The Wireless Set No. 19 Goes to the Movies


By Chris Bisaillion VE3CBK

The Wireless Set No. 19 has appeared in several movies and at least one television series. Often only a very brief glimpse is shown of the set and you have to have eagle eyes to spot it. Even more of a challenge is to identify what type of No. 19 i.e. British, Canadian, U.S. and if it is a Mark 2 or Mark 3. 

The author has rented a No. 19 to one movie company, so at least that one particular set can be identified positively. More on that movie later.




Let's start with television. 


The television series JAG (acronym for Judge Advocate General) stars Canadian born David James Elliot as Lieutenant Commander Harmon Rabb.

In an episode called "Scimitar", the 9th show of season #1 which aired on Dec 9, 1995, they portrayed a No. 19 as a "listening" device for the conversations that were taking place in an adjacent hotel room. 

The country that this took place in was Iraq so I guess they thought that the No. 19 looked "exotic" enough to be a piece of Iraqi technology! For more information on this episode see:



Quantum Leap is an amazing TV series that began in 1989 and ended in 1993, starring Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett who 'leaps' into and becomes various people within his own lifetime. 

Victim of an experiment gone awry, Sam keeps hoping to leap back home.  Re-runs have been shown on Vision TV and may be broadcast on other channels.  Sam's hologram guide, Al, is played by veteran actor Dean Stockwell.  

In this two-part episode, #75,  Sam for the first time ever leaps into a notable figure in history -- Lee Harvey Oswald.   I saved both episodes on PVR but alas no longer have them.

Over a period from October 5, 1957, to the fateful day of November 22, 1963, Sam leaps back and forth several times throughout Oswald's life.  His and Oswald's minds become intertwined to the point that Sam finds himself about to pull the trigger from the Texas Schoolbook Depository window.

During one scene, about three-quarters of the way through Part 1, Sam (Oswald) is in the U.S. military and stationed at Tustin, California.  He is apparently in charge of a supply hut of some sort, which includes shelves of various electronic equipment. 

As he searches for a duty roster requested by another marine, Sam (Oswald) walks past a shelf of equipment including a Wireless Set No. 19.  

I was able to get a photo of it off the TV screen and, while understandably somewhat fuzzy, the picture below shows the 19 set at bottom right.  It appears to be a Mk II.  

More information about the episode  may be found at

(Contributed by Bob Cooke, VE3BDB)



I give credit to, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), for the plot summaries and graphics of the following movies.

Cast a Giant Shadow (1966), 

starring Kirk Douglas, Yul Brynner, Angie Dickinson and many other well-known actors.

"An American Army officer is recruited by the yet to exist Israel to help them form an army. He is disturbed by this sudden appeal to his Jewish roots. Each of Israel's Arab neighbours has vowed to invade the poorly prepared country as soon as partition is granted. He is made commander of the Israeli forces just before the war begins." Summary written by John Vogel.

A No. 19 is shown in a Headquarters area with the female operator appearing to adjust every knob on the front of the set. No. 19s are spotted in a few jeeps as well.




The Eagle Has Landed (1976), 

starring Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, Robert Duvall and many other well-known actors.

"Colonel Steiner is a German Officer in WW II who has been imprisoned for opposing genocide. He is offered an assignment to go to England and assassinate Winston Churchill. His group of loyal commandos dress as Polish soldiers and take over a small English town, supposedly on a training manoeuvre to await the coming visit of the Prime Minister." Summary written by John Vogel.

The American soldiers stationed in the small town and led by Colonel Pitts (played by Larry Hagman) have No. 19s installed in several jeeps. I thought that at one time they were simply using a single No. 19 equipped jeep in many scenes but in one scene when several jeeps pull up in front of a building, it is clear that there is a No. 19 in each jeep.




 Help! (1965), 

starring The Beatles.

"The Beatles second film has an obscure Asian cult, that believes in human sacrifice, after Ringo who has accidentally put on the victim's ceremonial ring. He is pursued by the cult, a pair of mad scientists, a member of a side cult that no longer believes in human sacrifice and the London police who are trying to help." Summary written by John Vogel.

The scene on Salisbury Plain shows both a No. 18 Set and a No. 19. The No. 19 is mounted in the back of an open car. Both radios are shown only briefly.




Map of the Human Heart (1992), 

starring Jason Scott Lee, Patrick Bergin and John Cusack.

"In 1931, a chartist lands a plane in the Arctic to map unrecorded regions. He takes an Eskimo boy with tuberculosis back to civilisation where he is healed and indoctrinated in a Catholic foster home. 

The Eskimo meets a "half-breed" girl (father was French, mother was Indian) and they fall in love. They are separated and the Eskimo returns to the Arctic. 

Years later he encounters the chartist again and sends a message to his love via the chartist. He joins the air force to fight Hitler, and runs into her again, but there are obstacles that threaten his friendships and relationships." Summary written by Ed Sutton.

This is the movie for which I was approached to rent a No. 19. 

The props guy was sent out to find various things for the movie, including a wireless set and a searchlight. The movie production was based out of Montreal, Quebec. 

They had contacted the Canadian War Museum on a Thursday and wanted the equipment by the weekend. The War Museum said they could not possibly respond in time and gave my name as a possibility. 

I jumped at the opportunity. 

I offered to accompany the No. 19 for assistance but they said that it was going to be shipped to Iqaluit (formerly Frobisher Bay) for the filming of the scene and they couldn't send me. All that they really wanted was for an actor to push a push to talk switch and have a meter needle move or a light to come on. In the movie we see neither action occur. 

I made it simple for them by supplying a Supply Units Rectifier No. 1 Canadian, so they would only need 110 Vac. The props guy picked up the equipment in early April 1991. The equipment details were, Wireless Set No. 19 MK III, S/N C83399, made by RCA, and Supply Units Rectifier No. 1 Canadian, S/N 527. 

They mounted the No. 19 on a dog sled. The scene has an operator tune in a broadcast station transmitting a singing voice. The voice is recognised by one of the other actors from many yards away. I suppose that if the headphones were not on someone's head and the AF was turned up, the sound could carry in the quiet of the Arctic. 

That's Hollywood! The film had a short run and was entered into competition at the Cannes Film Festival. It's an interesting film and the bombing of Dresden scene is particularly well done. 

The movie company took good care of the equipment and actually paid me double when they exceeded the agreed rental period. I would welcome the chance to again provide wireless equipment to a movie.




A Bridge Too Far (1977), 

starring too many well-known actors to list!

"It is near the end of WWII. The Germans have lost most of France, and the Allied forces decide to give them the final hit. They plan to drop thousands of paratroopers in Holland and keep a few key positions there until re-enforcements arrive. The most important spot is the bridge of Arnhem; once it's captured, it can block everything west of Germany." Summary written by Chris Makrozahopoulos.

Many people have suggested that there is a No. 19 in this movie. I believe it's an honest mistake because the radio is in fact a Wireless Set No. 22. It's amazing that the props people got it right. The No. 22 looks so much like a No. 19 but the Aerial Tuning knob beside the meter gives it away. The scene is a workshop in England where two Royal Signals officers are discussing the range shortcomings of the No. 22 before the operations begin. 

A No. 22 is on a bench between the two officers, turned upside down, and the outer case removed. The dialogue in the scene is quite good, as follows: 

Royal Signals Major "I just don't believe these damn radios are strong enough to carry the eight miles from the drop zone to Arnhem bridge."

Junior Officer "They are perfectly OK. I've used them God knows how many times." 

Royal Signals Major "You've already told me that God knows how many times." 

Junior Officer "Well, I didn't have any problems with them in the desert." 

Royal Signals Major "Yes, I know. You see Carl (?), what bothers me, what genuinely and truly has me more than a bit disturbed is that Holland, being half under water, is somewhat soggier than most deserts you are apt to find. Tends to have a lot more trees."

Further dialogue... 

Royal Signals Major "Well, if anyone rocks the boat, it's not going to be me." 

The poor communications was painfully evident during the ground operations at Arnhem, as the movie portrays. This is historically correct as confirmed by the book "Signals in the Second World War" by Major -General R. F. H. Nalder. Page 291 states: "The lack of a set with R.T. facilities and a longer range than the No. 22 was a handicap in the Arnhem operation". 

Another scene in the movie highlights the communication equipment delivery problems after the parachute drop. 

Major General Urquhart "What about those VHF sets?" 

Royal Signals Major (the same officer from the signals workshop) "Well sir, it appears the sets have been delivered with the wrong crystals". 

Major General Urquhart "So they are quite useless?". 

Royal Signals Major "Yes sir. I'm afraid they are". 

Although there were not any No. 19's shown in the movie, the concept of communication problems are very well portrayed.




 The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), 

starring William Holden and Alec Guinness

"British WW2 prisoners of war are given the task, by their Japanese captors, of building a railway bridge in a harsh Asian jungle. Led by Col. Nicholson, a stereotypical British officer, the prisoners score a moral victory over the Japanese by not only building the bridge, but running the whole show. Unknown to Nicholson, an allied demolition team are planning a spectacular opening for the bridge." Summary written by Rob Hartill.

The No. 19 in this movie is quite remarkable. It survived a parachute drop and wading through Asian swamps to arrive in a semi-operational state. 

The operator complains that he can't receive any strong signals. Commander/Major Shears (William Holden), in a fit of rage over what the harsh conditions does to equipment (and people), kicks the No. 19 so hard that it flips over. 

It magically starts to work much better after this unauthorized "Workshop Procedure"! 

Suddenly Radio Tokyo, "Your Friendliest Enemy", is being heard. The operator then tunes in some CW, "...WAKWAKWA...". Sarcasm aside, the radio appears to have been fitted into a wooden box with smooth sides. 

No power supply is shown and a 12-point cable is connected to PL 2A. A grill is fitted to the case. The handles appear to be missing. 

Credit goes to Dave Wilson VE3BBN and Bob Cooke VE3BDB for having sharp eyes in spotting the No. 19.




Sea of Sand (1958), a.k.a. Desert Patrol in the U.S., (black and white)

starring Richard Attenborough, Vincent Ball and Michael Craig.

"A small British army team is sent to destroy a German petrol dump as part of the preparation for a major attack in the North African campaign. Whilst they are there they spot a large number of tanks and realise that army intelligence must be informed or some Tommies are going to be in for a nasty surprise. The Germans are equally determined that they should not reach their base, and a tense chase across the desert is the result."   Summary written by Mark Thompson.

The No. 19 appears twice in the movie. It is mounted in the side of a Chev truck. The first appearance is on the way to the petrol dump. 

I was fascinated by the distinct sound of an operator sending morse on a Key and Plug Assembly No. 9. The "thumping" sound without sidetone is unmistakable. I was quite impressed. 

In the second appearance, as they are leaving the petrol dump, the set is more apparent. It is a No. 19 MK II but the Supply Unit No. 1 that you can't see must be "remoted" using a rather long 6 pin to 6 pin cable. The set gets "blown-up" by the enemy in this scene. 

Credit goes to Mike Kelly VK3CZ for having sharp eyes in spotting the No. 19.




Dieppe (1993 made for TV movie)


Starring: Gary Reineke (Maj. Gen. Hamilton Roberts), Victor Garber (Lord Louis Mountbatten), Robert Joy (Hughes-Hallet), Peter Donat (McNaughton), Kenneth Walsh (Maj. Gen. Harry Crerar), and Aidan Devine (Casey)



"Canadian troops stationed in England during the Second World War were ordered to attack the Nazi-occupied French seaside town of Dieppe. More than 900 were killed."  Summary written by Anonymous.

Dave Lawrence, VA3ORP, reports the following "I was watching a movie the other night and saw another 19 Set.  The movie is the one that was made to mark the 50th anniversary of Dieppe.  During Operation YUKON (training exercise for RUTTER) there is a scene with a 19 Set being used in a Universal Carrier.  

"However, it is a Mark III set!!! Wrong!!

You will see several scenes where they are using the throat mic.  On the beaches they had a combination of 18 Sets and 46 Sets.  There were only a very few 38 Sets (only used by the Commandos). The same movie has scenes taken onboard HMCS Haida."

In 1942 the No. 19 should have been a Mark II set.

Credit goes to Dave Lawrence VA3ORP for having sharp eyes in spotting the No. 19.




It has been a pleasure to do the research for this article. Many hours of movie watching with my finger poised over the pause button brought together some interesting sightings of wireless equipment. Hollywood doesn't always get it right but it's nice when they have done their research and the props people have done their job properly. 

We would like to hear of any more sightings of the No. 19 in television or in the movies.  Email me at [email protected] .  

Or, [email protected]


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