Harry Spencer, 'Spenny', was very interested in radio at a young age. He learnt to read morse code by listening to transmissions from coastal ships travelling around America. It later transpired that these used an earlier version of the morse code, and to take the examinations required to become a radio ham, he needed to become proficient in the new version.
A few years before the war, he was working on television systems at EMI - including assisting with outside broadcasts of major events. Unexpectedly, two officials called on him and started asking questions about his radio transmissions. He thought he must have been doing something illegal. They were particularly interested in his ability to mimic the individual morse transmission styles of other operators. It turned out that they were from MI5 and were wanting him to learn to impersonate German spies should they require to supply false intelligence. He agreed, and in effect became a member of MI5.
After working in Industry on television, in 1939 he joined
the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough and worked on VHF radio.
In May 1940 joined the radar countermeasures team at Worth Matravers. He was given the job of tracing German navigational beam signals and spent many weeks up a tower at Ottercops Moss freezing in a little garden hut using a Hallicrafters radio receiver.
He then worked at Leeson House on aerials for H2S. He and Brian Callick showed remarkable skill and initiative in constructing complex equipments when castings could not be obtained.
He continued his contact with MI5 and was involved in uncovering a German spy operating within TRE. Someone noticed that a particular radio transmitter had been retuned overnight to a different frequency on more than one occasion. The spy had been using the transmitter to send signals to Germany, and he and his mother were arrested.
He returned to the electronics Industry after the war,
and retired in Purbeck.
His radio call sign was: G6NA
Edited from a letter by Roy Fursey G3FSO -
Some members of TRE who retired in Purbeck decided to show
their appreciation for the hospitality they received from
the local inhabitants during the war by funding an
increase in the bells of the local church at Worth
Matravers from 3 to 6. Harry paid for one of them
and it has G6NA included in the casting so Spenny will
continue to be heard regularly, at least locally, from
this omni-directional VLF transmission site.
Harry died in April 2004, and made a bequest to the
Purbeck Radar Museum Trust. This has greatly helped
the Trust to fund the refurbishment of the
radar exhibition, develop this website and prepare additional
publications including a brochure
and booklet Secret
War in Purbeck.
Harry Spencer 'Spenny' - callsign: G6NA
1 July 1914 - 15 April 2004