The Wireless-Set-No19 Group

 

For the open exchange of information and opinions about collecting, restoring, maintaining, and operating the Wireless Set No. 19 and other HF radios used by the Allied forces during and after World War II. For organising operating events with the broadest possible participation. ALL collectors of vintage military communications equipment are most welcome.

 

PHONETIC ALPHABETS IN THE BRITISH SERVICE

During the latter years of the Nineteenth Century the British Army and the Royal Navy began to explore the potential of the newly invented telephone and wireless. The former was employed in the South African War of 1899-1902 and even the Army's first trial wireless set was used there on an experimental basis.

The frequent distortions of sounds encountered with both mediums led to the development of signalling procedures in which words were spelt out to increase the accuracy of reception. It soon became evident that more than a straight alphabet was required when letters such as B, C and V could easily become confused. The Army's experience in South Africa was reflected in the Signalling Regulations of 1904 which introduced the first phonetic equivalents (ch 13, p 187). The 7 words which represented A, B, M, P, S, T and V were regulated and this was repeated in part II of the 1914 Training Manual Signalling. These 7 words formed the basis for the Army's system that was in use between 1914 and 1918.

As the signal service grew so "singnalese", as it was known, became an accepted form of communication in the Army; The Machine Gun Corps, for instance, was known universally as the EMMA GEES. The number of regulated phonetic equivalents was increased and 6 more words were added. These are noted below as they were given in the War Office's "Signal Training, Part IV, Procedure", September 1918. This manual indicated that the remaining 13 letters were used unaltered, ie Gee for G, but that the R had to be rolling and the O was to be sounded long as in foal.

In parallel with the Army, the Royal Navy created its own phonetic alphabet and the version used during the Great War is given below. It is interesting to observe that only one letter I, had a phonetic equivalent that was common to both the Army and Royal Navy. The newly created Royal Air Force used the Army's system which it simply continued to employ when it ceased to be the Royal Flying Corps.

It was obvious that there would be great advantage in a single system and in 1921 agreement was reached between the War Office, Admiralty and the Air Ministry for an interservice alphabet and this was detailed in Army Order 91 of February 1921. The new alphabet was mainly taken from the complete range of 26 naval terms but into the sequence were incorporated some of the well known and frequently used army terms. This alphabet included Yellow for Y but this was changed to Yorker, in June 1921 Army Order 274. The resulting alphabet was essentially that which was used during the Second World War and it is given below.

After the Second World War and the formation of NATO the phonetic alphabet was changed again, this time in the interests of Anglo-American co-operation. This was specified in the 1952 Signal Training pamphlet 7 and appears below. The growth of NATO in the late 1940s and early 1950s led to the realisation that a phonetic alphabet for use by English speakers was not particularly helpful in some other languages and accordingly a NATO standard was devised. This was first detailed in the 1955 edition of the Signal Training pamphlet 7 and continues in use today, having become a standard form of communication throughout Western Europe and America with only minor modification. Nectar for N became November in 1961.

At different times and in unusual circumstances other alphabets are known to have been used. One unorthodox alphabet used terms such as A for 'orses', F for vescence, and T for two etc. to disguise communications between POWs in a German Camp during the Second World War and numerous other local variations on the main sequences must have existed.


1904
ARMY,1914-18
ARMY,1918
NAVY,1921
1938-1942
1943
INTERSERVICE 1952
1955 NATO
A
Ack
Apples
Ack
Ac
Ac
Able
Able
Alfa
B
Beer
Butter
Beer
Beer
Beer
Baker
Baker
Bravo
C
Cork
Charlie
Cork
Charlie
Charlie
Charlie
Charlie
Charlie
D
Don
Duff
Don
Don
Don
Dog
Dog
Delta
E
Eddy
Edward
Eddy
Edward
Edward
Easy
Easy
Echo
F
Freddy
Freddie
Freddy
Fox
Freddie
Fox
Fox
Foxtrot
G
George
George
George
George
George
George
George
Golf
H
Harry
Harry
Harry
How
Harry
How
How
Hotel
I
Ink
Ink
Ink
Ink
Ink
Item
Item
India
J
Jug
Johnnie
Jug
Johnnie
Johnnie
Jig
Jig
Juliett
K
King
King
King
King
King
King
King
Kilo
L
London
London
London
Love
London
Love
Love
Lima
M
Emma
Monkey
Emma
Monkey
Monkey
Mike
Mike
Mike
N
Nuts
Nuts
Nuts
Nan
Nuts
Nan
Nectar
November
O
Orange
Orange
Orange
Orange
Orange
Oboe
Oboe
Oscar
P
Pip
Pudding
Pip
Pip
Pip
Peter
Peter
Papa
Q
Quad
Queenie
Quad
Queen
Queen
Queen
Queen
Quebec
R
Robert
Robert
Robert
Robert
Robert
Roger
Roger
Romeo
S
Esses
Sugar
Esses
Sugar
Sugar
Sugar
Sugar
Sierra
T
Toc
Tommy
Toc
Toc
Toc
Tare
Tare
Tango
U
Uncle
Uncle
Uncle
Uncle
Uncle
Uncle
Uncle
Uniform
V
Vic
Vic
Vic
Vic
Vic
Victor
Victor
Victor
W
William
William
William
William
William
William
William
Whisky
X
Xerxes
X-Ray
Xerxes
X-Ray
X-Ray
X-Ray
X-Ray
X-Ray
Y
Yellow
Yorker
Yellow
Yoke
Yorker
Yoke
Yoke
Yankee
Z
Zebra
Zebra
Zebra
Zebra
Zebra
Zebra
Zebra
Zulu

 

Reference
1938 (hardcover "Signal Training (All Arms))
1942 (8th July 1942) Pamphletted version: Pamphlet 1 - Signalling Codes
1943 (30th January 1943) - amendment No.1 (changes to Phonetic Alphabet and delete Pamphlet 7 from the index (Inter-service Visual Signalling)
1952 (16th January 1952) - Supersedes 1942 edition WO Code 7210 - no changes to Phonetic Alphabet, but a lot on training added. (This is W.O.Code 8721)

Compiled with information supplied by;

Mike Buckley

Chris Suslowicz

Click here to go back