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We crossed the Rhine at Bonn by pontoon bridge quite an experience and after a circuitous journey we eventually arrived at our destination which was on the summit of Kahler Asten, a mountain in the Hochsauerland. The badly-damged hotel on the summit incorporated a large round tower which had once housed a meteteorogical station and a high frequency transmitter.
We had to pitch our camp on a field fairly close to the summit during a heavy downpour and, being soaked to the kin, we welcomed the distribution of a liberal measure of rum- not one of us caught a chill. AMES 103 'Birnbaums Original Circus was also there and once again Doug and I renewed our acquaintance.
Whilst the little matter of finding timber to use as duckboards in the tents had been readily resolve courtesy of the 103 crew who had taken a transport down to the local wood yard and signed a number of fictitious chits. I had my own trouble with timber in it's native state. In order to install the equipment in it's pi point position we had to clear a great deal of rubble from the damaged tower and fell a number of very tall pine trees. I can well remember trying to put my axe down after a long spell of tree felling only to find the blisters on my hands had burst and were stuck to the axe shaft.
We did not have to assemble the full wooden tower as we had hoisted the top section onto the existing round tower and fastened it to a conveniently place concrete block which had presumably housed some meteorological equipment. The feeders were run down the outside of the tower and into the transmitter wagons.
The Americans had brought a high power signals unit onto the site and the Master Sergeant in charge told us that it would be no use erecting our equipment as his was so powerful that it would blast us off the face of the earth. When we did become operational he came up to us and said "Jesus Christ ,what have you got there ? You win !" and promptly packed up his equipment and departed. We were operational at 12.00 hours on April 17th giving extended coverage deep into Germany. Operational life resumed it's normal routine except of course for the accommodation.
After the heavy rains we had glorious sunshine and costumes and sunbathing were the order of the day. Unfortunately it was not to last and once again the snows came. We were also experiencing a great deal of infiltration by small numbers of German troops who assumed that we were still a German station. On one occasion, the cookhouse staff went to prepare breakfast and found a few German troops waiting to be fed.
Fortunately few of these escaping troops caused us any problems and we would feed them and hand them over to the nearest POW camp.
There was one exception to this, one fanatical German Officer and a
few of his men decided to shoot their way out and bullets were flying trough
the camp. It was most unfortunate or fortunate) as at the time a posse
of high ranking Wing Officers and their minions were visiting the site
and had just moved down the the tented quarters when the bullets started
to fly. They made a very rapid retreat back to HQ.
The surrounding woods were littered with guns, ammunition, hand grenades, mines guns, lorries and half track vehicles. On the technical site we had an arsenal of German arms far greater than out official issue. The motor mechanics repaired one of the half track motor cycles which we used for collecting timber and other things.
Eventually the tented site became too uncomfortable and we acquired the Asten Hotel at the foot of the mountain an resumed a more civilised existence.
In time even the Asten hotel proved inadequate for our needs and we moved into the village of Winterberg itself where we commandeered the Hotel Leisse and the Hotel Westfallen with the RAF regiment acquiring another of the hotels. From then on life became more civilised.
Although there was a very strict ban imposed on fraternization with the civilian population, it was impossible to ignore the children and eventually each member of the unit had been adopted by one or more of them. While some of these liaisons were purely mercenary, I was fortunate in forming a lasting relationship with a German family which is still maintained.
Sometime before the winter snows came we had been issued with a snow vehicle which was also amphibious, unfortunately by the time the snow arrived it was no longer usable due to misuse by one of the officers. We were also issued with a varied selection of warm winter clothing including a long sheepskin duffle jacket, skiing jacket lined with rabbit fur, naval issue while polo neck pullovers, long white stockings, balaclavas etc. In fact we looked like a real Fred Karno's army so much that a request was made on daily orders for us to were our blues occasionally.
With the approach of winter it was decided that the technical site should be more permanent. We employed a German joiner named Heirich who, with a relative, built us a fabulous technical block which incorporated a transmitter room and a diesel house with a connecting corridor joining it to the receiver block which included a rest room and a kitchen. The finished wooden structure was likened to living in a tea chest by one of the mechanics. Heinrich also cast all the concrete bases for the diesels and was responsible for installing them. One of his perks was emptying our ashtrays.
The winter itself was so severe (the temperature went down to minus 40) that it was fatal to touch anything metal outdoors. As it was impossible to get our vehicles up the mountain duty times had to be extended and watch changes were made on skis. Water was obtained by melting on of the huge icicles which hung from the huts. Despite these problems it was a period of my life when I was at the peak of health and fitness.
Living in the centre of the village had it's problems when it came to organising the watch changes during the summer months. During the winter each household in the village kept it's cattle indoors( an essential part of the central heating system) then in summer they were taken out to pasture.
The first to go were the goats. The goat herd would come into the town square and blow his bone whistle and all the goats would be released from the houses and would congregate in the square before being moved off to the pastures. This was followed by the cowherd who would blow his horn bugle and all the cows and their offspring would gather together before being moved off. Finally it was the turn of the schoolchildren en route to school.
In the evening the process was reversed and was a little more humourous. first the children would return from school, then the goats from their pastures and finally the cows. The young calves who were out for the first time seldom found which house they belonged to and would dash up and down the village streets until someone took them in hand and led them to their owner. This only happened once after which they had to find their own way. The mature cows behaved almost like human beings with their parting 'conversations'.
The RAF had three concert parties on the continent, the Red, White and Blue and our unit was fortunate in being entertained by one of them. They put on the show in a large barn which had been converted into a cinema by an elderly German from Essen. (the equipment was very modern having been removed from his bombed out cinema in Essen). This facility was also used by the Americans (We were at first in the American sector) particularly in dealing with the subject of 'no fraternization' At one of these lectures which we had been invited to attend the officer complained that he could not understand why so many prophylactics were being used and said that research showed that GI's were giving one chocolate bar to local girls in return for favours. He closed by reminding them how many pieces a chocolate bar could be broken into !.
While we were in the American sector we used to draw full PX rations but of course when the British assumed control this perk ended. At Christmas however the Yanks did not forget us and sent numerous tins of turkey plus cigarettes and chocolate. we ended up eating turkey together with our home fed pork well into the new year. Eventually VJ day arrived and the officers deserted the station leaving Jock Stewart and myself on our own at Hotel Leisse, no party, no cigarettes just a bottle of champagne between us. We were eventually given a packet of English cigarettes by one of the local black marketeers who obviously had an eye on the future.
On the technical site we were proud of our maintenance record, particularly with regard to the diesels. We repaired all our own radiators, replaced cylinder liners and buffed crankshafts to keep them in immaculate condition. We found a local firm which made carbon brushes and needing new ones, our Flight Lieutenant took a worn sample to them and ordered new ones. These were produced fairly rapidly but when we came to use them found they had been made exactly to the specification given i.e. worn out
It was the custom on the continent to appropriate many things which appeared to have been abandoned. Sgt Jolliffe acquired a small private car which he customised by painting RAf roundels on the side. He could never understand how all the mechanics were able to drive it but we all had our own keys made from six inch nails. Eventually the real owner, a Doctor, asked for his car back and when it was returned he returned to demand a tin of paint to remove the roundels. He received a vociferous refusal.
We employed a large number of displaced persons in Hotel leisse and they were subject to a rigid curfew. A mixture of nationalities who did not always see eye to eye they lived in the Bahnhof. One evening after curfew we accompanied Stasha (a Polish girl or apparently good birth and education) back to her quarters where a fierce fight was in progress. we suggested that she should return to the Leisse but she refused picking up her skirt and producing the most lethal looking dagger dashed in the her her comrades.
Eventually my demobilization arrived much later than the equivalent number in both the army and the navy. Although the CO, Flight Lt. Kyte had gone to a great deal of trouble trying to get me to sign on again the great day finally arrived. Along with the others I placed all my kit in the transport when the CO turned up insisting that I went with him to the Technical site, Thinking it was just another attempt get me to sign on I wasn't pleased, but I joined him in his jeep and accompanied him to the top site.
It appeared that some time previously when all the officers had attended a military funeral, I had signed that I was responsible for the whole station in the CO's absence and this had never been rescinded. Now the CO wanted me to sign it back to him which mean;'t we had to tour the whole site first. This delegation of authority was atypical move of his as he always had an eye on the main chance.
My release terminated on September 1st 1946. After six years of involvement in high level electronics, I returned to my home in a South Yorkshire mining village to rediscover that we did not have a supply of electricity in the house.
My whole service life was a worthwhile experience which has proved itself on numerous occasions. I think the biggest advantage of our stations was the friendliness and camaraderie which existed amongst all respective of trade or grading. They were happy stations aware that they were engaged in doing a vital job of work.
My happiest recollections are of my service at Danby Beacon and Winterberg. Long may these happy memories be retained.
The Kassel chain was formed at the end of March 1945 and became operational
at 12.00 hours on April 17th. The units were deployed as follows,
Trouble was experienced with the technical clearance of the Osnabruck site as HQ 21 Army Group had earmarked it for one of General Montgomery's Signals units. Pressure was applied as the chain was a top priority commitment and eventually SHAEF clearance was given under the signature of the Supreme Commander general Eisenhower.
There were some difficulties at Winterberg due to the severe weather and damage to the stone tower caused by shellfire. A great deal of rubble had to be cleared to gain access and German snipers were present in nearby woods. A skirmish with a section of German infantry resulted in two members of the crew receiving wounds.
The chain was later renamed the Central Germany Chain.
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