Scottish War Blinded member Marshall Rogers describes secret role during World War Two

Posted: 30/11/2016 | Scottish War Blinded

His contribution to the Allied war effort during World War Two remained a secret for over 60 years. Fighting a secret war against the Germans, Scottish War Blinded member Marshall Rogers served as a Special Army Wireless Operator intercepting German communications coordinating operations on land, sea and air. The intercepts were sent to Bletchley Park for decoding and led to the eventual cracking of the Enigma code which, as many historians agree, shortened the war by over two years and saved many lives.

Marshall (pictured to the right next to his father) was conscripted into the Army at the age of eighteen and reported to Fort George, Inverness in December 1942. It was there where his aptitude for listening and recording signals were recognised. However, as Marshalls says, a career in the Signals was something he wished to avoid.

“We participated in various aptitude tests during our time at Fort George where we were asked to assemble a lock, bicycle pumps, tasks like that. We were asked what we would like to do in the Army and I said anything, as long as it wasn’t signals. However, one day, I cooked my own goose.

“Thirty of us were shown into a classroom, equipped with single desks and chairs as well as a pad of paper, pencil and a set of headphones. There were two instructors on a stage, with a huge Gramophone and equally huge record, who said ‘When ordered, put on the headphones and do what is instructed’.

“Instructions included writing letters and figures down, as well as drawing a circle and putting a line through it. The speed of instructions increased and the volume decreased as the test progressed. At one point I glanced up and saw quite a few with their headphones off and their arms folded. Shortly after I was stopped as a result of being the only one left writing. A short time later, the postings went up and, sure enough, Rodgers RM, the Royal Corps of Signals.”

Marshall was assigned to a Signals unit in Queensbury where he learned about the routine of military life. Lectures from the Army Bureaux of Current Affairs were very much part of this routine and it was where Marshall was one afternoon when he was called to the Sergeant Major’s office right away.

Having reported to the office, Marshall was told that he was going to Fleetwood, the only wartime ferry crossing to the Isle of Man, and that he was to collect his orders, rail warrant, pack his gear and say goodbye to friends.

Marshall recalls:

“I arrived in Fleetwood and was met by a number of equally bewildered people who had been plucked from various Royal Signals units across the country. Very soon after arriving on the Isle of Man, we were called into the Company Office. We were told that we were to become Special Wireless Operators and that not all of us would make it through the process. Furthermore, we were not to talk about what we were doing here to our parents, wives, sweethearts, friends or anyone in the Royal Signals out with this unit. To make sure we didn’t, we were asked to sign the Official Secrets Act which meant that if we transgressed we would face a long term in prison or, in very serious cases, we could be shot.”

Signing the Official Secrets Act meant that Marshall was unable to talk about his role as a Special Wireless Operator for 60 years. His parents and late wife sadly passed away without knowing and it is only in recent years his three daughters and extended family have learned about his wartime experiences. In the second part of our interview with Marshall, we learn more about his experiences as a Special Wireless Operator.