Marconi Newsletter 2017 – edition number 19

Please click on the title Newsletter 2017 above to open the full document with the index and on any picture in this newsletter to open a larger image.

Peter Turrall, MVA Chairman

The last bastion in our County City of Chelmsford where founder Guglielmo Marconi set up his Wireless Telegraph Company has now been sold to a commercial operator. For three months a local organisations the Chelmsford Society and Chelmsford Engineering Society set up a wonderful exhibition entitled ‘Marconi Science Worx’ of Marconi artefacts, large posters etc, in the original Marconi factory in Hall Street and invited the public to view these items, and knowledgeable people to give lectures not only on Marconi but also on other engineering facets.

This is a very sad blow for all the hard work this local Group put in to not only save the factory for a museum, but also a future educational establishment covering all aspects of engineering and communications.* The second Marconi factory in New Street Chelmsford opened in 1912 has been razed to the ground for a major housing complex. The only exception is the front building which has a preservation order on it. This is now completely refurbished and occupied by an American cosmetics company called Benefit which employs a large number of female operators. Whilst the building has been tastefully redesigned internally, it has changed from its original details. The outside of the building still holds a plaque denoting the world’s first wireless broadcast took place from the building in 1920.

The water tower running alongside Marconi Road is in the process of being converted. It is understood a local organisation hopes to produce community broadcasts from the building. The water reservoirs have been filled in and a new multi storey block of flats will soon be erected in the area once known as Building 720 with is wavy roof. The whole site has either one/two bedroomed flats or major three/four bedroom houses. Quite unrecognisable from its original 1912 complex.

Whilst there is no possibility of an ex-Marconi site being used for a Marconi Museum, there will be celebrations coming up covering various anniversaries – the opening of the BBC in 1920 when all Marconi equipment and engineering staff formed the British Broadcasting Company, later to be called the British Broadcasting Corporation. These anniversaries will wherever possible be supported by The Marconi Veterans Association and through the local and National Press people will be informed.

The Sandford Mill Museum run by Chelmsford City Council still holds a large variety of Marconi and other local industries items. The Marconi items are regularly updated and rebuilt by a faithful band of ex Marconi employees who spend their Mondays at Sandford Mill carrying out a wonderful task. They will always be ready to accept any unwanted Marconi items which will help them maintain existing equipment. If you have any items in your loft or you know of other people who have them, please ensure they are not thrown away or dumped. Get in touch with our Association and we will make sure they are transferred to the museum or contact chairman@marconi-veterans.org

*Stop press: all may not yet be lost!

95 YEARS – A CELEBRATION OF RADIO STATION 2MT

February 14th 2017 marks the 95th anniversary of the start of Britain’s first ever regular, advertised broadcast radio station, 2MT, which came live from Writtle in Essex.

To commemorate this anniversary, and to celebrate the young, pioneering team of engineers, the Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society will be transmitting from the same building from where the original broadcasts commenced.  One of their members, Jim Salmon, will also be operating a three-day internet radio service, Radio Emma Toc, featuring radio related documentaries, vintage comedies and live programmes from various locations.

The first 2MT broadcast started at 7.15pm on 14th February 1922 from an ex-army Marconi hut – a ‘Long Low Hut’ – sited in a waterlogged field in Lawford Lane Writtle. This famous hut is now on permanent display at Sandford Mill, Chelmsford, and can be visited during the summer open days at the Mill.

Members of the Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society – CARS – regularly transmit to fellow amateur radio hams from this historic hut and, for this celebration, a team from CARS will be making contact with fellow amateurs on the 12th and 14th February. A special event call sign, GB95 2MT, will be used to mark this occasion.

Tim Wander, Consultant at Sandford Mill and Chelmsford Museums, describes the original 2MT broadcasts. He says: “The 2MT team offered its listeners impromptu comedy sketches, the first ever broadcast radio play, dedicated children’s five minute spots, impersonations, guest artistes, burlesque entertainments and even parodies of grand opera.  Nothing like it had been heard before – it was a new type of entertainment and it made history.

“The power behind the microphone was Marconi engineer, Captain Peter Eckersley, who as Britain’s first ‘DJ’ brought an amazing light-hearted spirit and comic skill to the new art of radio broadcasting. His sheer joie de vivre bubbled across the ether and he was not only the first, but also talked to his listeners as if they were in the room with him – and his listeners, estimated at over 20,000 people, loved him and the station.

“Often a one-man show, but always a team effort, 2MT at Writtle wrote a crucial chapter in the history of radio and broadcasting and directly led to the formation of the BBC in 1922.”

Jim Salmon, of Radio Emma Toc, says: “We will not try to recreate station 2MT – how could we?  We live in a very different age.  What we would like to recreate is the spirit and adventure of 2MT, to be ‘born in laughter and nurtured in laughter’.”

He continued: “If all goes to plan, our online radio station will be available to a worldwide audience via the internet, and the amateur radio transmissions will hopefully be beamed across the ether to distant shores. Of course, as with the best laid plans – there is a vast potential for things to go wrong, however this would be in keeping with the pioneering character of radio experimenters of the time!”

The team is also planning the centenary celebrations of the birth of British broadcasting in Chelmsford, and if you would like more detail please visit www.emmatoc.com.

For a programme schedule and information on Radio Emma Toc, visit www.emmatoc.com.

For details on the Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society and training courses provided by them, visit www.g0mwt.org.uk.

Sandford Mill will be open to the public on Sunday 9 July for the Science Discovery Day: The Great Outdoors!, which will give school children the chance to experience the Long Low Hut and view Marconi’s radio technology and TV cameras. To discover more, visit www.chelmsford.gov.uk/museums .

Marconi Instruments

We have received a request from a university student who is involved in building a Radio-Frequency (RF) Laboratory at the University. He has received some Marconi Instruments as a donation from an old research project but did not receive the instruction manuals.

If anyone knows of manuals that might be available or has any information as to where manuals might be obtained we would be pleased to hear from you.

6460 6460

Marconi Instruments SANDERS DIVISION TFT Power Meter type 6460

Marconi Instruments SANDERS DIVISION Slotted waveguide section type 60148

Marconi Instruments SANDERS DIVISION Universal Probe Carriage type 6010

In Memoriam

We regret to report the deaths of the following Veterans and extend our sympathy to the families of those mentioned.

Alan R Alderson1963
William (Bill) J Blackburn1965
Billy (Bill) O Cooke1935
David A French1968
David A Hills1959
John R Mark1956
Victor (Vic) Olley1953
Robert (Bob) G Prior1968
Roy A Wellsteed1952
Miss Joan P Wigley1937

This list was correct on 23 January 2017 and supersedes the list published on 01 December 2016

We have intentionally kept this page as simple as possible and provide minimal details of the deceased.  However, where we have biographical details of a person and/or funeral details these will be published under the Notices tab above.

At the request of some Veterans we have included Given names where these are known to us.

Elettra III

We have received the following information from Seth Muir in Seattle.  The pictures and drawings have been augmented by additional material from Marconi Marine 

Webmaster

My name is Seth Muir and I’m the Executive Director of Salish Sea Expeditions, a Seattle Washington USA based non-profit charity. For 20 years we have been engaging middle and high school students, primarily from public schools, in science research and maritime skills programs on Puget Sound aboard a 61′ sailing research vessel.

I’m writing because in 2015 we purchased the M/V Elettra III (o/n 694607; BRIT304285) from a private owner here in Seattle. We have begun to retro-fit and plan to relaunch her as our region’s first science and marine technology laboratory and research vessel for kids.  We have made great progress and I thought you might be interested in our exciting new plan for this historic vessel built to Lloyd’s class for the Marconi Company.

Some materials about our progress (including the Act of Congress we received) and the campaign underway to relaunch Elettra III as a student lab can be found here. I also recently won a prize pitching this idea, and a short video can be seen here which tells the story and highlights our plans.

If this is of interest at all to you, I’d love to talk more. If you ever happen to be in this area we’d love to show you around and might have some original equipment coming off the boat that could be of interest too.

My information is all below, and I thank you for your interest.


The original order and the shipyard


The launch of Elettra III


Fitting out Elettra III

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Description of the vessel 1962


Plans of the vessel as built 1962

 


Elettra III from above 2016

 

In Memoriam

We regret to report the deaths of the following Veterans and extend our sympathy to the families of those mentioned.

Clifford Stanley Barham1956
Lester Carl Bearcroft1965
Billy (Bill) Orton Cooke1935
Malcolm Trevor Daniels1954
David A Hills1959
James (Jimmy) Anderson Leadbitter1942
Dr John R Mark1956
Mrs Audrey D Parmenter1944
Robert Reeve1949

This list was correct on 01 December 2016 and supersedes the list published on 24 October 2016

We have intentionally kept this page as simple as possible and provide minimal details of the deceased.  However, where we have biographical details of a person and/or funeral details these will be published under the Notices tab above.

At the request of some Veterans we have, starting with this post, included Given names where these are known to us.

Bill Cooke

We regret to report the death of Bill Cooke on 17 November aged 96.  Bill was Chief Engineer, Managing Director and finally Chairman of Eddystone Radio in Birmingham until retiring in 1985.

The funeral will be on 5 December at  St Thomas’s Church, Maesglas, Newport NP20 3AT  starting at 1.30 p.m. followed by the cremation at Gwent Crematorium, Croesyceiliog, Cwmbran, NP44 2BZ.

Bill was born in Birmingham and joined Stratton & Company in 1935 as an apprentice.  With a break for RAF service during WW2, where he worked on the new technology that would be called Radar, he remained with the company until retirement.  He was promoted to Chief Engineer in 1947.  The company was bought by The Marconi Company in 1965, Marconi being part of English Electric at the time, and Stratton & Company changed its name to Eddystone Radio.  In 1976 he was promoted  to Managing Director and in 1984 became Chairman.

 

 

Jimmy Leadbitter

jimmy_leadbitteraWe regret to report the death of Jimmy Leadbitter on 14 November.

The funeral will be at Chelmsford Crematorium on 2 December at 12.30.

Jimmy was born in 1925 in Whitburn, County Durham but moved South to work for the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company (MWT) at its New Street factory early in 1942. He worked in the Marine Test department, was subsequently transferred to Marconi Marine’s installation planning department and was the Installations Manager in 1963 when the Company moved from New Street to its headquarters in the newly-built Elettra House on Westway, Chelmsford, where he remained until his retirement in 1990. That period covered the introduction of Single Sideband radio telephony and radio telex in maritime communications (Apollo, Pennant receivers; Crusader, Commander, Commandant and Conqueror transmitter equipments), several new ranges of radar equipment, the transition from valve to solid-state technology and the maritime world’s adoption of satellite technology for communications and navigation.

His department was responsible for the planning, logistics and fitting of radio rooms and radio navigational aids on ships in shipyards and ports world-wide, overseeing MIMCo technicians on long-term assignment in shipyards in the Far East and South America as well as those working from the Company’s many offices in the UK and elsewhere. Overseas agents involved in the installation of MIMCo products were supported and directed from his office. They were also deeply involved in the planning and execution of Company display stands at shipping exhibitions around the world, behind the Iron Curtain as well as in the West, including those formerly held each year at the beginning of January at the London Boat Show at Earls Court – not a good recipe for a peaceful Christmas for those involved.

He joined the MVA Committee in 1988 and was President in 1989.  He was very knowledgeable in all things to do with Marconi Marine and was almost always able to answer a query from memory.  He remained an active member of the MVA committee until earlier this year, the picture above was taken at the reunion in April 2016.

 

In Memoriam

We regret to report the deaths of the following Veterans and extend our sympathy to the families of those mentioned.

J F Bacon1940
L C Bearcroft1965
B A Bingley1962
P W Buers1944
C S Burnham1951
J P Candler1957
D S Carlile1951
E C Clark1948
D I H Clements1952
B J Everitt1948
B J Hazelton1940
A T Humphrey1956
J Kurdelski1951
M E Lewis1962
D B Manning1937
Mrs B E Maltby1946
S R Moore1955
B E R Munday1961
J C Playle1950
R R Porter1944
K R Shaughnessy1955
R W Taylor1948
G F White1954

This list was correct on 24 October 2016  and supersedes the list published on 9 March 2016

We have intentionally kept this page as simple as possible and provide no details of the deceased.  However, where we have biographical details of a person and/or funeral details these will be published under the Notices tab above.

Sandford Mill News

News from the Mill

from  Tim Wander

A busy summer! Having stepped into the breach (so to speak) at the Mill to help Nick and the team after Nick Sturgess’s departure earlier this year – this summer has been both fascinating, interesting and all times a little frustrating – but a lot of progress has been made.

Firstly thank you to all the volunteers from all the different  groups whose efforts continue to make Sandford Mill a unique and inspiring building – part museum, part store, part repository, part classroom, outward bound centre, school and many other things – hence the new signs I put up for open day – that just say…Sandford Mill.

You have to be there for a while to even work out the many different things that go on. On the building side I have been able to lend my support to push on with a series of building and site checks – all have gone well and the electrical fault in the classroom pump room has now been resolved.

On the museum front,  in the short time available, I have managed to reorganise parts of the collection and document, reclassify and move around other parts into logical groups. This along with several clear outs has made some limited space – (which seems to be filling rapidly even now).

Some fascinating museum finds have been identified – the YB1 radio from 1918 (but with a ‘needs more research’ provenance associated with the first BBC broadcasts through early 1923) and the HS55A amplifier (1917) are very rare items and both are planned to be gently restored. We have managed to restore the original 2MT Piano stool and Peter Bridgeman has done a fantastic job with the T1154 and R1155 refurbs – now on display at Oakland’s. Colin Page is also working on one of the Marconi Mores code inkers which is in an very poor condition.

Other projects now ongoing include the 1971 LOCUS 16 Computer – the world’s first 16 bit minicomputer donated last year by BAE systems which has been installed and is now being rebuilt at the Mill. This is the only surviving complete example in the world. The Television volunteer engineering team has grown and sound and vision seem to have been restored …..there is even a rumour that one of the new volunteers has just fixed a design fault on a circuit board on a Camera that was shipped in 1966 – 50 years on – now that is proper after sales service.

We have also started an internal revamp and reorganisation of the famous 2MT Writtle Hut, working toward  the rapidly approaching centenaries  – January 2020 through to November 2020 for the  Chelmsford Broadcasts, (June 2020 for  Dame Nellie’s Concert) and of course February 2022 starts the 100th anniversary year of 2MT. A lot of planning is already underway including a planned 95th trial celebration/broadcast from ‘2MT’ in February 2017 – we hope to produce actual concerts and broadcasts at the correct time and place – 100 (and 95) years on. Watch this space for future updates.

As part of all this I am attempting to find time to rework the 2012 New Street Works book into a 2020 Centenary celebration for the New Street works and Melba’s broadcast – so if you have any memories or anecdotes or photographs of the factory that didn’t make it the first time, please send them in. I have received many since it first came out and many found new photographs, including a large section, sadly, on the sites recent demolition and “rebuild” – photographed and recorded over several years by Susan and Richard Wilson.

I also hope to rewrite the 2MT Writtle Book in some form for the centenary– (yes again) Since the 2010 edition much more research has come in (especially re the RFC origins of the 2MT team) and many more photographs have turned up. If you have anything to add to the 2MT story please email me – indeed if you would like to help email me!!

As per Hall Street this spring, any proceeds from these hopefully ‘fascinating reads’ will go toward the Centenary project funding. There will also be a dedicated website to the centenary plans and we are hoping to produce a short video or two to promote the events. Watch this space!

And now some appeals for the Museum:-

  1. Does anyone know of – or can you guess from your career history – where we might find a Marconi Myriad Computer? Today we (i.e. the National Computer Museum, Leeds University, Sandford Mill et al) cannot find any surviving example: I have vague memories about AFTN Switching in Cyprus (FLIGHT report confirms installation in 1967) and South Africa military switches – can you help?

myriadbaddow-tower

  1. We are trying to get the important Great Baddow Chain Home Radar Mast listed – you may be surprised to know that due to several ‘technical’ reasons this unique and only complete surviving CH radar mast has effectively no statutory protection. I have to assemble a report about its use from 1954 until today. This history, when coupled with its important wartime history, will allow us to have another go – so any information please email me – I need to cover all its uses – for radar, TV, microwave projects etc. Thanks.
  1. As the Centenary fast approaches we are urgently seeking the loan of any early wireless equipment from WW1 and RFC use designed by the Brooklyn/Joyce Green RFC and later Writtle engineering teams. So can anyone loan us a Sterling W/T set or one of the early AD series of equipment designed, built and tested by Eckersley and his team between 1919 and 1922?

sterling_wtad_series

  1. The Hut now has an original 1916 tortoise stove in place and a correct Cliftophone gramophone on its way. We are looking for a 78 RPM record of Robert Howe singing the ‘Floral Dance’ – the first record to be played on 2MT.
  1. We are still looking for an elusive picture of the Hall Streets Works wireless station – the one across the road from the main factory site…anyone seen one?
  1. We are looking for more information on the Broomfield Wireless Station – formed in 1903 and badly damaged in WW2 – does anyone have any pictures or can point me to a source?

The 2MT transmitter rebuild is also gathering pace – through a generous donation to the museum we have now been able to provide all the original Marconi valves and new displays are being planned including a history the valve from ‘Fleming to Acorn’ – and a new display dedicated to the career of Peter Eckersley. Indeed a huge amount of volunteer effort has gone into sorting out the Mill’s huge valve collection and there have been some very early and possibly unique finds that we hope to display soon.

So while working on the future centenaries of British Broadcasting at the Mill – we were also pleased to accept on long term loan the amazing recreation of the Titanic Radio Room built by Ted Sinclair and first seen at the successful Hall Street exhibition earlier this year. I have also managed to have a first pass revamp of just some of the displays at Oaklands Museum – more planned in January.

The Sandford Mill Museum area has also had its own ‘revamp’ of some of the displays – much more work needs to be done – interestingly the Museum holds potentially the largest collection of original MIMCO equipment in the world – now being documented in a separate project.

The two Mill ‘open days’ were very well attended with numerous museum tours and hut tours telling the story of Marconi, Crompton’s, Safety at Sea, the Titanic and, of course, the birth of British Broadcasting. Thanks to all who those who came and those who helped.

A new line of research has been the Mill’s Filter House – with each tour attracting 60 plus people. The story of Chelmsford’s turbulent and, at times, difficult water supply from 1815-1984 has met with a lot of interest and several new projects are being based around this unique building and indeed the history of Sandford Mill itself. The Filter House is probably the last of its type in the world that went from “black” river water to chlorinated/softened/Ph controlled drinkable water in one building – producing some 3 million gallons everyday.

On a slightly smaller scale Jim and the team have nearly rebuilt the water wheel and the volunteers continue to support the education team with their many “hands on” working displays and demonstrators. Even some horses harnesses  from an earlier century are being restored – proving it’s not all science and engineering based here at the Mill!.

Best Regards,

Tim Wander (G6GUX yes offcom just gave it back -)

timwander@compuserve.com