Draft History Project

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Chapter 3


One of the earliest memories of life as an Op Spec was from Jim Jarman:-

‘I was 82 a few weeks ago and am now disabled but being able to work a computer is a Godsend as it is surprising how many people you can find. I served from 1942/47 in the R.Sigs as an Op Special and despite all the good and hard times would not have missed it for anything else. We were all something special. A tale I told at our West Wales Xmas Lunch for Old Soldiers.

It was in early December 1943 and we had a new Cook Corporal from the newly formed regiment, the Army Catering Corps. He wasn't just old, he was ancient - 35 plus, but he certainly could cook and added taste and flavour to our meagre rations, having served as a regular with the Warwickshires in the Middle East and India. It was Xmas 1943 and, whilst in the dinner queue, he said to me, "Jim you are well in with the CO tell him, I'm mixing the Xmas puddings and can I have 2 flagons of Oatmeal Stout to add to the mix" I went to the CO Major ‘Berty’ Beal and told him of the Cook’s request.

“Certainly” he agreed, “have you enough money for this? If so purchase the 2 flagons and get a receipt and recover the money from the PRI Fund.”

I went to the Off-licence, purchased the 2 flagons and took them to the Cookhouse.

“Great” says Corp. Fred and, unscrewing the stopper of the first flagon, he poured the brown creamy liquid into the pan of ingredients, vigorously stirring for 5 minutes. He then walked across the room coming back with 2 mugs. He then opened the other flagon and we sat down and drank it. As a 19 year old budding L/Cpl. that was just one more lesson I learnt from an old soldier.


I (Farmer) went to Harrogate Army Apprentices College, as part of intake 70C, this denoted that I arrived for my two years training in the last third of the year, the A and B intakes being the other two. At the time it was a mass production machine for operators of all kinds and for radio technicians. Harsh discipline and high physical standards were demanded and opportunities for educational achievements were all pursued ardently with the enthusiasm that only 15 - 17 year old lads can muster. Should you do well in the morse side of training in the first year you were then selected to join the "special " training in the second. This meant you were whisked away from the mainstream of radio operators, and totally brainwashed in the reception of high speed morse. You were also taught a new skill - that of ‘transcription’; which is the art of transferring the morse intercepted, onto the Imperial typewriter. Having learnt my morse code at an early age from my Dan Dare communications station, the first year was a snip ! (There you are, that was where the system went wrong and let me in!)
After passing your tests, you would graduate as an A3 Special Telegraphist, then go on to further training at Garats Hay Loughborough, where you would be upgraded to A2, and learn the basics of analysis.
You would then join your first ‘man’ service regiment, and then it was a posting to13 or 9 Signals Regiments, and work as a ‘Probationer A2 Special Telegraphist’. Should you not muck up, you would receive your A2 after six months, (maybe 12, I am unsure), of course that meant mixing it with the Catterick commandos - but heh! Nothing’s perfect !!! “

Farmer’s contribution awoke more memories from Dave Thomas.

‘It started me thinking back to my Harrogate days. Unlike Farmer I did my boys’ service at Denbury, some ten years earlier. I trained as a ‘spec op’, then converted to ‘TG op’, and was eventually posted to Harrogate in Jan 1970 (70A) as a Corporal. Fortunately I was promoted to Sgt very quickly and taught first ‘Typing’ then ‘D11 operation’, I was attached to Rawson Sqn, (he added “I suspect you (Farmer) were probably in Scott Sqn”, also there, during our time, were Alan Maxwell WO1 spec op training, and WO11 (Yeoman of Signals) Taff Price in the training wing”.




I was posted to 101 Wireless Troop from 1 Wireless Regiment, Munster in the summer of 1952. The Langeleben photograph album for 1951-54 was mostly submitted by me.  






This photograph was posed for by two op spec and the radio mechanic imitating the construction of the tent bases. In the background is the senior NCO’s marquee and the camp office. The lad in the background carrying his rolled up washing gear is me having been to Frau Grahn’s  to carry out my ablutions for the day, there were no facilities  in existence on the Camp.






This is another view of the camp. The hard core builders’ rubble was used to improve the hard standing area for the vehicles.





This photograph was taken from in front of the cookhouse. There were no sentries on the entrance. This row of tents existed on my arrival but additional concrete bases were being constructed behind this one. The cookhouse was there when we arrived, overhead electric wires fed into the tin shed at the other side of the jeep. The boys in the photograph are sorting the mail which had just arrived by jeep. A mobile generator is in front of the tin shed. I believe the electric supply was left over from the Berlin airlift days.






This is the water bowser. Those sat on the top I recall, if my memory serves me correctly, were linemen, The frying pan man was my watch lance corporal. The ‘sweeper up’ was. you guessed it, an Op Spec. The Water Bowser was towed by the 30 CWT weekly to Konigslutter Gasworks to be refilled. This was a duty carried out by Wooley and myself.






This photograph. with the wagons in the background, is meant to show the telephone line carried on the poles as you see, turning right on the main road towards the border. This was the telephone link to the D F mobile hut.  The hut was some distance away from the main Camp at Rabke. The Linemen were responsible for its erection and maintenance.






There were no ‘David Beckhams’ amongst the footballers you can see. Gordon Banks was to come along later. The start of the D F telephone line poles are being used as the goal posts.





The MT Section consisted of 3 vehicles and drivers, one  3 Ton Bedford, one 30 cwt  Bedford and one Ford Willys Jeep.    The Drivers surnames were Friend, Wooley and Gus (nickname). 

The attached photographs were taken on the occasion when the 3 ton vehicle was bogged down in an adjacent field to the camp. Assistance was given by the OP Specs, (Specials) Us!





When talking about the M T section, I omitted to mention the two QLR vehicles positioned back to back; the Op Spec set wagon to the right and the I Corps. to the left.   The most senior rank appeared to be the I corps staff sergeant. I mention this simply to stress that there was no rank insignias worn in the camp nor were any I Corps shoulder flashes worn.









A combined team consisting of players from other small units, and cap badges, did play a friendly match against a team from Konigslutter . I think we lost!


The total number of men on camp at that time numbered no more than 30.

This is my memory of Langeleben - DIT DA DIT DA DIT - RICHARD COGHLAN

730 DAYS TO DO - Recollections of National Service - Chris Swindin 1957-1959



Over the years, the independent squadron at Langeleben had grown into one of the happiest and most efficient in BAOR. Social changes had come since the end of National Service, bringing with them a new type of affluent educated regular soldier to Langeleben,, a thorough professional at his job, for which he was suitably rewarded.

Through being so isolated the camp acquired many assets to keep the lads happy, which many other larger units would have been envious of, including the swimming pool - a great favourite on hot summer afternoons, the camp cinema - installed in block 7, complete with pop-up seats, open early on Friday evenings, to allow the customers to catch the Rec truck into town, although the NAAFI bar was still a firm favourite with the lads.  

The Sgts' Mess turned an old transit accommodation room into a welcome permanent bar. The hollow square in the centre of the combined mess was covered over and turned into a function/dining room for use by both Officers and Sergeants.  

The scientific world outside had also undergone many changes since the 1950s. Advances in electronic technology had accelerated during the 1960s and early 1970s so that by this time the modern battlefield was saturated with electronic devices for command, control and surveillance. To keep pace with these developments and remain masters of the electronic spectrum, the Army's tactical Electronic Warfare (EW) assets were reorganized. Sadly, as part of this process, the much loved 225 Signal Squadron disappeared.

On 1 July 1977, 14 Signal Regiment (EW) formed up from a mixture of old and new entities. The Regiment took under command the hitherto independently operating EW units, 225 Signal Squadron at Langeleben, 226 Signal Squadron at Wesendorf and E troop, 30 Signal Regiment from Blandford, together with new command, operational and intelligence staffs, communications, administrative and logistic support elements, with the mission to provide the Commander, 1st British Corps with EW support.

Regimental Headquarters, Headquarters Squadron and 3 Squadron were initially based at Tofrek Barracks, Hildesheim . HQ Squadron contained the Regimental Command Posts and the administrative and logistic back-up. 3 Squadron provided communications for the new Regiment, which could, and did, deploy throughout and outside the 1 (BR) Corps area.

The distances from the HQ to the two forward squadrons led to the need for bases somewhat closer together, and in 1978, the Regiment found temporary accommodation in a former ordnance depot in Scheuen, north of Celle . This barracks was in such a dilapidated condition that almost immediately the search was instigated for a more fitting home for the Regiment. The search was to take seven years.

In early 1985 the Regiment's search for a new home ended, when 94 Locating Regiment RA vacated Taunton Barracks in Celle . Previous attempts to find a barracks had come to nothing, including plans to build a new camp in Königslutter, or take over a German barracks in Braunschweig. Taunton Barracks is a massive edifice dating from 1870 and contains the largest brick building in North Germany . The sheer size of the place gave the CO the opportunity to have all his sub-units under one roof for the first time since the Regiment was formed. Unfortunately this meant that 1 Squadron was obliged to leave its Langeleben home and make the fifty-mile move to Celle in March 1985. A small permanent staff was retained at Langeleben under command of a Royal Signals WO1 to administer the remaining civil labour and oversee operations.



February 1969.  I arrived in Rheindalen during the Karnival time and still didn’t know where I was destined to go for my posting.  I kind of hoped it would be near my relatives in Bad Lippspringe, but instead they said I was going to a little place on the East German border called Langeleben.  I was driven down to Hannover where I stopped the night.  A young man there took me to the cinema to see The Dirty Dozen, a film I grew to love and have seen it every time it’s on since then.  After a nice breakfast we had the drive to Langleben.  We drove through Königslutter and up the mounting hill through the woods, passed the Kinderheim and there it was. Just a small place really, but this place was to be my world for the next two years.

We stopped at the gate and as we did a land rover was coming out.  I glanced at the driver and he at me, curious really.  Little did I know that this was the man who three years later would become my husband. 


Getting clearance we went to the Naafi and there we met the manageress, Miss H

(I never knew her by any other name) and the other Naafi Assistant Andy who later married Mick McGuire.  The bar staff consisted of volunteers mostly amongst the lads.  We also had some German workers in from the village.  Ute, who married Fred the Polish guard, Lottie, Wilhelm and Frieda the bin men.  A young German man nicknamed Porky who did odd jobs.  Herr Messerschmidt, not sure what he did.

The married men were based in Wolfenbuttel with their wives unless they were on duty and only the single men, or those with wives at home in England , stayed on the camp.  I needn’t have worried though, almost alone with about 60 men as the army must have found the elite of gentlemen to serve there and I have no bad memories of anyone.  It was almost like having 60 brothers.

Miss H was a pretty strange character and if you were there in 1969/70 you may remember her having us make up the rolls and there were always 4 times the quantity of cheese and onion than any other, “onions make you passionate” she was fond of saying.  I think it’s safe to say she had no takers in that department.  I’m not sure if that is through the lack of theory about the onions or whether it was her boast that despite being a ‘Miss’ she had been married four times and ‘bumped them all off’ maybe less said about the onions the better.

She was quite jealous that I was bilingual and had made some good friends amongst the German ladies and was often invited to go for a meal with some of them who lived in Lelm.  Miss H then put a ban on me speaking German during working hours.  I got my own back though as driving out one afternoon through the Harz we passed a sign for ‘Umleitung’. ”let’s give that a whirl” she said, “I’ve often seen a sign for it but I’ve never been there”.  So we spent the rest of the afternoon looking for a village called Umleitung and I never did tell her what it meant.  The NAAFI was opened up later than usual that day..

Andy left fairly soon after I got there as her tour was ending and she was going home to prepare for her wedding so that left just Miss H and I.  Soon she left too and was replaced by Jean and Jim Thornton.

Jean and Jim had previously been pub landlords and it showed in how they re-vamped the NAAFI bar and the menus.  The lads decorated the bar with brick looking wallpaper and were allowed to put some Graffiti on it,


there are pictures of that in the gallery on our website.  We had a jukebox playing “Sugar, sugar” and “Suspicious Minds”, “Ob La De Ob La da” and many more and later we sometimes had the radio after Naafi hours.  One night Terry Stapleton asked me to dance and Gypo said could he have the next dance.  The next tune to come on the radio was “The Stripper”, we all had a good laugh at that but Gypo didn’t get his dance.  I promised him the one after. well this was 1969 and there was no all night radio/TV then and the next song to be played was “God Save the Queen”, so my first dance with the man who was to become by husband was just that.

Other ways to entertain ourselves was of course the cinema.  I couldn’t go often as I worked every night but Saturdays so I could save my days up to have a long weekend with my family in Bad Lippspringe.  One film that stuck out for me was Ring of Bright Water about a man living with otters.  I had read the book at school so I really wanted to see the film.  Now every time I see it’s on TV it takes me back to the Langeleben cinema.

Then we had the swimming pool which was wonderful fun.  My most vivid memories are sunny days by the pool with the sun beating down through the trees.  Beautiful.

Jean and Jim would often have officers down for a meal and I really liked Captain Swan, I think we all did there.  I remember one Sunday lunchtime in the NAAFI we had Family Favourites on and his wife had requested the song “Dream” for him.  No one teased him about it, in fact they all sat and listened respectfully which goes to show the type of men serving there.

Some nights or afternoons I would go with a couple of the men to Lelm.  The first pub as you go into the village was the favourite.  I remember how a greeting was always knocked out on the table.  “Heichi Bumbeichi” was on the juke box there.  When we needed to use the loo we were given a huge key on a big chain with a ball on the end which opened the midden outside.

The Tetzlestein was another place we would go to which was down the road and round the corner.  The Eis Dele of course as well and I seem to remember a disco or something near a shoe shop

When I wanted to be on my own I found a little place halfway down the hill and under the bridge, it used to be a Quelle or a spring and it was really old and quite lovely and peaceful.  I could sit there and write to family back home and be in my own space for a while.

Other get togethers we had in our billet (out of bounds to all ranks) were  when they landed on the moon and Prince Charles investiture. The year moved on and the snow set in and I had to be dug out of my billet to get to work it was that high. Again photos in the gallery of that.  It didn’t stop us though and I think it drew us all together more. It’s a strange thing.  Langeleben was a very special place for some very special people, it gets into your heart like no other place.  There was a kind of kinship amongst us all I think, a real bond that seems to live as long as we live. When it was time to leave they threw me the biggest party, a fantastic buffet, music and free flowing booze.  It was a wonderful night.  I was presented by Robbie McCallum with a beautiful bracelet I still have and a watch engraved To Marlene from 225.  Eddie Bellerby, played Trains and Boats and Plains and got told off for being insensitive, but I think it was how everyone felt. Clive (aka Gypo) asked me to dance one last time, then he kissed me and asked me to write to him which I did and the rest is history where we are concerned.  

I became the last NAAFI girl to serve in Langeleben. After me I believe it continued as a husband and wife job. I went back a year later and stayed with Ute and Fred (ex-Polish guard) who lived in Königslutter and had some good nights meeting up with the lads again. 




March 1960. I arrived at 13 Signal Regiment, Bergelin and was assigned to153 Troop 1 Squadron. My Troop Sgt was Ben Banyard, the junior NCOs were Cpls Terry Loud, Phil Diddimus, Pete Brown and L/Cpl Brian (Spike) Taylor. My good friend Frank Mitchell was on another Troop and after a few weeks he “volunteered” to go to 2 Squadron. He later wrote to me and suggested that I do the same. At the first opportunity I did just that.

So it was that in May 1960 I left Bergelin, along with John Gant, Norman Farrington, Hugh Howton and Tony Hardisty. John and Norman, all Spec Ops like myself, Hugh and Tony were, both Russian Linguists. We travelled by the military train, which was en-route to Berlin, and alighted at Brunswick Station. This was somewhere around midnight, and eventually an army Bedford 3 Tonner arrived to pick us up. The driver was a Scot with a very broad Glaswegian accent whom I later knew as Jimmy Rooney. He informed us that we would be going via “Slutter” to pick up someone else. We duly arrived at a pub, which I would soon come to know as ”Schumanns”. A couple of bods came out, slightly the worse for drink and managed to climb into the back of the truck. Off we set for Langeleben. One guy who I now know as Pete Corker somehow managed to climb on to the top of the canvas canopy of the truck and rode most of the way up there. How he managed to stay up there I shall never know. This was my introduction to the best posting you could imagine - Langeleben!!!

I was to be on “B” watch with Mick Harris as Cpl IC, Colin Knapman, Keith Middleton, Eddie Wickendon, Frank Rae, Graham Slack, Taff Smith and others whose names, alas I cant remember.

The OC was Major Neil McIntyre, the 2i/c Captain “Singing”Jim Smith and the NCO’s  SSM Taff Williams, SQMS Robbie Burns, Tech Store Sgt Ken Hurrell, MT Sgt Jock Moffat. In the Operations Block were WO11 ‘Panda’ Arnold, Sgt Bert Fugill, and Captain Ian Wallace. I wont bore you with many more names, but I must mention Cpls John”Rusty” Rosson, Mac Bowker, Jim Husband, Ossie Brandon, Jim Hayes and Chris Nowell.

Credit must be given to Herr Kurt Deutch the long suffering cleaner who had the unenviable job of cleaning the ablutions. What a thankless task, particularly on a Monday morning. Among the civilian labour force there was Mrs B who was i/c Frau Glas, Frau Graf who ran the laundry. Frau Willicker in the kitchen, Gisela who looked after the Officers and Sgts dining rooms and who would later become MrsTwigg, after her marriage to David, the Squadron Clerk.

Life was good, we worked a four shift system, 1-5, mid-8, 5-mid, 8-1, ˝ day, day off, except at weekend when who ever did 8-1 on Friday also did it on Saturday, thereby giving one watch a long weekend off.  Very often during the summer months a group would go off for a days sailing at the British Yacht Club at Steinhude, north of Hannover . This was my introduction to sailing which I grew to enjoy.

I was chosen to go for a week’s trip sailing on the Baltic. The British Army had a sailing club at Keil, The craft there were much bigger of course with living accommodation on board. There were four of us on the trip, Capt Ian Wallace (skipper), Sgt Alan Maxwell ( who had just been posted into the unit) Cpl Chris Nowell and myself. We had a lovely time, sailing up to and round some of the Danish islands. This was at the time Mark Spitz was winning all his gold medals at the Rome Olympics. Ian, Chris and I enjoyed it but Alan hated every minute. He had been detailed to go! Later in the year I accompanied Maj Neil McIntyre on the Royal Signals BAOR regatta on the Mohne See. Have still got the tankard to prove it, so has Mrs McIntyre. At the end of the sailing season we went to Keil again, racing this time, Maj Mac, 2/lt Denham (MTO), Rusty and I. we didn’t win anything, but sure had a good time, especially at the dinner on Saturday night.

Skiing truck

Come the winter time, and it was time to learn to ski!! The Squadron PRI had a stock of sports gear including bicycles and ski equipment. When there was enough snow we could practice in the field opposite the camp entrance. As watches we could occasionally have day trips to the Hartz mountains to the ski resort of St Andreasberg. There is nothing more frightening than seeing a group of British squaddies launching themselves down a ski slope with not a clue how to stop! I was lucky enough to be volunteered to go on a winter warfare course to a place called Winterberg. This was nothing more than a jolly for a week learning how to ski properly. This was followed by another week staying in the nearby NAAFI Hotel, at very little cost. So as you can see, life was really pretty good.

Work wise a lot of the time it was very repetitive, with the occasional busy period. Like during the Cuba missile crisis, and the construction of the Berlin wall.

From Langeleben we manned three DF stations, Rabke just down the road, Rassau near Uelzen north of Celle , and Kaltekirchen between Hamburg and Keil. The Regt had two, Effeld, close to Bergelin, and Hoeglin down in Bavaria . So if you look at these places on a map you will see we had quite a long base line.

I worked four of the stations at one time or another. At Rassau our living accommodation was in Gaste Haus Meyers which was very comfortable. At Kaltenkirchen we had two prefabricated wooden buildings behind a Gaste Haus where we took our meals. On these Detachments, there were six men, NCO I/C , a driver, and four operators. As there were no other British around, we had to get on with the local population. This we did, in fact one of our number married a girl from KK and another was engaged to a girl also from KK but he was posted to Cyprus , and was unfortunately killed in a road traffic accident.

We worked hard and we played hard. When I returned to Langeleben with 225 Squadron in 1967 life was certainly different. By this time I was a family man, with a wife and two children, living in quarters at Wolfenbuttel, and of course a Sergeant. Life was very different!

In May 67 I, along with 5 chaps, went to 224 at Garets Hay to collect the first hard top Land-Rovers in the Squadron along with trailers plus all the equipment to go with each one as these were the new mobile DF units. Even now I can remember the vehicle registration numbers, 03 ET 12/ 13/ 14. (not bad after 40 years) We carried out trials with them during the summer, but we hadn’t put them to much use up to when I left in the December to go on demob.

End of chapter 3


Last updated 31 July 2014


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