Secrets of the St Erth wartime radio spies
DURING the Second World War, a radio station in St Erth was used as an MI6 secret hub for gathering intelligence on the country's enemies.
In the 1930s, little was known about the work taking place inside the station, which was originally run by the General Post Office (GPO) and located about a mile outside the village.
Around 80 workers with knowledge of radio technology had been posted to the station from across Britain.
It was taken over by the Radio Security Service (RSS), an MI6 organisation, and from there, agents were tasked with listening to signals from all over Europe, which they then passed on to Bletchley Park – the country's secret intelligence headquarters.
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Teams of officers worked to interpret Morse code signals.
One such officer was Harry Griffiths from Liverpool, who arrived in St Erth to take up his role as an interceptor and directional finder (DF) in spring 1939.
Having shown an interest in shortwave radio technology in the 1930s, he gained his artificial aerial licence, before joining the GPO.
His new position was subject to the Official Secrets Act, meaning little was known about his work at RSS until, upon his death in 1984, his son Michael Griffiths began to find out details about his father's earlier life.
"My father said very little about his wartime duties, all he would say was he was listening to 'Gerry' agents in Lisbon and the Iberian Peninsula.
"He had in his possession a little black notebook, which he called his 'code book' which my family still has. Doubtless, if it was known that he had this book offsite he would have been in serious trouble," said Michael.
The little black book actually contained coded information on the famous double agent ZigZag who was awarded the Iron Cross by Hitler, as well as details regarding U-boats and Italian sub codes, which Michael has had help deciphering from RSS archivist Stan Ames.
Upon uncovering this knowledge, Michael began to research the role of his father and others based there.
He found there were three sites at the station: the interceptor field, the DF field and an underground DF metal tank, located in St Erth Praze, which became operational in 1942.
After the war, his father remained with the RSS until it disbanded, where he joined the Air Ministry as a radio operator until his retirement in the 1970s.
Mr Griffiths recalled: "He always maintained his love for the world of 'Ham Radio'. He left a poignant comment at the end of an audio tape he gave to me a few months before his unexpected death in 1984.
"He said, 'Michael if a little boy was to ask you, what did your dad do in the war, what would you tell him?'."
Many parts of his father's life during this period to this day remain a mystery.
The only part of the station still visible today is the guard building, which was in the corner of the DF field, which Michael visited earlier this year while on a trip to the village from his home in Plymstock.
Michael has talked about the secret role of St Erth during the war at Bletchley Park and following a popular talk earlier in the summer, Mr Griffiths agreed to return to St Erth tomorrow evening.
The talk starts at 7.15pm at St Erth Church. It is open to anyone, with just a small donation requested for the Old School Room roof fund.