DEATH OF MARCONI VETERANS NEWSLETTER
Yes I am afraid the above headline is true, unless within the next six months you Marconi Veterans (there are over 1,400 of you still active) sit down for a few minutes and drop a line to our Editor. I need inputs to keep this Newsletter going and despite my appeals I have received less than a dozen stories etc. If you want this Newsletter to continue over the ensuing years, then a constant stream of reminiscences, photos, news of Veterans, births, marriages and even deaths are useful to pad out the Newsletter. Remember, like you, other Veterans would like to know what is going on in the world of ex-Marconi.
It is up to you now Marconi Veterans – this is your very last chance. Depending on the amount of inputs will decide if you get a Newsletter in 2005. You will not get another reminder – the Newsletter will just die as the headline suggests unless ……….
In the last twelve months we have had our Annual Re-union. There was a very good turnout to mark the Presidency of Veteran Stan Church. He gave us many happy memories of his working life in his introductory speech. Charles Rand our Chairman introduced him and Guest of Honour was ex Managing Director of Marconi Radar Systems, John Sutherland. John gave a very polished presentation of the pitfalls of the previous mismanagement of our parent Company resulting in the loss by shareholders of many millions of pounds. Many of those present at the Re-union including John, lost large sums of money because of the failure in recognising the state of the market and the wrongful purchase of non British companies which had or later made tremendous financial and trading losses.
The current Marconi management are desperately trying to keep the Company name of Marconi going and shares in the new Company are healthy at the moment.
Marconi Recognised at Long Last in Chelmsford
Your Editor over many years has had personal “run-ins” with the local Chelmsford Borough Council to get our Founder recognised in the town. One result of his intervention two years ago was the erection of signs at all the entrances of the Borough of Chelmsford that Chelmsford was “The Birthplace of Radio” (the last word should have been Wireless) but something is better than nothing
Notwithstanding this, your Editor pushed further for something more tangible tied to our Founder. The result was that Chelmsford Borough Council decided to run an International competition to find a suitable solution to recognise the work of Marconi in Chelmsford over so many years. Your Editor sat with others on a panel to decide the most fitting result of this International presentation. Over 40 presentations were made which were ultimately sifted down to a shortlist of 6. Each of the presentations was examined again and one was chosen as the most representative of our Founders work. It was a life-size statue, prepared in bronze by Suffolk Sculptor Stephen Hickling
It took well over a year to prepare and a Macquette of this was shown in 2001 to Princess Elettra Marconi when she unveiled the entry signs to the town in November of that year. In February 2003 Princess Elettra came back to Chelmsford at the invitation of Chelmsford Borough Council to unveil the life size statue of her father Marchese Guglielmo Marconi. The cost of which was met by the three remaining firms in Chelmsford who were part of the original Company plus of course the Chelmsford Borough Council. The ceremony in front of Press and Television cameras took place at The Essex Records Office in Wharf Road Chelmsford. The statue at the moment remains within the walls of the Records Office but it is hoped in future years, following the building of a hotel and other complexes, that the statue will be rehoused in a more prominent position alongside what is hoped, will be the final resting place for the Marconi Archives.
There has been a lot of comments in the local press on the placing of the Marconi Statue in a more prominent place in the centre of the town. The development of the Wharf Road area is off the mainstream of Chelmsford and the statue will not be seen by people for years to come, unless they make a specific journey to the Essex Records Office. Marconi did a lot for Chelmsford giving employment to many thousands of people, supplying some of the worlds best electronic products and above all putting Chelmsford on the map from a sleepy market town to a major industrial area. This in itself brought orders from all over the world for both Commercial and Defence products. The people benefiting from this were of course those employed and their families and the shopkeepers of Chelmsford who took advantage of the growing population brought about by not only industrial Marconi, but also by Cromptons, Hoffmanns and Christy Brothers.Chelmsford ought to recognise more fully its famous sons and whilst we have now got recognition after 100 years of Marconi’s work, let us be proud and show the rest of the world by putting his statue in the centre of Chelmsford. After all, Marconi’s has brought fame and fortune to Chelmsford and the town has become a tourist attraction because of this.
Again the inputs to this were very few considering the number of Veterans who receive this Newsletter. Does this mean you are no longer interested in having a little light relief? We will try once again to whet your appetite and if this fails again, it will be the last time we try. In fact as mentioned earlier, this could be your last Newsletter unless you Veterans respond to our request for inputs. All the entries are detailed and the winners who will receive a copy of Editors book “Chelmsford, a Stroll through Time” are marked with an asterisk.
“It’s for youoo”
* “These mobile phones will never catch on” and
“Vatican City 2 – Arsenal 0”
“It’s your wife. She is asking if you have seen her ear muffs anywhere”
“Chelmsford on the phone, more redundancies in the pipe-line”
“I thought you’d brought the batteries. Oh well, just keep talking and perhaps no one will notice” and
* “I’ve had to wear this dratted hearing aid ever since I went to the MASC disco”
Dr. Brian Wardrop
“You know, Guggy, I really can’t see this mobile radio thing being of much use” and
“Early days in wireless transference”
“Don’t you think, Mr. Marconi, that we should be achieving a greater range than two feet?”
New Caption Competition
The Editor will once again present one of his own books “Chelmsford, a Stroll through Time” recently published and covering life in the town in the late 1940’s as seen through the eyes of himself to the three best captions received.
Chelmsford a Stroll Through Time
As mentioned in the previous Newsletter, the Editor has written a book covering life in Chelmsford in the late 1940’s onwards. This has been selling at £11.00 each. However, if Marconi Veterans purchase this book at £8.00 per copy plus 75p UK postage, 50% of this cost will be given to the funds of our Veterans Association. Orders should be sent with cheque or Postal Orders direct to the Editor whose address appears on the last page of the Newsletter.
Each year we produce a Coaster, which is handed out at the Annual Re-union. These Coasters are rapidly becoming a Collectors item. Our Secretary Bernard Hazelton has got some of the Coasters, which were issued at previous Re-unions, and these are pictured below. If you would like to purchase any of these for your own collection, please forward Bernard a cheque at £1.00 each Coaster plus a further £1.00 to cover postage and packing. If you collect them yourself, you save the postage and packing costs.
Becoming a Veteran
Since we published on the front page of the January 2003 Newsletter details of Marconi Veteran new membership requirements, we have had a number of people applying for Membership. In most cases our sub-Committee have been able to give a positive response and, it is encouraging that more people are taking up membership of the Association. If you know of anybody who might fall into the categories previously mentioned of 21 years with Marconi or associated Units, then please contact our Secretary Bernard Hazelton.
Fellow Veterans, your Annual Subscription is now due. The Veterans Committee have once again agreed to keep the amount the same as last year i.e. £5.00. Will you all please send your Subscription as soon as possible to Bernard Hazelton whose address appeas on the “Contacts” page. A Subscription form with Bernard’s address is included as an insert to the paper copy of this Newsletter. It would be appreciated if subscriptions could be sent before the end of March.
For a downloadable copy of the Subscription Form in PDF format click here.
The obituaries published in this newsletter have been moved to the Archive. To view the list from the newsletter Click here. To view the whole archive Click here.
Mr. Osman Mortada died on 4th March 2003 aged 87. He was born in London of Egyptian/French parents and returned to Cairo to receive his early education. As a young man he worked for the Marconi Company of Egypt and travelled and worked in nearby Arab countries. He later returned to England to receive higher education and his degree qualification at Imperial College in London.
He worked for several companies including Redifon and Standard Telephones and Cables before joining the Marconi Wireless and Telegraph Co. at Chelmsford in the Export Department. For a time he was the Company’s Resident Representative in Cairo but returned to UK in 1952 to become Middle East Representative. Based initially at Marconi House in the Strand and later with International Division at Chelmsford, he travelled extensively throughout the Middle East. He was responsible for promoting, negotiating and overseeing many major projects throughout the region including Egypt, Iran, Iraq and Turkey.
In 1959 he became Export Manager but his interest and undoubted expertise lay in the Middle East and he left the Company in 1960 to set up his own company representing many important companies in the M.E.
He always followed with great interest the achievements of the Marconi Company and was saddened at its demise. Those who knew him and worked with him greatly respected his abilities.
N.B. It would help if Veterans hear of the passing of any Ex Marconi Veterans that they telephone our Secretary Bernard Hazelton with details as we do try as far as possible to have representatives attending the funeral or advising Marconi Units.
Over the last year, many of you have contributed to the Marconi collection in the Chelmsford Industrial Museum at Sandford Mill. Many thanks for helping to preserve the work of our Company. Dr. Geoffrey Bowles will be pleased to receive any Marconi item, letters, books or photographs and better still equipment. If you have any item, please advise the Editor or any Committee member. You can of course take the items direct to Sandford Mill where they will be gratefully received and catalogued. The Marconi Collection there is growing fast and is very impressive. Please visit the Sandford Mill on Open Days which are extensively advertised in the local Press. There is always one in July and sometimes one in April. In due course Chelmsford Borough Council hope to have improved access roads in the area resulting in the Museum being open more frequently.
Marconi Veterans’ President 2004
Your Veterans Committee is pleased to announce that David Frost previously Financial Director of Marconi Avionics at Basildon has agreed to be our President for the year 2004. David is now a Consultant to BAE Systems. He started with Marconi’s on leaving King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford. He rates among his past times Golf and Badminton as ways of keeping fit through the year after the strenuous days of accounting. The Re-Union for 2004 is on Saturday 17th April.
The Marconi Veterans Website
The MVA has been planning a Web Site for the Association for some time. A usable site has now been designed, at the moment it only contains seven pages and a few pictures. It has been tested on a computer and seen by all members of the MVA Committee. It will remain essentially a text based site in the short term as we must assume that the majority of Veterans will only have a dial-up connection that is not really suitable for a graphic intensive site. However, it is designed for the benefit of Veterans and, within reason and legality, it can contain anything relative to the old Marconi Company that people require.
Marconi Corporation plc has registered the domain names “marconiveterans.org” and “marconiveterans.com” on behalf of the MVA but, the Association will have to find an Internet Company which can host the site. The two addresses above will then be re-directed to the host. At the time of writing the Webmaster is in discussion with a possible Internet Company and it is hoped that the site can be made live by early 2004.
The Website will have facilities for electronic communication with members of the Committee. We will pass on e-mails to other members if we know their address although we cannot divulge members’ individual addresses.
Note from webmaster; You are now reading this from the website so some of the information in the above paragraphs is clearly out of date. However, it has been retained in this newsletter for completeness with the paper copy sent to many members.
Apologies for the poor printing in the January 2003 Newsletter of “Letters to the Editor”. We have decided to retype the letters in this issue rather than scan them which was the reason for the poor presentation previously.
From Dennis Moore
I was pleased to see in your January 2003 Newsletter a cricketing face I remember, that of Billy Lee recalling games at Waterhouse Lane and Beehive Lane. I joined MWT Co. Ltd. in 1956 as a Grad. Apprentice and worked in the Aeronautical Division at Writtle from 1958 and Basildon until retirement in 1995.The team members I recall were Micky May, Pat Saltmarsh, Vic Church, Jim Dyer, George Ottley, Ken Goody, Ray Morgan, Bobbie Lincoln, Denny Clark, Reg and Roy Sleet, Ted Hutchings and many others.
I can recollect playing at Chelmsford ground when Geoff Hurst was the wicket keeper for Chelmsford Highlights of our season were the annual fixture against Ernest Turner the Instrument Makers from High Wycombe (Managing Director Norman Turner would drive us around the field at Waterhouse Lane in his new pride and joy Jaguar!) and our annual tours to Hampshire around Havant and Emsworth. Best wishes to all survivors of those halcyon days!
From Douglas Francis Camp
I noticed in your recent Newsletter that not many Veterans send you material for publishing. I feel very diffident to give my personal experiences after many years – but as the time spent with the Company (1946 – 1974) was both happy and satisfying, I feel that perhaps a few words might help.
I joined the Marconi Instruments Company in its old corrugated ex-war food storage Nissan hut after being demobbed from the Army where after some “interesting postings”, I ended up with the Royal Corps of Signals Unit – which was quite a small unit attached to the Foreign Office and centered on the Post Office Research Station at Dollis Hill. I fear that if I elaborate further there may be a problem with classified information so you may draw your own conclusions.
When I was demobbed I began to think about taking up my teaching of Mathematics in schools but as I now lived in St. Albans I went for an interview to Marconi Instruments. All I had to offer was my teaching experience and work in the Royal Corps of Signals where I had taken, in my spare time, City and Guilds Certificates in Radio.
It may be worth relating that at this interview the manager of the Calibration Department – greeted me with the news that they were not really interested as they had already been forced to take on some ex-service men and were not keen to take many more. I explained that even after the first World War at the age of 10 I had begun to build my own crystal sets – and this I continued to do and progressed as equipment became more modernised – I finished up at last building my own television set using the latest and only (at that time) nearly flat screen.
Anyway as a last resort (to get rid of me the manager gave me a blue-print and said “what do you make of that?” To my surprise it was the blue-print of a B.F.O. (Beat Frequency Oscillator). Strange to say – I had been sent up to Dollis Hill – to make some modifications to a model of the B.F.O. for use in the field.
Without revealing the truth I convinced him that I did know something more than an Army “key thumper”.
As a result I was taken on and spent many happy years calibrating test instruments which at that time were improving all the time.
Finally I was sent to India to the English Electric factory in Madras to teach Indian Staff how to manufacture Calibrating Instruments – Signal Generators both A.M. and F.M. – I was there until I retired in 1974. I apologise if this has been too personal and too boring but you did ask for it. (p.s. India is another story).
From Bill Barbone
I was so interested in the notes by Tom Gutteridge about the production of the “B” set because I used one in Rome in 1945 at the end of the Italian campaign when Ham Radio was starting up.
How this came about I have described on the web site of the History of Communications in Vienna on www.QSL.at
You might be interested to look at this site as I have also described the development of Signals use of High Power Marconi equipment in War Office Communications to the Mediterranean Theatre, including lots of photo’s. If you go to the site and click on the “XA riddle”, you will come to my article.
Also in the current Newsletter is the note from Jimmy Leadbetter on the Gothic installation of the SWB11X. I was the development engineer responsible for the production versions of the SWB8X and the SWB11X.
As it happens I was the first Engineer to move in Bld 46 in 1950 and my first job was the uprating of the two SWB transmitters to the X edition to meet the new post war 1947 CCIR regulations and to incorporate the use of Single Sideband voice transmission.
Not many new ones were produced, in fact we had a contract to upgrade a lot of the old War Office stock and I remember going to various MoD Depots to pick suitable models to uprate! This was because restrictions had been placed on the purchase of new equipment, but the refurbishment of old equipment was allowed (even if it cost twice as much!!)
I well remember A.J.G. Corbett and the preparations for the Gothic installation. Also I seem to remember that the use of the Worldspan Transmitter was it’s first operational use and there was a great deal of panic in the lab (Bld 29 then) to get it fully up to performance for the Gothic.
From Colin Page
Did you know there was a fairly new book now available about the history and work of Marconi and others called “Wireless” from Marconi’s Black Box to the Audion.
It is by Sungook Hong and was published in 2001 so you may well have seen it, but I thought I would tell you in case you had not.
I have it on loan from the Library at the moment, but it will be back sometime when I have finished it.
From Tom Gutteridge/Bill Meehan
My letter in the previous Newsletter about Suitcase Sets produced a reply from Bill Meehan, which I found interesting.
The “suitcase set” comes in quite a lot of different versions, the three most popular being:
a) Type 3 Mark I or B3: Probably used 1941-43. 24” long suitcase, gross weight 42lbs.
b) Type 3 Mark II or B2: Probably introduced 1942-43 as a lighter version of (a). About 18” long suitcase. Gross weight 32lbs
Both (a) and (b) above are said to have been manufactured at the Special Operations Executive’s factory at Stoneley Park North London. 32-42lbs is a lot of weight to carry but was about par for the course for a robust portable military transceiver in those days. The army manpack sets, Nos 18 and 22 were both in that range and carried as backpacks. Carrying that sort of weight in a suitcase, to be swung nonchalantly in one hand while strolling down the street in front of the Gestapo, must have needed some practice and intestinal fortitude.
c) A Mark III or A3: More of an attaché case size. Weight said to be only 8lbs but I’m not sure I can believe that. It appeared in the field in 1944. There is some documentary evidence at the Signals Museum that more than 400 of these were made by “Marconi”. I guess these were the ones you tested at Parsons Green.
d) A Special version of the Army 18 set made for the SOE “Jedbergh” teams. These were three man SOE teams consisting of one Brit, one American and one Frenchman, who started parachuting into France a little before D Day to help the various French resistance groups form into proper fighting/sabotage groups. They were in uniform, unlike the SOE teams of agents. The standard 18 set was modified to be powered by a hand cranked generator, tripod mounted. Three satchels of equipment could be made into one backpack, weighing 45lbs.
The technical spec for all of the above was much the same:
Crystal controlled. Frequency range about 3.5 – 12 (or 15) MHz. LT or AC operation. At the lower frequencies, the range is said to be up to 500 miles with the right frequency selection but I suspect that the UK base stations all had propagation advice from somewhere and they dictated the frequencies to be used by the agents at different times and seasons. I guess they were all about 30 watts output to an inefficient aerial, said to be about 70 ft.
There was also a US Army set, circa 1945, called the “AN/PRC1 Suitcase Radio”. Two bands switchable 2-5 and 5-12 mc/s. 30 watt. Crystal controlled. 18” x 13¼” x 7¼”. Weight 32lbs. Don’t know where it was used.
Recommended reading on the subject – History of the Second World War – SOE in France by M.R.D. Foot, published by HMSO in 1966. There is a copy in the Essex library system. Also, a book with lots of wireless operator interviews: Behind the Lines – The Oral History of Special Operations in WWII by Russell Miller. Published by Secker & Warburg 2002. Neither of those has much real technical data, but both are interesting reading.
However, you can see a selection of suitcase sets at the Royal Signals Museum, Blandford Camp, Blandford, Forum, Dorset. Open Mon-Fri 9.30-4.30. The main exhibition open to the public includes a display of suitcase sets and ancillaries, some of which you might recognise. There is also, as you might expect, quite a lot of kit there. The phone number is 01258 482413 and it might be worth checking in case they’re closed for Spring-cleaning or something.
Apart from SOE doing this sort of stuff, there was a separate organisation with MI6 in the field with wireless operators. Within SOE, in addition to the French F section there was the RF section controlled by the “Free French”, plus another SOE Section organising the escape routes for POWs and aircrew on the run, another for the large Polish communities in France in the coal mining and industrial areas. All of these unknown to each other, theoretically. I have concentrated on France here but the same sort of thing was going on in most of the countries occupied by the Germans and the Japanese.
The Germans, in particular, devoted quite a lot of resources to tracking down the SOE wireless operators, with constant monitoring of the HF bands and the use of mobile D/F units to home in. According to one respected authority, the young male and female wireless operators had a life expectancy of just six weeks before being picked up. Many were then executed. The trick was to change location for every new transmission, to operate out in the countryside and to spend a little time as possible on the air. To do this they had to lug a heavy battery around in addition to the 32/42lbs.
From Bill Godden
MV Gothic: With reference to Jimmy Leadbetter’s article in Newsletter No. 5. This photograph of the Gothic I hope is of interest. I took it in April 1968 as she was leaving London on what I understood at the time to be her last voyage. She looks to have a full cargo so I suppose she possibly discharged in New Zealand before going up to the breakers in Taiwan
I sailed as 2R/O on the Gothic in 1956 with Bernie McGovern as Ch. R/O, he was a very patient man.
At that time she was trading to New Zealand as a First Class passenger cargo liner, the sparkle of the Royal Tour faded but still within memory. She carried about 80 passengers.
I believe there were many alterations made to the ship before and after the tour and when I was onboard I think the radio installation consisted of:-
“Oceanspan III” main transmitter. “Reliance” reserve transmitter. “CR300” main receiver. “Alert” (fixed tuned to 500khz) guard receiver. Automatic keying device. “Vigilant”(?) Auto alarm. “Salvita” Lifeboat transmitter. “Lodestone” D/F. I don’t remember the radar or echosounder. “Oceanic” S.R.E.
It was a good run to New Zealand, bunkering at Port of Spain, through the Panama Canal and stopping off at Pitcairn Island home of the “Bounty Mutineers”. At Pitcairn Island we drifted off and the islanders came out to us in longboats to bring out patients for the ship’s doctor, collect stores and any mail, to put mail on board for delivery to New Zealand. They also brought out fruit and souvenirs for sale to passengers and crew.
Some years later there was a fire on board which caused some fatalities. The radio room was put out of action and the R/O used the Lifeboat transceiver to communicate with AwaruaRadio. The ship only carried freight after that.
From Kenneth Hutley
I spent a very happy 48 years with the company retiring in 1987 one year early mainly due to health problems.
In early May 1939 my father and I were interviewed in the old Canteen by Jack Frost the then General Manager with a view to my employment. The next week I had a letter asking me to start work in the Standards Room under Mr. R. Cartwright on the 19th of May. For the first few weeks my pay was 13/3 per week.
I spent three years with that section and was mainly employed drift running and compensating Franklin Drives, Master Oscillators used in SWB8 and SWB10 and SWB11 transmitters.
My next section was MobileTest which was led by Bill Stroud testing quite a variety of transmitters used in portable stations. Whilst there it was my luck to test the first VHF transmitters for vehicles.
About 1950 work took me to VHF Development Group. Jobs were varied and most interesting here, most of the section subsequently moved to Writtle after a year or two.
There was a shortage of work in 1958 at Writtle and so I was seconded to Rivenhall to help with a large project going on there.
Two weeks after my marriage in 1961 I was recalled to Writtle and give the task of forming a section to Repair and look after all the Test Equipment on the site. This was an enjoyable time and the help given me by permanent staff and apprentices was much appreciated.
We moved to New Street in 1974 and finally to West Way from where I retired still repairing Test Equipment although more specialised.
In 1986 I took the Radio Amateurs Examination and today hold the Callsign G0VDP. My 2 metre equipment is on most days as is also the HF rig and it would be a great pleasure to have a chat with other Veterans who also have amateur call signs.
From Peter Helsdon
In the latest Marconi Veterans Newsletter I was interested to see a mention of John Sidebotham. I first met him when he visited Power Test during the War. He mentioned that he had been a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy on board a Destroyer which was involved in The Tizard Mission which took all the British Military secrets to the USA in 1940. This included one of the first six production magnetrons. These were taken by the ship Duchess of Richmond from Liverpool, which was later escorted by two Destroyers. I presume John was on one of these.
One object of the Tizard Mission was to have the thousands of magnetrons needed, to be mainly produced by American resources.
Production in Chelmsford by Marconi started at Great Baddow where twenty a week were made by the end of 1940. Later the new valve Laboratories in Waterhouse Lane took over production where several thousand were made.
From Keith Benzie
I worked in the Planning Department of Marconi Radar Systems at Bill Quay, Felling, Gateshead, and Tyne & Wear. For almost thirty years (until the factory closure in the 80’s) and listed below are some of the shop floor humour/comical situations that I can recall.
The Balloon Man
Jack Frost (Foreman)
When replying to the question ”will you work overtime at the week end” Jack would say, “you will not let me down, will you?”
The Station Master
Bill Headly (Progress Man)
When asked about item shortages he would reply with the words “its due in now, any time”
Len (Progress Man)
He ended every phone conversation with the words “cheers now, cheers”
Allen Conley (Production Engineer)
Allen’s typical response when asked about an engineering problem would be “I will put you all in the picture”
Stan Rodham (Foreman)
When asking someone to work harder, he would say, “I’ll have you on your knees by 10.30”
Approximately 30 or so years ago one project that was taking place in the heavy fabrication shop was the manufacture of several small gear boxes, which were manufactured from plate and welded together, after welding they were filled with paraffin to check for leaks.
As paraffin is very viscose, the floor had a covering of sawdust to soak spillages. The tale begins: An inspector by the name of Norman Lonsdale noticed a fire had developed in the area where the paraffin testing was taking place, he immediately informed the Gate House who in turn informed the Felling Fire Brigade, Gateshead Fire Service, Hebburn & Jarrow Fire Services, in all 9 Fire Tenders arrived.
The first Fire Engine arrived and was duly stopped from entering the factory at the Gate House by the Senior Security Officer, a Mr. Garvin who asked the dark skinned driver where he came from, the driver replied “Nigeria”, Mr. Garvin exclaimed “Never in the World you’ve arrived before the Felling Fire Brigade.
From Peter Helsdon
Dull Emitter Q valve
Attached is a photo of Captain H.J. Round’s Dull Emitter Q valve. Which he designed in the early 1920’s to be used in the RF stages of wireless receivers. I saved the Q valve from the New Street Scrap Yard, for 3d. about 1943. In 1960 he came to Pottery Lane to have a record made of his life’s work at Marconi’s on film. I loaned him my 1900 coherer and the DEQ valve to put on his desk for the film.
Soon afterwards I visited a seller of second hand items in Wood Street. He had a similar radio receiver which had about five DEQ R.F. stages and some audio stages. Unfortunately it was too heavy for me to carry home.
Marconi Marine – A Few Memories from 50 Years Ago – Jimmy Leadbitter
In the 1950’s the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company was taken over by English Electric and later on by GEC who then formed GEC-Marconi. The Marine Company was known as The Marconi International Marine Communications Company Ltd (MIMCO) was formed out of M.W.T. Co with Head Office Management, Administration, Accounts and Technical Staff housed in various areas of New Street Chelmsford including the roof. (Radar training under Harry Galway). Sales staff in Marconi House in the Strand, and the Main Stores at the East Ham Depot.
Every port in UK and many overseas, had a MIMCO Depot staffed by MIMCO personnel. Overseas ports included Accra, Aden, Chittagong, Freetown and Port Said. There was also a Technician based in South Georgia (Falklands) providing service to the Whaling Fleets. Major Depots in UK such as Southampton, Cardiff, Liverpool, Glasgow, Newcastle, Hull and East Ham employed more than 60 staff, the majority of whom were ex seagoing Radio Officers.
More than 2,500 Radio Officers were employed by the Company and allocated to ships by the much maligned Staff Clerk at major depots.
Hundreds of ships were being refitted by Depot technicians to meet the requirements of the 1952 Merchant Shipping Safety of Life at Sea, Radio Rules.
Among the new vessels being fitted with Marconi equipment were Iberia, Arcadia, Southern Cross, Empress of England, Empress of Britain, Orsova, Trawlers George Irwin and Fairtry and many cargo vessels and tankers.
At the Company AGM in 1954, the Chairman reported the British Merchant Fleet now compares in size to that of 1939 and MIMCO had received orders for re-equipping the majority of ships. Orders were received for supply and fitting of a full range of equipment for 12 “H” and “V” class Shell Tankers, and the supply of 67 Salvita portable lifeboat equipments for Ellerman Lines. More Radiolocator 1V’s were installed on British and Commonwealth Merchant ships in 1953/54 than the combined total of all other types of radar.
New equipment being designed and manufactured by MWT for MIMCO included Seaguard Auto Alarm receiver, Oceanspan V transmitter, Autokey (Automatic Keying Device), Graphette Echosounder and Salvita III Portable Lifeboat Equipment.
Newcastle Depot which had been in PUDDING CHARE since 1928 moved to Melbourne Street (this later office has now been demolished and luxury flats built in its place). Thorpe Hall was purchased.
Arrangements were made for the clock on the Royal Liver Building in Liverpool to be provided with electronically produced chimes. Previously it did not chime.
June 4th 1954. The 50th Anniversary of the first daily newspaper produced at sea on board RMS Campania. The Cunard Daily Bulletin consisted of 8 pages and cost 5 cents or 2½ old pence.
November 1954. The 50th Anniversary of the invention of the Thermionic Valve by Sir Andrew Fleming FRS who was at the time (1904) Scientific Adviser to MWT Co. This anniversary will be celebrated at the 2004 Reunion.
One Hundred Not Out and Still Going Strong
K K PangKuo Kuan Pang, for many years our man in Hong Kong at Marchilim, celebrated on 29th November his 100th Birthday. “KK” as he is better known, was our Marconi Veteran’s President in 1979 when he was the first Overseas Veteran to obtain this honour.
KK was born in 1903 in Tiajan mainland China and spent his early years with Marconi’s in Peking and then later in Shanghai where he helped set up a Marconi factory. Marchese Guglielmo Marconi spent some time in Peking with KK and it was not until the late 1930’s that KK was forced to leave China for Hong Kong to set up the main Marconi office in that area.
Anybody passing through or to Hong Kong on Company business always stopped to meet the office staff and it was invariably KK or Sydney Heward the then Marconi Office Manager who showed them the sights of this fascinating city.
KK married Celia the Secretary of the original Marconi Company Manager in Peking, Mr. Richards. They spent many happy years together before Celia’s passing a few years ago. KK and Celia had one daughter, now living in Melbourne Australia and one son Francis who lives in Chelmsford. Francis was educated in the UK as an Architect and has recently retired.
Congratulations KK we wish you well.
Then and Now
These photographs show The Marconi Marine Depot in Newcastle just before the demolition contractors moved in
and after they had razed the building to the ground.
Yet another of the famous Marconi units to bite the dust. This place must bring back memories to a great many Marconi Marine people. What a shame we have to lose such a building.
New England in the Fall – By Peter Bickers ex-President MC Inc (previously with MCSL)
Despite spending four years at MC Inc in Washington I never managed to visit New England in the Fall, so this year with my wife Jean I set out to not only see the fall but to seek out a couple of Marconi related areas of interest in this part of the USA. Our trip started in Cape Cod area where I had read the first transatlantic radio station had been established. Sure enough on the second day on the road to Provincetown we came across a sign to Marconi Beach (South Wellfleet) and the site of Marconi’s first wireless site in the USA. A small visitors centre and plaque record where the first US commercial wireless station was established.
The Station was operated as Marconi Wireless Telegraph Station of America and the bright red station board proudly proclaimed “Rapid automatic Transatlantic Service”. The first Wireless Telegram was sent from President Roosevelt on January 19th 1903 to King Edward VII. It was intended for re-transmission via Glace Bay in Canada but the conditions were so good that it was picked up direct by Poldhu. Apart from the visitor centre the only evidence of the site are two concrete footings from the original wooden antenna towers.
Leaving Cape Cod we headed for New Hampshire to call in on the Marconi Museum. We found it located in a beautiful leafy suburb of Bedford. The Museum is the result of ten years planning by Ray Minichiello P.E. and his wife Dr. Pricilla Cusi. It is located in an old school house which after extensive renovation provides an excellent home for the extensive collection that Ray has assembled during his career with the General Electric Company. Besides having some very early Marconi equipment including a spark transmitter, there is a very interesting collection of early commercial and domestic American radio equipment including some beautiful three valve receivers which besides providing radio reception were built as works of art to be proudly displayed. Ray had even obtained the original station plaque from the Cape Cod station. While we were there we met some of the volunteer support group who help to run the museum. Why has Ray who never worked for Marconi devoted himself to establishing the Museum and its foundation? When he was five his father took the young Ray along to meet Guglielmo Marconi and he has never forgotten the great man and that he patted him on the head. If you have an opportunity and are in the area the Museum is a must for any Marconi Veteran. I can guarantee a warm reception, if you can go look out any old equipment or documents they would be most welcomed.
Early Days of a Secretary at Marconi’s – By Val Cleare, Ex Marconi Comms (now with AMS)
I can recall when I was a trainee on an Intensive Secretarial Shorthand-Typist Course, I learnt to “touch-type” using a manual typewriter at the local College of Further Education. We were not allowed to look at the keys, all we had was a diagram of the keyboard at the front of the classroom. During the training period I also had to type to some military music without looking at the keys! What fun! During the first year I spent 6 months at the Company’s Secretarial Training College, the keys of the manual typewriter were covered up completely!
During the first 4 months of my training course in the Company, I worked in a department learning about systems and office practices and had access to a manual typewriter which comprised of the following: the carriage belonged to an Imperial 66 and the main keyboard to an Imperial 70 with a very large typeface (which was difficult to change the size). One of my first tasks was to type lots of columns of figures which proved to be a nightmare with such a typeface! I felt that the typewriter was fit only for the Museum! Fortunately, I shared the office with another secretary who worked part-time, so I saved up the difficult tasks to use her manual typewriter which was far superior to mine.
At the end of my first year’s training, I spent a fortnight in the Technical Information Department where I used a manual typewriter which included technical symbols. I can remember that some symbols I was required to type I had to make up by using a combination of two or even three keys at the same time (so different from modern information technology)!
p.s. In the distant past I have vague recollection of telex machines and stencilling!
This photograph was found in an old office at New Street Chelmsford. The name at the bottom is “Jenesis” but the Author is unknown. In 1944 the Second World War was still in progress and it is assumed this could have been either a morale booster poster or a Christmas Card for those in the fighting services or employed in the factory. Please let the editor know if you have any information on this photograph. Note: reading the first letter on each line spells MARCONIS.
The Lizard Meneage
What does this title conjure up in your mind? No it is not the name of any predator or even a simple Gecko. It is the name of a Newspaper issued in Cornwall and published by Newsquest on behalf of LPTA Lizard Peninsula Tourism Association.
The Newspaper, issued four times a year, covers all the events in Cornwall especially around the area known as the Lizard. It is here where our Founder Guglielmo Marconi carried out his early experiments of sending wireless signals across the sea and especially when the transatlantic signals were sent across the Atlantic Ocean to Newfoundland in the early 1900’s.
It is well worth visiting the Marconi site in this area and better still, send for a copy of the Lizard Meneage before you visit as this contains pages of useful information and details of forthcoming events. On a regular basis, the newspaper provides details of Marconi past and current activities in the area. The people living in this part of the UK are extremely proud of their Marconi connection and will always be pleased to show you the artefacts and the original Wireless Station.
For further details contact Rosemary Peters 01326 281079 or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Whistle Blowers of Marconi
The photograph above was taken in the New Street Canteen when all Referees who worked for the Chelmsford based Marconi Units came together for a photocall. Editor reckons this was in the late 1970’s and although faces and hairstyles have changed most of the “refs” can be recognised. However, one or two names are missing and if you recognise these then please drop the Editor a line.
Back Row (reading from left to right)
Boot Baines, Peter Evans, Peter Crisp, Brian Beatwell, Peter Parkhurst, unknown, unknown.
Unknown, unknown, Roger Wiseman, Charles Rand, Tony Harrington, Gordon Evans, Fred King, Roy Hurrell.
Unknown, Charles Brown, Len Liddle, Bert Gilbert, Don Mott, John Pickering.
One notable and well known referee missing from the photograph is Jim Leadbitter who for many years before retirement was a Marconi Marine Manager. Jim lives locally and with Charles Rand is still very much involved in local football.
Professor Sir J. Ambrose Fleming
Sir J. Ambrose Fleming, a Professor of Electrical Technology and Lecturer at University College London, was engaged by Guglielmo Marconi to become his Scientific Advisor at the Chelmsford Development Laboratories in July 1900 but at the same time he retained his position at UCL.
One of Guglielmo Marconi’s attributes was a realistic assessment of his own practical limitations. If ever a problem lay outside the range of his own experience he would consider no loss of face to call in outside help. Just such a situation had materialised by reason of the super power transmitting stations (one in the UK and one in America) which were postulated, for it must be remembered that battery driven laboratory-type equipments were the only one in use at this time: nothing more powerful had ever been built. It was rather like proposing to build a Cathedral in a world which had never seen anything more than a grandiose log hut.
Characteristically, Marconi enlisted the services of a man whose past experience had run closest to that needed for the job in hand – Dr. later Sir J. Ambrose Fleming.
Dr. Fleming worked very closely with Marconi and many of the early Marconi stations at Poldhu and at Niton in the Isle of Wight were constructed with power plants and high voltage circuits designed by him.
In 1904 Dr. Fleming, one time pupil of the great Clerk Maxwell, embarked on some highly scientific work with Marconi to produce what we now know as the first “Thermionic Valve” which would become part of the Marconi Transmitters under construction. The “Thermionic Valve” (or diode as it would be termed now) was an oscillation valve (a one way device) and this invention patented by Fleming, was used as a standby to the Marconi designed Magnetic Detector.
The photograph shows the experimental Fleming “Thermionic Valve” which in 2004 will celebrate 100 years of its first introduction into Marconi equipment.
University College London, in conjunction with the IEE and Science Museum, will at the end of June and early July 2004, be holding exhibitions, conferences and lectures to celebrate this outstanding achievement in the early days of electronics and wireless communication. Marconi Veterans Association hope to have one of the leading Professors of UCL as their guest at the Veterans Re-union on 17th April 2004 to celebrate this achievement of Sir J. Ambrose Fleming.
A Special Day on the Lizard, Saturday 18th July 1903 – David Barlow, The Radio Officers Association Radio Society
In the summer of 1898 the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) had injured his leg and was convalescing on board the Royal yacht “Osborne”, which was lying off Cowes. Queen Victoria was insistent that regular medical bulletins were passed to her about her son’s progress. She was only a few miles away residing at Osborne House, but intervening hills made visual communications impossible. In the first three weeks of August over 150 messages were sent from the yacht to the Queen, using Guglielmo Marconi’s newfangled apparatus.
This event was the start of a friendship between Marconi and members of the Royal Family. It is well documented that Edward VII’s son George was an especial friend of Marconi and very interested in his work. When his father acceded to the throne in January 1901 George became Prince of Wales (subsequently King George V).
Poldhu on the Lizard had already made history when, on December 12th 1901, it sent the first transatlantic signal received by Marconi in Newfoundland. In 1903 Poldhu obtained a commercial licence from the Post Office and commenced a news, telegram, navigational and weather information service for shipping.
On 17th July 1903 the Prince and Princess of Wales were staying at Tregothnan, the home of Lord and Lady Falmouth. The party also included Guglielmo Marconi, Prince Alexander of Teck (brother of the Princess) and General Lord Grenfell.
Preparations were underway at Poldhu for the royal visit the next day. The wireless masts were decorated with bunting and flags and instructions were given for all the Marconi staff to be in attendance, wearing clean white pseudo navy uniforms. The other instruction was that on no account was anyone to speak to the royal party unless they were asked a question.
On the Saturday morning a convoy of motorcars transported the guests, via the King Harry Ferry, to Poldhu arriving at noon. After refreshing themselves in the Poldhu Hotel (today the Poldhu Nursing Home) and signing the register (using the inkwell shown), the royal party then passed through a guard of honour of the smartly dressed Marconi staff to the “Wireless Field” and inspected the generator house, transmitting and receiving rooms.
Messages were received from the Lizard Wireless Station six miles to the south west. They read:-
“The Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company presents its respectful homage to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales and welcomes him to the Poldhu station”.
“To the Princess, Marconi W.T.C. in welcoming H.R.H. to Poldhu, presents respectful homage to H.R.H.”
Marconi gave the visitors a full explanation of how these messages were sent and received.
The party then proceeded to climb the 300 Steps to the top of the 250ft. northern tower where one Marconi employee had been stationed at each landing. At the second landing Princess Mary became tired and stopped, while the Prince carried on. The Princess said to the landing attendant “My man I am not going any further” Mr. Axelby, a Mullion man, forgot what he had been told and replied ” I wouldn’t if I were you my dear, you come and sit here and I will look after you” – and she did!
It is also reported that the Prince ascended to the top of one of the towers in a boson’s chair hauled up by ropes pulled by Marconi employees.
In the afternoon the royal party drove to the Lizard and visited the lighthouse before walking to the Housel Bay Hotel, where they took tea and signed the visitors book.
While there is no record of a visit to the Lizard Marconi Wireless station, there are strong grounds to believe that Marconi would have shown the Prince the place from where the signals he received at Poldhu earlier in the day were sent. The station is but a few minutes walk from the hotel. There exists a photograph which shows a very neat and tidy station with a distinctive picture on the wall, and one can only surmise that it was taken on that day as such photographs were only taken on very special occasions.
After a full and probably tiring day, the convoy of cars set off for the return journey. In those days motorcars had somewhat flimsy brake linings likely to become worn on the hills to and from Poldhu. On the hill down to the King Harry Ferry, Marconi’s car was close on the tail of the royal car when his brakes burned out. It was only by very skilful driving that the chauffeur prevented the car from speeding past the royal car and ending up in the water.
Saturday 18th July was a day to remember on the Lizard peninsular. The royal visit provided significant publicity for the Marconi Company and highlighted the benefits of wireless to the wider public.
The Housel Bay Hotel, the Marconi Centre at Poldhu and the Lizard Marconi Wireless Station celebrated the centenary of this visit and saw many visitors during 2003. The photographs are by kind permission of the Marconi Corporation and show the royal party arriving by car and walking along the road towards the Wireless Station. Note the masts in the background. Guglielmo Marconi is on the right wearing a straw boater.
This Newsletter has been compiled and edited by Peter Turrall MBE who would be delighted to receive inputs for the next issue. He can be contacted via this website or at his home address which is 96 Patching Hall Lane, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 4DB, UK.