Street itself now called Victory Gate on the Hard to the main gate of what, even by civilian terms was nothing short of a well appointed hotel and sanctuary, the newly constructed barracks. It was completed in one day,  often accompanied by marching bands mainly army regimental bands from the large garrison stationed in the Portsmouth environs extending as far north as Hilsea Lines [as well as static bands stationed along the route to mainly entertain the thousands who had gathered to witness this watershed] and included Royal Marines, bluejacket bands although wrongly named for their members came from the stoke holds of ships also [stokers], and the term 'bluejackets' referred  solely to fighting men serving in the three main divisions under the Carpenter, the Boatswain and the Gunner in what in my time would be called seamen branches and then ops room branches.  Other bands also helped out, but important to know that there were four major military bands involved plus also-rans. One, like  the Salvation Army which later had a high profile in their fine building in Queen Street, who with Sophia Wintz - see para 3 text snippet - [Agnes Weston's, sister-in-arms looking after Portsmouth in Edinburgh Road as Agnes herself looked after Devonport] all together providing the all important moral support needed by so many men. Sophia and Agnes were given a ceremonial naval gun carriage funeral and  burial at Devonport and are buried together in a graveyard, a stones throw from HMS Drake's front gates.

This Royal edict of 1902 of issuing HMS Victory cap tally's led to the ‘odd and confusing situation of there being two HMS Victory's in one port', which remained vogue for over seventy years until common sense prevailed. King Edward VII died a few years later in 1909 with his edict still extant. Had the King known or had many who lived on with the conundrum known what was to come, the matter would have been sorted out many years previously, but what they didn't know or  could not have
 factored in, can be found in this article'S_THIRD_CAREER.html scrolling doing to the lower case red font text of now before you rush to change pages reading from that point. It had to wait many more years until well after WW2 which had seen many more complications in setting up administrative depots known as Victory II, III etc, being finally resolved as late as 1974 by renaming the RNB,  HMS Nelson.  It was named after the famous WW2 battleship HMS Nelson whose giant-sized last ensign is proudly displayed in the tiny church in Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, birth place of Nelson where he grew up and where his parent rest. See

In WW1 a Zeppelin air ship dropped an explosive device on the dockyard which did limited and minor damage. In WW2 the Barracks suffered some wartime damage when on the  12th August 1940 a bomb falling in Queen Street damaged
window frames and shattered windows in the Wardroom Officers quarters, wrecked a stewards’ block  and wrecked thirty to forty yards of the Barracks boundary wall damaging the iron railings allowing civilians pedestrians at leisure the goings on on the parade ground.

The barracks, opened in 1903, stood the test of time until that is when the 1960's arrived, a time I remember well, when rebellion and demand for change had to be accommodated otherwise unrest would have occurred. The Admiralty, itself with limited time left [it all changed into one defence organisation and one huge building in Whitehall in 1964 and assumed a new name of MOD[N] = Ministry of Defence [Navy], saw the writing on the wall and decided it was now time to think of the future, to the 1970's  and beyond, and the barrack were in dire need of an up date.

Pubs and clubs were as always aplenty and here to stay many within walking [or staggering] distance away from Queen Street and so was the tradition of rum followed by a visit to the dining room for lunch which the navy always insisted was dinner, which ran contrary to the way I was brought up. So in 1963 they build a rum-bar  through which one had to pass enroute to the dining room: convenient - yes- but it didn't last long for in 1970 the rum issue ceased.

Other changes addressed the increase in Wrens doing many jobs, so additional spaces were created for Wren ratings and officers and as time rolled on, the site was in a permanent state of flux endeavouring to achieve privacy  for all, ratings and officers of both genders.  Gone were the days of many living in a relatively small space and cabins from single to four persons per cabin went with seniority, rate and rank were expected and anything less was sub standard, and when the days of victualled members paying for food and accommodation started, personnel would only pay sub standard rates. Unbelievable but true, they built a massive court martial facility because crime was on the increase - so we were all told: it certainly was not apparent!

CPO's and PO's both crammed into the same block with partitions, were separated, the PO's [one class only, gone the 2nd class] with a new mess site on the field gun training ground - that was no big deal for the Pompey gun was always lack lustre and when not surpassed by the FAA, Guzz stepped in to embarrass them - so they didn't miss their track!

I have mentioned Jervis Block [given a name and not an alphabetic letter as all other accommodation blocks were, built in 1899, claimed wrongly as The Signal School - it was a part of H.M. Signal School and a lesser part, but wasn't "The Signal School" any more that Eagle block in HMS Mercury was the new signal school.  I am going to list some of the names given to blocks other that the accommodation blocks listed with letters of the alphabet within the barracks throughout the years.

In no logical order or position these were:-


and all were naval names given to functional blocks as opposed to seamen/ratings accommodation blocks A,B,C etc.  For example Orion was the medical and dentist block - Nile was the Signal School Experimental Hutlets- Trafalgar and Rodney were the PO and CPO'S Mess at various stages inter alia.

Now to Jervis block, as I said a part of the Signal School with other departments.

Jervis block in common with alphabetically lettered blocks was an enormous three story block set in an east/west direction with four story entry staircases at each end in north/south settings, comprising a Seamans Mess, Dormitory, hammock racks on ground floor, with separate areas for leading stokers accommodation. Seamans Mess and dormitory, Chaplains office, Signal School classrooms and hammock racks on 2nd floor. 3rd floor  WO's quarters next to W/T rooms.

Later in 1967 the MOD[N] discussed a major refurbishment to the building which included the build-in for the Barrackmaster’s and Barrack Engineer’s workshops, Vocational Training workshops, Supply Department Stores and Offices, Passive Defence and Navy Days Offices.  Accommodation Officer, General Stores, Motor Transport Offices, Ministry of Public Buildings and
Works workshops and Training facilities. Together what might be termed an odds and sods centre.

 It is strange that this
block, which must have been one of the first accommodation blocks to be built specifically for seamen at Portsmouth, was not listed. The team considers that Jervis should be listed, to complement the group value of other listed buildings in this area.

 On the 11/12thMarch 1941 14 bombs dropped on RNB Portsmouth.

Just a show of the dockyard phonetic language as used during WW2.  I like the 'J' for Jack and why not - it's navy through and through!

Portsmouth's very first bluejacket band from 1922

Stokers Block [Block D] RNB Portsmouth.  Probably stokers returning to their messes after ceremonial divisions on the nearby parade ground.  These mess buildings, all twelve of them were quality properties, this at a time when Portsmouth was swamped with umpteen thousand of tiny working class homes fit for the vast army of dockyard workers [dockyard matey's] many of them as skilled in their field as the artisan builders, but sadly not as well paid for providing fine ships to tight budgets and build dates. By comparison the building workers had it good whilst in work, but those employed in the dockyard had employment, some of them for life, so better off than those working on building sites in the long run.   The barracks stood out as a beacon in a garrison town [Portsea Island] in everyway as poverty stricken as many northern towns were.  The builders were fine artisans and the architects were used to designed fine building for the upper classes. Regrettably, although understandably, most of it was bull dozed in the period 1960-1970 and replaced by functional but hardly architecturally pleasing buildings.

SNOOKER ROOM.  As always throughout the navy junior rates wore white duck suits and petty officers both grades wore blue serge suits. In this case, these would have been 2nd class PO's with a single killick with a crown over, whereas 1st class PO's wore crossed anchors with a crown over and lived in the PO's Mess.

Mess Room Hammocks Nettings and note the  sling positions.  Again JR'S in Duck Suits and 2nd class PO's in blue suits. Note the hammock nettings and beyond them ventilated hanging spaces for overcoats, uniform suits and the likes.  On the left the messing tables where the men ate their food, and in some cases used them to sit at during instructional periods. After living in hulks this must have been viewed as utopia, paradise!

The barracks were built to house 4000 men [repeated in Dartmouth, Chatham, Devonport, Rosyth [though not necessarily to cater for the same numbers].  The new barracks were designed for 2500 persons now of both genders, reduced by progressive defence cuts and no great wars, but as importantly, men were away at sea in many aircraft carriers or ashore in  foreign bases.  When the carrier force was drastically cut and our foreign bases were given up one after the other, these men came back to  populate UK barracks and it was a close run thing to accommodate them all. However, building continued at a pace using up virtually all the parade ground, the last one to be completed by 2014 was named fittingly Falklands to commemorate our last naval battle in 1982.

That the dockyard has grown greatly in size since the barracks were completed and opened in 1903 by utilising land formerly used for civilian housing, a church, and other uses, which at a time of a vastly reduced navy in materiel and manpower terms, no wars, not even a cold war, is a paradox, for as our navy [the reason for having a dockyard in the first place] had shrunk, the dockyard keeps on growing - difficult to make sense out of that? Could it mean I wonder that a disproportional amount of the defence budget is going to run the dockyard with just a tiny handful of ships to look after instead of the Fleet at large, some of which never ever saw/see  the lights of Pompey?

For my story, is the plan 'N' Block Jarvis Block with Jarvis Gate near by leading onto Unicorn Gate etc>?  We shall see by delving into the Signal School history to see if the Jervis story holds water. Personally I don't think so for I believe this block, or part thereof, was a minor part of the Signal School, of consequence surely, but of no real importance other than a training area, and to boot, a ratings training area.

Lists of WO's and CWO's in 1910 some of whom will have served at H.M. Signal School RNB Portsmouth.  Officers with an [S] behind their names I would like to show you during the same period are listed by rank only i.e. Lt, Lt Cdr, Cdr, and there are scores of pages to wade through looking for their specialisation so not attempted.

A standard reference book from the 1905 > period

Looking back to some of my original work for 1907, we can see what  the state of play was at the opening of the RNB H.M. Signal School of 1907.

Have a browse here to this file.  It will give to the reader a detailed look at the progress made in W/T in some detail.

The main reason for a delay in relocating floating signal schools  to a central terra firma school in RNB Portsmouth [you will remember that the barracks were populated from September 1904 and the signal school from 1906] was for the  modifications required to turn barrack accommodation blocks into a teaching school with a much smaller barrack accommodation element, but a large officer trainee element. By 1910 all was well in the 'comms world and what follows is the  state of progress of the W/T branch. This table shows boys only, but boy's became men and at this point most able telegraphers or visual signallers has joined as boys

The text above shows the true state of play and that the Spark technology introduced back in 1895 is still, in 1910, far from the mark as worthy of robust naval systems. Concentrate your read on the last sentence.

Now all good sparkers worth their salt know why we run a Morse tape containing the word PARIS through an autohead.  Yes?  However do you know why we used to send a series of  the Morse letter 'V'? No!  Shame on you.

No good reason though technically the letter 'V' is the official Morse Basic Unit [MBU] count.

This how it worked

On the top line a short = a dot and a long = a dash, where the dash should be equal to 3 times longer than a dot and a space as long as a dot, and speed of operating decides how long a dot is in milli seconds. An MBU is a count of 10. Thus in the bottom line the first three shorts are the dots of the letter 'V' and the one long is the dash which follows those dots. The final space is the break before starting a new letter 'V' There, I knew you were dying to hear that?

One last snippet of learning I know you all enjoy.

Question, in ships of 1910 [as taught in the Signal School] riddled with cables of many sorts and kinds, what colour paint is used to denote a cable relating to Wireless Telegraphy?  Stumped - well it was VERMILION.  Don't believe me {?} well cast your eyes over this.  Fitting I suppose that we share the positive cable in the hangers [domestic electrics] = +VE  -VE and  for we are known to be positive people!!


A very interesting data sheet from the Signal school and note it is from 1911 and the Portsmouth signal school operated by HMS Vernon anchored in Porchester Creek is still going strong as is HMS Defiance anchored in the Homoase in Devonport.  Scroll down to the end of the  contents list which starts page 2 "A general summary" finishing after a short read at the end of "TELEGRAPHIST BRANCH".

There is much more to tell but of course all parochial to H.M. Signal School who received this information from its teaching stat's in the barracks and from outlaying schools, collated all and regularly published it for all to see.

I will  leave it at that hoping that in part I have kept the interest of some of you at least, and not wishing to bore the pants off all other stalwart readers. Regrettably, I am being denied access to other papers I need and want to complete the story because the TNA [The National Archives] are shut to both online visitors and to visitors to Kew proper because of the dreaded virus. I may put that right in time?

 Good bye and keep safe in these difficult times, but before I do I will leave you with a couple of newspaper cutting from those times. Pompey's 6-monthly marathon.


YESTERDAYS  marathon.pdf  A RETYPE






HMS Saltburn was a Hunt-class minesweeper built for the Royal Navy during World War I. Named after the town of Saltburn-by-the-Sea in North Yorkshire, she was not completed until after the end of the war. The ship saw no active service during World War II as she spent the war as a training shipSaltburn was sold for scrap in 1946, but was wrecked while under tow.

Saltburn was built by Murdoch and Murray of Port Glasgow and her keel was laid down on 29 January 1918. She was launched on 9 October 1918 and completed on 31 December 1918. The ship was armed with a QF 4-inch (102 mm) gun forward and a QF 12-pounder anti-aircraft gun aft.

In the 1930s, Saltburn was the RN Signal School's tender. A prototype Type 79X radar was installed in October 1936 and its antennas were strung between the ship's masts. They detected an aircraft at an altitude of 500 feet (150 m) and a range of 17 nautical miles (31 km; 20 mi) during tests in July 1937.[1] The ship spent World War II as the tender for HMS Dryad, the Royal Navy's navigation school.



Concord recommissioned in October 1919 at Devonport for service in the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean Fleet, recommissioning in August 1921 to continue this duty until July 1923, when she was decommissioned.[1]

After undergoing a refit at Devonport, Concord recommissioned in May 1924 to return to the Mediterranean Fleet for more duty with the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron. In 1925 she was attached to the Australian Station (where she replaced HMAS Brisbane),[2][3] then from 1925 to 1926 to the China Station. She returned to the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean in 1926, remaining in service there until decommissioned, transferred to the Reserve Fleet, and placed in reserve at Portsmouth in October 1927. She returned to service to transport troops to China in February 1928, and from October to November 1928 underwent a refit. She then was assigned to the Signals School at Portsmouth, remaining in service there until January 1933.[1] After the death of the exiled King Manuel II of Portugal, she transported his coffin to Lisbon, Portugal, on 2 August 1932.

Concord was decommissioned in January 1933 and placed under dockyard control.[1]






A retype of a 1923 Portsmouth Newspaper.pdf




As I recorded this story from the pen of E.J. DWYER I was alerted to a book called the Story of The Royal Naval Barracks Portsmouth with a preface by Hubert Edward Dannreuther* D.S.O. R.N Commodore of the barracks [COMBRAX Portsmouth] in 1931/32 which he finished by saying "TO:- The Officers, Petty Officers and Men of His Majesty's ships, vessels and naval establishments, who may read this book, and to all other persons interested."  The book is semi official cobbled together by an Admiralty librarian, unlike the first booklet I used compiled by the Instructor Lieutenant R.N.

*Commodore Dannreuther served in the battlecruiser HMS Invincible at Jutland when a shell skidded on the deck and entered the open hatch of 'Q' turret midships in the waist of the ship followed by an almighty explosion which quite literally blew the ship in half. He was one of just six survivors in a crew of over 1000 souls.

Take particular note of the commodore's para's 1 to 3 which I can accord with, there isn't much to go on unless one thinks laterally about certain naval subjects, for sometimes the navy are clueless whereas civilian records are embarrassingly au fait with naval matters. My part three - later -  is a good example!

That said the book he endorses dated 1932 tells rather more than does E.J. DWYER's booklet of 1959, so I treat that as a bonus, and so starts this new part.

On page 4 of this book there is a contents list [which I won't bore you with, but it reveals that the barracks had a busy life being directly responsible for:-

a. the signal school with its experimental division
b. the cookery school
c. the PTI's school and the Physical-Recreational Training for pan navy
d. the anti-gas school
e. H.M.S. Sultan at that time afloat in Portsmouth dockyard teaching boiler the and engine room skills
f. the Portsmouth WRNS division
g.the vocational training school teaching skills to those about to leave the navy for civil life in approximately six months time
h.several trials ships acting as tenders, sea going vessels conducting experiments. i.several training courses for the young officers on divisional officer duties, PO rate, the WO rank, new entries, and other advancement courses
j.many senior officers commanding any listed letter above a to i in this list, captains and commanders.

The barracks were opened and commissioned in 1903 but:-

Regrettably whilst the book has many original photographs, few if any are commercially viable, useless for reproduction. I have tarted them up as far as is possible, and at least one now gets the picture [yet another pun to apologise for]. On the following page [5] of the book,


there are several pictures of immediate interest to our story directly concerning the H.M. Signal School. They are No2, No5, No9, No10, No11, No14 and No15

No2 = the two biggest ships the William IV/Victorian/Edwardian navy ever had were enormous especially the Duke of Wellington a 130 gun ship of the line, Here they are as mastless hulks alongside near Asia Pontoon in the vicinity of Fountain Lake in the yard. Marlborough was also completed as a 130 gun vessel but much to the discomfort of the crew! Incidentally the HMS DofW was launched as HMS Windsor Castle. When the Duke died it was re-christened HMS Duke of Wellington.


No5 = The old Garrison Hospital which in part became HMS Nelson's Wardroom wherein both staff and trainee signals officers lived. The enormous free space behind the hospital was used to create a stunningly beautiful garden.

No9 = The Clock Tower and the Signal School from the parade ground

In the picture below one can see the barrack clock tower attached to the gymnasium and over to the left the towering huge blocks of the Signal School seeing building K and at the back building M. Buildings [L and N [or V] are out of camera shot]. In front of K block [and L if you could see it] you can see low level buildings called hutlets which in all, form the signal school experimental blocks.  For their entire existence senior officers of the navy and those serving in the barracks complained about how unsightly they looked when compared with the beautifully designed and build barrack blocks, and all considered them an eyesore.  The V/S signalling flag hoist mast is easily recognised, but behind it is the school's very tall radio mast currently masked by the V/S mast. If you  look above the letter 'a' in 'and' in the picture's title, you will see the arched door way where all the signals officer photographs were taken clearly marked with the letter 'K' over the door, as well as the Signal School rather large sign.

No10 = Signal School  V/S instruction Room which you would have seen in Part 1 was yet another use for the main barrack block, the others being hammock slinging, dining area and recreational space. Note the many framed pictures on the far bulkhead presumably of flag hoists etc.

Signal School Wireless Telegraphy instructions. Note the instructor sitting behind and his two buttons sewn onto the back of his jacket cuffs depicting a CPO - no three buttons in those days for ratings reserved for WO's, and all PO's, 1st and 2nd class wore square rig.

No14 = WO's Mess. It was much too small for the numbers borne, the excess living in various parts of the signal school blocks. Note the signal school's tall W/T mast to the right  and part of the signal school appearing into view also on the right.


No15 = The CPO's mess wherein lived many instructors who weren't WO's or commissioned officers. This was one of a tiny number of buildings which were used by the infantry when Anglesey Barracks and in which lived the ordinary soldiers. You'll see how it fits in when you see old sketches of the 19th century barracks in Part One.

 It had a major face lift before it was given over to RN CPO's/1st Class PO's.


The main RNB plan as at 1932. Note 'K' block well marked as the signal school. Use your magnifier for the finer detail. Note signal school hutlets not shown! Note how the main gate to the yard was not shown as being at the end of Queen Street on the open Hard,

An important signal school function achievement!

Portsmouth in earlier times was more of an Army Garrison town than a naval town despite its long established role in the defence of our illustrious nation. On ceremony the two forces often paraded together but the navy were always considered lack lustre even though their marching and drill was a match for most soldiers except perhaps the PBI know coloquially throughout the land as the 'Poor Bloody Infantry' for their way of hand to hand fighting and as such great losses.

Now read this

When it came to flag wagging none was better or more skillful than the VS Branch of the Royal Navy.  When it came to drill, from their involvement in Queen Victoria's funeral at Windsor in 1901 [which became a major gear change for Whale Island] through to current times, hopefully, with a depleted navy and it has to be said a mixed gender phalanx of sailors and rarely are women collectively good at ceremony as undoubtedly men collectively are, we can still come up with the goodies now one one fifth already into the 21st century. As it tells one above, finally with the push from naval ceremonial drill and the use of flags per se whatever the cause or reason, we were able to pull ourselves our of the doldrums as regards to lacking a certain panache which having a depot standard means, especially when the depot standard can be used in outlying establishments as well as centrally, RNB or on the streets of dear Pompey. For example, HRH The Duchess of Kent, a great advocate of our Colours particularly in Portsmouth but in other depots too and in other divisions other than the surface fleet e,g, the fleet air arm and the submarine service, brought the Portsmouth Colours to HMS Mercury to be paraded with great honour and lasting pride. C.S.S., and the Barracks Parade Commander and relevant staffs were to be congratulated in bringing this deserving case to the attention of C-in-C Portsmouth upped to the Admiralty and onwards to Buckingham Palace for King George V to action and approve.

Another feather in the cap of H.M. Signal School was RNB's famous annual event called the Dupree Cup which the signal school won three times on the trot.

The Dupree Challenge Cup, an annual award took the form of:-

Highest aggregate for several one mile races and for hurdle races
Inter-block challenge cup for tug-of-war
Inter-room challenge shield for annual billiards tournaments
Inter-room challenge cups for Football, Cricket, Bayonet Team, Acquatic Team Race and field gun competition.



 This time,  I moved away from naval data sources and thought laterally as opposed to logically and chose the British Library and their difficult to find Thesis section which the Library calls 'Ethos', hoping to find a PhD scholar who had done the spade work for me, indeed for us all, as you will see. Once again in my many experiences which are several,  I found a Thesis called "Technology and Tradition - Wireless Telegraphy and the Royal Navy 1895-1920 written by A.J.L. Blond, a mature student studying in the  Department of History, University of Lancaster, March 1993" the Copyright owner along with the host site, the British Library. This Thesis could well have been written for this web page and more specifically for the academic side of our Museum and site , the web site of the Royal Naval Communications Branch Museum Library.  We are grateful for the use of this document modified for our needs assuming we are allowed to use this data, long overdue for entering into the naval environs from its inception twenty seven years ago lying fallow.

I'll quote you four statements from the Thesis all in Chapter 3 Personnel and Organisation 1896-1914, which sets the scene for the early years of the 20th century,

The first was an admittance that because of branch fall outs and internal wranglings from the 1890's to 1912 we were not ready for WW1 being severely depleted of telegraphists which during that time frame we are told were like gold dust!

Second, the army after four years of trench warfare and its accompanying attrition rate very nearly lost the field as the naval shortage of telegraphists very nearly saw the end of convoys and other fleet operations
Thirdly, Jellicoe said:-

and finally, Beatty said:-


I remember well compiling the history of the W/T branch for the CHC site period 1900-1913 which told of a rocky and laboured journey from the early days of Marconi and Jackson to the largest war fleet ever assembled and well fitted with sophisticated W/T equipment but lacking the skilled men required to operate it and how that frustrated our ability to deploy that/those fleets to their full potential. This Thesis goes into the subject much more deeply and in just about every sentence, touches upon a raw nerve that without telegraphists in the numbers required we were never going to be as successful as the money and time spent in developing this new technology suggested. Whilst expecting H.M. Signal School to be a leading light in resolving this issue, one is bound to be disappointed, for long after its establishment in RNB Portsmouth, the Vernon Signal School was still dictating policy and calling many of the shots, and the Admiralty had no plans to pull the naval Signal Schools into a unified organisation. Because of the length of the Thesis, I recommend that one at least reads Chapter Three [but of course more for a detailed understanding] before moving on to the applied story starting from "My first file" just below. Then, as time and interest permits, you can read the other Chapters of this enthralling Thesis.

Concentrating on Chapter 3 to 7 only and the story it tells. So here is that Thesis, now reduced for our purposes co