Herbert's Hidden Histories: the radio used by city war hero

By Steve Carpenter Wednesday 16 January 2013 Updated: 16/01 16:11

This is the first of a new regular feature which will take a closer look at some of the interesting artefacts held in the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum’s collection.

In 2011 the Herbert was presented with a radio that has a remarkable and little known story behind it.

It belonged to Arthur Noakes, who was a secret listener during the Second World War.

Secret listeners were amateur radio enthusiasts who were recruited by the government to listen to enemy radio messages. They passed the messages on to Bletchley Park where they were decoded. Bletchley Park's success in intercepting and decoding German messages played a key part in winning the war.

Arthur was one of a handful of secret listeners in Coventry. Before the war he was a keen amateur radio enthusiast and a member of the Coventry Amateur Radio Society.

Soon after war broke out two officials visited Arthur at home and asked him if he knew Morse code and wanted to help the war effort. Arthur said yes to both and was recruited to work for the government.

He was given this National Radio HRO set, made in the USA. The British government bought thousands of these high quality receivers during the war.

Throughout the war Arthur listened to enemy communications for two hours a day on evenings and weekends.

He believed the stations he listened to were in Belgium and Holland and that many of the messages were about German troop movements.

He had signed the Official Secrets Act and kept his work secret even from his family. It was not until many years later that they found out how he had spent the war.

*You can see the radio in our What's In Store gallery. Alternatively why not visit view artists impressions of conflict, peace and reconciliation at our new FREE exhibition Caught in the Conflict launching January 25th.

For all other events and exhibitions information visit theherbert.org

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