A fascinating piece of Staffin’s wartime history with instructions on what to do in the event of an “enemy invasion” demonstrated the threat faced by the community and country during the Second World War .
The memo, labelled “Secret & Urgent”, was sent by a police chief to the Staffin Exchange – in May 1944 as the Second World War raged. At the time Britain was still a year away from the end of the war and the German surrender. Eight men are listed on the Staffin and Valtos war memorials having died during the bloody conflict.
In the directive, Traffic Superintendent W.D. Kay, based in Aberdeen, outlined a change to previous emergency measures to be taken in the event of enemy invasion, which has been circulated to Staffin two years earlier. The exchange was then based at Staffin House.
Addressed to “The Officer in Charge, Staffin Exchange, the revised directive stated:
Measures to be taken in the event of Enemy Invasion.
If due to enemy action instructions are given by the responsible Military Authority defending the area to abandon your exchange, or if it becomes clear that enemy seizure is inevitable, you (or the Officer-In-charge at the time) should immediately pass the warning to……Uig……… Exchange in the following terms: –
“ALARM…….(Name of your exchange) CLOSING DOWN.”
The measures advised the exchange officer to advise the police and military, abandon any calls in progress, advised the Officer-in-Charge of the local Telegraph office or the officer who deals with telegrams.
It also states: “Subscribers asking for calls to the abandoned exchange should be advised that there is no communication, without stating the reason.”
These arrangements are being made as a precautionary measure and although all members of the staff should be conversant with them, they should be regarded as secret and not disclosed to anyone else.”
There is also a handwritten addition at the foot of the page stating: “…you should not hesitate to pass forward an “alarm message” without waiting for verification, if the conditions at the time warrant this being done.”
The directive is reproduced in part below.
The Officer in Charge Secret & Urgent
……The Staffin Exchange…………
Measures to be taken in the event of Enemy Invasion
- In an instruction, INV.1 (a), dated 18 July, 1942, attention was drawn to the need for immobilising or removing certain items of exchange equipment, eh, dials, and headsets should it become necessary to abandon your exchange due to enemy invasion.
It has been decided, however, that in no circumstances whatver (sic) must exchange equipment be immobilised or removed at abandoned exchanges.
Circular INV.1(a) is therefore cancelled and your copy should be returned to this Office forewith. You should also ensure that any officer likely to be in charge of your exchange at any time is advised of the changed instruction.
- Instruction INV.1.
This instruction is still current but the following addition should be made.
At the end of paragraph 4 which commences “If the instruction….Police Authorities” add “but you should not hesitate to pass forward an “Alarm” message without waiting for verification if the conditions at the time warrant this being done.” W.D KAY
Copies of the directive, which was loaned to the Staffin Community Trust by a local woman who found them in her possession, were made and are featured on this page.