D-Day 80 The Last Veterans: Pam Harding

Pam Harding, Age 101, Women’s Royal Naval Service

Interviewed 8 February 2024

Becoming a chief petty officer after passing her morse code course, Pam Harding was stationed at Abbots Cliff in Kent. A fluent German speaker, she joined a team listening into chatter from enemy ships in the English Channel. 

Abbots Cliff was at Capel le Ferne between Folkestone and Dover and had been operational since 1940.

Mrs Harding said: "It was a big rambling house.

"There were quite a lot of us there. We learned how to work a radio. How to work interception and which knobs to twiddle.

"And also, of course, we learned quite a lot of German naval phraseology. Such as ‘Full speed aft'."

There were about 50- 60 people working there according to a news release from GCHQ marking the organisation’s 100th anniversary.

It read: "This base collected Very High Frequency (VHF) communications from Germany directing aircraft or fast moving E-boats in the English Channel. VHF has a very short range which meant that German linguists, mainly young women, were sent to the front line to live log the communications. This type of interception had never been done before for voice communications and the tactical nature of this job meant that every day the information collected by these young women was helping to protect British pilots and sailors. German forces would try to capture British pilots downed over the Channel and information from Abbots Cliff House would have helped to save some British pilots during the war."

A fluent German speaker, Pam Harding joined a team listening into chatter from enemy ships in the English Channel.  Credit: ITV Meridian

Information also helped the Allies understand the movement of enemy shipping ahead of the invasion.

Mrs Harding added: "By the time we went on watch on 5 June, we had a very clear idea that something was happening and we had unusually some naval officers there and eventually they did tell us that it was happening.

"So we thought we were doing something important, particularly once the invasion had started.

"We really felt part of it."

Mrs Harding also kept a diary and recalled seeing many ships in the English Channel on D-Day, including one in a convoy which had caught fire. 

She was later posted to France until the end of the war in Europe and then Germany before being demobbed in 1946.

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