As we approach Remembrance Day, we caught up with former Royal Navy signalman and St Monica Trust resident Peter Budd about his experiences during the Second World War. Here’s what Peter had to say…
“I was born in Bedminster in South Bristol and before the war I had never been further than Weston Super Mare. I had always been the bottom of my class in school but, being a keen lad with a head for languages, I put myself forward for a special task. It turned out to be a bit more special than I had imagined.
12 of us were posted to a remote island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Cocos Keeling, with the mission of intercepting Japanese messages related to the navy. I was there for two years, during which time we learned different Japanese dialects and received supplies via boat every two months. They were only with us for a matter of minutes before disappearing again because it was too dangerous for them to stay.
Some years later I received thanks from Gordon Brown for my efforts in the war.
Bletchley Park was the center of intelligence in those days. They would report directly to the Chief of Staff and much of their information came from people like myself who were posted to the four corners of the world. After 18 months on the island, I was sent to Ceylon [now Sri Lanka] for a couple of months, intercepting further Russian signals, before being moved on to Karachi in Pakistan. At the time, it was just a small town with a little tram but now it is one of the busiest cities in the region. I was in Karachi until I was de-mobbed.
When I returned home I got a job with the British Overseas Airways, which had been evacuated to Bristol during the war. Eventually it moved back to London and I spent a while journeying back and forth between Bristol and London on the weekends to see my then girlfriend, driving up and down the A1 on my motorbike on black-market petrol - it was still rationed at that stage! I had bought a yellow flying suit, which was going cheap and surplus from the war, but even with that on I remember those journeys were ice cold. I later moved back to Bristol, set up my own business and got married.
Some years later I received thanks from Gordon Brown for my efforts in the war. I’ve been a seafaring man ever since and have travelled all over the world, to most of its ports and countries. I returned to the island 50 years later. It looked just as I remembered. Not bad for a boy that had never been further than Weston Super Mare.”
Peter Budd, St Monica Trust Resident
You can read more about Peter’s time in the Cocos Keeling Islands and as a naval signalman in the Sunday Times Best Sellers The Secret Life of Bletchley Park: The WWII Codebreaking Centre and the Men and Women Who Worked There and The Secret Listeners: How the Y Service Intercepted the Secret German Codes by Sinclair McKay, published by Aurum Press.