Signals Section

The Signals Section of each Beach Squadron in 2nd T.A.F. consisted of the following personnel:

  • 1 Flight Sergeant (Wireless Operator/Mechanic)
  • 4 Sergeants (Admin. Codes & Cyphers)
  • 3 Aircraftmen (Wireless Operators)
  • 1 Aircraftman (Wireless Operator/Mechanic)
  • 1 Aircraftman (Aircrafthand General Duties)

In addition there was a Signals Officer with the rank of Flying Officer.
The Signals Section formed part of the Beach Squadron Headquarters.

The following is a transcript of a type-written document found in the Operations Record Book of No. 4 R.A.F. Beach Squadron. The author of the report is almost without doubt, the Signals Officer of No. 4 R.A.F. Beach Squadron, Flying Officer W. L. Smith.

Flying Officer Smith had been posted from R.A.F. Station Chigwell to No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Squadron on 15th April 1944 for Signals Duties with No. 3 Beach Squadron Headquarters at R.A.F. Station Old Sarum. On 20th May 1944 he was posted from No. 3 Beach Squadron to No. 4 Beach Squadron at Southampton, in exchange for Flying Officer G. Taplin. F/O Smith thus joined No. 4 R.A.F. Beach Squadron only two weeks before they embarked for Operation “OVERLORD”.

Photographs of No. 4 R.A.F. Beach Squadron Signals Section personnel can be seen in the personal story of John H Fenton who was the last of the four Cypher Sergeants to join the unit.




Equipment was phased in, in two lots, one lot in one Headquarters 3 Ton truck, with one Signals personnel as stand-by driver, and second lot in one 108 Beach Flight 3 Ton truck. These trucks were on two separate ships. The remainder of the Signals personnel (with the exception of one W.Op. who came in two days later as driver of the other Headquarters 3 Ton truck) came in as Marching personnel on a third ship. All three ships were in the same convoy.[1]

One set of S & C Pubs. was carried in by the stand-by driver of the Headquarters 3 Ton truck (who was a Cypher Sergeant), and one set by the Marching party.[2]

The Marching party and Headquarters 3 Ton truck met at the Wheeled Vehicle Transit Area at approximately 06.00 Hours on the 7th. June (about 4 hours after landing).[3]

A sight (sic) was ‘recce’d’ and although it was possible there might be danger from mines, one W/T Channel was established at the first possible opportunity.   The set was erected under a tent in a bomb hole (to save digging) and communication was established with C.H.Q. Portsmouth at 10.10 Hours on 7th. June, 1944. Soon afterwards it was confirmed by C.R.E. that the area was not mined. The duplicate set of equipment arrived later in the day.[4]

After 4 Days the aerial type 10 which had been in use (without the ‘whip’ and directly fed) was replaced by an normal type ‘F’, directly fed. Results were found to be just as good, and this type ‘F’ aerial did not blow down (as the type 10 had on one occasion).

A proper hole ( over which the tent was then erected ) was dug and lined with canvas to eliminate dust as far as possible. (The tent was used throughout as combined Traffic and Cypher Office). Thereafter, although the sets still got dusty it was to a far less extent.

After about three weeks the Signals Section moved into a house, and conditions were still better. Both moves were accomplished without interruption of communications.

The R.T. network was not found to be successful due to :-

  • (a) Insufficient personnel in each Beach Section to allow one for operation of the set.
  • (b) Periodic loud interference.
  • (c) Beach Section personnel were not sufficiently familiar with their sets and conditions to overcome (b).[5]

Faults in equipment were very few, being as follows :-

  • (a) Dirty contacts on internal power switch of one Collins set.
  • (b) Suppressor Unit burnt out on one Lyon Alco p-e Set.[6]
  • (c) Fibre timing wheel stripped on one p-e set. (This happened before leaving concentration Area, and the set was replaced before the operation).
  • (d) One p-e Set had a smashed valve guide on arrival in France, due to the journey over. This was replaced directly No. 307 M.S.S.U. were established.[7]

On one or two occasions the Station acted as a link between No. 83 (M) and C.H.Q. at nights when conditions were bad.[8]

The number of Groups handled was 8122 OUT and 21386 IN, a total of approximately 30,000 Groups in 43½ Days, or an average of 670 Groups per day. On the peak traffic day just over 3,000 Groups were handled. On some days only 5 or 6 messages were recd. (?  – Document damage makes the last word hard to read)[9]

[1] The three ‘ships’ were actually L.C.T. Mk IIIs (Landing Craft, Tank). The convoy was part of Force ‘L’ (the Follow-up Force), sailing from Felixstowe and landing Second Tide.

[2] The set of S & C Pubs. (Secret and Confidential Publications) that was carried in by the Marching party was brought ashore by Sergeant J.H. Fenton who held the canvas bag containing them aloft in one hand and his Sten gun in the other, as he waded ashore.

[3] It is not known for sure whether F/O Smith was with the Signals Section Marching party or with the other officers of Squadron Headquarters on another L.C.T. (Sergeant Fenton did not remember him being with the Signals Section Marching party.)

[4] C.H.Q. is Combined Headquarters. C.R.E. is Commander Royal Engineers (the senior R.E. officer in No.104 Beach Sub Area).

[5] Remarks about the R.T. Network refer to the planned use of Army Type 46 waterproof, one man R/T sets for internal communications within the Beach Squadron (“walkie talkies”)

[6] The Lyon Alco p-e Sets were portable petrol-engined generators used to provide electricity for the Collins 18Q radio sets. (There were two Collins sets and two generators. In each case one was kept as a spare in case the other became unserviceable)

[7] M.S.S.U. is Mobile Signals Servicing Unit, an R.A.F. unit whose purpose was to service and repair the signals equipment of other R.A.F. units.

[8] No. 83 (M) is presumed to mean the Main Headquarters of No. 83 Group, R.A.F.

[9] The period of 43½ days referred to in the statistics at the end of the report suggests that the Signals Section ceased operating on 20th July 1944.