Home:  Military Comms: WWII BRITISH WIRELESS SET 88, 1946


View all Military Comms


Designed as a tropicalised man pack set for short range communications for the infantry. Range 1 to 2 miles using standard 4ft rod 38 to 42 Mghz using FM only. Wireless Set No. 88 was a man pack VHF-FM transceiver developed in about 1947 as a replacement for the No. 38 Set. It was the first British developed tactical VHF-FM man pack set.
The No. 88 Set could work to Wireless Set No. 31 and four channels marked A to D on its tuning dial correspond with those on Wireless Set No. 88 Type A. It was principally used for short range infantry communications.
The No. 88 set was carried in a pouch similar to a Bren gun ammunition pouch, which made carrying and operation inconspicuous. The battery is carried separately in a similar pouch.
Two versions were made of this set: Type A for infantry Company-Platoon use and Type B for infantry Mortar-Platoon use. Apart from the difference in frequencies and indication plate, they are distinguishable by their colours. Type A has an olive drab top panel and case, whilst Type B has a black top.
Wireless Set No. 88 AFV was developed for fitting in tanks and other vehicles along with Wireless Set No. 19 for the purpose of communicating with infantry personnel equipped with Wireless Sets No. 88 Type A.
The set comprised a slightly modified standard No. 88 Set Type A, powered from 12V DC by a separate Power Supply And LF Amplifier Unit No. 2. The latter also incorporated AF amplifiers raising the AF output of the No. 88 Set and vehicle harness microphones to a suitable level.

Frequency range 38.01-42.15MHz
Four crystal controlled channels
Two versions: Type A and Type B, differing in frequency
RF output 0.25W
FM R/T only
Range up to 2 miles
HT and LT is obtained from a combined dry battery
Set is lightweight and self contained
Case is tropicalised and immersion proof

Your comments:

  • David Haine,
    don't forget that the description credits as a manpack set, not one fitted in an aircraft or vehicle.

    I first saw these sets in use by some of the older cadets at summer Camp at Warcop in 1971 when we hiked up High Cup Nick after walking through the ranges with destroyed cromwells and churchills. Later on we found them very reliable when I ran the school signals section - dependable up to a mile generally and usually substantially beyond in open country.
    .......... michael W, Cumbria, England, 7th of March 2021

  • What about the RAF? Fighter command installed VHF sets in all their aircraft by sep 1941, and the RAF also deployed VHF equipped Mobile Signals Units in 1942, including manpack for Forward Air Controllers. There is also a memoir from an RAF Signals Technician talking about installing RAF VHF sets in Shermans in 1944, because the army didn't have the expertise to do the work.
    .......... Dave Haine, Henstridge, Somerset, UK, 13th of February 2018

  • This is one of the most important sets in the history of radio development - at least as far as British work in the area is concerned.

    Unfortunately the British can only claim slight credit for this, since it took the Americans to kick the British into accepting that using FM (frequency modulation) at VHF (frequencies above 30MHz) was vastly superior to the practice adopted throughout WWII - using the short-wave band, as exemplified by the standard manpack, the WS38, which used AM (amplitude modulation) between 7.4 and 9.1MHz.

    The WS38's performance was poor, partly because the design was less than optimimum (the tuning dial was exceptionally tricky to adjust), but partly because the short-wave band is just unsuitable for the job of talking over a couple of miles on a battle-field. Its far to full of other people trying to do the same thing (not enough MHz available), and you are also competing with signals from the rest of the world which arrive having bounced off the ionosphere.

    The problem was that the powers-that-be simply didn't believe that VHF could be used on a battle-field. They thought the waves only travelled on line-of-sight paths, so if you went behind a tank, then you would lose communication. Not so! No amount of evidence seemed to shift them (not least the fact that the Germans were using 20 - 100MHz rather successfully!) until the Americans turned up at D-Day with their BC-1000 manpacks, which performed far better than anything the British had.

    Finally, the British saw the light and copied the BC-1000 as the WS No.31, which is essentially a much bigger and more powerful version of this WS88, which goes on your back like a rucksack.

    The WS88 is thus a much more compact version of the WS31, with four switch-tuned channels. It has a battery about the same size as the set, and these sit in two pouches mounted on your belt in front of the operator.

    I used these sets a lot in the Army Cadet Force in the early 70s. They worked a treat - though my parents used to complain they could hear us far too often on their 405-line TV.....! (The WS88 uses channels at the bottom of the old Band I)
    .......... Richard Hankins, Ross-on-Wye, 8th of June 2011

Add a memory or information about this object


©2007 The Museum of Technology, The Great War and WWII
Company registered in England No. 7452160, Registered Charity No. 1140352, Accredited Museum No. 2221