Please click on the title Newsletter 2016 above to open the full document with the index and on any picture in this newsletter to open a larger image.
Peter Turrall, MVA Chairman
The last bastion in our County City of Chelmsford where founder Guglielmo Marconi set up his Wireless Telegraph Company has now been sold to a commercial operator. For three months a local organisations the Chelmsford Society and Chelmsford Engineering Society set up a wonderful exhibition entitled ‘Marconi Science Worx’ of Marconi artefacts, large posters etc, in the original Marconi factory in Hall Street and invited the public to view these items, and knowledgeable people to give lectures not only on Marconi but also on other engineering facets.
This is a very sad blow for all the hard work this local Group put in to not only save the factory for a museum, but also a future educational establishment covering all aspects of engineering and communications.* The second Marconi factory in New Street Chelmsford opened in 1912 has been razed to the ground for a major housing complex. The only exception is the front building which has a preservation order on it. This is now completely refurbished and occupied by an American cosmetics company called Benefit which employs a large number of female operators. Whilst the building has been tastefully redesigned internally, it has changed from its original details. The outside of the building still holds a plaque denoting the world’s first wireless broadcast took place from the building in 1920.
The water tower running alongside Marconi Road is in the process of being converted. It is understood a local organisation hopes to produce community broadcasts from the building. The water reservoirs have been filled in and a new multi storey block of flats will soon be erected in the area once known as Building 720 with is wavy roof. The whole site has either one/two bedroomed flats or major three/four bedroom houses. Quite unrecognisable from its original 1912 complex.
Whilst there is no possibility of an ex-Marconi site being used for a Marconi Museum, there will be celebrations coming up covering various anniversaries – the opening of the BBC in 1920 when all Marconi equipment and engineering staff formed the British Broadcasting Company, later to be called the British Broadcasting Corporation. These anniversaries will wherever possible be supported by The Marconi Veterans Association and through the local and National Press people will be informed.
The Sandford Mill Museum run by Chelmsford City Council still holds a large variety of Marconi and other local industries items. The Marconi items are regularly updated and rebuilt by a faithful band of ex Marconi employees who spend their Mondays at Sandford Mill carrying out a wonderful task. They will always be ready to accept any unwanted Marconi items which will help them maintain existing equipment. If you have any items in your loft or you know of other people who have them, please ensure they are not thrown away or dumped. Get in touch with our Association and we will make sure they are transferred to the museum or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
*Stop press: all may not yet be lost!
Another year and in that time, probably almost twelve months, I’ve had an incredible number of emails from people researching family history and asking if we can assist in their enquiries – over three times as many as in earlier years. They’ve rather taken over this issue. Let’s hope that some of you out there will be able to assist in some of the enquiries.
You will no doubt notice that this edition is not quite up to the standard I’ve set for myself in previous issues. I was hit with a fluey cold in mid December which completely floored me – Christmas didn’t exist in our household. I’m still suffering from the its effects a month later, and it meant that dragging myself to the keyboard daily was a bit of an effort, so my apologies, I hope it’s not too obvious.
One of the things I always find difficult is to provide a brief summary of the speeches given at the previous reunion, almost a year after the event. My wife says, why on earth do you bother, it’s old news, and they can find it all on your website. But I do it mainly to give a flavour of what was said for the benefit of those veterans who are not able or have no interest in looking at proceedings on our website. If you think it really serves no purpose, please let me know and we’ll consider dropping it next year.
As in previous years, a number of letters many more than last year, are from correspondents seeking information about former colleagues, for research into their family history, or for the preparation of articles, books, etc. If no contact detail appears with the letter then please direct your reply or any correspondence for the enquirer to:
Barry Powell, Secretary, Marconi Veterans Association, 22 Juliers Close, Canvey Island, Essex, SS8 7EP; 01268 696342; email@example.com
or to the editor,
Ken Earney, 01245 381235; email firstname.lastname@example.org
Barry has produced a comprehensive guide to the online resources which may be helpful with this kind of enquiry. Find it on the MVA website at: http://www.marconi-veterans.org/?page_id=3047
Certain items in this issue, particularly on this and the next page, are responses to letters or articles appearing in the 2016 edition which have already been posted during the last eleven months on the website. There is thus an inevitable but necessary duplication catering for those Veterans who have no possibility, or wish, to use the internet.
Picking up on mention of the internet, many of the articles now come with links to web pages giving considerably more information on topics than can be included on these pages. For those not internet enabled, may I suggest that you enlist the help of a friend or neighbour who is, or go to your local library – remember those? – to enable you to see the material referred to.
Finally note that, to avoid unnecessary repetition of the Association’s name in full, the initials MVA have in places been used.
From Denny McCrisken, 5 July 2016
I am searching for my dad who worked for Marconi many years ago and I am hoping that someone, somewhere, may be able help me find him.
My brother and I last saw our dad in Canada in 1967 and due to a nasty marriage breakdown all contact with him ended and he disappeared from our lives. Over the years I have tried in vain to find him but always reach a dead end. I just would like to know what happened to him. Is he alive ? Maybe not…we want nothing apart from some answers and maybe, just maybe, someone will remember him.
His name is Brian Edwards, born July 4 1934. I know that he worked as a draughtsman for Marconi. We moved from Harlow, Essex in 1967 to 204 Thompson Boulevard, Ville St Laurent, Montreal, Canada for his work but I have nothing more from then to now.
Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this. I understand it’s a strange request and will appreciate any comments you may have. I am 58 years old and live in Australia with my husband of 40 years, children and grandchildren and it would be wonderful if I could tell them about their grand-father and great-grandfather.
From John Edwards, 18 November 2016
I am a researcher for the ex-students of the Wireless College, Colwyn Bay. I have been contacted by a relative of Eric Bird, 20 years (?), who was 3rd Radio Officer on the MV Harpagus which was torpedoed and sunk by a U-Boat on the 2nd of May, 1941. Eric Bird did not survive the attack. He was believed to have been a Marconi employee. His relative is trying to discover which radio school Eric attended before sitting his exams. If there is any record of him in the Marconi files, would it be likely to contain this information? It is not known if he attended Colwyn Bay Wireless College as all the records have been lost. I was a Marconi Marine Radio Officer in 1944.
Keeping in touch from the US
From George Maclean, 23 May 2016
Living in exile, in the US, I would like to keep in contact with old colleagues and friends, from people who I know, and those that I did not, to hear about past and present experiences. My 29 years with Marconi were the happiest time of my life, especially that in Bld 46!
I am a member of the ‘Chelmsford Remembered’ Group on FaceBook, and MOGS & MOFS.
Please keep in touch. Happy memories.
From Sue Hearfield, 2 May 2016
I used to work at Marconi Radar Systems in Watford Junction in the 70s. I sometimes wonder what happened to the people I worked with but I can’t find any mention of the place online. We did have to sign the Official Secrets Act, perhaps that’s why there’s no mention of it? I also worked at Cable and Wireless (London). Do you have members from the Watford Junction branch?
Marconi Radar History – public access
Ian Gillis, 10 March 2016
As promised I have changed the access controls to the Marconi Radar History Wiki to give read access to the general public. Now anyone can read the contents at marconiradarhistory.pbworks.com. To leave comments readers will need to be subscribed to PB Works and the History website. I would like to thank Alan Hartley-Smith for his heroic efforts on Saddleworth Moor which made this possible. I dedicate this work to my former boss Brian Kendon who is laid to rest today.
John (Jack) Bacon
From Don Bacon, 26 August 2016
It is with regret that I inform you of the passing of JF Bacon – Jack. He worked almost his entire working life at Marconi, and you may still have people within your association who knew him.
He worked as a turner at Baddow Research from about 1939, then as an inspector, before moving to New Street, and then St Mary’s House as an estimator. His final job was at the Writtle Road works from where he retired. On his retirement day, Jim Prior made his presentation on the mezzanine floor. Photographs were in the company magazine/newspaper at the time.
His funeral was at Chelmsford crematorium in September 2016. Please could you circulate this information and my email details should anyone wish to get in touch.
From Helen French, 7 December 2016
It is with great sadness that I write to advise you that my father, David French, a draughtsman at Marconi’s for many years passed away in the early hours of today. I know that he kept in touch with some old colleagues on a monthly basis but I think this was a quite an informal arrangement and I don’t have any direct contact details.
Could you spread the news so that when funeral details are available I can pass them on to you for those that may be interested in attending. There are no details yet as we are awaiting a Coroner’s report which will probably take a week.
It really would be much appreciated if you could assist in this matter. My father was not into modern technology so we don’t have a list of e-mail addresses to readily send the news to.
Eric Burnett Vass 1936 – 1953
From Bruce & Kathy Vass, West Lakes, South Australia, 8 June 2016
I’ve been building my family tree for a number of years and recently came across the Marconi Veterans website and wonder if you can assist me with information about my Dad. He passed away 25 August 1984 and as is a common story we don’t have a great deal of his history. I came across a draft letter he wrote in 1972 seeking work at STC, which was unsuccessful, however it does provide a brief synopsis of his career and I transcribe the letter as follows:
With reference to your opening a branch office in Adelaide I am writing to ask if you could have a suitable vacancy either pert time or full time. Brief resume as follows:
1936 – March 1953, Communications Project Officer, Marconi W/T Co., Chelmsford Essex
March 1953 – April 1966, Communications Project Officer, Phillips P.T.A., formerly T.C.A.
During the above period I was responsible for the design and development of a large number of projects of advanced design. The original doppler radar Blue Silk, miniaturised ADF equipment, Telemetre Receiver for the Blue Streak missile project, VHF link equipment etc. Both firms took out many patents in my name, some of these used on Mobile Radio Telephones: Squelch noise limiters etc.
In June 66 due to the close down of PTA labs I was asked to take over the Phillips tech. library where my experience as an engineer could be an asset. However with the closure of the Menzies Research labs and the removal interstate of the remainder of the development departments the services of a technical librarian was no longer warranted.
I was retrenched on 30/3/72. Although I am 63 years old I am in excellent health.
Dad also mentioned briefly that he was involved in recording Morse code messages during the war and I only realised recently that this activity was not to be spoken of. He was able to build his only radio equipment and he also built a TV for the home in the late 40s. We left 12 St Vincent Road, Chelmsford in 1953 to settle in Adelaide South Australia. He was always keen that his children and grandchildren learn morse code and made a very professional key for them to practice on. He also became a amateur radio enthusiast when he was 70 after passing the appropriate exams to gain his operating certificate.
I was contacted years ago by a wireless collector who found Dad’s name inside some equipment. Even today a Google search will locate some patents that Dad was responsible for. I do have some papers from the estate which deal with the patents. It was always a mystery how Dad acquired the skills in the radio field without any formal training or university degrees – clearly it was self taught and brought about by a passion for the field. We believe he would have taken a shine to computers if he had lived 20 years longer, but of course this may have interfered with his hobby of amateur radio which occupied him in his retirement.
Seth Muir, 14 October 2016
My name is Seth Muir and I’m the Executive Director of Salish Sea Expeditions, a Seattle Washington USA based non-profit charity. For 20 years we have been engaging middle and high school students, primarily from public schools (US term for state schools), in science research and maritime skills programs on Puget Sound aboard a 61ft sailing rearch vessel.
I’m writing because in 2015 we purchased the M/V Elettra III (o/n 694607; BRIT304285) from a private owner here in Seattle. We have begun to retro-fit and plan to relaunch her as our region’s first science and marine technology laboratory and research vessel for kids. We have made great progress and I thought you might be interested in our exciting new plan for this historic vessel built to Lloyd’s class for the Marconi Company.
Elettra III from above 2016
Some materials about our progress (including the Act of Congress we received) and the campaign underway to relaunch Elettra III as a student lab can be found here (http://www.salish.org/pathtolaunch/). I also recently won a prize pitching this idea, and a short video can be seen here (http://www.salish.org/news/salish-sea-expeditions-advances-to-svp-fast-pitch-finals/) which tells the story and highlights our plans.
If this is of interest at all to you, I’d love to talk more. If you ever happen to be in this area we’d love to show you around and might have some original equipment coming off the boat that could be of interest too.
My information is all below, and I thank you for your interest.
PS: I have attached photos we took on a recent cruise in Seattle (see above) and an article written in Marconi Mariner, Sept/Oct 1962 describing the vessel at the time of her original launch. (You can find it on the MVA website http://www.marconi-veterans.org/?p=3058).
Seth Muir, Executive Director, Phone: (01)206.780.7848 c: (mobile) (01)206.427.9090
“Inspiring youth to connect with the marine environment through boat-based scientific inquiry and hands-on learning, instilling curiosity, confidence, and critical thinking.” Continue reading