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WINTERBERG 
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FROM GERRY IN AUSTRALIA
RON POWERS REMEMBERS RAF WINTERBERG
MEMORIES FROM NORMAN KEAT
ON NO ACCOUNT DRINK THE MILK !
DESIGNER BEER AT 3p PER BOTTLE
EARLY WARNING SYSTEM, WINTERBERG STYLE


 

FROM GERRY IN AUSTRALIA

Goodday, Keith.

I've just found your RAFWinterberg site. I have been Internetting to see if I can spot Winterberg Hotel in which I was billeted 1946. I can't.
My name is Gerry, 81, living in Canberra Australia sinc e 1966. From Matlock, Derbyshire and other England places previously.
I was army, in Air Formation Signals 1944-1947, Normandy , Ghent, RAFMerignac (Bordeaux) 1945/6, Brussels shortly, Winterberg shortly on detachment, lastly at RAFIstres (Marseilles). I arrived at Winterberg by lorry from Wahn via Iserlohn 1946 just at the end of the snow season to maintain your switchboard, telephone lines and stuff while the regular man went on leave. Table tennis and darts was the normal duty. Haircut cost one cigarette at the barber shop down the road. (20 cigs. was worth as much on the black market as our German telephonist's weekly wage). The local bus stopped for lunch twice weekly - powered by a gas producer, with logs on the roof and had to be push-started by the passengers.

All a lot of my reminscent rubbish. Interesting to read about RAFWinterberg history.

Best regards and have a good day Keith.

Gerry


RON POWERS REMEMBERS RAF WINTERBERG

The despotic RAF Policeman who was there when I first arrived in the camp.   My impression of this man was he wanted to do the C.O's job but to run the camp as his own tyrannical kingdom.   I was fortunate in as much he was posted only a couple of weeks after I arrived.   I can still hear the cheering when he left.

The camp cinema complete with a Cinemascope Screen which if my memory serves me right was the handiwork of Keith Mason and Roger Rutter.   I remember the problems they had getting the screen's correct curvature just right.   I remember too the screening of "The Dam Busters" to packed houses with quite a few of the local populace invited.

The Dew Drop Inn Leave Centre with it's cinema that operated even in the summer months when the only patrons were the RAF lads from the camp, there being very few other servicemen using the Leave Centre.   The winter months were a different story with the army conducting their winter training in the locality.   There was always crowds of soldiers queuing up for admission to the cinema and on numerous occasions getting all upset at us RAF types being permitted to walk into the cinema ahead of the queue because we were considered permanent residents of the Leave Centre.   That just did not go down well with the soldier boys.

I remember too the Leave Centre boasted a very nice gift shop where I made several purchases.   The lads from the camp also kept the Leave Centre's barber's shop open for business.

I remember being on guard duty when the night shift watch arrived back in camp after spending the evening celebrating some event down in the village.   All were pretty much showing the effects of a binge party and it was a mad rush for them to change out of their civvies and into uniform.    The Magirus arrived outside the guardroom and I watched the not so sober members of the night watch attempt to get into the rear of the truck which was to take them to the tech site.   They were a noisy lot and had obviously had more than couple of refreshments during their evening out.   Anyway they all managed on to the truck along with their illicit blanket and pillow and off they went on night watch in the tower.   Half an hour or so later the truck returned and unloaded the relieved evening watch.   Just after this I settled down with my book when the C.O in uniform walked into the guard room, said nothing to me but went straight to the key cupboard, took out the keys for the Kombi, signed the key register and ordered me to open the camp gates for him.   The C.O then collected the Kombi and drove out of the camp turning in the direction of the tower.   I immediately phoned the tower and informed the corporal of the watch what was happening.   I remember the expletive he used but I can only imagine the chaos that would have ensued up there in the tower when he slammed the phone down.   My memory fails me as to the outcome of that evening but I do recall I was ordered to attend the jankers parade as a witness to that evening's happenings.

I remember a lot of the houses in the village had a lean-to shed at the side of the houses where the household cow was kept.   Each morning the cows were led to the village square where one person would lead the small herd off to pasture.   In the late afternoon that person would bring all the cows back to the village square and leave them to make their own way back to their respective households.   Quite amazing, the cows knew exactly the way to go home.

I remember well the Engelmann where they served the most delicious obstorte mit sanna und kaffee.   The parties we often held there when the rounds of beer were marked in a ring around the perimeter of a beer mat on the table by the serving waitress.   Four glasses of beer - four strokes of a pen then with the fifth glass of beer a diagonal stroke through the other four.   At the end of the evening we had a record of how many litres of beer had been consumed.   I am sure there was always a matching tally kept behind the bar.   I remember too the Engelmann only closed when the last customer decided to leave the premises which was often 3 or 4 o' clock in the morning.

Now who could forget the Milch Bar?   A misnomer if ever there was one.   I think they sold every drink imaginable but I never ever saw anyone having a milk shake.   I remember the custom too of being given a glass of the Milch Bar's own brew of schnapps on your first visit to the premises.   "Ski Wasser"   It certainly wasn't water and I am sure nobody ever drank a second glass of the liquid.   Fire water would have been a much more appropriate name.
 

RON'S MEMORIES OF A ROAD ACCIDENT
 

     One of the lads on Keith's watch was Bob who owned a new Austin A30 motor car.   In conversation with him I learned that he had not had it very long.   He also made mention that when he was looking to purchase a car he had narrowed it down to two vehicles, the Austin A30 and a similar sized Fiat motor car.   He went on to tell me his final choice came down to the simple fact that he was an Englishman and the A30 had badges on either side of the bonnet  "Austin of England."   However he did mention that he thought the Fiat probably would have been a better buy.

     Anyway, one morning our watch came off night duty in the tower and as we had that day and the next day off it had been decided that four of us, Keith, Bob, myself and another lad whose name fails me would all go in Bob's car to a town about three hours drive north from Winterberg to watch a football match.   It was a lovely day so after a shave, wash and brush up we had breakfast and off we went for what promised to be a good day out. 

     At about 11am we were driving along a winding section of road at about 50 mph when we were overtaken by a small Fiat motor car, the same model of car Bob had considered purchasing.   Now for reasons unknown to me Bob took it into his head to give chase to that little Fiat putting his foot to the boards and we went hurtling along that winding forest road at a very fast rate of knots.   Within a few minutes of commencing this chase we went speeding round a left hand bend to see some houses and speed restriction signs about 500 yards ahead.   We were approaching the town of Warstein.    Bob braked hard but just at that, the road surface changed from tarmac to four inch diameter cobblestones which were like large ball bearings.   Bob lost it and the car careered out of control and smacked straight into the rear of a small one ton truck loaded with fruit and vegetables which was legally parked at the side of the road.

    There were no seatbelts in cars back in those days and all four of us in the car shot forward with the impact.   Both guys in the front put their heads through the windscreen which shattered and both received head and facial cuts.   Bob the driver also suffered severe bruising caused by the impact of the steering wheel hitting his chest.   Amazingly Keith and I who were in the back seats of the car came out of it unscathed. 

     The local Polizei arrived on the scene and we were all taken to the local lock-up where we all made statements.   The police contacted Winterberg and informed the C.O of our situation and we were ordered to stay at the scene of the accident and await a military ambulance which would be sent to us from the Military Hospital at Iserlohn.   Neither of our injured companions were offered any medical attention at that time.    It was getting close to noon when we made it back to the crash scene.

     While we were hanging about awaiting the ambulance an elderly couple came from a house overlooking the accident scene and invited us into their home to await the ambulance.   The hospitality of these people was overwhelming.   Neither of them could speak English and our German was very limited so they contacted their school teacher daughter who left the school and came and interpreted.   These kind people gave basic first aid to our two injured persons cleaning and disinfecting their cuts.   They also prepared a lovely meal for us.    We were literally treated as part of their family.   So we awaited the arrival of the military ambulance which duly arrived about 5pm.   We were then conveyed to the hospital in Iserlohn which took about two hours.

     We were all medically examined and Bob was kept there under observation as he had mild concussion.   He later suffered some form of blood poisoning and remained in hospital for about a week.   For the rest of us it was a long three hour drive back to Winterberg in the back of the ambulance.   It was after 3am in the morning we drove into the camp.   It had been a long eventful day and I have no idea who won the football match.   I cannot even remember who was playing.

MORE MEMORIES - A FEW QUICKIES.

Boris's rendition of "I see the Moon!" at a camp party night.

Keith Mason's monthly newsletter courtesy of the Fred Bunge Appreciation Society.   An excellent publication.

The cook who played the piano just like Eddy Duchin.   He was brilliant.

The little photographer's shop, "Foto Aust"  in the main street of Winterberg.   He must have made a fortune from us budding photographers from the camp.

The most played record in the canteen  -  Peter Sellers  -  "A Drop of the Hard Stuff."   "Don't tell me I hit a bum note !!!!!"

AH !!!   THE MEMORIES !!!

RON HAS SENT A LARGE NUMBER OF PICTURES WHICH YOU WILL FIND ON THEIR 
OWN PAGE


Memories of the European Gee chains.
Author: John Pond (aka) Cpl Splash Pond 
 E-mail :splashpond@yahoo.com
The second batch of five Bomber Command Signals Units was formed at RAF Waddington between July-November 1953.  RAF Waddington was closed during this period for runway extensions.  The five new units were 266, 284, 330, 615 and 953.  The O.C. Units were  F/O Elliot, F/L Lambert F/L Peake, F/L Scrivens and F/L Cox.. During this time, the main task was to become totally independent units, so all items had to be demanded to achieve this.
Each Unit establishment was:

One  F/O or F/l Tech Sigs.,
One  F/Sgt or Sgt GRF.
Three Cpl or J/T GRF.
Two Ac GRM.
Two Cpl
Two Ac Rad Op.
One Cpl Tel.
One Ac Wop.
One Cpl MTF.
One Ac MTDM.
Four Ac MTD.
One Ac EL.M
One RAFP (P)
One RAFP (S)
One Ac Storeman
Two Ac Ad.ord.
Two Ac Cooks.

The two RAFP were disestablished in early 1954 and one Cpl Ad.ord and one Cpl Clk.Gen. were added.

The names for 330SU in establishment order were:

F/L Peake
Sgt Fitzgerald
Cpl Craig
Cpl VanGelderen
J/T Kane
Sac Scott
Unknown
Cpl Harkin
Cpl Wilkinson
Unknown
Unknown
Cpl Pond
Sac Cremins
Cpl Erskine
Sac Thompson
Sac Chubbuck
Sac Ellis
Sac Trotter
Sac Wilson
Sac Wright
Cpl Barr
Cpl Bradbury
Sac Williams
Sac Gilham
Sac Skene
Unknown
Unknown
Cpl Bufton
Unknown

F/L Peake was promoted to S/L in January 1954 and was replaced by F/L Goodale DFC & Bar one of the original Dam Busters of 617 Squadron. All non-drivers had to learn to drive and to pass their
tests.

We left Waddington in a fifty to sixty vehicle convoy on 11/11/53.  We stayed overnight at RAF Henlow and drove south to RAF North Weld again overnight.  On 13/11/53 we eventually reached our destination at Tilbury docks.  We left our vehicles there with I believe one of our Cpl MTF and  a few of our MTDM. We
went via Harwich to the Hook of Holland and then by train to barracks in Hamburg, to await our vehicles arriving at the docks.  It was just about two weeks
later when they did arrive, so we picked up rations and started our drive down to Butzweilerhof.  We stayed at Minden overnight where we refuelled from jerricans. The next day we finished up at RAF Butzweilerhof which was the original pre-war Cologne Airport. For the next two months we spent all out time familiarising ourselves with various pieces of equipment.

330SU first detachment was to Chievres in Belgium.  Our domestic site was at the Belgique camp. The tech site was about twenty odd miles away near an old quarry. The tech wagons were placed, much to the farmers’ disgust, in the middle of a mangle werzel field.  One morning we left the domestic site at four a.m. and were taken by wagon to the tech site.  On arrival we found the temperature to be –20C.  We tried to start the Lister Generator but it was impossible.  Our only form of heating was  a paraffin stove, which started first match.  We had no water as the bowser was frozen.  I found a crate of six two-litre bottles of milk frozen
solid.  I picked one up and scraped the broken glass from it and then stood it in a saucepan to thaw over the stove.  Bread was frozen so all I could cut it with
was a large hand wood saw.  Ten men later started the Generator on each end of a rope with the centre fastened to the starting handle.  The acid  had frozen
in the vehicle batteries and all had to be replaced before we could leave the site.  We left all of our steel mast stays frozen solid in the ground.

In early June 1954,  four of our units went to Denmark. 284SU acted as master station at Aarhus. 330SU to Vejby Strand on the main Island of Sjaelland. I can’t recall the locations of 266SU and 953SU but both units were withdrawn at an early date.  Our tech site was just opposite the farmhouse with the domestic site, about one hundred yards down the meadows. The tents were set up in two rows of three with the marquee between the rows.  This was used as our mess
tent. The cooks had two hydro burners for cooking and they and their helpers produced some excellent meals. Our evening were spent on the beach, first collecting driftwood and combustable rubbish. The rest of the unit would dig a large hole in the sand and he driftwood would make a decent fire.  We would all sit around drinking our Carlsberg or Tuborg lager also singing some of the old RAF songs.  In the far distance we could see the lights of Sweden.

In early July we moved to  Fredrickshavn in N. Jutland. After a few trials we packed up and returned to Butzweilerhof.  The King of Denmark’s brother (a Navel Commander) who shook everyone by the hand and thanked us very much for the good job we had done met us on the border.

Now, Having seen a programme on TV and re-visiting Vejby, I am aware that our initial trials were for U2 Aircraft communications. A Danish re-union is held
annually at Vejby Strand.

In late 1954 330SU was to move permanently to Schleswig so I was transferred to 266SU.

With 266SU we had several sites where we spent some time. One was USAF Hahn, near the Moselle.  The site was at the top of a hill and had been cleared of trees for fifty yards all around the eight-foot barbed wire fence.  On the main gate there was a guard with a revolver.  As all Brits we started to have a kick
around with our football. After ten minutes or so the ball went over and the lad who had kicked  it, started to limb over to retrieve it. Without warning a shot
rang out and the lad fell from the fence.  Luckily he hadn’t been hit but the brown barbed wire was outstanding!! We all went over to the guard and he showed us his orders to shoot anyone seen on the fence.

Another site we went to was Le Trois Epis in Alsace, France.  We were at the top of a mountain and were then using heavy Gee equipment, which was blotting, out my HF communications from Germany.  The HF receiver wagon was located three miles up the road to enable us to receive traffic. When I finished my work at 5 a.m. I would lock up and walk up to the First World War German
Cemetery half a mile further up.  It was terribly overgrown and dead from  WW2  were still buried round the edges under reversed rifle and tin helmets. I
revisited this Cemetery in 1995 and was glad to see it had been restored to its natural beauty and cleanliness.  The dead from WW2 have been reburied in
Le Trois Epis.
 

Another site we went to was near to 72SU at Adenur. The village name I have forgotten, but it was past the Nurnburg ring from Adenur.   The Americans had
bulldozed the top off a hill, and had laid a decent gravel road up.  We again lived in tents and the cooks did our meals on site.  During the evening we would go
to the local village for our beer in a local farmhouse. There were long benches around the kitchen walls where we parked our bottoms.  Along the opposite wall were the farm animals, mainly cows.  They proved to be great drinking companions.  The beer was delivered by the farmer, from a cellar beneath the kitchen area. I did not worry at the time but now I ask where did the
animal urine go?

Another detachment for me was to 124SU at Iburg.  They had just settled into their new domestic site.  After working late on the tech site just outside Osnabruck, I went on the air using my ham callsign DL2VQ on the
two-meter net. Being at the top of a large hill I was able to work a Dutch ham with ease.  After I had finished with the Dutchman, a German Ham from Osnabruck gave me a call.  He asked myself and a friend down to
his home the following evening.  We arrived at the requested time and he took great pleasure in showing us his ham gear.  The transmitter took up the front room
and was rated 1000watts.  His receiver took his dining room; eventually I showed him the rig I operated.  It was totally contained in a three and a half biscuit tin.  We were running at below 5 watts.  He was surprised that we had got out to Holland until I explained that we were located at the top of a hill
when transmitting.

In 1956 266Su moved up to Luneburg airfield as our permanent site for a couple of years.  Whilst there we would use the Fifty-Pfennig Club in town.  One night
when we were drinking there a L/Cpl of the Welsh Regt. Walked onto the middle of the empty dance floor dropped  his trousers and had a crap. The MP came in from outside and dragged this man away. Early next morning we sent a large box of service toilet rolls, to the Colonel of the Welsh Regt. With a note attached which read “For use by the Welsh Regt. In the Fifty Pfennig Club”. He was NOT amused!

Also at Luneburg in June 1956, three of us married Cpl’ s, decided to purchase six-day-old baby goslings to provide our Christmas dinners.  Eventually in a month all died except for one.  We drew lots for him and I won, So I had to go to work earlier each morning so I could walk him across the airfield.  I would run back and “FRED” would fly.  He was stolen near to Christmas by 300SU who were working on the airfield at the time, but returned unharmed.  At my Christmas/New Years party everyone cursed me for killing Fred but thanked me for the tasty sandwiches, which I had told them contained Fred.

Overall my tour of duty with BCSU were the best years in my twenty-four with the Royal Air force.

With many thanks to Fred Peake who gave me extra knowledge on HF Radio.  If we stopped for char on the autobahn, I could be in contact with base within ten
minutes.

John Pond  aka splash

266 went to AALBORG in Denmark we also went to HAHN AIR BASE 69th P.B.S. which is where the incident with the football occurred. ( PBS stood for Pilots Bomber Squadron we did not realise at first there were no pilots in the planes that we could almost touch from the top of the radar wagon, )
266su also visited RAF LANGENFELD and also RAF SPIJKEBOOR
 

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MEMORIES FROM NORMAN KEAT

ODD Memories

93 Spiral steel steps from ground to radar room –hard to negotiate when hanging watches, as the previous watch would/may pour the remainder of their water down through the stairs – closely followed by the jerry can – recesses in the walls helped to avoid water/jerry cans.

The main source of refreshment on late watches was cocoa – the dregs of which were thrown out of the window as there was no running water- the management of the Hotel found that the dormer windows were totally obscured by the cocoa and complained so we could no longer throw the dregs out of the window – we were supplied with a bucket to pour the dregs into –then when it was full we threw it out of the window – no one
complained again. We also were supplied with cans of  ‘M & V’ – main use of which seemed to be to see who could throw them the furthest into the woods.

The cooks were tolerable but it took a good while to be accustomed to the diluted condensed milk that we had to use on the cornflakes for breakfast – for several months I thought it was the cereals that were ‘off’.

The main problem with the stairs was the need to stay on air with no more than a 2 minute break -– so when the mains failed the mechanic had to run down the stairs – 93 treads turning to the left – at the bottom he had to turn right to go down the steps and across the compound to start the generator -  the wall at the bottom of the stairs seemed to have a magnetic attraction for my forehead as I tried to change direction.

I found later that the main use of our chain was to assist photo reconnaissance Canberras looking over the East German border – and a U2 flown by RAF pilots.

The fixers were always vulnerable to  mild ‘attacks’ by the rest of us early in the morning in midwinter – most unfair when looks back.

When we arrived at Iburg Barry, Joe and I, who had trained together (I had been stationed with Joe at RAF Yeadon) –  were offered the choice of  units Joe opted for Iburg  – one of the staff at Iburg commiserated with the choice of Winterberg for Barry and myself – they told us of the corporal operator who visited them – they gave him a mouse sandwich, and how they had received a telephone call asking if they had ever heard a Jerry Can being thrown down 93 spiral steel stairs.

Iburg was overlooking Osnabruck - where there had been much hard fighting  during WW2 – they had a strange collection of rusty grenades, etc covered by corrugated sheet on the edge of the site – I believe it scared Hell out of anAOC inspection some years later.

RAF WINTERBERG NAMES (not on list) 
Memory plays funny tricks so I have consulted with my wife and Barry
Robinson.

1958 –
J/T Lyne – ace(?) photographer – I still have one of his coat hangers.

‘Boris’ (real name ?) courted a young seamstress from Winterberg– J/T Fitter who played the trumpet in bed early in the morning – had a water filled contraceptive placed in bed late one night – he woke at 8’ish next morning screaming “I’ve burst” and would not look down at his wet pyjamas as he said he couldn’t stand the sight of blood.

Dave - a fixer – who tried to  play the trumpet in bed  - next bed to
Boris.  I think they tried to play ‘Sophisticated Lady’ accompanied by the J/T
who played the drums - Boris and Dave are both on the ‘fuzzy photo’.

The above went in the J/T’s car – a 170 V Mercedes round 5 countries
between shifts 

Coprporal Paddy Cahill –   older than most – a  fixer - bought my skis
from him in 1960 for 2/6 (1Mark 50)

Dave Podmore – mechanic  -had a JAWA motorbike – went home between
watches (once) for lunch in Brighton with his parents.

1960 - Heavy GEE in the Bungalow – no Operators

MT Corporal ‘Jack’ Pratt – drove a Renault Dauphine Gordini – inverted
it on straight road.

J/T Eric Finkle (then became Corporal after his wife complained about
him doing Orderly Corporal duties as a J/T) – drove a Mercedes 300.

Corporal Dave Higgins – married Cis in 1960 – parted (?year) she died 3
years ago – he is in Canada I think – possibly on another site 1958/59.

SAC Terry Swann – owner of a Cream and White Ford Anglia – the one with
a cut back rear window.

LAC ‘Doc’ Mouland – medic and occasional supplier of  contraceptives –
filled with water they provided simple entertainment.

Corporal Alec Hutty (cook) and his wife.

Corporal Paul Simison

The gate was looked after later by an ex-pat Bob Woodcock who married
his wife Irene when he was stationed at Winterberg – probably in the
‘40’s – he died in 1995(6?) – we still get Christmas cards from Irene.
 
 

The lorry eventually was towed away – all axles were seized up so the
smell of hot rubber was dreadful until there was a bang and the wheels
went round. 

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ON NO ACCOUNT DRINK THE MILK !

One of the absolute no no's for the strapping young Englishmen despatched to serve their country at Winterberg, was the local milk. The local beer was fine, sup as much of that as you could . The wine ? No problem. Milk was the killer. Full of nasty bugs because the local cows weren't as hygenic as ours. (Writing this in the days of BSE it all seems very quaint, this superiority of 'our' cows)

For two years or more we could only put evaporated milk from tins into our tea. which distorted our tastebuds for years after. There was of course a problem with ice cream, that was technically off limits and I believe the death penalty was in force for anyone caught consuming it. It was all due to something about TT testing. I always though TT was something to do with motorbike racing but no it seems British cows were TT tested and German ones were not.

As someone brought up on fresh milk delivered from my uncle Oliver's farm in a horse drawn cart and laddled out from a metal churn into jugs which were then stored in my mothers pantry, I suspect I had already ingested most of the bugs any kind of milk could carry. But I mostly went along with the rules except that I did eat the occasional ice cream and I did put cream in my coffee in German cafes. I trembled as I did so in case I was spotted and reported to the RAF Police but a little danger in life adds a little spice.


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DESIGNER BEER AT 3p PER BOTTLE.


I found myself in a West End bar a few weeks ago, as you do and looked around, again as one does. My eye fell on a group of smartly dressed young people all of who were rather self conciously supping away at bottles of designer beer.

What was interesting is that they were knocking back bottles of Becks Bier. Even more interesting is that they were paying some £2.50 a bottle. It took me back to the days of the Winterberg bar where 'Beck's was the beer you drank if you were determined to get well and truly pissed. It tasted pretty vile and cost 9d a bottle against 7d for the weaker Carlsberg or the Dortmunder Union stuff.

Nothing 'designer' about it in those days, and it gave your water a certain odour the next day. Who would have thought that some forty years on, a new generation of twenty somethings would discover our particular brand of gut rot, pay throught the nose for it and consider themselves very sophisticated while drinking it.

Of course, it in all probability, it is now brewed in Reading, has the strength of gnat's piss and would have Germans who encounter it, laughing all the way to the Bundesbank. Not only that, the bottles seem to have shrunk in size but maybe my memory is playing me tricks again.


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EARLY WARNING SYSTEMS, WINTERBERG STYLE

One of the most closely guarded secrets of RAF Winterberg was the High Tech Early Warning System (HTEWS). Now after some forty years, the details can be revealed.

The station operated 24 hours a day, every day of the year and the staff worked a convoluted shift system designed to allow time for a quick half (litre that is) before going on the night shift.

With little to do due to the totally reliable nature of the all British designed equipment, most of the night shift would go to sleep.
Sleeping was of course strictly forbidden and occasionally, highly trained people would attempt to enter the tower to catch the little sods at it.

To foil their attempts, a sensitive microswitch, removed from one of the boxes of equipment with no apparent detrimental effect, was installed in the door at the foot of the tower. Opening the door, closed the contact and caused an electrical current to flow along a hidden wire to a bell located at the top of the tower.
In the two minutes or so it took to climb the steps of the tower, everyone could be woken, bedding hidden and an attempt at looking alert, made.

Looking alert in the middle of the night was never easy

The secret was never discovered, as far as I am aware. With hindsight and being more worldly, I believe that our various commanding officers knew all about the system but chose to ignore it, but we shall probably never know. It may well still lie undiscovered in the door at the foot of the tower giving ghostly warnings to the long departed beings who installed it.

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