HMS Anderson Signals Intelligence station in Ceylon
Image by Kalense Kid
The Far Eastern Combined Bureau (FECB) was responsible for collecting naval intelligence in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. Since it had few if any agents in place, in practice this intelligence gathering was limited to radio direction finding and an attempt to decrypt signals.
On 5 January 1942 the Naval Section of the FECB was evacuated from Singapore, with the loss of much equipment, including a Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Type B Cipher Machine, and all of its documentation. The FECB effectively dissolved from that moment, and the loss of the documents has helped to wipe its few achievements from memory.
In January 1943 about half the former FECB naval staff reassembled at its new headquarters in the Anderson Golf Club house, just outside Colombo, and took the name HMS Anderson. They were joined by a group of fledgling cryptanalysts fresh from training in Bletchly Park, among whom was my father. The other half of the FECB staff was established in the Alidina school in Kilindini outside Mombasa, becoming HMS Alindina.
In the autumn of that year the Hut 7 team in Bletchley Park was given more time on the Block C Hollerith equipment to work on Japanese navy material.
In September the cryptanalysis based at Kilindini were moved to HMS Anderson, where they were joined by more cryptographers from the UK and by WRNS responsible for radio direction finding. The WRNS had been instructed to tell anyone who asked what they were doing that they were engaged in the radio detection of blood-stains.
My father served as a cryptanalysist at HMS Anderson from the time it opened to the time he and the other cryptanalysists were evacuated back to Kilindini in Kenya. It was in Celon that he met both my mother-to-be – one of the WRNS stationed at HMS Anderson – and Charles Bawden, an interpreter who later became my uncle, marrying my mother’s sister Jean.
This is not my photo. I don’t know where it comes from originally.