One day in 1953 a man walked into an office in Stroud - a year later he was listening in on Soviet tank movements.

At the end of last month two old signs were uncovered by renovators at what used to be a solicitor’s office on Lansdown.

One of them bore the name ‘Edith Hook’ - a mystery at first.

But when we posted photos of the signs online, a commenter came forward with one explanation.

According to Teresa Burge, a Mrs Edith Grace Hook, born on May 27, 1878, was trading at the address right up until at least 1939.

Her occupation was a milliner - a person who makes or sells women’s hats.

Figuring out the other sign’s meaning required less digging. It read ‘Army Recruitment Office’.

Nonetheless, we wanted more information, so in a recent edition of this newspaper we put out a call for anyone who encountered the office to come forward.

And, thankfully, someone got back to us.

David Gegg, a ex-owner of a Christian bookshop in Stroud, who long-time SNJ readers may remember from his Christian Comment pieces, signed up for his national service at the office in 1953.

David had been born in Sussex in 1935 and lived in London during the war, but his family moved to South Woodchester along with the film business his father worked for, GB Equipments, to avoid the blitz.

After he received his papers, David recalls what happened when he got to the office: “When I arrived, a recruitment officer explained what would happen and what we were expected to do for our national service.

“In the process he also talked about the idea of a three year regular service.

“Now you would hear stories about army camps like Catterick and Blackdown.

“They were notorious for being real, tough boot camps.

“So I posed the question to the recruitment officer: if I signed on to do a three year service, could I go where I wanted?

“I just had this sort of lightbulb moment. I was fairly well educated, so I set about trying to join the intelligence core.

“I had no ambitions. I wasn’t trained in anything. I had no desire to be a doctor and hadn’t any future ahead of me.”

So David went ahead with his plan - and he was accepted.

He was allocated to do his basic training at a camp in Maresfield in Sussex.

“It was a doddle. I had a distinct advantage over the other recruits, many of whom had a hard time adjusting, because I had gone to boarding school. I was used to the dormitory and communal life.”

Though his family had remained in Woodchester after the war, David had attended a boarding school on the Isle of Wight.

But by early 1954, David was ready to gather intelligence.

He was deployed to Munster, at the time near West Germany’s border with Holland.

“We were listening to the East Germans and the Russians, listening in by the radio.

“We would intercept war signals, mostly in Morse code, and analyse the data.

“A lot of my time was spent plotting tank movements on maps.

“There was one incident in particularly where the Russians moved in - it might have been the Hungarian Revolution but I can’t recall - and there was a lot of activity.”

In the end, David spent three years and 69 days in the military, returning to civilian life on January 4, 1957.

“It could have been longer - we wondered if command would hold us over, because of the Suez Crisis.

“I could have been sent out to Cyprus.”

David returned to Stroud, first getting a job at firm working on motorbikes and then another at plastic manufacturer Erinoid, which was based at Lightpill Mills in Stroud for about 70 years.

As for the recruitment office, David thinks it could not have lasted long after the end of national service at the beginning of the sixties.

Do you remember the office? Or Edith Hook? Email