Carriden’s own ‘Bond’ spied on Russians

Bill Dickson at RAF Elvinton in Yorkshire looking at a Canberra Bomber which he flew over Russia while spying on them
Bill Dickson at RAF Elvinton in Yorkshire looking at a Canberra Bomber which he flew over Russia while spying on them
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A Carriden man took serving his country to the next level as he ended up spying on the Russians and East Germans.

Bill Dickson (78) received the call-up for National Service just after his 18th birthday in 1955.

Bill Dickson in uniform at RAF Cardington near Bedford.

Bill Dickson in uniform at RAF Cardington near Bedford.

Born in Bridgeness Road in Carriden, Bill attended Grange School and fondly remembers helping his uncle deliver bread up the Braes.

He recalled: “The hill was so steep the horse drawn carriage had to zig zag up the hill.”

He also remembers the town celebrating the war being over, adding: “There was a massive party and everyone was waving flags.”

Bill left his secondary school, Bo’ness Academy, to find work in Falkirk, but after receiving his call-up he soon found himself at an address in Edinburgh to complete his medical.

He said: “Later that day I was told I was fit to do my duty for Queen and country.”

Bill believes having a good ear for music is what stood him in good stead to join the intelligence services. Having played piano, without the need for sheet music, he was able to tell the difference between dots and dashes in Morse Code and Murray Code. As a result he was placed in the Royal Air Force.

The Bo’ness teenager soon found himself on a lorry heading to RAF Cardington where he was sworn in, given a haircut and a uniform.

He added: “I was no longer Bill but 4163486 Dickson.”

After surviving his 12 weeks of ‘square bashing’ along with 240 other recruits, Bill was posted to RAF Compton Bassett in Wiltshire where he excelled in a telecommunications course and he entered into the world of eavesdropping.

Bill’s work now included flying over Russia in a Canberra Bomber, tracing and plotting distances while calculating the speed and altitude of the Russian aircrafts.

Despite Russia’s best efforts to intercept the bomber, the plane was the first supersonic high altitude aircraft which kept it safe out of harms way.

Work also included intercepting East German communications which Bill explains was more difficult as they sent messages out on one frequency and received them on another.

He said: “After some months we were able to forecast which frequency they were going to transmit on and passed the information to GCHQ for them to monitor.”

In 1959, Bill swapped top secret intelligence for a career in newspapers and left his Bond-style life behind.