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ROYAL NAVAL RESERVE- WIRELESS TELEGRAPH OPERATORS


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Could some kind-hearted old sea dog assist? I have a casualty for Wanstead, here in East London, died when his observer plane failed to return from a flight from HMS Riviera on 9th December 1917, one Reginald John Robins

Robins was a wireless telegraph operator and his service number is 442 WTS. He appears on passengers lists on Ancestry just pre-war as an "engineer". Could anyone confirm what "WTS" stands for?? I suspect it is Wireless Telegraph Service, or close to it.

Robins was in the Royal Naval Reserve, which I associate normally with professional officers of the Merchant Marine - and seamen officers. I suspect that there may have been some scheme to take private radio telegraph operators (such as Marconi) into RN via RNR.

If the answer is obvious, then my apologies- but the information would be welcome

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PS- I note that Marconi started as Wireless Telegraph and Signal- Could WTS mean a deal between Marconi and Their Lordships for operators as well as equipment and stations????

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I have looked up W.T.S., in the Official Numbering Systems of Naval Long Service Medals by Captain Kenneth Douglas-Morris R.N. It is there in the Royal Naval Reserve [Ordinary] list but just states Wireless Operators. This is just a guess but it might stand for Wireless Telegraphy Section. This is based on the terminology used as in R.N.R., Trawler Reserve Section.

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  • 1 year later...

I have found support for "Wireless Telegraphy Section" in a press report:

 

"1st class Stoker Albert Dunford ... has been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for services in Gallipoli. Previous to the war he was in the Royal Naval Reserve, and on its outbreak volunteered for service in the Dardanelles, and was posted to the wireless telegraphy section."

 

~ Shepton Mallet Journal (25 August 1916), p. 8.

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A very odd, inaccurate report. Stoker 1st Class Albert Henry Dunford enlisted in the RN in 1903 and, before the war, was discharged and joined the Royal Fleet Reserve (RFR) (NOT the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR)). He was mobilised into the RN from the RFR on the outbreak of war and served in the East Mediterranean Squadron as a stoker, earning his DSM. As an RFR man he did not have the option of "volunteering" to be mobilised or otherwise or a choice of where he served. I can see no possible link to the "wireless telegraphy section" of the RNR . There is no RNR rating of that name in the available records or in the RNR medal roll. A stoker would not be trained in wireless telegraphy.

I suspect someone has been spinning yarns to the Shepton Mallet Journal.

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1 hour ago, horatio2 said:

A very odd, inaccurate report. Stoker 1st Class Albert Henry Dunford enlisted in the RN in 1903 and, before the war, was discharged and joined the Royal Fleet Reserve (RFR) (NOT the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR)). He was mobilised into the RN from the RFR on the outbreak of war and served in the East Mediterranean Squadron as a stoker, earning his DSM. As an RFR man he did not have the option of "volunteering" to be mobilised or otherwise or a choice of where he served. I can see no possible link to the "wireless telegraphy section" of the RNR . There is no RNR rating of that name in the available records or in the RNR medal roll. A stoker would not be trained in wireless telegraphy.

I suspect someone has been spinning yarns to the Shepton Mallet Journal.

 

       Not necessarily. Stokers became brighter in the years before the war- the ones I have as local casualties show that the more complex engines and demands of the dreadnoughts-and the heavier cruisers and newer destroyers as well meant that men capable of technical education were sought by Their Lordships. Also,given the rapid developments in radio technology, it is perfectly possible that he became trained in marine telegraphy after leaving the Grey Funnel Line.

    There is an outside chance his name might just be in Marconi records.

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It remains most unlikely that a fully-trained stoker would serve in the RFR as a telegraphist and then be recalled to the Fleet as a stoker without ever being formally transferred to the seaman/communications branch. He was not an RNR telegraphist, so I remain to be convinced by a counter-argument.

 

As an aside, in the WTS suffix to RNR offical numbers, 'W' indicates a warrant rank (as with skippers, WSA, WSB, etc) and "WT" = Warrant Telegraphist in this context, not Wireless Telegraphy Service.

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Hi Guest

Normally you help me so it's nice to be able to say -

 

I've only had one WTS amongst my 2,000 Dereham soldiers but on his record card it says Warrant Telegraphist Section (RNR) - don't know if that helps at all. Formerly to enlisting he worked in Edwards a electrical firm in town which were ironically the first to stock the new Marconi wireless.

 

It would have totally confussed me if the person writing the card had just put the initials, luckily for me - or unluckily depending on how you look at it, he doesn't have much of a record as on his card there was only his rank, name, ship & date  (the latter two being totally unreadable) and a photo - that's it - apart from the Dereham Roll of Honour listing him it was the local newspapers that gave me all his other details. Got a good story too.

 

thanks and take care, Kitty

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   Horatio2 and Kitty-  Oh dear, just when I thought it was about OK. Thanks for the information that it is "Warrant"   but I am still confused!!

    CWGC lists 34 casualties described as having the rank of "Wireless Telegraph Operator"-  Some are Mercantile Marine, one is Royal Engineers (?) .  All of those with service numbers  -a number and WTS- are in the Royal Naval Reserve. All the numbers are 3 figure- nothing below 100, nothing above 500.(Correction-bar one ,James Finlay, 47 WTS) The sequence is not overtly alphabetical. The earliest casualties are on full-blown RN ship- Aboukir and Hogue,while most of the rest seem to be on lesser ships (I know from another casualty, that Hogue,at least, was short manned in 1914-and in Signals).  

    And I am still stumped!!  It looks like there was intense activity at the beginning of the war to take over and control the Marconi Company- the use of wireless telegraphers in the merchant service was  was banned. Again, it looks like existing Marconi trained operators were taken into RNR pretty much immediately-  497WTS George Edward Turner went down with Hogue in 1914, so the designation of rank and the numbering sequence look pretty quick- and as he is 497, then it may presume that those of lower service number were serving in RNR at least by the time that Hogue went down in September 1914.

    I can find only one book on the subject- Fifty Years of Radio at Sea, which does not really add to the matter one way or the other.

   The only fresh information I can track is stuff on the Canadians- RNCVR- which says that the wireless operators were "taken over"  due to the confidential nature of their work in wartime. There is a bit about regulations and Establishment on Tinternet. But nothing I can find on RN

    At a guess, then,yes, "Warrant" - but I cannot track any instructions from Their Lordships on this -I suspect there must be some. My best guess is that existing Marconi certificated operators-and employees(?) were incorporated into RNR by some sort of Admiralty warrant of 1914, whose details elude me.

     My next trip to Kew will pull out the file from ADM 137,which seems to be the "Official History" background stuff  on all of this. I am mildly surprised  that there is no strong history of the Marconi Company in the war (well,that I can find,at least) which would have a fuller account of this conundrum-the more so as wireless history has quite a strong band of afficionados, and the Radio Officers Association seem a lively and interested group. 

    Horatio-thanks for the info.- With "my" local casualties, I like to tell the story of what happened to them,if such a story can be found- "my" casualty Reginald John Robins has a back-story that is wrapped up in all of this and I will endeavour to work it out. Hopefully. Kitty-You take care- and best wishes to Dereham

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1 hour ago, horatio2 said:

The warrant telegraphists RNR numbered 498 in total. (1.WTS to 498.WTS).

 

       Excellent news- now just me find the "warrant". Hope the "official history" back-up will assist. Would you perchance have a reference to a list of them???  I suspect alphabetical to a point-then all comers. Their Lordships do like a good reason for their ways of administration........ matched only by their Their Lordships' desire not to let anyone know what it is.

     H2-Thanks for the early start

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Records for 493 warrant telephonists available online with TNA in RNR records

 

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/results/r?_fn=&_ln=&_pl=&_q=wts&discoveryCustomSearch=true&_cr1=BT+164++&_cr2=BT+377++&_col=200&_hb=tna

 

Just use "WTS" for number

 

ernest james

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, ernest james said:

Records for 493 warrant telephonists available online with TNA in RNR records

 

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/results/r?_fn=&_ln=&_pl=&_q=wts&discoveryCustomSearch=true&_cr1=BT+164++&_cr2=BT+377++&_col=200&_hb=tna

 

Just use "WTS" for number

 

ernest james

 

 

 

 

    Thank you Ernest James- By chance, my man Reginald John Robins is third on the list at "Discovery"-I think I'll buy a lottery ticket as luck is with me.  That isolates the man - now for the admin. background of it all.  

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Hi Guest

A wild stab in the dark but have you tried places such as Bradford University - they used to have a collection of wireless and photographic equipment from year dot in the 1990's when one of my sons applied there - my hubby and I spent our time looking round it. Many times Universities have wonderful collections and all the information to go with it but they are often forgotten about with most people thinking everything can be found in the NA.

My warrant officer is named on the town's roll of honour as a wireless operator (& he's in the Mer. Navy) - so perhaps they were both?

I've got one other and he's listed as a Telephonist in the R.N.

 

Thanks and take care, Kitty

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HMS COLLINGWOOD is the RN School of Signals and I think they have an archive but blowed if I can remember contact details.

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Fareham - ten minutes up the road from where I'm sitting and my other half knows the museum curator. Can you pm me with *exactly* what you want to know as otherwise I'm likely to forget I'm supposed to be asking! 

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After a bit of in-depth research into the WTS men I have to revise the opinion given in my Posts #7 and #10 above.

While it remains true that many (most?) of the RNR men with WTS official numbers were (eventually) Warrant Telegraphists, all of these men were initially enrolled as rating Wireless Telegraphy Operators (WTOs), usually as WTO 2nd Class.

 

There was a huge enrolment of WTOs as soon as the war started. About 300 of the 500 WTS ratings were enrolled in August and September 1914. Most were advanced to WTO 1st Class in a matter of days or weeks and many were quickly promoted to warrant Telegraphist. A fair number were entered as WTO ratings but had their enrolment immediately cancelled on being awarded warrant rank on the same date. As a quick benchmark, the first seventy WTS enrolments saw 70% of their number promoted to Warrant Telegraphist, the rest serving all their time as WTO 2nd/1st Class.

 

I was incorrect to say that the 'W' in the WTS number refers to 'Warrant'. Unlike the RNR Warrant Skippers and Chief Skippers, who were always identified (e.g. in Navy Lists) by their WSA, WSB, WSC, WSE 'warrant' numbers, the Warrant Telegraphists were never identified in this way. They dropped their WTS number on promotion.

 

I have to conclude, therefore, that the WTS suffix must refer to the RNR Wireless Telegraphist [branch]. Pick your own rationale for the 'S' in WTS - very few RNR official number suffixes are acronyms for anything meaningful.

 

It is of interest that the first six WTS ratings were enrolled pre-war on 1 June 1914 and all came into the RNR from Midland Railway Steamers.

 

All this just shows that it is worth probing a bit deeper, when possible. "Never assume - check".

 

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I'm sticking to my Warrant Officer in the Merchant Marines though as I've got it downloaded written on his card with his photo and received official notice just this morning that I can use it in my book.

However, it's interesting to know about it as I've just come across two more WTS that aren't on the Dereham Roll of Honour but lived and worked in town.

So thanks for the information above horatio 2.

 

thanks and take care, Kitty

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RNR WTS ratings' record of service cards and WW1 Navy Lists.

 

On 28/03/2017 at 15:32, Kitty55 said:

My warrant officer is named on the town's roll of honour as a wireless operator (& he's in the Mer. Navy) - so perhaps they were both?

I've got one other and he's listed as a Telephonist in the R.N.

Telegraphists in the Mercantile Marine and Warrant Telegraphists/WTOs in the RNR were different animals serving in different services.

There were no "Telephonist" ratings in the RN. "Tel" on an RN record is "Telegraphist".

 

 

 

 

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I've got his record and a photo but it just says Wireless Officer above his photo on his details - so now you are confusing me.

 

Added to this now Ancestry wants me to pay to see his record whereas it was on there just a few months ago for free - are all internet sites now linking to the NA so nobody can get a medal card on any site online. Findmypast were the first to do it and now I've only got N&MA that is free for them.

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3 hours ago, horatio2 said:

RNR WTS ratings' record of service cards and WW1 Navy Lists.

 

Telegraphists in the Mercantile Marine and Warrant Telegraphists/WTOs in the RNR were different animals serving in different services.

There were no "Telephonist" ratings in the RN. "Tel" on an RN record is "Telegraphist".

 

 

 

 

 

Yes so that's their file names but which site? Or was it just from that dam place in London that I can’t get to!

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File names? No comprendo.

All the original RNR record of service cards are in the archive of the Fleet Air Arm Museum - not online. Rather poor, B&W, low-res scans of these can be downloaded from Kew. 

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On 3/30/2017 at 14:43, Kitty55 said:

I'm sticking to my Warrant Officer in the Merchant Marines though as I've got it downloaded written on his card with his photo and received official notice just this morning that I can use it in my book.

However, it's interesting to know about it as I've just come across two more WTS that aren't on the Dereham Roll of Honour but lived and worked in town.

So thanks for the information above horatio 2.

 

thanks and take care, Kitty

 

    It turns out that both are correct- I spent yesterday at the National Archives, Kew and got out the file ADM 1/8395/335, which is the Admiralty file on setting up a reserve of wireless operators in 1912, with bits up to 1915.

    The Admiralty wanted a reserve of some 60 wireless operators in times of war and negotiated a deal with the Marconi Company-  reasonably co-operative. The Admiralty suggested it wanted 120 operators on a reserve, as it gauged that half might be out of the immediate UK waters in time of war. Marconi suggested it could re-jig which operators served where and keep the "Reserve" operators in the North Atlantic or Home Waters.

     The sticking point was over status. Operators were classed as officers in the merchant service, use of the ward-room ("saloon" on merchant ships). The Admiralty  wanted the term "Wireless Telegraph Operator" as a new rank, equivalent to a junior ERA but below decks. They would be paid on the equivalents of CPO if called.(with an extra £10 per month on top-and any pay that Marconi gave them as well).They were to be members of the Royal Naval Reserve-the Admiralty were adamant that operators could not be  RNVR (Don't know why)The scheme was set up by Admiralty Order, printed up as RV 45 late in 1912.

     In the event, when war came, some of the Marconi operators refused to sign on to RNR because of the messing arrangements and the SNO Liverpool reported it was near impossible to assuage them- and asked permission to create Temp Sub Lt for the, which was refused. Instead, he was allowed to offer Warrant rank and pay as an inducement.

     Thus, WTO correctly stands for "Wireless Telegraph Operator" as a rank- but it also correct in the medal rolls that they are "warrant" officers. The Admiralty were very keen to get them and I suspect that all WTOs were made up to warrant rank- My man entered RNR in February 1916 as WO 2 He was made up to WO1 in July-not bad for a 19 year old.

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