Help Locate and Record Secret Listening Stations

During the First World War (WW1, WWI, World War One), 217 secret listening stations operated both inland and around the English coast. These wireless stations played a significant role in winning the war.

They were used for intercepting enemy messages, working out the locations of hostile U-boats, warships and Zeppelins, decoding messages and predicting targets. But what remains of them today?

Our research that uncovered this has been based on records, archives, aerial photographs and Google Earth. Now we want the public to take up the search on the ground.

There are locations all around the south and east coast from Lands End to Dover and from Sheerness to Berwick that we need your help to investigate. Also inland, in places ranging Farnborough to Newcastle upon Tyne and Norwich to Worcester.

What we already know

Some of the 217 listening stations were built on aerodromes or incorporated into existing defences such as Dover Castle. Others were carried on board Lightships that acted as floating lighthouses and six were experimental portable wireless stations. 

Others were existing wireless stations requisitioned from Marconi, the firm which first developed wireless communications in the early years of the 20th century. Some of these types of listening station are already well documented.

Help us to complete the picture

However, 87 free-standing wireless stations are largely unknown. These were often humble wooden huts or simple brick buildings out in the middle of nowhere, operated by the Admiralty, the War Office or other agencies. The pdf below contains a table summarising what is known about each station and the map shows their approximate locations.  Historic England needs your help to find and record the exact location of the unlocated stations, and to describe what remains at each site.

How to get started

Historic England together with the Council for British Archaeology has developed a website and toolkit including a free downloadable app so that anyone can be a history detective.

To find out how to research and upload your findings to the Historic Environment Record online database, visit the WW1 Home Front Legacy website.

Details go automatically into the UK's national and local archaeological records, where they will be used as a reference resource and to inform planning decisions and help safeguard First World War remains for future generations.

For further information about Historic England's First World War projects go to First World War: Home Front Legacy.

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