The Story of a Teenage Bletchley Park Recruit

History Hit Podcast

3 mins

20 Sep 2018

By Garrett Coakley from Oxford, UK [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons.

This article is an edited transcript of Bletchley Park: The Home of Codebreakers on Dan Snow’s History Hit, first broadcast 24 January 2017. You can listen to the full episode below or to the full podcast for free on Acast.

This is the story of how Raymond, a teenage radio enthusiast, was recruited to listen to German radio messages for Bletchley Park in 1941.

My name is Raymond Francis Fautley.

I was living in North Cheam in Surrey and working for Marconi’s when it all started for me.

I met a colleague who was a pre-war radio amateur. We used to chat a lot about radio.

I said I wanted my ticket after the war and he told me that I’d have to take a Morse test with the Post Office. 12 words a minute.

To my amazement and, I think, his, within three weeks I was doing 20 words a minute. I just seemed to have an ability to do it.

So, he asked me if I knew any Morse and I said, “Well, I learned it when I was a kid at 14, but I never used it.”

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He suggested we do a bit of practice at lunchtime, so he brought in an oscillator, a pair of phones and a Morse key, and he’d send me stuff out of the newspaper, just plain language.

To my amazement and, I think, his, within three weeks I was doing 20 words a minute. I just seemed to have an ability to do it.

He said “Oh, I think you’ll do.”

“Do what?”

“I can’t tell you that” he said “you’ll have to wait and see.”

I was at home one Saturday and, well, I can’t say that there was a knock at the door because the night before a bomb had taken the door off its hinges and all the glass out of our windows. Nonetheless, on the doorstep was a man with a bowler hat, rolled up umbrella and a dark suit, asking to see me.

My parents, of course, wondered what the hell I’d been up to. I was a 19-year-old kid at that time, 1941.

When he came in he wouldn’t allow my parents to be with me, so we went into the front room. We sat down and he put a bit of paper on the table, covered it up completely with his hand and said, “Sign there”.

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This took me by surprise. I was intimidated. Frightened out of my life, quite honestly.

I signed.

He said, “Right, you’ve signed the Official Secrets Act.”

“What the hell for?” I said, “I don’t know any official secrets, I’m just a radio engineer doing an ordinary job!”

When he came in he wouldn’t allow my parents to be with me, so we went into the front room. We sat down and he put a bit of paper on the table, covered it up completely with his hand and said, “Sign there”.

Then he shot at me, “What political party do you belong to?”

I said “I’m 19, I can’t vote until I’m 21. I don’t belong to any party.”

“Oh.”

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Then he asked me questions about where my parents were born and where my grandparents were born. As I’ve always been into family history I could snap the answers off one by one quite easily.

He asked me a few more innocuous questions, which I can’t remember, then said, “Thank you very much, that’s all I want to know,” turned to go out.

And I said, “Please will you have just a few words with my parents because they don’t know what any of this is about, and I know I can’t tell them.”

The chap had told me that I wasn’t allowed to speak to anyone about the interview.

So he said to my parents, “Your son will be doing work of very great national importance to this country in the future.”