Marconi Memorial Plaque

The unveiling and dedication of the Marconi Memorial Plaque took place in Chelmsford Cathedral on Sunday 25 April.  The plaque commemorates the 17 employees who were killed by bombs on the New Street factory on the night of 9 May 1941.

The ceremony was incorporated into the traditional service of Choral Evensong from the Book of Common Prayer.  The first lesson was read by Robbie Robertson, Patron of the Marconi Veterans Association and the second lesson by Dawn Swindells from Washington DC, USA, granddaughter of Charles Franklin a victim of the bombing.  The sermon was given by the Very Reverend Peter Judd, the Dean of Chelmsford, and immediately after the sermon the clergy and choir precessed to St. Peter’s Chapel followed by the many relatives of the victims who were present and Marconi Veterans.

Here an introduction to the ceremony was given by Peter Turral MBE, Chairman of the Marconi Veterans Association, followed by the unveiling by Lady Telford, widow of Sir Robert Telford, Life President of the Marconi Company.  The dedication was given by The Very Reverend Peter Judd and after returning to the chancel the service was concluded with a further hymn and the blessing.

After the service there was a small exhibition of photographs and other mementos of the tragic event.

marconi_plaqueThis plaque had been mounted in the foyer of Marconi house in New Street since its creation and although it had been seen by many Marconi employees over the 67 years until the site closed in 2008, because of the security restrictions on the site it had been seen by few members of the public or the relatives of the victims.  The re-erection of the plaque in Chelmsford Cathedral makes the list of victims visible to all.

Update 3 May 2009

This dedication was reported in the Essex Chronicle for 30 April and can be read at http://www.thisistotalessex.co.uk/latestnews/72pt-bld-1-deck-2col-hhhggggghh/article-939510-detail/article.html

The Chelmsford Weekly News did not carry any report.

Update 24 May 2009

The Dean of Chelmsford, The Very Reverend Peter Judd, has kindly given us permission to publish his sermon at the service and this is included below.

First of all we are here to remember the seventeen who were working on the night shift on Friday the 9th of May 1941 at Marconi Wireless and Telegraph Company Limited in New Street, and who lost their lives when a lone German plane swept over Chelmsford on a bombing raid.  Seventeen lost their lives, twenty were seriously injured, and eighteen others slightly hurt.

It is good that their names join those of Hoffman’s (another Chelmsford company and the names of so many others who lost their lives in war — recorded as they are in and next to St Peter’s Chapel.

In that chapel, in the middle is the sculpture called the ‘Bombed Child’.  It was made by Georg Ehrlich – himself a refugee from the Nazis.   A mother holds her dead child across her lap, and the suffering and dignity of her bearing don’t need any words to describe them – that is communicated to anyone who looks at her. That small chapel with its flags and banners, its plaques and names, is transformed by that small sculpture – it takes it beyond this community, this county, this country, to a universal place, where all sufferers meet, and where the tragedy and pity of war is felt at its deepest level.

There is a tremendous cost to this human suffering, and tenderly and carefully we add these seventeen names who each bore that cost.

They were part of the ongoing story of Marconi and as well as remembering them, we should also remember the story of Marconi, and that’s another reason l’m glad the memorial plaque is on the wall of the Cathedral and that the Marconi logo is there for all to see with its ever expanding circles.  This Cathedral is a house of prayer, but it is also a house of memories.  You can read the stories of the generations as you go round, and the remarkable Marconi story has been missing until now.

I think that Peter Turrall and the Marconi veterans should be congratulated on their efforts to wake us all up to the legacy of Guglielmo Marconi.

To tell it boldly, Marconi invented modern communications: you could argue that wireless and then television, radar, voice communications, satellite communications, mobile phones and computers all focus on this one inventive mind, in this one place. I was interested to read that when Marconi died, the world’s wireless communications went silent for two minutes in his honour, and every town and village in Italy was instructed by the Italian Government to name a square or road after him, and his home town in Bologna was renamed Sasso Marconi.

It’s not difficult to see why, for example, the BBC and ITV owe their existence to Marconi – all their senior engineers came from Marconi.

Those early experiments and successes of Marconi here in Chelmsford quickly spread their wings and I was interested to read Marconi himself describe the development of these ideas for use on ships at sea. “Very early in its history in January 1901 wireless was used for summoning assistance to a ship in distress. Since then thousands of lives have been saved by means of wireless during times of peace apart from the thousands of lives saved by wireless during war. It is not possible to give an accurate estimate as to the number of lives which wireless has been instrumental in safeguarding during its history but perhaps I may be allowed to say that this is the aspect of wireless which gives me personally the greatest gratification.”

Although Guglielmo Marconi died in 1937, he had already put his inventive mind to the requirements of radar, aeronautical communication – even basic computers were part of his earlier experiments.  In short satellite communications, mobile telephones, the internet, and other modern communications all emanated from his work in the field of wireless.

As I said, Peter Turrall and the Marconi veterans should be congratulated for campaigning to see that all this achievement and the achievements of all those who worked in pioneering ways at Marconi aren’t forgotten.  There is now a statue of Marconi in a public place behind the bus station, but in view of the revolution he began which affects us all every minute of our lives, it’s a wonder it isn’t at the top of the High Street.  Perhaps one day it will be moved there.

I think it is exhilarating to think how one person can pursue an idea, and in doing so can transform the lives of millions.

I guess every time !text my wife on my mobile with “Where are you?” and she texts back “I’m on the 7.11 just heading out of Liverpool Street station”, I should offer a prayer of thanks for Marconi.

Well, the name and the logo of Marconi are now permanently lodged here in this house of memories.

As I said, it is exhilarating when you encounter a person and a mind who in pursuit of their ideas changed the lives of millions.

And this house stands in honour of another person, who lived on a distant shore, in another era, and yet whose single-mindedness and vision have changed the lives of millions and continues to do so.

As the militant atheist Richard Dawkins so tellingly said recently, “We have reached that point in human evolution when for our survival we must transcend our selfish drives and learn to co-operate together for the good of others and not just for ourselves.” That idea was definitively taught and lived by Jesus of Nazareth 2000 years ago, and it remains true of every truly human life, as we seek to live not just for ourselves but for others.

As I said, this is a house of memories, but it is much more than that – it isn’t just the memories of past generations and worshippers that are recorded here, it isn’t just the memory of Jesus that is remembered here – it is his living presence that is met here and responded to in worship and service day by day, week by week, year by year.  To believe in God is to believe in prayer. To an atheist, prayer is pointless – there is nothing and no one out there to reach out to who can listen or respond. I remember that friendly atheist Marghanita Laski saying that the difficulty about being an atheist is that when things are absolutely marvellous, when your heart and emotions are overflowing, there is no one and nothing you can thank.

To believe in God is to believe in prayer – that there is a mind and a purpose at work in our world and universe, to whom we can reach out in thanks and in distress, and faith and experience tell us that we aren’t addressing emptiness but touching the love that moves the sun and the other stars, that touches us in the person of Jesus, and through our fellow human beings.

You could argue that in prayer, wireless communication predates Marconi by thousands of years and that maybe the seed of the idea behind wireless lies in the act and art of prayer – as we address what cannot be seen, but can be known.

Well, we’ve come a long way from those seventeen whose names we remember today.  I wonder if they and the others working those long night shifts in those dark days of the war knew they were part of a cutting edge revolution that would rapidly spread to every comer of the globe.  Maybe not, but they were part of this incredible story.

A small plaque may seem a small offering, but their names are here and so is the name “Marconi” – not to be forgotten – as they and it take their places in the greater remembrance in this place as day by day and week by week we follow the command as sincerely and beautifully as we can:  “Do this in remembrance of me.”

Amen.

Veterans Reunion – photographs

Photos taken during the reunion

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AGM – 18 April

The Annual General Meeting of the Marconi Veterans Association was held on Saturday 18th April 2009 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 12 April 2008.

The minutes were passed unanimously by a show of hands.

2.  Accounts

To receive the audited accounts for the year ended 31 December 2008

Passed unanimously by a show of hands.

3.  Committee

To elect officers and members of the Committee.  Veteran David Frost was co-opted to the Committee on 29 September 2008.  All members of the Committee, being eligible, offered themselves for re-election.

The Committee was elected unanimously by a show of hands.

4.  To elect an Honorary Auditor

A resolution was proposed to elect Mr T Mundon as Honorary Auditor.

Mr Mundon was elected unanimously by a show of hands.

5.  Redevelopment of the New Street site.

Peter Turrall addressed the meeting to provide an update on the situation regarding the redevelopment of the New Street site.

Peter summed up the situation in four words “No money – five years”.  Ashwells, the owners and potential developers of the site, cannot raise the money to begin development and it is considered that it will now be five years before any serious work commences.

6.  Any other business

There was no other business.

7.  Next Meeting

The next reunion and AGM will be on Saturday 17th April 2010 at the Marconi Club.

We have been told by the Club management that the present clubhouse will be available for us for one more year.  There is no information on availability beyond that date.

Marconi Day – 25 April

The annual Marconi Day will be held at the  Chelmsford Industrial Museum at Sandford Mill this Saturday 25 April starting at 10 am.

All the main exhibits at the mill will be on display and the Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society (CARS) will be running their radio communication nets both from the Marconi Broadcasting Hut and outside using kite supported aerials if the weather is suitable.  Details of CARS can be found at http://www.g0mwt.org.uk/

Chelmsford Borough Council does not advertise this event heavily on their web site but details for Sandford Mill and how to find it are at www.chelmsford.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=6790

Veterans Reunion – 18 April

The annual Veterans Reunion took place at the Marconi Athletic & Social Club in Beehive Lane.  225 Veterans and guests were at the lunch.

Our president for 2009 is Veteran Phil Robinson who is the Senior Vice President of Selex Communications in the UK.  He was introduced by Veteran George Hill, OBE.  In his address Phil outlined how Selex Communications had developed from Marconi Communications as he felt that in many ways Selex was the natural development of Marconi, particularly as the workforce was substantially the same.  Selex’s parent company, Finnmechanica in Italy, was a similar arrangement to the old GEC with a range of activitites covering defence and communications.

With the move from New Street in Chelmsford to Basildon, Selex now has much better accomodation and a better working environment.  It employs about 800 people on the site and has become the preferred supplier of some military communication equipment to many organisations throughout the world.

Our special guest this year was Mr Roger Casale who is the independent political adviser to Selex Communications and Finnmechanica UK Limited.  He wasintroduced by our Chairman, Veteran Peter Turrall.

In his address Roger outlined how he had become an MP for Wimbledon in 1997, this being his home town, and what he had done since ceasing to be an MP in 2005.  since then he has run his management consultancy business and has connections between the UK and Italy.

placemat2009_thumbAs has been usual at recent reunions a coaster was produced to mark the year 2009.  In this case it reflected on the departure from New Street and the death of our former Patron Sir Robert Telford.  All the coasters can be viewed in greater detail at http://www.marconi-veterans.org/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=16