THE ORIGINS OF THE COMMUNICATOR MAGAZINE c.1947

JUST HOW DID THIS HISTORIC DOCUMENT REALLY START WHICH ORIGINALLY CALLED ITSELF A "BULLETIN"?

 FIRST A PICTURE OF A FAMOUS AND WELL KNOWN ROMAN GOD, SOMETIMES POSTED AS THE MESSENGER OF THE GODS. YES IT IS MERCURY. The picture is heavily cropped for a good reason which will soon become obvious!

It was the centre graphic of the front cover of the BULLETIN for the June 1944 issue. The Bulletin produced seven issues stopping in September 1945, roughly a month after the Japanese war which terminated in mid-August. So obviously a document produced in WW2, but not so obviously, for readers in the Royal Navy as a CONFIDENTIAL and accountable [musterable] document. The reason why it didn't start sooner in 1940 is told in this story.

All pictures are thumbnails except where self stated.

 

As you will read, this bulletin covers all matters concerning  W/T and RADAR, but be assured the majority of the naval departments had their same type of bulletin, but more succinctly, FEEDBACK. There were many complaints from the Fleet which were not being addressed from shore.

The reason why the early to mid-war feedback was not produced was [in our case at least] because ASE [Admiralty Signal Establishment] didn't consider it necessary for those at sea in the fleet, fighting and making the ultimate sacrifice, to know what was going wrong with equipment which regularly broke down or under-performed, prohibiting the efficient execution of many critical operations.

The Fleet believed that above ALL OTHERS those at the front mattered more than any other units acting as combatants engaged in the destruction of the nations enemies: combatants of course include the SOE and the various Allied resistance' and anybody within smelling distance of a German, Italian or Japanese combatant.  Only those, who through their own endeavours, matched the most assiduous of protagonists in that destruction, who were not combatants themselves, deserved to be treated as equals.  Such non-combatants belong to the likes of Bletchley Park personnel for example, and brilliant scientists in all disciplines, too many to name here. ALL OTHERS, despite their harsh war conditions, stress and privations came second in this scaling. However, some Admiralty civilians tended to equate themselves with front line combatants and became TOO SELF-IMPORTANT.

WW2 saw many front-line personnel using equipment which wasn't really up to the mark.  Whilst the short-comings were reported to the authorities back home in Admiralty's prescribed manner, and no doubt these authorities diligently sought to rectify these defects, little or no feedback was received by the front line units, which from hereonin, I will call the FLEET. 

Feedback was something banded around between the Admiralty and the 'egg head' Establishments, with little or no regard for assessing the problem overall and thereafter for making all at sea aware of the problem and the necessary resolution.

This state of affairs came to a head in 1944 at a time when it became obvious there was a 'them' and 'us', and the 'us' were the ones dying in the name of the King and country at the 'coal face'.

The reports about the advances in RADIO and subsequently RADAR, were made by Secret annual and then half-yearly reports with extremely tight and controlled distribution lists. Once dealt with, they were filed for posterity, and, I believe, eventually destroyed as highly sensitive material once the war had been won by the Allies. Certainly the ones I know about and seek, are nowhere to be found at the NA or the war Museums. That that level of secrecy was needed and fully understood by all, including those at sea, plays no part in this story.

In March 1944 after four and a half years of war,  all that changed, and although not clearly stated, the Admiralty's concern needed a voice. They had been continuously debriefed for two years by officers coming ashore from the fleet, many of whom complained that the wardroom's afloat were "blind [and deaf]" to the reactions ashore on receiving their long lists of defects, even to the point of wondering whether the lists were getting to the intended desk[s]. Such was their concern that the Admiralty suggested the ASE {Admiralty Signal Establishment} should issue regular bulletin's to the FLEET to collate the actions taken on reported defects {to those of you in the know, the start of the S.2022 system} and advances made in technology, so that all in the FLEET with responsibilities for Radar or W/T communications, could know of the common problems and how to circumvent them, and of the promised new equipment which was about to enter Service. However, as you will read in one of the bulletins below, what started off for RADAR and W/T officers, soon became almost totally biased towards RADAR, but given the infancy of Radar and its rapidly advancing technology and war-winning potential, that was quite understandable. This obvious bias did evoke a comment from the Commander-in-Chief British Pacific Fleet [BFP] when in his signal to S.S.E.[sic, although that might have been A.S.E.] repeated to the Admiralty on 250627Z August 1945 congratulating ASE on the Bulletin, he says ".........and it is felt there is room for expansion in the W/T section." - See 1945 September edition one - Editorial below, for details.

These were the front covers of each of the bulletins

 

   

This section [see EXCUSES below], taken from one of these issues is all that is required for readers of this page to fully get the gist of the problem. It 'flies in the face' of the assumption that the Fleet matters more than anything or anybody else, and there should be no excuses emanating from shore to supplying it with 'tools of war' which are manifestly unfit for purpose WHATEVER THE REASON. The writer starts off by saying that "We" [ASE - in this case] "OCCASIONALLY receive criticism....." when the truth of the matter was a deluge of adverse comments. It is not the type of answer men at sea in war-time want to read, for the author is probably going home every night to see his wife and kids; down to the pub for a pint every now and again; not suffering sea sickness; not tolerating poor quality [though it fills the belly] food; not near to death's door on a continuous basis; not seeing his mates blown to pieces or drowning outside reach of rescue/succour, not north-bound on a journey to hell, the lot of the Russian convoy men, and I could add so many other dreadful things a man at the front suffers which civilians don't suffer, don't understand and lose little sleep over!

This little contemporary cartoon, although not directly related to this story, sees a captain demanding that his young reservist officer hits the target, the enemy. The subby questions the ability of the darts to respond to his aim, and takes the blame for repeatedly not hitting the target.

Now read: EXCUSES AND YET MORE EXCUSES.pdf

During the UBoat war [especially] one of the finest 'tools' for finding a UBoat was HF [which is short wave] direction finding [D/F] known as HUFDUF. Submarines had to come to the surface to clear and receive their radio traffic, which as all sparkers know, is not always easy to achieve because of anomalous ether conditions which were not predictable or circumventable or in WW2 even understood?  Quite often, the case was a protracted stay on the surface until the necessary, often crucial, exchanges were concluded and this, with a suitable device in an eavesdropping ship or shore wireless station, rendered that submarine most vulnerable. We, in the Royal Navy had the answer in the champion of all HF D/F sets, a set called the FH4. HF signals have two paths, but the one we are interested in is the 'near to target path' [known as the ground wave] which, depending upon the power of the radio transmitter doesn't travel too far from the emitter before it is attenuated and rendered too weak to use. The FH4 was specifically designed to address this ground wave which gave a good and reliable bearing direct to the submarine. With three ships [or three eavesdroppers] listening and taking D/F bearings, an accurate position of the submarine's position could be achieved. Because at least three bearings were involved it was known as triangulation, resembling a triangle. The FH4 was therefore a 'tool' which all involved with war at sea and in the prosecuting and defeat of the UBoat, either lone boats or wolfpack boats, considered a 'must have weapon'. Positions gained by FH4 triangulation were attacked by escorts, and as often as not when within range, passed to maritime patrol [MP] Aircraft which sank many a UBoat caught napping.

In 1943 when the FH4 was most needed and the UBoats were getting fewer and fewer [a sign of the Allies successes] an ASE Bulletin announced:-

Fortunately for the country and the world at large, the allied navies had more or less defeated the UBoat threat by 1944, but such glitch's were all too common, and for those we have little to thank ASE for! Having more than one manufacturer or supplier of a certain piece of kit cannot be too difficult to organise, and bugger the expense and waste of materials and effort were one manufacturer's product not be required at the end of the day. Better a wasted spare than a failure in a supply line!

Also, and remaining on HF D/F, the FH4, first fitted in March 1942, was, as suggested above, an instant success. It was widely fitted and all comers could be trained to ascertain whether a ship was fitted or not, because its aerial, Type S25B [a angular bird-cage type of frame work] always took over the highest part of the ship usually on top of the fore mast or main mast. However this was not possible in certain types of ships, and at the time, it appeared to many that ASE had not done its home-work properly. In the course of 1942/3 it had to return to the drawing-board to design an entirely new HF D/F.  Here is the reason.

  HF DF IN BATTLESHIPS AND CRUISERS.pdf

 Data in the Table below is for general viewing only, and not a pre-requisite to following and understanding the story. If you don't want to read it, scroll down to the paragraph starting with the words "And this is an Issue....".

This is a list for you to scroll through to give you an idea of what was covered throughout all the issues:-


TABLE


March 1944 - in this Bulletin with a Contents List [one] and Editorial [one] are:
a. R.I.S. [one]
b. Naval Wireless Transmitters [one]
c. Type 274 Radar [one]
d. What set is it? [one]
e. Gunnery Radar [one]
f. Shore W/T Stations & Naval Air Stations. [two]
g. A Relative Bearing Indicator [two
h. Height finding by Radar [two]
i. Handbooks [two]
j. New Radar Handbooks [two]
k. Use of Radar for Navigation [two]
l. Type 970 Radar [two]
m. Radar for Torpedo Control [two]
n. Radar in Submarine [two]
o. Radar Control of SQUID [two]
p.  The re-organisation of training Radio Mechanics [three]
q. What's Gone Wrong ? [three]
r. Test Equipment [three]
s. Ship to Air Communications using VHF [three]
t. Radar fitting and maintenance notes [four]
u. D/F Navigational Aids and 'Y' [four]
v. I.F.F. [four]
w. Navigational Aids [four]
 
June 1944, and as the last page of this Bulletin say's, D-DAY happened in this month.  In this bulletin with a Contents List [one] are:
a. Target Indicator System [TIS] {Radar Type 293} [one]
b. I.F.F. [two]
c. W/T Transmitters [601 Series introduction] [two]
d. Aerial Rotation Speed [two]
e. Target Position Indicator [TPI] [two]
f. Height Position Indicator [HPI] [two]
g. Tuning HF W/T Transmitters [two]
h. Inspection of Radio Equipment [two]
i. Note of Remote Displays [Radars] [three]
j. Errata to the March Bulletin No 1 [three]
k. Digest of HMS Victorious report on Type 277 [three]
l. Radar fitting and maintenance notes [four]
m. Type 275 - New HA/LA Gunnery Fire Control [five]
n. Repair of Transformers at Sea [five]
o. Radar Type 277T in Action [six]
p. Radar control of SQUID [six]
q. Radar in Submarines [six]
r. W/T Aerial Arrangement in the Fleet [six]
s. Radar Reflector Balloons [six]
t. Power Supplies - Policy [six]
u. Radar Type 281 [six]
v. R.I.I.C. The RADAR INSTRUCTIONAL INFORMATION CENTRE [six]
w. Stop Press [six]
September 1944. In this Bulletin with a contents list [one] are;
a. Editorial [one]
b. The Passing of the WREN Courier [one]
c. On the Level - RADAR [one]
d. Aerial outfit AUH [one]
e. Errata - for the June Bulletin No 2 [one]
f. Gunnery Notes/Wavemeter G76 [two]
g. Simple laws for curious Sailors ! [two]
h. Radars - Remote Displays [two]
i. Fall of shot [two]
j. Fire [two]
k. Radar for Torpedo Control [two]
l. Improvement of Equipment in Service [two]
m. 'M' Books [two]
n. Future of Radar Officers [two]
o. Radar report from HMS EMERALD [three]
p. Report on Radar Type 277 from HMS CAMPANIA [three]
q. I.F.F. [four]
r. Skiatrons [four]
s. Radar fitting and Maintenance Notes [four]
t. AJ - Report on visit to Normandy to assess interference on Radar Type 281 [five]
u. Type 281 [five]
v. W/T Transmitters of the 600 Series/601 [five]
w. W/T Modernisation [six]
x. W/T Test Equipment Ships and Shore Bases [six]
y. Suppression of interference to W/T [seven]
z. Combined HF, VHF D/F Aerial System [seven]
a1. Sound Recording Equipment  [seven]
a2. Bantam D/F and Communications Receivers [seven]
a3. D/F Assembly FMC [seven]
a4. Type 93 in Aircraft Carrier - Blind approach beacon [seven]
a5. D/F Outfit FV5 [seven]
a6. Radio Equipment in Coastal Craft [seven]
a7. Mobile Stations and Naval Radio Vans [eight]
a8. Stop Press [eight]
December 1944. In this Bulletin with a Contents List [one] are:
a. Editorial [one]
b. Radio Location [one]
c. Fall of Shot sets [one]
d. An object Lesson [one]
e. The new Radar Manual [one]
f.  The R.D.R.  [one]
g. Outfit JJ[1] with Height Plot [one]
h. Outfit RTE [one]
i "AN" Nomenclature [two]
j. Report on Radar Type 276 in HMS Black Swan [two]
k. Use of Radar for Navigation [two]
l. Ranging Outfit RTC [two]
m. The Effect of Propagation conditions on Radar Surface Ranges [two]
n. Radar Reflections from Cloud and Thunderstorms [two]
o. Type 281 BQ Radar [two]
p. Radar Target Indication [three]
q. Look before you Lean ! [three]
r. Embarkation of a pre-fabricated Type 277 Hut [three]
s. Wind finding by Radar [three]
t. Report on I.F.F. [four]
u. What's the Use of I.F.F ? [four]
v. Interrogation for Radar Type 281 [four]
w. Sector Selection [four]
x. Testing Condensers [four]
y. Vertical Coverage Diagrams [four]
z. Gunnery Radar [five]
a1. PPI News [five]
a2. Radar fitting and maintenance Notes [five]
a3. A simple Sync Pulse Generator [six]
a4. Report of defective radio equipment [six]
a5. Spreading the Buzz [six]
a6. Avometer Pattern 47A [six]
a7. Nomenclature for Electronic Valves [seven]
a8. Quartz Crystal Grinding and Servicing Unit [seven]
a9. Rubber Crystals [eight]
a10. Whip aerials [eight]
a11. Gremlin 1 [eight]
a12. W/T Transmitters in the 600 Series [nine]
a13. Type "YE" Beacon - Aircraft Carriers [nine]
a14. Receiver Type B28 - AVC [nine]
a.15. Interference Suppression - Receiver P38 [nine]
a.16. Crystal Control of Receivers [nine]
a.17. Control Circuit Development [nine]
a.18. Stop Press [nine]
 
 March 1945 - in this Bulletin with a contents list [one] are:
a. Editorial [one]
b. Radar Long Course Exams [one]
c. Historical Note [one]
d. Radio in New Guinea [one]
e. Radio in the Tropics [one]
f. Radar for Combined Operations [one]
g. Make Fast [a poem] [one]
h. Bogey [two]
i. Radar Reports [two]
j. Type 274 In Action [two]
k. Radar Type 268 [two]
l. Teacher Outfit HRB/D [two]
m. Radar fitting and maintenance notes [two]
n. Project Bubbly - Radar [three]
o. P.P.I. News [three]
p. Talk Down - Naval Aircraft [three]
q. Auto - Aligning - Radar [four]
r. Gunnery Radar Notes [four]
s. Care and Use of Crystal Valves [five]
t. A.S.E. Nomenclature - W/T and Radar [five]
u. Navigational Aid - QM [five]
v. Loud Speaker Muting [five]
w. W/T Emergency Equipment [six]
x. W/T Transmitters in the 600 Series [six]
y. Equipment Frequency Charts for W/T and D/F [six]
z. FM versus AM [seven]
a1. W/T Receivers - Interference Suppression [seven]
a2. Television [seven]
a3. New VHF Aerials [seven]
a4. Stop Press [seven]

 
June 1945 -  in this Bulletin with a contents list [one] are:
a. Editorial [one]
b. Radar Displays [one]
c. The Psychology of good Height Finding [one]
d. The Care and Use of Crystal Valves [one]
e. A Catalogue of Radar Test Equipment [one]
f. Gunnery Notes [one]
g. Jap [Japanese] Jamming [one]
h. Radar Types 274 & 275 Trials [two]
i. Radar Type 293M Trials [two]
j. Radar Type 931 [two]
k. The Radar Training Sight/Outfit RAA [two]
l. Radar Type SGI and Panel L18 [three]
m. Radio Maintenance Rooms [RMR] [three]
n. Errata for Bulletin 5  [three]
o. Report from HMS Shropshire  [Type 281] [three]
p. A letter from HMS Diadem [Type 272] [three]
q. Remove the Crate! [three]
r. Historical Notes [four]
s. The Radar Officers Refit Dream [four]
t. Radar Fitting and Maintenance [four]
u. Automatic aerial training for Type 271/3Q [four]
v. Bending Waveguides [five]
w. Radio Maintenance [five]
x. Radar Servicing Manuals [five]
y. IFF Notes [six]
z. ASE Family Trees [six]
a1. Handbooks [six]
a2. Carbon Pile Regulators [seven]
a3. Microphones [seven]
a4. Consol [seven]
a5. VHF Aerial Outfit Feeders [seven]
a6. HMS Mercury [seven]
a7. Refits - Signal Officers Duty [seven]
a8. The P.W/T.O - Port W/T Officer [seven]
a9. Types 686M and 687 [seven]
a10. W/T Equipment in Submarines [eight]
a11. Fighter Direction Receivers P38 and P104 [eight]
a12. Outfit QH [eight]
a13. W/T AFO's [eight]
a14. Stop Press [eight]

 

September 1945 - in this Bulletin with a contents list [one] are:
a. Editorial [one]
b. British Bulldog eating the German Naval Ensign [one]
c. Radar Type 960 [one and two]
d. Gunnery Notes [Types 282/3/4/5] [two]                                    
e. The future of the Radar Officer [two]
f. Radar Type 930 [two]
g. USN Fire Control Radar - Adopted by the RN - Type G Series [GA, GB, GC, GS] [two]
h. Radar Type 262 [three]
i. Reports from Abroad [three]
j. Aerial Rotation Speeds -Type 293M [three]
k. Analysis of Waveguide Conditions Type 293 [three]
l. Schelde Radar Navigation Scheme [three]
m. Cosmic Noise [four]
n. Some Notes on Aerials for Centimetric Radars [four]
o. Radar in a Modern Cruiser [1 text page followed by six pages of photographs] [four]
p. Comparison of Weights of Aircraft and Naval Radar Equipment [four]
q. Radar fitting and Maintenance Notes [five]
r. Radar Modifications [five]
s. Soldering without Tears [five]
t. A New Form of Construction for Radio Equipment [six]
u. Installation Specifications and Establishment Lists [six]
v. Standard Frequency Transmissions [six]
w. Training Radar Mechanics W/T [six]
x. HF Communications on Surface Craft [seven]
y. Protecting Device for Wire Aerials [seven]
z. German high speed W/T Equipment - KURIER [seven]
a1. Application of the German KURIER to RN TX's Type 55, TCS, and Reception. [seven]
a2. The Shape of W/T Things to Come [seven]
a3. Any W/T Defects ? [seven]
a4. Outfit QM [seven]
a5. Training of Radar Mechanics W/T [Mercury/Leydene Special] [1945 Special File]

 

And this is an Issue you can or should read 1945 September edition one.pdf . If you do, note C-in-C BPF signal on page 1. Just a relatively small scroll down.

Now this was the last issue and the print set-up was abandoned along with the graphics etc. ASE remained and eventually became ASWE on top of Portsmouth Hill.

In December 1946 a small group of enthusiasts tested the waters to try and ascertain whether there was any interest in continuing more or less where the 'Bulletin' had left off to at least keep communicators on board by having a magazine with  interesting articles. They cobbled together what turned out to be a Christmas launch of a magazine called "The Sparker" and were surprised at the encouraging============================= reception it received. In the next month January 1947 a team was coopted to produce a quarterly magazine for ALL communicators and not just telegraphists, and two months later in the April of 1947 the first issue was proudly launched.

The first edition of the Communicator Magazine, and there can be no prizes for guessing where their idea came from, and for the same reason, namely the erstwhile Bulletin,  was designed  to inform communicators of what was happening in their branch, with the original editorial team on the one-off edition of The Sparker graciously stepping aside.

This was the front cover of that Easter 1947 edition [Vol 1 No1, which came as a loose magazine and also, much later on in hardback book form with the first three editions bound together with slightly smaller dimensions than the loose article. In hardback form the book version contained as it said on the books spline Vols 1-3, Vol1 being 1947 x 4 editons, Vol 2 1948 x 3 editions and Vol 3 1949 x 3 eitions.  In the first year of 1947 four quarterly editions were published as promised in April, Summer, October and December.  At the end of 1947 it was decided that only three editions per year would be published but they would contain more information than the first years volumes.

  I am a proud owner of the book, a very rare indeed copy which I intend to pass onto the 'Comms Museum where it truly belongs. I have no idea as to why this apparently one-off hardback book was produced and for whom for it doesn't appear to have been repeated in later years.  I am fortunate in having a full set of the Magazines which will also go to the Museum to act as spare copies for their already owned  full set just in case?  View their page here in comparison with the ASE Bulletin of June 1944 the month of 'D Day' and the start of the end of the hostilities in Europe.


The name [signature] on the graphic is new and different from that on the graphic to the right. This magazine ran well into the late 1970's.