MVA Newsletter 2018 – edition number 20


As in previous years, a number of letters are from correspondents seeking information about former colleagues, for research into their family history, or for the preparation of articles, books, etc. If no contact detail appears with the letter then please direct your reply or any correspondence for the enquirer to:

Barry Powell, Secretary, Marconi Veterans Association, 22 Juliers Close, Canvey Island, Essex, SS8 7EP; 01268 696342; or to the editor,

Ken Earney, 01245 381235; email
In the majority of cases published below the enquirer has been directed to the comprehensive guide produced by Barry to the online resources which may be helpful with this kind of enquiry. Find it on the MVA website at: http://www.marconi-veterans. org/?page_id=3047/ Enquirers have also been directed to the Bodleian Library.

Certain items in this issue, particularly on this and the next page, are responses to letters or articles appearing in the 2017 edition which have already been posted during the last eleven months on the website. There is thus an inevitable but necessary duplication catering for those Veterans who have no possibility, or wish, to use the internet.

Picking up on mention of the internet, many of the articles now come with links to web pages giving considerably more information on topics than can be included on these pages. For those not internet enabled, may I suggest that you enlist the help of a friend or neighbour who is, or go to your local library – remember those? – to enable you to see the material referred to.

Finally note that, to avoid unnecessary repetition of the Association’s name in full, the initials MVA have in places been used.

Christopher Charles Casperd
From Dr Alan Casperd, 24 February 2017

Dear Veterans Association, my grandfather’s brother was Christopher Charles Casperd, although he changed his surname to Caspard at some point.  He is mentioned as one of Marconi’s senior installation engineers in the book ‘A History of the Marconi Company’ by W J Baker. This book uses the surname Caspard. I wondered if you might have any further information on him (and ideally a photograph) in your archives. I look forward to hearing from you.

Colwyn Bay Wireless College
From Richard Shaw 22 February 2017

Firstly, many thanks for another splendid newsletter which arrived today. I hope you have now recovered from your Christmas bug.

In response to John Edwards’ letter about Colwyn Bay Wireless College (page 2), I was a student there from 23 April, 1941 to April 1942 when I got my PMG’s ‘Special’ (wartime) Certificate and first went to sea in SS Historian.
Unable to settle ashore after discharge as ‘Surplus to Requirements’ in 1946, I returned to Colwyn Bay to study for a couple of terms before sitting for my Second Class PMG in December 1948.

Colwyn Bay Wireless College was a lively place after the war with the return of several ex-servicemen who had learnt skills unknown in my earlier days. Jumping out of a first floor dormitory window for a night on the town was no problem for a parachutist who would re-enter silently some hours later. Nor was the lock on the pantry door when he felt peckish after our rationed dinners had failed to meet army standards.

As for Tim Wander’s search for a Myriad computer, I recall that three of them were used by Air Traffic Control, West Drayton, as part of the Flight Plan Processing System. Data on aircraft movements were fed to them simultaneously for comparison, and if one computer’s output differed from the other two it would be disregarded. That, however, was around 40 years ago, so where they are today is anyone’s guess.

GE (Eric) Lilley
From Diane Carrick 24 February 2017

My father Mr G E Lilley worked for Marconi for over 25 years. I was born in Lagos Nigeria, where he was stationed at the time in 1961.  He returned to UK in 1963 and then became Area Manager Marconi Middle East.  In around 1975 he was seconded to Nicosia Cyprus, still working for Marconi and I finished my High School there.  I remember a Mr Geoffry Nutt and Graham Linnell also being based in Cyprus.

I would love to know what projects he was assigned, and what his specific job function was in these years. Are you able to trace any records from the Chelmsford archives?

Barry has obviously referred Diane Carrick to the various resources mentioned above, but I have also put her in touch with Fred Boot who, together with his wife Peggy, were in Nigeria pretty much concurrently with Eric and his wife Barbara. Fred and Eric were part of a Marconi College team in the country to train young Nigerians who would operate and maintain the multi-channnel radio system that Marconi had installed linking the large interior through repeater stations in jungle and in the northern desert areas on the edge of the Sahara. See Fred’s further reminiscences about the ex-pat life in Nigeria in the early 60s on page NN. (David Samways, who Fred also knew in Nigeria, enters into this story – see page10.).

However, Diane would obviously like to know more about her father’s life after Nigeria if any Veteran can help.

Eric Burnett Vass 1936 – 1953
Letter from Bruce Vass, S Australia, 8 June 2016
2017 Newsletter item on page 4 of the paper version

Following this enquiry last year from Bruce Vass, Ray Walls has corresponded with him and provided a little of the sought-for information. This is a follow-up.
Ray has sent extracts from the source article for Eric Walker’s item ‘What’s the rate of exchange for kudos?’ which appeared from in the 2007 edition of the newsletter. This recounted Eric’s experiences of Airadio Division at Writtle in the early ‘50s, and the division’s work at the time on Green Satin, the airborne doppler navigator equipment for the RAF’s V-bomber force. Ray, Dave Pudsey and Eric Walker all knew Bruce Vass, and both Dave Pudsey and Ray, a junior engineer newly in the division, worked with him on Green Satin’s transmitter/receiver unit.

EE Triggs
From Ronald Smeltzer Ph D, 9 February 2017

I have a 1901 book on microscopy with the signature EE Triggs and address: c/o Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Co. Ltd., Marconi House Strand London WC2 written on the flyleaf.  I found this name in your Veterans Deceased list.
Would you be able, please, to tell me anything about Mr Triggs, his position at the Marconi company perhaps?  Information about a previous owner of a book is always of interest.

Following searches carried out by Chris Gardiner we can only say the following:
“Since he joined in 1900 and Marconi’s address is The Strand it would appear that the book was acquired fairly early in his career. Also, of course, he would have worked at Hall Street among a relatively small workforce although I don’t think there was any mention of him in the photos or other documentation shown in the Hall Street exhibition in 2016. Tim Wander’s book produced for the exhibition shows quite a few of the staff but these are not identified so we may have a picture of Mr. Triggs without knowing.”

Mamoon Osman, Marconi employee from Sudan, 1950s
From Reem Abusham, 28 February 2017

I know there is an extremely slim chance but I was wondering if you had any information about an employee, Mamoon Osman, in the Chelmsford factory. He would definitely have been working there in engineering in 1959, having come over from Sudan to train at the factory, and would have been about 25 at the time. I understand of corse you may not have any information about him, but if not and could pass on this email to anyone else who also came over from Sudan around that time, or anyone that may have worked with him then, that would be very much appreciated. It would even be good if there were any contemporary company photos taken that he may be in.

Sorry, I am aware this is a very broad request and there may be nothing you can do but he would be my grandfather so any information would be very much appreciated.

Geoffrey John Burfoot
From Richard Burfoot, 2 March 2017

I should be most grateful for any assistance with finding out about my father, Geoffrey John Burfoot who was a Marconi trained radio officer serving on cargo/passenger ships in early/mid/ late 1920s from London and Liverpool ports.

He was born 16 March 1900 near Slough/Windsor and later served with Cable and Wireless. I should like to have knowledge of his career and of the ships that he served in: he did sail world-wide possibly with different companies.
I am saddened that I did not ask and listen to him when he was talking about his times serving on merchant ships when I was growing up!
I would be most happy to make a small donation to the relevant organisation that may have information.

Thank you,

Richard Burfoot MA (Conservation) RIBA. Architect
Willow Cottage, Prinsted Lane, Emsworth PO10 8HS
Tel 01243 379844

Canadian on a Marconi College course in 1995/6
From Barry Knight, 14 November 2017

I wonder whether you can help me please. My Mother was a cleaner at the Marconi College in Arbour Lane Chelmsford and she retired when it closed down in 1997. Unfortunately she now has the onset of dementia but she speaks of a kind Canadian gentleman who was there on a course for a few months, probably around 1995 or 1996, at least that is her best estimate. He helped her greatly in tracing her relatives who had moved to Canada many years previously. She would like to get back in touch with him but she cannot now remember his name. She thinks that she might have heard that he died in a car crash on his return to Canada but she cannot be sure of this information. Do you think that there is anybody who might have some information that would help her?

This is a very long shot! Ed

Tim Wander’s museum appeals in 2017 newsletter Great Baddow CH mast
From Ray Walls, 13 March 2017

I notice from the 2017 Newsletter that Tim Wander is seeking uses made of the Great Baddow CH mast. I can recall one.

In Airadio Division at Basildon we designed and produced the Blue Orchid Doppler equipment for helicopter navigation. This would have been about 1961. Basically the unit sent microwave beams to the ground or water below and the Doppler shift of the reflected signal was used to obtain aircraft velocity along and across the axis.

An important use was to enable the helicopter to hover over water, keeping in step with the water movement (tides). This way a sensor (eg, sonobuoy) could be dropped safely into the water.

We needed to test the system especially at the low velocities of hover. To do this we hung a Blue Orchid unit from the lowest of the cross arms of the CH mast at Marconi Research Baddow. We could then gently swing the unit as if in hover and check its operation.

I am trying to locate people who worked on Blue Orchid to confirm the above.

George Millington – 1
From David Frost

A friend of mine, Michael Claydon (some of you may recognise the name) who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s in West Avenue, Chelmsford, and was in the choir at All Saints Church in Kings Road, is trying to find some information on George Millington. He was heavily involved in the affairs of that church and was a lay reader. He worked at Great Baddow and joined Marconi in the 1930s from Cambridge. Apparently he became an outstanding scientist of world renown and was awarded the Faraday Gold Medal. He died in the ’80s and the church was packed with former Marconi colleagues. This friend of mine and a godson of George Millington are trying to find out a bit more about his working life and if anyone has any information I will be happy to pass it on.


George Millington – 2
From Patty Gibb, May 2017

Can anyone tell me what prestigious award George Millington received in 1978? He was Chief of the Propagation and Mathematical Group in Chelmsford, which work involved investigating high frequency radio waves. George received the Faraday Medal in 1974.

Following up on this (the most interesting part of the job), Ian Gillis has created a page devoted to George Millington in the Radar History wiki. There, Roy Simons mentions him giving the Appleton lecture in 1970, the Faraday Medal award, and the fact that he lectured at Mid-Essex Tec’ in the ‘60s.  I have a vague memory of the latter. Ed.

Norman Cryer
From: Stephanie Wenborn, 15 December 2017

My husband’s uncle, Norman Cryer who joined the Marconi Company in 1958 sadly passed away this week. He was a member of your association. We would love to find out further information about his role at your organisation as he never discussed his work with our family.

Where was this opening?
Martin Eve, 14 June 2017 (via Rochester archive and Alan Hartley-Smith)

This plaque commemorates the opening of a company building by Norman Lamont in 1984. Martin Eve’s father acquired it some time during his service with the company, and now, since his father’s death, he has it. The father worked for Marconi Avionics, then GEC Avionics, as did Martin until 1988. The current assumption is that the building was at Milton Keynes – the inscription reads: “This building was opened by Mr Norman Lamont MP, Minister of State for Industry, 15th August 1984”.
Can any veteran throw any further light on this?

John Whittaker, former Marconi Radar employee
From Chelmsford Science and Engineering Society, Adam Wood, 24 June 2017

It is with great sadness that I report the passing of John Whittaker (‘Little John’), who died peacefully on Sunday 11 June 2017 surrounded by his close friends, following an 18?month struggle with dementia. He had recently celebrated his 80th birthday a month before on 19 May 2017.

John worked at Marconi Radar from 1961 (having been an apprentice in the years leading up to that) until the mid-90s, so some of you may remember him from then. He was a stalwart of the ‘219 London Road family’ before moving to his apartment on Coval Lane, where he remained until going into care.