Peter Dick GM4DTH presented his annual LRS Video Night at the Edinburgh Cine & Video Society on 6th April 2022. The program consisted of the video "The Secret Wireless War - Pt.2. - Black Propaganda" by Grindlewald Productions. Peter's summary:
"Developments and content of the WW2 secret British black radio broadcasts against the Germans. We hear fascinating tales both from SCU1 transmitter engineer Phil Luck and Ingram Murray, son of one of the most important Foreign Office officials that shaped operations. Developments and visits to the remarkable remains at Potsgrove and Milton Bryan studios. New secret papers unearthed from the propaganda manager’s trunk".
The following is a very interesting overview, written by Peter GM4DTH (mni tnx):
"Hitler’s rise of power in the 1930s saw the growth of fascism and rearmament in Germany. At that time broadcasting in the United Kingdom and Germany were similar with transmitting stations located close to the centres of the population they served. The programme material was usually networked from a common source and was fed to the multiple transmitting stations. These stations had to use different frequencies to avoid interference. This configuration served the well-populated areas leaving remote areas less well served. The British government read the warning signs with the rise of fascism in Germany and proceeded to rearm Britain. Anticipating potential conflict, it worked towards making the country more robust to hostile military action. The government recognised that radio broadcast stations would make excellent wireless navigational aids to hostile aircraft. To counter this risk British broadcasting transmission sites were developed away from cities and operated at higher power levels. The operating frequencies were aligned and operated in a co-channel configuration throughout the country. With all the transmitters now operating on the same frequencies rendered them unsuitable for navigation tracking. Germany did not reconfigure its broadcasting network which left it open for an enemy to use for navigation. To counter this risk when allied air raids approached German airspace they had to turn off the city transmitters on the path of the aircraft. The cities served then lost their broadcast service while the enemy was within range.
This defensive action opened an opportunity for black operations using the Aspidistra transmitter. The Allies knew which local transmitters would be shut down as a raid was approaching. Armed with this information Aspidistra would be configured to operate on a target transmitter frequency and put on standby. A receiving site would be tuned to the German networked programme from another transmitter unaffected by the raid path. The German programme was fed to Aspidistra via an insertion point. When the target transmitter was shut down Aspidistra went live carrying the German programme. To the targeted listeners there was no interruption to their programme. Their service was no longer from their local transmitter but from southern England via Aspidistra. For most of the time the broadcast they received was the genuine networked German programme. However, at strategic points the insertion facility was used to insert false instructions to the listeners. This tied up resources and was a significant nuisance. Authority was undermined and confidence was weakened as a result of the black action. For map, see slide 7 below - "Black Propaganda".
Tnx to Grindlewald for the following summary:
Not everyone knows that in WWII Britain waged an extremely effective 'black' propaganda campaign against the Germans. The Woburn estate in Bedfordshire was the setting for most of the wireless transmissions to Europe, as it was 50 miles from London and out of the bombing zone.
We trace the development and content of the broadcasts with Ingram Murray, son of Ralph Murray, who was one of the important Foreign Office officials who shaped the operations.
Phil Luck was a young engineer who operated the RCA 7½ kilowatt transmitters in the area, beaming the British black propaganda broadcasts back to Europe. He tells stories of the operations, and with Debra in the back of the Packard, visits the remains of his old transmitter station at Potsgrove. It was here that he and his team replayed the broadcasts from pre-recorded discs much like a modern DJ. More remarkable remains are found at the village of Milton Bryan. Debra visits the 'black' propaganda station there, still almost intact. She finds traces of switchgear and transmission lights from 60 years ago. Teleprinter engineer Roy Tink tells some interesting tales about life and the people at 'MB'. Debra visits Stephen, the station manager Ted Halliday's son. They uncover new secret papers and cartoons from Ted's trunk, which give an insight into what life was like at 'MB'.
The Milton Bryan studios were linked by landline to a giant 'dreadnought of the ether', an RCA 600 kilowatt medium wave transmitter, code-named Aspidistra, obtained from America. Ingram Murray describes some of the dirty tricks (for which Britain had an unexpected talent!) that the transmitter was used for. We hear nostalgic music and extracts from recordings made of the last two days' propaganda broadcasts in 1945. The mastermind behind the operations was a journalist called Sefton Delmer, who fought this secret wireless war with the enemy. Although the efforts of his extremely talented team were demonstrably successful, because of the secrecy, his triumphs have largely gone unrecognised.
Selection of slides:
The RCA 600kW "Aspidistra" Transmitter.
Power Supply Unit and Modulator.
See Peter's overview above.
Turntable Desk 1
Turntable Desk 2
Sefton Delmer at the microphone.