Advice on tracing the service of Marconi Employees
Over the last few years, we have had a number of requests to trace persons who have worked for one of the companies within the Marconi Organisation.
The first part of this advice applies to all parts of the Marconi family of companies with the remainder applying only to seagoing staff of The Marconi International Marine Company Limited (usually known as MIMCo or MIMC). The second part was prepared by the Merseyside Maritime Museum and would also apply to non-Marconi staff.
We regret that we are unable to give out personal details from our register (Data Protection Act) but will always attempt to pass on a message if the Veteran concerned is still living and we have reliable contact details.
The majority of service records with Companies within the Marconi Organisation are now part of the Marconi archive, the vast majority of which is now held in the Bodleian Library in Oxford,
The archivist, Michael Hughes, is the Library contact and is usually able to help with any enquiries. However, there is a small charge if you require any documents to be copied and sent to you. His contact details are firstname.lastname@example.org and 01865 277163.
In some cases, it may be possible, space permitting, to place a request in our annual newsletter which is published in February (copy deadline 31st December).
In the Royal Navy the radio operator was a rating and therefore to obtain information about an individual operator the relevant naval records have to be accessed.
If the person you are trying to trace was in the Merchant Navy there are several other lines of investigation you might follow.
1. The bulk of British Seamen’s’ records are held at the University of Newfoundland. This information came from the Merseyside Maritime Museum but has not been verified by the MVA.
2. The Imperial War Museum publishes a book “Tracing your Ancestors in the Merchant Navy”. The book can be consulted at the museum but we understand it is not very expensive to purchase. The MVA has never seen a copy so have no knowledge of its usefulness.
3. The Merchant Navy Officers’ Pension Scheme
The following document was prepared by Willie Williamson in the Merseyside Maritime Museum. This, as you will see, gives a lot of detail as to what information is held where and hence routes to follow. Some slight changes have been made to the original document to clarify certain matters.
Merchant Navy Radio Officers Records
The situation in the Merchant Navy was more complex than in the Royal Navy. There is a general misunderstanding that all MN Radio Officers worked for the Marconi International Marine Company (MIMC). This is one of the oldest radio companies in the UK having been established in 1900. While it is generally true that this company undoubtedly employed the greatest number of ROs they were not the only company to do so. Other major employers of Radio Officers included;
The International Marine Radio Co (IMR). This company was founded in 1930.
A part of Siemens Brothers later became the AEI Marine Communications Business of AEI until that Business was sold to MIMC in 1965.
Kelvin Hughes of Hainault,
SAIT Electronics of London,
All the above companies hired out their Radio Officers to shipping companies, however, some individual shipping companies employed their own operators. This was known as direct or self-employment or sometimes the term freelance was used. Shipping companies known to have been direct employers of Radio Officers at various times included;
Peninsular and Orient,
Henderson Line of Glasgow
Cunard Radio and Electronic Services
New Zealand Shipping Company
Sir William Reardon Smith
Union Castle Mail SS Company
British and Commonwealth Shipping Company
London and Overseas Freighters
Royal Fleet Auxilliary
This is not a definitive list of direct employed companies, so when seeking information about a Radio Officer it is best to check out shipping company records if nothing found at MIMC, IMR, SAIT, Kelvin Hughes etc.
During the Second World War the government established a “pool” of experienced MN men including radio officers. It is not known if a central register of these men is available for inspection.
Radio Officer Examination Records
The Berlin Telegraphic Conference of 1906 introduced compulsory examination and certification of all Radio Officers to an agreed international standard. Records of all Radio Officer examinations conducted in the UK from that date are held in the Merseyside Maritime Museum library. Researchers need to look up a miscellaneous book M2 to find these records and then under the heading RO/E they can select the appropriate year.
These records list the name, date and place of birth of the examinee, the Morse speed for sending and receiving and details concerning knowledge of regulations and technical ability. These records also give the date and place of the examination and whether the candidate passed or failed. In most cases the certificate and class of certificate granted can be ascertained.
Radio Officers killed during the Second World War
Copies of “The British Merchant Navy Memorial Register” listing all Radio Officers lost at sea during the Second World War are held at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. This list is also available on the website of the Radio Officers Association (ww.radioofficers.com). This register was compiled by wartime Radio Officer Peter J. Barber and with later assistance from Radio Officer George V. Monk. This lists the name, date of birth, rank and vessel on which the officer was serving at the time of his death. Each entry includes a short summary of how and where the action took place, i.e. south of Freetown sunk by U-155.
Marconi Wireless Officers killed during First World War
Copies of a “Memorial Register” 1914 – 1918 compiled by Radio Officer Peter J. Barber, listing all the Marconi Wireless Officers lost at sea during the First World War are held at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and at the Merseyside Maritime Museum.
This register gives the name and age of the officer, the vessel on which he was serving and a short account of the action in which the officer died.
Merchant Navy POWs in Second World War
A copy of a list of MN Radio Officers captured by the Germans is kept in the Merseyside Maritime Museum library. This gives the officer’s name, his ship’s name, his prisoner number and where known his discharge book number. Included in this list are details of Radio Officers held at Vichy-French POW camps and those at Japanese and Far East camps.
General information concerning Radio Officers
The Merseyside Maritime Museum library holds copies of the newsletter of the Radio Officers Association (ROA). This newsletter called QSO is published quarterly and is a good source of general information on all aspects of Radio Officers and their duties.
Radio Officers Association Archivist.
9.10.07 updated 29.4.13