This topic describes the second incarnation of the HANDEL Nuclear Attack Warning equipment known as Wire Broadcast System WB1400. It replaced both the Verbal Warning WB400 and Siren Control WB600, in areas with a flood warning system it also replaced the WB601.
This first of two parts of this topic describes the broadcast of attack messages to the Carrier Control Points and the distribution to through the BT network of exchanges to the final exchange that feeds the customers receivers. Part two, covers the distribution to customers and customers speech and siren receivers.
National Attack Warning Centre
ADOC Control Unit
The main source of the National Nuclear Attack Warning would be Air Defence Operations Centre ( ADOC ) at Strike Command in RAF High Wycombe with a back up at the Preston U.K.W.M.O. Sector Headquarters, located at Langley Lane, Goosnargh, Lancs. This table mounted unit would be used to issue the message to the 250 Carrier Control Points (CCP).
The operator would turn the safety interlock key switch.
Press the large Red operate switch.
The speaking clock would be removed from all the national distribution rings.
A one second burst of two simultaneous tones of 1200Hz and 1440Hz known as P+Q tones would be sent to sound the incoming message alarm in the CCP.
When the "Speak Now" light illuminated the operator would announce the message into the dual microphones. This would be conveyed to the injection exchange for distribution on all four of the speaking clock rings.
Testing of HANDEL from the ADOC
In the BT film made for the introduction of WB1400, a routine test is made of the ADOC control equipment where the voice says 'Leeds' testing. This puzzled me as I was unaware of any sites other than High Wycombe and Preston. This mystery was solved in an email I received from a visitor to this website, reproduced below. It appears that Leeds and also Plymouth were code words for the real locations at Preston and High Wycombe
. . . . . I moved to Preston and was given a maintenance group which covered the Telex exchange, teleprinter workshop, Datel and UKWMO at Longley Lane. Here was the top secret 'Schweppes' equipment, a name dreamed up by the Headquarters group who had designed it.
My role as supervisor was to meet two TOs on the morning of the first Wednesday of the month
and at 1.30 am to enter the bunker at Longley Lane. We would listen to the Speaking Clock on the 'Schweppes' equipment and at 2.00am precisely press a button which sent out tones that interrupted the clock and opened up a microphone circuit. I would announce "BT testing from Leeds" for 30 seconds then on releasing the button the Speaking clock would be resume.
There followed a 15 minute interval during which a brew was very welcome. We listened to the clock and at 2.15am Neil XXXXX, a member of the HQ design group, would carry out a similar test from the bunker at High Wycombe. He would announce "BT Testing from Plymouth" possibly, for 30 seconds. The towns were chosen by us at random but "Preston" was never used. We speculated on whether anyone would work it out that Preston must be the source as it was never mentioned. The purpose of the test was obviously to check that the system was working and Police HQs were questioned on the messages they heard. Not by us, someone in London I suppose.
This procedure had been carried out before I arrived but I cannot remember when it stopped. No one talked about what we were doing at 2.00am and TO's showed it as a call-out I think. My family were aware that I went out to an underground bunker in the middle of the night but there was still the remnants of the Cold War so it was accepted that it had something to do with that. . . .
The 'Schweppes' equipment this email refers to is the Control Unit 1A in the topic above. In the Sixties and Seventies the soft drinks manufacturer Schweppes used the sound Schhh... and the phrase 'The Secret of Sch' in their adverts featuring William Franklyn. Many of these adverts can be found on YouTube if you are interested.
Carrier Control Point - WB1400 Era
The United Kingdom is divided into 250 Warning Districts each served by a Carrier Control Points (CCP) installed in a Major Police Station in the district. Each CCP controlled the operation of Air Attack and Flood warning sirens and the broadcast of fallout messages within its local area.
Block Schematic of Connections to a CCP
The block schematic diagram shows how two private circuits from the telephone exchange carry the speaking clock in one direction and the 72kHz carrier in the other. In the previous topic we read how the speaking clock circuits would be used to distribute the attack warning broadcasts. These duplicated private circuits take different routes to avoid a damaged cable isolating the CCP at the police station. At the exchange the two incoming carriers are monitored and one selected for distribution.
A third private circuit is for bothway communication with the UKWMO Group HQ. The UKWMO is responsible for issuing fallout warning messages and an all clear when the radiation has fallen to a safe level.
The small WB1400 control unit 21½"W x 11½"D x 17"H shown below performs the same function as much two larger WB400 control units in the police office and two steel cabinets, each 1ft 10in wide x 1ft 2in deep x 6ft high in the police station apparatus room containing all the logic and signal generation equipment.
Carrier Control Point
Roll your mouse over the photograph for a description of the parts of the CCP.
Each of the three handsets terminates a pair of wires from the Control Point Exchange (CPE). The two Red handsets are designated "X Path" and "Y Path" and have associated Red "Lift Handset" lamps and alarm sounder. Providing there are no line faults both handset alarms sound in response to a broadcast message from Strike Command, lifting either will stop both alarms. The Red handsets can only listen to broadcasts as there is no return speech channel to the ADOC.
CCP Switch Panel Closeup
The Black "Group" handset is for two way communication with the UKWMO Group Headquarters for the warning district(s) served by this CCP. It has a white alarm lamp "Group Tele" and alarm sounder indicating when the 'Warning Switchboard' at U.K.W.M.O. Group calls. To initiate a call to the Warning Switchboard, the alarm lamp cover that serves as a pushbutton is pressed, the alarm sounds for the duration of the press.
The same two pairs of wires, the 'X' and 'Y' paths, used to bring the national warning to the Red handsets also return two separate feeds of the 72kHz carrier signal back to the Control Point Exchange (CPE). The carrier is modulated by either Police Officers spoken messages or siren control signal. Mains fail alarms are signalled to the CPE over the 'X' and 'Y' path wires too.
This close up shows the control switches on the CCP. The siren can only be activated when the "MASTER" locked rotary switch, located on the bottom right, is turned through 90° clockwise to the ON position. Verbal warning messages may be sent without the master switch being activated.
The two right hand keys are pushed upwards to initiate their respective siren activation "ATTACK warning" or All "CLEAR" sequence. The "CANCEL" key stops activation sequence before it has run its full course. The siren control signal which consists of a sequence known as G and S tones can be heard through the grille above the keys. The sequences are described in the Power Siren Control Topic which follows later.
The same two keys pushed in a downward direction initiate a spoken broadcast to the warning receivers. The rotary switch under these keys allows either the "SELECT" group of receivers (Those used in ROC & UKWMO peacetime exercises) or "ALL" for every receiver (Wartime and Police quarterly tests) to hear the message.
The sequence begins with either four (Select) or eight (All) pulses of 605Hz tone, known as the "W" signal which turns the receiver speaker on for at least 20 Seconds.
Next follows six seconds of either - rapid pips of the "CALL" sound - or the wailing of the"ALARM" sound.
After this, the "SPEAK NOW" light flashes for 7 seconds.
During this period either Red handset may be used to announce the message by pressing a small press-to-talk switch on the side of the handset. The "SPEAK NOW" light continues to flash during the message and for a further 7 seconds after the switch is released during which time a further message may be sent by operating the press-to-talk again.
Once the light stops flashing, it is necessary to operate either the Call or Alarm switch to make a further broadcast. Two modulation meters indicate to the operator the correct level for the spoken message. The needle should be within the thick black line area.
There is a difference between the terminology used on the CCP panel and the ROC "Standard Operating Procedure, Annex P" which refers to the four or eight "W" tones as the 'Call' signal. The CCP 'Call' signal of rapid pips is called the 'Alert' signal in the ROC operating procedure. They do however agree on the wailing 'Alarm' signal.
During periods when the CCP is not being used it modulates the carrier with a soft beeping 'Monitor Tone'. This tone can be heard if the warning point presses the test button on the carrier receiver's loudspeaker. It purpose is to give confidence the receiver is working properly. It may also be heard for a short time after the end of a spoken message, before the receiver speak turns off.
Demonstration of WB1400 signals
The sequence below demonstrates both the control signals and the tones and messages passed to users. The column headings indicate the two type of receiver owner and first column indicated what would be heard by any user with the test button permanently operated.
Any Receiver with the Test button operated
UKWMO Users WB1401
Public Warning Points WB1400
[Confidence Tone] tick-tick-tick
[Enable "SELECT" Signal] four rapid soft pips
[Call Signal] loud beeps "This is a test message for Royal Observer Corps personnel only."
[Confidence Tone] tick-tick-tick
[Enable "ALL" Signal] eight rapid soft pips
[CALL Signal] loud beeps
"This is a routine test message for all users, you will now hear a demonstration of the alarm signal."
[ALARM Signal] loud pips
"Test Complete - Thank you."
[Confidence Tone] tick-tick-tick
Carrier Control Point : Duplicated Control Units for Security
Two CCP control units in two separate locations are provided for security against equipment failure and damage. The ''Working' unit was located at the secondary location, normally an office environment. The 'Standby' control unit would be plugged in at the primary location, typically an equipment room or secure basement accommodation. The user instructions describe what to do under fault conditions. The cables between the secondary and primary locations are called the 'House Wiring' it is connected to the flexible lead exiting the bottom of the 'Terminating Unit WB 1400'
Extract from User Instructions
What to do if the normal control unit fails to indicate a confidence tick on both meters.
The 'Working' equipment is normally situated at the secondary operating location. Connect the equipment to the primary operating location 'Working' socket in place of the house wiring. If it then operates correctly the fault is in the house wiring and the equipment should be left operating at the primary location.
If the equipment still fails to operate connect the 'Standby' equipment to the 'Working' socket at the primary location. This equipment should then operate correctly.
Reconnect the house wiring to the 'Working' socket and install the 'Standby' equipment in the secondary operating position. It is important to inform British Telecom Fault Control if this action is taken.
Primary Location: Changeover Panel
Terminating Unit WB 1400
The Terminating Unit WB 1400 is the hub of the system in the Police Station. Internally there are two power units which should be fed from different mains supplies to guard against a ringmain fuse blowing. Connection strips terminate the external wiring to the building's Main Distribution Frame (MDF) carrying the two HANDEL circuits and the UKWMO Group HQ circuit back to the exchange. Next to the power units are six test links (four red for HANDEL and two black for ROC) intercepting these circuits allowing BT to setup and test the CCP. Other connection strips terminate the internal cables to the Terminating Unit WB 1401 at the secondary location and the 100 hour standby battery.
The flexible hose emerging from the bottom of the unit has a plug that is normally connected to the 'Working' socket. The reserve control unit's flexible lead is normally plugged into the 'Standby' socket. This may be changed around to isolate faults and maintain a working CCP.
Timings and Frequencies of Signals Generated by the CCP
The purpose of the various control signals generated by the CCP has been described earlier on this page. While the frequencies used and timing of these signals is of little interest to the casual reader of these pages, owners of WB 1400 receivers may be interested to see the Telecommunication Instruction E9 E3103 found in the Documentation Library on this website. See Section 4.5 & 4.6 on Pages 9 & 10
Police Routine Functional Test
The police carried out a routine test of carrier receivers at 3 month intervals. The test was performed at 0900, 1500 and 2000 and repeated a total of five times at one minute intervals, consisting of a short test of both the 'Call' and 'Warning' signal and a spoken message using a codeword the receiver owner wrote on the test form they returned to the police.
Tunbridge Wells Carrier Control Point
I am most grateful for the feedback received from Nick Ashdown in March 2012 for an actual recording of a WB 1400 test broadcast. I have reproduced an extract from Nick's email below. I find it incredible that two people have been kind enough to send me recordings of the same CCP but made decades apart.
I was recently going through old cassette tapes and found the attached recording of a routine test from Tunbridge Wells CCP on our WB1400 recorded on the 29th of July 1987. I thought it would be a good comparison to the WB400 (we used to have one of these before it was swapped to the 1400) recording you have also from Tunbridge Wells.
I made the recording as we planned to ask for its removal and wanted to have something to remind us of the little box next to the phone by the front door. Very few people in the village new of its existence, when people visited, if they asked we just said "it's something to do with the telephone". We also had a siren in its create which we also tested once a year or so, not at full speed as we did not wish to alarm the villagers.
Recording of a Routine Test Broadcast made 29/07/1987
[Confidence Tone] tick-tick-tick
[Select Signal] 8 rapid soft bleeps
[Call Signal] loud pips
This is the Tunbridge Wells Carrier Control Point making a routine test broadcast. You will now hear a short test Warning Signal.
. . . pause . . .
[Select Signal] 8 rapid soft bleeps
[Alarm Signal] wow-wow
Now please write the codeword Sunderland on your routine test report card.
Complete the remainder of the details and post.
Remember to switch off your loudspeaker, thank you.
[Confidence Tone] tick-tick-tick
The WB400 for Comparison
This is a WB400 test broadcast also made by the Tunbridge Wells CCP. This recording was made circa 1966, 21 years before the one featured above. Note the wording is very similar.
A transcription of this message appears on the previous page. If you haven't already visited that page, afterwards, please use the tabs at the top of this page to look at the WB400&600 description.
Control Point Exchange WB1400 Era
CPE Block Schematic
Gavin Saxby has kindly supplied the photographs in this section. The Control Point Exchange (CPE) consists of one control shelf (Equipment Carrier WB 1401) and at least one distribution shelf (Equipment Carrier WB 1402). The CPE shelves are fitted in a taller version of the steel cabinet shown below in the distribution section underneath. The cabinet is cabled back to a connection block on the telephone exchange's main distribution frame, where all the external circuits are connected.
In the block schematic, the Carrier Control Point CCP is connected via the three pairs of wires leaving the left hand side of the drawing. The thick double headed arrowed lines represent the external lines to the (CCP) located at the police station. The X and Y paths are routed in different cables for security against cable damage. Audio from the HANDEL interface goes towards the CCP. The CCP to group circuit is the third pair of wires shown.
The two speaking clock feeds and the private circuit to the ROC Group HQ enter the right hand side of the schematic. The carrier leaves the schematic at the bottom and feeds one or more distribution shelves, which send the carrier out on customers lines and onwards to other exchanges in the area.
Looking down from the top of the cabinet the CPE interface shelf is at the top and a distribution shelf below it. Each shelf holds a number of slide in units, each type of "Unit WB1400" is identified by a stroke number. To ensure the correct slide in unit is fitted in each position its stroke number is engraved along the bottom of the shelf.
Inside the CPE Cabinet (2 Images)
Each HANDEL interface (Unit WB 1400/1B) amplifies the audio from the speaking clock in the direction of the CCP. It detects a 1200Hz plus 1440Hz P+Q signal lasting for more than 1 second sent immediately before the Attack Warning message and converts it into a 180Hz signal of 711mS duration to alert the CCP. A filter blocks the carrier coming back from the CCP over the X and Y paths from the audio amplifier.
The carrier from the CCP is normally received along both the X and Y paths. A preamplifier (Unit WB 1400/2B) in each path monitors the carrier, if it fails, a signal is passed to the changeover unit (Unit WB 1400/7B). The changeover unit returns a signal selecting only one of the pair of pre-amplifiers to turn its output on. Should one path fail the other path is automatically selected. A manual changeover button is also provided for maintenance staff. The changeover unit raises an alarm should either or both carriers fail.
The two CCP power units extend a signal over the X and Y path to indicate their health. This too is monitored by the changeover unit and an appropriate alarm raised on failure. If both fail it is assumed the CCP is running on batteries, the duration is recorded on the resetable meter.
The line between the CCP and the UKWMO Group HQ is routed via a signalling converter (Unit WB 1400/10A) when Group calls the CCP, the balanced battery signal from Group is converted to 25Hz ringing towards the CCP. The CCP calls Group by placing an earth on its B-wire only, the converter sends balanced battery to call Group Headquarters. Whereas the HANDEL circuits are unidirectional, the line to the Group works bothways for speech and signalling.
The CPE shelf power is supplied by the Unit WB 1400/8B and is derived from the telephone exchange -50 volt supply with a 1000 hour reserve in the form of Lithium Chloride batteries in the box below.
These photographs (taken at the Avoncroft Museum, Bromsgrove 15/07/04) show how the Equipment Carrier WB400A and Box Battery WB400A, formerly used for the WB400 system was modified to house the WB1400 distribution equipment. The cabinet is part of the exhibit of small rural dependent exchange 'UAX13' at the museum.
The main cabinet is 1'-10½" wide, 1'-0½" deep, its height above battery box 2'-8". The
Battery Box is 1'-10½" wide, 1'-2" deep, 1'-11" high. Both are made of heavy gauge steel and are connected to the Main Distribution Frame via a conduit for the cables.
Removing the screws and lifting off the front cover reveals an Equipment Carrier WB1402, Diag. WB29604; Consisting of a shelf of slide in units which may be dropped forward to give access to the cards. In the enlarged view a strip along the bottom of the shelf indicates where the units fit. For example 4B is a Unit WB 1400/4B
The incoming carrier signal from the previous exchange enters the shelf via the Filter Unit which sends the signal to the pre-amplifier (Unit WB 1400/2B) Its output is connected to the inputs of up to three Distribution units (Unit WB 1400/4B). Each distribution unit further amplifies the carrier and provides 5 isolated outputs. The actual number of units fitted depends on the demand. Any of the 15 possible outputs can either be connected to outgoing junctions to feed dependent exchanges or used to supply warning point customers lines.
According to demand, the shelf can be fitted with a maximum of five Local Line Units (Unit WB 1400/5A). Each card will supply up to two customers lines, either with the trickle charge for the Speech Receiver battery or monitor the signal returned from the Siren Signalling Receiver in response to the automatic test signal sent by the CCP. Should the trickle charge fail (Line broken) or the test signal not be returned from a siren control unit, a telephone exchange maintenance alarm is raised.
Power for the distribution shelf is normally obtained from the telephone exchange 50 volt supply. Should this fail the reserve battery is brought into use by the shelf Power Unit and Alarm Interface (Unit WB 1400/8B). Exchange fault alarms are raised though this interface should the incoming carrier fail or one of the local lines monitored by the /5A fail.
The reserve batteries and their Terminating Unit WB1403 are held in the battery box underneath the cabinet. One battery Dry No 100, is fitted for each carrier Distribution Unit /4B on the shelf.
WB1400 Distribution Shelf (7 Images)
In lightly populated areas and islands, telephone exchanges may be served by radio links in the UHF or microwave range instead of copper pairs in overhead wires or underground cables. It is not possible send the WB1400 carrier over radio circuits or on very long lengths of underground cables.
To overcome this problem, the serving exchange's shelf is fitted with a Audio Feeder (Unit WB 1400/6A) in place of the fifth Local Line unit /5A. This produces two audio outputs suitable for transmission over long cable routes or radio circuits.
At the dependent exchange, the normal carrier Pre-Amplifier (Unit WB 1400/2B) is replaced by a Local Oscillator / Modulator (Unit WB 1400/3A) which modulates a locally generated 72kHz carrier with the incoming audio signal which is distributed as normal by the rest of the shelf.
A few customers may be connected to their exchange by a long cable route unsuitable for transmission of the usual carrier. By special arrangement with BT Factories Division, carrier receivers would be modified by them to work with an audio input rather than carrier. After modification, they were designated as Receiver Speech WB1402 or WB1403 (in place of WB1400 or 1401 respectively) and Receiver Signalling WB1402 or WB1403 (in place of WB1400 or WB1401). These customers would be fed from the audio output from the /6A slide in unit.
Standby Power at Carrier Exchanges
Exchange Power Supply
UK telephone exchange apparatus is powered from a battery backed 50 volt supply derived from the mains supply. In larger exchanges, diesel generators provides back up against a mains supply failure.
The 50v supply to the automatic telephone switching apparatus is supplied from one or more batteries connected in parallel. The rectifier, or in larger exchanges a number of rectifier modules, keep the batteries charged. But should the mains fail, the batteries continue to run the exchange for a considerable period of time or until the generator, if provided, automatically starts. During the cold war period, sufficient diesel was stored to keep the generator(s) running for 28 days without replenishment.
During the cold war period, the small exchanges Unit Automatic Exchanges with 400 or fewer lines, found in rural areas did not have a standby generator. Due to their light load they could keep running for a number of days without mains power. In a post attack situation it is likely the exchange battery could fully discharge.
WB1400 Reserve Batteries
To guard against loss of the 50v exchange battery, due to it completely discharging, even at exchanges with standby generators, the WB1400 cabinet has its own set of reserve batteries. Unlike the rechargeable exchange battery, these use Lithium Chloride technology which are not rechargeable. The battery capacity is designed to last for 1000 hours.
WB1400 Cabinet Standby Power
At the Control Point Exchange (CPE) there will be at least two shelves, a CPE shelf and one or more distribution shelves. Should the exchange's 50 volt battery fail, the alarm unit (Unit WB 1400/8B) allows the primary batteries in the battery box underneath the cabinet to take over. The CPE shelf is supplied from three batteries plugged into a Terminating Unit WB 1403
The distribution shelf / shelves at CPE or at intermediate / distribution exchanges each have their own separate battery backup with a separate Terminating Unit WB 1403 fitted with one battery per distribution amplifier (Unit WB 1400/4B) on the shelf. There will be at least one, with a maximum of three amplifiers per shelf and hence a maximum of three batteries per terminating unit. The reserve batteries only supply enough power to operate the carrier distribution function but not the trickle charge for the speech receivers, these rely on their own internal rechargeable battery to keep functioning.
Each Lithium battery measures 13 cm x 13 cm and 6 cm deep, known by B.T. as a Battery Dry No. 100, its rated as 12 volt 20 Ampere Hours. The Terminating Unit WB 1403 has three battery connectors and an electro-chemical elapsed time indicator (Indicator WB 1400) scaled in 0-1000 hours. These items are featured in the photo gallery.
Carrier Distribution between Exchanges
Carrier Distribution within a District
Considerable changes were made in the way the carrier was distributed when WB1400 replaced the old system. Only the feed from the Carrier Control Point (CCP) to the Control Point Exchange (CPE) was duplicated. The CPE control shelf selected one supply for further distribution around the network.
Duplicate feeds were considered unnecessary as by the nineteen eighties most small exchanges were fed by underground cable making them less prone to faults. If an exchange lost its carrier feed, an exchange fault alarm was raised, previously this was only detected when customers call charging failed.
In rural areas, there may be a chain of exchanges, each feeding the carrier to the next. Measures were introduced so the loss of carrier at one exchange didn't cause false alarms at exchanges further along the chain.
The Londonderry Carrier Area comprised of Londonderry Control Point Exchange (CPE) and twelve dependant exchanges. In most cases the carrier is transferred between exchanges using four wires, using phantom working (phantom working is too technical for the scope of this page) Waterside exchange received its carrier over a single pair of wires.
Londonderry Carrier Control Area
In the cases of Limavady, Dungiven and Dunamanagh the 72 kHz carrier could not be extended over the cable network as the losses were too high at carrier frequency, so they received an audio feed instead. At these exchanges the normal carrier Pre-Amplifier (Unit WB 1400/2B) is replaced by a Local Oscillator / Modulator (Unit WB 1400/3A). The incoming audio modulates a local 72 kHz carrier for distribution to its own customers and in the case of Limavady to feed the carrier forward to Bellarena exchange.