SECTION RO4, DIRECTORATE OF SIGNALS
VICTORIA BARRACKS,
THEN ALBERT PARK BARRACKS
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA
DURING WW2

 

Section RO4 of the Directorate of Signals was responsible for the compilation, printing and distribution of all secret and confidential codes and cyphers. Section RO4 was initially based at Victoria Barracks in St. Kilda Road, Melbourne. 

Section RO4 later moved to a new building a few miles away at the Albert Park Barracks. The building contained departments for printing, book-binding, collation and distribution of secret and confidential codes and cyphers. The building was surrounded by a security fence with security guards posted.

A large number of WAAAF personnel were brought in to release a number of male RAAF personnel. Personnel were strictly screened before they could join Section RO4. It was then difficult to get a posting out of Section RO4, such was the secret nature of this group.

In recognition of the importance of Section RO4, most personnel were given the rank of NCO. Initially four and then later five WAAAF officers oversaw the ninety airwomen serving in Section RO4.

While based at Victoria Barracks and then Albert Park Barracks, they were exempted from morning parades. There was one occasion where they went on a route march around the outside of Albert Park Lake, now the site of the annual Melbourne Grand Prix.

Many of the WAAAF personnel were involved in typing documents. As many as 20 to 30 typewriters ("tin plates" as they were called) were in one area. 

The room contained a number of large sacks, each containing thousands of wooden marbles, each marble being stamped with a different number. The marbles were placed in wooden trays in rows. After the work with the trays was finished they were emptied into containers beside the typists. This was apparently a very noisy experience.

Ten thousand marbles were used to prepare cypher vocabularies to which numbers were allocated. To ensure there were no errors in the coding and decoding tables, it was necessary to check and cross check the process. When the work came back from the printery, it was proof read before final printing.

The collating section used a large table in the middle of a long room. The WAAAFs would walk around the table and take one sheet from each pile of a page of the particular cypher and then stack the completed set in criss-crossed heaps which were then checked to ensure that there were no missing pages.

They were then sent to the printery to be stapled and bound. They were then returned to the collating section for a further check. Once a book had been checked, the WAAAF would place her number on the back of the book.

To relieve the monotony of the collation of the codes, many WAAAF's would sing songs while they walked around the table compiling the books.

Acting Corporal Veronica Joan Ruth (105115) was a WAAAF in Section RO4, Directorate of Signals at Albert Park Barracks. She married and later became Veronica Joan Aldridge. Corporal Una Lorraine Ball (113257) was a WAAAF cipher assistant in Section RO4 at Albert Park Barracks.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"The WAAAF Book"
Edited by Clare Stevenson and Honor Darling

 

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This page first produced 1 September 2002

This page last updated 30 December 2016