MI8

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MI8, or Military Intelligence, Section 8, was the cover designation for the Radio Security Service (RSS), a department of the British Directorate of Military Intelligence, part of the War Office. It was a British signals intelligence group in World War II.

Contents

History

At the start of World War II, Vernon Kell, the head of MI5, introduced a contingency plan to deal with the problem of illicit radio transmissions. A new body was created, the Radio Security Service (RSS), headed by Major J.P.G. Worlledge, who until 1927 had commanded a Wireless Company in Palestine. Worlledge's brief was to "intercept, locate and close down illicit wireless stations operated either by enemy agents in Great Britain or by other persons not being licensed to do so under Defence Regulations, 1939". As a security precaution, the RSS was given the cover designation of MI8(c).

Worlledge selected Majors Sclater and Cole-Adams as his assistants and Walter Gill as his chief traffic analyst. The task of developing a comprehensive listening organization was given to Ralph Mansfield, 4th Baron Sandhurst, an enthusiastic amateur radio operator who had served with the Royal Engineers Signal Service during World War I, and had been commissioned as a Major in the Royal Corps of Signals in 1939.

Sandhurst was given an office in the Security Service's temporary accommodation in Wormwood Scrubs prison and as a first step approached the President of the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB), Arthur Watts, who had served as an analyst in Room 40 during World War I following the loss of a leg at Gallipoli. Watts recommended that Sandhurst recruit the entire RSGB Council, who in turn began to recruit their members as Voluntary Interceptors (VIs). Radio amateurs were considered ideal for such work because they were widely distributed across the United Kingdom.

The VIs were mostly working men of non-military age, working in their own time and using their own equipment (their transmitters had been impounded on the outbreak of war, but their receivers had not). They were ordered to ignore commercial and military traffic and to concentrate on more elusive transmissions. Each VI was given a minimum number of intercepts to make each month, which if reached gave them exemption from other duties, such as fire watching. Many VIs were issued with a special DR12 identity card, which allowed them to enter premises from which they suspected unauthorized signals were being transmitted.

RSS also established a series of Radio Direction Finding stations in the far corners of the British Isles in order to identify the locations of the transmissions they were intercepting.

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