Station X: 93-year-old Sheffield author’s novel on Rotherham war hero and Morse code expert Edgar Stanton

A 93-year-old Sheffield-born author has just written his first novel The Crooked Olive Branch – a historical fictional novel set in the Second World War, inspired by a Rotherham war hero.

Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 10:24 am
Updated Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 11:43 am

Frederick Munn was born and raised in Sheffield and the book is inspired by his wife’s uncle Edgar Stanton who was a morse code translator for Station X and an SOE during World War Two.

Here, Fred, who now lives in Bristol, tells us a little about his book...

The world knows so much about Bletchley Park, Alan Turing, Colossus, the first electronic computer, and the 'cracking' of the German Enigma Code machine. Supposedly undecipherable.

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Frederick Munn with his first novel The Crooked Olive Branch

Sadly, so little about Station X and the bravery of the interceptors of whom Edgar Stanton was one amongst many more 'unknown' heroes. Sixty four years they were forced by the Official secrets act to remain silent until 2009 when Gordon Brown Prime Minister acknowledged them alongside Bletchley.

Edgar died a little over one year afterwards, his story died with him. There was and is no record of his service or that of his colleagues. Over one hundred Stanton’s are listed in War Office records but no Edgar Stanton even though we have his Rank, Name and Number plus photographs of him and Station X.

The Crooked Olive Branch is historical fiction with fictional characters as telling Edgar’s story with so much of it still unknown is near impossible. Hopefully though the novel still carries the spirit of Edgar and his comrades.

This book is my mission to bring the story of Station X to the notice of the world. The hope being that the book will carry their story and their story will carry the book.

Edgar Stanton

Station X

Station X was the information International intercept collection centre allied to Bletchley Park during the second World War. The Special Operations Executive instigated this Department recruiting, amongst others, Post Office Wireless Communications Operators (Morse senders and receivers) as ‘Listeners in’ (Interceptors) to Enemy Morse messaging. They were housed in underground offices in Whitehall, London. Morse Interceptors, the best of them, selected and placed strategically around, in the UK, Iceland, Newfoundland, Gibraltar, Portugal and such as, the then, Yugoslavia.

The Crooked Olive Branch was inspired by the placement of some operators in Yugoslavia. The author discerning that one intercept surely provided a crucial turning point in the Allied fortunes in the Second World War. If true, this must have saved the lives of countless and their issue. Many young persons are probably living and contributing all over the planet unaware that their very existence relied upon these young men listening in to enemy communications passing through Austria in 1943. Yet try as all may, it has been impossible to persuade The War Office to release the war record of these young men. It is as though their service never happened.

Edgar Stanton was one of the Morse experts enlisted. Normal training was dispensed with. They were sent direct to a wartime communications unit in Liverpool and spent the induction weeks intercepting shipping communications. Shore to ship, trawler to shore, ship to ship often by convoy traffic and possibly U Boat communications. One day, while he was at work intercepting, Edgar was ordered to attend a meeting with two very senior officers.

Edgar Stanton was a Morse Code expert in the Second World War

He told me he had no idea who they were or why he had been selected. He was then asked to ‘volunteer’ for a posting in Lisbon, Portugal. Twenty years old and inexperienced, Edgar acknowledged this as an order. No other option but to obey, even though he was obliged to sign The Official Secrets Act and a warning that divulging any information regards to meetings and postings would incur the death penalty. Edgar’s words to me, “I was told not to breath a word to anyone, else I would be shot.” After returning from Portugal, he was assigned to Station X.

One of several assignments, was in Windsor great park where he intercepted messages from an enemy spy sending from Liverpool to the Continent. Edgar was capable of impersonating this spy who was kept in place, Edgar listening in, until the S.O.E. chose to make the arrest. Edgar then was instructed to keep the contact open and impersonate this spy sending spoof messages.

Eventually Edgar was posted behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia supported by a party of resistance fighters. There he intercepted German coded messages, passing these via punched tape by wireless signals to low flying specially equipped aircraft operating out of Benghazi. These coded messages were then delivered by cable from Alexandria to Cornwall. From thence they moved to Station X collated and moved on to Bletchley Park to be decoded. The Crooked Olive Branch aims to capture the heart of this story and the many ways Station X potentially helped change the trajectory of the war.

Royal Air Force recruits learning morse code at a training station in c1945. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
German artillery and infantry entering Skopje in Yugoslavia in 1942. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, became the centre of Allied code-breaking activities. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)