Newsletter 2013


As in previous years, a number of letters are from correspondents seeking information about former colleagues, for research into their family history, or for the preparation of articles, books, etc.   If no contact detail appears with the letter then please direct your reply or any correspondence for the enquirer to: Barry Powell, Secretary, Marconi Veterans’ Association,
22 Juliers Close,  Canvey Island, Essex, SS8 7EP; 01268 696342;
or to the editor, Ken Earney, 01245 381235; email

Certain items in this issue, particularly on this and the next page, are responses to letters or articles appearing in the 2011 edition which have already been posted during the last eleven months on the website. There is thus an inevitable but necessary duplication catering for those Veterans who have no possibility, or wish, to use the internet.

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

WWII wireless station at Stock

In the 2011 newsletter we included an appeal for any information about the existence of a WWII wireless station at Stock which had been put to Peter Turrall at a talk about Marconi history he gave, in Stock, in November 2010. Four weeks later Roy Simons replied with the following information. My apologies – due to editorial oversight, this was not included in the printed version.

During the war I was in the same laboratory (Room 124) at Baddow where the Stock equipment was designed and monitored.  It was designed by Bill Agar, a member of TL Eckersley’s section.  The equipment was used to measure the height of the ionosphere.  The following is an extract from a report on the work at Baddow by David Speake.

‘The team devised techniques of ionospheric sounding and developed measuring equipment, the results from which were used to predict the performance of HF radio channels.  Typical of the equipment built and put into service was a pulse transmitter feeding a wide-band rhombic aerial for vertical incidence ionospheric sounding. The equipment was installed at Stock (about six miles from the laboratories) on a site with the inappropriate name of Smallgains Lane!  It was controlled by telephone line from the laboratories and the delayed echoes received from the ionosphere were monitored round the clock by the RAF operators.  Data assembled from measurement of this sort was circulated to all three Services to guide system operators in selection of optima frequencies for HF communication.’

RAF West Beckham

In June, Mike Digby of West Beckham in Norfolk wrote a letter which appeared nationwide in local newspapers appealing for memories, photos, documents of the former radar station RAF West Beckham. Barry Powell spotted it in the his local, the Evening Echo, telephoned Mike and offered the help where possible of the MVA. He replied:

Thanks for the very interesting chat on Saturday. A most impressive website. Very kind of you to help and offer the use of your website and news letter. It was great talking with you. If I come across any ex-Marconi people or any information which I think would be of use then I will gladly pass it on. Have attached a small piece below (see next paragraph). Have also attached a video I made about the station and placed links to my flickr and photo bucket accounts which you might find of interest.

“I currently live on part of the former RAF West Beckham chain home radar station in Norfolk. I plan on writing a book about the history of the station and those who served here. Have so far tracked down the former wartime station commander’s daughter along with several former WAAFs and airmen.  So if you have any memories you wish to share, photos/documents you would allow me to copy then please get in touch.  Am happy to share the photos/documents I have with you.”

Mike Digby

Please note that Mike’s telephone number and e-mail address are only published in the paper version of the Newsletter. If you wish to contact Mike please do so via the web page and we will forward the correspondence.


From Trevor Sanderson, March 2011

Also missing from the 2011 issue, from Trevor Sanderson.

You will be pleased to hear that I have just been in contact with David Harris. He was not only able to answer my question, but turned out to be the person responsible for the whole communications system (called AMRICS) on the Nimrod AEW. As you can imagine, we just spent the last hour or so talking on the phone about it. He can remember an enormous amount of detail about the system, not only to the names of the individual units, and their reference units, but also to details of how they worked. Thank you again for being so kind as to include my request in your newsletter.

Ernest Ginman, Cape Sable, Nova Scotia, January 1907
From Desirée Martin; dizmartin at
September 2012

I have found in an old book I bought a letter from a Marconi employee based in Nova Scotia, Cape Sable dated 6th January 1907. It is such a good letter and finishes with “….guess we will soon be working wireless across the Atlantic in about 6 months…”.

Have you any suggestions on how I could find out more about the writer, an Englishman Ernest Ginman.

(Desirée Martin has been referred to the Marconi archive at the Bodleian Library by Chris Gardiner, but if any Veteran can throw any light on this topic please email her directly at the above address, or to me to forward to her. I have a copy of the letter, which runs to three pages, should anyone wish to see it. Ed.)

There is an interesting article about Marconi’s three transatlantic radio stations in Cape Breton, but it makes no mention of Cape Sable:  However, its location as a suitable site for one of Marconi’s stations is mentioned in reports in 1901 in Nova Scotian newspapers which you can find at:  There are also some fascinating impressions of Marconi from one of the Herald’s journalists on the 30th December 1901 under the heading ‘With Marconi in Cape Breton’.

The Halifax Herald of the 26th December 1901, has this to say of Sable Island under the heading ‘The Marconi Wireless System’.

“In speaking with a Herald, man who called at his house last night, Mr. Parsons referred to the adaptability of Sable Island and Whitehead Island as stations for the Marconi system of wireless telegraphy. The two lighthouses on Sable Island are respectively 128 and 114 feet 39.0 m and 34.7 m above the sea level and a pole on these could easily extend the height to 200 feet 90 m. The top of Whitehead Island, which is owned by the Department of Marine, and is only eighty miles 130 km from Sable Island, stands 120 feet 36.6 m above sea level. A tower or pole there could also be made to extend the altitude to 200 feet 60 m. This would make the establishment of the wireless system an easy matter.  Trans-Atlantic vessels bound to and from New York pass within ten to forty miles 20 km to 70 km of the island. The island is in the fog region, but in thick or stormy weather, when lights could not be seen, nor bell from Sable Island heard, the Marconi signals could be given and received by passing vessels. It is possible that Marconi’s attention will be called to this matter by the Dominion government, who have been made acquainted with the facts.”

Puzzling phenomenon

From Richard Shaw, September 2012

Reading the war diaries of Col Rodney Foster, The Real Dad’s Army, recently, I came upon a decidedly puzzling statement. Under Monday 9 July (1945), he recorded the following phenomenon:

“A hot, muggy day. Clouds obscured the eclipse of the sun in the afternoon. It was strange how the wireless increased in volume while it was on.”

Very strange! We must certainly listen carefully during the next eclipse. And hopefully, get some actual measurements of signal strengths.

But in the meantime, can anyone suggest a possible explanation? Why, for instance, should the volume increase rather than decrease? And would the result have been any different under other atmospheric conditions?

Although the next total eclipse visible from the UK is not due until 20 March 2015, there will be one over the S Pacific – Australia to southern S America – on 13 November this year, so if you know anyone likely to be interested, perhaps you could email them as any confirmation of an increase in signal strength during the event would be really interesting.

Incidentally, I could find no mention of an eclipse over the UK in 1945, so if there was one on 9 July it must have been elsewhere; which suggests that its effect was fairly widespread, and holds out hopes that the November one may be detectable in Britain.

I imagine that Foster was listening to a medium frequency transmission from Droitwich – I don’t know if the BBC was using LW for the domestic service in 1945 – and of course it would have been AM, not FM, though any effect on either would be interesting.

This query was referred to Roy Simons who came back with a couple of links to research organisation reports which shed some light on this. The information was fed back to Richard Shaw, but for anyone wishing to exercise their curiosity, have a look at:

James Welply – Marconi pioneer

From Jo Saunders, January 2013
email:shizenorganics at
Would anyone be able to provide me with information on my grandfather, James Welply?  He worked with Marconi from 1912 at the Chelmsford site, and retired from Marconi’s in 1951. In around 1916 he was sent to the Cape Verde Islands to establish wireless there I believe. My mother was born there in 1918.  Then the family were sent to Rio and, I believe, Reciffe, to continue the pioneering work.  This may well have been in association with the Naval Reserve.  I have some amazing photos of enormous wireless radios on horse drawn carts taken during these years.

Understanding Engineers – 1

Three engineering students were gathered together discussing who must have designed the human body.

One said, “It was a mechanical engineer. Just look at all the joints.”

Another said, “No, it was an electrical engineer – the nervous system has many thousands of electrical connections.”

The last one said, “No, actually it had to have been a civil engineer. Who else would run a toxic waste pipeline through a recreational area?”