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
A 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 email@example.com 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
The 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
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!
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.
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
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
From Jimmy Leadbitter
Extract from the “Marconi Mariner” Volume 1, No.1 July/August 1947
Elsie, the Squigger-Bug
Squigger-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
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.
Peter R Springett
From Ron Doubleday
30 October 2000
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
From Robbie Boram
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
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
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.
Eric W Lawley
From George Grisdale
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.
From Bryan Carey
26th October 2000
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!
From Peter Helsdon
In 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.
From W L Peace
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.