I first noticed the mysterious reference to ‘Operation Gramophone’ in the Berkshire Record Office catalogue a few years ago, when I was working on some Petty Sessions records for a client. Intrigued, I checked various local history sources but drew a complete blank!
On closer inspection, the scant surviving records for Operation Gramophone were initially a bit confusing. However, once put into the context of the Home Front in 1915, they started to make more sense.
Police Superintendent Charles Goddard
Zeppelin air attacks on the east coast of Britain began in January 1915. Not surprising then, that by 17th February, Police Superintendent Charles Goddard (1861-1946)1 of the Wokingham Division was requesting help from the Special Police Reserve and Special Constables, in the event of a ‘hostile air-craft invasion.’2 He wanted men, who on hearing the alarm, to be verified by a special code, would be prepared to ‘go direct to their post’ to carry out orders, as yet undefined. I believe that this was the beginning of what became known as Operation Gramophone.
I remember going to the Wokingham Carnival in the 1970s and 1980s, watching the parade and going to the fair. It was great fun but I certainly don’t recall the mayor being ‘bumped’ on the boundary post. It seems that carnival day or ‘Joy Day’ in Wokingham was a lot more anti-establishment in the 1920s and 1930s. Whilst doing some work at Reading Local Studies Library, I came across three pictures taken on 11th September 1929, showing three local bigwigs (including Mayor Ernest Whaley and well-respected Police Superintendent Charles Goddard) being manhandled over a boundary post as part of a ‘beating the bounds’ ceremony. They are wonderful pictures and you can see them too, if you follow these links