Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation


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Organisation of No 26 Group


The following is extracted from Chapter 2, AP3237 'Signals, Volume 1' (AHB - 1958)

Formation

In the autumn of 1939 it gradually became clear that two signals problems were in urgent need of solution.  First the need for proper control and administration at the Air Ministry W/T stations and of the W/T and D/F stations engaged on special work, and second, the proper technical control and administration of the schools devoted to various types of signals training.  At that time the Director of Signals (D of S) at the Air Ministry exercised operational and administrative control of the three main Air Ministry W/T stations and the four other W/T and D/F stations engaged on special work and had to complete all arrangements for the formation of extra units for special work together with signals arrangements for meteorological requirements.  This control by D of S covered such matters as stores, works, and personnel, routine matters attention to which was detrimental to the proper function of the Directorate of Signals, which should have been concerned with the framing of signals policy.  The outbreak of war meant that the work of the W/T stations was likely to increase. In a minute to ACAS on 10 October 1939, D of S stated that he considered it essential to place the stations under the control of a special formation which would itself come under him.  He did not think it would be practicable to place the scattered W /T stations independently under one of the existing commands.  He believed that some central co-ordinating authority was necessary for the operational and administrative control of the stations if the work produced by them was to be of the highest efficiency.  The work involved, if given to a command, would throw an undue load on the command signals staff concerned, for services which they would neither be interested in nor understand.  The signals training units came under either Training or Reserve Command for control and administration; neither the Director of Training nor the Director of Signals was satisfied with the results obtained at that tune.  Three thousand men and women had to be trained in all branches of radar and the ordinary Training Command staff had no knowledge of requirements nor the necessary technical experience.  The normal signals staff at Training and Reserve Command Headquarters were not in a position to know the latest operational requirements as well as did Air Ministry staff and were therefore not in a position to advise the schools adequately and quickly of modifications to training requirements.  The Directorate of Signals was fully conversant with future operational signals requirements and was therefore in a position to pass on those requirements to the schools.  If this was to be done successfully it had to be done through some central and responsible organisation.  The D of S considered that a special signals group should be formed to provide for the necessary operational and administrative control of both the special W/T station organisation and the schools.  Both the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff and the Director of Training supported the recommendation.

A conference was held on 16 January 1940 to discuss the proposed charter and control of the new signals group.  Considerable argument ensued on the question of the control of the group but finally it was agreed that the technical control should be vested in the Air Ministry (Directorate of Signals) on matters. appertaining to the implementation of training policy.  No 26 Group was formed on 12 February 1940 within No 21 Group at Cranwell to command all R.A.F. wireless stations and and signals training establishments, all movements by air in and outside the United Kingdom, the installation of all station wireless equipment and the modification of all station and aircraft wireless equipment.  The new group was included in Training Command for purposes of administration, but party because of the fluid state of technical development with which only D of S could be in really close and continuous touch and partly because of the inter-command nature of the work of units within the group, No 26 Group was given some powers beyond those of a normal group.  It was authorised to deal directly with the Air Ministry in certain technical matters and it was made responsible for the specialist equipment supply and maintenance of its various units.

The units included in No 26 Group a its formation were the RAF Central Teleprinter Exchange and RAF inter-Command W/T Receiver Station, at Leighton Buzzard, the communications staff of Whitehall, the Western Area,  Harrogate. the North Eastern suburbs, the 'Z' communication staff, the Air Ministry, W/T stations at Cheadle, Greenford, Dagnall, Bodmin and four small stations, emergency W/T fitting parties. the Signals Technical Development Party, the RAF Cede and Cypher School, the Electrical and Wireless School, the Special Wireless School at Yatesbury, the Women's Signal School at Stanmore and the WAAF Signals Training Schools.  Of these the signals training schools had been administered by No 21 Group. which was badly overburdened, and many of the others had come, as a result of rapid expansion and lack of staff at commands directly, under the control of D of S.

When No 26 Group was formed the headquarters was divided into three wings, operational,. training and equipment and technical.  The Operations wing was subdivided into three sections, Home, Overseas, and WAAF.  The functions of the Home section of operations wing were: -

  1. Interpretation of Air Ministry signals policy as affecting home commands, and the general efficiency of the home signals organisation.

  2. The co-ordination of recommendations from home commands on signals matters.

  3. The inspection of signals establishments.

  4. Signals control and administration of Air Ministry W/T stations and special W/T and D/F stations.

  5. The control of high power W/T stations at home and coordination of their use by home commands.

  6. The detailed administration of home D/F stations as ordered by the Air Ministry

  7. Dealing with interference problems and the monitoring of the frequencies in use.

  8. The examination of Signals routine reports.

  9. Responsibility for the DRLS organisation.

  10. Liaison with he GPO on the upkeep of an approved landline organisation.

The functions of the Overseas section were arrangements for communications in connection with reinforcing and overseas flights and the routine administration of the inter-command point to point organisation .

The functions of the WAAF section were: -

  1. Interpretation of Air Ministry signals policy as applicable to WAAFs' signals trades.

  2. Liaison with the Director of the WAAF.

  3. Inspections.

  4. recommendations in respect of WAAF signals duties.

The functions of the training section were fivefold: -

  1. The the administration of and liaison with signals schools..

  2. The co-ordination and examination of training syllabi.

  3. Submission to the Air Ministry of syllabi to meet changing operational requirements.

  4. The classification of trainees for special and normal signals employment.

  5. Responsibility for selection boards for commissions and special duties.

The RAF Code and Cypher School also came under the training section.  This was responsible for code and cypher training for the RAF, the distribution of secret and confidential signals books, the servicing of mechanical cyphering machines, and the preparation and editing of signals publications.  The equipment section was responsible for the general efficiency of signals apparatus and recommendations for new designs and improvements, for co-ordination and conduct of Service trials of new equipment, for the design of mobile equipment, and for DRLS equipment questions.  The technical section had four functions: -

  1. Liaison and co-ordination in connection with interference suppression questions.

  2. The co-ordination of design of signals buildings and works services in general.

  3. The co-ordination of siting plans.

  4. Co-operation with the RAE in connection with the other three functions.

On 27 March 10 Headquarters, No 26 Group moved to Langley Hall, Langley, Buckinghamshire.  During April it gradually took over the responsibilities assigned to it by its charter and some necessary reorganisation was curried out.  Odd signals units scattered over the country were arranged as far as possible into geographic and functional groups, each administered by a central unit raised to the status of a station which was fully self accounting. It was found that the emergecy W/T fitting parties could not be incorporated into the system because they were scattered too widely over the United Kingdom.  The officer-in-charge of the fitting parties therefore was attached to Headquarters No 26 Group and the parties administered direct from there.  The communications organisation for the movement of aircraft overseas was improved by the issue of comprehensive signals instructions.

In April 1940 the Air Ministry informed all commands that if any RAF unit required urgent technical assistance in connection with air or ground radio equipment, it was to request help direct from Headquarters No 26 Group indicating the scope of assistance required.  No 26 Croup was then to arrange, according to the demands received for assistance to be rendered as soon as possible by either W/T Emergency Fitting Parties or the Radio Department, RAE.

Expansion

The responsibilities of No 26 Group increased during the first few months of its existence. A certain measure of relief was afforded on 19 June 1940 when at a meeting held by the Secretary of State it was agreed that signals training questions should pass through Technical Training Command and not direct between the Director of Signals and No 26 Group.  Some routine responsibility was thus spared No 26 Group training staff.   On 22 June 1940 Headquarters Technical Training Command informed the, Air Ministry that No 26 Group required a measure of reorganisation and an increase in establishment.  The immediate reason for this was the impending delegation to No 26 Group of additional responsibility in the matter of functional control of signals units other than training units in an attempt to relieve D of S of detail.  These additional responsibilities were: -

  1. The installation of major modifications or additions to the W/T layout of aircraft at operational units, training units, and aircraft storage units.  This entailed arranging for the equipment required, for fitting parties to do the work, and for liaison with commands as to the order of priority of carrying out the work. 

  2. Liaison with the RAE for the preparation and provision of servicing schedules for all new types of radio equipment.  In the case of equipment not designed by the RAE, the liaison was necessarily with the firm who designed and manufactured the equipment.

  3. The provision to all units in the United Kingdom of technical advice and assistance (in liaison with the RAE) an all matters concerning air and ground radio installations. 

  4. The installation of radio and associated equipment in ground stations for operational and other commands. 

  5. The organisation of training and subsequent distribution of mobile units of various kinds concentrated at signals depots,

  6. The RAF Traffic Control section of the Air Ministry was transferred in June 1940 from the Air Ministry to Headquarters No 26 Group

In addition to compiling, maintaining and issuing, such publications as the RAF Teleprinter Routeing Directory, the Responsibility Schedule and the Defence/Teleprinter Network Operators' Instructions, the Section controlled teleprinter traffic throughout the RAF and was responsible for its routeing.  Traffic returns were received weekly from all units where teleprinters were installed and these formed the basis upon which allocations, cessations or diversions of lines were arranged.  Station codes and 'Answer Back' signals were arranged and operating difficulties were investigated by the section, which also maintained contact with the Admiralty and War Office signals sections on traffic questions affecting the three Services.   On 12 June the Air Ministry  delegated to No 26 Group responsibility for a wireless organisation known as the 'Beetle' scheme.  This was intended to provide a means of passing information about imminent attempts at invasion to defence formations of all three services.  It provided for a link by W/T between commands of the Army and RAF and Area Combined Headquarters and for medium power radio telephony transmitters at Army commands in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, and at a naval commend in the Orkneys.  It further provided for the distribution of portable broadcast receivers to units of the Navy, Army and RAF.  Preliminary work had been carried out by the Directorate of Signals at the Air Ministry and on 17 June 1940 work as transferred to No 26 Group.

By this time 33 units were being administered by No 26 Group; five of these were training units and 28 were operational, counting the 16 emergency W/T fitting parties as one unit. The group was also responsible for the large emergency point-to-point organisation.  Certain measures were therefore suggested to ease the work and responsibilities of No 26 Group.  Technical Training Command felt that the organisation of the group should be altered to bring  it into line with normal group organisation and the channels of communication within a command.  It was suggested  that No 26 Group should no longer deal direct with D of S on questions of signals training policy and the functional control of signals units.  If this were done in the normal manner through command, Headquarters No 26 Group would be relieved of certain detailed responsibilities.  The Air Ministry viewpoint, as expressed by the Assistant, Chief of the Air Staff (Radio), was that No 26 Group differed from normal training groups in that, additional to its responsibilities for training establishments, it had an entirely new rote of functional control of a large number of signals units which were mainly operational.  It also provided communications for RAF commands at home and overseas.  Certain changes were, however, made to ease the burden on No 26 Group.  The Air Ministry approved the establishment of an additional section under a Signals group captain at Group headquarters to be responsible for the supervision of the functional signals units.  This meant that the Senior Air Staff Officer was free to concentrate on the supervision of the signals training establishments.

The question of upgrading the post of AOC, No 26 Group from air commodore to air vice-marshal was also considered at this time.  Headquarters Technical Training Command was in favour of the proposal.  In the first place, the responsibilities of the AOC had increased considerably since the creation of the group.  Secondly, the fact that, Cranwell, which had been added to the Group on 7 July 1940, was commanded by an air commodore was in itself a good reason for upgrading the post of the group commander.  Thirdly, the AOC No 26 Group had a dual responsibility for training units and signals operational units in addition to co-ordination and planning on behalf of the Director of Signals, Air Ministry.  The proposal was discussed at Air Ministry level at a conference on 2 August 1940, together with aspects of the reorganisation of No 26 Group.  The question of upgrading the post of the AOC was referred to the Director of Organisation, who decided that the request could not be granted at that date but would be reconsidered after three month  had elapsed.  In September 1940 additional responsibilities were added to No 26 Group.  No 80 Wing was formed within it at Aldenham Lodge, Radlett, Hertfordshire to control RCM activity; it consisted of a number of receiving and transmitting stations and other centres scattered throughout the United Kingdom.  No I Signals Depot was moved from White Waltham to West Drayton and several lodger units, established there.

Dissatisfaction with Group Organisation

Neither Technical Training Command nor, No 26 Group was satisfied with the organisation of the group as it was during the summer and autumn of 1940.  No 26 Group felt that the signals service suffered because it had to rely on a busy command headquarters far so many training facilities.  Headquarters Technical Training Command dealt with urgent questions of syllabi, accommodation, equipment and establishments, in co-operation with No 26 Group and the signals staff at the Air Ministry.   Headquarters No 26 Group considered that much time and trouble would be saved if all functions were centred on signsals requirements alone.  In November, 1940 they put forward a proposal for a signal service Headquarters dealing direct with the Air Ministry on one hand and units on the other.  It was felt  that this was justified by the urgent necessity for great speed in everything that concerned signals matters.  It was recommended that two wing's be formed, Signals Training and Signals Operational, which would come directly under a signals command, which in turn would come directly under the Air Ministry for all purposes.  The advantage of that would be a direct and simple organisation which would give speed in handling all matters.

The functions of the group fail into three separate and distinct categories: -

  1. There were the operational units, such as No 80 Wing, the various outstations of Cheadle and Leighton Buzzard and DRLS.

  2. There were the units required for the signals servicing and repair organisation as a whole.

  3. There were the signals training units

This was contrary to the normal RAF system, which was organised on a functional basis. The AOC was required to divide his attention between. these three aspects, and it was felt that with future expansion he would not be able to devote sufficient time to any one of these without neglecting the others.  Headquarters Technical Training Command agreed that reorganisation was necessary, but opposed the formation of a signals command independent of any other command because it would segregate into one vertical organisation, various functions which, specialist though they were, were ancillary to the operational activities of the RAF.  It was feared that such a formation would ultimately result in the user aspect being subordinate to that of the technical aspect and might lead to operational requirements being dictated by technical considerations.  This contingency had so far been avoided because RAF signals officers had, for a great deal of their Service careers, been in the General Duties branch, and had therefore been able to study and consider the operational aspect of signals matters in addition to the technical.  By the end of 1940, however, signals officers were being commissioned direct into the Technical branch and there was more than ever a reason to avoid segregating them into a separate organisation.

There were also disadvantages in segregating signals training into a signals command  and thereby divorcing it entirely from the organisation which was responsible for training technical personnel in all other trades.  It was felt that greater efficiency would not be gained if signals training were placed under the control of signals officers only.  The general control should be vested in officers who had no technical bias while the detailed preparation of syllabi and contacts with operational groups could be maintained by signals officers on the staff of Technical Training Command.  Headquarters Technical Training Command considered that all signals training should be removed from the control of No 26 Group to that of the command, while the former remained in charge of its operational units and units of the signals repair and servicing organisation.

On 5 February 1941 a conference was held to discuss the organisation of No 26 Group at which the Director General of Organisation stated that two broad courses of action arose out of the divergent views.  The first was to withdraw the signals training units from Technical Training Command and place them under some other command.  The alternative was to withdraw training units from No 26 Group and to place them either in No 20 or No 24 Group or to form another group in Technical Training Command to control all. signals training units.  At this conference various opinions were expressed by the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Radio), the Inspector General, the Director of Signals, the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Technical Training Command, the Air Officer Commanding No 26 Group, the Air Member for Training, the Director General of Organisation, and, the Air Member for Personnel.  The Air Member for Supply and Organisation summed up the conference by saying that it appeared that the existing machinery needed revising without the creation of an entirely new form of organisation.  He undertook to try and suggest an alternative to a signals Command which would meet the points that had been made and provide an improvement on the existing situation.

Formation of No 27 Group

On 28 March 1941 the Air Ministry informed Headquarters Technical Command that a decision had been reached on the future of No 26 Group.  All signals training units were to be removed from No 26 Group and placed in a new group, to be known as No 27 (Training) Group, to be controlled in all aspects by Headquarters Technical Training Command.  No 26 Group, less the training units, was to remain under the operational control of the Air Ministry (D of S) and would continue to be administered by Technical Training Command.  Certain units of Nos 20 and 24 Groups were to be added to No 27 Group.  The Air Officer Commanding, No. 27 Group was to be an air commodore in the General Duties or Signals branch.  On 2 April 1941 Headquarters Technical Training Command submitted proposals for the re-allocation of units in the command.

Although in July 1941 No 26 Group lost its control of training units the responsibilities of the group were not much lessened, and in directions other than training they increased during the year.  On 2 June 1941, No 81 (Signals) Wing was formed at Worcester.  The new wing consisted of No 1 Western Area Signals Office, Worcester, No 2 Western Area Signals Office Gloucester, No 2 Western Area Signals Office, Tetbury, No 4 Western Area Signals Office, Strand, No 5 Western Area Signals Office, Stonehenge, the W/T Station at Hartlebury, the W/T Station at Bodmin an the Signal Section, Birdlip.  The organisation was still considered, unsatisfactory.  It was claimed that greater powers were needed if the group was to fulfil its obligations.  On 21 July 1941, DGIS stated that No 26 Group was unable to fulfil the functions for which it was intended.  In the first place, works representation as already given to No 60 Group was required at No 26 Group.  Technical Training Command was accused of obtaining only a low degree of priority for the requirements of No 26 Group and as the group controlled signals units of high operational importance they required correspondingly high priority in such matters as works and stores.  Other difficulties arose because Technical Training Command had little or no knowledge of and no direct interest in the work of No 26 Group.  Questions which were normally dealt with by commands were in the case of No 26 Group referred by the command to the group for their opinion.  Further, it was essential that No 26 Group should deal direct with the Directorate General of Equipment (DGE) departments with regard to technical stores.  DGIS gave three possible suggestions for No 26 Group: -

  1. The group could be made an outside department of DG of S dealing directly with the Air Ministry.

  2. It could be given similar facilities as were enjoyed by No 60 Group and could be placed under one of the operational commands, possibly Bomber Command, or finally

  3. It could be given the powers of a command headquarters. (this was suggestion that DGIS, himself favoured)

A conference was held by D of Tels on 15 August 1941 at which it was agreed that there should be an increase of establishment and considerable reorganisation within the Air Staff branch at Headquarters No 26 Group.  This branch was to include a planning section, an operations section, an engineers section and a liaison officer from MAP permanently attached to the headquarters.  Under the administrative staff at No 26 Group provision was to be made for a works liaison officer to be permanently attached.  An increase in the staff of the equipment section was agreed so as to enable them to undertake additional work necessitated by the reorganisation, particularly for the engineers' section.

Transfer of No 26 Group to Bomber Command

In November 1941 the question of transferring No 26 Group from Technical Training Command to Bomber Command was discussed.  The activities of the group were not entirely restricted to Bomber Commend, but with the increase  in bombing operations and the development of the many wireless aids which were being provided the group largely concerned in providing for the new and urgent needs of that command.  Such items as the installation of blind approach equipment at new and existing airfields, the provision of ground D/F services, installation and retrospective action in aircraft such as the TR 1154/55 (Marconi) communication and D/F set, and the proposed installation of Gee, were all projects in which Bomber Command were interested and for which it would rely to a large extent on the activities of No 26 Group.  The group performed no useful service for Technical Training Command and therefore command headquarters were not as interested in it as a command which the group served  directly.  Another factor to be taken into consideration was that No 80 Wing, the RCM organisation in the United Kingdom, came under No 26 Group for administration and No 109 Squadron belonged to this wing.  The squadron was equipped with bomber aircraft (Wellingtons) and was engaged in operations over enemy territory which were closely linked with Bomber Command operations.  At that time the squadron felt very much the lack of operational and administrative advice and control, which Bomber Command alone could give. Thirdly, many of the group's operational requirements were extremely urgent, needing priorities in such matters as works services, equipment and personnel as were accorded to operational commends.  A conference was held by the Director General of Organisation (DGO) at the Air Ministry on 26 January 1940 at which it was agreed that the transfer should be effected.

On 10 February 1942 No 26 Group was transferred from Technical Training Command to Bomber Command for administrative purposes but remained under the direct operational and technical control of DGIS.  At the same time the AOC No 26 Group was given powers up to 2,500 in relation to work's services and command powers of requisitioning and was entitled to deal direct with the Air Ministry in cases where Air Ministry authority for for action was necessary.  In September 1942 DGIS had recommended that the post of AOC be upgraded from the rank of air commodore to that of air vice-marshal.  Headquarters Bomber Command took no action in support of the recommendation and when consulted said that as it knew so little of the work of the group it had no strong feelings in the matter.  The question was, however, discussed by the RAF Establishments Committee in conjunction with D of Tels and D of RDF it was agreed that as the group had a pre-operational and a post-operational responsibility upon which the fighting efficiency of the operational groups was largely dependent, the proposed upgrading should be recommended.  This recommendation was supported by the Chief of the Air Staff on 15 October 1942 and approved by the Secretary of State on 24 October 1942.

Further Expansion

Between August 1942 and June 1943 the activities of No 26 Group expanded rapidly.  In 1943 No 26 Group took on additional functions.   It was responsible for the formation, equipping, operating, training and preparation for overseas operations of all mobile signals units.  This involved taking over Royal Air Force Chigwell on 1 April 1943, where there were Personnel Despatch Centre (PDC) facilities for 4,000.  It undertook the equipping, final field training and preparation for overseas of all mobile radar units.  All arrangements for the preparation and training of the signals personnel of overseas forces including PDC action were in the cure of the group.  In connection with these commitments 250 officers and 8,300 other ranks passed through Chigwell between September 1942 and June 1943 and were formed into units and despatched overseas by the group.  There was a heavy increase in the responsibilities o No 26 Group in other directions.  In 1943 it became responsible for the for Signals Development. Unit, Hinton-in-the-Hedges. consisting of the Beam Approach Development Unit, No 1551 Beam Approach Calibration Flight, the Operational Development Flight, and No 1478 Flight consisting of five flying W/T stations.   The group also undertook the administrative and technical aircraft responsibility for No 105 (Combined Operations) Wing and its training stations, and No 516 Squadron.  Also in 1943 the group took on the responsibility for the servicing and, repair of all MF beacons and radio track guides.  In late 1942 No 26 Group had to undertake a considerable amount of development work, to do which an additional department was formed at Headquarters No 26 Group consisting or civilian technical personnel drawn, from the RAE, the Air Ministry and civilian sources.  In June 1943 No 26 Group was accorded command status in respect of servicing of aircraft within the group, allotment of aircraft belonging to the group and aircraft establishment of the group.   This was done because the servicing and flying discipline of certain units in No 26 Group was considered unsatisfactory.  The proposal that, it should have command status for flying discipline was agreed to only in part.

By July 1943 the AOC, No 26 Group had been granted further special powers and responsibilities in recognition of the fact that the group provided a signals service which was available to the RAF as a whole.  The group was, however, responsible to Headquarters Bomber Command for  general administration and supervision of all matters within the group.  No 26 Group dealt direct with the Air Ministry on equipment works services, requisitioning, establishments, training, education, and welfare.  The operational and technical control was vested in the DG of S.  No 26 Group dealt with Headquarters Bomber Command for accounting matters, medical questions, WAAF administration, general administration and personnel.

Nos 1 and 2 Signals Depots

No 1 Signals Depot was formed at White Waltham on 8 May 1940 in No 26 Group for planning, erecting and equipping new transmitting and receiving stations.  It moved to West Drayton in September 1940.  In September 1941 No 2 Signals Depot, which consisted of an amalgamation of the central emergency fitting parties operating in the northern part of the United Kingdom, was formed at Ccowglen near Glasgow, it moved to Fazakerley near Liverpool in May 1943.  The two signals depots were responsible for the fitting up of W/T stations for all commands over an area extending from Jan Meven in the north to Lagos and the Azores.  The setting up of the inter-command point-to-point network was one of the most, important commitments.  It involved transmitting stations at Dagnall, Greatworth and Weyhill and receiving stations at Stoke Hammond, Chicksands and Leighton Buzzard.  In the peak year of 1944 1,472 transmitters and receivers were installed at widely separated ground stations, 1,495 aerials were erected and 656 installations were overhauled, modified or repaired.  Among the tasks completed by the fitting parties from the Signals Depots were the erection of a first, class transmitting station in Iceland, a radio range off the South coast designed to bring USAAF aircraft across the Atlantic, a meteorological station on the island of Jan Meyen and in the autumn of 1943 the vital radio link in the, Azores.  Aircraft and marine craft fitting were also included in the tasks of the No 26 Group Signals Depots. VHF R/T fitting in fighter aircraft and W/T fitting in bomber aircraft were the responsibility of No 26 Group .

Battle Training Schoo1

One lesson learnt from the 1939-1940 campaign in France was the need for mobile and self-contained signals and radar units as an integral part of an expeditionary force.  At the beginning of the war selection and training of personnel in the use of specialist vehicles and instruction in the use of appropriate weapons of assault and defence were undertaken at White Waltham.  By April 1943 commitments had grown to such an extent that the entire unit moved to Chigwell, using White Waltham as a satellite.  The PDC was formed in May 1943 within the framework of the Battle Training School to supervise the preparation and formation of the various units under training.  From April 1943 to D-Day the main output from Chigwell was to AEAF formations, the peak effort being in the second quarter of 1944 immediately before the landings in Normandy.  In addition Chigwell undertook the formation and training of hundreds of other units, for special operations all over the world.  Over 70,000 personnel passed through White Waltham and Chigwell and of these 52,000 were trained and kitted for such theatres of war, as Inda, Iceland, Norway, North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Russia, Yalta, Azores, Middle East, Western Europe and many countries in the Far Fast.  After 1 April 1943, 900 units were fully equipped and over 3,200 specialist signals vehicles, 1,180 specialist radar vehicles and 2,600 load vehicles were sent out.

Signals Development Unit and Signs Flying Unit

When the charter of responsibility was issued in January 1942, the responsibilities of the group in connection with radio and radar aids to navigation were confined to the siting of new D/F stations and the ground and air calibration of all new D/F and beam approach stations.  Responsibilities were later extended to cover the installation, servicing and regular calibration of nearly all types of radio navigational aids, and in the case of GCA, the formation and training of crews to operate the equipment.

The Signal's Development Unit (SDU) was formed at Hinton-in-the Hedges in April 1943 in No 26 Group.  It was responsible for the development, installation, calibration, testing and servicing beyond local capacity of radio aids to navigation. These responsibilities were previously carried out by sections of No 1 Signals Depot at West Drayton, No 2 Signals Depot at Cowglen and by No 1551 (Signals Calibration) Flight and Operational Development Party Detachment.  The functions of the SDU were: -

(a) To develop flying techniques in the use of radio aids to navigation.

(b) To develop such communications equipment and radio aids to navigation as might be delegated to it, including approach and landing systems, HF D/F and VHF D/F but excluding MF D/F  equipment.

(c) To install ground equipment classed as radio aids to navigation.

(d) To provide air and ground calibration, testing and checking facilities in respect of radio aids to navigation.

e) To provide servicing facilities beyond local capacity in respect of ground installations classed as radio aids to navigation.

(f) To give technical advice on problems concerning radio aids to navigation and aircraft communications equipment.

(g) To give advice concerning the installation of airborne communications equipment not already standardised and to undertake, such testing or modification of the equipment as might he delegated to the unit.

The Signals Flying Unit we formed at Honiley on 4 August 1944 and consisted of a signals flying wing, a servicing wing and a ground controlled approach wing.  The Signals Flying Wing was composed of the Signals Deve1opment Unit transferred from Hinton-in-the-Hedges.  It carried out the installation of navigational signals equipment and was responsible for the Service trials of new equipment and for modifications and improvements to both airborne sets and ground aids to navigation.  The servicing wing acted as a maintenance unit for nearly all navigational signals equipment that was supplied to the RAFat home on a common user basis and to a smaller extent to commands overseas.  It was responsible for servicing this once it was installed.  All such equipment was regularly checked for accuracy by the calibration flight.

Overseas Functions

Until the summer of 1944 the overseas functions of No 26 Group had been confined to the preparation and despatch of equipment, and the training of personnel for overseas.  In July 1944 the function of No 26 Group in giving advice and assistance in the planning, siting, engineering and operation of W/T stations in the inter-command system was extended to overseas commands.  Up to that time Chief Signals Officers (CSOs) overseas were left largely to their own devices in regard to the design and layout of their main communications stations.  They were responsible for indenting for the necessary supplies and types of equipment, usually without a first-hand knowledge of recent improvements and without expert advice of new techniques.  In the United Kingdom No 26 Group had a central engineering section specifically to cope with designs and improvements and a number of specialised fitting parties to put the results into effect.  The result overseas was that there was a complete lack of uniformity among the main stations so that it was never certain whether any given station was suitable technically for new equipment.  In some case construction was done on the wrong lines.   Traffic handling methods were faulty and uneconomical at certain overseas stations. The introduction of new equipment was necessary to obtain the ranges and loads for the Far Eastern war.  It was more critical than the older material and required expert installation and servicing.   Accordingly No 26 Group was instructed by the Air Ministry to extend its advisory functions to overseas W/T stations, and to implement this policy decision the post of Inspector of Inter-Command Telecommunications was established at the group headquarters on 13 July 1944.  In this respect the Inspectorate had four functions to fulfil: -

  1. The technical planning and layout of inter-command wireless stations - No 26 Group was responsible for preparing designs and layout diagrams of technical buildings and aerial arrays for overseas inter-command stations and sometimes for advising on the siting of such stations.

  2. The introduction of new equipment - No 26 Group was responsible for giving advice to CSOs on the handling and servicing of new telecommunications equipment.

  3. Traffic handing methods - No 26 Group was made responsible for advising CSOs overseas on new traffic handling methods and for advising on means of improving speed and efficiency of existing procedures at overseas station.

  4. Advice to the Air Ministry - No 26 Group was required to keep  the Air Ministry (DG of S) informed on the capacity, technical efficiency and technical layout of overseas, inter-command stations and too forward recommendations for their improvement.

This page was last updated on 25/12/17

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