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.
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 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. This controlled the operation of Air Attack and Flood warning sirens and the broadcast of fallout messages.
This is the control unit (Equipment Carrier WB1400) housed in the operational area of a police station. A second identical unit was kept in reserve that could be deployed if the main unit failed. Anyone lucky enough to own one may still be able to get it partly functioning.
This small control unit 21½"W x 11½"D x 17"H performs the same function as the two large control units plus two steel cabinets, each 1ft 10in wide x 1ft 2in deep x 6ft high in the police station apparatus room, which housed the signal generation and amplifying circuitry required by the first generation HANDEL system. The control unit pictured contains all the logic and signal generation within the box itself.
Each of the three handsets terminates a pair of wires from the Carrier Control Exchange (CCE). The two Red handsets are designated "X Path" and "Y Path" and have associated Red "Lift Handset" lamps and alarm sounder. Providing there were no line faults both handset alarms sound in response to a broadcast message from Strike Command, lifting either would stop both alarms. The Red handsets could only listen to broadcasts but not speak back.
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 that sounds when the Warning Switchboard at Group calls. To initiate a call to the Warning Switchboard, briefly press the white lamp, the alarm sounds for the duration of the press, then left the black handset.
The same wires used by the Red handsets return the 72kHz carrier signal modulated by the Police Officers voice or siren control signal back to the Carrier Control Exchange (CCE) over both the X and Y paths. They also are used to signal an alarm to the CCE should the mains supply fail.
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 grill 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 broadcast to the warning receivers. The rotary switch under these keys allows either the "SELECT" group of receivers (Those used in ROC peacetime exercises) or "ALL" for every receiver to hear the message. The sequence begins with either four (Select) or eight (All) pulses of "W" signal. To turn the receiver speaker on. 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 of the Red handsets may be used to announce the message by pressing a small press-to-talk switch on the handset. The "SPEAK NOW" light flashes during the message and for a further 7 seconds after the switch is released during which time further messages 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.
In the ROC "Standard Operating Procedure" documentation, Annex P: they refer to the 'Select' four or eight tones as the 'Call' signal. The 'Call' signal is called the 'Alert' signal. They do however agree on the 'Alarm' signal.
During periods when the CCP is not being used it generates a beeping confidence tone. Warning points can hear this confidence tone only when they press the test button on their receiver.
|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
|Public Warning Points
|[Confidence Tone] tick-tick-tick||Nothing||Please single click the link below to hear the test message (50 Seconds duration). Users on dial-up will have to wait a few seconds whilst it downloads.
WB1400 Demonstration (147 KiloBytes)
To Replay this message - Click the media player Play button again.
|[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||Nothing|
|[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
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 WB1400'
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.
The Terminating Unit WB1400 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 ROC 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 WB1401 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.
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.
I am most grateful for the feedback received from Nick Ashdown in March 2012 for an actual recording of a WB1400 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
[Call Signal] rapid pips
This is the Tunbridge Wells Carrier Control Point making a routine test broadcast.
You are now to hear a short test Warning Signal.
[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
|Please click the link below to hear the broadcast (71 Seconds duration). Users on dial-up will have to wait a few seconds whilst it downloads.
WB1400 Test Message . M P 3 (212 Kb)
To Replay this message - Click the media player Play button again.
|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.
|Please click the link below to hear the broadcast (50 Seconds duration). Users on dial-up will have to wait a few seconds whilst it downloads.
WB400 Test Message . M P 3 (147 Kb)
To Replay this message - Click the media player Play button again.
I don't have a photograph of the Carrier Control Exchange (CCE) equipment, but it is a taller version of the cabinet shown below in the distribution section. The equipment cabinet in the CCE received two feeds from different Speaking Clock distribution rings these are shown as 'Spkg Clock' circuits 1 and 2 in the diagram. These carry the speaking clock in peacetime and HANDEL message from Strike Control in case of an Attack.
The CCE consists of one control shelf and at least one distribution shelves. The thick double arrow lines represent the external lines to the Carrier Control Point (CCP). The 3 pairs of wires to the CCP leave on the left hand side. The X and Y paths are placed in different cables for security. Audio from the HANDEL interface goes towards the CCP. The 72kHz modulated carrier is received from the CCP.
The line between the CCP and the ROC Group is routed via a signalling converter (Unit WB1400/10A) 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 ROC Group Headquarters. Whereas the HANDEL circuits are unidirectional, the line to the ROC is bothway for speech and signalling.
The HANDEL interface (Unit WB1400/1B) amplifies the audio from Strike Command in the direction of the CCP. It detects a 1200Hz plus 1440Hz
The carrier from the CCP should be received along both the X and Y paths. A preamplifier (Unit WB1400/2B) in each path monitors the carrier, if it fails, a signal is passed to the changeover unit (Unit WB1400/7B). The changeover unit control signal allows only one of the pair of pre-amplifiers to turn its output on. Whichever output is enabled feeds the carrier to the distribution shelf in the cabinet. Should one path fail the other path is selected. A manual changeover button is also provided.
Unlike the previous system the X and Y carrier paths only extended as far as the CCE and no further. Now all dependent excanges had only a single feed. The security of supply was considerably improved as the loss of carrier at an exchange would raise a maintenance alarm. By the time the WB1400 was introduced the majority of more rural exchanges were fed by underground rather than overhead cable thereby reducing the likelihood of faults.
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 connect 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; a shelf of slide in units which may be dropped forward to give access to the cards. In the enlarged view a strip indicating which unit fits in the position can be seen along the bottom of the shelf. For example 4B is a Unit WB1400/4B
The incoming carrier signal from the previous exchange enters the shelf via the Filter Unit which sends the signal to the pre-amplifier a Unit WB1400/2B, The output from the pre-amplifier is connected to the inputs of 3 x Unit WB1400/4B Distribution units. Each distribution unit further amplifies the carrier and provides 5 outputs. Any of the 15 outputs can be connected to outgoing junctions to feed dependent exchanges or used to supply customers lines to warning points.
Should the incoming carrier signal fail, an exchange fault alarm is raised via the Unit WB1400/8B which also handles the power supply to the shelf. Power is normally obtained from the telephone exchange 50 volt supply, should this fail, the reserve battery in a box under the cabinet will take over.
The shelf can be fitted with 5 x Unit WB1400/5A. Each can supply up to two customers lines with the trickle charge for the Speech Receiver. The unit also detects the signal returned from the Siren Signalling Receiver in response to the automatic test signal sent by the CCP. If the trickle charge fails (Line broken) or the test signal is not returned from a siren control unit a telephone exchange maintenance alarm is raised.
If the Unit WB1400/5A fitted in the last shelf position is removed and replaced by a Unit WB1400/6A, it produces two demodulated audio feeds instead of 2 trickle charge feeds. The audio feed is only used in a limited set of circumstances when it is not possible to serve a dependant exchange by carrier. This could occur if the line loss at carrier frequency exceeds the maximum permitted or the exchange is connected by a radio link. At the dependant exchange the Unit WB1400/2B is replaced by a WB1400/3A which modulates a locally generated 72kHz carrier with the incoming audio signal.
To provide a customer with WB1400 their exchange line circuit is routed via the trickle charge feed and monitor unit, then out to line. A carrier supply from the one of the fifteen outputs from the three distribution amplifier is connected to these same line connections. A filter within the monitor and trickle feed unit prevents the carrier being shunted by the customers exchange equipment.
At the customers premises, a Filter 3A is used to block the carrier from the telephone instrument. The RECR terminals on the filter that were used for the earlier system's receiver are left disconnected. The WB1400 Carrier Receiver is connected directly to the line so it may receive the carrier and trickle charge it battery.
To answer questions raised on news groups:
Q: If anyone acquired / stole a receiver, would it have worked on their home phone line.
A: NO, A receiver would only work on a specially designated Civil Defence line that was fed with the carrier from the telephone exchange. Post 1992 they won't work at all.
Internal and External views of a WB1400 Speech Receiver electronics unit.
Here are two views of the speech receiver, the first has the cover on. The right hand photo has the cover and RF board shield removed to show the printed wiring boards. Two different types of loudspeaker unit could be connected to the receiver.
The speech broadcast receivers were line powered, a small current trickle charged the receiver battery, the blue canister in the pictures above. The top circuit board demodulates the 72KHz amplitude modulated carrier and controls the trickle charging. The lower board contains the power amplifier and 'W' signal detection logic.
The left hand design of speaker, the Loudspeaker Unit WB1400 was suitable for office type environments. The ruggedised Loudspeaker Unit WB1401 was used in damp and harsh areas such as ROC posts.
The WB1400 speaker had to be turned on by the user but it would be silent until called by the Carrier Control Point (CCP). To check it was working the test key could be operated to hear the 'Confidence Tone'.
The CCP has a rotary switch that sends two different tone signals to turn on the loudspeakers of some or all or the receivers. Four pulses of 605Hz 'W' signal turned on only the selected group and Eight pulses of 'W' signal turned on every receiver in the area. The user would not hear the first set of 'W' signals but depending on the timing of the subsequent message they could possibly be heard. The ROC locations were in the 'SELECT' group which enabled the police to broadcast messages to them during ROC exercises without affecting the general users. Once the receiver speaker was turned on by the 'W' signals, a 6.4 second blast of 'Alarm' or 'Call' signal preceded the spoken message. The speaker would remain active during the Alarm or Call signal and the voice message but turn off one the confidence tick returned.
This slow, soft pip tone was generated by the CCP when it was not sending speech broadcasts or siren control tone signals and restarted when the message or signal finished. Its purpose was to give the recipient confidence they would receive a message if sent. I have had queries from people who incorrectly thought the tone went off after the Attack Warning and came back on after the All Clear.
The speech receiver was normally powered from the telephone line but under some circumstances this was not possible, such as when a signalling receiver shared the same phone line, or in rarer cases such as a high voltage substation or power station. In these situations the receiver battery would be changed from the mains supply using a Power Unit WB1401A pictured here.
This 140Kbyte PDF document requires the case sensitive password RingBell on opening.
In Derbyshire, Warning Point operators were provided with a twelve page manual describing the function of the U.K.W.M.O. and giving detailed instructions on testing the receiver and ultimately the war situation. It covers the use of the siren, maroons and radiac monitoring unit.
A close facsimile of the document has been reproduced here, trying to keep the same words on every line, it was created from a scan of the booklet kindly provided by R o d d y B u x t o n. He was given it by the engineer recovering the WB1400 receiver from Courtaulds in Spondon.
To prevent undesirable indexing of this PDF document by Web Crawlers, it has been encoded and requires the stated password to be used Note: it is case sensitive. I am sorry if this is a nuisance but html allows whole pages to be excluded from search engine indexes but not documents linked from a page.
If you wish to link to the document, please use
to come directly to this subsection.
The timings for different siren warnings in the cold war period of UK history.
|Warning||Siren Motor Power Applied for Duration|
|Attack Warning Red||4 seconds ON, 4 seconds OFF; for 1 minute|
|All Clear||Continuous for 1 minute|
|Flood Warning||30 seconds ON, 15 seconds OFF; 6 times|
Externally the siren control equipment known as a 'Receiver Signalling' looked almost identical to the 'Receiver Speech'. The receiver demodulates the 72KHz carrier and filters out two control tones known as 'G' the guard signal and 'S' the siren signal. These control signal frequencies and their duration remained the same as the superseded system, the 'G' signal (1500Hz) was pulsed 400ms On / 400mS Off twelve times, to prime the logic to accept the 'S' signal (2160Hz) that turned on the siren motor. The duration of the 'S' signal determined how long the siren motor would be energised for.
The power siren part of the system was designed to be automatically self tested. Should the receiver not respond to the self test fail or the line become faulty an Exchange Maintenance Alarm would be raised. The CCP would alternately generate 'Test On' and 'Test Off' signals at 6 hour intervals. A great improvemnt on the previous system, that only tested six monthly and required a visit to each siren point to check the test lamp was glowing and reset it. The air attack warning remained as eight, four second blasts of the siren at four second intervals. The all clear signal sounded the siren continually for sixty seconds.
The previously separate flood warning system known as WB601 was included in the WB1400 facilities. The flood signal was six siren blasts for thirty seconds at fifteen seconds intervals. To allow discrimination between sirens used for Air Raid and Flood, the later used a shorter duration pulsed 'G' signal of 115mS On / 115mS Off, twelve times.
At the siren location a manual control box was provided by the Home Office. This is usually in close proximity to the Carrier Signalling Receiver. The box has a screwed on hinged cover. The buttons allow local control of the siren. It was normal peacetime practice to remove the fuses for the Air Raid siren motor to avoid it being set off accidentally, but in areas prone to flooding this wasn't possible.
The local control box illustrated here with it cover open, has four buttons, the top most is the 'Stop' button. Front from left to right 'Red Alert', 'Flood Warning' and 'All Clear'. This control box generates the same siren periodicity as the WB1400. The internal view of the control box kindly supplied by N.C.Langridge, shows the rear of the board containing two relays controlled by a series of integrated circuits. This box provides the same five external wiring connections and therefore is a drop-in replacement for the WW2 style mechanical autowailer used with the WB600.
Roy has kindly sent this photograph of a Tester WB1401A from the Belfast ROC Museum. This multi function test box can simulate the Carrier Control Point ( CCP ) and also monitor the actual WB1400 carrier as it passes through the various parts of the network from the CCP to the Receiver.
In simulation mode, it generates a carrier modulated by the control signals 'call all' 'call select' 'attack' 'flood' generated by a CCP to alert speech receivers and sound both air raid and flood sirens, allowing the receivers to be functionally tested. It will also simulate the exchange power feed to the receiver battery. In monitor mode, it serves as a Level Measuring Set ( LMS ) for both audio and 72KHz carrier in the range of
In the lid of the tester WB1401A is a further small test unit used when testing Signalling Receivers so a functional test can be performed without sounding the siren. The Tester WB1403A is connected into the mains wiring of the signalling receiver and has lights to indicate mains is present and when the siren would operate. The tester prevents the actual operation of the contactor relay that applies the Three Phase mains supply to the siren motor. Adrian has kindly supplied the photograph on the left.
Adrian's picture shows the Tester WB1402A used for various tests in the Carrier Control Exchange and Carrier Control Point. The tester is in four sections, an Audio Monitor allows the engineer to listen to the speaking clock on the incoming HANDEL lines at both the exchange and CCP.
The section below is a peak program meter which displays the maximum level of the audio. This is used in set up the correct level of the speaking clock so it neither too loud or too quiet. The audio of the person giving the attack warning message was set at the A.D.O.C. in relationship to the level of the speaking clock thereby ensuring the message was clearly received at the Police station.
At the bottom right is an audio frequency generator with four preset output tones P, Q, P+Q and 180Hz with five differing durations to check the equipment at the CCE and CCP only responds to the correct length of the appropriate tone signal. The P tone is 1200Hz and Q tone 1440Hz which are in the normal audio spectrum. To prevent misoperation from the speaking clock or test messages the duration of the combined tones has to be 1 second.
The lower centre section allows the 180Hz signal sent from the CCE to the CCP to be checked for the correct level, duration and frequency tolerance.
I have had two very interesting email exchanges regarding this topic that are worth sharing with everyone.
The firstly in October 2009, Neil, a system designer for the second generation of HANDEL got in touch. He was able to answer a number of technical questions. 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, so I asked Neil if there were any sites other than High Wycombe and Preston, NO was the answer.
Another email in November 2011 from Jack, part of which is reproduced below answers the 'Leeds' puzzle. He also mentions the first correspondent too. It appears that Leeds and also Plymouth were code words for the real locations at Preston and High Wycombe, so it was my fault for not asking Neil the right question two years earlier.
. . . . . 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 that Jack refers to is the Operating Unit at the very top of this page. 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.