Unit History: JSSL Bodmin
The Joint Services School for Linguists (JSSL) was founded in 1951 by the British armed services to provide language training, principally in Russian, and largely to selected conscripts undergoing National Service. The school closed with the ending of conscription in 1960, after which the services made their own provisions as they had prior to the opening of the school (and, to some extent, even during its operation).
The founding of the school was prompted by the need to provide greater numbers of interpreters, intelligence and signals intelligence officers due to the Cold War, and the Korean War which had started the previous year. The attraction of avoiding normal military training and threat of being "returned to unit" if the weekly test was failed tended to make for attentive students. Russian tutors tended to be a mixture of White Russian emigres and carefully vetted Soviet defectors.
JSSL was initially based at three main sites near Bodmin, Caterham and Cambridge, run respectively by the Army, Navy and RAF. In 1956 the three were amalgamated at a former airfield near the fishing village of Crail on the east coast of Scotland.
Aside from their military contribution, many of the estimated 6,000 trainees continued to use their skills in their subsequent civilian life in translation, business, education and cultural life. Notable alumni of the school include former Governor of the Bank of England Eddie George, playwright and novelist Michael Frayn, actor and writer Alan Bennett, dramatist Dennis Potter, and former director of the Royal National Theatre Sir Peter Hall. The Soviet spy Geoffrey Prime was also a graduate of JSSL at Crail.