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Eastcote MOD from eastcote road

From the spring of 1948 until May 1952, I served as a Sgt in a small Military unit within GCHQ Lime Grove, Eastcote. To-day there are very few of us around that can recall those busy times. We try and meet once year and share memories of those days and recall the many friendly people of Eastcote.

Very recently a long lost photo of taken in 1950 has come to light. It's of two Girls in their early twenties who carried out clerical work there. The passing years mean their names have faded from our memories. They lived in the Eastcote - Ruislip area so we are wondering if anyone can recognise them and recall their names. They too would now be in their seventies.

Any help would be much appreciated, you can e-mail me,

Russ Barnes.


I attended the USAF school at Eastcote 1954-1955.  My father was a USAF officer stationed at High Wycombe, while we resided in Pembroke Road in Ruislip.  I remember a large field across from the main Eastcote entrance, where American dependent students played sports, and the school hosted athletic contests. (It has been suggested that actually this was King College Playing Fields, a short walk from the school - ROL)

One afternoon after school, I explored unoccupied buildings on the site:  row upon row of long-halled buildings, empty of furnishings, quiet, solemn.  I wondered what had occurred there, what forces caused their birth.  As I left the way I came, and looked back one more time, their history beckoned even more, and I felt that I was leaving a place of importance.  Today, fifty years later, I still wonder about that place.  To learn of its history from the Norman Conquest, these are enchanting memories indeed.
RB



I remember as a small boy (probably when I was at Coteford, so 1966 - 70 ish) the place was a school for American children.  My mother worked in the canteen providing school lunches and we (my brother and 3 sisters) were allowed to stay in a room during school holidays whilst my Mum worked.  We were allowed in the playground only when adjacent classrooms weren't being used. 

Later in life, the place became a base for USMC personnel who were deployed to guard the US Embassy in London.  They used to drink at the Manor House in Eastcote and it was there that John Harrison, Jon Andrews and myself met them.  There may have been others but my memory isn't that good.  Time went by and we were invited into the base where they had a very good bar, cheap! which sold cigarettes at about a 10th of UK prices and we spent many a night in drinking games.  Jon Andrews taught them rugby (after telling them that US football was for 'girls' wearing all that armour etc.) which they loved and they later formed a team which took on the Met Police, etc.  I still reckon that Jon was the person responsible for introducing the Yanks to rugby - he now lives over there (as does one of his sisters) and until recently was still a ref.... 
Happy days...NN

I can remember as a boy growing up in Eastcote bits and pieces about the Gov Buildings.
We lived the other side of Field End Road so we could only go with an adult to Warrender Park.

I remember always seeing a guard on duty at the entrance ( I assumed he was American because of his uniform – we also had several US Service people living near us so I did not consider a US guard unusual.) 

Now several years on I’ve discovered my late Uncle worked for the GPO there – but alas I don’t know what he did there.
I’d really like to know from a family history point of view.

NR

I worked here as a Civil Servant - my first full-time job when I left Bishop Ramsey/Manor Secondary Modern School in 1977.  I would have stayed for the full term of the 6th form but the transition from Manor to BS C of E School along with the merger with St Martins from West Drayton meant that we were not the Education Authority's priority. 

It wasn't just the MoD there - I worked as a typist for the Departments of Industry, Trade, Prices and Consumer Protection (Price Commission) in Spur 6, one of the several huts that were joined together by a gloomy corridor.  The Americans appeared to have the part closest to Eastcote Road and the Property Services Agency (PSA) were also there.  I used to walk there from my home in Ruislip Manor and at lunchtimes we would walk down the pathway via The Sigers to Eastcote, to get something to eat in the Co-op or Budgens, once a week the Wimpy Bar and occasionally to The Manor House pub.   

Today (Sept 2007) I walked my dog from Highgrove Pool carpark to have a look at Highgrove House which is a sorry sight, being all boarded-up.  The Council never cease to disappoint me with their treatment of our history. I also walked up the path alongside the house to Kent Gardens, a few of the really old huts are still there at the perimeter of the MoD site, but the remainder has been flattened.  It was never a particularly attractive property but I will miss it. Always get a sad feeling when something familiar goes!

 Rhonda

I read the article about the history of what I knew as the MOD complex at Eastcote with interest. I worked there from 1986 until 1993 as a US civil servant for an organization called the Department of Defense Dependents Schools - Atlantic Region. I was in charge of staffing and benefits for American schools on military bases in Bermuda, Cuba, Newfoundland (Canada), Scotland, England, Norway, The Netherlands and Belgium. I have never enjoyed myself as much as I did when my family and I lived and worked in England!

Each year we would take a British person and read about their lives and then go to visit as many places connected to that person. We studied Mary, Queen of Scots, Winston Churchill, Thomas Hardy, the Brontes, Henry the VIIIth, Anne Boleyn and others. We lived in Chalfont St. Giles in a house built in in the same year that Mary Queen of Scots was executed. There was not a right angle in it anywhere. I loved that house. It had an Aga and exposed beams and an inglenook fireplace. As a matter of fact, the house had three fireplaces. When I had to leave that house, I hugged its big old half-timbered walls. We lived there when there was the big "hurricane." It toppled an ancient apple tree in the back garden. In spite of being half uprooted, apples grew on the big old tree the following summer.

One day, the Queen was to visit Chalfont St. Giles. The village had the road she was to take freshly surfaced and all of the people came out to waive small Union Jacks and cheer for the Queen. Our son was at home for the summer and we had a lovely neighbor, Clarice. She and our son went out to see the Queen with all of the other people who lined her route. He tells me that she was wearing a very pretty lemony colored suit. After she had passed by, all of the people looked at each other and shrugged and said, "Well, that's that."

Back to Eastcote. The building in which I worked had a main hallway and there were smaller hallways branching off from it called "Spurs." For the first time in my working life I had my own office, one with walls and a door. I worked with an elderly British lady, Dora Onions (who died, unfortunately) and an American girl, Laurie Techmeier who now works for the Air Force in procurement. We worked for a lovely man, Jim Singleton, who has retired  and lives in New Mexico. The glass in the windows of our offices was very streaky and had bubbles in it so I was surprised to hear that the buildings were much "younger" than I thought. When we moved to England, we stayed at the Tudor Lodge and I used to walk to work down the footpath shown in the pictures. It was rather spooky so I was very glad when we found the house (Old Beams) in Chalfont St. Giles.

Just thought that I would drop you a line about the old GCHQ buildings in Eastcote. I remember them well, my dad worked there for a number of years from the late 60’s to the late 70’s.

Block 2 was the main section with one long corridor with twelve spurs branching of to various sections; I won’t go into detail about them. Block 4 was occupied by a contingent of the American Navy at the time. 1and 3 were still MOD.

Access to block 2 was through a large metal green gate which was the side door next to two large wire gates for vehicle access. There was a security lodge just inside the gate on the right as you went in. It was a wonderful place out of the way and quiet, in the early days it was the CESG (communications electronic security group) and the JSRU (Joint speech research unit) all now GCHQ, MOD, Echelon or whatever you want to call them these days. There are not too many staff left that used to work there still in Eastcote. Many have now died or are no longer in the area. It is sad to think that the people and what was the place are fading slowly the buildings are now gone. I will always have fond memories of the area. I still talk to my dad about his days with GCHQ at Lime Grove he remembers them well.
 
I was stationed (USN) at Eastcote from 1981 until 1986 with Human Resource Management Center (HRMC Code 016) London as part of (CINCUSNAVEUR London UK). There were other USN commands there including Military Sealift Command, Navy Investigative Service, COMNAVACTS London Security Dept., US Civil Service Personnel detachment, NavCommUnit London Detachment, amongst others.

During the '80s when protesters were picketing all the bases in the UK, Eastcote was overlooked as it didn't resemble a military base so that was a benefit. The only problem was that a few local civilian drivers used the base as a shortcut, resulting in gates being erected and closed during week-days with a secure walk through gate for pedestrians, and MOD police as security.

HRMC was decommissioned when the CINC moved to Naples Italy in 1986.

The US Navy Resale Office took over our block (9) Wing 2 (I believe) when we left. It became part of the Marine Barracks when the US Marines (FMFEUR) took over the spaces after they moved out of St John's Wood London.
I didn't realize the connection Eascote had with Bletchley Park (of Enigma German decoding fame) until I toured there, saw the identical buildings and also a poem "Oh to be at Eastcote" there about the rotating of personnel between both places.

I never thought I'd see the day that Eastcote and RAF West Ruislip would be demolished however. Very sad indeed, as they played an important part of the local history of WWII. I am thankful I had the opportunity to be a part of RAF Eastcote during my Navy career.

ADCS Bill Thompson USN (Ret)
My family lived in London, Twickenham from 1963 to 1965 and Stanmore from 1965 to 1967, as my father worked for the USN Facilities Engineering Command at 7 N. Audley St near the US Embassy in London. We children, myself and two younger brothers, were picked up by chartered tour buses, along with other American dependant children from all over Greater London, every school day and driven to Eastcote School. My impression was that it was operated by the USAF as were most of the facilities (PX, Commissary, Movie Theater and Medical Facilities) for American military families. I went to Eastcote for grades 3 through 8 and remember recesses playing between and behind the buildings serving as our classrooms in the area closest to Eastcote Road.

Our buses would enter through the Lime Grove entrance and wind their way through the facility, drop us off for the school day and then exit to Eastcote Road. At the end of classes the buses (around eight of them, most in a crème and burgundy paint scheme as I recall) would be lined up waiting to take us home.

I had no idea what went on concurrently in the rest of the facility or the history behind it. That the USAF had a veterinary clinic, dental clinic, mental clinic and a morgue nearby was news to me as was the original purpose as a hospital. Using Google Earth to "revisit" places of my childhood I was pleased to find Eastcote School on the satellite view but was dismayed when going to the "Street view" to see my old school had been demolished. Further research led me to the amazing discovery that Eastcote had been an adjunct to the Bletchley Park code breaking unit and had a quite interesting history. I am saddened it will not be there for me to visit should I ever get the chance to return to England but then the house at 23 Cliffden Rd Twickenham and  the USAF facilities at South Ruislip are gone as well.

Progress marches on and at least, so far, our old house at 1 Kerry Ave in Stanmore still stands for me to pilgrimage to.

David Hamilton

I lived in London from 1954-57.  My family actually lived in Belgravia, in a mews immediately adjacent to Eaton Place.  My father, who was a Captain in the US Army, was assigned to the Rootes Group as part of a NATO project to rebuild the trucks left after the war by the American forces. 

My sister and I attended the American School in London (ASL) on Grosvenor Square in 1954, and 1955.  But in early 1956, for financial reasons, we had to leave ASL, and attend US military schools.  We were enrolled at Eastcote, which we began to attend in the spring of 1956.  We rode the underground daily from Knightsbridge to Ruislip, and then took a bus the rest of the way to the school.  The school was quite non descript, and quite modest compared to attending school in a large and lovely old home in downtown London.  The classes were pleasant, and the children were very American.  I can remember attending a party or two where we played spin the bottle and listened to beginnings of rock and roll.  I recall coming to school on a Monday to learn that one of the children had died over the weekend from some sort of a very deadly virus.  That was very traumatic to me as a child.  The school lacked the sort of grief counseling and support that we now offer when tragedies strike. 

Again, for unrecalled reasons, by the fall of 1956 we were transferred to Bushey Park, which seemed to be closer to downtown London, was much larger, and which we reached by private coach each day. 

I have returned to England on several occasions since my childhood, and almost always go by my old house in the mews in Belgravia, but have never seen Eastcote again.  It seems so very long ago, and very far away.
 
Geoff Rothman
Having just discovered the recollections of GCHQ at Eastcote, published by the Ruislip historians, I am pleased to add my own memories of working there, all happy ones. In particular, as an amorous 20 year old, I had admired from a distance one of the Wrens, the curly haired brunette Jean Mellor.

I was an Assistant Experimental Officer in what was then the Royal Naval Scientific Service, and in 1952, having just completed my two years National Service in the RAF, was happy to get this posting in the London area. Thanks to my mother’s efforts I had secured lodging with the amiable Mrs Beeston (well known locally as Mrs Bee) at 67 Boldmere Road. It was a long walk from there down Lime Grove to the site, but that never seemed a problem.

On my first day I was deeply impressed by the long security briefing, convincing me I could end up in the Tower of London if I ever breathed a word about the work I would be doing. My assignment was what I think was X Group, helping to maintain the Colossus computers, with a team of former Post Office engineers, all of us administered by the Foreign Office. My main job was to tweak the photo-electric cells reading the light flashes from the punched paper tape whizzing past them. The Wren operators were all charming ladies, but being somewhat older, were rather out of my league.

After a relatively short time I was transferred to the Joint Speech Research Unit (JSRU), overseen by Dr John Swaffield, a distinguished Post Office engineer, famed for his Vocoder device for better utilisation of the submarine cables which preceded satellite communication. The team was efficiently looked after by a Miss Draper, who I recall was the leader of a local choir. I believe we remained quartered in the same block as the Colossi, with continuing views of their operations, including sight of some of the codebreakers, known for their absent mindedness. One whose name has stuck in my mind was Geoffrey Tims, sometimes seen with shaving foam still on his face. An interesting phenomenon was the massed exodus of the many female punched card operators at the end of each day, already balancing on their bikes in the side blocks, waiting for the clock to strike. Their job was an unrewarding one, so no wonder they were anxious to leave promptly.

My work was mainly in the Post Office Research Station on top of Dollis Hill, to which I travelled on my motorbike. After two years I completed my project there, an analysis tool, and returned to Eastcote, to use it in a research programme. But at the very point, in 1954, I was delighted to receive a Treasury Bursary for full time education, that would come as a huge relief from the part time studies I had been pursuing through day release and night school.

After university I was given the opportunity of returning to GCHQ, by then re-housed in Cheltenham. It was a long way from London, but more importantly, any work done there would remain secret, never to be revealed to the world. Consequently I took a preferred posting to Admiralty Research Laboratory Teddington, where underwater technology consumed me for the rest of my career. Whilst there, many years later, I made the astonishing discovery that a Maths Group colleague, Beryl Kitz, had also worked in X-Group at the same time as me, without our ever meeting. To my surprise she remembered the girl of my dreams, and that she was nicknamed Topsy. Beryl is still with us, moreover living within a few miles, and together we must be some of the few remaining who worked in that secret world in Eastcote. I really must draw her attention to the work done by the excellent Ruislip, Northwood and Eastcote Local History Society. If I can extract any more information from her that will be of interest, I will certainly report it.

JS



I worked for DoDDS-A from 1980-1983. It was my first job after leaving high school at LCHS High Wycombe.

I remember catching the train from Little Chalfont where I lived to Watford Station then catching the train to Eastcote Station and taking the long hike down Lime Grove to work everyday to be there by 7:30am.

My boss was Mr. Willis and when he retired Charlie Jackman. I worked in supply and then admin. I remember they had marines at the end of the hall FMF Europe I believe that had a huge vaulted door. In another building was the cafeteria where DoD, marines & navy (a branch of Naval Intelligence was stationed there where I would go to pick up messages) would congregate.

There was a lot of testosterone going on back then. I remember on my 21st birthday the guys in the office taking me down to the Black Horse Pub to celebrate. The buildings were always cold in winter and hot in summer. The marines (marine barracks London) would polish the old concrete floors until they were like glass, a disaster I found out one time if wearing heels.

They were fun days I will remember forever..

GS

My late mother worked at Eastcote in the early 50’s and I recall her telling me that she worked in a room doing something with punched cards which she fed into a “machine” (Hollerith machines). She also took in paying guests to make ends meet; young ladies who used to arrive with American communication receivers and who could speak Russian. They allowed me to tune around the short wave bands. This was all very exciting as I was interested in all things radio since the science teacher at my school had taught us how to build crystal sets.

When I was old enough to leave school, mum told me that she had arranged a job interview for me at her workplace. I came home that day after having signed the Official Secrets Act and being told that I would be starting work as an “Assistant Scientific”. The department where I would be working was run by a Dr. Swaffield.

I clearly remember the enclosed courtyard with the guardhouse and being instructed to “Go through the door and ONLY TURN LEFT” to my workplace. I was engaged in building and testing various pieces of electronic devices. I had no idea then of what I was part of. I learned a lot about metalwork, electronics, etc. This knowledge became the foundation of my lifetimes work and interest in amateur radio which eventually led me to a new life in New Zealand where I am now happily retired.
PD


I am a published local author and have in preparation a further book "Eastcote House and Gardens: The People and there Place". The book is written on behalf of The Friends of Eastcote House Gardens and should appear in the Spring.

I have just started to collect material, including local memories, about the old Lime Grove site where I worked in the 1980s. I am content for my own memories to be added to your pages about Lime Grove. Regards Andy P Weller.

I was based at Lime Grove between 1982 and 1984. In 1982 the decision had been taken to relocate the Department of Trade and Industry’s Export Intelligence Service (EIS) from its location in Export House situated in Ludgate Hill. I was working in Great Smith Street in Westminster at the time in a job that I disliked intensely. I relished the prospect of moving to a new job close to where I lived (Northolt). There were obvious cost advantages for moving civil servants out of central London to the under utilised facilities at Lime Grove. The DTI’s mainframe computer was located at Eastcote, as were the data processors that input data that would be processed by the mainframe and subsequently posted out to EIS subscribers. Each EIS subscriber would have a profile drawn up that determined what information on what products or services and in which part of the world they were interested in receiving information about.

I found the Eastcote site quaint and charming. There were spurs or bays running off from the main corridors and everything was on ground floor level. When the weather was fine you could open one of the old metal (crittall) windows and sometimes hear the birds singing. I think that it was the Messengers that delivered and collected mail that were mainly responsible but I do seem to recall that some of the ground outside had been put to use as an allotment.

New carpets had been laid in the areas of the site being brought back into use and no doubt the place was given a lick of paint. Facilities were though very limited. What was termed, as the kitchen comprised a few tables and chairs where people could eat their packed lunches, a sink and, following a request from staff, a microwave oven to heat their own food. If the weather was bad and you did not have a packed lunch then you had two choices. Walk into Eastcote or go without.

Just down the corridor from where Rhonda used to work as a typist in Spur 6 there was a small medical room with a bed. I was a First Aider at that time and on a number of occasions younger members of staff would come to me saying that they were feeling unwell and could they have a lie down. I sometimes arrived at the conclusion that their feeling unwell was really a consequence of over indulgence and too little sleep, particularly when they were known to enjoy a good time.

Although I appreciated working at Eastcote and the friendly atmosphere the type of work I was involved in was not very stimulating. With an influx of new staff following EIS relocation there was a case for the two main Civil Service trades unions to establish their own branches at Eastcote, rather than staff members being represented by a central London branch. I became the Branch Secretary for the then Society of Civil and Public Servants that represented the so-called “Executive and Principal” Grades. I was also a Health and Safety Representative and during Health and Safety inspections I had access to parts of the site no longer in use or just used for storage. One of the Spurs leading off of Block 3 must have been fitted out as a mortuary as there was still in place a mortician’s table.

If I remember rightly, one of the spurs on the same side of the Block that contained the spur with the mortician’s table the area had been cleared and a snooker table had been installed and was used at lunchtimes and after work.

Then there was the story of the ghost. The ghost evidently appeared in the form of an American WWII pilot along the corridor serving the spur containing the mortician’s table.

On the left hand side as you came through the site entrance in Lime Grove there was the old Assembly Hall. I did manage to see inside on one occasion. There was a stage and it seemed such a shame that this facility had fallen out of use. However, just before I left Lime Grove in 1984 to return on promotion to a posting in London plans were afoot to renovate the place and bring it back into use.

I never ventured down to the American side of the site. However, I do recall that at the very bottom of the site by Eastcote Road that there was a school there for American kids.

Andy Weller

   

Floyd "Tres" Longwell

Eastcote MOD American School


That's me in the centre, wearing a cowboy shirt and holding a book.

Does anyone remember me? I wonder if the girl on the left is Roxanne, my first "girlfriend."

I attended 1st and 2nd grade there.

My dad, Floyd "Sonny" Longwell was flight instructor at Ruislip. I think my teacher in 2nd grade was Mrs. Spencer?

 I remember very little. Learned to count with black dots. They haunted me for years.
Floyd "Tres" Longwell
TresLongwell@Gmail.com 


More Reading about the Eastcote MOD site

You can see pictures of the site and of it being cleared for housing here.

You can read all about the site from an article written for an internal MOD Magazine (Cleared for publication!) here.

You can buy a book all about the site here

You can read memories of working at the site for former staff here.

Read all about this site and its connections with WWII and the Enigma Machine here