UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


History of JSSL at SSEES

Training Russian military interpreters during the Cold War (1951-58) - a neglected page in the history of SSEES

By Faith Wigzell

Joint Services School for Linguists (JSSL)…

From 1951-58 probably around five hundred young men studied Russian intensively for a year at SSEES as part of their National Service. They were part of a much larger programme to train Russian translators and interpreters known as the Joint Services School for Linguists (JSSL). While the JSSL experience has been well-documented [Elliott and Shukman; Cash and Gerrard], the history of the SSEES wing of JSSL is inevitably restricted to at best a chapter. 

In this centenary year it is time to rescue for SSEES history what is known about these courses – not before time, as the participants are at least in their mid-seventies. Even if their recollections are inevitably fragmented, they make splendid informants; they were after all the most talented linguists of the huge number of young men who did National Service in the 1950s, and they went on to excel in many walks of life...