National Service Catterick 1956 – Nostalgia

By 28th March 2009No Comments

Those after my generation may not apprciate the importance of radio Luxembourg, but back in the50’s it was our only source of popular music. It was,as the name suggests, based in Luxembourg and actually had commercial breaks!! This was 10 years before the BBC finally realised what it was that the listening public wanted. Being in Germany made reception more powerful than in the UK.


. The year is the summer of 1956 and the setting is First Training Regiment Royal Signals, Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire. As you might have well guessed by now, I was on my National Service, life in 1TR was extremely genteel, in fact it was like being back at school with the NCO’s as the Prefects and the Officers the Masters. After all, we were in training for one of the most technical trades in the entire British Army, that of Radio Mechanic. So all the staff of the regiment had an high educational standard and were, mostly without exception, National Service Personnel who had no great desire to be in the army either! In fact, I recollect that our Troop Sergeant had a first from Oxford.

Anyway, I digress. The Regiment had a club where personnel could enjoy radio as an hobby. I joined this and spent many happy off duty hours tinkering with electronic components. One evening it was suggested, by the Troop Sergeant I think, that perhaps I might care to something a little more practical and build a one valve set. To explain to all you members of the silicon chip generation, before the advent of transistors (which preceded chips) thermionic valves reigned supreme. These were, fortunately, second generation and around quarter the size of the older ones, so I was able to fit all the components and batteries into an Oxo tin. The set required two quite (by today’s standards) large batteries, one to power the radio and one for the valve heater so, despite being relatively small, the finished unit was quite heavy.

So after two or three evening’s work, the set was completed comprising, as I have already said, an Oxo tin with two knobs, a plug for the headphones and two screw terminals for the aerial connexion. The area in which the club was located was bristling with aerials of all sorts and for every conceivable frequency which were used for training purposes so I took the set and a pair of headphones outside and connected it to a medium wave aerial. To my utter delight Radio Luxembourg came through loud and clear, and the tune being broadcast? You guessed it – Why do fools fall in love? by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers! So whenever I hear that song I am reminded of that warm summer’s evening over 50 years ago. Incidentally, it may be of interest to note that Radio Luxembourg was the only station the set could receive, I guess I hadn’t bothered too much with it’s selectivity!

Henry Dallimore

Author Henry Dallimore

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