Newsletter 2013

Preserving the Marconi heritage

Alan Hartley-Smith


The Marconi Old Geezers Society – MOGS – was formed by Ian Gillis in 2001 as an informal group of former employees, most of whom worked for Marconi Radar Systems. We use an on-line forum to exchange memories and news of personal doings, with over 120 members.

In 2010 it was decided to record the contribution made by Marconi Radar to the history of radar while those with first-hand experience are still alive. In addition, to record the stories and anecdotes and sadly the obituaries of those people who supported that contribution.

Following the success of the forum an on-line wiki format was chosen to allow the addition and modification of content by suitably experienced contributors, with an overall editorial control. Currently access is restricted to members, but the intention is to make the site public on the internet, to disseminate the fascinating history of the company to those who will appreciate it.

This wiki has grown to be a substantial record incorporating text, graphics, photographs, audio and video clips, drawn from personal inputs and material collected and currently held in an archive stored in the Chelmsford Industrial Museum at Sandford Mill.

As the content includes factual material from company publications and records, to be made public requires authorisation by the present copyright holder which is now being organised through their Heritage Product group. It transpires that what we are trying to achieve matches well with their existing activities. Based on similar situations at current and former sites, it should be possible to establish a physical location for a Chelmsford involvement, provided that a viable and locally sustainable business plan can be established.

For added emphasis, as a result of the success of the radar wiki, interest has grown in similar activity for other product areas. Currently these are ongoing for television, broadcast radio and line communications, and there is a generic Marconi wiki which covers such as the college and research establishments. This means there is a need to obtain and coordinate input from a wider community.

During the same time period there has been the eventually successful campaign to rescue the New Street site, in which the MVA has been involved. This has happily resulted in the possibility of a renewed physical presence in Chelmsford for Marconi interests. There is also an upsurge of local interest, such as the Changing Chelmsford initiative, the Essex Record Office event to make an aural record of Marconi employee’s stories, and Bellway’s own public meetings.

The consequence of these concurrent events is that there is a need for one or more suitably interested individuals resident reasonably close to Chelmsford to take up the mantle of ‘The Company’ and encourage the establishment of and provide manning for a centre to accommodate archive material, mount exhibitions and to act as presenters for public involvement, which would include on-line facilities to show the content of the wikis, to carry promotion into local schools and seek support from other organisations. This is how similar services at other BAE sites round the country are provided and supported.

The MVA committee fully supports the idea of an appeal for volunteers to assist Alan and his colleagues who are already devoting time and effort to the project. We do not however have the resources to support it practically in terms of manpower. We ask that any veteran feeling able to become actively involved should make themselves known to Alan (by emailing him at or to any committee member who will pass on those names to him. We will provide assistance in terms of publicity via the website and any other appropriate means available to us to further its aims.

We think the project deserves our support in memory of our collective lives within its orbit, and we shall actively cooperate in this endeavour.