Arrested!

Ron Emmett, who lived in Mottistone will never forget the day in 1941 when, aged about 16, he was arrested as a spy:  

I had a keen interest in radio and all things associated with radio and was a member of the West Wight Air Training Corps. After experimenting, I found that you could put one terminal of a headphone to earth and the other terminal to a piece of wire and then do the same with another earpiece of a headphone. You could then speak into one ‘phone, and hear the voice in the other - and you could do this over quite a distance. I had an old transformer which had probably a couple of miles of wire in the thing, so I thought, well I’ll make a telephone wire and connect this up to my friend Ken Barnes’ house – that’s from Church Cottage, Mottistone to Bank Cottage, Hulverstone.

So, one fine day, after many trials and tribulations, I set up one headphone in my bedroom and ran a very thin piece of wire over trees, bushes and fields, all the way to Hulverstone, and fortunately, without a break.  The wire was enamelled so that it was insulated and, lo and behold, the ear piece worked, no power required. The coil in the earphones was sufficient to generate the energy needed to speak perfectly clearly with no interference over that long distance.  And we’d have a little chat.  First you would listen, then you’d speak, then listen and then speak. After a few days, slowly the wire began to have its weaknesses.  Birds would break it or the wind or trees moving would snap it.  

You must remember that at this time the Island was full of troops because we were expecting the worst.  Anyway, one summer evening I was repairing a break in the wire by going along the hedges and putting one earpiece terminal on the wire and the other one to earth.  If there was no hum you could locate roughly where the break was. I had got to the field opposite the Tollgate Keeper’s Cottage and I had a whole pair of headphones on for some reason, I don’t know why, and I decided to get on to the road, so I jumped through the hedge and landed at the feet of a patrol of a dozen or so soldiers who were out on exercise.

They weren’t too keen on seeing a civilian with headphones suddenly appear in front of them, so it was ‘Right, what are you doing here, what are you up to?’ and the next thing I knew was a Bren Gun carrier appeared and I was put in it, escorted by four or five soldiers. Off we went passing through Mottistone and my father (Mr Bill Emmett, head gardener at the Manor)happened to be walking across the road.  I thought I had an ally in him, but I was wrong... he must have thought it was a game because he shouted: ‘Shoot the b......, shoot him, he’s a spy.’

They took me up Strawberry Lane and through a gate into Grammars, or what I used to call Black Barrell, where they had their headquarters.  They called the Adjutant and he came out to interrogate me. Strangely enough, I wasn’t shaken or trembling like a leaf, you know. He asked me some detailed questions about the locality, like how far is it to places, and what’s the name of this and that place. He wasn’t very impressed that I was roaming about the countryside looking like a foreign agent but he sent me home on the same vehicle and all the troops came and had a cup of tea and everyone finished up quite happy.