MVA Annual General Meeting – 2016

The Annual General Meeting of the Marconi Veterans Association was held on Saturday 16th April 2016 at the Marconi Athletic & Social Club following the reunion and luncheon.

AGENDA

1.  Minutes

To approve the minutes of the Annual General Meeting held on 18th April 2015.

The minutes were passed unanimously by a show of hands.

2.  Accounts

To receive the audited accounts for the year ended 31 December 2015.

Passed unanimously by a show of hands.

3.  Committee

To elect officers and members of the Committee.

All members of the Committee, being eligible, offered themselves for re-election.

The Committee was elected unanimously by a show of hands.

4. Appointment of Auditor

Mr T Mundon will shortly be leaving Marconi’s and will be unable to continue as auditor of the Marconi Veterans Association. The committee will shortly appoint a new auditor.

5.  Any other business

a) New Street site.

Peter Turrall gave an outline of the present state of the New Street building. It is currently occupied by an American company called Benefit who make cosmetics. The committee has already held one committee meeting there and will continue to do so from October. They have a very good show of wireless sets in their reception area but not any technical equipment of the type Marconi did make.

b) Photographic archive at the Essex Records Office – veteran Ken Earney

“Thanks Peter, I’ll try.”

“The Marconi photographic archive at the Essex Records Office we’ve had a lot of difficulty in trying to track down the records that the Baddow photographer made of this archive before it moved to the record office. So, we’ve had quite a struggle to find out what happened to the records that the Baddow photographer had made of the archive before it transferred from New Street to the record office.”

“To cut a long story short. As a result of a piece that I put in the Newsletter that appeared about six weeks ago now, in a couple of days Trevor Wright the former curator of the Marconi Heritage Collection got in touch too say that he had originally passed the records in Microsoft Access database format to the records office with the archive. What happened to them, why did they not.., why were they not able to use these we don’t know but he re-sent the data in Microsoft Excel format.”

“I’ve been in touch with the curator at the record office, yes, she’s received this recent data, she’s assessing it at the moment to see whether they have a need to call on the volunteers that we’ve offered to go and look at this archive and assist them with identifying photographs, items and personalities and so on.”

“We’re waiting to hear further from the archivist at the moment but, sorry, if we want volunteers we will still be asking for them, we don’t know whether or not we shall yet.”

“We haven’t finished yet, watch this space.”

6. Next Meeting

“So, watch this space fellow Veterans. The next meeting we have is on 22 April 2017 and I can assure you it will be at this Marconi Social Club.”

“So, end of the meeting of the Marconi Veterans Association, unless anyone has anything to say you have one second to say it.”

“Meeting closed. Thank you.”

Reunion 2016 – Guest of Honour

Peter Turrall

Peter Turrall

Introduction to our Guest of Honour, John Shrigley by Peter Turrall, Chairman of the MVA

Mr Patron, Madam President, fellow Veterans

It give me great pleasure to introduce today our honoured guest, John Shrigley.

First of all many congratulations, John, on your recent wedding anniversary celebrating 50 years of married life, well done. (applause)

I first met John when I was overseas sales manager for Tom Mayer in MCSL in 1985. Sir Robert Telford had called me to his office to discuss a project following my recent visit to the Argentine and John was on a visit to New Street waiting to see Sir Robert. At that time I did not know him and it was not until we sat down for lunch later that I found out that he was the director of personnel for GEC Marconi.

After that I recognised him, you couldn’t but help recognise him, he never walked anywhere, he ran.  And I can remember him coming from the top floor down the stairs right the way to the front offices.

John has been involved in personnel, nowadays the world’s word is human resources, following his degree at Durham University. The word human resources, I find, rather a strange name as it conjures up many thoughts far removed from personnel.

Following his appointment as personnel director GEC Electrical Components in 1969 John became personnel director of GEC Marconi in 1976 and for 15 years he reported to Sir Robert Telford. A real move up the ladder came in 1991 when John was appointed personnel director to GEC reporting to Lord Weinstock at Stanhope Gate. In 1994 John decided on a career change working away from large organisations and he became a consultant as well as a civil service commissioner.

At employment tribunal decisions he was an appeals member, a magistrates selector as well as a selector of police authorities in Beds, Herts and Cambridgeshire and finally before retiring in 2002 he was for 13 years a member of the council and vice chair of Brunel University where he was awarded an honorary doctorate.  Now I really should have addressed you John as Dr. John, I do apologise.

Now in his spare time he manages to play golf helps with charity work and even finds time to enjoy family life especially with his grandchildren.

Well John, you’ve had a varied and interesting career and I feel sure you will be giving us an insight to some of the more interesting happenings especially your associations with both Marconi and GEC companies so before I ask you to come up and say a few words, John, we’d like to make you an honorary member of the Marconi Veterans Association and I hope you wear this tie with distinction. (applause)

So, fellow Veterans please raise your glass to welcome our honoured guest Mr John Shrigley. – John Shrigley.

 

John Shrigley

John Shrigley

Response by John Shrigley

Madam President, Chairman, Veterans, thank you very much.

I was going to concentrate on one or two war stories from Africa and I will do but since you’ve mentioned Stanhope Gate and Lord Weinstock it might sort of kick off with one of those. There are quite a few people here, certainly Tom Mayer remembers, Robbie Robertson, Don Mott and David you’ll remember that annually each company had to present its budget to Lord Weinstock. The budget was presented personally to him and he would put the fear of God into many managing directors – not Tom Mayer.. So with trepidation they would go because this man was larger than life, dominating, domineering perhaps, certainly an autocrat, however, on one occasion we were settled in his office and because there were so many companies presenting their budgets he would have several companies on one occasion; he had a massive office and there may have been 20 or so people in the room. And Lord Weinstock was particularly concerned, as many of you may know about cost. Costs shouldn’t happen and employment costs were of course a significant part of our activities. And that’s why I was there just to help managing directors get through the questions they’d be asked about employment costs, and one of these was recruitment expenses. We were the biggest employing companies. Companies were constantly recruiting engineers and others and we needed to scour for UK people. And we found one of the finest medium, or the best medium to use was the Daily Telegraph so we were frequently advertising. And Lord Weinstock asked

“Where was this money going?”

“So well you know we do spend a lot of money on advertising”.

“Where do you advertise?”

“The Daily Telegraph”.

“You mean you are spending all this money on the Daily Telegraph”.

“Well yes, it’s quite expensive but it’s the most effective”.

“Right, well we’ll put a stop to that. Miss Elscom (his secretary) get me Conrad Black”, who at the time was the boss of the Daily Telegraph. Conrad Black comes on the line.
“Conrad, I’ve got these Marconi people, they’re telling me that in fact they’ve got to spend millions with you on advertising. The costs are over the top and I’m sure you and I can come to a deal”.

The room was very quiet and Lord Weinstock he didn’t say a word and he put the phone down and said

“I lost that”.

Now that’s, that’s a bit unusual for him, he’s used to winning every argument and for those in the room it was an unusual experience. Needless to say we didn’t get any mention, any further mention, of employment costs from then on.

Coming closer to home, pay negotiations in my secondary period we might talk about, a couple of stories. On one occasion, you’ll remember that in fact in Chelmsford it was a massive negotiation took place; a lot of people who would benefit from the negotiations with the thousands of people employed. And so it was a significant negotiation, it took some time. But eventually it would be concluded and Don Mott would pay, and others indeed, pay employees their increases within about a couple of weeks, a remarkable achievement for thousands of staff. And one day I got a visit from head of personnel, very proud he said “We’re going to computerise”.

Well, that sounds encouraging I’m sure we’ll welcome that. How long is it going to take you to implement the increases?

Six weeks, which is astonishing it seemed to me and we didn’t take him up on that.

Another occasion negotiations had been going reasonably well but there needed to be some sort of game changer to complete the deal. And Hugh Jones with his management team of negotiators came into the office and said. “Look we want to offer staff conditions to manual employees.” Now at that time that was revolutionary. The engineering industry practically, that is to say all manual staff had conditions which involved, for example, waiting ……. And many of us over the years have said this is absurd. You can have a time-serving worker whose modest conditions compare to his 16 year old daughter who’s a typist, but we did nothing about it because it was all too difficult.

Anyway. Hugh Jones had seen the light, he wanted the same conditions for all manual workers. Now normally we wouldn’t bother going to GEC’s headquarters to discuss what we were doing, we’d get on with it. This is one of those cases when I started having worries. And lots of people said look what’s going to happen if all the manual workers go sick because now you’re giving them indubitably higher benefits from a pay point of view man for man.

So I phoned Stanhope Gate. There was a pause

“Who wants to do this. You realise this is very unusual; on your head be it”.

Anyway. Phone down. We went ahead and Hugh you will remember said in fact far from seeing a substantial increase in sickness I think there was a minor spike for a very short time and it settled down to normal staff levels of sickness and it was a major innovation.

One or two personalities past and present. First, Robbie, Robbie Robertson, who as you all know has a substantial career in Marconis. I recall when he was appointed, Arthur Walsh asked him to come and see him.

“Robbie, I want you to take over Norsk Marconi”.

He was a wily bird, Norsk Marconi was a real problem. Small, it took too much time no one wanted to spend any time with it and I think Arthur took advantage of Robbie

And I think many managing directors would have said

“Well, I’ll give this one up there are more important things to do”.

But not Robbie, not only did Robbie visit Norsk Marconi on many occasions and spend serious time with them but he also or at least started with the language but certainly he endeavoured to correspond with them and keep them on board. My abiding recollection is of Robbie and I walking down a street in Oslo in the middle of February at 14 below zero.

There was an occasion, you remember Marconi College, it would have been 1977 when one of the directors decided that he wanted to appear as a woman. Now I think Roger it’s probably before your time. Now that’s commonplace these days. In 1977/78 it was not commonplace at all, it was exceptional and unusual. And the menfolk were very fussed about this and they made me think there were maybe concerns but one concern that they had was what to do about the toilets. And we fussed about it and we couldn’t decide, then it was mentioned to the ladies and eventually one among two or three said “What are you fussing about we go into cubicles so there’s no need to worry about those”. So that sorted out that problem.

I’d like to finish with a little story about a former president in fact Robert Telford. Marconi being so dominant in Chelmsford, the Marconi city, Sir Robert would invite any newly appointed senior person in other companies or activities for lunch at Marconi’s, for example, the chief executive of the local authorities. On one occasion the new general manager Paul Varian. And he was invited for lunch. Just the three of us, lovely lunch. Sir Robert had to go out and I took charge of him. As he turned to leave he looked back at Sir Robert’s retreating figure he said “You know if ever I was fat I would hate to be fat”.

Thank you all very much for having me, clearly Marconi Veterans Association is flourishing and I hope it will flourish well in the future.

 

Our President 2016 – Valerie Cleare

The Presidential address at the 2016 reunion

P1000474Introduction to the President  by Peter Turrall, Chairman of the MVA

Mr Patron, Honoured Guest, Fellow Veterans.

I have the pleasure this afternoon of introducing to you the President of our Marconi Veterans Association, somebody who is well known to many of you, Miss Valerie Cleare, sitting in the middle. Congratulations Val and in the other language that you are familiar with molti congratulazioni, congratulate. Did I say that right? (laughter)

If I was to cover all of Val’s curriculum today I would be speaking to you for the rest of the afternoon so I intend to mention just some of her activities with the Marconi organisation.

As many of you will know Val had to find an alternative position outside the company in 1998 when all work at New Street ceased. She currently is employed by the Essex County Council as a business support administrator, what does that mean?

Val joined Marconi’s in 1971 straight from Great Baddow High School, just round the corner where she was proficient in languages and, in particular, French and German and this gave her a good background for later in life when she became very well versed in the Italian language. She extensively used Italian on behalf of the company in many negotiations with Marconi Italiana and other similar organisations.

So the first few years with Marconi’s was learning the trade of being a secretary studying at Chelmsford College and gaining experience and proficiency in both shorthand and typing.
Her early attachment as a qualified secretary were at Marconi Radar, various personnel departments, technical information division and, of course, the typing pool.
Her achievements and number of positions ultimately held read like an input to a science directory but suffice it to say she held senior secretarial posts with commercial directors, technical directors, engineering directors and personnel directors within the local Marconi group and also sometime secretary to GEC-Marconi Electronics director of personnel John Shrigley, who is Val’s Guest of Honour here today.

Apart from being employed with Marconi organisations for over 25 years which gives her the qualifications as a veteran Val found time, she says spare time, away from secretarial aspects to be a member of Great Baddow church choir, MASC theatre group, I know as secretary also as an actress, Chairman of Chelmsford Folk Dancers and finally as a member of our Marconi Veterans Committee.

I have given you a broad outline of Val’s career and social activities; now it give me great pleasure to welcome her as our President as I ask you to raise a glass in honour of veteran Val Cleare.

Thank you.

P1000489AResponse by our 2016 President Val Cleare

Val Cleare – President 2016

Mr Patron, Mr Chairman, Honoured Guest, Fellow Veterans

Buongiomo a tutti, Hello everyone. It is indeed an honour that I have been asked to become President. Guglieilmo Marconi was the first President in 1928 and I feel especially proud to have this honour bestowed upon me. In fact I’m not as Essex girl. I was lucky enough to subsequently be a beauty queen in Eastbourne, Swanage and Blackpool.

I was born in St. Helens, Lancashire. St. Helens (famous for Pilkington’s Glass and rugby league). My parents were in the RAF, for the first part of my life we moved to wherever my Dad was stationed. Such places as Middle Wallop near Salisbury, various places in Norfolk, Odiham in Hampshire. My Dad was stationed at Trimingham, Coltishall, Neatishead, whilst in Norfolk.

My Dad, Bob Cleare, was employed by Marconi Radar as a radar systems engineer working at both Great Baddow, Crompton works, Writtle Road, Chelmsford for 24 years.
In September 1971 I enrolled on the intensive secretarial training course, which entailed studying shorthand and typing etc. at Chelmsford College, half a day each week and the remainder of the time I worked at Marconi’s. I obtained my first attachment at Marconi Radar in E-block at Writtle Road for four months then I went to the secretarial training centre for six months in Y-block under Yvonne White. Also, I learnt about commercial aspects of business with Audrey Stanhope-Lovell and later covered for a secretary in Radar Personnel department, which is where I met Joan Kendall, a previous President and encouraged her to dictate her correspondence to save time writing it and to make sure I could understand what was written and as I was developing my shorthand speed this helped me tremendously. I learnt to write shorthand at 90 words per minute from scratch in one year and am still using this skill in my current role today.

I had the pleasure of meeting Sir Peter Pitman himself at the Royal Society of Arts in London.

My second year into my training – I was attached to broadcasting division typing pool in Marconi Communications at New Street where I was required to do a variety of tasks and also able to take dictation from Broadcasting Sales personnel.

In October 1972 my training manager asked me to step in and cover the role of Secretary to the Personnel Director, James Pease-Watkin for one month. I shared an office with another secretary and we had about 10 telephones. Learning how to cope answering them was another skill I learnt as we did not have a phone at home.
I won the award for the best shorthand typist on the Marconi Training Scheme. I went on to evening classes and obtained RSA 100 words a minute and Pitmans 110 words per minute shorthand. Meeting Sir Peter Pitman must have inspired me. Following this I did the two teacher’s courses in shorthand and typewriting, which enabled me to teach at Chelmsford College and Adult Community Learning (12 years)

A memorable telephone call I once took at New Street was from Buckingham Palace. When I repeated Buckingham Palace – people who were in close proximity to me – their jaws dropped. No it was not April 1st I was being asked to locate aenior Royal who was visiting on that occasion.

In the January following I was asked to be secretary to the University Liaison Officer and ironically it was my previous training manager – Marilyn Gibbs (nee Smith) and the Personnel Director asked me to provide cover on Fridays and any time his secretary was on holiday or sick as she was returning on a part-time basis. She eventually left to raise a family and I stepped into the post as secretary to James Pease-Watkin. Subsequently he moved to another company and I worked with John Shrigley for six years.

To enhance my status as secretary and PA I applied to be a member of the European Association of Professional Secretaries. John Shrigley signed my application. I think he thought I was applying for another a job. Among other things this enabled me to learn how to do public speaking. It was interesting, because one year I went to a secretarial conference in Stockholm, Sweden. Two weeks before the conference I was asked to do a presentation about the future of shorthand in both the UK and Europe (covering for someone who had been double booked). I delivered my presentation in the Houses of Parliament in Stockholm.

I attended about 12 conferences across Europe. The icing on the cake for me was when I attended the conference in Montecatini Terme, Tuscany, Italy I was able to converse with Italian secretaries.

Then GEC-Marconi Limited was decentralised and John moved to Stanmore. I helped him install his filing system at Stanmore. A few months later I became PA to the Managing Director of Marconi International Marine Company working with Iain Dick and George Hill for six years. Whilst at Marconi Marine I was involved in hosting visits from a Chinese delegation. We even found a Chinese tea set so jasmine tea was the order of the day for a week. Also we hosted a visit by Lord Prior.

I then moved back to New Street as secretary to the Technical and Engineering directors, Dr. Steve Rotherham and Dr. Philip Thorpe. During that time I covered on numerous occasions for Pauline Easton who was working with the Finance Director sharing the office with Andrew Glasgow’s secretary. Subsequently as an Italian management Giorgio Ghiglione. I was at the forefront of arranging for engineering staff to learn Italian. Although I attended evening classes initially I was able to transfer to the company course where I studied for six years and obtained advanced Italian from the University. My role was very valuable in arranging visits etc. I was able to speak Italian not only on the phone, via fax and in person when greeting visitors to the company.

In 1989 I worked on the Personal Communications Networks Project with the technical director in Piccadilly, London. On arrival I was given a five minute crash course on the Apple Mackintosh computer. I was working with both American and English personnel on this project as part of a consortium. At that time there were bomb threats in London, quite often I found I could not use the underground and had to resort to London buses.

I also worked with the Commercial Director of Radar, David Harrison. Part two of my interview I had to be able to converse in Italian with a lady who I had never met before Un grand’ experienza! Needless to say I got the job. I was involved with the production of key tender documents, which successfully secured important MOD contracts. Sometimes working long hours to get the work done.
After 32 years’ service I was made redundant and have since worked for Essex County Council in a variety of posts, but I learnt so much during my time and have some very happy memories.
You have probably heard Peter say I am a keen folk dancer and I have been Chairman of Chelmsford Folk Dancers since June 2014. We have hosted folk dance from Annonay, France (Chelmsford’s town-twin) on a number of occasions. I am a former member of St. Mary’s Church choir, Great Baddow for 25 years still keep my singing up having been a member of the County Hall Singers since April 2004. I’m an actress and was secretary of Marconi’s Theatre Group and acted in two productions.

I received my long service award for 25 years’ service in the Marconi organisation in 1996.

Grazie a tutti per l’attenzione. Thank you for listening.

 

Reunion 2016 – Pictures

The Committee and Guests

Back row L to R: Don Mott, Malcolm Cozens, Ken Earney, Claire Lucas, Dave Roscoe, David Frost, Barry Powell, Chris Gardiner, Jimmy Leadbitter. Front Row L to R: Eric Peachey (vice chairman), John Shrigley (honoured guest), Tom Mayer, Val Cleare (president), Robbie Robertson (patron), Peter Turrall (chairman). Not present: Alan Simmons, Bernard Hazelton

Back row L to R: Don Mott, Malcolm Cozens, Ken Earney, Claire Lucas, Dave Roscoe, David Frost, Barry Powell, Chris Gardiner, Jimmy Leadbitter.
Front Row L to R: Eric Peachey (vice chairman), John Shrigley (honoured guest), Tom Mayer, Val Cleare (president), Robbie Robertson (patron), Peter Turrall (chairman).
Not present: Alan Simmons, Bernard Hazelton

Further pictures from the reunion

General view before lunch Peter Turrall Barry Powell Robbie Robertson Malcolm Cozens Graham Chorley Laurie Bond Dave Roscoe

Reunion 2016 – an invitation from our secretary

February 2016

Dear Fellow Veteran

First, let me wish all Veterans a healthy and prosperous 2016.

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome all new members to the Association and hope to see them at the Annual Reunion, which will be held on Saturday 16th April 2016. This will be the 80th Reunion and the venue will be the Marconi Social Club, Beehive Lane, Chelmsford, where there is ample parking for those who travel by road.  The Bar is within the Main Hall (on the right as you enter the Club) and will open at 11.00 a.m.

There will be various displays and the merchandise table will, again, be located in the hall. You will have plenty of time to enjoy meeting up with colleagues until it is time to take your seats for the luncheon.  This will take place, as usual, at 1.00 p.m. with the Annual General Meeting and the Raffle concluding the proceedings.  Any changes will be advised to you with your ticket.  If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to ring me on the above number.

We are, again, producing a commemorative Coaster and one per person is included in the ticket price.  There will also be additional coasters, for sale, plus some coasters from previous years as well as a number of Ties, Scarves and Badges.

Our President for 2016 is Veteran Valerie Cleare who, for many years, was Secretary/P.A. to a number of Directors and Senior Management within Marconi Communication Systems at New Street, Chelmsford including the MD of MIMCo.

Joining the Reunion as our Honoured Guest is Mr. John Shrigley, Director of Personnel of GEC-Marconi Electronics Ltd. during the second half of the 1970s.

The menu for this year’s luncheon will be as follows: –
Farmhouse Pate with Melba Toast and Salad Garnish
Redcurrant & Rosemary Glazed Leg of Lamb with an Apricot Stuffing
Pavlova topped with Cream, Blueberries & Raspberries
Coffee, Cheese and Biscuits

We appreciate that some Veterans may have special dietary requirements and would request that you indicate this on your application.  We are able to cater for most requirements.

We are pleased to maintain both the Subscription at £6.00 per annum and the cover price for the Reunion at £25.00.  I am sure that you will agree that this is excellent value for a four course meal with tea/coffee and wine.  As the Association has a very limited income, and in order to keep our expenses to a minimum, receipts for Subscriptions and/or Donations will not be issued unless requested so we thank you in anticipation.

Those Veterans who wish to attend are requested to apply to the above address at the earliest possible date in order that I may properly assess the numbers. To reduce administration, please combine your ticket price, subscription, etc. on to a single cheque which should be made payable to ‘Marconi Veterans’ Association’.

Please note that it is not acceptable for guests to bring their own drink or food into the Club. Please refrain from this practice as anyone doing so may be asked to leave the Reunion and could be refused a ticket in the future. As last year, cheese and biscuits are included in our menu and additional bottles of wine can be purchased from the bar.

We often hear comments from Veterans that they would come to the Reunion but are afraid that they “would not know anyone on their table” or that “the speeches are long winded and boring”. If you feel this way, please read my articles in this year’s and the 2014 Newsletters, speak to a Veteran who does attend or give me a ring. Then, if you’re still not convinced, try it – if it really isn’t your ‘thing’ then there is no obligation to come again.

Your assistance is requested with the seating arrangements and we ask you to indicate, on your ticket application, with which Company you would prefer to sit (i.e. Comms, Mobile, Radar, Baddow, Basildon, Marine, MI).

Following a suggestion from a Veteran, we are compiling a list of forenames and nicknames in an effort to make the various lists less formal and enable people to distinguish between Veterans with similar initials. With regard to the name tags, last year’s arrangements seemed to work quite well so we will, again, produce the name tags on A4 sheets which will be at the merchandise table so you can collect your label as you enter the Hall. When you order your ticket, please indicate, in the box provided, how you would like your tag to read. If you attended the Reunion last year, it will read the same, otherwise, THE DEFAULT WILL BE TO PRINT YOUR NAME AS IT APPEARS ON THE FIRST LINE OF YOUR ADDRESS LABEL.
So please fill in the spaces on the Subscription/Ticket application form.

We are, as usual, inviting entries for the ‘Absent Friends’ book, containing messages from Veterans who were unable to attend. Two copies will be produced and prominently displayed at the Reunion. If you wish to place a message in the book, please use the space provided on the enclosed form. Entries will be identified by name but no contact details will be provided unless you include them within the message area.

Your Committee is prepared to receive any nominations, propositions or suggestions for submission to the Annual General Meeting. providing they reach me in writing by 31st March 2016.

We now have almost 70 ‘Friends of the Marconi Veterans’ Association’. All ‘Friends’ receive the Newsletter and we will do all we can to keep them in touch with ex-colleagues but, regrettably, they are not eligible to attend the Reunion. The 2016 subscription for Friends is unchanged at £3.00. If you know of anyone who would like to be included, please urge them to contact me, at the above address, as soon as possible.

I am often not informed when a Veteran dies, and in these circumstances, I would like to extend my condolences to members of the families who receive this letter and apologise for any distress or inconvenience caused.  Should you be aware of any Veterans who have passed away recently, I would appreciate it if you would let me know so that I can amend our records and avoid any embarrassment.

We trust that you will accept this letter as a very cordial invitation to attend the Eightieth Reunion, but if, for any reason, you cannot be with us, your Committee would like to take this opportunity to wish you the very best of luck and good health for the future.

Finally, the 2017 Reunion will be on Saturday 22nd April

I look forward to seeing you at the Reunion.

With kindest regards

I am yours sincerely
Veteran Barry Powell
Secretary

For a copy of the Subscription/Ticket application form for downloading and printing please CLICK HERE.  We regret we are no yet able to accept electronic payments.

Our Honoured Guest – 2015

As his guest at this year’s reunion our President Veteran Basil Francis had invited John Warwicker who had a career as a senior officer in the Police Force.  He was introduced by and the toast proposed by Chairman Veteran Peter Turrall.

Peter Turrall

There’s one thing that this M/C does, he keeps me on my toes, anyway.

Mr President, fellow veterans. It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you this afternoon our honoured guest Mr John Warwicker, MBE.  John was to accompanied here by Jilly Sullivan, his friend who looks or keeps an eye on him as John is severely sight disabled.

Now John has known Basil for many years and more recently attended a momentous birthday party for him.  He has had a very illustrious career from being an officer in the Metropolitan Police, the CID, owning and sailing a yacht, obtaining a pilot’s licence, becoming a flying instructor and writing several books one of which entitled An Outsider Inside Number 10.  This has just been published and it is on this subject that John will give us a talk which he today has titled Yes Prime Minister.

Now, believe it or not, John now lives out in the Norfolk countryside but is a Chelmsford person having attended the local King Edward the Sixth grammar school. I’m sure we are in for a very interesting afternoon as John was the close protection officer for three Prime Ministers stretching over a large part of his career.

I therefore ask you fellow veterans, to be upstanding to welcome John Warwicker, our honoured guest and to drink his toast before he gives us some insight into his illustrious career following his close proximity to leading statesmen.

John Warwicker our honoured guest.

Now before I leave I have threatened John that if he goes beyond seven and a half minutes I shall kick him once, if he goes beyond ten minutes I shall kick him twice and if he goes beyond fifteen minutes, well, you can understand what happens.  But I’ll see how we get on but I’m going to leave the floor entirely to John. Thank you.

John Warwicker

Let me take wine with somebody please.  Ian (Francis) are you there? Can’t see that far but there you are – I’d like to take wine with you Ian for kindly transporting me here today in some considerable comfort, if I may say so and with a sure hand on the wheel and a mature approach to traffic congestion (laughter) and may I say your wagon is a good deal better than the Austin Ruby which I remember learning to drive in once upon a time.

Peter, thank you very much for that kind introduction, very kind, of course I can’t possibly comply can I? Totally impossible to comply with a lifetime or six years of life at Downing Street and a book at the end of it in the seven and a half minutes which he has allocated to me and I just thought Oh of course I was in the Royal Marines so I’ll follow the last order and that came from Peter, he gave me this notice: If any veteran present today endeavours to fall asleep in the next seven and a half to ten minutes he will be force marched to Tilbury landing stage and exported direct to Botany Bay. Now I expect/imagine there is a contingent force of bouncers standing by to comply but of course it all cuts into my time available and it’s important to say just why I was invited to come here today.

Yes, I was invited to come here today because I am a man of Chelmsford, yes, I was educated here my Father worked here and I remember only too well that Marconis was always a part of Chelmsford and Chelmsford would have been very little indeed without Marconis.  I was also privileged, I think is probably the word, to be involve with Marconis perhaps through marriage, through Basil’s marriage to my cousin Eva, and to my own marriage to Elizabeth Penkman, whose Father worked for the Marine Division for his lifetime and her brother was Billy Penkman who, as I understand it, worked for the Radar Division. He may even be working for Marconis, in whatever guise they now are, for all I know, because I’ve lost touch with them.

But my credentials were quite good and I remember seeing Marconis turn out at the end of the working day in my early young days, which was a very long time ago, when they took over most of Chelmsford’s centre on bicycles. Nobody had a car in those days, almost nobody had a car in those days and New Street was flooded with an exodus of bicyclists from Marconi at knocking off time and at about the same time or just before or just after from Hoffman’s over the road.

I also remember, don’t I, that it part of a town in the War which was ably defended, uniquely defended almost by rocket ack-ack guns. Very unusual, they were all in the recreation ground and all around were barrage balloons and many of you here will remember the sight of those sturdy balloons flying about in bad weather, sometimes disappearing altogether in bad weather as the weak link in their wire gave way and they floated off to eternity.  I also recall in one of the blitzes here and some of you will be there too that when we woke up in the morning the barrage balloons had all gone because the ack-ack guns had shot them down.  This must have been a great help to the Germans who marked out the county town of Essex for further visits and, as some of you will recall, a very daring Luftwaffe pilot, was it in 1942 or 1943, in a yellow nosed Focke-Wulf darted out of low cloud soon after dawn and planted what I understand was a single bomb fairly and squarely on the New Street area of Hoffman’s creating a great deal of collateral damage to the front end of Marconis as well.  Some of you will know more detail, I was just a schoolboy, I was an intruder, the area was cut off at the time and I had to use my local knowledge and my fast bicycle to get down there to see it at all., but this raid made a real mess of Hoffman’s and it must have inconvenienced many of you, perhaps, in Marconis at the same time.

All right. So I had better not go on about my credentials but I must just say briefly what happened to me after that because Peter has introduced the subject, and the subject was that I left Chelmsford after a while in Lloyds Bank, I went to the Metropolitan Police with more or less success, I was one of the few officers that I can remember who was neither corrupt, nor racist nor violent which now seems to be part and parcel of the way of life and in due course was fortunate enough to become a member of Special Branch at Scotland Yard. 1954 was when I joined Special Branch which was then mainly involved in anti cold-war activities as indeed were you on a different sphere locally here. Ours was counter espionage principally and the care and surveillance of known troublemakers and, of course, subversives.

We also had other interests in life and that was the protection of VIPs, certain VIPs, government VIPs, not the Royal Family but government VIPs.  We had also the surveillance and protection of visiting dignitaries and as such I was privileged to be one of the team which cared for the late Shah of Persia when he was here and various presidents and so on and so forth.

Anyway, in due course having achieved what I thought was a very good foothold for promotion and an important place in life at Scotland Yard with the counter terrorism branch of Special Branch which specialised in those days in counter Irish extremist activities and which had two ways to go for any aspiring young officer, either up or out. And I was to my horror transferred to Downing Street to take over the lead role in the protection current Prime Minister who was then Harold Wilson.  I thought I was in a bad time for it, that couldn’t have been more wrong. I didn’t want to be there it was a sort of pinstripe and hitherto people had stood around in pinstripe trousers a black jacket and a homburg hat and that, of course was on its way out because of the change of the world’s tempo in connection with the development of terrorism from Japan to Italy to Germany to Ireland and henceforth to the Middle East.

So our role as protection officers rapidly expanded in importance and authority. So I was fortunate enough to be there for two years with Harold Wilson which was one of the most entertaining times in my life and if you want to know the answer – no he was not sleeping with her at the time. (laughter) Please do read my book about it and you will find a pod of laughter.

Now, I then….., funny stories abound, may I tell, may I try to tell funny instance. I saw at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference in Kingston, Jamaica in 1974 the British Government in secret action. The Commonwealth had 50 or more heads of state one morning they met in conference, Harold Wilson was the only…. only the heads of state were there no note takers no advisers, no press people, no nothing.  Out pours Harold after three hours solid debate not always happy, he was looking unhappy, outside were waiting 12 of his advisers, that was civil service, that was diplomats, that was press officers, there were duty clerks, they all had a message for him, all wanted him to say yes or no like Father Missels at Moscow or don’t …. or support the pound because it’s about to collapse or don’t.  They were quite big decisions and he had seconds to make up his mind about them and he was still then at the height of his powers and he was looking very concerned, then he started strolling up as he did… strolling up and down as he did when he was thinking in this totally sealed hotel, the Jamaica Pegasus. On the ground floor strode up and down purposefully, came to a dead end.  The security doors, of course, were all locked for security purposes and if there was a fire we could all be incinerated in safety.

Then, he turned round and the doughnut round him moved with him, and they all moved back and they’d all got papers and papers under their arms and were holding papers and “Prime Minister could you tell me about this and Prime Minister are you going to have a press conference today”. And so it went on and he was looking increasingly anxious and I was clearly the only one of his staff there who knew that he was looking exclusively for the gentleman’s’ toilet. Three hours in conference and he needed the gentleman’s toilet and he didn’t know where it was. But eventually he blundered into it. And they all blundered in with him, and I want you to picture the situation now if you will gentlemen – yes do. He immediately, ladies and gentlemen, he immediately presents himself at the urinal and what do you do if you are an adviser or a press officer or a diplomat.  Do you stand around and watch your Prime Minister at the urinal or do you take part and all line up as well (laughter). And fortunately this was a large multi storey urinal and so they all pretended to take part and lined up in their own little white area. And it was chaotic they were still talking to him, still trying to get decisions  that one senior civil servant had a whole bundle of official papers under his arm and he found that he had run out of strength and they gradually slipped out from under his arm into the flow (laughter) and only he was authorised to get them out (laughter) and then responsible for drying them and re-presenting them. In the meantime the Prime Minister having been first to the urinal was first to the wash basin where he took out all his teeth and started cleaning them – they’d been uncomfortable and one by one his advisers came out too – not all of them could join him in taking out their teeth, most of them were younger so they had to pretend to be interested and he completed his teeth and he made his decisions. I then had a responsibility to make sure that no enemies of the nation from the Commonwealth came into that particular toilet, I saw that all the stalls were empty and that secrets could be imparted and I thought this is a very funny way to run a country.

James Callaghan, couldn’t tell you anything funny about James.  Didn’t have a sense of humour. In fact I think it sums up my three years with James Callagham very well when I say that he said to me one day “John, don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because I’m smiling I’m happy”. And that was the tone of the three years we spent there, really.

Now I just want to tell you a final story because Peter will get very naughty about it in a minute and start licking my legs or something like that – he’s got some sort of an arrangement down here, but, I might as well tell you just one anecdote about Margaret Thatcher.  Everything changed with Margaret Thatcher, it was the end of the dandruff days for a start and instead of scruffy old aircraft and cars and untidiness we had some real distinction, love her or hate her she put the country on the map abroad certainly and later on you may say at home, or you may not.

Lusaka, and the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference of 1979 was one she’d inherited.  Bear in mind she had no experience of senior ministership at all.  Junior position as Education Minister once upon a time – she had no experience of what being Prime Minister was like sheer hell.  She was immediately dragged away as soon as she got in Number 10 and briefed about nuclear weapons and her responsibility for pressing the button and annihilating all the people in Moscow and all those little decisions which the Prime Minister has to take on board, which almost nobody knows anything about.  But she handled all this well. She handled a number of things extremely well. And where she didn’t know what was happening she was very wise in taking advice, and I greatly appreciated that, it made my job in protecting her with my team a great deal more efficient than it otherwise might have been.  But she had to go to Lusaka for the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference and it was her first one.  And there was the problem of Rhodesia.   Do you remember Rhodesia?  It used to headline the news day after day, day after day, and it was nowhere near settled but everybody wanted a settlement except the Rhodesians.  And so Lusaka was a front-line country adjacent to Rhodesia.  It was extremely vulnerable because it was largely in the hands of freedom fighters armed with Kalashnikovs and no proper sense of discipline.  And also it had been the subject of a raid by the famous Rhodesia’s  Selous Scouts very recently in which they entered across the border, made their way to Lusaka, blew up the bungalow of the Matabele Joshua Nkomo and made away safely back to the birders of Rhodesia again without losing a soul.  This meant that the country was extremely vulnerable and consequently we had a great team out there, 40 men in advance, including my chief inspector and we the main delegation went out on a DC10 and arrived at night and I got the call on my personal radio for my colleague only to say “It’s mayhem down here guvnor, it’s mayhem”. They’d taken – the press had taken over the whole of the apron which was supposed to be sacrosanct and available only to Customs and the aircraft and they’d taken it to a man.  Everybody’s totally out of control and most coloured people, nearly all coloured people but the white journalists had infiltrated as well.  Now this was communicated to Margaret Thatcher on the aircraft and she – I’d told her we’d got a big team here but she got the wind up and she started putting on dark glasses at night and when I reminded her it was night time she said “I’m afraid someone may throw acid in my face”.  Now this was the type of journey which she started at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference.  We got out, gradually made our way to safety, nothing terrible or dreadful happened.  What we found out afterwards was that the front line states had contrived this situation to intimidate her because they wanted her to agree to a settlement to the Rhodesia problem and that was the democratic one man one vote settlement.  The meeting went on for four days and on the fifth day, fifth night – it had been going on all day and an attempt to get a settlement about Rhodesia and to get a communiqué.   All these meetings demand a communiqué and it’s the biggest job to get a suitably worded communiqué so that everybody’s pleased about it. Well, the night drew on, the frogs started frogging and the crickets started cricketing, it was in the jungle almost this conference section, almost in the jungle and it was hot and it was humid and those of us who were not party to the heads of government discussions, there were aides waiting, the cars were lined up in various different echelons, 52 people or more and all of us waited around in more or less comfort and about 10 o’clock Dennis Thatcher turned up looking rosy and tanned and joined in and smoked a furtive cigarette and about half past eleven I think it was the time they came out, they all came out and she made her way disconsolately to the car.  Now there was bad news for a start. The car was a Mercedes and you may be aware that although it is a refined car a Mercedes is not British, it is not British and she only really wanted a British car.  So she was in a Mercedes.  She came out, she was very quiet indeed, very downcast and it was apparent that she was about to give way and concede the loss of white minority rule in Rhodesia.

She got in the back, what would be the left hand side in the Mercedes and Dennis got in the centre and I got in the right hand side of the Mercedes, a coloured driver, a coloured ADC.  Off we go and I notice she’s got a tear dripping down her cheek.  She had had a very loyal concern about the white Rhodesians in particular because like so many of the other Commonwealth countries they had sacrificed so much during the war for the allied war effort.  And she was about to let them down she felt.  And so Dennis very sensibly kept quiet and then she looked up and she said to him “By the way Dennis, have you had a good day?”  Which I thought was pretty good of her, that was pretty good of her, she’d had a rotten day, a long rotten day, lost all the battles and  “Dennis have you had a good day?”  “Yes my dear, yes, what a day” he said “What a wonderful day, got up leisurely what a breakfast, they did me a pudding this breakfast in the hotel, you know, and then of course there was all the cold meat and there was the salad and everything else there.  So I had the most wonderful start to the day.  Went upstairs, changed and the car was waiting for me”.

Now bear in mind that with all the spouses there they were all ladies except Dennis and they all go to hospitals and schools and they tap little babies on the head and things like that.  Well, Dennis wasn’t part of that culture, indeed, and so his car took him off into the jungle and there he was given in what was apparently a national park a view of the wonderful animals that were there, a unique private view “Wonderful indeed, I had a most wonderful time and then lunch, lunch I was taken up on a mine and had a lunch. Oh God they sat us down, everyone treated us well, beautiful drinks, long drinks, kept us cool, everything was perfect.  Went down a mine afterwards.  Well copper mine I never realised it was so exciting, very exciting.  Come up again, quick cup of tea and a couple of tinctures.  Golf, and I had a wonderful round of golf which in this country you can hit the ball nearly four hundred yards because there is such a lack of drag”  And he said “Had a wonderful round”.

And then he suddenly realised, Dennis suddenly realised that this was going a bit far, she’d obviously not had a good day and he was going on about his good day and he said to her “The only thing I’m really sorry about is that I haven’t seen enough of you today”.  And she looked across at me and she said “I don’t know what you think Mr Warwicker but I really don’t think there will be time for any of that today, do you?” (laughter)

So don’t think that Margaret Thatcher had no sense of humour although I don’t think it was a great one.

Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.  Thank you very much Basil for arranging for me to be invited today. I’m very thankful  to you and the committee, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my lunch with you all, very impressed indeed, good to be back in Chelmsford and thank you very much for having me.

 

 

 

Our President 2015

Basil FrancisThis year’s President is Basil Francis.  He was introduced by Chairman Veteran Peter Turrall who also proposed the toast to the President.

Peter Turrall

Mr President, honoured guest, fellow veterans. It is a real privilege to me to have the honour of introducing our President for 2015, Basil Francis.

Now before I go any further I thought it would be a good idea to find out a little more of the origins of the names Basil and Francis. The characteristic of the name Basil is defined as freedom loving, adventurous, adaptable, intellectual, easy going, progressive and sensible. I am sure in all respects these words apply to our Basil. The name Francis is quite universally known as a surname and as a Christian name; the current Pope as this so you see it is at the top of the spectrum, but when we join them together, Basil Francis, then wow!  The name really goes to the top as My World, Mr Universe and man-mountain.  As you can see from this picture – the name in there is Basil Francis.

I feel sure our Basil Francis has obtained all these products over the many years of his life and career. I think I have known Basil longer than anyone else present here today, In fact last January it was 64 years since I first met Basil and we have been close friends ever since. Basil was best man at my wedding in 1954 and I have played badminton and golf either with him or against him. But I never indulge in tennis for which he was very good. Fortunately, he never got involved in my favourite sports, football and cricket for which in the latter case he was absolutely hopeless.

We have attended many functions together, got up at unearthly hours to go fishing and in both our careers with Marconi worked very closely with me on the sales side,  Basil on the installation design side where he was excellent at the design of many outside broadcast vehicles for worldwide customers of the company.

There have been many times when in the course of company business I requested Basil to visit overseas customers to complete work which I had probably started during a sales visit.  Basil always co-operated with any request of this nature and it was due to his efficient efforts that our company received a number of repeat orders.

Chelmsford breed and born, Basil lived locally, married a Great Baddow lady and produced a son, Ian, who has taken on the chauffeuring of our honoured guest today. Thank you Ian.

Always helpful and willing to assist wherever possible Basil started life with the old MWT Co. as a draughtsman and rose to become manager of one of the most important units of the company. I know he is very proud that our Marconi veterans committee have bestowed on him the honour of being our President so I now ask you, fellow veterans, to be upstanding to drink a toast to Basil Francis as he takes up the position of Presidency of our illustrious Veterans Association.

The toast is the President, Basil Francis.

Basil Francis replies

Mr Chairman, honoured guest, fellow veterans I feel it always a great honour to be chosen as President of the Marconi Veterans Association and am very grateful to the veterans’ committee for bestowing on me the presidency.  I’m truly honoured to be your President for 2015.

I joined Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company Limited in winter 1939, the second World War had been declared and I had just left school with the ambition to be an architect. Meanwhile I obtained a mundane job at Crompton Parkinsons before the chance came up to join Marconis’.  What happened was that Marconis London Office of the IDD, the Industrial Design Division was evacuated to Great Baddow Research Laboratories and I heard that the Installation Design Division was looking for young engineers to learn the art of installations; I therefore applied to join this division and was accepted.  The chief of this department was a Miss Caswell and in charge of the drawing office was a Mr R C Crick  and his deputy was Mr W E Pannett and the mast and aerial design team was headed by Mr Ainsley and Mr Bolton.

After a few weeks at Great Baddow thwe whole division was relocated to the famous Goldfish Bowl – I think we all know where that is at New Street. I attended evening classes at the Mid Essex Technical College and studied for my ordinary and higher National Certificate in mechanical engineering and along with the help of senior draughtsmen I learnt the arts of the installation techniques.

In the early years as a draughtsman I was drawing up installation plans for the famous Marconi SWB8 and SWB11 transmitters and other modern equipment and whilst the war continued and new equipment was being developed I was informed the the Admiralty needed a draughtsman at the Haslemere, Surrey establishment and my surname had been put forward to be seconded to this department, however, I had already volunteered for aircrew in the Royal Air Force and was soon to be called up, therefore I was unable to take this drafting position, which I didn’t want anyway.

I spent five years in the RAF during which time I obtained my pilot’s wings before I reached the age of 18. I travelled the world with the RAF finally ending up in Burma.  I was flying many types of aircraft but mainly Catalina flying boats, Wellington bombers and finally Dakota transports. I was demobbed in 1946 and re-joined Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company. This meant I had to catch up with my qualifications by attending four evenings a week at Chelmsford Technical College where I obtained my Higher National Certificates and Ordinary National Certificates.

Messrs Crick and Pannett were still in charge of the drawing office and over a period of time some of the senior draughtsmen were retiring and together with colleague Joe Smith we were both made section leaders. Eventually Messrs Crick and Pannett retired, Joe was made chief of IDO and I was made his deputy and when Joe himself retired I took over the reins as chief of the department which at that time consisted of over seventy draughtsmen and tracers and I held that position until I retired in 1989.

I stayed on at the company for some six months after that  to see the installation of the Voice of America 500kW transmitters in building 46.

The IDO was moved about into various areas of Marconi House before temporary accommodation was found behind Building 46 at New Street, it was a single story wooden hut and became a permanent accommodation, which temporary accommodations always do until finally room for a small department was found on the first floor of the canteen with the wavy roof.

The name of the department had been changed from installation drawing office to installation design office because of the nature of the work undertaken.  This department serviced all the main divisions of Marconi Communication Systems including broadcasting, communication transmitters, television studios, transmitters, space stations and outside broadcast television vehicles. These latter items became my forte. As the sound transmitter increased in power from 50kW through 250 kW to 500 kW this meant the department needed to liaise with both the designer and the customer to ensure that all aspects of the work were satisfactorily completed.

The equipment sold to the BBC for use in the UK meant that discussions had to take place not only with their engineers but also their architects where buildings were to be designed to house the Marconi equipment. A similar requirement also existed for many overseas customers and many times I have had to travel to different countries to carry out this work on behalf of the company.

As an aside, when a meeting took place at New Street with a customer present and Building 46 designers were available the norm was to make sure that tea and biscuits were available during a suitable break in the proceedings. Management later decreed that tea and biscuits supplied as a company perk was to be discontinued so Joe Smith as chief of the department at that time decided to purchase biscuits at his expense and obtain tea from the tea making machines dotted around the company. He then filled a tin with chocolate digestive biscuits and also included one or two plainer biscuits.  On one occasion when some engineering help was required from Building 46 one Ron Bradbrook, who is present here today, came along to the IDO to give his engineering advice. Ron incidentally loved chocolate biscuits but on this particular day during the tea break there was only one chocolate biscuit available and this was hidden right at the bottom of the tin and covered with the plainer biscuits. The drawings were laid out on the conference table and when Ron arrived and the biscuit tin on top of the drawings Ron opened the tin and was really upset that only plain biscuits were visible.  Expletives from Ron as to why there were no chocolate biscuits.  He got hold of the tin however and tipped it up and emptied the contents all over the drawings only to find the one chocolate biscuit which he grabbed and ate. He was at last satisfied and got on and helped solve a number of engineering problems.

As mentioned earlier, television outside broadcast vehicles became my responsibility and I designed the first BBC MCRs, mobile control rooms, they were numbered from  14,15,16 and 17, the first two were designated for use in London area and one in Manchester and one in Birmingham. Competitive quotations had to be obtained for the manufacture of the vehicle bodywork and these were eventually made by Marsh’s of Cambridge with ash wood framework before the outer skin was applied. For later orders and other customers alternative coachbuilders were used including Essex based Bonallacks of Basildon and RTS of Rayleigh; aluminium framing and skin were used for these later vehicles.  A little known fact is that all Marconi designed outside broadcast vehicles had ribbed side panelling which I discovered doing my flying training in the United States when I travelled on Greyhound coaches who used this rib design on their vehicles  This became the standard for all Marconi designed outside broadcast vehicles.

As I have been with Marconis for more than fifty years I thought, with your Chairman, it would be nice to remember some of those people who during this period really put our Company on the map and with many of whom I have had the privilege of working.  I hope these names stir memories for many of you. First, B N Maclarty one time Chief Engineer, Douggie Smee manager of Broadcast Division, Henry Luxon foreman in the manufacturing areas, Charlie Pashley, (these are all men who helped the Company along) another main manufacturing foreman, Ron Oddy chief draughtsman studio development, J B Miller chief of contracts Broadcasting, Howard Steele an excellent television design engineer, Phil Barclay designer of many studio projects including Rediffusion London when the new ITA went on the air in 1955, Patrick Donnelly manager of Central Division, Geoff Sturgeon chief of Valve Division, George Partington the very excellent chief engineer of Broadcast Division whose far sighted thoughts for the future restored the Company to being miles ahead of its competitors in the television studio field.  Others worth mentioning are David Speake who for many years was head of research at Great Baddow Laboratories, Bill Barbone of Space and Microwave Systems, Dr. Derek Griess who was a very able installation engineer for transmitting equipment both audio and TV, and not last of all I personally am very pleased to see Tom Mayer with us today, thank you Tom. (applause)

There were many more with whom I had dealings who were major contributors to the progress in the international filed for our Company, most  of these have long since passed away.

Well, I hope I’ve given you an insight, which is all it could be after 50 years, of my time with The Marconi Company with whom I am very proud to state I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of my 50 years with this organisation. Thank you very much.

Annual General Meeting 2015

Readers are particularly asked to note item 5 on the agenda.

The Annual General Meeting of the Marconi Veterans Association was held on Saturday 18th April 2015 at the Marconi Athletic & Social Club following the reunion and luncheon.

AGENDA

1  Minutes

To approve the minutes of the Annual General Meeting held on 5th April 2014.

The minutes were passed unanimously by a show of hands.

2. Accounts

To receive the audited accounts for the year ended 31 December 2014.

Passed unanimously by a show of hands.

3. Committee

To elect officers and members of the Committee.

All members of the Committee, being eligible, offered themselves for re-election.

The Committee was elected unanimously by a show of hands.

4. Appointment of Auditor

A resolution was proposed for the re-appointment of Mr T Mundon as auditor of the Marconi Veterans Association.

Passed unanimously by a show of hands.

5. Any other business

a) Marconi Heritage Centre – address by veteran Alan Hartley-Smith

Thank you Peter. You will all had on your chair when you came in a notice from our colleagues the Moulsham Trust. You may or may not have read the local press but we are well under way towards getting acquisition of the ground floor of Marconi’s original factory at Hall Street in which we want to mount a Marconi Heritage Centre working with the Community Association so it becomes a sustainable not a dry museum exhibit.

One of the things we want to do is raise money obviously, they are doing this crowd funding system, which they have mentioned, but what we want to do with the Marconi Heritage Group is make an appeal to corporate sponsors.  Now to do that we want to get into contact with a lot of the major companies but also we’d like to get in contact with any of the old Marconi contacts that we have, i.e. customers and companies we’ve dealt with round the world.  Now to do this we’re going to need some help, there’s only three of us on the main committee of the MHG at the moment so this is really an appeal to people here if I could say “could any of you here volunteer working from home” we’re going to put together effectively an e-mail campaign to contact all of these people and our suggestion is we’re going to try and sell, for want of a better word, pledge credits, for £100 and the idea is to approach these people and say “How many of these credits would you like to buy?” in the hope that some of them will buy more than one but this is to get us off the ground with the funding to pay the developer in order to get access and then carry on. We are going to get support from BAE Systems once we’ve actually got the system up and running to make it operational but what we really need at this point in time is effort, so if anybody here could volunteer in time from home using the e-mail system this would be very greatly appreciated.  You can either contact me direct through the Marconi Heritage website which you have details of, or I’m sure if you send it into the committee here they will pass it on to us.

Please help us, we really do stand a good chance of getting the only remaining building in Chelmsford that’s got any association with Marconi back to something resembling a Marconi presence.  Please help.

Earlier in the year Alan provided an update on the Marconi Heritage Group.  To read this update please Click Here

b) Photographic archive at the Essex Records Office – veteran Ken Earney

The Essex Records Office are seeking volunteers to assist with a possible Heritage Lottery Fund bid to catalogue the Marconi Photographic archive.

Thanks Peter. Two years ago I stood here and spoke very briefly about the photographic archive that Essex Records Office have and which they had just taken control of. It’s a massive archive, thousands of images and this is the bit that escaped and didn’t get to Oxford and the Bodleian.

The archivists want to get this archive catalogued, there’s a lot of missing information and we’ve had a couple of meetings with them over those two years.  One of the things they wanted to do was organise a Heritage Lottery bid to support this work.  They haven’t, for whatever reason, been able to organise their HLF bid yet but in parallel with this Peter has been investigating a cataloguing of this material that was funded at the time that the photographic unit at Chelmsford was wound up so there is a missing catalogue, apparently, of an awful lot of this material; so we don’t yet know the extent of what effort a team of volunteers going into Essex Records Office might have and that will become clearer hopefully over the next weeks or a couple of months.

What will be sought eventually is the sort of appeal that I made two years ago though actually we haven’t had many names yet and there hasn’t been anything to do for them in truth yet.  It’s people who would be prepared to go into the records office on a not terribly onerous basis maybe once a month maybe less frequently than that to assist with the cataloguing and indexing effort.  It’s a case of using a laptop with Microsoft Excel and identifying photographs, who’s in the photograph, what’s in the photograph and putting that on to the database.  What this will need is a number of people who have knowledge of the key product areas in the company, radar, TV, broadcasting, Comms and avionics so to bring this to a close if anybody would be able to assist in this, and we don’t yet know precisely when this will happen, maybe sometime later this year. The individuals would have to have at this moment their own laptop that they can bring until the ERO get funding, Heritage Lottery funding, they can’t provide the kit so anyway if anyone’s interested in helping with this please contact me or anyone on the committee afterwards.

Thank you.

6. Next Meeting

The next reunion and AGM will be on Saturday 16th April 2016  at the Marconi Social Club.  This will be the 80th reunion.

Reunion 2015 – an invitation from our secretary

February 2015

Dear Fellow Veteran

First, let me wish all Veterans a healthy and prosperous 2015.

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome all new members to the Association and hope to see them at the Annual Reunion, which will be held on Saturday 18th April 2015.  This will be the 79th Reunion and the venue will be the Marconi Social Club, Beehive Lane, Chelmsford, where there is ample parking for those who travel by road. The Bar is within the Main Hall (on the right as you enter the Club) and will open at 11.00 a.m.

There will be various displays and the merchandise table will, again, be located in the hall. You will have plenty of time to enjoy meeting up with colleagues until it is time to take your seats for the luncheon. This will take place, as usual, at 1.00 p.m. with the Annual General Meeting and the Raffle concluding the proceedings. Any changes will be advised to you with your ticket. If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to ring me on the above number.

We are, again, producing a commemorative Coaster and one per person is included in the ticket price. There will also be additional coasters, for sale, plus some coasters from previous years as well as a number of Ties, Scarves and Badges.

Our President for 2015 is Veteran Basil Francis who, for many years, was Chief of the Installation Drawing Office of Marconi Communication Systems at New Street, Chelmsford.

Joining the Reunion as our Honoured Guest is John Warwicker M.B.E. who had a varied career as a Metropolitan Police Officer and Close Protection Officer to a number of Prime Ministers. He has also written a number of books covering his professional career….

The menu for this year’s luncheon will be as follows: –
Bruschetta topped with mozzarella, chopped tomato and basil
Chicken Breast, slow cooked in a Red Wine sauce
Chef’s special profiteroles filled with a bailey’s cream and drizzled in chocolate
Coffee, Cheese and Biscuits

We appreciate that some Veterans may have special dietary requirements and would request that you indicate this on your application. We are able to cater for most requirements.

With regard to the Subscription, we are pleased to maintain the rate at £6.00 per annum but, regrettably due to increased cost to us, we must raise the cover price for the Reunion to £25.00. I am sure that you will agree that this is still excellent value for a four course meal with tea/coffee and wine. As the Association has a very limited income, and in order to keep our expenses to a minimum, receipts for Subscriptions and/or Donations will not be issued unless requested so we thank you in anticipation.

Those Veterans who wish to attend are requested to apply to the above address at the earliest possible date in order that I may properly assess the numbers. To reduce administration, please combine your ticket price, subscription, etc. onto a single cheque which should be made payable to ‘Marconi Veterans’ Association’.

Please note that it is not acceptable for guests to bring their own drink or food into the Club. Please refrain from this practice as anyone doing so may be asked to leave the Reunion and could be refused a ticket in the future. As last year, cheese and biscuits are included in our menu and additional bottles of wine can be purchased from the bar.

We often hear comments from Veterans that they would come to the Reunion but are afraid that they “would not know anyone on their table” or that “the speeches are long winded and boring”. If you feel this way, please read my article in last year’s Newsletter, speak to a Veteran who does attend or give me a ring. Then, if you’re still not convinced, try it – if it really isn’t your ‘thing’ then there is no obligation to come again.

Your assistance is requested with the seating arrangements and we ask you to indicate, on your ticket application, with which Company you would prefer to sit (i.e. Comms, Radar, Baddow, Basildon, Marine, MI).

Following a suggestion from a Veteran, we are compiling a list of forenames and nicknames in an effort to make the various lists less formal and enable people to distinguish between Veterans with similar initials. We will, again, be producing self adhesive name tags for you to wear at the Reunion and these will be available for collection at the merchandise table as you enter the Hall. When you order your ticket, please indicate, in the box provided, how you would like your name tag to read. THE DEFAULT WILL BE TO PRINT YOUR NAME AS IT APPEARS ON THE FIRST LINE OF YOUR ADDRESS LABEL.
So please fill in the spaces on the Subscription/Ticket application form.

We are, again, inviting entries for the ‘Absent Friends’ book, containing messages from Veterans who were unable to attend. Two copies will be produced and prominently displayed at the Reunion. If you wish to place a message in the book, please use the space provided on the enclosed form. Entries will be identified by name but no contact details will be provided unless you include them within the message area.

Your Committee is prepared to receive any nominations, propositions or suggestions for submission to the Annual General Meeting. providing they reach me in writing by 31st March 2015.

We now have almost 60 ‘Friends of the Marconi Veterans’ Association’. All ‘Friends’ receive the Newsletter and we will do all we can to keep them in touch with ex-colleagues but they are not eligible to attend the Reunion. The 2015 subscription for Friends is unchanged at £3.00. If you know of anyone who would like to be included, please urge them to contact me, at the above address, as soon as possible.

I am often not informed when a Veteran dies, and in these circumstances, I would like to extend my condolences to members of the families who receive this letter and apologise for any distress or inconvenience caused. Should you be aware of any Veterans who have passed away recently, I would appreciate it if you would let me know so that I can amend our records and avoid any embarrassment.

We trust that you will accept this letter as a very cordial invitation to attend the Seventy-Ninth Reunion, but if, for any reason, you cannot be with us, your Committee would like to take this opportunity to wish you the very best of luck and good health for the future.

Finally, the 2016 Reunion will be on Saturday 16th April

I look forward to seeing you at the Reunion.

With kindest regards

I am yours sincerely

Veteran Barry Powell
Secretary
E-mail : Secretary@marconi-veterans.org

For a copy of the Subscription/Ticket application form for downloading and printing please CLICK HERE.  We regret we are no yet able to accept electronic payments.