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Remembered Today:

Isle of May


Timothy

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I am researching the radio station on the Isle of May and its work in WW1.  My maternal grandfather was stationed there.  Has anyone any information they can share on this?

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Your relative (R.C. Alexander) was a leading telegraphist RNVR and was stationed on May Island from 17 July 1917 until 20 March 1919 (discharged shore on demob).

May Island would have played an important role in the defence of the approaches to Rosyth Naval Base and protection of anchorages in the Firth of Forth (reporting shipping movements). I wasn’t aware that there had been a wireless station on the island, as it would have been easier and more reliable to have simply laid a land line to the shore for purposes of communication, however the presence of an RNVR telegraphist certainly suggests otherwise.

Unfortunately there’s little source material available in relation to coastal wireless and intercept stations during WW1.

MB

 

Edited by KizmeRD
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6 hours ago, KizmeRD said:

Unfortunately there’s little source material available in relation to coastal wireless and intercept stations during WW1.

This interesting, in-depth study by English Heritage, does not cover the Scottish and Irish W/T stations of interest in this topic but many of the findings are probably applicable.

https://historicengland.org.uk/research/results/reports/7019/FirstWorldWarWirelessStationsinEngland

One fact of interest is that the coastal W/T stations were not all Coast Guard linked. Nor was HMS PRESIDENT IV solely the parentof men drafted to the Coast Guard. It was the London Accounting Base for the Admiral Commanding CG and Reserves. I do not think we can assume that Tel Alexander's drafts were to the CG.

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Yes, I read the English Heritage study with great interest, but unfortunately, as you say, it doesn’t shed light on anything happening north of the border. Whether the wireless station thought to be located on May Island was a ‘Y’ station (RDF), a coastal radio station, a reporting point for entry into the Firth of Forth, a coastguard station, or perhaps served some other function still remains to be discovered.

There were numerous naval wireless stations set up all along the east coast of England and Scotland for the purpose of intercepting German shortwave transmissions from U-boats and surface units operating out in the North Sea - so was May Island one of these?

It would be great to see if this thread can uncover more.

MB

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Hi both - the English Heritage research looks like a very informative document on the Y stations - thanks for sharing the link!  That’s the weekend sorted :D

There’s some great You Tube videos on the defence of the Forth of Firth in WW1 - I’ll be rewatching these over the weekend too.

 

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My father had a book called the Isle of May, W J Eggeling, 1960.

Both wars were covered in two lines of print but the end piece had a map. It doesn't identify the WT station but shows Navy buildings etc.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 06/10/2023 at 22:38, Talesofaseadog said:

Another source of possible interest for the WW1 Isle of May signal station. It does show the building location.

https://canmore.org.uk/site/292470/isle-of-may-port-war-signal-station

Tony

Following my own link, because there was reference to a book about the island, I have been in touch with the Kirkcaldy Civic Society, who published the book on the Isle of May.

This is the reply I have received, which explains all, I have removed any email references and would be happy to PM these to anyone.

Dear Tony Babb,

 
"Thank you for your email. This caused us not a little bit of research because no-one on the present Committee of Kirkcaldy Civic Society could remember this book being printed. We do not have a copy in our book store.
 
However I have traced the author and some details of the book. It was indeed published in 2004 under the auspices of Kirkcaldy Civic Society by our then Chair, Ann Watters, an indefatigable lady Councillor with wide interests in local history and a stalwart defender of local heritage. Ann died in 2013.
 
The text was written by Ron Morris, who is a knowledgeable author on the estuary of the River Forth, its history and its wildlife. He is Chair of the Fife Seal Group and the Forth Islands Heritage Group. (See www.fihg.co.uk)
 
Ron was interested to know for what purpose you wanted the book. From your internet profile you seem to share a number of common interests in naval history, the sea, photography and wildlife. He suggested that you contact him as you may have some information from your experience you could in turn add to his to benefit the spread of knowledge in your shared interest areas. His email address is removed by me.
 
As for the book about the May Island's wartime role, we cannot supply a book as it is now out of print but there may be a way for us to get a digital copy of the text for you with Ron's help, if that is of interest to you. I would suggest in that case that a donation of £15 or so would be appropriate, since the original book price was £5, worth almost £10 today, plus delivery costs (in time and effort, if not in physical wrapping and postage!) Ron, like Kirkcaldy Civic Society, does welcome funds for his voluntary efforts to defray expenses and keep the groups going.
 
Please let me know if you are interested in this possibility of a digital copy. Is it for your own personal interest, or are you researching some particular aspect of wartime naval defence?"
I have sent a reply thanking them for their efforts.
Tony
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Hello Tony

Thanks for your note.  I have separately been in touch with Ron, and am in the process of packaging up and sharing what I know of 1917-1919 RNVR activities on the Isle of May with him - a kind of information exchange!

best regards - Tim

 

 

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7 minutes ago, Timothy said:

Hello Tony

Thanks for your note.  I have separately been in touch with Ron, and am in the process of packaging up and sharing what I know of 1917-1919 RNVR activities on the Isle of May with him - a kind of information exchange!

best regards - Tim

 

 

Hi Tim

That is great news and thank you for letting me know.

Tony

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The lack of published material is exceedingly frustrating, but I suspect that there was a wartime wireless station established primarily for purposes of communicating with the large number of auxiliary patrol vessels which were then being fitted-out with WT sets. Surprisingly there’s a great deal more written about so called ‘Y’ Stations (Secret North Sea listening posts set up for purposes of interception of German wireless traffic and direction finding) and the fact that May Island is not listed as being one of these, leads me to suppose it must have served some other purpose. (Also, the naval base at nearby Rosysth already had its own WT station for transmission of wireless messages to/from Fleet warships).

MB

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