Alnwick Probus Club

Frank Bull, a retired estate agent and auctioneer from Whitby, now resident in Alnwick, joined Probus two years ago and gave a talk to the Alnwick club in February, describing how he went from a schoolboy radio ham to a wartime forces radio operator.

His rites of passage were not smooth.

As a schoolboy, before the Second World War, Frank built his own radio transmitter and began radio communications with a like-minded enthusiast in Canada.

He was unaware that such activity was illegal and after volunteering for the services, but before joining up, the local constabulary visited him and told him that his days of being on air were over. Not that it mattered – Frank immediately departed for code work training at Bletchley Park.

The talk was peppered with amusing anecdotes. Frank’s squad was a mixed bunch – in exchange for teaching one mate how to read and write, he was taught the rudiments of pick-pocketing and lock-picking, skills that stood him in good stead for the rest of his life.

Basic training was tough but it melded the squad into a team, which was an essential attribute for what they were to go through in the Middle East and Italy.

Once posted overseas, Frank was one of hundreds of radio operators who sent intelligence reports back to the UK, where they eventually ended up at Bletchley Park and contributed to the jigsaw of information that was essential in winning the war.

Serving in Egypt, Palestine and Italy, Frank described the hardships as well as the light-hearted moments, giving an entertaining insight to his experiences.

However, life was clearly not all beer and skittles. Since his demob, not only did he not renew his activities as a radio ham, he has never even switched on a radio again. Radios bring back too many painful memories.

Anyone interested in joining Alnwick Probus Club should contact Bill Bland on 01669 620572 or at bland.thropton@tiscali.co.uk