Newsletter 2009


Contributions still roll in, but ladies, where are you?

As you will see, there was more than enough material for this year’s edition, since we’ve had to run to fourteen pages, which is very good news, but where are the contributions from you ladies? Only three in the 2006 edition, my first, and none since. And you’ll note that there has been a predominantly engineering bias in all four editions that I’ve edited. Fair enough perhaps, we were an engineering company, but others who were not engineers must have amusing tales, hairy experiences or fond memories to share. So come on folks, let’s provide a bit of counterbalance to the engineers!

At places throughout this issue are references to web addresses where further information about the topic can be found. Apologies to those of you who don’t have access to the internet, but if you can’t get to a library, or have family and friends to help out, then get in touch with me. Subject to negotiation, and so long as I’m not inundated with requests for reams of material, I’m happy to post out hard copies.

May I draw your attention to a special service taking place on the 26th April 2009 in Chelmsford Cathedral. The plaque which commemorates the seventeen employees who died when a bomb fell on the New Street works on the 9th May 1941 has been re-erected in the cathedral and will be unveiled at this service.

Full details can be found in section 18 ‘The Marconi Memorial Plaque’

Newsletter 2008

Number 10, January 2008

Lulled into a false sense of security.

The 2006 edition really wasn’t too much of a problem to deal with, given my background in sharing with my wife the production of our village newsletter. The main difficulties came with setting up my own template, and sifting through the pile of articles that had been submitted to Peter after his appeal in the 2004 edition, prioritising the ones for inclusion in my first issue and those which would ultimately appear in subsequent years’ editions, or on the website. The scanning and editing of lots of sheets of A4 and putting it on the page is all pretty routine stuff.

The 2007 edition was almost a breeze, with a stockpile of backlog items held in readiness against the possibility of insufficient new contributions through the year, then with a number of really good new contributions coming in.

So this time I thought ‘a doddle – no need even to switch on the computer until the New Year’. A bad move. No sooner had I put finger to keyboard than we were plagued with a misbehaving operating system (or hardware?) – repeated crashes, random spontaneous rebooting etc. One day, any number of crashes, the next day none at all. Took it to ‘my man’ who replaced a suspect power supply module – OK for a couple of days, then misbehaving again. We’d got to the time in January when we needed to start preparing the February edition of the village newsletter in parallel, but whilst we were experiencing continual interruptions, we were able to carry on working. If it was handed over to the man for a proper investigation it would be away for an indeterminate period. Therefore soldiering on was the least worst option, which is what we’re doing. As I type this, some light relief from shoehorning the last few items into spaces where they don’t really fit, I’m about a working day away from the press deadline: I might just make it.

Honour for Veterans’ Chairman

The Marconi Veterans’ Association Committee offer congratulations to Charles and wishes him a speedy recovery from his recent illness.

With thanks to Peter Turrall and the Essex FA website for information used in this article.


Charles Rand, Chairman of Marconi Veterans’ Association and this year’s President, has been awarded the MBE in the New Year’s Honours list. The award was made for his services to sport in Essex (specifically football) where he has played, refereed, assessed other referees and been a long serving member of the Essex Olympian League Management Committee.

Charles, who lives in Chelmsford, was for many years Chief Production Engineer of Marconi Radar Systems, Writtle Road, Chelmsford when John Sutherland was Managing Director. His footballing career started at the age of 15 in 1946 when he took part in his first competitive game for the Mid-Essex Technical College, but his involvement in the sport increased once his playing days were over. He was one of the founder Committee Members of the Olympian League when it was formed in 1966, so-called as it was an Olympic year. He started as Fixture Secretary until 1971 and was also Publicity Secretary in 1968/69, refereeing in the League simultaneously.

He was Honorary Secretary from 1971 until 1973 when he was made Vice-Chairman, being elected Chairman in 1978. This was a position he occupied until the end of the 1999/2000 campaign and that year he was named the League’s first ever Patron. Conducting around 270 referee assessments during that time, the culmination of the 2003/04 season saw his efforts recognised on a countywide scale as he received the Essex County Football Association’s Award of Merit. Not intent on stopping there, he continued refereeing under 12s’ matches until the ripe old age of 75!

He said ‘I was overwhelmed when the letter from the Prime Minister’s Office arrived and I am deeply thrilled to receive this in recognition of my long association over many years with Essex football. Within hours of the release of the news I had the press visiting. I needed to keep it a secret from them for the six weeks since I received the news up until the New Year, which was the hardest part’. The presentation will be made at Buckingham Palace mid-February when wife Betty and his two daughters will accompany him.


A number of letters this year are from correspondents seeking information whilst researching their family history, or for the preparation of articles or books. If no contact detail appears with the letter then please direct any information, or your own contact details for the enquirer, to Barry Powell or to the editor.

RAF Aerial Erectors

David Kniveton wrote in September 2007 seeking assistance with a book he is writing about the activities of RAF Aerial Erectors, and asking how he could gain access to the archives. He was given a number of possibly helpful leads – and told the sorry story of the archives. The letter is reproduced here. Although the book is written it has not yet been published and any additional contributions, if helpful, can be incorporated, so if anyone can assist he would welcome the contact.

We have his e-mail and postal address. Ed.

He writes:

About eight years ago I was in touch with Gavin Baxter, Assistant Archivist at the GEC Archives whilst researching for a book I am writing about the Royal Air Force Aerial Erectors. The time delay is due to me suffering various health problems, but now I am fit and well and determined to finish the book.

The letter I have from Gavin Baxter states that I have full permission to use the photographs etc that he was kind enough to send me.

Now that I have picked up my pen again I find that shortly after being in contact with Gavin the archives have disappeared, or at least to me they have.  After a lot of searching on the web I came across a GEC newsletter from 2006 where you were taking over as editor.

I understand now that GEC made a gift of the archives to the local council.  Can you please shed any light onto the archives now?  Are there any contact details available?

Your help would be greatly appreciated.

Colwyn Bay College, and ‘The Marconi Scientist Mystery’

Richard Shaw, February 2007

Many thanks for another excellent issue: full of interesting information, much of it vital material for anyone engaged in historical research.  Do you deposit a copy with the British Library or any other archive from which it could be made available in the future? (Currently we don’t, but we intend to lodge copies with the Essex Records Office. Ed.)

Of particular interest to me was the article by Felix Mascarenhas whose name is familiar and whose path I crossed more than once without, I think, ever meeting.

The first time was at Colwyn Bay Wireless College, which he left in the year I first went there. The second occasion was the Cardiff depot in Mountstuart Square, which I think he must have left before I started there in 1956. Perhaps we shall finally achieve a sighting at the reunion in April.

The article, ‘The Marconi Scientist Mystery’ I found most intriguing. I had not read Tony Collins’ book, ‘Open Verdict’, but I was immediately reminded of an article that appeared in the News of the World on September 7, 2003. Titled, ‘The Kelly Conspiracy’, it asked, ‘Are the deaths of 25 scientists linked?’, and named 25 ‘of the world’s top scientists – including Dr David Kelly – [who] have died mysteriously in the past two years.’

All, it seems, worked in similar fields. ‘Many of the specialists – some world leaders in the development of weapons grade biological plagues – died within days of each other’, the report continued. ‘Ten were killed in plane crashes, one caused by a ‘stray’ surface-to-air missile.’

‘Five died after apparently being mugged at home and three were shot.’

‘Two, including Dr Kelly, committed suicide while another was stabbed to death. One was gassed in a laboratory’s air-locked rooms, another was mown down while out jogging. And one mysteriously fell off a bridge after suffering a ‘dizzy’ spell.’

There appears to be no direct connection between any of these 25 deaths and those of the 25 Marconi scientists. But although both groups worked in several different fields, all had military, or potentially military, uses.

Consequently, even if one discounts ten per cent of those deaths as possibly accidental, the fact that so many such scientists met unnatural deaths in so short a time tends to challenge a belief in coincidence: a challenge that seems strengthened by the apparent lack of any further news of official investigations.

A letter from Keith Hughes in Dovercourt last March regretted his not being able to attend the reunion, and went on to say:

Thank you for the 12-page news letter – it had some very interesting news.  As a Welshman I had a particular interest in the Colwyn Bay story (P2) and also to read the letter from Fred Kenyon on the late Derek Greiss.  Both Fred and Derek were good friends of mine years ago and I would like to write to Fred in Australia – would you be able to gave me his present address?

(A further contribution on Derek Griess’ involvement with HF/DF in WW2 appears later in this newsletter)

The wisdom of the Saturday supplements

Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of cheques.

Success always occurs in private, and failure in full view.

The Marconi Lancia

This article has been on the website since July 2007.  If you wish to re-read it please look at the archive for the month.

The Baddow tower – further thoughts

Bill Fitzgerald, March 2007

Further to your note in the newsletter on the Baddow tower, I am wondering if there is any point in having the tower listed!  The only advantage gained might be to delay its destruction.  All the owners would need to do would be to declare it ‘unsafe’.

If a listing was given and honoured, who could be persuaded to re-erect it and where?  Bawdsey perhaps, but all the listed towers they had are gone.  The cost to dismantle the tower, from the top down, to transport it, to re-erect it and paint it would be extremely costly. Perhaps we could get a mobile phone company to erect it at Sandford Mill (God forbid).

Sorry to be an old pessimist but we must consider the facts.  Whatever happens the tower cannot stay at Baddow if the site is sold for residential use.  A swift charge of explosives at each leg – and goodbye!

Could you get your spies at Baddow to see if the structure is being cared for.  The tower is of mild steel and requires care to prevent corrosion.  I think I know now why English Heritage is reluctant to list it!

In passing, did you get a copy of the plan of the factory, in colour, from the developers?  Has anybody combed the site for any artefacts?  I spent hours in that building on top of the white building checking the Marine Radar linearity against the echoes from the avenues.  Has anyone been up there since?

Bill Godden’s memory of a ‘Barnacle Buster’ brought memories flooding back.  It was developed in Building 38 (by the Marconi Road gate) where Marine Radar and Echo sounders were developed.  Johnny Glasgow was the engineer assisted, or should I say that he was frustrated, by the attentions of Captain Round!  Is Johnny a veteran, I would like to hear from him? (Yes, John Glasgow is on the Register of Veterans.)

Memories of Marconi Radar

David Ashman

I visited the website of the Marconi Veterans’ Association because of the fond memories and admiration I always held for the Marconi Company. Watching and reading about the demise of the company at the start of the millennium from Asia was extremely painful. An absolute travesty for employees and the Chelmsford community.

I worked for Marconi Radar in Great Baddow for just two and half years in the sixties, holding a relatively junior position in the Air Traffic Control section and then with Systems A team…. or was it Systems B team? During my short time of employment I worked under Don Eastaugh and then, on the Systems team, worked for Roger Woodcock and Ian Donaldson. I greatly admired their technical skills, know-how and man management skills.

My technical interest and work was involved with primary ATC Radar systems. Marconi Company introduced me to digital signal processing. I found an additional challenge in computers as I was drawn into the world of Marconi Myriad Computers and trained as a programmer at the Writtle Training Centre.

I enjoyed happy and satisfying employment at Marconi Radar with good prospects. What more could I want. I had the best job in the world and was, it seemed to me, surrounded by most of the best people. Unfortunately this wasn’t to last. Family problems made it necessary for me to resign and return to working and living in London. Eventually the computer systems skills given to me by Marconi took my career into the financial sector. The Marconi managers also gave me a model upon which to build my own management style. My career prospered as a result.

Since those very happy days I’ve worked in many ‘blue chip’ companies, worked in over 100 countries, encountered a variety of modern managers, survived culture change programmes, participated in ‘customer first’ workshops, endured immersion in the quality management way whilst generally trying to stay up-to-date with modern management methods. I suppose these have made their mark on me and indeed have probably contributed to my career which has taken me all over the world and given me much satisfaction. However when I reflect on the companies I’ve worked for, the managers I’ve served, and the satisfaction I experienced, despite all the advances in ‘methods’ none exceed the personal satisfaction I experienced working for and serving the Marconi Company.

Having visited your website from my desk in Singapore and experiencing the pleasure of linking to one of the very happy periods of my life, I just wanted to express my appreciation to the Marconi community for the contribution they made to my life and career.

Scottish Signal School (Glasgow Wireless College)

Vix Kennedy –

I’m wondering if you or any of your members know anything of the Scottish Signal School, also referred to as the Glasgow Wireless College, which was at 15 Newton Place, Glasgow during the war?

My son’s great grandfather is listed as principal there between 1942-1946 and then he moved his family to Rhodesia. This is all I know! Rhodesia at that time was the new world and many people moved there to help build the country, much like Australia and New Zealand. I assume he would have been doing a similar trade there and been involved in wireless communications.

I’m pretty sure he would have left there as it became Zimbabwe, and may have gone to South Africa or more likely USA or even returned to Scotland, but I’m sure he would have remained in the trade.

His name was Charles Theodore Kennedy and he was married to an Annie Elizabeth Gibson. They had a son in 1944 called Raymond. If any of your members know anything about the school or remember him as a principal I’d love to hear from them!

History of ATC and airport radar

L A Thomas, Swansea

I am doing research on the history and development of ATC and Airport radar systems in the UK for the post war years, and write to you in the hope that some of your members may be able to assist me with any trade literature or general technical knowledge of the sets that Marconi designed and manufactured. I am led to understand that the former radar archives are no more, and to date have obtained information from early issues of aeronautical journals, technical magazines eg Marconi Review, and from the official files at the National Archives. The official files refer to the planning and siting of ATC radars, but do not provide any general details of the equipment, and often contain lobe diagrams. If any of your members have any information on the following Marconi radars I would be interested to hear – S232 series, S264, S264A, S264 A/H and the S650 series.

I recently placed a reader’s request letter in an Essex newspaper for information on the above but had a very poor response.


Elsie, the Squigger-Bug

Normally the Squigger-Bug is kept below the threshold on a lead (often a short grid lead). If this lead is lengthened, the creature appears above the threshold and becomes self-excited by continually repeating her curious cry, a kind of variable mew. When fully excited she dives into the nearest closed circuit round which she races, tail in mouth, at incredible speed. The presence in a transmitter of the female of the species attracts the male (in this case, one Mike R O Henry by name). Mike has on several occasions tried to choke Elsie with the grid lead, but the reluctance with which she reacts to his coercive force ensures that there is no change in Elsie’s characteristic curves.

When chased out of a transmitter, the female Squigger-Bug goes immediately to earth by way of the nearest bypass, digging herself in with a circular movement of ever-increasing radius, and finally disappearing with a loud report, leaving behind a characteristic odour of burnt bakelite and a pile of brass filings. Hence the Pyramids.

This, the only specimen of the well-known parasite which has survived captivity, answers to the name of Elsie Ratio. She has a magnetic personality although her head is a perfect vacuum. The female is very voracious and, owing to her self-capacity, is able to eat excessive amounts of grid currants and a little anode feed. The latter is kept in a tank coil and comes out of a tap. The Squigger-Bug eats from a quartz plate (which in wartime was reduced to a pintz plate), and is accustomed to feed from positive to negative. She is much perturbed if fed the other way, a process known as negative feedback.

Her bent-up chassis is inductive (abbrev. infinitely seductive) and her component parts are colour-coded giving an attractive skin-effect. Vanity is responsible for the full-wave in her antennae, although this Hertz antennae unless padding capacities are used.


Squigger-bug – Parasiticus Preposterosus. Germinated, incubated and brought to maturity in the laboratory of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Marine Development Section I.B.

Click here for a larger image

From the first issue of the Marconi Mariner, Vol. 1, No.1, July-August 1947 with thanks to Jimmy Leadbitter.

He was very wrong, but lived…

Tom Gutteridge – a contribution from December 2005

An occasional reader of the Newsletter, I have been interested to read other people’s contributions to this little bit of Marconi history: here are some of mine.

I joined Marconi Test Department from the Chelmsford Tech in 1943 and leaving in 1974, my memory of those times is hazy but I think Mr Robb, who had an office in the front building, was the Chief of Test.

As a junior, I started with the boring job of testing components like capacitors, inductances, Muirhead drives and coils.  The area for testing coils was at the end of the girls’ winding shop upstairs.  A dangerous place for self-conscious young men! Later I moved on to High Power Test.  This was the ‘big bang’ area – before Safety at Work rules and regulations! SWB 8s and SWB 11s for the Admiralty were a fairly steady work load and later, high power Broadcast Transmitters.

High Power Test was run by Mr Whiteman and later by V J Sandy.  Among the ‘oldies’ were G C Baker, and Mr Wylie – who I think suffered as a Marine Operator earlier in the war.  Then there was Alfie Amos, Tommy Tomlinson, Doug Hills, Ecclestone and many others whose names have slipped my memory.  G C Baker would regale us with the excitement and problems of taking his nanny goat(s) on the back seat of his open Riley car to visit Sandy’s goat the previous evening.

We were handling lots of kilowatts but I don’t recall anyone getting seriously hurt: even a young man known as ‘fearless Fearman’ who insisted that power was off at the wall and proceeded to put a screwdriver across the terminals of a SWB 8 transmitter to prove it.  Unfortunately he was very wrong, but lived to explain loudly that it was somebody else’s fault!

In the exposed corner by the entry to the High Power Test was a lash-up to provide very high voltages (like lightning!) mainly for testing or proving high voltage insulators.  Very, very high voltages were generated (enough to make your hair stand on end!) and it took a bit of know-how to set up the tuned circuits to get the required voltage.  Wylie was good at this.

The transmitters were built in the workshop below Marconi House opposite the canteen.  I cannot immediately recall the name of the foreman but the chargehand was Charlie Pashley.  I think he had been involved in the Altmark event off Norway in the Second World War and survived.  I got to know many of the fitters.  They were a good and friendly lot, some of whom later worked with me on overseas installations.  At the entrance to Marconi House (or just behind) there was an entrance to the lower ground area or cellar where the archives and records were kept in the care of an old RN sailor who took part in the Zeebrugge attack in the First World War.  He certainly had several fingers missing.  I can’t think what I was doing there but he was always good for an interesting chat. Another link to the First World War was Diggens who was a sort of general helper around Power Test.  He would cheerfully relate the most unpleasant experiences of fighting in the trenches.

In due course I went into the services for a spell and on my return became involved on overseas installation work, but that’s another story.

The Marconi Site, New Street, Chelmsford

Peter Turrall

The new owners of the Marconi factory and offices, Messrs Ashwell Developments of Cambridge, have submitted proposals for the redevelopment of the site to Chelmsford Borough Council and right now discussions with the council’s Planning Department are taking place.

The latest date for Messrs Selex (who are at the moment the occupiers) to leave the site is July 1st this year.  After this date the developers will, providing planning permission is granted, move in to start the first phase of the redevelopment which probably will be the demolition of the factory and associated buildings.  The main front building housing offices will remain as this is already covered by a preservation order.

On behalf of the Veterans’ Committee, I have had negotiations with Chelmsford Borough Council Planning Director as well as the Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Arts and Heritage.  The council, whilst in favour of a Heritage Centre which the Veterans’ Committee would like in the front building, are unable to offer any finance for this to become reality.  The finance, if any, to house archives, memorabilia and other documentation must come from other sources and hopefully from the developer.  Already discussions in this direction have taken place, but the developers have other important aspects which must be considered before a Heritage Centre can come to fruition.  Therefore it will be sometime before we can take the next steps.

Meanwhile, I am gathering memorabilia, documents and other Marconi related items.  Hopefully one day these can be catalogued and held in the Heritage Centre at New Street.  Please, whatever you do, make sure anything you possess in this area is made available to the Veterans’ Association and not put into the bin, now or whenever you pass on.  Quite recently we have been given a complete set of microphones, some made at New Street, all beautifully mounted on wooden stands.

The initial outlay to get the Heritage Centre under way looks to be in the order of £50K.  This is because a considerable amount of work to get toilets, water, electricity, modifications to the building and heating sorted out is necessary.  This area has been vacated for a number of years and certainly would have to be sorted out before we could offer the public access to the site.  Parking is also a problem but eventually this will be overcome once the site is cleared.

Your committee is considering any shortcuts available to finance even a small area of the site to house documentation and memorabilia and this will be discussed at the reunion.

Meanwhile, it is hoped to record on audio disks the voices of people who worked in the Company and already a list of possible names has been drawn up. If you have some stories to relate of your time with the Company, then please advise the undersigned who will take all details and if appropriate, will make in due course arrangements for a recording to be made.  The most modern equipment will be available for this purpose but here again it will cost money to carry this out and funding will have to be sought.

Your Veterans’ Committee has given the go-ahead to a proposal I made to them of preparing a book of memories from people who worked for the Company.  More details will be given at the reunion but, if you have any story no matter how small or long, please put this to paper and send either to the undersigned or our secretary Barry Powell.  Again, it will cost a lot of money to produce and we are looking for ways to finance this.  Timescales dictate that during the next 12 months information will be gathered and edited. Preparation for printing requires a further few months, meaning that the book will be ready for sale in about 18 months time.  The anticipated cost will be around £15 each and we will need to sell at least 1,500 to make the project worthwhile.  The title of the book is likely to be ‘Memories of Marconi in Chelmsford – Gone But Not Forgotten’.

Sandford Mill Museum

Marconi Day, Saturday 26 April 2008

International Marconi Day commemorates Guglielmo Marconi’s birthday. Your chance to visit the Marconi collections, see the new exhibition in the Marconi broadcasting hut, and explore the mysteries of radio transmission and Morse code with Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society. Entrance free, 10am – 5pm

Summer Sundays – 3, 10, 17, 24 August 2008

The Engine House is open on Sunday afternoons throughout August.  See the museum’s industrial collections and visit the Discovery Zone! Entrance free, 2 – 5pm

The role of Derek Griess in WW 2

Arriving just at the time that the obituary of Derek Griess appeared in the last newsletter, Bryan Everett passed on to Barry Powell further background to Derek’s WW 2 career which came to him from Fred Kenyon in Australia. He writes:

Herewith copies of information from Fred Kenyon regarding Derek Griess’ wartime work with Marconi installing HF/DF equipment. Fred was most anxious to lay hands on Derek’s passports and I just couldn’t understand why this was so – I now know.

(In the documents received from Bryan Everett was a list of 33 passport entries from April 1940 to June 1945 covering the area of the Atlantic from Liverpool to Portugal, West Africa, South Africa, St Helena, the Caribbean, the USA and Canada, evidence of a number of transatlantic crossings over that period. Ed.)

Fred’s letter to an aunt of Derek’s in York notes that a significant part of Derek’s wartime career was associated with the installation of HF/DF (Huff-Duff) equipment at coastal stations on both sides of the Atlantic in support of the Royal Navy’s North Atlantic convoy escort duties. It played a crucial role in containing the U-boat threat.

The foregoing was a preface to a page from Fred giving more detail of this period, which follows here.

During World War 2 there was a period from the commencement of the conflict in September 1939 when Britain was totally dependent on sea traffic across the Atlantic when supplies from America were vital. This was particularly so after Britain was isolated following the fall of France.

German U-boats were very successful sinking allied shipping, often sinking as many as sixty per cent of the ships in a convoy. Tactics were changed, and convoys were escorted by the Royal Navy using destroyers and frigates fitted with a number of new weapons. One of the most important of these was direction-finding equipment using high frequency radio (HF/DF) nicknamed Huff-Duff. The German U-boats hunted in packs and they communicated with each other and with Berlin when they surfaced every twenty four hours to charge their batteries. They assumed that if they broke radio silence only briefly with encoded signals they could not be traced.

Britain developed Huff-Duff using seaboard and land-based equipment so that even a brief HF signal could be registered and tracked from a number of receivers, allowing an exact location of the transmission to be immediately established and providing a bearing for the escort vessels to locate the enemy. The Marconi Company was involved in installing Huff-Duff stations around the Atlantic in British colonial countries which fortunately bordered the whole Atlantic coast. Derek Griess was the young (26) qualified radio engineer chosen for this urgent mission in May 1940. During the next five years he travelled constantly to many places around the North and South Atlantic coast from Halifax Nova Scotia and the West Indies and British Guiana in South America, across to Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast of Africa and even St Helena, a tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

The result of all this effort was that in Spring 1941 the escort vessels sailing out of Liverpool suddenly started to be very successful in locating and sinking the enemy U-boats. The German Admiral Dönitz lost some of his best U-boat commanders and the leader of the British Royal Navy escort ships Captain Frederic John Walker (known popularly as Johnnie Walker) became a hero being awarded four DSOs and a knighthood. From this time leading up to the D-Day invasion on 6 June 1945 the Atlantic gateway was open to massive amounts of traffic bringing the armaments that enabled the successful invasion of Europe.


North Atlantic convoy (above) and (below) an HF/DF set



(Background to Huff-Duff and the Battle of the Atlantic at Google that and Frederic John Walker for a number of other relevant articles)

(I have a copy of the list of Derek Griess’s wartime passport entries, and would be happy to email a copy to any veteran requesting it. Ed).

Report of the 2007 Veterans’ reunion

The 71st annual reunion, at the MASC in Beehive Lane, Chelmsford, took place on Saturday 14th April. The president for the year, Professor Roy W Simons, was introduced by MVA Chairman, Charles Rand. In his introduction Charles touched on their shared past in Marconi Radar, first at Baddow, then later at Writtle Road when he was Chief Production Engineer during Roy’s time as Technical Director.

Roy Simons reviewed the Marconi companies’ involvement in radar systems design and manufacture, from Marconi’s anticipation of the concept of radiolocation, when in 1922 in an address to the American Institution of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) he said’…it should be possible to design apparatus to radiate or project a beam of rays, which rays, if coming across a metallic object such as a ship, would be reflected back to a receiver..’, until the time of his (Roy Simons’) own departure from the Marconi Radar Systems Ltd in 1986.

The company’s first practical involvement in radar came with design of the aerial arrays for the Chain Home system in the mid 1930s, moving then during WW2 into manufacture of many radar systems, particularly for gunnery and naval surveillance, and also notably large-scale manufacture of magnetrons.

His own introduction to radar at the end of the war, under R J Kemp, was involvement in the design of a radar for the Marine Company – the basis of Radiolocator.

Subsequent notable milestones over the following years included a major contract for refurbishment of the wartime air-defence radar system of the United Kingdom during the late 40s/early 50s – a total of 20 sites for the RAF, design and manufacture of the Type S247 radar, the Queen’s Award-winning S600 series, GWS Sea Wolf system for the Royal Navy, the formation of Marconi Radar Systems in 1969, and the last major surface radar that the company produced, another Queen’s Award winner, Martello. Over these years two parallel product lines for radar systems materialised, one for HMG business and the other for private venture (predominantly overseas) business.

He concluded by saying that the Marconi Company was the leading supplier of radar systems to the world and he was proud to have been associated with the work of his colleagues in Marconi Radar Systems as the Technical Director for its first 17 years.

MVA Vice Chairman Peter Turrall then introduced the Guest of Honour, Dr John Williams OBE, FREng, HonFIEE. John Williams was for a number of years Director of the Marconi Research Centre at Great Baddow, and later Secretary and Chief Executive of the Institution of Electrical Engineers.

Dr. Williams shared some reminiscences of Lord Weinstock, to whom he had to report for about eight years, and interspersed his speech with various anecdotes about meetings with Lord Weinstock and some of the subterfuges used to prevent him from finding out too much about the particular operating company, and how it was necessary to explain the existence of certain staff who Lord Weinstock might otherwise consider excessive to the business.

Lord Weinstock was obsessed with not wasting money or resources and would take the opportunity at budget meetings to probe into particular areas. He was not interested in details of long term strategy; in fact in a memo to all MDs he said that making money from running businesses that GEC knew something about was the company’s only strategy and we were forbidden to use the word in future monthly reports. Talking about memos from Lord Weinstock, one managing director was surprised to get a response from Lord Weinstock to his monthly report which started ‘your monthly report is not entirely unsatisfactory’. The MD considered this the height of praise and framed the memo for posterity.

Dr Williams offered another anecdote that beautifully illustrated the focus on avoiding waste of money – and how it might be sidestepped. On a visit to Great Baddow, Lord Weinstock asked why it was necessary to employ two gardeners at the site. It was explained that they were necessary to keep the grass down to minimise HF path losses between transmitter and receiver antennae.

He concluded by emphasising his great respect for Lord Weinstock’s management style and his prudent business approach, and wondering how different things might have been for the Company had he not bowed to City pressure and handed over the reins when he did.

Veterans’ reunion 2008

The 2008 reunion will take place on Saturday 12th April at the MASC, Beehive Lane, Chelmsford, commencing at 1.00pm.  This year’s President is Veteran Charles Rand MBE, chairman of the MVA Standing Committee and previously Chief Production Engineer, Marconi Radar Systems Ltd, based at the Writtle Road complex.  He will be introduced by Professor Roy W Simons OBE, CEng, FIET, CPhys, FInstP, last year’s President. During the AGM, Peter Turrall will give an update on the impending redevelopment of the New Street site, and Robbie Robinson, former Managing Director of Marconi Communications Systems Ltd and a member of the Pensions Consultative Committee will update Veterans on the telent/Stanhope Pensions Trust pension situation and answer any questions that Veterans may wish to ask.

A project anecdote of times past

E J (Ted) Haydon

I’m thinking about the time around the early to mid eighties. Do you remember those days, when we worked hard and when the opportunity arose played hard. It was a time when we looked forward to going to work; it was intellectually challenging and best of all it was fun. I guess around the mid-eighties things changed, but let’s not dwell on that.

An annual event was entertaining our customers to lunch on HMS Belfast. As those of us who were fortunate enough to attend these occasions will remember, the form was pre-lunch drinks, wine with the meal, and there was always plenty of this, and of course when dining with the Navy, the obligatory bottle of port which is passed around at the end of the meal until it is empty. Negotiating your way home after that was quite an art. I understand that some more ‘experienced’ diners would venture out in the evening to a night club but I know nothing of these activities!

On one particular occasion after lunch I was invited to join a naval officer and his wife for dinner that evening. They lived during the week with their dog on a longboat moored on the Regents Canal. We met his wife from work and dined at a Greek restaurant somewhere in Camden Town. Having done justice to a couple more bottles of wine, it was suggested that we adjourn for coffee to the boat. Now, I can vaguely remember arriving, but must have passed out before coffee, as the next thing I remember was the dog licking my face at 6am the next morning. After thanking my ‘hosts’ for the night’s impromptu stay, I hurried home just in time to meet my wife on the doorstep as she left for work. I can still remember her words as she cycled off – ‘Oh! You made it then’.

I reported in around 10am explaining to my boss the reason for my lateness. He, whom shall remain nameless (MVB), then told me he had been woken up that morning by the cleaners in a railway carriage in the sidings at Southend. I think I was slightly peeved that he was at his desk working before me!

But then it was business as usual. Happy days!

Photo – Anders Isaksson


This contribution injects a Basildon flavour into this issue. We did things differently there – or did we? Ed.

Research – military radio

From Peter R Jensen

I recently came across a copy of the Marconi Veterans’ Newsletter and saw that it contained a wealth of material which could be particularly useful for the book that I am starting to assemble. You may recognize my name from a couple of books that have dealt with the development of telecommunications over the last 100 years. I notice that one of them is referred to in the newsletter, ‘In Marconi’s Footsteps – Early Radio’. The more recent book, ‘From the Wireless to the Web’, was published in 2000.

Needless to say, the newsletter came to my attention courtesy of the internet and the redoubtable search engine Google.

The book that I am working on is provisionally entitled ‘Wireless as War’, and in it I am aiming to explore the development of radio technology from 1901 in South Africa to probably the 1960s when my military service was undertaken as a National Serviceman. As for the earlier books, it is intended to do this through a series of narratives dealing with actual events, and for this reason the Marconi Veterans represent an interesting source of potentially relevant experience.

In addition to Military Radio as used by the conventional fighting forces, I am also particularly interested in clandestine radio communications and its development. This is because the demands for light weight and compactness led to a series of developments that influenced radio design during the years following the war. In this context, I am currently involved with a group of radio amateur historical radio society people to replicate the Paraset of 1943, an interesting early portable transmitter receiver that was used by SOE in its efforts to undermine the Nazis in France.

Given the foregoing, I wonder if you can suggest a means to obtain access to the newsletter. Are you aware of it being provided to any organisation in Australia, which I where I am based? (Peter Jensen has been directed to the website to access back editions of the newsletter, and Barry has sent him hard copies of issues which do not appear on the website. Ed.)

Apropos ‘In Marconi’s Footsteps – Early Radio’, if there are other veterans of the Marconi Company who are interested in obtaining a copy, I have a stock of new books that came from the publisher when they decided to declare the book out of print. The going rate is £35 Sterling which includes postage on an airlifted basis and involves approximately 2 week or less delay from receipt of funds which can be a Sterling cheque as I have an account in the UK.

With kind regards and thanks in anticipation of your response.

The changing times…

Alan Hine, February 2007

As you spoke about hearing any scraps of news, I thought I would put pen to paper.

I worked at Marconi Basildon for 36 years and have been retired for 16.  However I met a couple of work mates in town that still worked at the new SELEX building and was asked to pop in and see some of the other lads, and have a cup of tea and a natter.  Having just reached my 80th birthday I thought it would be nice to pay them a visit.  My son kindly took me by car and I made my way to the reception area.  The woman rang a supervisor I had worked with, who arrived on the scene.  He made off to make arrangements for a photograph and pass.  But when he returned he said the powers that be would not issue one because of security, so I was not allowed to enter.  This perhaps is not the sort of letter you would like to print but I was very annoyed and felt like speaking my mind. (So much for 36 years service!)

Aeronautical Memories

Roderick Mackley, February 2007

Thank you for the Newsletter which arrived this morning. I am most impressed by the way you have put this issue in particular together which constituted an absorbing read.

There is something very special about the dear old Marconi Company and its old members – I am still very, very proud to have spent so many years of my working life, firstly in the Company’s Commercial Department and subsequently in the Aeronautical Division and the Radar Company and I just cannot understand those people who have said that work was a bore – I can honestly say that I enjoyed every minute of every day.

Eric Walker’s memories of life at Lawford Lane is of particular interest as I really started my Marconi life there, joining Aeronautical Division for two weeks in late 1946 and staying for seventeen years before moving on! Eric’s account broadly confirms mine – he, like me, enjoyed the light-hearted, hard-working regimen there, almost like the RAF in which I had served during WWII but in civilian clothes! I will avoid repeating myself – my very warm memories of those early days were described in the January 2005 Newsletter.

It pleases me to see that Radar is being celebrated this year, and that my old mate, Roy Simons, is this year’s President.  It grieves me though that I shall be unable to attend the Annual Reunion because of a health blip which, to date, six specialists have been unable to diagnose.  Thankfully it is not life-threatening, just a wretched inconvenience!

I have now been retired for twenty years all but one month – doesn’t time fly?

Alfred H Howarth

John Howarth, Cumbria

This letter appeared in the October/November 2007 of ‘Radio Bygones’ journal, and as the result of an exchange of correspondence with John Howarth it is reproduced here.   If anyone can help in his researches, please contact him directly via email on, or pass any information or your own contact details for the enquirer to Barry Powell or to the editor.

I am researching the career of my father, Alfred H Howarth, as a Marconi-trained ‘Sparks’ or Radio Officer.

What little information I have at present indicates that he served on board the ocean-going tug Flying Breeze during WW1. This would be the first vessel bearing that name, as I understand that the one he served on was replaced by another with the same name at a later date.

From the end of WW1 till the early thirties he served as ‘Sparks’ on board many Merchant ships, mainly of the ‘tramp’ variety, sailing around most of the globe.

Unfortunately, the Marconi Company seems to have fragmented recently and I am unable to ascertain where the records of this company are deposited. In particular I am interested in any records of the Marconi Radio Operator branch, who would have been his employer.

I would appreciate any help that anyone out there can give me in either locating these records, or any other information that would give me a lead in locating further information.

Pat O’Hanlon, Radio Officer

Patrick O’Hanlon, Holden, Massachusetts, USA

I have just read with great interest the latest (April 2007) Marconi Veterans’ Association newsletter, in particular, the recollections of Felix Mascarenhas.

My uncle, Pat O’Hanlon, was also a Marconi Marine Officer during WW2, during which time he received recognition for good work when his vessel was torpedoed. He trained at the Marconi school in Liverpool or North Wales during the 1930s. Unfortunately, I do not know which shipping line he was attached to during peace time, but I do know that he subsequently worked for the British government in some communications capacity.

I am researching my family tree and Pat O’Hanlon was my uncle – he passed away some years ago. I would be extremely grateful if you could point me to any information that would perhaps help me find out a little more about my uncle and his career in radio communications.

Postscript to MIMCO Singapore 1942 to 1945

Extracts from Mr Duncan Robertson’s report to company management following his release from Japanese internment in 1945 were published under this heading in the 2006 newsletter, and the full text, less the missing page, was recently posted on the website entitled Singapore 1942. Scanning recently through the bound volume of the first editions of the Marconi Mariner covering 1947 to 1950 I can add this postscript.

When in 1942 the Japanese armies were forcing their way down the Malayan Peninsular, the work of the depot carried on almost up to the day when Singapore was finally occupied. The Depot Manager, Mr Duncan Robertson, and his Technical Assistant, Mr H Thompson, left Singapore by ship in an endeavour to reach the Dutch East Indies. Unfortunately, their vessel was intercepted by a Japanese warship and sunk after a short but intense bombardment. Mr Thompson was killed and Mr Robertson taken prisoner and carried off into captivity.

Singapore was finally liberated by the British on September 5th, 1945, and the former local staff of the depot, Messrs Andrew B Pinto, W M Wambeck and Ibrahim Shariff, reported for duty on September 7th. Mr Duncan Robertson arrived back from internment on September 18th and thus, after nearly four years’ break, the work of the depot was restarted. Mr Robertson, as a direct result of his internment, was at that time a very sick man, badly in need of a long rest. With the closing of the depot at Mombasa the Company transferred the European staff there to Singapore. Messrs J I Morse and E Dalton arrived in the Colony by air in November 1945, with Mr Morse as Acting Depot Manager.

By March 1949 Mr Robertson is recorded as being back in position as Depot Manager (see photo – Duncan Robertson, seated, is the fourth from the left), and then retiring from the Company on the 30th June 1949.

For a larger picture please click here


Auxiliaries Anonymous

A very brief extract of the chapter in the ‘Book of Chelmsford’ by Gilbert Torrey (publ.1985) mentioned in the 2006 edition, to slot into the last awkward space. Non-Chelmsford Veterans – please forgive the indulgence.

At the start of WW2 the covert British Resistance Organisation was established to become active in the event of a German invasion, organised into local cells or patrols of 6-8 men with good local knowledge who could blend into the landscape and be useful in a tight corner. Underground bunkers were constructed as bases. A local group of cells in Chelmsford, Wickham Bishops, Hatfield Peverel, Terling and Boreham was commanded by Capt Keith Seabrook, a farmer from Little Leighs.

The Chelmsford patrol, whose bunker was in woodland adjoining Hanningfield Reservoir, was led by HC Berry, with the rank of Sergeant, later succeeded by WT Macnab, and comprised R*W Bartle, K*N Carter, BC Ager, AG Taylor and HW Pratley (*some doubt over these initials).  With the exception of Pratley and Taylor, and this is really the point of including this item, they were all from the Test Department of MWT in New Street, in their twenties and thirties at the outbreak of war, and were undoubtedly recruited for their knowledge of radio and radar in addition to their other qualities.  Pratley was in Marconi Research at Great Baddow, and Taylor was with LNER (as it then was) at Liverpool Street Station.

In Memoriam

The deaths of all Veterans notified to the secretary are published on a regular basis on this website.  The latest list is accessed from the front page index and the earlier notifications from the archive index.   These publishing dates correspond with the times of the Committee meetings.

The consolidatedl list of the deaths over the past year is published in the paper copy of this newsletter.

Tom Watson – Works Dentist

Peter Turrall

Not a Veteran but Works Dentist from 1957 until he retired, Tom Watson died on 3rd January 2008 aged 95.  He used to live in Chelmsford but moved several years ago to Brandon near Thetford.  I play golf with his son Alan Watson every Sunday.  If you intend to send a letter of condolence please forward it to me and I will hand it to Alan the following Sunday.

Writtle Road


In keeping with a thread running through much of this issue – Marconi Radar – this aerial view of the Writtle Road site was taken in 1994 from a hot air balloon by Ray Strudwick.

For a larger and higher definition version of the image please click here.

To members of the GEC (1972) Plan Pension

Robbie Robertson, January 2008

I know that many of you are concerned about the current state of affairs with regard to your pensions; this note is an attempt to explain the present position.

telent,* the small remaining core of our company, was bought by Pensions Corporation, a major finance and insurance group, in November last year. telent is the owner and sponsor of the company which administers our pension fund, Stanhope Pension Trust (SPT). SPT is a legal UK entity, controlled by a board of trustees (directors); the appointment of trustees is regulated by UK law, and historically we have had a board of 3 trustees appointed by telent, 3 appointed by the Pensions Consultative Committee acting on behalf of Fund members, and three independents, chosen by telent, and appointed with the approval of the Government Pensions Regulator. One of the independents has been chairman of the board.

Your three member nominated directors (MNDs), together with the independent chairman, have been extremely active and effective on your behalf. As soon as news of the possibility of a takeover emerged, they approached the Pensions Regulator (PR), asking that he use his powers to protect our fund. The PR agreed to their request, and three Independent Trustees (ITs) were appointed by the PR as additional trustees of the Plan for six months from 19th October 2007. The primary objective of the ITs is to ensure that future pension benefits continue to be protected, and that this objective receives independent consideration. The appointment of the ITs has had no effect on the day to day operation of the pension fund, which continues unchanged. The ITs are in position until 18th April 2008; if, at that date, the PR is still concerned about ownership/control of the SPT Pension Fund, then their appointment will be extended.

Because of the prompt and effective early action of the independent chairman and the MNDs, your pensions remain secure; I feel that the subject is now so well reported and publicised that this security is assured for some time to come. Your Pensions Consultative Committee has ex-Chelmsford pensioners Mick Elliot and me among its members, and continues to monitor the ongoing position closely; the pensions office will be issuing an update newsletter soon.

*For those Veterans not familiar with this remnant of MCSL, yes, it really does start with a lower case t ! Ed.

Please send articles for next year’s newsletter to:

  • Ken Earney,
    Editor, Marconi Veterans’ Association Newsletter, 59 Willow Crescent, Hatfield Peverel, Chelmsford, Essex CM3 2LJ
  • or to Barry Powell via mail, email or phone to his usual address/phone number
  • or via the ‘Contact us’ link on the Marconi Veterans’ website –

Newsletter 2007

Number 9 January 2007

Ordeal by Readership

I survived!  At the 2006 Reunion, Raymond Rowe said very kind things about my first effort with the newsletter, and a number of you have expressed similar sentiments subsequently.  Thank you, I must have done something right. I do have a little worry at the moment however.  Where no photos are supplied with contributions I like to insert photos or graphics which have some relevance to subject matter of an article to relieve the acres of text and give the publication a less dense feel.  You will see what I mean in this issue.  However, you might feel that this is an unacceptable use of space which could otherwise have been used to include another contribution or two.  Are there too many pictures and too few words?  Please let me know what you think, by post, email, or in person at the reunion in April.

Not many contributions came in over the last twelve months, so I have dipped into the backlog going back to ’05. Some of the articles are extracts from much longer pieces.  Anyone who has a memories of the company – amusing and lightweight, serious and thoughtful, from the trivial to the technical (but not too technical) – please jot them down and send them in, with pictures if you have them. They don’t need to be lengthy: the longer the article the more the cutting and editing I have to do!  And on the subject of the backlog, you will recall that a number of articles were to have been posted on the website: this didn’t happen but I promise that this year it will.  The first to appear, barring any technical hitches, will be the MIMCO Manager D Robertson’s report to London following his release from Japanese internment in 1945.  Any posted on the website will appear in their entirety.

New Street site – the latest

Peter Turrall, Vice Chairman, Marconi Veterans Association

Messrs Ashwell Developments of Cambridge, the owners of the Marconi Communication Systems site at New Street, now occupied by Selex Communications, are in regular consultation with the Planning Department of Chelmsford Borough Council concerning the proposed development of this valuable nine and a half acre site.

An outline planning proposal has been submitted which covers the removal of several of the large buildings and the complete removal of the factory. The 1912 front building which already has a preservation order on it, will remain, although there will be several modifications to cover possibly an area for exhibition of Marconi products and a few offices. Despite previous rumours this building will not become a hotel.

The large four storey Marconi House and Building 720 with the corrugated roof will also be removed, allowing the site to have shops and residential areas laid out with gardens and a heritage walkway which will depict the history of our company.

Part of the area adjacent to the New Street Security Office and close to the railway line will be removed, allowing a walkway and road which will lead to the railway station. The Power House and the two cottages plus the tower on the opposite side of the railway line will remain. It is hoped in this area some of the company’s artefacts can be on view with possibly modern presentation facilities of voices of past employees and also film footage.

To ensure the history of the company and its employees is preserved, the undersigned has joined with the developers and their heritage and conservation experts in some of the planning and decision making areas.  Over the coming months a team of photographers and audio crew will be contacting many ex-employees to obtain stories of life within the company during their employment. If you are interested in this aspect, then please contact the Editor who will be pleased to pass on this information.  If you have any artefacts which could be permanently loaned, then these could form part of the heritage trail through the site. Your assistance in this latter respect would be most welcome.

stanleyfisher On page 12 of the last issue, Stanley Fisher promised to send a recent photograph of him standing outside the main New Street entrance. It seems appropriate to place it here accompanying Peter Turrall’s news of the proposals for the New Street site.


The Baddow Photo

In the last newsletter, on page 5, we carried a picture of a group of Baddow engineers taken in 1939.  The location of the photo was uncertain, and there were gaps in the list of names. I’ve received two letters on the subject, from Ian Butt and Cyril Marshall.

Ian Butt writes:

It shows (on the front row) Percy Beanland and FE Sainsbury as numbers 14 and 15 – I think this should be 12 and 13.   I hope with returns from the Veterans you may be able to publish a more complete list of who’s who, since most of the engineers/boffins were really at the forefront of Marconi’s later expertise in new design etc, apart from all the technology that appeared during World War II.

I assume you know that Chick (Mac) Mackenzie died recently.

From Cyril Marshall:

Roy Simons comments on the photo did trigger my memory of those times. I was in the Test Department at New Street in 1934, having joined the company in 1929 as an apprentice. I agree with Roy in that the photo was taken at Writtle, not Baddow. However, I’m certain that Mervyn Morgan is number 10 in the back row. I recognise a few more faces:- second row 5 JF Hatch, 7 VJ Cooper, 8 NW Jenkins, and 15 in the back row is Watts from R&D Workshops. Front row 13 FWJ Sainsbury, I remember him as a tall person and responsible for the Sainsbury design equipment cabinet. Like Roy, there are other faces that I recognise but am unable to remember names.

On Colwyn Bay Wireless College

Richard Shaw

Peter Robinson’s news of Colwyn Bay Wireless College was of particular interest, since I was a student there in 1941-42 before joining the Marconi Marine Company, and I have been able to pass news of its website to another old boy who was there in 1948. We first met in 1982 when I came to live in a village near here and he and his family were next door but one. We both worked for the Marconi Company in its various incarnations until our retirements, and he was delighted to have the news. I had returned to the Wireless College in 1948, just missing my future colleague who left the previous term, and enjoyed another eight years or so at sea and three on the shore staff in Cardiff.

Regarding Marconi’s statue, I find its treatment by the Borough Council (which commissioned it) quite disgraceful. Of course it should stand in the centre of Chelmsford. If it were not for Marconi, Chelmsford would have been neither wealthy nor famous, but just another county town. Its councillors need a damn good talking to!

I was sorry to read of the death of John Sutherland who, as Managing Director of Marconi Radar Systems, presented me with my certificate as a Marconi Veteran. I recall that we could have either a presentation watch or a sum of money worth rather less.

As I already had a watch but was rather short of the other, and my car battery was nearing its end, I asked for a replacement (obtainable at a discount from a local garage) instead of the watch, and the balance in cash!  I think he was a little surprised by my unusual request, but granted it nevertheless, thereby making me probably the only Marconi Veteran whose membership presentation included a chit for a lead acid battery.

Pleased the association still exists

Bernard de Neumann

I’m very pleased to see that the Marconi Veterans’ Association still exists, as I thought it had become defunct since I no longer receive any mailings from you. (Prof de Neumann is one of the lost and found referred to at the end of this newsletter. Ed.)

I became a Marconi Veteran in 1986/7 I think: I joined Marconi Research Labs as a mathematician in ‘Mathematical Analysis’ of Mathematical Physics with Jozef Skwirzynski. I left MRL in 1988 to take up an appointment as Professor of Mathematics at The City University, London, and am now retired.

You may care to note for the newsletter that a portrait of me by the noted artist John Wonnacott, won the 2005 Ondaatje Prize (£10,000 plus a gold medal) of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters last May. See for example: Consequentially, as a professional mathematician, I have now added to my cv that I am mathematical model – and am, somewhat uniquely, a living breathing example rather than an idealised representation!

The wisdom of the Saturday supplements

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism – to steal from many is research.

Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.

Report of the 2006 Veterans’ reunion

The 70th annual reunion was held, as usual, at the MASC in Beehive Lane Chelmsford. Our president this year, Veteran Raymond Rowe, was introduced by Veteran Ewan Fenn. Raymond’s working life as an engineer from 1946 to 1988 spanned a wide spectrum of technologies from microwave link through space communications and troposcatter to broadcasting. He joined Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company as an engineer in the HDB Group at Writtle in 1955, and save for a very brief interlude at Cossors in the 60s, he remained with the company until his retirement in 1988 whilst acting Divisional Manager of Broadcasting Division.

In his reply, Raymond detailed some of the highlights of his career, and of the Marconi Company. Some quotes from his speech that are worthy of note.

‘If there was a place in the world in trouble then either we (in Marconi) had been there just before or we soon would be.’

‘Who knows what else there is to come.  I believe we probably saw the best of it; the work was still very much hands on. The engineers of today, because of the computer interface, are a bit more remote from the end product…’

‘So we were there at a very influential period of Marconi’s, probably the most important time since the beginning of radio.  The name Marconi did not need explaining to any one that I met in my travels for the company.’

‘As Marconi Veterans we perhaps do not really understand how important our group is. We are among the relatively few who really knew what Marconi’s meant. I am sure that all of us are proud that we can trace our company back to the beginnings of radio.’

Raymond then introduced the Guest of Honour, Robert Wellbeloved C.Eng, FIEE.  Bob was formerly Chief Engineer (Transmitter Operations) for the IBA and latterly an independent consultant for many UK and overseas organisations, mainly on Digital TV transmissions. He joined Marconi Communication Systems in 1956 on a four year Graduate Apprenticeship followed by installation work on behalf of Broadcasting Division before joining the ITA in 1965 as a Transmitter Engineer.

In his speech Bob noted that is was just 50 years since he had joined Marconi-MWT. He used 50 years as his theme and posed three questions – what would he have done differently over the last 50 years, what have been the most significant changes over this time, and would he have preferred a different 50 year period for his working life?

The answer to the first was – very little. In responding to the second question he cast a wry eye over many things that have changed in the last 50 years, some good, some bad, but even some of the goods were not unalloyed.

He would not have wished to change the time slot of his career and noted that the late Victorian era had abysmal living standards and a much lower life expectancy. The early 20th century had two world wars and the depression. And would he like to be leaving University in 2006 with the prospect of working until 2060? Definitely not!

Veterans’ reunion 2007

The 2007 reunion will take place on Saturday 14th April at the MASC, Beehive Lane, Chelmsford, commencing at 1.00pm.  This year’s President is Professor Roy W Simons, OBE, CEng.  Roy served with the company for 43 years, joining MWT in 1943 with the major part of his career in radar.  In 1965, with the restructuring of the Company, he became Technical Manager of Radar Division, and with the subsequent merger with GEC, he was appointed Technical Director of Marconi Radar Systems, a post that he held until just before his very busy retirement in 1986.  His leisure time is devoted to a number of musical interests.  He will be introduced by Marconi Veterans’ Association Chairman Charles Rand, previously Works Manager at Writtle Road.

The Guest of Honour will be Dr John C Williams OBE, FREng, Hon FIEE who for a number of years was Director of The Marconi Research Centre at Gt Baddow, Chelmsford and later was Secretary and Chief Executive of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) in London.

News from Kwazulu Natal

Barry Powell received the following email from Jack Mayhew last March:

Many thanks for the latest news letter which I have just received. It is very much appreciated. I must give you my latest postal address as we have just moved. (Barry has the address for anyone wishing to contact Jack).  We have a magnificent view from our new house and can see the Indian Ocean in the far distance.  Unfortunately a few weeks before we moved I had a stroke but I am pleased to say that although I was paralysed down one side I am now able to walk a few steps again.  Please pass my congratulations to Ken, the new editor of the newsletter, but please ask him if and when he uses my name again would he please add the last three letters to my surname!  Kindest regards.

Jack refers to the item on page 10 of the last issue, under ‘Some more Marconi bibliography’, attributed to Jack May. I was thrown by his email username – jackmay. Many apologies Jack. Ed.

What’s the rate of exchange for kudos?

Eric Walker

This extract from a much longer piece by Eric Walker – for all of his Marconi career an Airadio man – focuses on some of the less serious aspects of the life of the avionics (although I’m not sure that the term was in common parlance then) engineers inhabiting the Writtle huts in the 50s.  Mike Lawrence, who served in the DO at Writtle and for a while at Basildon, has expanded Eric’s original article with additional material and turned it into a hand-crafted booklet with a very limited production run – Eric and Mike both have two copies, the Writtle village archivist another and there is a sixth copy at the Sandford Mill Musuem.  It is well worth reading in its entirety, and we shall endeavour to make it accessible on the website.

When I arrived at Writtle in 1951 we were housed in wooden huts. The only brick-built facility was the workshop. Historically, Les Mullin’s team occupied the original 2MT (2 Emma Tock) hut of early broadcast fame, in which part of the 1922 installation was still visible. Geoffrey Beck’s Air Navigational Aids team occupied a relatively new wooden Hut A.  We later expanded to Hut AK as our team grew in number and parallel projects were undertaken.

Beck’s team was formed to develop Green Satin, a military project funded on a cost-plus basis by the Ministry of Supply.  The equipment is well-described in Chapter 42 of W J Baker’s ‘History of the Marconi Company’.  Briefly, it was a self-contained airborne navigational aid, which used the Doppler effect to measure the ground speed and drift angle of an aircraft from which present position and other navigational attributes could be deduced.   ‘Self-contained’ means independent of ground-based aids. The accuracy of Green Satin depended on high-precision waveguides in its aerial, both in dimensions and in the slotting process which was coped with by Charlie Swanborough in the waveguide section at New Street.

Green Satin was a considerable step forward in the art of air navigation.  The project derived from work done at TRE Malvern, a Ministry establishment, by Johnny Clegg and George Thorne. Experimental models had been made by Mervyn Morgan’s team at Baddow and we, at Writtle, had to develop a design into production, just as fast as we could.  The programme was classified secret and was urgent, as it was needed for the Canberra aircraft and the V bomber force (Valiant, Victor and Vulcan, although only the latter two were fitted).  We handmade eight development models followed by thirty ‘crash-production’ models before full production was undertaken at the New Street works.

Green Satin was a challenging project to a very tight timescale.  It was an exciting programme for a team of mainly young engineers to work on, and we worked very hard, with good team spirit.

Starting time was 7.45am in the workshops and 8.15am for design staff; and we clocked-in. Knocking-off time was supposed to be 5pm, but we rarely left until much later. We worked 6 days a week and often on Sundays when the programme required us to. The notion was, if something needed doing you stayed and did it. The only times you left work unfinished was when it was not possible to complete it for one reason or another. This habit of working long hours stayed with many of us even when the pressure finally came off. You felt you were letting the team down if you worked to the clock. Those who did leave on time, for domestic reasons, usually took briefcases of papers home with them.


Jumping ahead a bit, when we had successfully put Green Satin into production, Bernard MacLarty came to thank us and said that our efforts had earned kudos for the company. We were brash enough to ask what the rate of exchange for kudos was and if it would benefit us?  He took it in good part. But there seemed not to be such a thing as a bonus in those days.  The idea was that if you did a good job you might move up the ladder and take on more responsibility for perhaps more pay.  I saw records of staff reviews where senior management debated at length whether Bloggs should receive an increment of £12 or £15 per annum.

Our work, though intense, had plenty of fun in it.  On Guy Fawkes day rockets were fired, suspended on a wire strung from near the hut to down the field. Fireworks figured quite a lot at other times.  Much skill was put into secreting bundles of bangers in other peoples’ workplaces, which went off when you (or they) operated power switches.  The ballistics expert was Ray Walls.  But Arthur Adam earned the medal for concealment.  One evening we blew up a bundle we had dropped between the walls of his hut (AK).  Next morning, when we came to work, we searched our hut for the response we knew must be there.  In vain.  He waited until mid-morning before activating it.  He must have worked half the night to put in the subterranean wiring.  Beck put a stop to it after that, for fear of fire, or mayhem.

vulcansilplan_thumb Our hut was very cold in the winter, the only heat coming from a few hot-water radiators (by courtesy of the stoker Bill Crabb) and of course the heat generated by the concentration of bodies and active high-powered equipment and test gear.  In the summer it was too hot, even with open windows.  We had a water tap and basin in the hut, so the bright-ideas squad, led again by Ray Walls, ran a suitably punctured hosepipe along the ridge of the hut roof.  Water pressure was then adjusted until drips just came off the eaves before evaporating.  Much experiment was needed to get the leak wetting pattern just right to cover the roof.

Such activities as these greatly amused EB Greenwood, manager of the newly-erected Basildon Works, who visited us often. He particularly liked our system of warning that our door had been opened, combined with the means of shutting it again. A Heath Robinson device comprising pulleys, angle-iron, a large loose nut and a bell (acoustic). What tickled Greenwood was that it was ridiculous, in such a small hut with so many inhabitants.

No project really ends, even when it is in service.  Much remains to be done in the way of support, training and maintenance.  A significant time is reached when most work is done by ancillary staff and the key designers move onto new programmes.  When this happened, in 1954, we decided to commemorate Green Satin and its design team by placing a brass plaque on the roof-supporting beams of Hut A.  I had it engraved in the workshop.  It said ‘On this site was designed the world’s first airborne Doppler navigational aid to become a standard service equipment’.  Not very inspiring: not even grammatical.  But the project was still secret (and remained under wraps for another 3 years) so very little could be said.  Besides, it was a small plaque. With the low cunning of a Marconi apprentice, Ray Walls screwed it onto the beam, having filed the screw heads so they could be driven in, but not out.  The plaque was there long after we left in 1960.  We had intended to reclaim it if and when the hut was no longer in use. But the site, in Lawford Lane, is now a housing estate.  I wonder what happened to the plaque?  Sad really.

A landmark on the Writtle site was the Lancaster aeroplane. It was used to try out aerial arrangements and various other installations. People wondered how it arrived there – did it fly in?  No, it came by road in bits and was reassembled on site.  It was dismantled and disposed of in 1956.

Walter Cook




Before work on the previous issue had been started, Martin Cook, a former seagoing Radio Officer based at the East Ham depot and now living in New Zealand, contacted Barry Powell about the death of his father Walter Cook on the 20th July 2005.  Walter served with the company from 1939 until 1971, at Hackbridge from ’39 to ’47, Writtle from ’47 to ’52, Chelmsford from ’52 to ’64 and Hackbridge again from ’64 to ’71.  When Martin was clearing up his effects, he came across these three items which he thought might be of interest to the Veterans’ Association.  Walter appears in the top photo, which seems to be taken at a later period than the lower – he doesn’t appear in that one.  The identity card was for his time at Hackbridge.  Martin has provided the bones of Walter’s cv, but can anyone throw any light on who any of the individuals are, and where the photos were taken.

A plea for information

Hello, I wonder if you could help me.

My name is Don Simpson, I am an employee (1974 – present) of Marconi Radar/MRCSL/Alenia/Marconi/AMS/Bae Systems Insyte (who next?), but I’m interested in my father’s career.  I have a little bit of info, but not much, and I can’t get a clear picture from my mother (Dad is now deceased – December 1983)).

His name was Stanley Simpson, he joined Marconi some time round about 1952/3/4 (confusion about the actual date).  At that time he was manager (?) of the Electrical Goods department at Perth Co-op (Scotland) and previous to that had been running his own small business servicing accumulator driven radios.  His addresses would have been 111, Mildmay Road, Chelmsford, and, after that, Glenorchy, South Street, Great Waltham.  His birthdate was 13 August 1909.  My understanding is that he was approached by Marconi, either because of articles that he had written into Wireless World, or possibly through his RAF service (he was a radio technician, spent the entire war in Palestine/Kenya).

Would the Association be able to access any employment records that could confirm his employment dates (he left around 1957 to go back to Scotland), his position (I understand he worked at Writtle) or possibly confirm how and why he was approached?  I’m just interested to try to find the real facts about him.

Curious that I should have ended up in the same ‘old’ company as him, in the same town again.

Don Simpson, PDM Team Lead, Chelmsford, BAE Systems Insyte.

Barry has explained that the Association has no access to any employment records, and furthermore that they may have been archived so that even HR Departments have difficulty in accessing them.  Don’s only hope therefore appears to be one of you.  Does anyone remember a Scot, Stanley Simpson, who appears to have worked at Writtle in the mid 50s.  Please send any reply to Barry for forwarding to Don.

The Marconi Scientist mystery


Peter Wyss, an ex-Electro-Optical Advanced Systems Division (Basildon) Veteran, was involved in the Stingray Torpedo project since its inception in the early 70s.  Some months ago he was sent by Ted Haydon, also ex-EOASD Veteran, the cutting from the Letters page of the Costa Brava News shown on the right.  Peter entered into an exchange of correspondence with Pamela Handford, the writer of the letter, and then emailed a number of former colleagues with the results of this exchange, including your editor because he thought it might be of interest to other Veterans who had worked on Stingray, or with a taste for intrigue, conspiracy theories etc.

Pamela Handford has a number of apparently well-placed contacts all resulting from her group’s involvement with UFO research.  The group’s activities have brought them to the attention of US Air Force and Spanish Military Intelligence.  Their investigations revealed links to the deaths in suspicious circumstances of 25 Marconi engineers working on the Stingray Torpedo project in the mid/late 80s. An article appeared in Computer News at the time, and a book on the subject was published in 1990, Open Verdict: an account of 25 mysterious deaths in the defence industry, Tony Collins (1990), Sphere Books.  Any Veteran with a taste for intrigue, conspiracy theories, ‘spooks’ etc wanting to learn more about this story can contact Peter Wyss through me or Barry Powell.

Fort Perch Rock Museum

Arising from a conversation with Jimmy Leadbitter, Stan McNally sent Barry Powell the web address for a museum on Merseyside with which he is associated.  Fort Perch Rock (near New Brighton) on the Mersey is a former fort from the Napoleonic era.  The museum houses many interesting exhibits, an important theme running through them being Merseyside’s maritime past.  A recent addition, formally opened last October, is the Merchant Navy Wireless Room which contains Marconi equipment and so may be of interest to Marconi Marine Veterans.

The web address is:

March 1944 – Eindhoven, Chelmsford and RAF Bradwell Bay

Chelmsford area veterans may well have been aware of the publicity given last year to the presence at Sandford Mill Museum of the WW II Luftwaffe relief model of the Marconi and Hoffmans complex in Chelmsford.  This brought to mind for MVA chairman Charles Rand the copy in his possession of an article that appeared in the county magazine in 1970 (The unknown airfield – RAF Bradwell Bay, Essex Countryside, December 1970).  It concerned the history of RAF Bradwell Bay, a wartime base for light bomber and nightfighter operations – Bradwell nuclear power station stands on part of the site of the airfield.  Of interest to Marconi Veterans are the paragraphs concerning the Luftwaffe raid on the Marconi works on the night of the 21st March, 1944, involving one of the nightfighter units based at Bradwell, 488 Squadron equipped with Mosquito Mk XII/XIII. (the Mk XII is pictured below – IWM photo).During winter 1943-4 No. 488 Squadron gradually built up a ‘score’ of enemy aircraft, but there is no doubt that the highlight was the night of March 21, 1944, when the Luftwaffe, as a reprisal for the RAF’s attack on Philips’s Eindhoven factories (which the patriotic Dutch had welcomed), decided to wipe out Marconi, Chelmsford, using a picked force of Junkers 88/188 bombers.  Not until long afterwards was it released that Chris Vlotman (the only Dutchman flying night fighters) in shooting down two Ju 88s just off the coast had brought down the leader of the formation and that 488 had destroyed all five of the first ‘pathfinder’ force, two to Squadron Leader Nigel Bunting and the fifth to Flight Lieutenant John Hall.  A prisoner, literally blown out of his Junkers, was captured by the Southminster police and the writer helped to hold him as 488’s doctor stitched a gash in his face where the jagged fuselage had caught him as the bomber disintegrated in mid-air.

Later, as the allies entered Germany in 1945, an RAF Regiment officer found on a Luftwaffe base a magnificent model of the Marconi works which had apparently been made for briefing pilots for the attack. This is now in the entrance hall at the Chelmsford offices and Chris Vlotman, now captain of a KLM DC8 jet, flew from Alaska some years ago to be the company’s guest and speaker at a charity dinner-dance for the Trueloves school for physically handicapped boys at Ingatestone.

vlotman_thumb Captain Chris Vlotman, DFC, Netherlands War Cross (left), inspecting the model of the Marconi factories made by the Luftwaffe. With him are Mrs Vlotman, Mr Leslie Hunt, local aviation historian, Mr Neil Sutherland, managing director of Marconi, and ‘Dusty’ Miller, editor of Marconi Magazine. Essex Weekly News photograph.
mosquitomk12_thumb As indicated in the first paragraph, the model is now of course located at the Sandford Mill Museum in Chelmsford – not all of our heritage disappeared off to Oxford!  There is an interesting footnote to this story.  Charles Rand didn’t know the source of the article, or the name of the author. In the Essex Chronicle at the beginning of January appeared the report of a local aviation historian, Stephen P Nunn, signing copies in Maldon of his newly published book ‘Maldon, the Dengie and the battle in the skies 1939-1945’.  Your editor made contact with him to find out if could throw any light on the source of the article – he could – and it transpired that he is the son of Peter Nunn who was a production engineer with Marconi Communications at Waterhouse Lane until his retirement in the early 90s. Regrettably Peter died in 1995, not long after his retirement, but Charles knew him very well as did no doubt many other Veterans.

The Baddow Tower – update

In response to Roy Simons’ item and my editorial comments about the history of the CH tower at Baddow, Veteran Bill Fitzgerald sent me a copy of an interview with him which appeared in the Miscellany column of the Essex Chronicle in June 2005. It reported that he was launching a solo campaign to persuade English Heritage to put a preservation order on it, on the grounds that it is the last structurally secure WWII CH radar tower in the country.  English Heritage at that time took the view that it was not at risk, because it was still in use. In the accompanying letter Bill reiterated that it is the last remaining CH tower in the UK, but the tower would obviously be at risk should the site be closed down and sold off.

My enquiries to establish the current situation prior to typing this item triggered a flurry of telephone calls, which included The Essex Chronicle telephoning me, but at the time of going to press there is nothing to add. Watch this space.

Radio Officers’ memoirs

Bill Godden

The photo below is the installation fitted by Glasgow Depot, at the beginning of 1957 on board the Lyles Shipping Company’s MV Cape Horn. I joined the ship at Greenock for her maiden voyage in June 1957.  The equipment consisted of Oceanspan VI main transmitter, Reliance reserve transmitter, Mercury and Electra main receivers, Vigilant AutoAlarm, Autokey and Alert fixed 500kc/s receiver.  All powered by batteries.  One of the receiver power packs can be seen under the Morse key, I don’t remember the type number.  The ship’s broadcast receiver I think was a Dynatron.


Of particular interest was that the ship was fitted with one of the few Ultrasonic Antifouling Devices, (a Barnacle Buster), I think there were only ever three fitted.  The idea was to set up ultrasonic vibrations through the ship’s hull to stop marine growth, barnacles and the like attaching to the ship.

We had a good maiden voyage lightship down to Cuba, where we loaded bulk sugar in Boqueron and Cienfuegos and took it to Tokyo.

On passage across the Pacific I experienced my first hurricane, Hurricane Kanoa.  We were in it for about a week during which time I was sending weather reports to San Francisco Radio, KFS I think, every four hours.  From Japan we were lightship down to McKay in Queensland where we took on another load of bulk sugar for Liverpool and Glasgow.

It was October when we arrived back in the UK after a good trip with a good crew.  Most of us signed on for the next trip which was supposed to be a six week run down to South Africa and back.  The Third Mate organized to get married on return to the UK, but it turned out to be a long six weeks which took us to South Africa, Mozambique, Texas, Japan, Canada, Ocean Island, Nauru, Australia and New Zealand, in all fourteen months.  After spending most of the time in the tropics we signed off in Hull in January 1959.  The Third Mate did get married to the same girl.

We had some good fun and, at that time it, was common for ships to disappear over the horizon for two or three years.  Some blokes were lucky to get happy ships, a lot were unlucky and the trip was misery from beginning to end.  I was lucky in this case.

Felix Mascarenhas

My career in the Marine Company was varied and commenced on the sea staff during the second world war. The Marconi Radio Officer held a unique position on board ship.  Although not employed by the shipping company, he came under the direct jurisdiction of the Master and was an integral part of the crew, enjoying the same privileges as the other officers.

I studied to become a Radio Officer at the Wireless College in Colwyn Bay and having passed my ‘ticket’ I joined the Marconi International Marine Communication Company in July 1941.  During the war Radio Officers were in short supply. A senior and two juniors were needed to maintain a 24-hour watch on all deep sea merchant ships.  The examination for the necessary qualification, which was issued by the Postmaster General, was held at the college under the jurisdiction of a Post Office Marine Wireless Superintendent, whose main duties involved surveying the wireless equipment on merchant vessels.  The exam consisted of sending and receiving Morse code in plain language, in code and in figures at various speeds, a written paper on electronic theory, fault finding on the equipment, and a knowledge of Q codes and operating procedures.  To indicate the shortage of Radio Officers at that time, a Marconi Personnel Officer from Liverpool depot attended the college after the exam and immediately signed up those who passed.  I had a medical examination on the same day and was appointed to my first ship and was at sea within a few days.

Not much is known of the part the Merchant Navy played in the hostilities.  One in every five of the 180,000 men who sailed under the Red Ensign were lost, and this figure includes over 1,400 Radio Officers who gave their lives in the fight for freedom.  On a percentage basis the losses were higher than any of the armed services with the exception of aircrews.  A total of over 2,400 vessels were sunk, or destroyed by enemy action.

For added protection, whenever possible vessels sailed in convoys of possibly twelve vessels across and ten or more deep, covering an area of several square miles.  The Commodore ship was positioned in the centre of the front row of vessels.  The Commodore, who usually was a retired Vice-Admiral or Captain, controlled the convoy via encoded flag messages which were acknowledged by all the vessels hoisting the same flags.  Over twenty Commodores lost their lives in the North Atlantic.  Because radio signals could be picked up by submarines and surface raiders strict radio silence was always observed.  Convoy protection was provided by several naval vessels made up of destroyers, corvettes and armed merchant trawlers.

Radio traffic was transmitted to ships every four hours from naval coast stations situated in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries.  To ensure that radio silence was maintained the messages were not acknowledged. Instructions from the ships’ owners and/or the Ministry of War Transport were transmitted in code groups of five numbers.  Each vessel had a code book containing pages of groups of five numbers.  The first two groups in the message indicated where to commence the operation of subtracting the received groups from the numbers in the book.  The resulting groups, after subtraction, were then applied to another code book which translated them into plain language.  This work was undertaken by the Radio Officer, whose other duties involved keeping a continuous watch on the international distress frequency, listening on the direction-finder for enemy submarines and assisting on the bridge by hoisting flags and signalling with the Aldis lamp.  The only time radio silence was broken was when a vessel was attacked.  The SOS distress signal was not used, instead SSS was sent to indicate an attack by submarine, AAA an attack by aircraft and RRR an attack by a surface warship.

Deep sea merchant vessels were reasonably well armed.  A 4.7 inch gun was mounted on the stern poop-deck.  A naval gun-layer and two or three naval ratings manned this weapon, assisted by crew members.  A 12-pound anti-aircraft gun on the stern after-deck was manned by two army gunners.  Two Oerlikon quick tracer firing guns were mounted on each side of the bridge and two machine guns were mounted on the boat-deck.  These were manned by the ship’s crew.

One of my worst wartime experiences happened during my second trip in December 1941.  I had been appointed to a very old Cardiff tramp ship.  We joined our convoy at Milford Haven but were unable to keep up through lack of speed, probably due to engine trouble, and were left behind. We were ordered to rendezvous with another convoy but again we were not able to keep up due to our poor speed, so we were instructed to proceed to Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada on our own.  The weather worsened, and the storm which lasted for several days was one of the worst that I have ever experienced. We lost our lifeboats, which were slung out over the side for easy access, and our rafts, which were fitted as an extra wartime safety measure, were smashed.  The vessel’s superstructure was considerably damaged by the heavy seas.  The cabin, which I shared with the Deck Apprentice Officer and the gun-layer, was also damaged due to the deck-head having been torn open when a machine gun was ripped off its mooring by the seas.  The cabin heating consisted of a cast-iron coal-burning stove called a ‘bogie’.  The excessive draft from the storm force winds caused it to over heat and glow red-hot, and as the deck was awash with water swirling backwards and forwards and over the stove the cabin was filled with clouds of steam.  Everything was wet including our bunks.  We slept fully clothed with our sea-boots on.  It took the best part of four weeks to cross the Atlantic.

I experienced my first encounter with a fatality on board that ship.  One of the naval ratings, on leaving his post, was hit by the sea coming over the ship and was not found until daylight the next morning, entangled in the rigging.  His burial, attended by all the crew was a sad and unforgettable experience.  The ship heaved too, and his body, wrapped in canvas, was put over the side after a short service conducted by the Master.

Halifax was very cold that December and January.  The sea water in the harbour was frozen over.  To add to our discomfort, repairs to our cabin deck-head were carried out while we were still on board. A large canvas awning was our only protection from the elements. One night the apprentice and I came back from ashore only to find the gun-layer in his bunk completely buried in snow which had emptied into the cabin when the canvas awning had given away.  He had previously had quite a few drinks and was oblivious to his perilous predicament. To this day I have never been able to understand the reasoning why this dilapidated old vessel was made a Commodore ship.  The Commodore with his complement of naval signallers joined our already over-manned vessel and we lead an 8 knot convoy back to the United Kingdom, fortunately in calm seas via the Arctic Circle without a gun being fired.

At the end of hostilities, conditions gradually returned to normal: only one Radio Officer was required on most ships.  As additional equipment became available, such as VHF and UHF-RT sets, single sideband HF-RT, telex, radar, television, closed circuit monitoring equipment, etc, etc, the Radio Officer’s duties increased and became a lot more technical.

I sailed on eighteen different ships ranging from cargo ships, troopships, passenger ships, tankers, bulk-carriers, and tramp ships, during the thirteen years I spent at sea. Each voyage was a different experience.  Two of my voyages lasted over two years and two lasted over one year without returning to the United Kingdom.  It was an enjoyable and a worthwhile career for a young single man.  With some regret I hung up my sea boots in 1953 when I joined the Company’s shore staff at Cardiff depot as a temporary Marine Technical Assistant.

Looking back over more than sixty years to those days of my youth when joining a ship for another voyage was always an adventure, I only choose to remember the good times, the parties on board ship, the nights ashore in far flung ports all over the world, the ships on the Indian coast where the officers even had their own butler, and Gordon’s gin was three rupees a bottle.  I often reflect on the hours spent on the bridge at night with the Second Mate somewhere in the vast Pacific ocean picking out the constellations in the star filled sky and marvelling at the magnificence of the Universe.

With the demise of the British Merchant Navy, and the introduction of satellite marine communication systems, the Marconi Radio Officer, like the lamp trimmer, is now surplus to requirements.  At the end of hostilities the Marine Company, in its prime, employed 5,500 Radio Officers and had depots and bases and agents situated in ports all over the world.  Sadly, very little is left of the once largest marine wireless communication company in the world, but we still have our memories.

Felix now lives in retirement in Dover and invites former colleagues who might be in the area to look him up.

Derek Griess

The appreciation of Derek Griess was published on the website in September 2006, shortly after his death.   It is repeated in the paper copy of the newsletter.

Baddow Model Shop memories

Rob Wakefield

After reading the latest newsletter I thought I would send you a few lines about the few chaps I work with at Baddow.

I work in the Model Shop with 5 other skilled machinists.  I and two others are all Marconi trained and are still very proud to be part of the Marconi history.  The news letter transports us back like a time machine as if it were yesterday.  The eldest of us came from Pottery Lane, my other colleague from the Radar company and myself from New Street, Bld 29 R&D.  Our total service adds up to 104 years.  We are all survivors of the collapse of the Marconi company and have ended up together at Baddow.  When you think we are the only millers and turners left working on an old Marconi site in Chelmsford – there were hundreds of us with machine shops at Radar, Waterhouse Lane and the largest at New Street – it kind of makes you proud!

You know you’ve had too much of modern living when…

… pull up in your drive and use a cellphone to see if anyone is home.
… don’t stay in touch with family because they don’t have e-mail.

Military Scout & Wireless Cars

The following is an extract from an article by Harry Edwards which appeared in the Autumn 2004 edition of the Journal of the Morris Register (Harry was a mechanical designer involved in studio design, OB and radar displays and was with Marconi Marine at retirement. He is the editor of the Journal and the Register’s historian). A Marconi connection with the manufacture of the kit may strike a chord with senior Veterans.

A number of wooden huts comprised the Signals Experimental Establishment, under Colonel C J Aston, the Officer Commanding at Woolwich Common in 1926, when the development work began on the No.1 Set transmitter/receiver.  This was the first design by the SEE to employ both radiotelephony and wireless telegraphy and also the first to be designed to work on the move.  It was battery operated and two years later in 1928, it was severely tested by the Oxford University expedition to Greenland.

Although wireless had proved to be of great value to artillery during World War 1, the production of a postwar artillery set was shelved for several years.   An experimental radiotelephone set working on the 10 metre band was given a trial.  The use of this band was a bold innovation at the time, but unfortunately a little premature, the set had a communication range of three miles, which was not enough and in any case was insufficiently robust and liable to frequent faults.  The artillery was without wireless until the issue of the No.1 set in 1933.

By 1929 considerable experience had been gained in the design of radiotelephone sets and a new series of army wireless sets was formulated.  Originally six types were proposed, the No.1 set being for infantry and artillery brigades; the No.2 for divisions; the No.3 for corps; the No.4 for armies; the No.5 for the L of C; and the No.6 for worldwide strategic communications.  Subsequently this series was extended to provide for armoured fighting vehicle sets and later for infantry, anti-aircraft and special purposes.


Significant features of the new series were, firstly, the inclusion of radiotelephone facilities in the Nos 1, 2 and 3 sets each covering a relatively narrow frequency band. With an overlap between the Nos.1 and 2, and between the Nos. 2 and 3 respectively the total range of the three sets extended from 6.66 to 1.36 MHz (presumably converted from wavelength – I assume this means 1.36 to 6.66MHz. Ed.). It was not considered in 1929 that the use of reflected waves would be feasible for forward tactical communications owing to the vagaries of the skip distance. All these sets were therefore designed to work by ground waves and their communication ranges were limited accordingly.

With the research work and design completed by the Signals Experimental Establishment, it was left to the electronics industry to produce these sets. Manufacturers known to have built and supplied the No.1 sets include Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company, H W Sullivan Ltd, and Aeronautical & General Instruments Ltd.

Around the same time the military began to order small cars for use as scout cars. The first of these appear to have been issued to the 11th Hussars and then other Cavalry regiments, and were the unmilitary-like two seater Austin Seven Gordon England Cup models made at Wembley. An initial order of 65 vehicles was later increased. Early in January 1929 an Austin Seven two-seater with a boxlike boot was made for evaluation by the Army by Page and Hunt. Far more military-like was the Austin Seven two-seater design of 1929 by Mulliners. (Assumed to be Mulliners of Birmingham, a name associated with the Austin Seven.). This two-seater was based on the same lines as the Page & Hunt body with a squared off locker at the rear, within clips were provided for the ubiquitous .303 rifle. In addition to the Austin Seven the overhead camshaft Morris Minor chassis was given the same Mulliner style body in February 1929. So far these vehicles appear to have been used as scout cars. In 1932 a War Department approved design for a two-seater wireless car enters the picture, making use of the No.1 Set.

scoutcarcrew_thumb This same design was used for both Morris Minor and Austin Seven chassis The boxlike area behind the seats accommodated the radio equipment while a fixed support bracket, bolted to the body side, provided the mounting for the aerial insulator. Published figures suggest that some 176 Austin Sevens of this type went into service, and the writer estimates a total of 169 Morris Minors, most, if not all, based on the 1933 model Morris Minor (see photo left). The writer is not aware of any surviving examples of the Morris versions but a completely restored version of the military Austin Seven, owned by Andy Hodge, complete with the No 1 Set, can usually be seen at the Royal Corps of Signals Museum, Blandford.


Obituaries have been posted on the web site at various times over the past year.  A full list for the year is published in the paper copy.  All deaths can be found under the “In Memoriam” category on this The latest deaths notified are shown in the index bar on the left.  To view earlier notifications please go to the Archive.

Nicholas Swarbrick

From Veteran George Cockburn

This contribution was received from George Cockburn, who felt that, although Nicholas Swarbrick was not a Marconi Veteran, he would have been known to some you and so of interest.

I would like to record the death of Nicholas Swarbrick who died on February 2nd aged 107.

Nicholas was a Merchant Navy Radio officer on the Atlantic Convoys during the 1st World War picking up horses in Nova Scotia for shipment to France and later on the Liverpool/New York run ferrying American troops.

He was born in 1898 at Grimsargh near Preston and gained his Certificate of Proficiency in Liverpool.  He never married and I would think he would have been the veteran of veterans.

His obituary was in the Daily Telegraph of 8/2/2006 (I have a copy should it be of interest).

Kind regards

Veteran George Cockburn

(I also have a copy of the obituary. Ed.)

Arthur Adam, 1926 – 2006

Arthur Adam, one of the characters featuring in Eric Walker’s reminiscences on page 4, died on the 2nd March 2006.  He was the son of a Professor of Chemistry at Southampton University and a mathematician who worked with Neville Shute Norway on the R100 airship.  He joined the company in 1946 after reading engineering at Cambridge.

Francis Faulkner, Eric Walker, Denys Harrison and Ray Walls at the Airadio reunion following Arthur Adam’s funeral service last March. Photo – Brian Ady
He worked throughout the 50s in Geoffrey Beck’s Airborne Navigational Aids Development team at Writtle, and, outside work, pursued his interest in sailing, photography and bird watching. Denys Harrison relates a number of interesting experiences when their perfectly lawful pursuit of these activities brought them to the attention of the law, the maritime authorities and HM Customs and Excise. Perhaps it was that, although legal, these incidents occurred in the hours of darkness!

Arthur judged that the move of all airborne activities from Writtle to Basildon in 1960 would take him too far from his sailing at Maldon, so transferred to Baddow.  Writing software for Display and Data Handling Laboratories, he remained there until the mid-70s when because of a slump in contracts and staff reductions at Baddow, he transferred Basildon working in Allan Barrett’s team on the comms system for the AEW Nimrod.

In the 80s he retired early due to ill health, but, with his wife Maggie, remained very active.  In his closing years he devoted himself to keeping him and Maggie, who he predeceased by only a few months, living independently at their home in Downs Road Maldon.  They had no children.

Many of his former colleagues gathered at Chelmsford Crematorium on the 20th March 2006 to bid him farewell, and then afterwards at the Airadio reunion/wake at the Conservative Club in Chelmsford, at the invitation of his closest relatives.

Veterans lost and found

Throughout the year individual committee members have come across former employees who have either complained that they had had their long service presentation and Veterans tie some years ago and then no contact from the Association, or that communications from the Association had ceased at some time in the past.  There are a number of reasons for these unfortunate situations, including failure of HR/Personnel departments to pass on details of the long service employees details to the association, and failure of Veterans to notify the secretary of a change of address.  Whatever the reason, if you know of anyone in this sort of situation do urge them to get in touch with Barry Powell, or pass their details on to Barry yourself.  The viability of the organisation depends on a healthy membership roll.

Newsletter 2006

Number 8
January 2006

From the retiring editor

I am delighted that Ken Earney, a fellow Marconi Veteran, has agreed to take over the editorship of our Marconi Veterans’ Newsletter with immediate effect. No doubt Ken will be introducing his own personal style, as he and his wife have had a lot of experience in producing a newsletter for the village of Hatfield Peverel where they live. I will from time to time be giving Ken snippets of information in particular on what is happening or not happening with our dear old Marconi units.

First of all let me advise you of the situation as it was in Chelmsford at the early part of October 2005. The Planning Design team of Chelmsford Borough Council had drawn up plans for the ultimate redevelopment of the Marconi New Street site. This included the removal of Building 720 and also Marconi House and the large factory area. A road would be inserted to give access to the Anglia Ruskin University at the bottom end of New Street. The front building would not be altered (I managed to get a preservation order on it long before I retired from the company) but extensions would be made at the rear of this part of the building and where the old factory stood, both housing, light industrial units and a car park would be in­cluded. Even part of the railway embankment was required in the overall plan.

However, on 14th October, a press release was issued by Selex, the owners of the site, to state that in 2007, the people employed at New Street (some 390) will be moving to an old Marconi site at Christopher Martin Road, Basildon (part of the old Avionics Group). This came as a great surprise to Chelmsford Borough Council who, up until this time, had been in discussion with the management of Selex. The next we heard was that representatives of Chelmsford Borough Council were meeting the chosen developers of the site, with a view to try and get the developers to give the front building to the council. We do not at the time of writing, know the answer to this question. Our local MP Simon Burns was involved in the discus­sion as the council probably wanted to site the museum at this place. The front building includes the original office of Gugliemo Marconi which I had the privilege of occupying for the last twelve years of my service with Marconi Communica­tion Systems.

We understand that the requirements of the site developers are to build houses on this 30 acre area. However, a rumour exists that Marconi House, the four storey building, might be turned into flats. The new Eastwood House building currently occupied by BAE Systems, is not affected in these negotiations.

Peter Turrall

And now a word from the incoming editor

As Peter has said above, I’ve been involved with the desktop publishing of our village newsletter, the Hatfield Peverel Review, for about ten years. My wife Jackie (of whom more later) is the wordsmith and editor in chief, I’m the assistant editor, picture editor and typesetter. I shall be bringing some of that experience into play with this newsletter, and I hope she will be able to give me some help. The basic format will remain the same, we are largely constrained by the reprographics available to us, but I shall introduce some tweaks to style and presentation that I hope will meet with your approval. I’m afraid the picture of me here is a little bit cheeky: This was a CV photograph taken over ten years ago when I found myself without a position in the GEC organisation and had to ‘actively seek work’, but I guess you would still recognise me from it.earney1

What about my Marconi Veteran credentials? After short term regular service in the RAF, mostly at Watton in Norfolk as an Air Wireless Fitter, I joined Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company in September 1960. I worked initially at New Street in Charlie Griffiths’ Aircraft Test on the testing of Green Satin and Blue Silk doppler navigators, concurrently studying for HNC Electrical Engineering at Mid-Essex Tech on day release and in the evenings. This was followed by a year or two attempting to be a development engineer under Geoff Beck in Airadio Navaids Development at Basildon. During these times Imet and married someone who no doubt some of you will remember, Jackie Burroughes, who was then editorial assistant with the house magazine, ‘The Marconi Companies and their people’, and incidentally daughter of Eric (ER) Burroughes (Baddow Research/Marconi South Africa/International Division). This was to be the making of me – her words, but I’m sure she’s right.

Realising that I was not cut out for development engineering, and seduced by the possibility of African travel, we moved to Nairobi, Kenya in 1966 when I got a job in the engineering department of East African Airways.  We spent two idyllic years there. The job however turned out to be not so idyllic, so we returned to UK in 1968 – me back to the Marconi Company at Basildon in product support work with Airadio Field Support Group.

I don’t want to go on about me for too long.  Suffice it to say that my life from that time until my position ceased to exist in 1992 was occupied with a variety of product support and trials engineering roles in airadio navaids, underwater acoustics and airborne surveillance systems, mainly in the UK, but with some interesting spells overseas.

Several weeks spent in Iraq in the ‘80s was particularly interesting. All of that time I was based at Basildon, and working for essentially the same organisation, but the company name changes over that period were something to marvel at; Marconi Company Limited, Marconi Avionics, Marconi Elliott Avionics Systems Limited (an attack of the measles!), GEC Elliott, GEC Avionics, the list goes on.

My association with GEC/Marconi came to an end in ‘92.  I had almost a year of ‘actively seeking work’, then just a year working for Loral Solartron at Hoddesdon in customer support, nearly another year of job seeking, and finally a complete change of pace and culture with a position in Essex Libraries as a relief mobile library manager.  This gave me a good mix of work in my base library at Witham, time out on the mobile routes with much of the county’s mobile library fleet, and, as a result of my past experience in industry, the local IT ‘techie’.

Now retired, I’m kept busy by work for the parish council as a co-optee looking after the local footpaths, editing the village newsletter, a little volunteer work for Essex Libraries, advancing my French and struggling with German, singing in three local choirs, walking and cycling (not enough of these two) and failing in DIY around the house – I loathe decorating.  And we’d like to visit Africa again whilst we have the health and fitness to enjoy it.

Enough of me and on with the newsletter.

How am I to cope with this mountain of copy, Peter?

Following Peter’s appeal in the 2004 edition for more stories and reminiscences he was inundated with material, which is now my problem. We have enough for about four twelve-page issues by my reckoning. Some of the articles are fairly lengthy, and it hasn’t been possible to include everything received in this edition, so I intend to introduce some of them amongst newly received material next year. In addition, I’ve had discussions with the Webmaster about putting articles and photographs on the website,, and we shall be doing this with these items over the coming months.  A list of them appears below. If you are not ‘web enabled’ and would like a copy of any one we can post a photocopy to you: please phone the editor on 01245 381235 or contact him via the “contact us” page.

Articles for next year’s newsletter should be sent to Ken Earney, Editor Marconi Veterans’ Newsletter, c/o Barry Powell, Selex Communications Limited, Marconi House, New Street, Chelmsford CM1 1PL, UK or by email to the above address.  If illustrations or photographs are to be included they should be high resolution (max 300dpi) jpg or tif digital versions on CD-ROM or via email attachment, address as above. Alternatively please send the original photo or artwork which I will scan and return to you.

Articles for future publication in Website or Newsletter

Allen Buckroyd’s Marconi career

Baddow in 1943 – Roy Simons

Garry Duguid remembers New Street test departments and TV Systems in the 60s

Large group photographs from Walter Cook’s collection. Locations could be Hackbridge, Writtle or New Street

Memories of Test at New Street 1943 to 1974 Tom Gutteridge

Military Scout and Wireless Cars – article which appeared in the Journal of the Morris Register – Harry Edwards

MRSL Leicester – Roy Simons

The Origins of the Display and Data Handling Laboratories at Baddow – Roy Simons

A Marconi Radio Officer’s memories, 1941 to 1953 – Felix Mascarenhas

A Personal Message from the Chairman of the Company to all Marconi Employees – H W Grant, August 1942

Report by D Robertson, the fortunes of MIMCO Singapore personnel, 1942 – 1945

Review of Marconi Radar activities – Roy Simons

An R/O on MV Cape Horn, 1957 to 1959 – Bill Godden

The Winkle (Bard Hill) Hut – Roy Simons

Working Life 1937 to 1981 – Joan Wigley (Staff, Personnel and Training at New Street, Writtle Road, Waterhouse Lane)

You know you’ve had too much of modern living when …..

you’ve tried to enter your password on the microwave.

you wake up at 2am to go to the toilet and check your email on your way back to bed.

Veterans’ reunion 2005 report

The reunion took place as usual at the Marconi Athletic and Social Club in Chelmsford on the 16th April when 220 veterans sat down with their president, George Hill OBE, and Guest of Honour Councillor Christopher Kingsley to enjoy a four course lunch and reminisce with former colleagues. George Hill, previously a member of the Marconi Marine staff and before his retirement Managing Director of Marconi’s outlet in Ankara Turkey, gave a speech on his work in Turkey with one or two amusing incidents.

Councillor Christopher Kingsley is Cabinet Member of the Arts and Museums Committee of Chelmsford Borough Council. He was introduced by Vice Chairman Peter Turrall who, during his introductory speech, hoped that the guest of honour, in his official capacity, would make some positive reference to the work which Marconi Veterans carry out at the borough’s Sandford Mill Industrial Museum. It was at this museum that many Marconi artefacts were gathered by veterans before the main artefacts were handed by Marconi PLC to the Oxford Museum.

In his reply Councillor Kingsley made very positive comments about the Marconi statue. At the time in the bowels of the Essex Record Office in Chelmsford, it would be moved to the centre of Chelmsford High Street following a decision by a small committee which will sort out exact details, and on which a representative of the Marconi Veterans’ Association would become a member . He also stated that Chelmsford Borough Council was very grateful for the voluntary work carried out by Marconi Veterans at the Museum each year. (See Peter Turrall’s piece on page 14 about the current situation).

The theme of Councillor Kingsley’s speech (he was at one time an apprentice and later an engineer in the company at Chelmsford and Basildon, and retired last July as Head of the Fifth Form College in Colchester) was how learned men in the electronics field were, like himself, very much involved in music, either playing piano, guitar, organ or concertina. He quoted many examples of the work they carried out and the instruments they played.

Veterans’ 2006 reunion

This will take place on Saturday 8th April at the MASC. Beehive Lane, Chelmsford, commencing at 1.00 pm. Our president this year is Raymond P Rowe C.Eng. FIEE. Raymond was until his retirement Divisional Manager of Broadcasting Division in Marconi Communication Systems Limited at New Street. Prior to this he was Technical Manager Transmitters in Broadcasting Division when the Technical Laboratories were situated in Building 46 at New Street.

Guest of Honour at the request of our President is Mr Robert Wellbeloved C.Eng. F.I.E.E., formerly Chief Engineer (Transmitter Operations) for the IBA and latterly an Independent Consultant for many UK and overseas organisations, mainly on Digital TV transmissions. Robert joined Marconi Communication Systems in 1956 starting a four year Graduate Apprenticeship followed by installation work on behalf of Broadcasting Division before joining the ITA in 1965 as a Transmitter Engineer.

Wireless College Colwyn Bay Fifth reunion

Peter J Robinson

If it’s not too late, I wonder if you would mention the 5th reunion of The Wireless College, Colwyn Bay (North Wales) that will be taking place in Llandudno on the 25th March 2006. I was an ex-student and went on to be employed by Marconi Marine for 30 years. We have no formal society (and no membership fees) and are united through our website –

We presently have over 200 ex-students (from the 1930s to the 1970s) registered on the website, from various parts of the world. Many of them joined Marconi – George Johnson MBE, past president of Marconi Veterans, was a student in the 1930s and has attended our reunions. Joanna Greenlaw is another name you may recognise.

The main Wireless College website is done by David Baker, another ex-student. He and I made contact over 30 years after leaving the college in the late 1960s and the website came into being. I do a ‘Chronicles’ section where, among other things, I have some pictures of Marconi beer mats which might be of some interest –

At the last reunion one chap flew in from Australia for the weekend and another came from the USA.

If there are any ex-students out there they can find information about the college on the website, or if they don’t have internet access they can contact me by telephone on 01745 570321 and be added to our non-email mailing list.

Sandford Mill Museum

There will be an Open Day at the museum on Saturday 22nd April, International Marconi Day, from 10 am to 5 pm, free admission. One of the principal features this year will be a new exhibition in the Marconi broadcasting hut. As usual, the Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society will be participating.

John W Sutherland CBE, MA – a full and active life

sutherland_thumbThe death occurred on 1st November 2005 at Stow-cum-Quy in Cambridgeshire of John W Sutherland who for many years was Managing Director of Marconi Radar Systems, situated at the old Crompton site in Writtle Road, Chelmsford.

John Sutherland was educated at Queens College Cambridge from 1941-42 and 1946-48, graduating with a BA in 1947 and MA in 1949. He was a Radar Officer in the Royal Navy between 1942 and 1946, serving in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. After graduating, he served an engineering apprenticeship and became a radar development engineer with Metropolitan Vickers. Whilst there, he worked on the receiver system for a radar which became known as Orange Yeoman, one of the equipments which MRSL inherited after the GEC EEC merger.

He joined Marconi as a radar research engineer at Baddow in 1954, working on the receivers for Passive Detection, and, with considerable involvement in the PD trials, spent a large amount of his time in a hut at the 200 ft level of the Baddow CH tower. He became a project manager in 1956, Manager Defence Projects in 1962 and, following divisional reorganisation in 1965, was appointed Manager Radar Division. Within months of its reorganisation, Radar Division had the largest order book that it had ever held, with the contracts for NATO refurbishment.

As a result of the GEC EEC merger, Marconi Radar Systems Ltd (MRSL) was created to be responsible for the radar activities of AEI, Elliott and Marconi. The company comprised three establishments at Leicester, two at Gateshead as well as Baddow and Writtle Road and three test sites, with John its Managing Director from 1969-83.
John always considered it important to have a radar system in development, to meet potential customers needs and to protect the business against the fluctuations in defence radar procurement. One of the first projects that John initiated resulted from lunch time meetings in the Running Mare, where John, Ellis Robinson (Engineering Manager) and Roy Simons (Technical Director) planned the implementation of the S600 series, which won a Queen’s Award, (central management never signed the development proposal!). The Martello series, which sold world wide, was the final example.

The radar business flourished under John’s leadership, the SEAWOLF GWS25 radar missile system providing large and continuing business.

It was the Defence Review in 1982 that resulted in John’s departure. The MOD cancelled the naval destroyer programme and with it the SEADART 909 radar programme at Leicester. John was appointed Vice Chairman of the Marconi Company in 1982, and he retired from Marconi in 1983.

From 1983 to the early 1990s he was Director of Acorn Computer Group plc, Director MTI Managers Limited (venture capital), and Chairman/Director/Consultant to several high-tech companies. He was President of the Electronic Engineering Association 1980-81 and was awarded a CBE for services to export in 1980.

John moved to Stow-cum-Quy following retirement from Marconi and was actively involved in village life. On the parish council, and chairman for eight years, he was influential in getting affordable housing built in the village. He was a member and treasurer of the Church Building Trust, and the church’s Millennium clock was greatly the result of his endeavours.

In recent times John fought very hard with others to retain the Marconi Archives in Chelmsford. He established a close relationship with Princess Elettra Marconi and was instrumental in getting her involved in this struggle. He was very upset when the archives were finally moved to Oxford University.

Bawdsey Radar Group

Bawdsey Radar Group was formed in September 2003. Its aim is to restore the transmitter block and create an exhibition at Bawdsey as a fitting tribute to the work that was done there to make radar an operational reality. The transmitter block was included in the BBC 2 Restoration Series 2004. This generated a lot of publicity and interest in the group, which has prompted it to produce an oral history of Bawdsey and radar from the mid 1930s to the 1960s.

This project has received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and they have recently started the interviews. They are interested in hearing from people with experience of Bawdsey in that period (especially during the war). They are working with the Defence Electronics History Society (DEHS) on the project. The results of the talks will be maintained at Suffolk and Essex Record Offices and at the National Archive. They also aim to produce a short booklet of interview extracts, a DVD of video clips and a schools package.

If you have any stories about working on radars at Bawdsey, please contact David Heath, Bawdsey Radar Group Oral History Project, 57 Longmead Avenue, Great Baddow, Chelmsford CM2 7EG, telephone 01245 471488

Further information about the group and its programme for 2006 can be found on the website at

Baddow Research 1939


On the rear of this photo – an inkjet print supplied by Peter Turrall – is written ‘Baddow Research 1939’. Can anyone identify the location and any of the individuals shown here? So far I have the following information from Roy Simons.

I suggest that this photo was in fact taken at Writtle, in front of the west side huts in about 1939 showing those engineers who were being moved to Baddow and elsewhere. I did not get to Baddow until 1943 but many of those on the right hand side of the picture were still there.

If the photo had been of Baddow staff in 1939, I am sure that Robb, Swift, Eckersley, Kemp, Fewings, Plaistowe, Lea, Parkin, Murphy, Tweed and Rust would have been in the group, all of whom I would recog­nise. The first people to move to Baddow in 1938 were the TV research group under Kemp. They occupied the hut which subsequently became the carpenters shop before moving into Room 121.

I recognise a number of faces in the picture, but I can name only a few, all of whom, apart from Wassell, were in Armstrong’s receiver section that occupied rooms 102, 123A and 123B . From the left, front row, are 5 ER Burroughes, 6 HJH Wassell, 7 RB Armstrong, 14 C Percy Beanland, 15 FE Sainsbury, 16 C Peter Cooper. Second row: 4 JK Todd? 14 LJ Van Rooyan. Back row: 9 Dr George L Grisdale, 14 Mervyn M Morgan, 15 ? Watts?

I have the impression that most of those on the left side of the picture were transmitter people and never got to Baddow but went to Building 46 in New Street.

Another memory of the Suitcase Set

Frank Whybrow

I read with interest the article about suitcase sets. When working in Test I was sent to Parson’s Green to carry out mechanical and wiring checks on suitcase sets. For the wiring check we used a device called laughingly an ‘Oxometer’. The test consisted of plugging connectors into valve sockets and the machine would circuit check automatically. Any faults found could then be rectified.

On returning to Parson’s Green after a weekend home the place had been burnt down, the building being an old wooden barracks.

On my return to New Street I was sent to War Office test under a Mr Jacobi, where the sets were tested. They came valved up with EF50s, the cases themselves were made up of receiver, transmitter, and a multipurpose power supply, morse key and aerial. The receivers etc were all put into long biscuit-type tins complete with lids. A later version had a separate case with a hand-cranked battery charger.

I remember working all over Christmas getting the last consignment ready for despatch.

Hope this will be of some interest.

PS: A suitcase set was shown in the TV programme ‘Tricks of War’.

Regretably, as I was attempting to contact Frank by phone to clarify one or two details, I was phoned by his daughter to tell me he died on the 6th January . Ed.

A number of interesting items about the World War 2 era were submitted by Peter Helsdon in response to the appeal for more copy.  I have chosen to include this one.  Of the other two items, the first is a copy of the personal message from the chairman, Admiral Grant, to all Marconi employees giving advice on actions to be taken in the event of a German invasion, dated August 1942 (other memories of the Admiral’s visit elsewhere in this issue.).

The second item is entitled ‘Auxiliaries Anonymous’ and is in fact a chapter in ‘The Book of Chelmsford’ by Gilbert Torrey, a very interesting read. This chapter deals with local involvement in the British resistance organisation which would have been activated in the event of an invasion and subsequent occupation of this country.  It outlines the network of cells that comprised the organisation, and homes in on the cells in the Chelmsford area, in particular the Chelmsford cell itself.  With one exception all the members of this cell were Marconi employees.  As it exists in a published book, anyone interested can request a copy from Essex Libraries, or attempt to find one from a second-hand bookseller.  It was published in 1985 (and so inevitably out of print) by Barracuda Books Ltd of Buckingham, ISBN 0860232655.

Dad’s Army – or 211 (101 Essex Home Guard) Z AA Battery, RA?

Peter Helsdon

We raw recruits were being given arms drill by Sgt X in front of Marconi House. Our first lesson was to stay alert and to come to attention smartly on command. After a few WW1 Parade Ground ‘SHUNs’ followed by ‘STAND EASY’, he wandered a few steps in the direction of the platoon captain, only to swing round with another ‘SHUN’ to catch us sleeping. Unfortunately the second time he tried this, his false teeth shot out onto the parade ground, to the merriment of the troops and the total loss of discipline. This episode prompted the question, was it really like ‘Dad’s Army’?

I met Sgt X in Southborough Rd only a few weeks ago, still hale and hearty, well into his eighties.

Later some of us were posted to ‘J’ Company, with HQ in Mildmay Road where St Johns’ Ambulance is now. Here we were taught ‘battle drill’ with a great assortment of weapons, such as – Browning automatic rifles, Sten guns, Blacker Bombards, spigot mortars, rifle grenades, hand grenades, sticky bombs, and plastic explosives.

The most frightening thing was going on parade in the pitch dark to guard the ammunition dump at the drill hall in Market Road. The problem was the fixed bayonet waving about just in front of your nose held by the rank in front. This worry was resolved when incendiary bombs hit the dump, small arms ammunition went off for hours afterwards, like a firework display. The next most worrying thing was the sausage cooked for breakfast while under canvas at weekend training camps. I didn’t fancy any, but everyone else came out in spots and some missed the Sunday parade.

In late 1942, probably as a decision resulting from the bombing of Marconi’s on the morning of May 9th 1941, there was a dramatic development, which has not had much publicity. One evening I was watching a film at the Select cinema, suddenly there was an alarming hissing roar from outside. As it quickly died away it was obviously going up, not coming down. Later I learnt that it was the Chelmsford Home Guard Anti-Aircraft ‘Z’ Rocket Battery in action for the first time. On the way home afterwards I saw a German plane caught in a crisscross of searchlight beams towards Dunmow. As I watched, that part of the sky erupted in a cube of fire about 400 yards in extent, it was quite shattering in effect. I later heard that the another Home Guard ‘Z’ Battery shared the credit with an RAF night-fighter.

Soon afterwards the rest of the Chelmsford Home Guard was reorganised and many Marconi men then spent one night in eight on duty at the new ‘Z’ Rocket Battery in Central Park. Initial training took place at 185 London Road, followed by live firing out to sea at Walton on the Naze.

In Central Park there were 64 twin rocket projectors, organised in four troops Able, Baker, Charlie and Dog, located on the open area bounded by the river, the lake, Park Road and the then cattle market. Two GL radar cabins operated by ATS girls were sited on the other side of the river in the cricket ground. These cabins were linked to our ops room near Park Road.

Each projector could fire two 3” anti-aircraft rockets having a maximum altitude of 19,000 ft and a ground range of 10,000 yards (5.7 miles). The heavy finned rockets were about six feet long and each had an adjustable nose fuse to be set to explode the warhead at the correct altitude. Two men manned each projector. The commands for altitude, bearing, elevation, loading, etc came over a sound-powered intercom from the operations room to a headphone worn by No 1, who relayed the orders to No 2. Each man set a fuse, No 2 loaded the rockets onto their guide rails and pulled them down onto the electrical firing pins and then set the elevation wheel. The firing pins were connected via safety switches to a firing handle and a 6 volt dry battery. No 1 set the bearing and reported ‘Able 3 ready’; on the command ‘Fire’, he depressed the firing handle. If the rockets misfired, we had to wait 20 minutes before unloading.

The flight path of a rocket is quite different to the simple maths curve governing the ballistics of ordinary AA guns. Our operations room used a plotting table, and a prediction device like a three dimensional slide rule, to give us fuse settings etc from the radar data fed in by the ATS teams. The ‘slide-rule’ scales were prepared from a series of 3” rocket flight tests optically tracked and recorded by a team of ordnance experts sent to the clear skies of the West Indies.

Area command was provided by a master control centre at Sandon that covered all the local AA batteries, including the heavy 3.7” guns down on the Meads and the Bofors along the A12. Defence of local airspace was shared with night fighters, so that quite often we could not engage, but the battery did go into action and claimed hits on several occasions, usually single intruders. One of these came down in flames at Great Leighs.

One night a wave of bombers came in over Clacton and followed the railway line to Chelmsford. Here they dropped flares and then incendiary bombs. The battery went into action several times. One Home Guard was commended for dealing with an incendiary bomb that had hit his rocket dump. In Chelmsford there were many fires, I saw the prison and adjacent houses burning. That night sixty Chelmsford people were killed, many injured and twelve buses destroyed. On duty the next night I saw small bomb craters in a line from the south east corner of the site and across the river towards the radar cabins. This could have been the time a bomb splinter put the Radar out of action and targets had to be engaged visually.

One HG member was renowned for his near miss. One night there were 126 rockets aimed and fired south but his two lonely rounds went north due to a 180º bearing error and just cleared the top of the railway station, but then, it was only Dad’s Army.

When there were no enemy aircraft about, we slept in three large Nissen huts where the present bowling green is now. Site services were provided by regular army staff. Morning tea was made by them in large buckets marked T for each hut. The other buckets, marked P, were emptied down manholes behind the huts, where the present conveniences are located. A very good free supper and breakfast was provided in a canteen near the operations room, as were the occasional concerts given by the Blue Ramblers dance-band. The supper was usually fish and chips, the breakfast porridge and egg, the great mystery was fried spam, was it fish or meat?

In 1944 the flying bombs came in too fast for us to load and fire, we had to leave them to the Mosquito and Typhoon fighters. The ‘Z’ batteries had come to the end of their useful life. We had the standing down parade of the 6th Essex Battal­ion Home Guard on Sunday 3rd December 1944.

I would like to thank the following ex-Home Guards for their help in refining my recollections of the above events : HJ Ecclestone, E Cranston, RH Oddy, D Lloyd, DJ Amos, CA Poulton.

MIMCO Singapore – 1942 to 1945

Way back in 2004, from his home in Brecon, Huw Jones, who, until his retirement, was Director of Personnel Services at New Street, sent Peter a copy of a fascinating document. In his covering letter he says:-

In clearing out some paperwork I came across the enclosed typed sheets.  I believe the story they tell would be of interest to many veterans and, if you do not already have a copy, would be worth while preserving with other Marconi records.  The original copy came from Peter Foulds and a copy was given to me by whom and when I do not recall – it may even have been you. Hope it may be of use/interest.

Please give my regards to all those who remember me and if any of them are down this way they would be very welcome. It’s a beautiful part of the world.

As a postscript he adds:-

The last 3 paragraphs of the report speak volumes about how the Company used to be, and include, in the final paragraph, a classic example of English understatement.

The document is a report to MIMCO General Management in London in October 1945 by Mr D Robertson, Manager of the MIMCO Singapore Depot, detailing the circumstances surrounding the departure of the depot’s European staff (himself and Mr H Thompson) from Singapore four days prior to the island being over-run by the Japanese in February 1942, and of his subsequent experiences – shipborne attempts to escape, the death of Mr Thompson after the ship they were on came under fire from a Japanese destroyer, capture by the Japanese and subsequent internment, and of survival in dreadful conditions in a number of internment camps until the end of the war.  Unfortunately, at eight pages it is far too long to include (and one of the pages is missing), but I felt it was worth giving a flavour of it in this issue.  This is one of the items that we shall definitely try to make available on the website, or by photocopy and post to those not internet enabled.

So, a paragraph or two about their departure from the depot, a couple on capture by the Japanese, and the final three paragraphs to which Huw refers.

Having arranged on the 11th February, at very short notice, to board a Mansfield & Co ship, the Redang, bound for Batavia, Robertson and Thompson had to vacate their office in Robinson Road in reasonable order.  ‘It should be emphasised that many people, including ourselves, were influenced by Government’s re-iteration of the ‘ Singapore shall not fall’ slogan, and much was made of the Governor’s wife remaining here.  When doubts arose towards the end it was too late to procure labour to dig holes or otherwise attempt to secrete papers and documents, etc.  The streets were empty, except for fleeting glimpses of civilians hurrying from one shelter to another, and practically all labour refused to work outside. In the circumstances, and in view of the urgent necessity of getting aboard the ship without delay, the depot was abandoned on the early evening of the 11th, Mr Thompson and myself taking a mattress, some food and a suitcase of clothing each.  At the same time I gave the staff clerk an authority to dispose of ESD lamps, batteries and other wasting assets, and told him to hide what papers he could. I learn, since my return, that beyond instructing the clerk to forward them details regarding this company, its officials, staff, stock, etc the Japanese took no further action apart from clearing the staff from the premises.  I understand the staff took what work they could find here and there during the Japanese occupation…

Although we were rushed aboard on the evening of the 11th, the ship was held back for some Air Force personnel (who did not arrive) and did not sail until early on the morning of the 12th.  The captain, a Danish subject named Rasmussen, aged apparently between 60 and 70, said the Naval authorities had given him a course to the entrance of the Banka Straits which took us right out to sea.  Previously, so far as I know, small vessels, especially those with speeds of only a few knots, had been hugging the coast line.  After we left, two launches containing deserting troops, mostly Australian, came alongside and boarded the ship after threatening the captain with rifles if he refused to allow them aboard.  This brought the number aboard to about 110, including about six women.

About 10 am the next day, Friday, 13th February, a Japanese seaplane flew over us and dropped one stick of bombs which near-missed. I guessed that the plane would communicate with other forces, either planes or ships, and interviewed the captain about provisioning lifeboats and also making up some sort of boat station list.  Up to then nothing had been done except swing out a lifeboat which was lying chocked-up on the fore deck – this at the speed we were making could easily have been towed astern. When I went up to the bridge I found the captain with signal flags all over the place; I don’t believe he was very conversant with international flag signals and was trying to sort them out. We got so far as a rough distribution of the people amongst the three lifeboats: C&W people with a few others in one, soldiers in another, and the rest of the people and crew In the third – the three ship’s officers to be one in each boat.  To this the captain agreed and I was on my way down from the bridge when several Japanese destroyers appeared on the port bow and, after turning to starboard, they opened fire – the captain neither putting up the white flag nor stopping the ship.

After firing a few salvoes and within 5 minutes of opening fire the ship was ablaze. Most of the people were forward where the third salvo landed. I was aft (the bridge ladder was on the after side) when the firing commenced and at once, with the assistance of several other people on the after deck, commenced to get the starboard quarter lifeboat (built to carry seventeen passengers) into the water. I think most of the people on deck who were left alive got into this boat – the only one to get away from the ship – the rest of the people either jumping overboard from the forward end of the ship, or being killed by shell fire.

I estimate that about twenty people were in the boat when we pulled away from the ship’s side, and, apart from a few burns here and there I managed to escape injury.  We picked up another thirteen people from the water until the boat was danger ously overloaded.  Amongst these was Mr. Thompson who was pulled over the stem of the lifeboat by one of the Danish members of the crew and myself.

Mr Thompson was seriously injured and died of his injuries eighteen hours later.  Mr Robertson’s escape from the damaged ship was the start of a three and a half year ordeal of capture and internment by the Japanese in a variety of camps in Sumatra, ultimately being repatriated to Singapore by the Royal Australian Air Force in September 1945.  On his return to his house he found that all the furniture had been looted and the house seriously damaged, his only clothes the ones he stood up in.  Here are the final three paragraphs of his report:-

‘I feel I cannot conclude this without some reference to the local staff.  In a sense I think we failed them – they relied on us for protection, and only a short while before the end one of them asked me if I thought we could turn back the Japanese and clear them out of Malaya.  I assured him we could – I was sure that many Hurricanes were either here or close at hand, and so on – but all we did in matter of cold fact was to clear out and leave them to it, and I’ve since learned that Singapore was a shambles those last two or three days before it capitulated,

I should also like to express my appreciation of the consideration you have given to my wife during the years of my internment, I have not seen her since February 1st, 1942, but I am hoping she will he able to get here before long.  My Mother died sometime, I think in 1945, but I have had no details yet.

I trust the foregoing will serve to fill in the gap in my service record between February 1942 and September 1945.’

Forty seven years with Marconi’s

Ron Hurrell, ex Radar Division Estimating Department

I had the ambition to follow my father into his retail grocery business, but he recommended that due to the extra work of rationing and collecting coupons, it would be advisable for me to seek an alternative career which might be more beneficial and secure. With the help of our neighbour Bill Pannett, Deputy Manager in the IDO at New Street, he was able to find a position for me. So on Monday, 4th January 1945 I started work as office boy under the guidance of IDO Office Manager, Charles Price (father of Doug Price ex Radar).

By October I was transferred to the Wiring Shop, managed by George Stock and Cecil Myhill, to start my practical career, under Chargehand Jimmy Cowburn. On this day appeared for the first time in the Daily Mirror a cartoon character called ‘ Jimpy’and as I must have resembled him in many ways, someone gave me that nickname and to this day, those unaware of my Christian name still call me Jimpy. That Christmas MWT Managing Director, Admiral Grant, came from London to address his ‘Ships Company’: standing on a dais in the Instrument Shop he thanked the workforce for their hard work and to thunderous applause announced that everyone would receive a Christmas bonus. I received an extra shilling!! (There are two more memories of the Admiral’s visit on page 8 – Ed.)

apprentice_training_thumb In October 1946 the first Marconi Apprentice Training Scheme was launched and I commenced my apprenticeship as an Instrument Maker at Pottery Lane, working in a variety of Nissen huts, a legacy of the war years. Mr Hitchens, the Training Manager at New Street, oversaw Mr Hillman and his team of instructors, gleaned from various areas within Marconi’s, such as Ted Cordery – Wiring Assembly, Charlie (‘File that flat for me’!) Sweetman – Instrument Making, Bob Thrift – Lathes (pictured on right), George Snow – Mills, John Cooper – Turrets, and Jack Whittaker – Sheet Metal.  That winter was a reminder of the contract associated with apprenticeships. Whereas workshops at New Street closed down when employees couldn’t get to work due to heavy falls of snow, apprentices were expected at their daily workplace and I had to make my way from Great Baddow to Pottery Lane on foot.  On one occasion John Cooper gave me a lift on his motor cycle from Longfield Road off Baddow Road (where John still lives), arriving two hours later, and then having to thaw out with the help of coke braziers – the only heating in the huts.  John Atkins (son of Les Atkins, Tool Room Foreman), Bill ‘Baldy’ Brewer, Cyril Chorley, Alan Hart, Colin ‘Dingle’ Humphries, Tony Martin, Dennis Martin, Les Sayer, and Derek Tiffen (later to shine with Chelmsford City Football Club) were part of that first intake.
Click here for larger image

At the end of our first instructional year we went our various ways.  I spent my second year in the Instrument Shop at New Street under Charlie Britten with Jack Stock as chargehand.  In October 1948 I went to the Transmitter Development Labs in Building 46 under Mr. Burdick, Frank Bishop and Frank Newton, working directly with engineer Dennis Hart.

My final move was to join R & D Workshops at Great Baddow in the Instrument/Wiring Assembly Department under Superintendent Bill Bush and Chargehand Fred Leach.  I reached twenty one at the end of my five year apprenticeship and moved into the skilled wage bracket, doubling my apprentice wage.  Within a week I was back to £1 a week as I was off to do National Service in the RAF.  In 1953 after demobilisation I returned to Baddow Workshop and the Assembly Shop with Gordon Denney now Superintendent.  In 1957 the opportunity arose for me to join R & D Planning Department under Office Manager Bill Clayden, a staff position and pensionable! 1960 I became responsible for the planning in the Assembly Shop under the foremanship of Fred Leach.  By 1963 George Williams, now Workshop Superintendent, had been asked by Ray Stiles, Manager, R & D Workshops, to nominate a suitable candidate to join a newly formed R & D Estimating Department.  I accepted the challenge and after a stiff interview with Company Chief Estimator Harry Ashworth, found myself travelling every working day for twelve weeks on the company transport in the capable hands of ex bus driver Clarrie between Basildon and New Street, to learn basic estimating techniques in the Basildon Estimating Department.

In October 1963 four rookie estimators formed the R & D team under Works Estimator Ron Aston, situated in Harry Ashworth’s office area on the fourth floor of Marconi House, then to offices overlooking Section 120 underneath the canteen and finally a permanent base on the second floor of St Mary’s House, Victoria Road, all the time recruiting and training new staff. In 1972 the group, having covered all aspects of work associated with R& D Workshops at Building 29, Great Baddow, WHL and Writtle, was disbanded in a policy change and split down the middle with half the staff joining Communications Estimating Department at New Street and the rest of us setting up a new Radar Estimating Department at Writtle Road, under newly appointed Chief Estimator Les Biggs. Here again, from a handful of estimators in a small office in E Block we grew into a formidable office of sixteen experienced personnel based on the mezzanine floor overlooking the Chelmsford to London railway line. For the next twenty years I was involved with all aspects of manufacturing, budgetary and MOD technical costing on a wide range of radar and associated equipment As an aside, I was seconded to the Training Department together with John Benbow, Planning Manager, to head up and organise a first year Production Introduction Programme for GEC sponsored students studying at Bath and Bradford Universities and Portsmouth Polytechnic, to attend a twelve week course during their summer recess at Writtle Road. Their second rear summer course was spent in the commercial areas and third year in engineering. Throughout they were allotted engineering tutors: Chris Bousfield, Harry Fancy, Clive Gildersleeve, Paul Hibbert, Brian Partridge and Frank Savill, to guide them at Writtle Road. They wrote up an extensive thesis on their three years in industry and together with their academic successes achieved a Masters Engineering Degree. This involvement under industrial conditions was an ideal way of achieving an understanding of what to expect when they joined the Company after University as junior engineers. The programme continued for six years with a new intake each year.

During that time Estimating Manager Les Biggs was awarded an MBE in recognition of his liaison work between Radar Company and MOD Technical Costing Department, an award richly deserved and an honour for office personnel who supported him.

By November 1992 I had the opportunity to retire after 47 years of interesting and rewarding association with various sections of the Marconi Company, an experience I couldn’t have enjoyed if I had gone into retail grocery!

The visit of Admiral Grant, Christmas, 1945

Here are two further memories of Admiral Grant’s visit (2005 edition, page 2), the first from Audrey Bevan –

(For the picture of Admiral Grant Click here.  Note that this copy has been edited slightly to remove scratches and fold marks. – Webmaster)

Just found time to peruse the Newsletter! Very interesting! I was there when Admiral Grant addressed us as his ‘Ship’s Company’. So was my father Richard Bevan.

Impossible to recognise anyone from this contrasty print – will the copy handed to you be available at the Reunion? (It wasn’t, but it will be this year. Ed.)

…and the second from Mrs J Mason.

I started work at Marconi’s in 1942, at the age of 14, and stayed for 46 years.  I well remember the assemblies which Admiral Grant had in the Instrument Shop.  Those who were not able to get there listened over the tannoy.  They were quite morale boosters.  He would tell us what we had achieved on production, and the bonus we would receive at the end of the year.

Some more Marconi bibliography

Jack Mayhew, who joined MWT in 1950 has written from his retirement home in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa with the following list of books. He acquired the titles whilst researching a book on the history of telecommunications. He says: I have discovered that writing a book is a damn sight easier than getting it published!

A History of Wireless Telegraphy by J J Fahie.

First published in 1899 by Blackwood, subsequently reprinted in 2000 by Ayer Co in the USA.  Interesting for two of its appendices; one is a reprint of Marconi’s patent and the other describes the researches of Professor Hughes.  Bill Baker in his ‘History of the Marconi Company’ virtually dismisses Hughes but in fact his research in 1879 was reputed by some to have discovered Hertzian waves before Hertz, the coherer before Branly and wireless telegraphy before Marconi.  He didn’t publish until 1899 just before his death and then only at the behest of Fahie.

Marconi and Wireless by R N Vyvyan.

It was originally published in 1933 as Wireless over Thirty Years by Routledge & Kegan Paul, and republished under the new title by EP Publishing. in 1974.

Vyvyan was of course one of Marconi’s well-known engineers.

Marconi & the discovery of Wireless by Leslie Reade. Published in 1963 by Faber & Faber.

Radio communications in Canada – an historical and technological survey by Sharon A Babiaan.  Published 1992 by the National Museum of Science & Technology, Ottawa.

The Communications Miracle by John Bray.  Published 1995 by Plenum Press.

Whisper in the Air – Marconi the Canada years 1902-1946 by Mary K McLeod. Published 1992 by Lancelot Press.

The Marconi Scandal by Frances Donaldson. Published 1962 by Rupert Hart-Davis.

And here are two titles from the editor’s collection.

Early Radio. In Marconi’s footsteps 1894 to 1920, by Peter R Jensen. Published in 1994 by Kangaroo Press.

2MT Writtle – the Birth of British Broadcasting by T.R. Wander. Published by Capella Publications in 1988

Marconi football referees

football_thumbJust after distribution of the 2004 newsletter the editor received a letter from Ron Hurrell concerning the photo of a group of Marconi football referees appearing in it.  The list of names in the caption was incomplete, and with his letter it was possible to fill in the gaps.  However, there was no room to include this in the ‘05 newsletter, but we can do so now. In March 2004 Ron wrote:

What a pleasant surprise to see in the 2004 issue of the Marconi Veterans’ newsletter a photo of football referees in the Marconi Companies.  Perhaps Charlie Rand passed it on to you?

When I worked at R & D Estimating in St Mary’s House during the 60s, Dusty Miller the editor of the magazine and his staff were located on the floor above, and I got involved in producing an article about Marconi employees who turned out at weekends to referee football matches from club to county standard.  The article was published in the Christmas edition of 1969 volume 20 number 5.  So you can now fill in the blank names you were missing.  Sadly as far as I know Fred King and Charlie Brown in the photo are no longer with us.

Below left is the group photograph with the complete list of names.  Above, is Ron in action refereeing a Marconi interdepartmental cup final in a photograph that headed the article in 1969 that he refers to.  Ron’s letter also sent us a list of names, which we have omitted, of Marconi referees who were instrumental in the formation of the Essex Olympian Football League in 1966, later changed to the Essex International League.  His letter went on:

Len Liddle was the founder chairman, I was honary secretary, Charles Rand fixture secretary and Gordon Evans came a year later as treasurer, serving many years. I ‘lasted’ five years and retired due to my two children needing my support but eventually came back in 1984 for another 17 eventful years. In 1966 the League consisted of twelve clubs from within Essex, and gradually enlarged to today’s three Premier Divisions and three Reserve Divisions. As a VIP I receive the results every week to keep me in touch. As a fitting record for Charlie Rand’s input for 34 years he was honoured with the office of patron.

image001Marconi referees, back row, left to right: Derek Banes, Baddow; Peter Evans, Baddow; Peter Crisp, New Street; Brian Beetwell, EEV; Peter Parkhurst, Widford; Robin Lunniss, Waterhouse Lane; Ken Murton, Basildon.

Middle row: Peter Simmons, Basildon; John Grottick, Basildon; Roger Wiseman, Marine Company; Charles Rand, New Street; Tony Harrington, New Street; Gordon Evans, Baddow; Fred King, EEV; Ron Hurrell, New Street.

Front row: John Russell, Baddow; Charlie Brown, Writtle; Len Liddle, ECFA Group 6 Officer, ex-referee; Bert Gilbert, Waterhouse Lane; Don Mott, New Street; John Pickering, New Street.

Click on image for a larger picture

I heard the loud bang!

Joan Wigley joined MWT when she left school at 14½ and remained with the company until early retirement in 1981.  In her time she was responsible for staff records, apprentice and staff training administration at New Street, Marconi College , Baddow and EEV Waterhouse Lane.  From 1942 to 1943, under compulsory call-up to industry for females aged 20 she carried out testing of components in Test Department. Recently she wrote about her experiences for an essay competi­tion: the following extract is her memory of serving in Marconi’s ARP Gas Decontamination Section during the war years.

I had to learn all the gasses and treatment needed if gas was used in warfare. We rehearsed in protective clothing and Service gasmasks and had to test them in a van of gasses!  On call duties each time the air raid siren went during working hours, off I went up the yard to the underground shelter with my respirator and tin hat to await the ‘all clear’ then back to work. I was on call one evening a week 6pm – 12.  Many a time I cycled through Chelmsford during a raid with tin hat on and respirator on my handlebars! Marconi House had some bombing and one day the windows were broken and several of the staff on various floors formed a human chain and passed buckets and baskets of broken glass etc down from top floor to ground!  Little did we know at the time that an unexploded bomb was just a few yards below us! We were sent home at once.  A few hours later it had been detonated. At home I heard the loud bang!

The CH Tower at Baddow

Roy Simons

This tower, which is of steel and 360 feet high, is one of the three transmitting antenna towers originally erected at Canewdon in 1937, one of the first 20 East Coast Chain Home (CH.) (AMES Type I) stations which provided flood- light radar early warning and height finding, operating on frequencies from 20 to 30 MHz.  The curtain arrays which these towers supported were supplied by the Marconi Company.  It became operational in mid 1938 and continued throughout the war, but, from 1940, when the Germans introduced jamming and from 1942 when jamming was much more intense, and 200 MHz and 600 MHz equipments became available, the significance was reduced.  Also, the Germans, in 1944, used the transmissions from our CH stations to pick up RAF aircraft, using bi-static techniques. This resulted in our ‘jittering’ of the transmissions and the possibility of switching off the CH transmitters, when RAF aircraft were airborne.

There was considerable policy debate at the highest level in the Air Ministry after the war on the future radar defence system.  After many variations, as late as 1950, 26 CH (subsequently revised to 28) stations were to be retained, but Canewdon was not one of these.  These refurbished CH stations were completed by April 1953.

With the arrival of the Type 80 radars, which were being installed at GCI stations, it became clear that these new stations had greater and better coverage than the CH stations, which were then progressively taken out of service.

When the Blue Streak missile project was in progress, Baddow received the contract to design the radio guidance system. In order to provide a simulation of a receding missile at a high angle of elevation, this CH tower from Canewdon was dis­mantled and erected (by a firm of German riggers) at Baddow in 1956.  However, in 1957 the guidance for Blue Streak was changed to inertial guidance and the tower became redundant for its original purpose on this site. So possibly were the many engineers on that Project.  However Dr Eastwood implemented the development of commercial 50cm radar based on the Type 11.  This new radar work employed the ‘spare’ engineers and became the S232 and then the S264 radars.

It was almost immediately used as a radar link tower to bring signals from Rivenhall and Bushy Hill into Baddow using the 360 foot platforms.

Subsequently the ‘Winkle’ project required, in 1964, the establishing of a long base line from Bushy Hill, where a high speed aerial was installed, to RRE at Great Malvern using the ‘Blue Yeoman’ (experimental Type 85) radar.  The tower, with equipment in a hut at the 200 foot platform and a reflector at 360 feet was a relay point to two further repeater sites to RRE.

See The GEC Journal of Research Vol 3 No 2 1985 for a detailed description of CH by the late Bruce Neale of Marconi Radar Systems Ltd.

The tower is an historical monument to our country’s technological past, but not many would claim that it enhances the locality aesthetically.  Indeed, a letter in the Essex Chronicle a couple of years ago suggested that it was redundant, an eyesore, and should be demolished. Is it still in use at Baddow, or is it now completely redundant?  The mast at Bawdsey was dismantled some years ago.  Other than the one at Great Bromley how many more are there around the country?  Is it under threat?  Does it matter? Ed .


In the last newsletter, pages 8 and 9 carried reminiscences by Ron Kitchen.  In his first paragraph he remembered during his first wartime posting in the RAF at West Drayton doing acceptance testing on the first 1kW VHF transmitters and nearly coming to a sticky end as a result of the designer’s failure to interlock the door to the lecher bars, and he hoped that that designer was not Bill Barbone. Bill Barbone would like it to be known that he was definitely not that designer.

Stanley Fisher sent very a brief note to Barry Powell promising a recent picture of him outside the New Street entrance for the newsletter. His note went on to say:

Walked through the door there August 1936 for a job interview with Dr S Long – started in the Standards Room Sept 1936. Now 83 – number one son Roy Fisher is at New Street still.  Congrats on your info about the museum affair.  Sorry state!

Also in the last newsletter we included on page 11 a photograph of the Marconi Fire Brigade, with a plea for a date and the names of the individuals in the picture.  Alan Munday and C Leveridge responded with a list of names and the date.  The photo first appeared in the November 1959 edition ‘The Marconi Companies and their People’ (price sixpence and printed on high quality heavyweight art paper!) accompanying a report of the Inter-works Fire Brigades competition for the John Rogers Shield at Waterhouse Lane.  In the photo with the John Rogers Shield and other trophies are, back row (left to right): Arthur Leveridge, Percy Holland, Jock Muir, Graham Murdy, Trevor Lodge, Bill Rose, Bert Bartlett, Ninian Pugh.  Middle row: R Traylor, Norman Williams, G McIlveen, Jan Frewer, Peter Buers, Bill Nurse, Alan Munday, Bill Pain.  Front row: T Hull, Chief Officer Harry McCarthy, Deputy Chief Officer Bill Munday, Reg Fisher

Baddow and the development of TV

Doug (DA) Paynter

ob_van_thumbAn awful lot is written on the subject of the early history of the Marconi Company, but very little is heard of its activities in more recent years.

I was invited to join the company by Sir Eric Eastwood in 1956 and started work at the Research Labs at Great Baddow where I remained until retirement in 1984. At about that time the final stages of development of the Mk 4 studio TV camera were taking place. Nothing has had a greater effect on society than the introduction of TV.

The first transmission of high definition TV took place in the 1930s at Alexandra Palace with two rival systems, Baird and Marconi EMI. The latter system was superior and was adopted for regular transmissions until the outbreak of war in 1939. The Marconi contribution to this installation was the innovative vhf transmitter. When this finally closed down the transmitter ended up in the foyer of Building 46, New Street.

When post-war TV transmission resumed in 1946 the Company planned to manufacture complete systems including studio equip­ment. It was part of this programme which resulted in the camera development at Baddow.  When I arrived in 1956, studios had been set up in two garages at Baddow: they are still there.
I understand at the peak of production 40% of the world’s TV studios used Marconi Mk 4 cameras.  Marconi became a leading player in the world of television. The Propagation Group in Baddow, in conjunction with the BBC, planned the new network of TV stations across the UK and the fm broadcast network.
Click on image for a larger picture

A very tenuous connection with the adjacent article by Doug Paynter: he does mention the Marconi OB units used at Princess Diana’s wedding. Paul Marshall, formerly of TDU Waterhouse Lane, has completely renovated this former Tyne-Tees Television OB van and its equipment: he brought it to the Broadcasting Division Studio reunion last October.  Enthusiastic engineers, Paul and his wife have obtained quantities of Marconi TV equipment over some years, updated it and fitted some of it into OB vehicles.

The TV broadcast of Princess Diana’s wedding was greatly assisted by Marconi personnel and OB units hired by the BBC for the occasion. Studios were created at Waterhouse Lane and were used to train camera crews for the new ITV network.

The above is just one example of the contribution of Baddow to the society that we know today, others include the UK radar defence system, military communications and many more.

Incidentally, Dr Eastwood expressed the view to me that work should be fun.  As part of this philosophy he created the Marconi Sailing Club on the Blackwater which is still thriving today.

The creation of the big picture (or, how policy is really made)

In the beginning was the plan and then came the assumptions and the assumptions were without form and the plan was completely without substance and the darkness fell upon the face of the engineers. And they spake unto their team leaders saying: ‘It is a crock of ordure and it stinketh.’ And the team leaders went unto their project manager and said: ‘It is a pail of dung and none may abide the odour thereof.’

And the Project Manager went to the Engineering Manager and said: ‘It is a container of excrement and it is very strong, such that none may abide it.’

And the Engineering Manager went to the Technical Manger and said unto him: ‘It is a vessel of fertilizer and none can abide its strength.’

And Engineering Manager went to the Divisional Manager and said unto him: ‘It contains that which aids plant growth and is very strong.’

And the Divisional Manager went to the General Manager and said unto him: ‘It promoteth growth and it is very powerful.’

And the General Manager went to the Chairman and said unto him: ‘This powerful new plan will actively promote the growth and efficiency of the company.’

And lo, the Chairman looked upon the plan and saw it was good.

Sent in by S P Holt.  It arrived in RAF uniform but was demobbed by the editor before setting it on the page

The Marconi Statue still awaiting an appropriate site

Peter Turrall


Unveiled by Princess Elettra some three years ago, the Marconi statue, commissioned by Chelmsford Borough Council, still stands in the bowels of the Essex Record Office in Navigation Road Chelmsford. This is right off the beaten track and only a few people ever see it.

In an effort to get the statue in a more prominent position, we invited the cabinet member of Chelmsford Borough Council for Arts and Entertainment to be our guest at the annual Marconi Veterans’ Reunion earlier this year. In his speech Councillor Christopher Kingsley, a one-time Marconi graduate apprentice and engineer, outlined the council’s plans for the statue to be erected in the centre of Chelmsford High Street near the TSB Bank.  He received loud applause from the 250 Veterans present.
Following this meeting, I was asked to be the MVA’s representative on a small committee designing the plinth and also the stand on which the statue would be placed. The proposed details and costs were submitted to a pre-meeting of the cabinet and were turned down with a comment that an alternative site near the Essex Records Office or where the old bus station stood should be offered. I attended the next meeting with the planning department of the council, and advised them that the alternative sites had no appeal whatsoever to ex-Marconi people, and that Chelmsford should be really proud of the work Guglielmo Marconi and his employees did in Chelmsford, and the wealth it brought not only to the council, but all the local businesses and shops.

Furthermore, I advised them that Marconi led the world in electronic communication, and radar, satellite, airborne, research, communication, and many other inventions and manufacture were carried out in Chelmsford.  Marconi was the last bastion of engineering in this town.  Why does not the council recognise these and other achievements by local industries? There is no tourist information centre, and for a county town this is shameful, as visitors arriving have no knowledge of the achievements or activities of the town itself.

A very strong letter was sent on behalf of our Veterans’ Association to the leader of the council and copied to senior executives protesting at this sleight on the achievements of our Founder and former employees, and requesting that the statue be placed as originally agreed in the centre of the town. We await the leader of the council’s comments.

KK Pang – our man In Hong Kong

kk_pangSadly we report the death of Kuo Kuan Pang (better known as KK) who died in his sleep in Hong Kong one month short of his 102nd birthday.

KK was for many years our contact in Hong Kong when he worked for the old Marconi Hong Kong organisation.  When this company ceased operations, KK joined a new set up under the name of Marchilem and still maintained contact with UK-based Marconi units and especially with MCSL, MRSL and EEV.  His son Francis (better known as Jimmy) who lives in Chelmsford went to the funeral in Hong Kong where he was joined by his sister who travelled from Australia where she lives.

KK was a real pioneer who in the very early days of wireless worked alongside Guglielmo Marconi when he set up a factory in Shanghai. KK worked in the factory as manager before fleeing the country when difficult times were encountered.  He came to Hong Kong where he married his wife and settled down to a family life.  He lost his wife, who at one time was secretary to the manager of Hong Kong Office, Mr. Richards, some five years ago.

KK was President of the Marconi Veterans’ Association in 1979, an office of which he was extremely proud and very grateful for the honour bestowed on him as an employee of well over fifty years service.

Our condolences have been sent to his family.


Obituaries have been posted on the web site at various times over the past year.  The latest deaths notified are shown in this index.  To view earlier notifications please go to the Archive.

Newsletter 2005

Number 7
January 2005


I am sure you remember last years headline in Newsletter number six.  “Death of Marconi Veterans Newsletter”.  Well you saved it, at least for this issue and the next by sending in stories and other information.  Many thanks to all of you who have contributed.  Because of the excellent response some stories are held over until 2006.  I appeal to all Veterans to continue to send in stories, photographs and any other useful information, which can be shared with fellow Veterans.  We send out each year nearly 1500 copies of this Newsletter and there should be enough stories available for many of you to put pen to paper and send in to the Editor.

I have edited this Newsletter for the last seven issues but this is my last one.  I find that my other interests have been severely curtailed over the last few years and therefore I have decided to “hang up my boots”.  No doubt another Editor will be found and to him or her I wish every success.  I have enjoyed very much piecing together the news which I know interests many Veterans, however, many times I have felt frustrated at the lack of interest by not receiving good stories.  Perhaps one of you would like to take on this task of Editor and if you are interested, please drop a line to our new Secretary, Barry Powell who is featured later in this Newsletter.

New Veterans Secretary Takes Over

Bernard Hazelton, who has been the Marconi Veterans Secretary for the last sixteen years, has handed over the reins to Selenia Communications employee, Barry Powell who is based at Marconi House, New Street Chelmsford.  Bernard and his ever-helpful friend and part-time secretary Carole Irvine were based at the old Marconi Research Laboratories at Gt. Baddow.  Marconi Veterans are exceedingly grateful for the work both Bernard and Carole have put in over many years.  The stories of Bernard and Barry are printed below together with a photograph of the two at the “handover” ceremony.

New Veterans Secretary Barry Powell (L) receiving congratulations from Retiring Secretary Bernard Hazelton

Musings of the Retiring Secretary

After retiring from Marconi Marine in 1988 following a long career in the Personnel Department both at New Street, then the new building in Westway, I found time hanging rather heavily on my hands.  I had tried a couple of part-time jobs without much satisfaction until I heard that the Secretary of MVA had to retire for family reasons.  I felt my long association with the Companies and experience could be of benefit to the MVA and applied for the job.  I was interviewed by the Chairman, Robin Seaton and “Father of the Association”, Alf (Ben) Burnell, who accepted me.  I had a short hand-over by the Secretary, Sid Smith, in the office which was in the old Social Club/School building on the corner of New Street and Victoria Road.  We were under the control of the Chelmsford Services Unit of the Marconi Company and my letter of appointment confirming the start date of 28th August 1989 was sent by John Neate, Personnel Manager.  We later moved to the cottage at the old Railway Sidings, then to Baddow (two venues).  I have seen many changes, brought about mainly by the decline in the Company fortunes, but the Chairman and Committee Members I have been associated with are excellent people who have worked so hard to make our Association a success.  I feel the future is in good hands and I wish you all good health, happiness and success.  I have been invited to join the Committee which I am very pleased to accept and hope I can still help in any way possible.  I also wish Barry Powell as enjoyable and rewarding a tenure as I have had and feel sure he will be a first class Secretary.

Bernard Hazelton

Who’s this young Upstart, taking over as Secretary?

Um, Er, Are they talking about me?  I suppose they are!

Well let’s dispel one myth anyway.  I am 55, which my son keeps telling me is positively ancient so that gets rid of the “young”.  Mind you, I’m still young enough to stand on the terraces for 90 minutes plus half time in the football season and I will not consider myself as getting old until bits start dropping off!

I was born, at a very early age, in North London, grew up in the Essex countryside and, having made a complete mess of my ‘A’ levels, decided that the then Marconi Company could have the benefit of my inexperience.

I joined in 1968 as a Technician Apprentice and gained an HNC in Electrical & Electronic Engineering.  With the split into two businesses (Radar & Comms), I found myself on the Radar side.  On qualifying, I joined the Installations group working at the PCTA at Baddow and at Rivenhall.  I also did a six-month stint in Abu Dhabi, installing a radar system.  From there, I moved into PDS and then into Sales working for Paul Baird (amongst others).  After a few years with STC at Basildon, I returned as Proposals Manager for the Computer Systems Division of Marconi Communications Systems Ltd. (now Selenia Communications).

I now cost and price the requirements of tenders submitted by Selenia Communications, preparing the various spreadsheets required by the Management to approve bids.

I am married with a son and live on Canvey Island (yes! I know!  Someone’s got to!).  My Wife, Christine, used to be the assistant to the editor of a gardening magazine and is, herself, a keen gardener.  She has offered to help me when things get a bit busy with the annual reunion.

Amongst my hobbies are supporting Canvey Island FC (Nationwide Conference, at last! – after 3 years as runners-up), my music collection, stamp collecting and DIY.  We are members of the National Trust and English Heritage and enjoy visiting their various Houses and Gardens.

We have a static caravan on the North Norfolk coast where we hide out some weekends and I like to collect old postcards of the area, find the location and then try to take an up to date picture as a comparison.

Well, now you know what makes me tick!  (Did I miss out the ‘h’?)

If I have crossed paths with any Veteran, I would be delighted to hear from them (unless it’s about that fiver, in which case, it must have been somebody else!)

On a more serious note, I would like to thank Bernard for his efforts over the last 15 years and also his help during the handover period.  I just hope I can do the job as well as he has!

I can be contacted on 01245 275234 (direct line) Monday to Friday from 7.30 am to 4.00 p.m. (3.30pm Friday) or through this website.  My mail address is: Barry Powell, Secretary, Marconi Veterans’ Association, Room 201, Marconi House, Selenia Communications Limited, New Street, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 1PL

Do You Remember This?

Ralph Worricker at the Studio/Transmitter Annual Re-Union held in early October handed this photograph to the Editor. It transpires the photograph was taken in the old Instrument Shop New Street at Christmas 1946 when AdmiraI Grant, the then Managing Director, addressed the assembled factory staff whom he called his “Ships Company”. It is difficult to put names to all the people sitting behind Admiral Grant but, at the far end is Brian Sargent’s Grandfather whose son Les was for many years in MWTCo.  The Mayor of Chelmsford was in attendance and as far as we can gather this was Alderman Sidney C. Taylor who owned the Essex Weekly News as well as The Lord Mayor of London.


Were you one of the employees? Do you recognise any of the people in the photograph? Please drop a line to our Secretary with as much information as possible.

Marconi Veterans Re-Union 2005

This will take place on Saturday 16th April at the MASC in Beehive Lane, Chelmsford commencing at 1:00pm. Our President this year is George Hill who at one time was Managing Director of Marconi International Marine Company Ltd., and before his retirement, MD of MKAS, Marconi Communications manufacturing outlet in Turkey.

Our Guest of Honour is Chelmsford Borough Councillor Christopher Kingsley, who at one time was an MWTCo employee and is now a Lecturer at the Sixth Form College in Colchester.  Christopher is Cabinet Member of Chelmsford Borough Council for Arts and associated projects including the Marconi Archives and the Marconi Statue.

Chelmsford a Stroll through Time

page2_book_thumbCopies of the Editors book pictured here are now available price £5.00 plus 75p postage and packing. 50% of the price goes towards Marconi Veterans Association Funds. Send your cheque made out to Peter Turrall c/o Marconi Veterans Secretary, Barry Powell at Selenia Communications Ltd., Marconi House, New Street, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 1PL.


Fellow Veterans, your Subscriptions are now due. You will be pleased to know that your Committee have recommended that the subscription for 2005 should remain at £5.00 and you are invited to send this plus any additional amount you feel able to afford to Barry Powell, the Marconi Veterans Association Secretary utilising the separate form enclosed with this Newsletter.


This is now up and running. Those of you who are on the Internet can view the latest information by tuning into   Veteran Chris Gardiner ex Broadcasting Division of Marconi Communications is our Webmaster and he endeavours to keep up with all the latest events, which might interest Veterans.

Caption Competition

A few more entries than last time have been received. These are printed below

David Fripp “One more electric shock off this ****contraption and I’ll give it a good hand bagging” and “I much preferred the, old Cigar Box cobber”
Charles Boyton “My man, Remove this contraption immediately”, “Do I spit or speak” and “Is this the latest Breathalyser”
David Speake “Now I would like to give you my latest recipe for a dish of peaches and ice cream”
Brian Bowsher “If you do that to me again, I’ll hit you with my handbag”
Gordon Snell “The train standing at Platform 10 is for……………..” and “Let’s twist again like we did last Summer”
Godfrey Aiers “No you can’t sing, Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport” and “Marconi invents the voice operated Food Dispenser”
John Cowburn “I’ll have to get some more nuts for the Bluetits” and “Why can’t we get a bird feeder from Wyevale like everyone else”
After careful consideration the Editor has decided to award one of his books ” Chelmsford, A Stroll through time” to Charles Boyton for his caption “Do I spit or speak”

Ex Marconi Veteran’s President Awarded MBE

George Johnson, ex Marconi International Marine Company, past President of Marconi Veterans Association and also ex Mayor of Welsh town Colwyn Bay was awarded last year the MBE in a ceremony, which George attended at Buckingham Palace. George now confined to a wheel chair, regularly attends the Veterans Annual Re-Union and is still very active on various Committees in North Wales where he projects the aims and requirements of people who are either wheelchair bound or have varying disabilities. Congratulations George.


The Fewing Oven

As a personal reminiscence while working at the Basildon plant I visited the Baddow establishment to visit a Professor Fewing in my guise as a test equipment engineer. The purpose was to build equipment to test the remarkable crystal oven he had invented. The oven consisted of a cavity for a 37 type crystal surrounded by Naphtha otherwise “Moth balls” which in the active state was kept in a partly molten state by a wire element. The melting point of Naphtha being remarkably constant, resulted in a very stable condition for the contained crystal. The melting point of the Naphtha was controlled by bellows on the container operating a micro switch. During the first production run at Basildon, due to faulty adjustment of the bellows micro switch or leaks in the container, resulted in jets of molten naphtha and explosions in some cases. Fortunately the ovens were tested in a strong temperature varied oven. The test personnel who worked with the ovens could always be identified by the smell. I have no memory of the frequency stability obtained with crystals in the Fewing oven, but it was beyond the capabilities of electronic counters in the 1950s to measure. Perhaps your archives may reveal who used them and what the stability was. Or indeed is Professor Fewing still with us.

Vic Wood

p.s. Professor Fewing died in 2002

A Welcome Visitor

As you are looking for more input to the Veterans Newsletter may I submit the following account of an incident, which took place at New Street in the late sixties or early seventies.  I was not one of those actually involved in the drama, but was working in TV Test at the time.  A young African TV engineer arrived at the front entrance one day, having come by taxi from Heathrow. There had been no previous correspondence with the Company concerning his visit and he spoke only French so it took a while to discover the purpose of his visit.  It transpired that he had come from one of the small West African states (I can’t remember exactly which one) in the President’s private jet, bringing with him the entire complement of TV cameras (three in number) from the country’s one and only Television Station.  The cameras were Marconi Mk.V Image Orthicons and none were in working order. He had orders not to return until they were all fully operational.  I understand that the TV Service was left to run on a small continuity studio and a couple of Telecine machines.  I must say that the Company pulled out all the stops with full co-operation between Broadcast Division, the Works and TV Test. Transport was despatched to Heathrow to extricate the equipment from Customs and, after an initial assessment by TV Test, wiremen and fitters worked overtime to strip down, repair and rebuild the cameras and their associated control units. Finally TV Test put them through a rigorous re-testing programme.  As I remember it, the whole exercise was completed in less than a week.  While all this was taking place, Broadcast Division arranged accommodation and hospitality for the young engineer. I know nothing of the financial side of the story, but I suspect he had a blank cheque from his Government to pay whatever it cost to get them working again. I hope this article may prompt others who were actually involved in the episode to contribute their recollections, and hopefully, correct any inaccuracies in my account.

Charles Boyton

A Personal View of Marconi over 42 years from 1946-1988

My look back at the mixture of individuals who, in spite of minor disasters, somehow or other helped to turn Marconi into a major Company. Many would not have got past the modern style of personnel department or fitted any mould but somehow gelled together to achieve results. As the biggest misfit of all, I journeyed through the Company like the proverbial Jew leaving a few signatures on test specs and drawings and being remembered by the people I sheltered with on the way for staying too long. I was lucky, survived, and came out the other end unlike Fred Piper and Ray Weatherhead and countless others who fell by the wayside.

After serving in the Fleet Air Arm as a radar mechanic, I joined Marconi via the College and an interview with J.P. Wykes the Chief of Test in his office in the front of the old building in New Street. I was successful and ended up in Test Equipment in Building 29 under Joe Chamberlain. That’s the way I joined the Company, so now on to the people I worked with and all the other friendly people who helped me over the years.

J.P. Wykes could be hell to work for but, could be forgiven as he would never allow outside criticism of his staff. He was extremely helpful when anyone had a personal problem. Test Equipment staff were a bunch of idealist radicals, led by Freddy Roberts who, later became Labour Mayor of Chelmsford, at a time when Russia was considered to be a model society and we all believed we would live in a great new world. Mr. Tattersal was a gentleman of the old school who sported a twirly ended moustache and impeccable manners which were applied to everyone. He was at sea when the Titanic sent its S.O.S. message and the message he received, sent the ship he was on steaming towards the area. Lady Telford, who was then Betty Shelley, provided the clerical backup.

Who remembers the winter of 46-47 when we survived with no heating and a few portable generators in the yard to provide a limited power supply? Were you in the main works when Admiral Grant assembled his “ships company” to announce the take over by English Electric? How many of you remember Miss Partridge, a tester in the Standards Room, who rode a 250cc motor bike, smoked a pipe, liked a pint with the lads but still managed to remain feminine? Did anyone know her Christian name, as I never did?

I was sent from Test Equipment to Aircraft Test in the old Skating Rink in London Road with its coke stoves and no windows, where in winter, you went in when it was dark and were surprised to see that it was snowing at lunchtime. Alternatively, did I turn up at the palatial establishment at Pottery Lane which I remember as a group of Nissen huts somewhere behind Mr. Webbers Browning Meadow along the Broomfield Road. George Barratt was the Shop Foreman here and his team assembled the English Electric television set, a post war Marine Receiver and an Echo Sounder. Design of the television set had been done in the Research Labs at Baddow. Did Barry Sitch and I tune the receiver module of the television as fast as we could so we could pull George’s leg about not being able to keep up. Ken Paisley did the overall testing and when we ran out of work we would watch Andy Pandy and the Flower Pot Men in the afternoon as few people had even seen television at that time. Reg Bowler supervised the rest of testing and had a small office labelled “Chief of Test”. This survived until Mr. Wykes arrived when he was told to take it down because “there’s only one Jesus Christ here”.

At the Skating Rink aircraft equipment was assembled by Ben Burnell with his Chargehand Tel Harris and a very experienced crew including Jack and Bernard who worked together for so long that, like an old married couple, they communicated without talking. I joined Reg Norfolk’s team which had a square loop aerial. This was fitted within the fuselage of an aircraft. The square window in the aircraft cracking, was the cause of the early Comet Aircraft crashes. My next job was preparing for the testing of the prototypes of “Green Satin” which was the first of the generation of Doppler Navigators. I worked with the Development Group at Writtle learning about the equipment, writing test specifications, liaising with Test Equipment on making the necessary jigs. Ask Bill Claydon about the trials and tribulations of producing those first few prototypes. How was it that a state of the art equipment was developed in a wooden hut on a site that regularly flooded in the winter and, where transport for most of the staff involved was their cycles? Testing of the prototypes was done in the annexe at the Rink. Charles Griffths didn’t seem to turn a hair when a heavy steel can was blown off the Transmitter Unit on pressure test, hitting the sloping ceiling and hitting the deck; it would have caused a nasty accident if it had hit anyone. At this juncture Aircraft Division went to Basildon and Green Satin production was completed at New Street, the testing being done in the old Canteen. You will all remember very tall electrician Bill Clements and his five foot nothing mate who carried out the necessary wiring.

Next was Receiver Test with a Microwave Television Link, designed by RCA, handed over to Microwave Development Section at Writtle with an embargo on any changes. This must rate as the worst ever equipment produced by the Company and when it was sold to the Russians for 625 line working, when it was designed for 525 line working this generated a few problems. Do you remember the Outside Broadcast Vehicle with Russian markings which stood in the yard for several weeks? Taffe Dawson reminded me the last time we met that he was the apprentice helping me on the Baddow Tower when we carried out the tests between there and the Radar masts at Bromley. 30 mile Range tests from Bromley to the Water Tower at Aldeburgh were a complete fiasco due to a very low bank of hills. Being stuck on the top of a Water Tower for two days in the winter when you’re sure within an hour or so that there is no signal, doesn’t improve your temper. Do you remember Receiver Test before the perimeter cage was fitted where people built “hidey holes” behind pinned up drawings?

Mr. Wykes had moved on to become Manager of Maritime Division and he offered me a job in Technical Sales. Here I met Dick Rocker and George Brunton and through him ships installation engineer Dicky Cann. The latter two were a pleasure to work and drink with and were known and welcomed in every shipyard and on every ship I visited. At the end of a year I complained that I hadn’t enough to do and was loaned to Maritime Development. At the end of three years I was wiped off the Divisions books but as Development wasn’t told I belonged to nobody.

I worked with Charles Burnham on the Naval version of the Wideband Amplifier which was used on ICS 2 and 3 and eventually sold to America for their Helicopter Landing Ships. At this time Jimmy Gould developed the 1500 Synthesiser which was used on many equipment’s and must hold the record for sales of any design. There was some field-work and I once flew from London to Glasgow with Charles Burnham and travelled on a bus to Greenock accompanied by a drunken Scotsman who played his bagpipes. When he paused he berated the two Sassenach’s who dared travel on his bus. We stayed in an old hotel in Gounrock, sharing a large double bedroom, lit by one ceiling light which was fitted with a single forty watt bulb. When we turned on the bedside lamps, the centre lamp went out. We were working on the conversion of wartime frigates to weather ships at Greenock Shipbuilders and eventually we sailed on the 5am tide and returned at 9pm. A very long day, but a sail down the Clyde Valley and round Ailsa Crag on a beautiful sunny day is something everybody should experience at least once in their lifetime.

I could carry on but getting back to more mundane things Maritime Development was split with the commercial side going to the Marine Co at Widford and the Defence Comms moving to Billericay. I think this was to squeeze in the first printed circuit unit into New Street at the top of the yard. I went with Defence Comms to Billericay where we stayed for about 2years. There was a big fuss about moving but nothing like the fuss that arose when we moved back: proving that there’s nowt so strange as folks. Memories of Billericay were Steak and Kidney pie and bar billiards in the Red Lion, cheap shirts from the adjacent shirt factory and travelling across Galleywood Common in Tony Evan’s old Ford on dark snowy nights with the windscreen wipers driven or not driven from the manifold and with its one candlepower headlights.

Waterhouse Lane must have been our destination and I was here for several years during which time I became more involved in Post Design Support. This involved solving problems on ICS 2 at Widford and Wembley and also engineering support to Post Design Services at Widford. This period is rather fluffy as I had so many masters and so many fingers in different pies. Where was Defence Comms section when the ETG was developed? Would I be right in thinking we had a berth in the Radar Company for a while? ETG was interesting as we mounted a 30ft transmitter whip on top of a large fin cooled casting, Ron Sewell did the casting design and we ended up with a good looking unit which was easy to mount. I had a week in Holland at Vlissingen (Flushing) which was a combined seaside town, Ferry-Port with a shipbuilding yard when the Dutch frigates were being set to work. An enjoyable week as the shipyard closed at 5pm leaving Martin, my colleague, and I to have a pleasant evening meal in a small moated town in one or other of the restaurants in the town square.

When Mr. Sosin became Manager, he insisted I should work for Dennis Hart in Building 46 so I had a new boss but carried on doing the same sort of work except that my visits now included Whitehall, the bunker at Northwood, with its patrolling armed guards with dogs, the Nimrod Airfield in Scotland and the Naval communication bases at Crimond in Scotland and another situated near Fleetwood. During this period Bob Nice took over as Manager and when Support Services PDS contracts expanded and required a full time engineer, I was allocated to Widford2 but was responsible to Bob Nice. Most of my work was then with the Navy and because ships were only available for very short periods and at short notice, I worked closely with the Fleet Liaison Officer, much to their annoyance who only knew that we were spending their money after a fixed arrangement had been made. However, we had Sid Johnson in the middle placating the Marconi Contract Manager and the MOD civil servants. He was a great peacemaker. A great time this with ship visits, days at sea, trips on submarines, and visits to aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines.

At the end of March 88 I retired and now looking back, realise that it couldn’t have been like this, could it, we never all helped each other and all of us were not programmed to laugh when we should have cried. When I now think back and say I’m glad I joined, I must surely have finally lost my marbles.

Should this self indulgent ramble ever see the light of day the editor is, of course, responsible but, I am responsible for errors and omission. I expect the next thing will be a lot of letters in the next issue telling me how wrong I am.

Roy Hubbard


Another interesting Newsletter. Thank you for all your efforts on this. Hopefully it will not be the last but as you say it’s up to the members now. Should there be another issue perhaps you would like to take notice of the following:

1. Jimmy Leadbitter refers to MWT being taken over by English Electric in the 1950’s. It was actually 1946.

2. In Peter Bickers article on New England in the Fall he refers to The Station being operated as Marconi Wireless Telegraph Station of America. In fact it was Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company of America, a wholly-owned subsidiary of MWT, which operated the Station. Because of U.S. political pressures associated with the fact that here was a U.K. controlled company operating in America on what were considered “Defence” related areas it was thought prudent to dispose of the MWT shareholding and this was successfully achieved as part of the subsequent formation arrangements for the Radio Corporation of America whereby the shares of Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph of America were exchanged for shares in this new company, which was floated on the New York Stock Exchange. The RCA shares were subsequently sold.

Eric Peachey

The Lizard Wireless Station

The Lizard Wireless Station is probably the only surviving operational Marconi Station in the world. It is housed in the original Great Western Railway hut and is equipped today as it was in 1903.

Members of the Marconi Veterans Association are very welcome to visit the site. The Housel Bay Hotel, where Marconi stayed in 1900, welcomes visitors and will offer special off season rates. It is within walking distance of the Marconi station. For information please phone 01326 290417.

In South West Cornwall there is a number of sites associated with Marconi. In addition to the Lizard there is the Marconi Centre and Marconi Monument at Poldhu. Goonhilly Earth Satellite Station still uses Marconi equipment and Porthcurno has a superb Submarine Cable Museum. On the road into the county you will pass the site of the old Bodmin Beam Station (not open to the public).

If you require a private opening of the Lizard site please contact David Barlow (ex MIMCo) on 01326 240738. Further details available in the Lizard and Meneage Guide.

We look forward to seeing you.

Bass Point today
Bass Point today

Bass Point circa 1903

Bass Point circa 1903

Past Employees New Book

I am responding to your request for material for your Newsletter, though with some misgivings – I feel that perhaps between my recent book “The History of the Radio Officer in the Merchant Navy & on Deep Sea Trawlers” (Alas I couldn’t get the title any shorter !) and various activities a little bit of hush from me would not be out of place.

It occurs to me that some old friends and colleagues (not always synonymous) might be amused to learn what happened to me after I resigned as Personnel and Operating Manager of Marconi Marine in 1971.

My resignation had three main causes : I knew that the Company was going rapidly downhill (the direct employment of Radio Officers and growing tendency of ship-owners not to rent their equipment, and to buy elsewhere), I fell out with D.P. Fumeaux, the then Managing Director, and my own personnel problems. The latter I resolved very successfully twenty years ago when I changed gender; which cleared up a great deal, and yet left me free to carry on exactly as before with my own work and interests.

I went back to sea in 1974 for ten wonderful years, earning huge wages (far more than I received as Personnel as Operating Manager in charge of Sea staff, Shore staff, Training, Radio Traffic, and Accounts).  In 1982/3 I was Chief R/O of the troopship “ St Edmund” down in the South Atlantic and Falklands for eight months during which I earned £28,000 including War Risk Money.  I then retired in Swansea, from where I did a couple of round the world voyages before settling down to my various interests – antiquarian horology (I have a house full of grandfather clocks) writing, painting, and extensive foreign travel. In 1995 I drove by road with a friend from Bombay to Amritsar in the Punjab, and then in the face of all the well meaning advice of friends I went up to Kashmir and had a wonderful month there in a houseboat on the Dal Lake.  In later years I was trekking in the lower Himalayas, and had several long stays in Katmandu and Pokhara. I go to the south of France every year, and have been to the USA several times to lecture on Swansea Clocks.

In the 19th century 90% of the world’s copper was smelted in the Swansea Valley and the ore was brought, mostly from Chile by a type of vessel known as a barque. Swansea seamen were famous the world over and I wrote “The History of the Swansea Copper Barques & Cape-Horners” which sold all over the world and I am told is becoming a collector’s piece.  And so it goes on; the words “total lack of moderation” come to mind, but I have no intention of changing. In fact it’s getting worse.

I had a new knee two years ago, which has been a great success, and life today seems as much an oyster to be opened as it did when I was seventeen. Thank Heaven there is no justice in this world!

Joanna Greenlaw


I too am a little diffident towards running the risk of boring your readers by reminiscing about my extended service with the Marconi Company – but, as Douglas Camp put it so aptly, you did ask for it!

My contribution follows!

I was demobbed from, the RAF in July 1946 having spent the previous five years as a pilot, touring the world at the country’s expense. In that comparatively short space of time I had visited Canada, The States, the British West Indies, North Africa, India, Ceylon and Burma.  I also spent a few months in the United Kingdom! There were inevitably some dodgy moments but on the whole I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the RAF, but the freedom and lack of real responsibility came to an abrupt end when I was forced to begin searching for suitable employment.

For some months I was frustratingly unsuccessful. Ultimately a cousin, who was the assistant Works Manager, suggested I should approach his employers, The Marconi Company – to see if they could help. I was a little unhappy about possible suggestions of nepotism, but gratefully accepted an appointment in the Commercial Department, affectionately known as Jolly’s Follies, in its Publicity Office. Commander Jolly, the Department Manager, was a prodigy of the then General Manager, Admiral Grant, who always referred to the Marconi staff as “his ship’s company”. He knew everyone by sight and most by name, but this very pleasant closeness was rapidly eroded a short time later when the English Electric Company came on the scene and we all became just numbers on the Company payroll. I was not impressed by spending my hours composing press releases about products I had never seen and had no idea what they were intended to do, and so when I was asked if I would be interested in a temporary two-week secondment to the Aeronautical Division, I jumped at the chance.

The Aeronautical Division, managed by L.A. Sweny, an ex-RNAS Commander, was scattered over New Street, Hackbridge and Croydon, both in Surrey, and Writtle. The latter was a small development establishment, mainly comprising a collection of World War 1 wooden huts with a modest modern factory, in a delightful rural setting. It’s current task, when I arrived there, was the development of an innovative generation of miniature communication and direction-finding equipments, hopefully to be installed in the many postwar aircraft beginning to emerge from British and foreign factories no longer engaged in satisfying military requirements. The Chief Engineer was Christopher Cockerell who later retired from the Company to concentrate on the development of the Hovercraft and becoming internationally famous as its Father. As I had only recently bade farewell to the Royal Air Force, this appointment enabled me to preserve a welcome continuity of contact with aeroplanes which had constituted a very large part of my life during the five previous years. In fact, many of my new working colleagues were ex-RAF and so our little community, comfortably housed in our old wooden huts in the wastes of wildest Essex, and openly exhibiting the RAF’s light-hearted approach to life in general, was really like a Service unit in civvy clothes! Therefore the transition to my new lifestyle was enjoyable and not too much of a shock to the system. We had to work hard and the hours were long, but the challenge was a satisfying one – we were, after all, breaking new ground by introducing an altogether novel technology – and I like to think we were successful, despite the almost hourly crises and traumas. Among the aircraft in which we were exclusively involved included the Dove and Devon and later the Comet being built by the de Haviland Company, a generation of new designs from the Airspeed Aircraft Company, and the Canadair DC4 fleet bought from Canada and being operated by BOAC over its long-haul routes. In due course, in the interests of economy, most of the Division was brought under one roof on the fourth floor of Marconi House, and the free and easy life we had enjoyed away from Head Office while at Writtle largely disappeared. However, it soon became apparent that New Street’s production capacity was insufficient to cope with the growing demands of both the Communication and Aeronautical Divisions, and so, in 1954, the latter was given exclusive use of the Company’s new factory at Basildon, with some of the staff, including myself, actually moving home into the New Town.

In 1963 I was prevailed upon by my brother-in-law to join the family entertainment company in London and so, with some misgivings, I left Marconi’s for The Big Smoke. The two-week probation with Aeronautical Division had stretched into an unbroken seventeen years! Sadly I was not impressed either with the type of business in which I was then involved or with living in the City and, after giving both a fair crack of the whip, I approached Marconi’s on the off-chance they could find me a suitable slot.

I was interviewed by Communications, Radar and Closed Circuit Television and opted for Radar, joining them at Cromptons in Writtle Road. I had as a consequence swapped Aeronautical’s little sets which were built in weeks and weighed just a few pounds for Radar’s massive equipment which took many months to build and was weighed in tons!

The Writtle Road site of some twenty-six acres was strictly Victorian and shortly after my return the Company embarked on an unbelievably expensive programme of modernisation in which I, as Establishments Manager, was heavily involved.  This was probably one of the most interesting and exciting phases of my time with Marconi’s which only ended when I was appointed Administration and Security Manager at UKADGE in London, an equally exciting consortium of three great companies, Marconi, Plessey and Hughes of America, involved in the development and installation of a unique Command and Control system for the defence of the United Kingdom.  That multi-million pound contract was still very much in progress when my sell-by date came up and I retired in 1987.

Without shadow of doubt I can say I enjoyed every moment of my years with the Company and am grateful for the privilege of working with so many real friends.

Roderick Mackley

The Dance of the Dragon

Thank you so much for all your work in producing the MVA Newsletter which is such a valuable source of many hitherto unknown facts about the Company and its people.

Your article on the royal visit to Poldhu in 1903 recalled an incident in a book called “The Dance of the Dragon” by Paul Broadhurst and Hamish Miller.  Briefly, this is an account of a journey of exploration that took the author and three friends, from an ancient hermitage on an island off the southwest of Ireland, across Cornwall to France, Italy, Greece and Israel.  They were following two lines of natural earth energy, Apollo and Athena, by dowsing. It took them some ten years in their spare time, during which they made many remarkable discoveries, one of which is described as follows:

“We returned to Gunwalloe to follow Apollo on his journey across the south-western corner of the Lizard.  We tracked the line running within a few feet of a large hotel, now a retirement home, overlooking Poldhu Cove and saw some sort of monument ahead, perched on the top of the cliff.  Apollo was heading straight for it.  When we arrived and read the inscription on the front we realized that this place held a very special significance in the history of the 20th century.  The memorial commemorated the occasion, on 12th December 1901, when three dots of the morse code – the letter S – were transmitted from Poldhu and picked up through a small earphone in the ear of Guglielmo Marconi 2,000 miles away in Newfoundland.  In the first year of the new century a revolution in international communications had begun at this remote Cornish clifftop which had laid the foundations for the modern world.

“That Marconi was a genius cannot be denied, for he was largely responsible for the world of communications as we know it today.  His interests were wide-ranging, and he is even alleged by some researchers to have been involved in time-travel experiments.  He personally selected Poldhu as one of two sites on the Lizard for his pioneering work and spent a considerable amount of time there exploring the possibility of long-distance transmissions.  He became a well-known figure in the area, staying at nearby Mullion and receiving royal recognition when the Prince and Princess of Wales visited the Poldhu radio station in 1903”.

“Yet we find ourselves asking why did Marconi choose this particular site?  Obviously it fulfilled many of the necessary topographical requirements, but was there something more? Is it possible that he found something inspirational at this place that appealed to his sensitive and questing nature?  Did he “tune in” to the energies of the Apollo Line and use its spiritual powers to initiate a new current in human evolution?  These questions may strike some as curious, but in our experience there are many intriguing examples of dramatic forward evolutionary leaps linked with these psycho/spiritual currents of energy.  Perhaps, in some unquantifiable way, Marconi was the modern equivalent of a priest, or prophet of the coming age, and as such was guided by forces he himself did not entirely understand”.

Whether or not you are a dowser, or just have an open and inquiring mind,  Paul Broadhurst’s fascinating book provides much food for thought.  It is published by Pendragon Press, PO Box 888, Launceston, Cornwall, PL15 7YH at £18.50 + £4.00 p+p.

Richard Shaw


You requested material for the next Newsletter, but as I cannot think of any suitable stories at the moment, I thought you might consider some humour instead.

When I worked in New Street there was a humorous notice circulating in the early 1970’s which I thought was funny, so I kept a copy.

Godfrey Aiers


It has come to the notice of the Management that employees have been found dying on the job and either refusing or neglecting to fall over.

This practice must cease forthwith and employees found dead in an upright position will be stopped from the pay-roll.

In future, if a foreman notices an employee has made no movement for a period of 1 hour, it will be his duty to investigate as to the cause, as it is almost impossible to distinguish between death and natural movement of some employees.

Foremen are advised to make a very careful investigation by holding a pay packet in front of the suspected corpse as this is considered to be a most reliable test, there are, however, cases where the natural instinct has been so deeply ingrained that the hand of the corpse has made spasmodic clutches after rigor mortis has set in.

The most successful test is to whisper ” Sunday Work “.  This has been known to restore animation to a body which has been motionless all the week.

The foregoing test should not be applied to foremen or assistant foremen, as in these cases movement of any kind is unnecessary.

More Reminiscences

Seeing your appeal for more contributions to the Newsletter, I thought that I had better do something about it! I passed out as an RAF Apprentice in 1943 and subsequently had many strange connections with Marconi.  My first posting was to RAF West Drayton and found myself doing acceptance testing on SWB8 vehicle mounted transmitters. I also tested the first 1 kW VHF transmitters – I cannot remember who designed them but I hope it was not Bill Barbone, as the designer failed to interlock the door to the lecher bars necessitating a switch off – open door – tune- close door – switch on sequence being repeated many times! In the middle of the night, working alone, my sequencing failed me and I caught hold of the live bar.

I was given a knock out pill and woke up the following evening! Since 18 year olds were deemed to be infants in those days, the formal enquiries took some time.

About two years later a group of Cranwell apprentices plus a stray Flight Lieutenant were gathered together on a secret course in a tatty but hidden at the back of the balloon sheds at Cardington. The subject single sideband transmission!  The only person who failed the course and was sent packing was the Flight Lieutenant.  After many supplementary bits of training at various places including the GPO Cambridge we were shunted off to the sites chosen across the world – in my case to the Egyptian desert.

If my memory serves me right the transmitters were SWB10’s.  However we had about 60 transmitters on site so that SSB was only part of the scene. Many were American lend-lease and the main distinction was that each sandstorm caused the latter to go into parasitics whereas the SWB8’s and SWB1O’s did not mind in the least.

Here we learned a few things that the natives could do which even the transmitter group could not have anticipated!  The most spectacular was to steal the beautiful Marconi timber boxes which contained the termination loads for multi-rhombic antennas in the middle of night shift without electrocuting themselves or tripping the transmitters.  The other trick was to cut the best quality cables, hitch a camel and drag a suitable length out.

When I finished 14 years in the RAF, I applied to the Company and within a week I was involved in SSB drive and receiver testing!

Subsequent work led to being attached to Pat Keller’s group at Writtle to study the testing of the first Automatic Error Correction equipment.  In fact I ended up doing much of the design of the seven unit monitor before someone found out.  After that came Widford Hall and the Central Test Equipment Research Unit and a number of years involved in developing automatic testing equipment, etc. I still have the ancient key to Widford Hall!

Originally when we took over Widford Hall it was moated.  The owner then had the moat filled in and when we went to work on the following day the moorhen which had occupied the moat was sitting in a puddle in front of the house.

The breadth of equipment covered by the old Marconi Company and the range of expertise of the people involved was really quite staggering, particularly as loyalty rather than salary was the key factor in preserving the know-how!  There was always someone who knew the answer.

Post retirement, I enjoyed about 8 years as a visiting lecturer at the Marconi College training about 600 RAF and industry personnel in RF radiation safety and published two books on the subject.  During this time we had a spare radar at Bushey to play with! In addition we had mobile transmitters on the College lawn.

On the demise of the Marconi College I set up the course at another company in association with Mike Spalding and he has now taken it over and I am, at the age of 79, limited to gardening!

Ronald Kitchen BEM

Baddow Research & Radar Development

I joined Marconi Wireless Company in 1962 in the High Power Lab at Baddow under Dr. Coop as Manager and Robin Banks as Group Chief and Ken Perry as Section Chief.

The main project was “The Big Valve” in the lead lined pit. It was quite a project the like of which I had never seen before. Some of the engineers were Alan Cameron whom I knew at College, Trevor Robinson on Modulators, Dick Wood and Cliff on Microwaves.

When that project finished I changed from microwaves to Low Level drives with George Slack and David Cooper and Bruce Woodcock to start experimenting with transistors at `high’ frequencies (100MHz). This was an interesting situation as I went up the learning curve. Secondary Radar was a research project looming and it required a Transmitter Drive which became my work. It comprised amplifiers and frequency multipliers and this Transmitter Drive became feasible and went into production.

At this time Research and Radar split and Radar became Marconi Radar Systems. Its first project was GWS 25 later to be known as Seawolf in conjunction with BAe systems. By this time transistors were the norm and the Transmitter Drive and Multipliers employed transistors at Microwave frequencies and at powers of some watts.

At this point MRSL as it was known moved to Writtle Road in Chelmsford a move not entirely popular but sweetened by Flexi Time, the latter being nearly essential due to traffic problems in Chelmsford. Basically after GWS25 there was a number of new feasibility projects to explore at both higher frequencies and power as transistors became much more powerful at higher frequencies, also at this time high power modules were required to replace Klystrons. Eventually a single thermionic valve was replaced with many transistorized modules. This lead to Martello and that was when I retired in 1992 having stayed with Marconi for a few weeks short of 40 years!!

W.L. Pearce

More Humour

Having read the contribution to the last news letter, by Keith Benzie, of some examples of the humor at Bill Quay, I was reminded of an instance of unconscious humor told to me by Danny McOnie who was in charge of what was commonly referred to as ‘The Big Shop’ (by virtue of it’s size).

A labourer who worked in that shop was known as ‘Bumper’ and it was one of his daily duties to ensure that the boiler was switched on to provide the water for the tea at break in the morning.  He also made Danny’s tea and brought it to his desk for him.  One morning he brought the tea and Danny noticed that ‘Bumper was carrying it with his index finger in the handle and his thumb in the tea and said to him, “hey watch what you’re doing ‘Bumper’ you’ve got your thumb in my tea”.  Quick as a flash ‘Bumper’ replied, “Oh its O.K. Mr McOnie it’s not too hot’.  Danny did not bother with an explanation.

Ken Parker

The Wrong Colour

Whilst redecorating our beach hut recently I was reminded of another Marconi experience, which you might think worthy of publishing.  I was using a tin of paint, which Mary had bought from a Boot Sale.  It was a different shade to the original – thus I had to paint all of it, instead of just the parts that needed touching up! … and … thereby hangs a tale…

When I was testing OB vans, we supplied a large 4-camera vehicle to RTB, the French-speaking Belgian national TV network.  Written into the contract was a six-week evaluation period at the TV Centre in Brussels.  This required a Marconi engineer to be on hand to sort out any teething troubles.  As I had tested it, I got the job!

I should mention at this point that the Belgians were unusual in that they did not have the same colour for all their vehicles.  Whereas, for example, the BBC vehicles were all dark green; at RTB and BRT (the Flemish speaking Network) each Crew Chief chose his own colour for his suite of vehicles.  Our van was a lovely daffodil yellow, chosen from a Volkswagen car paint catalogue.

The vehicle was duly delivered to Brussels and I followed a few days later. I met up with the crew who would be operating it and, after the formalities of introductions, etc. were over, they took me down to where the van was parked. The studio complex had a wide corridor running its entire length with the French-speaking Service on one side and the Flemish-speaking Service on the other. At the far end of this corridor was a large OB garage shared by both Services. As we walked, I noticed my hosts exchanging grins and sidelong glances… I was soon to find out why!

In the garage were several groups of vehicles, neatly parked, in a variety of shades of red, blue and green.  In pride of place in the centre was the Marconi van, with its two tender vans parked alongside, BUT … the other two were a completely different shade of yellow.  More a golden, buttercup colour.  If transpired that they also had selected their paint from a Volkswagen catalogue and it had exactly the same name as ours, but it was a different year of manufacture.  Fortunately the outcome was OK for Marconi, as the Crew Chief liked our colour best and sent the other vehicles away to be resprayed.

Charles Boyton

R.I.P. Marconi Bowls Club

By the time you read this piece, the Marconi Bowls Club will have ceased to exist. In 1905 The M.W.T. Company set aside land on their Waterhouse Lane site for the recreational use of their employees. The various sporting activities that took place on this site eventually evolved into the Marconi Athletic and Social Club. At some stage between 1905 and 1923, no one is quite sure when, the Marconi Bowls Club was formed. The Club was first registered with the Essex County Bowling Association in 1923 and so it must have been formed some time before that date.

Sir Robert Telford

Sir Robert Telford

The Company’s involvement in the Club continued through the presence of Sir Robert Telford, who has always been a staunch supporter. He was elected as the first President of the Club and, in 1989, became its Life President.

The final president
The final President, Peter Spooner

The Club thrived and at one time had in excess of three hundred members. Such was its popularity that the Company had to ban the use of the green during lunchtime, thus ensuring that employees got back to work on time! The green itself developed a reputation as an excellent bowling surface and it has been used extensively by the Essex County Bowling Association and the Chelmsford and District Bowling Association for representative matches. The Club continued to prosper until the present day providing a sporting and social focus for two hundred members. The Club was thriving so why has it closed? What went wrong?

The first indication that the Club could face difficulties surfaced in 1997, when the Company put in outline planning permission to redevelop the Waterhouse Lane site. The reason given for this was that the Company wanted to consolidate many of its activities in one place instead of having a disparate collection of factory sites. Letters were written, consultations took place and it became clear that the Club had survived that crisis. What then proved to be a tragedy for employees, pensioners and investors, occurred. History has shown that there were a series of unwise investments, which meant that the Company, within a period of a few weeks, collapsed. No one could have foreseen this eventuality. As the Company imploded, our information is that large sections were sold off in a vain effort to stave off disaster. As a result of this policy, the Waterhouse Lane site was sold to Ashtenne Land for development purposes. It was obvious that this situation presented the Club with real problems and that there were to be no easy solutions. Despite negotiations with Ashtenne, Chelmsford Borough Council, lawyers, Sport England and anyone else who we thought could help, it became clear earlier this year that survival was impossible and the members bowed to the inevitable and began the process of closure.

October 2nd provided many bittersweet moments. There was a farewell match between present and past members of the Club and whilst there was much pleasure in renewed friendships there was also much sadness at the demise of this important part of Chelmsford. Most members have found other Clubs to bowl at and they will be happy there, but nothing will replace the unique atmosphere of the Marconi Bowls Club.

It is a salutary experience to identify what is left, in Chelmsford, of a once great Company. In which other town or city would such an important part of the world’s industrial heritage, and the man who started it all, be so ignored. There are always plans afoot to do something, but what happens? There is a sign telling visitors that Chelmsford is the home of radio, there is Marconi Road and there is a small statue of Marconi tucked away in the Records Office. And now the name of the Marconi Bowls Club has gone. Progress always has a price and, unfortunately, the Bowls Club has had to pay it.

A.G. Spooner

Marconi Firemen

The Editor received this photograph recently of the Marconi Fire Brigade. Unfortunately no date or names have been provided. Perhaps a Veteran who was a member of this well-known and very efficient Unit can come up with some details. The Editor has recognised Bill Munday and Fisher from Section 16.

Marconi Firemen
Marconi Firemen



Our Patron, Sir Robert Telford, has not been too well recently. The Editor has spoken to him regularly and also visited him at his home. Unfortunately he does not get out very often and relies on Lady Betty to transport him as he no longer drives his car. At the time of writing this note, Sir Robert has been diagnosed with Shingles, a very painful illness. We wish him a speedy recovery and he in turn sends best wishes to all Veterans.

Marconi House

Don’t get too concerned about Marconi House New Street.  The Editor visited recently when scaffolding and plastic sheets covered the whole of the front. The MD advised that it was necessary to tidy up the paintwork and brickwork as this was deteriorating. The place is not for sale and in any case it already has a preservation order placed upon it. (Watch this space).


Due to the demise of the Marconi Bowls Club at Waterhouse Lane, the Veterans Committee have had to find a new place to meet for their quarterly meetings.  The Selenia Comms MD has offered space at New Street and we are very grateful for this and our regular meetings will continue here. Meanwhile we would like to give a heartfelt thanks to Dot and Arthur Spooner who for many years have looked after the Veterans Committee at WHL. Dot deserves a welcome rest but Arthur will still continue as a member of the Veterans Committee.

Future Re-Unions

The situation concerning our 2006 Re-union remains fluid. Various comments have been made that the MASC building in Beehive Lane will be relocated on a site up-field near the Tennis Courts. When this will happen is anybody’s guess but our Veterans Committee have got to keep an eye on the situation as the Re-Union is always booked one year in advance. If by any chance the new building is not completed then another outlet must be found. The ideal place has to have plenty of parking, be at a reasonable cost, and not too far from the centre of the town. There are not many places in Chelmsford which meet these requirements, but we are still looking and have one or two places in mind.


As there is not an Archivist familiar with Marconi history anymore, the Editor is often asked to assist wherever possible in providing helpful information, photographs or in some cases copies of extracts from books or newspapers.  So far there has not been a problem and most queries have been answered.  It would be helpful if any Veteran can list the names of any books relating to Marconi other than those detailed below; these are already available to the Editor.  If any spare copy of these books are no longer required by Veterans then the Editor will be pleased to have them.

A History of the Marconi Company by W.J. Baker
Marconi Father of Radio by David Gunston
Marconi A War Record by George Godwin
Wireless at Sea by H.E. Hancock
Senor Marconi’s Magic Box by Gavin Weightman
Marconi A Biography by W.P. Jolly
My Father Marconi by Degna Marconi
Marconi’s Battle for Radio by Beverley Birch
Marconi My Beloved by Maria Cristina Marconi
Marconi’s Atlantic Leap by Gordon Bussey
Marconi at the Lizard by Courtney Rowe
Guglielmo Marconi by Keith Geddes & Iwama Takayoshi


All deaths reported to the secretary during the year can be found in the In Memoriam section

The walls of Jericho (Marconi) come tumbling down in Chelmsford

After 8 years of discussions with Chelmsford Borough Council on a very regular basis following the Agreement by The Marconi Company Ltd to gift the Marconi Archives to the local Borough Council, I regret to advise Veterans that I, acting on your behalf, have lost the battle to keep them in Chelmsford.

The new Marconi Corporation plc., have removed the Archives from the Great Baddow site, and delivered them to Oxford University, under a new Agreement signed with them recently. The reason stated by the Company is that they will be properly looked after there, and will be available for research by scientists etc., worldwide

This situation has arisen because Chelmsford Borough Council failed to find a suitable site to house them after they were gifted to the Borough Council, under an Agreement signed some eight years ago by the Chairman and Marketing Director of the then Marconi Company.

On behalf of The Marconi Veterans Association, I wrote to the Chairman and Communications Director of Marconi Corporation plc., expressing my own and Veterans complete annoyance of this untimely decision, and they have written back to advise that there will be no reversal. These Archives worth millions are now lost to Chelmsford and they will never be returned to the County Town.

This is a very sad situation and one I personally am very unhappy about. First of all I think the Borough Council must take the blame for not progressing the matter during the given timescale, and secondly that the Marconi Corporation have failed to understand the feelings of not only Marconi Veterans, but also the people of Chelmsford, and have reneged on an Agreement and the offer of cash, to gift the Archives to the Borough of Chelmsford.

It was Chelmsford not Oxford where Wireless was born. Marconi’s and the Archives were to be the backbone of the Boroughs request for City status. This will not now be possible. Some 9 years ago I fronted a battle with The Marconi Company supported by Princess Elettra, Lord Prior and The Essex Chronicle to stop the sale by Christies, London of these Archives, and we succeeded. Now we have no chance of ever seeing these Chelmsford made Archives ever again in the town, apart from the odd occasion when one or two items may be loaned to the Borough Council.

Marconi in Chelmsford started all the communications we know today, from raw beginnings in Wireless Telegraphy through to Wireless, Ships Communications, Radar, Computers, Television, Satellites, and Mobile Radio etc.. The world owes Marconi a great debt and all the design, development and manufacture of these products was carried out in Chelmsford.

From a personal point of view I feel betrayed and have told Marconi Corporation plc. so, but to no avail. I managed to get all the road signs on entry into the County town of Chelmsford erected, announcing that Chelmsford was the home of Radio (it should have been Wireless but Chelmsford Borough Council changed the word to radio). I was also a major advocate for the statue of Marconi, which was unveiled by Marconi’s daughter Princess Elettra two years ago, and still sits hidden in the bowels of Essex Record Office.

I will now bow out of pursuing the Marconi situation from now on as I feel I cannot do anymore. I have appeared on local radio and national television in an effort to progress the Marconi story and I have written umpteen letters and tied in with the local Essex Chronicle Newspaper to press forward our claims. I cannot do more and I will now retreat from the scene with much sadness.

I would like to thank those who have given me support both locally and nationally and I feel appalled that the people running Marconi Corporation plc., have made a decision against the feelings of Chelmsford people. I am certain a person or persons who have nothing whatsoever to do with Chelmsford, either in the past or in the present, must have made this decision.

One reads in the National Press that the Marconi Corporation plc., is doing so well that its executives can be certain of pay-offs worth millions of pounds and that their future pensions are well beyond the wildest dreams of the average ex-Marconi employee. Maybe on reflection they may try and consider that the decision they have made with the Marconi Archives will rest heavily on them in future years.

The name of Marconi will disappear in January 2005 from all Chelmsford based units as the Marconi Corporation plc., has made a decision that the name Marconi must only appear at their Head Office in London and those units which come under their direct control.

Chelmsford put wireless on the world’s map and it was here that the very first wireless broadcast was made by Dame Nellie Melba. Marconi was also involved in the formation of the BBC when the Marconi equipment at Marconi House London formed the basis of the BBC’s early broadcasts.

And so the BBC as we know it today had Marconi to thank for this.

Chelmsford based employees and ex-employees of Marconi, must feel annoyance and sadness that our County town has no more associations with the name of Marconi in its factories or offices – just the memory of a world famous Italian who gave so much to his staff, families and many countries throughout the World.

Peter A.T. Turrall MBE
Vice Chairman
Marconi Veterans Association December 2004

Peter Turrall MBE has compiled this Newsletter. Inputs for next issue should be sent to The Secretary, Marconi Veterans Association, Mr. Barry Powell, c/o Selenia Communications Ltd, Marconi House, New Street, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 1PL.  The views expressed in this Newsletter are those of individuals and are not necessarily those of the Editor or The Marconi Veterans Association.

Newsletter 2004

Number 6
January 2004


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.


Caption Competition

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.


Harry Edwards
“It’s for youoo”

Colin Page
* “These mobile phones will never catch on” and
“Vatican City 2 – Arsenal 0”

David Speake
“It’s your wife.  She is asking if you have seen her ear muffs anywhere”
Gordon Snell
“Chelmsford on the phone, more redundancies in the pipe-line”

Peter Farnworth
“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”

Alan Stevens
“Don’t you think, Mr. Marconi, that we should be achieving a greater range than two feet?”

New Caption Competition

Nellie Melba

image004 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.

Marconi Memorabilia

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 “” and “” 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

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”

The Alcoholic
Len (Progress Man)
He ended every phone conversation with the words “cheers now, cheers”

The Photographer
Allen Conley (Production Engineer)
Allen’s typical response when asked about an engineering problem would be “I will put you all in the picture”

The Vicar
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 valveimage0011

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)

image0013Despite 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.

image0022Leaving 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!

Christmas 1944

Jenesis poemimage0014

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

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.

Middle Row
Unknown, unknown, Roger Wiseman, Charles Rand, Tony Harrington, Gordon Evans, Fred King, Roy Hurrell.

Front Row
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.

Newsletter 2003

Note from Webmaser

This newsletter has been published as it was in the paper copy.  In 2003 attempts were made to produce the letters as they had been received but they did not produce good photocopies.  What is shown here has been digitally improved but I am afraid are still almost impossible to read.

Number 5
January 2003

Welcome to Newsletter number 5. We are fast approaching Christmas 2002 and this letter is being prepared ready to send out with the invitations for our annual Marconi Veterans Re-union which will take place at the Marconi Athletic & Social Club on Saturday 12th April 2003. Our incoming President is a very well known person, Stan Church who was with various Marconi Units for more years than we can remember. Stan was and still is a very energetic and popular member of the “Vets” and I am sure you will give him a warm welcome in April when for the next year he takes on the mantle of our President.

For those in the Chelmsford area watching the television on 27th October they might be wondering where our Annual Re-union would take place as the news commentary stated that the MASC building in Beehive Lane had been blown down. This of course was due to the exceptionally high winds and was sensational news. Many phone calls to the Club took place before it was established that a Groundsmans Hut with Tractor and other implements inside was the building blown down. The Clubhouse itself had only minor damage.

Rumours exist that the MASC Clubhouse has or is about to be sold and therefore we are actively looking for an alternative place for future Re-Unions just in case the news is true and we are landed with a problem.

Marconi Veterans Association

With our revised Constitution in place as agreed by the majority at our last Veterans AGM, we are now in the process of some small amendments to allow people who have worked in various Marconi Units which have been taken over by other organisations to become Marconi Veterans providing they fulfil the new criteria.  The most important of these is that they have completed 21 years service and not 25 years which was our previous requirement.  The details of this are set out below and perhaps if you know of any employee or ex-employee who fulfils the new criteria, please drop a line to Bernard Hazelton our Secretary so that we can verify the details and if possible invite the person to be one of our Veterans.


Employed within MES Group
21 years (not necessarily continuous)
Full Membership

Employed within MES Group and transferred to a controlling company (or its subsidiaries) or any organisation under State Control
21 years (16 with MES Group + 5 years continuous with other company/organisation)
Full Membership

Employed within GEC Group (prior to 29.11.1999) with relevant company becoming a subsidiary within the MES Group prior to 29.11.1999
21 years (11 with MES Group + 10 years continuous with other company prior to 29.11.1999)
Associate Membership

Employed within MES Group and transferred to an associated organisation outside the MES Group
21 years (16 with MES Group + 5 years continuous with other organisation)
Associate Membership

Employed within GEC Group (prior to 29.11.1999) and transferred to at least a 50% MES Group owned joint venture company
21 years (11 years with JVC + 10 years continuous with GEC Group company)
Associate Membership

Employed within JVC at least 50% owned by MES Group having less than 10 years continuous service prior to 29.11.1999 or no service at all within the GEC Group)
21 years continuous with JVC
Associate Membership


It is most important that all Veterans understand that from now on we cannot expect a lot of financial assistance from sources within the ex Marconi and other Chelmsford based companies. The name of Marconi as far as Chelmsford based Companies is concerned is virtually nonexistent. Whilst a number of Ex-Marconi employees are working in the companies in the Chelmsford area, the units have new names and their interests no longer include the Marconi Veterans Association. In fact we understand at New Street there are only 21 employees who work directly for Marconi plc based at Coventry.  The remainder are under the name of Marconi Mobile Limited a Finmeccanica company.

Under the circumstances we are making a special plea to existing Marconi Veterans to complete the payment form enclosed with this Newsletter by sending as soon as possible your Annual Subscriptions of £5 to our Secretary. If you can afford more, even if only a little more, it would be very much appreciated. Unless we receive this subscription we regret many of our activities including this Newsletter will have to be curtailed.

We have been warned that the offices occupied by our Secretary at Great Baddow and also the assistance he receives in the way of records, computer services etc., is under threat. If this is the case we will have to seek alternate accommodation and unfortunately cut down on the amount of services which can be offered. We will learn more about this at the Re-Union.

Museum Thanks

We asked if you would let the Editor know of any Marconi memorabilia either in your possession or elsewhere.  The response was good and many books, artefacts, letters and Company Newsletters and photographs were handed over to the Chelmsford Industrial Museum at Sandford Mill.  We have been asked through this Newsletter to thank those people who kindly made available those items.

Recently we received a telephone call from a widow of a Marconi employee advising that a number of Marconi booklets and photos had been found in the effects of her late husband. Would these be of any use to us?  Among the items were booklets of Marconi Jubilee celebrations and other useful items which were passed to the Museum.

Can we make a special plea to you to include in your will (or better still hand over Marconi items now) that upon your decease the items of Marconi interest in your possession are made available through the Veterans Association to the Chelmsford Industrial Museum.  This will ensure that forever the name of Marconi will carry on.

Marconi Name

The last two years have seen the name of Marconi removed from many of the original companies. Indeed right now we are not sure how much longer the name of Marconi will be used.  The parent Company Marconi plc are virtually in the hands of the UK banks. How much longer can they continue under severe financial restraints. The price of the Marconi shares are at rock bottom and many Marconi ex-employees have lost many thousands of pounds through the untimely poor operation of the parent company.

Marconi to be Recognised in Chelmsford

A full size bronze statue of our Founder Guglielmo Marconi is now in the London Foundry having last minute adjustments made. This will be erected in Chelmsford near to the Essex Record Office in Navigation Road early in the New Year. It is hoped that Princess Elettra and other dignitaries will also attend. We will endeavour to keep you advised of the date.


Come on you Veterans. I pleaded with you in my last Newsletter for you to let me have reminiscences, photos and anything to share with fellow Veterans. Unfortunately very few of you responded. I have had a lot of phone calls and letters saying please keep the Newsletter on a regular basis. Yes, we will do this but, please we need your help to fill the pages. So get out your pen, pencil or computer and write or e-mail me with a few anecdotes. It will only take you a minute. If you can supplement these with photographs so much the better. Ed.

Old Memories

We have no hesitation in including below a copy of a letter which Veteran Margaret King MBE sent to us. Margaret for many years was a Secretary in the old Marconi International Division here in Chelmsford. Her last boss was Stanley Clarke and other names in the area were John Sidebotham and Eric Royle to name but a few.


From Stan Church President elect of the Marconi Veterans Association


From Bill Lee


From Eric Peachey ex Secretary of The Marconi Company

Dear Peter,

I have just finished reading the M V A Newsletter No. 4 – another excellent production.  However, for the purposes of accuracy I must correct the date of the change of name of the Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company Limited to Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company Limited provided by Peter Helsdon. It was not the 23rd February, 1900 but the 24th March 1900.

For the benefit of all interested parties I set out below the various name changes which have taken place and their effective dates:

1. The Company was incorporated in the name Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company Limited on the 20th July 1897
2. Changed to Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company Limited on the 24th March 1900
3. Changed to The Marconi Company Limited on the 19th August 1963
4. Changed to GEC-Marconi Limited on the 24th April 1990.
5. Changed to Marconi Electronic Systems Limited on 4th September 1998
6. Changed to BAE SYSTEMS Electronics Limited on the 23rd February 2000.

The date of the change on the 24th April 1990 I engineered to coincide with my wife’s birthday
I also attach for information a detailed record of the Share Capital of the Company from its inception to the present time and hope this will be of interest

Yours sincerely


Authorised and Issued

£8,000,000 Divided into 16,000,000 Ordinary Shares of 10/- each, fully paid.

Original Capital

£100,000 in Ordinary Shares of £1 each.

Alterations to Authorised Capital

Resolutions dated
7th October 1898 to £200,000 Ordinary shares of £1 each.
31st March 1903 to £300,000 Ordinary Shares of £1 each
11th July 1905 to £500,000 Ordinary Shares of £1 each
30th April 1908 to £750, 000 divided into
….250,000 £1 Preference Shares
….500,000 £1 Ordinary Shares
25th October 1911 to £1,000,000 divided into
….250,000 £1 Preferences Shares
….750,000 £1 Ordinary Shares
3rd October 1913 to £1,500,000 divided into
….250,000 £1 Preference Shares
….1,250,000 £1 Ordinary Shares
13th November 1919 to £3,000,000 divided into
….250,000 £1 Preference Shares
….2,750,000 £1 Ordinary Shares
20th October 1922 to £4,000,000 divided into
….250,000 £1 Preference Shares
….3,750,000 £1 Ordinary Shares
15th March 1927 to £4,000,000 divided into
….250,000 £1 Preference Shares
….499,935 £1 Ordinary Shares
….6,500,130 10/- Ordinary Shares
16th December 1964 to £4,000,000 divided into
….250,000 £1 Preference Shares
….7,500,000 10/- Ordinary Shares
1st April 1965 to £4,000,000 divided into
….8,000,000 10/- Ordinary Shares
6th October 1965 to £8,000,000 divided into
….16,000,000 10/- Ordinary Shares

Capital Reduction 1927

By Special Resolution passed on the 15th March 1927 and approved by an Order of the High Court of Justice dated 11th November 1927 the Capital was reduced from £4,000,000 to £2,374,950 divided into
….250,000 7% Preference Shares of £1 each
….499,935 Ordinary Shares of £1 each
….3,250,038 Ordinary shares of £10/- each
1)   cancelling 10/- per share of paid up capital on 3,250,038 Ordinary Shares of £1
2)   cancelling 27 Ordinary Shares of £1 each which had been forfeited.

NB The 499,935 un-issued Ordinary Shares of £1 each were not affected.

On this reduction taking effect, the Capital was restored to £4,000,000, by the creation of 3,250,092 new Shares of 10/- each.

Allotment of Un-issued Capital July 1957

By Resolution of Directors passed on the 3rd July 1957 the 3,250,092 Shares of 10/- each were designated Ordinary Shares of 10/- ranking pari passu with the existing Ordinary Shares of 10/- each.

On 17th July 1957 the following Shares were issued to The English Electric Company Limited bringing the Issued Capital up to its Authorised Amount of £4,000,000.
….104,821 Ordinary Shares of £1 each,fully paid.
….3,250.092 Ordinary Shares of 10/- each, fully paid.

Sub-division of Capital 1964

By Ordinary Resolution passed by the Company on the 16th December 1964 each of the 499,935 Ordinary Shares of £1 each was sub-divided into two Ordinary Shares of 10/- each ranking pari passu in all respects to the existing Ordinary shares of 10/- each,

Scheme of Arrangement 1965

By Special Resolutions passed on the 2nd February 1965 and approved by an Order of the High Court of Justice dated the 15th March 1965 the capital was reduced from £4,000,000 to £3,744,717  10/- divided into.-
7,489,435 Ordinary Shares of 10/- each by
i)      cancellation of the 250,000 7% Cumulative Participating Preference Shares of £1 each and
ii)     cancellation of the Ordinary shares not held by The English Electric Company Limited and its nominees.

On this reduction taking effect on 1st April 1965, the Capital was increased to its former amount of £4,000,000 by the creation of 510,565 Ordinary Shares of 10/- each, which were allotted as fully paid to The English Electric Company Limited.

On the 6th October, 1965 the Capital was increased to £8,000,000 by the creation of 16,000,000, 10/- shares.

From J.F. Keohane

jf_keohane1From Peter Helsdon

A Comfortable Childhood
Ten years after Maxwell’s 1864 electromagnetic wave predictions; on 25 April 1874, a baby boy was born in Bologna, Italy. Guglielmo Marconi spent his first weeks at his family’s town house, the Palazzo Marescalchi, in the Piazza San Salvatore.
Guglielmo’s father, Giuseppe Marconi was a wealthy landowner. He loved the countryside and was known as a keen businessman. His mother, Signora Marconi, was formerly Annie Jameson, whose Scottish family lived in Ireland. The two had met in Bologna while Annie was a music student and married in 1864.
The baby Guglielmo had a nine year old brother Alfonso, and also an elder half-brother, Luigi, by his father’s previous marriage.
Life was comfortable for the Marconi’s. Soon after Guglielmo’s birth, they moved to their country house, the Villa Griffone at Pontecchio, near Bologna. In what became a settled early routine, they lived at the villa with its beautiful gardens in summer. In the harsh Bologna winter, the whole family would move to Florence or Leghorn, for milder weather.
This family photograph shows five-year old Guglielmo with his mother and older brother Alfonso. In the background is the family home, Villa Griffone.


From George Stebbings

george_stebbingsFrom Leonard Oakes

Thank you very much for your last Marconi Veterans letter. I notice that most of your items come from people who live and work around Chelmsford. I worked over thirty years for Marconi Instruments at Stevenage. I would like to put on record that we did some valuable work for the Company at Stevenage and St. Albans. Why not ask for memories from those great towns by the people who worked there?
I started in a small company, one of the first factories in the New Town of Stevenage which was soon purchased by Marconi. I was blind, and after a few months I was shown the layout of the New Town and its factories. I already had my name down for a Guide Dog and I was informed that it would be a good idea if I could bring my application forward.

This I did and in June I got the letter that I was waiting for asking me to go down to Exeter for training. The boss said “We will take you down there”. I was to be away for a month. It did cause a bit of a stir for a young man to be brought to the centre in a Rolls Bentley, and a crowd from the centre came out to have a look. After a month I rang to ask if they would come and fetch me, and the lovely dog called Jenny that I had trained with. Again the Rolls Bentley arrived.
A few days at home and I was ready to start work. What I did not know as I neared the factory was that there was a crowd of friends and staff waiting to welcome us both back to work.
After the first excitement I was called to the office and was told that the dog was to be put on the payroll, and she was also going to have a Clock Card. Then she will be covered if any accident occurs.
I worked as an inspector and I had a complete range of Braille equipment both in Imperial and Metric, and all was checked by the staff in one of the special rooms free from dust and humidity. Correct temperature all the time. All of these instruments were approved by Government Inspectors who came to the factory. For most of the work was for the MoD.
I retired in 1992 and towards the end of that year I received a letter from 10 Downing Street asking me if I would like to receive the B.E.M medal from the Queen. I said I would and was informed not to tell anyone. The following January I was in the New Years honours list. Soon the bell started ringing from the local press and many of my friends congratulated me.
Later that year I was invited to Bowes Lyon House in Hertfordshire to be presented with the medal along with four other people. I was told my wife and daughters could accompany me. It was a beautiful house and after drinks and then a citation was read out and the medal was pinned on me. The citation spoke of the work I had done for Guide Dogs and the instruments I had been involved with at work, measuring by sound.
Later on my wife and I got an invitation to one of the Queen’s Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace, the company took my wife and I up to the Palace and we spent a lovely afternoon there, looking around the gardens and seeing members of the Royal Family. The chauffeur met us again afterwards and brought us home. A once in a lifetime trip.
I have written this so that you will see what a great Company Marconi was to me and many others, it’s a great pity it has been on the decline recently. Nevertheless as a Radio Ham G.W.8F.O.Y. It will be remembered as long as one can send out a Radio Signal

Marconi Veterans Website

We are currently putting the final touches to the Marconi Veterans Website before it goes live early in 2003.
Subject to approval from Marconi HQ, the address will be so try logging on around February/March. If we are unable to use this address we will announce the correct one at the Annual Reunion and in the next newsletter.
Initially, the presentation will be rather basic, but we hope to improve the standard as time goes on and are always open to suggestions on what you would like to see there. One section will give the latest news and another will enable you to read or download the current newsletter. Another section will help you get back in touch with old colleagues via the MVA.
Write a letter to the person you are trying to contact, place it in a stamped unaddressed and unsealed envelope and send it with a few details about the person (where they worked and when, will help us to ensure that your letter is sent to the right address) to:- The Secretary (Search), The Marconi Veterans Association, at the usual address.
If we have an address for your colleague, we will address the envelope to them and post it. If we have no address, or if we have been informed of your colleague’s demise, we will address the envelope to you and return your letter. We regret that, for confidentiality reasons, we are unable to give out addresses directly and that it is not practical for us to deal with passing on messages via the telephone.
We hope that, by the Annual Reunion, the website will have been up and running for a few weeks and that some attendees will have logged on. Please let me know what you think – It is, after all for you!
Barry Powell, Marconi Veterans Committee c/o Secretary Marconi Veterans Association

From Jimmy Leadbitter

In the Queen’s Jubilee Year various TV “shots” have mentioned the Commonwealth Tour to Australia, NZ etc on the “Gothic”.
How many of our members know that the “Gothic” was fitted with Marconi equipment originally at the end of 1951 for the tour to take place early 1952 by the then Princess Elizabeth & Prince Philip. Due to the death of the King this was cancelled but the tour was then held December 1953 to April 1954.
MWT equipment installed was the 7kW Transmitter SWB 11 X with three Rx’s, one OC 13, one CR150/3 and a CR150/5. A.J.G. Corbett the Marconi Engineer sailed with the ship.
MIMC Equipment (the majority manufactured by MWT) installed additional to the existing mandatory equipment was
Worldspan Transmitter
Mercury, Electra (2) and Yeoman Rx’s
Navigational equipment Radiolocator Radar Lodestone Direction Finder Visagraph Echometer
“Oceanic” Sound reproducing equipment (SRE) was specially designed manufactured and installed to provide Broadcasts and entertainment throughout the vessel.
MIMCO Radio Officers C.H. Roberts, H.A. Palmer, D.J. Pilgrim and D.C. Clayton manned the station.
The installation provided high speed telegraphy, ship to shore R/T and speech inversion for state, naval and press traffic with broadcast facilities for the BBC. Godfrey Talbot was the BBC Commentator on board.
The above info was extracted from various articles in The ‘Marconi Mariner’.

From Tom Gutteridge

tom_gutteridgeFrom Charles Boyton


Bradwell Bay Essex Airfield

Charley Rand, ex Marconi Radar and Chairman of our Veterans Association, came across an article recently depicting the Bradwell Bay airfield which during the last war was extensively used to test Radar equipment. Low flying aircraft attempted to fly under the Radar net and this gave valuable information in the design of the now famous “Chain Home” Radar defence system which covered most of the south and east coasts of England. An article and photograph found in the write up entitled “The unknown airfield – R.A.F. Bradwell Bay” are repeated below.
As the allies entered Germany in 1945 an RAF Regiment officer found on a Luftwaffe base a magnificent model of the Marconi works which had apparently been made for briefing pilots for the attack.  This is now in the entrance hall at the Chelmsford offices and Chris Vlotman, now captain of a KLM DC8 jet, flew from Alaska some years ago to be the company’s guest and speaker at a charity dinner-dance for the Trueloves school for physically handicapped boys at Ingatestone.

Editors Note: The model is now housed with other Marconi artefacts awaiting a
decision on their final resting place.

“The History of the Radio Officer in the British Merchant Navy and on Deep-Sea Trawlers”

The above is the title of a book recently published under the name of Joanna Greenlaw. It is extremely well written and the research undertaken has been very painstaking and thorough. A foreword by His Highness The Duke of Edinburgh complements the Editor on the accuracy of the work undertaken.
The book is on sale direct from the publishers Messrs DINEFWR, Rawlings Road, Llandybie, Carmarthenshire, Wales, SA18 3YD Telephone 01269 851989 and is priced at £19.95 plus postage £3.50, however, a discount of 20% on this price has been agreed and providing the person ordering the book states that they are a Marconi Veteran, then this discount will be accepted. Cheques made payable to Dinefwr Publishers.
Although written under the name of Joanna Greenlaw, the Editor of this book is known to many Marconi Marine ex-employees as Paul Lintzgy. He was for many years Personnel Officer at Elettra House, Westway, where he dealt with the activities of Marconi Radio Officers.
The Editor now living in Wales, has a number of other books published including “The Swansea Copper Barques and Cape Horners”, “Swansea Clocks” and “Longcase Clocks” and lectures worldwide on these subjects.

Caption Competition

The response to this competition to put it mildly was pathetic. Only two answers were received. One from our incoming President Stan Church who suggested the names of the “four bald men” from left to right as George Stock, Charley Britton, George Strutt and Charley Swanborough. The caption he gave was “We wish we could bowl a maiden over’.
The other contributor was Basil Rolfe who many of you will remember worked in the New Street Stores. He also suggested the same names as Stan Church and his caption was “Marconi Selectors at work”.
The Editor is awarding a bottle of wine to each of them in view of their efforts. Perhaps next time we can have a few more responses – that is if you feel like dropping us a line. Ed.

New Caption Competition

The Editor will award one of his own books “Chelmsford a Stroll through Time” just published and covering life in the town in the late 1940’s as seen through the eyes of himself to the best Caption of the following.



Obituaries are now included in the ‘In Memoriam’ section of this site

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 by e-mail peter or at his home address which is 96 Patching Hall Lane, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 4DB.
Opinions and comment expressed in this Newsletter are those which have been given to the Editor. The Editor and Marconi Veterans Association are unable to enter into detailed correspondence or accept views of other people in connection with any article or comment written herein.

Newsletter 2002

Number 4
December 2001

Welcome to Newsletter number four. This is being compiled in the month of October. By the time it is finished, the Marconi share price at 18p is likely to be down to 15p and the Company ripe and ready for a takeover. What has gone wrong? You might well ask since one year ago the price of each share was 212.40. How is it possible for a Company which boasted many firsts over the years and had thousands of loyal employees could go down so quickly. Management and organisation skills appear to have vanished and now the once famous Company has been brought down to the lowest level in its history after over 100 years of existence.
A sad sad story and very worrying for those still employed under the name of Marconi plc. Let us hope that the future for them will be OK. However nobody can erase the name of Marconi and its past achievements. Companies may come and go but the name lives on and it is the intention of Marconi Veterans to continue as long as is possible.

Newsletter 2001

Number 3

January 2001

Welcome to Newsletter number three. As this is now 2001 may we wish all Veterans a healthy New Year and all that you wish yourselves. Thank you to all the people who responded to our last Newsletter with anecdotes and letters plus lots of reflections on Veterans work within the Marconi Companies. Some of these are contained herein and it has enabled us to increase the number of pages.

However some are held over until Newsletter number four. Don’t stop, we still want your news and views and of course stories and any ideas you have for the future of the Marconi Veterans Association. We are alive and very much kicking and it is up to you our Veterans to ensure we keep this way. Please accept this as an acknowledgement for all those super stories many of you sent in. The Editor will do his best to respond to any questions you may have asked in the various letters.

The Future of Marconi Veterans Association

We are now in a position to continue with the Association for a limited time. Many thanks to all of you who were able to pay the £10 Association Annual Subscription. This has helped enormously. It is essential for this Subscription to continue. After 21st April we will ask you to again renew this for the period 2001 to April 2002 at the same rate i.e. £10. For those of you who have not paid the 2000 to April 2001 we would very much welcome this payment as soon as possible. Unless we have these subscriptions and more financial support from the companies our operation will be severely curtailed.

Year 2001 Re-Union

With this Newsletter comes the invitation for you to attend the Re-Union on 21st April 2001 which once again is being held at The Marconi Athletic & Social Club. Each year this popular event is oversubscribed, and it is unfortunate that we cannot accommodate more than 260 Veterans. It therefore follows that to be sure of a place, you are requested to send in your applications without delay. For those people who have already sent in their £10 subscription, providing their application to attend the Re-Union is received within fourteen days of the invitation letter, they will be given preference. If other Veterans who have not yet paid, can send in their £10 Subscription for the current year we would welcome this. As mentioned above, next year’s Subscription is not due until April 2001 but if you wish to pay this now, please make it clear in your letter when enclosing the required amount.

As advised in our last Newsletter, we welcome Robbie Robertson as our President for Year 2001/2. As many of you will know, Robbie was formerly MD of Marconi Communications at New Street. Unfortunately his Guest of Honour Sir Ian Vallance the Chief Executive of British Telecom, is unable to be present owing to an important meeting which has only just been advised to him. However, we are pleased to welcome Mr. Gordon Owen as Guest of Honour. Gordon is very well known to many of the old Marconi Communications staff as he was at one time MD of Cable & Wireless and is now MD of Energis an offshoot of C&W.

Year 2002 Re-Union

We have to plan well ahead these days, not only to book our venue, but also to ensure the proposed President is available. Your Committee will shortly do both for 2002. However, the venue is Marconi Athletic and Social Club, the date is 20th April. As far as a President is concerned we hoped to have Mr. Norman Ellis-Robinson OBE who many of you will remember, was a pioneer of the Radar “Green Ginger” project when he was at Marconi Research Establishment at Great Baddow. Norman now lives at Chard in Somerset and has recently undergone major surgery on his back and feels that to come up to Chelmsford will be a little too much for him. We wish him well and hope that his health improves. Who knows at a later date he may be able to come and visit us. Your Committee will shortly choose a new President.

The Marconi Memorial

As reported in our last Newsletter, a meeting has taken place between interested parties to honour our Founder in the County town of Essex by a Memorial. Headed by Martin Easteal the Chief Executive of Chelmsford Borough Council, the representatives of the Eastern Arts Board who attended were charged to report back to the Committee in the New Year with designs and cost on whatever they proposed.

The general feeling of the meeting was not to have some “airy-fairy” design in the way of a Mural or similar but to have a tangible solution. Nobody wanted a statue but the majority preferred to see something in the centre of Chelmsford which residents and visitors can see and admire -probably in the High Street.
Chelmsford Borough Council has recently been given £300,000 by Marconi plc, to find a place to house the Marconi Archives, Ephemera and Equipment. Current thinking is to have a place built near the Essex Records Office off Wharf Road Chelmsford to house the equipment and other objects, whilst the Ephemera will be housed in the Essex Records Office where special air conditioning and preservation of priceless documents can take place. It is hoped that the equipment can be moved into a new building within a two year period. Wait and see!!

The New £2 UK Coin

two_poundsA very great honour has been bestowed (in-absenta) on our Founder by commemorating his achievements one hundred years ago on a new £2 Coin which will be available to the general public in April 2001. The coin was unveiled at a special ceremony held at Broadcasting House in October where Princess Elettra was present with the Managing Director of the Royal Mint. Many other dignitaries were also present and it was a great pity that the authorities that arranged this were unable to send an invitation for The Marconi Veterans Association representatives to be present. We have asked that in future we receive invitations for any unveiling or Centenary events which might take place over the coming years.

Your Veterans Committee has taken it upon themselves to order over 300 of the £2 Coins, which will be in specially prepared cases, with background history of our Founder. These coins will be available at the Re-Union and will be on sale to those attending. It is regretted postal applications for these cannot be entertained. The cost has not been advised to us but with the packaging etc., it is likely to be between £5 and £6 each.

Can You Help?

Response to the request for photographs and other information in respect of the Hall Street Chelmsford Masts were very good and to those who contributed information many thanks. One response led to the Grandson of the Senior Erector Mr. Post, and information is being sought from him.

Unfortunately, there was a nil response to the request for pre 1939 war Cigarette Cards entitled Wireless Telephony, which were issued by Sunripe Cigarettes. If you have any of these in your collection, the Editor would be pleased to have them.

A new request has arrived and we would ask you to make direct contact if you can assist. Bill Martin of 45 Heaton Road, Kloof 3610,-South Africa. E-mail is seeking someone with a collection of Marconi/Osram valves who is willing to swap for American types. Only valves, which do not require American equivalents, are required.

Let us know if you have any requests and we will publish them in the next Newsletter.

Ties and Scarves

One last plea to all Veterans. We would Iove to see you at our future Re-Unions wearing a Veterans tie or scarf. They are not expensive and you should feel proud to wear one. Either drop a line to Bernard Hazelton our Secretary at the address on your Re-Union invitation or give him a ring, again at the telephone number on the same letter to order one.

Old Marconi Equipment, Photographs and Letters

From time to time we hear about collections of Marconi equipment, photographs and important letters. Each time we invite the person to speak to Dr. Geoffrey Bowles the Keeper of Industrial Artefacts at the Chelmsford Industrial Museum based at the old Sandford Mill Waterworks. He is always delighted to receive unwanted collections provided they are in reasonable condition. As you will appreciate, they are part of our history over the last one hundred years.
However, we often hear too late that a valuable piece of equipment or a photograph has been dumped and therefore lost forever. If you have some old equipment in your workshops or lofts, don’t throw it away; offer it to Dr. Geoffrey. Perhaps if you have some items, you might care to make arrangements with your family to pass them to either the Marconi Museum or the Industrial Museum when you depart this life. As time progresses it will be difficult to find these wonderful items which must be shown to future generations.

One of our Veterans has just found some beautiful bound copies of Marconi Mariner in really excellent condition. They report the history of MIMCO. Volume 2 appears to be missing so if anybody has this or a complete collection of bound copies, please advise the Editor who will ensure they find a suitable home.
Copies of the Marconi Companies and their People were also bound and, here again, some are in possession of our Veterans Association. If any more of these bound copies exist, please advise the Editor if they are no longer required. These will help us preserve forever the wonderful history of our famous Company.

Did You Know?

The first Marconi Veterans Re-Union since the last war was held at Caxton Hall, London on May 3rd 1947 when 318 Veterans of 25 years service and over, attended a luncheon and meeting under the Chairmanship of Captain W.J. Round.
Mr. J.S. Smith, Liverpool Depot Manager proposed the Toast of Absent Members and stated that of the total of 1600 Veterans, over 400 were members of the Marconi International Marine Company staff. He mentioned that 36 had died during the war years, and in asking the gathered assembly to stand for a moment’s silence, he reminded them of approximately one thousand Radio Officers who, although not all Veterans had, during the war, proved themselves “faithful unto death

Snippets from Around the Patch

radar1radar2The old Crompton Factory Site in Writtle Road Chelmsford. The last Marconi Radar Company to be established has been razed to the ground and the only part remaining is the building fronting Writtle Road. Light Industrial Units and housing are planned for this most valuable area. Even the little house, which was adjacent to the railway, has disappeared (see photograph).

Marconi Mobile is set to move from New Street to Waterhouse Lane at a future date. The buildings at WHL will be completely revamped and extended. What happens to Marconi House and the site at New Street is anybody’s guess. The factory and the preserved front building are completely empty. The Drivers Yard Car Park in Victoria Road is closed, as is “The Laurels” house.

Do you remember Marconi College at Arbour Lane? Well it isn’t there anymore. Bulldozers moved in during the summer and demolished the whole site except for the front building known as “Telford Lodge”. The site is now being developed for guess what! Housing. Yet another piece of Marconi history “bites the dust”!

For those Veterans who do not live in the Chelmsford area, did you know that English Electric Valve Co., (EEV) is now called Marconi Applied Technologies (MATS). They are doing very well in most areas and have recently advertised for more staff.

Over the next few pages we bring to you contributions from Veterans. These are published with no comments or conclusions from the Editor or Marconi Veterans Committee. The contents and comments are those of the contributors. The Editor is unable to enter into correspondence or comment on the accuracy of anything printed.

From David Speake

Dear Peter,

In your recent Newsletters you were requesting material for possible insertion in future issues. I thought that the following might provide a certain amount of amusement.

During the 1950’s those of us working in the Research Labs. at Baddow, who were not able to walk or cycle to our homes left, with very few exceptions, by Eastern National bus. ( When I arrived in 1950 the few who came by car were able to park their vehicles along the front of the main building).

I was on the top deck of such a bus on one occasion with a number of fellow-passengers who included R.F.O’Neil, whose initials were such that it was almost inevitable that he would join our industry, and N.M. Rust, known to his colleagues for some obscure reason as “Daddy”
O’Neil was telling a companion about his twin sons who had recently distinguished themselves at university when Rust leaned over from the seat behind and said ” I remember those boys being born”.
I noticed O’Neil’s face become diffused by long-suppressed anger and heard his indignant reply ” Yes, and I remember what happened at work. We were on a field site working into the evening and I got a message at about 8 o’clock to say that my wife had given birth to twins, rather than the single baby which we were expecting, and that the hospital needed a second set of nappies.  I left to get them and to deliver them to the hospital – and you grumbled because I did not get back until 10 o’clock!
As far as I can recollect Rust decided that it was best not to pursue the subject further!

Yours sincerely

David Speake

From C R Shaw


Congratulations on another excellent Newsletter. It is quite disgraceful that the former GEC’s new management, having appropriated the honourable name of Marconi and sold off many of the original Marconi Company’s assets should have made so little provision for the support of that proud company’s Veterans Association.

I was equally dismayed to learn that the New Street offices of the Marconi Company are now empty.. I cannot think why if he was so keen to perpetuate the Marconi name Lord Simpson should have chosen to acquire new offices in London instead of moving into premises of such historic significance.  Apart from the failure to appreciate the publicity value of such a move I regard it as a scandalous waste of shareholders’ money and an insult to our Founder whose office it once was.

Some of your readers may be interested to see what the noble lord has done with another of the Marconi Company’s assets in Chelmsford – Marconi Radar Systems Ltd. In Writtle Road. When this factory, formerly Crompton Parkinson’s, was acquired by the Marconi Company, the lamp-post which the previous owner Col. Crompton had tethered his horse each morning was carefully preserved.  Known as Col. Crompton’s lamp-post it was well maintained and re-sited close to the entrance to the executive offices where it could be seen by visitors such as Prince Charles. Perhaps his lordship would care to tell us what provision he has made for its continued preservation.

It would also be interesting to know what happened to the environmental test facility which, I believe, was one of the largest in Europe not to mention the fine oak panelling and the marble fireplace in the old boardroom. One wonders what would have been the fate of a Gainsborough or Constable had one graced the boardroom wall.  Would it have been tossed into the builder’s skip?

As for the staff of experienced engineers it would be enlightening to discover how many were retained by the Marconi Company and how many were snapped up by the company’s competitors.

The words ‘progress’ and ‘development’ sound very fine on the lips of company chairmen and chief executives, but at the sharp end where the work is done and profits are generated they all too often translate into ‘redundancy’ and ‘industrial vandalism’ on a monumental scale.

As shareholders watch their investment performing like a yo-yo on a bungee they may pause to consider the other side of the coin.

Yours faithfully

C Richard Shaw

The lamppost referred to in Richard’s letter has been carefully preserved and re-painted. It is now erected in the Chelmsford Industrial Museum at Sandford Mill. The oak panelling and the super staircase at the old Crompton factory in Writtle Road we understand have been removed. Its final resting place is unknown but further enquiries will be made. Ed

From Bill Barbone

Dear Sir
I am writing to let you have my £10 contribution to Annual Expenditures.
I will take the opportunity to add a note or two.

I suppose we should not be surprised to find that the new Marconi plc is not much interested in the Veterans. Marconi Communications is after all no more American than European even though the head Office is in London. I went to the AGM earlier this year and talking to Mike Parton the Chief Exec. he was saying that he spends most of his time in Cincinatti.  Also most of the acquisitions the company has made are outside the UK.

The Newsletter brought back some memories.  I was brought up in Waterloo. Liverpool in the 1930’s and was educated at Waterloo-with-Seaforth Grammar School.

Seaforth Radio serving the Port approaches and ship movements was just around the corner from the school. I’m not certain that it was on the old site of the Wireless school but it was a pretty old building and the Radio mast was a typical early build up of wooden poles clamped together with bands to give a height of around 150ft.

The station was well known, largely because it operated on the Shipping band just below the Medium Wave broadcast band so that if your domestic receiver wasn’t very selective (most wern’t) the you would get blasts of “Seaforth calling” breaking in or else a raw Morse signal breaking up your radio pleasure!

Well I wish you the best of luck in your fund-raising


(W.V.Barbone OBE)

From Jimmy Leadbitter

Extract from the “Marconi Mariner” Volume 1, No.1 July/August 1947

Elsie, the Squigger-Bug
elsie_thumbSquigger-bug – Parasiticus Preposterosus. Germinated, incubated and brought to maturity in the laboratory of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Marine Development Section 1B. Chelmsford

Normally the Squigger-Bug is kept below the threshold on a lead (often a short grid lead). If this lead is lengthened, the creature appears above the threshold and becomes self-excited by continually repeating her curious cry, a kind of variable mew. When fully excited she dives into the nearest closed circuit round which she races, tail in mouth, at incredible speed. The presence in a transmitter of the female of the species attracts the male (in this case, one Mike R O Henry by name). Mike has on several occasions tried to choke Elsie with the grid lead, but the reluctance with which she reacts to his coercive force ensures that there is no change in Elsie’s characteristic curves.
When chased out of a transmitter, the female Squigger-Bug goes immediately to earth by way of the nearest bypass, digging herself in with a circular movement of ever-increasing radius, and finally disappearing with a loud report, leaving behind a characteristic odour of burnt Bakelite and a pile of brass filings. Hence the Pyramids.
This, the only specimen of the well-known parasite which has survived captivity, answers to the name of Elsie Ratio. She has a magnetic personality although her head is a perfect vacuum. The female is very voracious and, owing to her self-capacity, is able to eat excessive amounts of grid currants and a little anode feed. The latter is kept in a tank coil and comes out of a tap. The Squigger-Bug eats from a quartz plate (which in wartime was reduced to a pintz plate), and is accustomed to feed from positive to negative. She is much perturbed if fed the other way, a process known as negative feedback.
Her bent-up chassis is inductive (abbrev. infinitely seductive) and her component parts are colour-coded giving an attractive skin-effect. Vanity is responsible for the full-wave in her antennae, although this Hertz antennae unless padding capacities are used.

From Peter Springett

Dear Sirs
Please find enclosed cheque to the value of £10.00 following the request for an Annual Subscription to boost the coffers
I have read your Newsletter and found it most interesting, well done ot everyone who contributed to its editing and production and hopefully, you will receive some input from the Veterans to keep it going.  I have no objection if you wish to include this to fill up a little space sometime
My memories of Marconi’s go back to 1939 when I left school and started my apprenticeship as an instrument maker (three days before the war started) and managed to complete my 50 years service with the company before I retired, and I have to say we had some memorable times under the leadership of Admiral Grant and I recall the times he addressed his “Ship’s Company” on the shop floor and kept himself in touch with his workforce.
During 1942 when the Klaxons sounded and we had to proceed to the shelters which I might add were the coldest and darkest of places during one such raid I met a young lady and we were eventually married on my embarkation leave before being shipped off to Germany and we will be celebrating our 56th wedding anniversary in the not too distant future so in a way Hitler did me a big favour.

Yours sincerely

Peter R Springett

From Ron Doubleday

30 October 2000

Dear Bernard

From Newsletter No. 2 my wife and I note the parlous state of the Marconi Veterans Association.
As you will know we no longer attend the reunions but we do, nevertheless, try and help someone who has a job to make it.  And I have no doubt that if I am approached before the 2001 reunion comes around we will, God willing, make a contribution.
It is typical of this day and age that Marconi plc who inherited all that had been done between Hall Street and New Street now cannot be bothered by a lot of Veterans that made their takeover possible.  I can just imagine my Mother and her sisters who were at Hall Street letting fly a few ripe expletives at the attitude of Marconi plc.
Having said all this it is an inescapable fact that we Veterans will get fewer as the years go by and memories will dim over the years
This household contains two Veterans (a combined service of 72 years) which makes it rather hard on the pocket.  However, we enclose our cheque of £20 with a small proviso that we may not be able to keep to that figure in future years.  The pensions will only stretch so far and we have other charities to consider.  And although we do not need much we must look after each other until it is no longer necessary.  And if this year’s increase in pensions from BAE systems is anything to go by then we may have less with which to play!  Maybe they were trying to outdo “President” Blair and his 75 pence per week!
Please convey this to our vice chairman young Turrall “Veterans with little else to do” – cheeky devil!  Some of us erks also serve!
With best wishes
Sincerely yours

Ron Doubleday

From Robbie Boram

Dear Peter
I enclose a cheque for £10 which I trust you will pass to the Secretary.
Further to the item on page 4 of the Newsletter – re pay of senior clerks at MIMCo.  I have a copy of the “Manual of Training & Educational Facilities” given to me when I joined the Company as an apprentice in 1948.  I was paid 29/6 a week of which 10/- paid for my weekly bus ticket from Ongar.  The manual states that you will be paid 2/- per week if you pass the Technical College approved year course.
Apprentices in the Carpentry and Joinery sections will qualify, subject to reports, for a grant not exceeding ¼ d per hour towards the Company buying tools for the apprentice.
A limited number of graduates at London University were allowed to work in the holiday periods in the works or laboratories and were paid 50/- per week.
Employees  attending a London College on a course not available at the mid-Essex Tech., the Company will pay travelling expenses for under 21 years of age; over 21 years got a voucher not exceeding £200 per annum, married men got £240 per annum.  Course fees were not paid for classes outside working hours.
Whether any of this scribble is of interest to put in a newsletter I don’t know.
The manual makes interesting reading – I suppose it ought to go into the Marconi Archives if they haven’t got a copy.
Sorry if this scribble has wasted your time.
(R P J Boram)

From Eric Lawley

Dear Peter
I have read with interest and increasing concern the Marconi Veterans Newsletter which I was given at the recent Studio reunion.  I regret that I have not taken an active interest in the association other than on the studio side
I have long been concerned that the history of Marconi achievements relating to the Broadcasting and Studio side are things are disappearing.  Yes, the hardware is around in the Chelmsford Industrial Museum and, judging from reports and photographs even fully working equipment with Paul Marshall’s company, but there are many historic occasions when we were involved in the making of TV programmes
For example
a)    1959.  Accompanying President Eisenhower on his good-will tour to Rome and Delhi (albeit operating American equipment.
b)    1960  Princess Margaret’s wedding where we supplied and operatd equipment at Tower Pier for the Royal Couple’s departure on the Royal Yacht Britannia.  I operated the camera which was on a scaffolding tower on top of Tower Bridge.  Some of this was re-broadcast recently.
c)    1961  Another Royal wedding in York Minster (no points for guessing who was on the highest camera atop one of the twin towers!).
d)    1962  I have seen pictures showing Marconi equipment and staff televising the return of Sir Francis Chichester (item (c) “Did you know?”, last MVA Newsletter)
e)    1964  Televising the first (?) Winter Olympics in Innsbruck when Britain actually won the bobsleigh.
Needless to say there are many more events, historic and otherwise.
Ever since I retired some 5 years ago I have intended to make a video about the Eisenhower trip using photos and some audio tape I have.  Some months ago I Emailed CBS asking if they have any archive material of which we could have a copy for our museum but had no response.  Maybe it requires someone with more clout!
Likewise maybe we should ask the BBC for recordings.
Well I’ve run on long enough so all that remains is to put my money where my mouth is.  I enclose my cheque for £10 for the annual subscription.
Yours sincerely
Eric W Lawley

From George Grisdale

Dear Peter
Thank you for sending the copy of the recent Newsletter, a cheque for £10 is enclosed as you suggest.  Also copies of my original agreement of 1938 and the employment conditions for engineers from 1936.
Born in 1914, I spent six years 1931 – 1937 at East London College (now Queen Mary College) of London University.  The first two years were on the physics course and for the following four years I was in the Electrical Engineering Department.  There I met C R Stoner, formerly a lecturer at Marconi College; he had just published a book “Short Wave Wireless Communication” with A W Ladner, still the chief instructor at Marconi College.  Stoner was always helpful with advice which perhaps led to me joining the MWT organisation.
On 20 July 1937 I was interviewed by H M Downett and L B Q Ultzer at Electron house on the Embankment and I started at Marconi College a couple of months later for five months; my main work was guiding three engineers from overseas Cable & Wireless stations, who were taking the course to learn more about wireless methods.  There were 22 graduates in that intake and in the 70s we accounted for most of them.  Two had died, ten were still in the Company and five were still in the Research Department.
Graduate engineers received £146 in their probation period.  I got £182 because, as Downett did, I had three years research experience.  In March 1938 I was assigned to the Receiver Development Group which occupied two or three of the huts on the Writtle site.  We stayed there for a year before moving to the new Baddow labs in March 1939 where we stayed until 1950.  In 1950 Receiver Group moved to New Street, then I arranged a transfer to the Research labs at Baddow.  In Receiver Group during the war I was mainly concerned with the CR receivers and various related problems like the first single sideband systems.
In Research I worked for H J Easy, Eric Eastwood, David Speake and Peter Brunton and retired in 1979.  In the mid eighties I worked as a consultant with Roy Rodwell in the Archives getting some of the old equipment going.  The Archives then had moved from the old shed in Driver’s Yard to a well set up building beyond the canteen at Baddow, with a K-number which I forgot.  We arranged demonstrations for Prof. Aab’s lecture about Marconi at the Royal Institution.
In his long ramble through history I have tried to give you some items about the two issues in your second newsletter about clerk’s pay at MIMCo. and the Archive memories. If there is any more you require let me know.
The mast at New Street was still there in 1939 when we moved to Baddow with a red danger light on top.  It disappeared before the war started in September 1939.  The buildings were occupied by T L Parkin and his crystal group.  I have a cassette tape recording of an after-lunch conversation with Frank Bohannon who worked at Hall Street in 1911 and visited the Archives in 1986.
Excuse this disjointed scribble, must be old.
Yours sincerely
George Grisdale

From Bryan Carey

26th October 2000
Dear Peter
I am responding to the appeal in the Newsletter and enclose a cheque for £10.  If you could let me have details of the coasters in due course I shall probably be pleased to relieve you of the odd set.
It is over ten years, would you believe, since I moved from Chelmsford and settled into a very pleasant retirement on Tyneside.  My son, who lives in Newcastle, is the consultant haematologist for Sunderland and seems to spend much of his time singing, some of it professionally.  My eldest daughter, who has three children, moved up here not long after we did.  Her husband runs his own IT business and my daughter runs the Quality Control Department for one of the diary processing firms that supplies the main supermarket chains.  Since they are both at work we have played our part in helping out with the growing up family and have just seen our eldest grandchild off to university – an experience almost as traumatic for us as for his mother.
My youngest daughter is a professional musician and as such is based in London and quite frequently performs in Chelmsford.  She has been in most of the Cathedral Festival programmes and also does quite a lot of disabled educational work with the local Council. We have not been back to Chelmsford since we moved away.  We once went through on the train and I scarcely recognised the New Street site as we went past.  I understand from my daughter that if I did return, I would not know my way around anymore.
When we first moved here we were surprised to find that the Gateshead Foremen and Supervisors Association was still in being although the unit was almost literally two men and a cat, being some offshoot of MASC.  For several years we had an annual reunion at the Hospitality Room at St. James’ Park, the home of Newcastle United, but sadly that has fallen into nothing.  In fact when Bill Henderson, who used to be manager, Gateshead dies last year I was unable to find anyone locally to notify.
We keep ourselves well occupied, there is so much going on in Newcastle with theatres, concerts and cultural activities associated with the Universities that we are hard pushed to keep up with it all.  The Royal Shakespeare Company are about to embark on their annual residency which will keep us fully extended for the next months.  The last time we went to stay with our daughter in London I wanted to go to the theatre with her and found that almost all we wanted to see had in fact already been in Newcastle (and at a more civilised price than you poor Southerners pay).
Please give my best wishes to all our various colleagues.  I hope that you will manage to find a way to keep solvent.  As a last thought I derive considerable satisfaction after all the years of condescension from members of English Electric and GEC to find my share certificates have the name Marconi – then they pass into oblivion – keep up the good work!
Bryan Carey

From Peter Helsdon

swbIn August1941, I joined the Staff of Power Test at a yearly salary of £156 first working Marine Equipment including Lifeboat Spark Transmitters.  At that time Test was treated as an extension of Development so I was able to help A W Lay with his Medical Diathermy Machines which because they allowed bloodless surgery were used to save lives of hundreds of soldiers wounded in the battle-fields North Africa.  Later in the War these Spark Diathermy machines were used to jam the German Bomber navigational systems.

The labourer in Power Test was Fred Hutchinson who in 1922 had found a chair for Dame Nellie Melba to sit on for her historical first broadcast: Many of the established Test Engineers were characters, Sandy practiced economy by having his hair cut only twice a year, another was known as Fur Coat Baker after he had brought one back from an installation job in Switzerland and wore it every winter.  Mr George insisted on having his  desk in the high voltage enclosure,    until some eight foot sparks flashed around him.  Several. of the senior installation engineers like Vyvian had impressive profiles. It was said that an early Chief Engineer, Andrew Gray, would only employ engineers with large noses as he believed this indicated strength of character.

The main output was the SWB8/11 (Short Wave Beam) range of transmitters of which some 800 were produced to maintain War-time Worldwide communications.  After each transmitter was tested, it was put on a load-run for two hours These periods were enlivened by tales of foreign parts by visiting installation engineers. One, for example, had just returned from the Amazon jungle where hundreds of miles from the nearest hospital; his colleague was struck down with prostate trouble. The local village Doctor decided operate and taught the engineer how to give Chloroform on a pad.  Before the Doctor had time to sew up the incision the engineer had to grab a bowl to catch the flow resulting from the relief of pressure on the patient’s urethra.  The last drop just filled the bowl held over the still open incision.  The colleague made a good recovery.

If you look in the lower right corner of-the attached SWB8 photo you will see the front of the Franklin drives.

The Franklin was a variable LC oscillator using a very clever mechanical design which allowed precise frequency setting and freedom from drift due to temperature changes.  This used a DEQ (Dull Emitter Q) valve, designed by Captain Round 1919  as a narrow band FM modulator to reduce the effect of selective fading.

When Marconi sent one of the SWB series to the USA for evaluation their engineers used one of their latest Quartz crystal test sets to check the transmitted frequency.  When no audible beat was heard they laughed and said the Franklin must be no better than could be expected of an old fashioned LC     oscillator.  So while this test was under way the Marconi engineer slowly adjusted the Franklin out of zero beat

Later in the War, the SWB8s were modified so they could be used to “bend” the navigation beams. used. by the German air-force so     their bombs fell harmlessly on moorland or the open sea, A special SWBX version was also produced to counter the guidance system used in the early Flying Bombs.  To get these out in time the Test staff worked 24 hour shifts.

There was a story that two of these transmitters were used tuned approximately to the correct HF waveband but spaced by the IF frequency of a flying bomb used against allied ships in the Mediterranean.     As a result an Italian battleship sank itself.

One night Admiral Grant came into Power test shouting “Cease Fire”, they all thought the War was over, but it only meant that the Germans had changed their guidance system so that the SWBXs were no longer needed.

Some SWB8s were mounted in mobile vans, possibly for use at the Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin conferences.  These were tested up the Yard     at night.  As the job was urgent the Test Engineer decided to. relieve himself over the tail-board of the van, unfortunately he had forgotten to earth the vehicle which was wired up to the 400 volt mains.

Best wishes

Peter Helsdon.

From W L Peace

Dear Sir
Having received the September Newsletter I now enclose my cheque for £10
On the other topic, a Marconi Museum, yes I would like to see one either at New Street or at Riverside with something in the town shopping area as well.  The idea of a globe with various circles around it to illustrate radio waves would be very suitable.  BUT MAKE IT VANDAL PROOF PLEASE!
W L Peace


Inevitable but we feel we must print particularly as Veterans living away from the locality will not hear of ex-Colleagues demise.

Robert Franks OBE Affectionately known as Bob, passed away recently at the age of 85. Bob was for many years Contracts Director of the old Broadcasting Division of Marconi Communications under MD Tom Mayer. Prior to the war Bob attended Marconi College with well-known installation genius Dr. Derek Griess. Bob then went to the Far East on Government business but managed to get back to the UK just before the Japanese invasion of Singapore. More recently Bob had been living in The Lawns, Springfield Chelmsford having sold his home in Brittain Crescent Gt. Baddow. Many ex-colleagues attended his funeral at Chelmsford Crematorium.

Reg Kent, always known as Reg, has passed away at the age of 81. He began work in the Boys Section of Apprentices Training Centre at New Street following his Father’s footsteps who was a Foreman with Company. Reg held various positions during his career finishing on retirement in the Works Study Department after completing almost 50 years service.
Reg was an active sportsman playing Bowls for well over 30 years at Lionmede B.C. and Marconi B.C. He won several honours at this sport including his Essex County Badge.

Jack Oliver, who has passed away at the age of 83, joined the Company after the second World War following his Fathers career as a Foreman. On his retirement he had completed almost 40 years service, most of which was spent in the R & D Workshops.
Jack was a Desert Rat who, unfortunately lost a leg in the Middle East campaign. He spent much of his life dedicated to the BLESMA (British Limbless Ex-Servicemens’ Association) of which he was Branch Chairman for North Essex.

Edward Hall BEM, better known as Ted, passed recently at the age of 81. Ted was a Foreman in Section 16 at New Street for many years.

The importance of the Year 2001 Centenary

By the time this Newsletter reaches you, the media hopefully will have picked up our request for recognition to be given to our Founder in this probably the most important Centenary covering the Wireless Transmission across the Atlantic in 1901. We have sought media coverage in an effort to get Chelmsford Borough Council to erect signs at every entrance to the town of Chelmsford stating for example “Welcome to Chelmsford the birthplace of Broadcasting” or “Welcome to Chelmsford where Communications Began”. Nowhere in the town, apart from a road named after Marconi and a blue plaque on a wall, are our Founders achievements recognised. With the Royal Mint issuing a coin, and other world-wide Centenary Celebrations taking place on this event, we feel Chelmsford Borough Council should really do something to recognise the start of many other communication facilities which this historic transmission made in the world of broadcasting, television, satellites, internet etc. None of these would have been possible without the work of Guglielmo Marconi.

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 at his home address which is 96 Patching Hall Lane, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 4DB, UK.

Newsletter 2000


Welcome to this the second Newsletter from the Marconi Veterans Association. Our first issue went down extremely well according to the feedback, which we received. We may decide to issue this twice a year providing we get from our Veterans some written comments, points of view, ideas and even recollections. The request for you to send snippets seems to have fallen on stony ground. Nearly 2000 copies of the first Newsletter was sent out to Veterans and members of the old Marconi Communication Systems Transmitter and Studio Group members. To date we have received just two written replies. Not much reward for our efforts in trying to keep you in touch with current events, news and other items. So come on you retired Veterans with little else to do. Please put pen to paper and let us have your recollections etc.