Newsletter 2012

All from a visit to a Suffolk steam museum

Last August my wife and I were staying for a few days in a farmhouse B&B near Saxmundham in Suffolk. During our last day in the area we visited the Longshop Steam Museum in Leiston, formerly part of the factory of Richard Garratt and Sons, manufacturers of agricultural machinery, steam engines and trolleybuses. On one of the display panels were ‘The Reminiscences of a Garratt Girl’. Ruth Ottley had joined the firm at 16 or 17 to do war work, from the early days of WW2 until March 1943, when she was detailed by ‘officials’ to upsticks and move to Marconi’s in Chelmsford as part of the war effort. There she met and married her future husband. The display panel acknowledged the article to Ruth Freeman of Chelmsford.

What had happened to Ruth Freeman at Marconi’s? A check in the Veterans register led me to Pat Freeman, with a career in Marconi Comms, retiring as Manager of Customer Service Division in 1968, who in 1943 was working in the Crystal Department at Baddow, where he met and subsequently married Ruth Ottley after her arrival there. I met Pat recently, now living in a retirement home in Chelmsford, and came away with a potted resumé of his Marconi career and copy of the article below which appeared in the December 1972 edition of ‘Link’, the MCSL house journal. It describes what must be a typical web of relationships and friendships within the Marconi family of companies.

Pat Freeman joined the Marconi Company in 1937 after leaving King Edward VI Grammar School, Chelmsford. Called up before the outbreak of the war he was soon recalled to Marconi’s where he was engaged in the development and manufacture of specialized quartz crystal units. In 1949 he transferred to the VHF Development Group and in 1957 was appointed leader of the VHF Special Designs Section. He later joined Telegraph Development Group working on error correcting equipment and was responsible for the design of the HU126 7?unit monitor. He subsequently took charge of a section concerned with the development and design of Marconidata equipment, then became Chief of Installations, Line Communications Division. He finally retired as manager of Marconi Customer Service Division.

Following his retirement, partly as a result of his marriage to the Garret Girl, who sadly died three years ago, he developed a consuming interest in steam traction engines. For some years Publicity Officer of the East Anglian Traction Engine Society, he has a number of books on the history and use of steam engines to his credit. He is still active in EATES, and now, with his daughter June continues to make contributions to the society’s journal and website. Ed.

They say that one wedding brings another. But certainly a wedding brings old friends and relations together from the four corners of each family. Pat Freeman of Writtle recalls the day when he and his wife Ruth went for the first time to see their son Tony’s fiancée’s parents, Jack and Margaret Parker. “Directly I saw Jack I thought I recognized him, but could not place him. Then the penny dropped. We had worked together as friends in the boys’ shop at New Street; and there was a lot to talk about as we had not seen each other for thirty years.” Tony Freeman and Christine Parker were married in October. Over a hundred relations and old friends assembled to wish them well.

Looking around at the guests during the reception Pat was interested to see how closely many of them were linked with the Company. He had met Ruth his wife while they were both working in the Crystal Department at Baddow during the war. Their best man was Jimmy Aikman who also worked there, and Pat had been his best man when he had married Joyce, a Marconi girl. Jack Parker, Christine’s father, is now working for Jack Sutton on TV transmitter assembly in Building 29, and Margaret Parker worked in Section 16 at New Street during the war. Jack’s brother-in-law Les Beard works at Waterhouse Lane.

Ruth’s brother George Ottley works in Envelopment at Writtle. George is a keen cricketer and has bowled very successfully for Marconi elevens since he joined the Company over twenty years ago; Pat’s sister Eileen worked at New Street for a time. Her husband Jim Joslin is now in the Works at New Street; Pat’s other sister, Norah, worked in the Crystal Dept. at New Street, and his father worked in the Crystal Dept. at Baddow for many years. Crystal Dept. was so important that it was divided into two.

June Freeman, Pat’s daughter, was one of the bridesmaids. She worked at Writtle during vacations and is now at college learning to teach mentally handicapped children. His son Tony, oddly enough, has not actually worked for Marconi. But he has played football for them all his life. His father was Vice-Chairman of the Marconi Football Club.

Christine has not worked for the Company either. Her connections with it are happy memories of children’s parties. Tony and Christine now have a bungalow in Burnham. They both work for the Royal Insurance in London.

The band at the wedding—it was an evening reception—was a young group becoming increasingly well known, Time Out. Its leader, lan Ruddle, works in Systems Planning, Writtle, in fact, in the next hut to Pat. And the photographer who put the happy gathering on record, a camera club friend of Pat’s for twenty years, was none other than Company photographer Les Dyer.’