Newsletter 2004

Number 6
January 2004


Yes I am afraid the above headline is true, unless within the next six months you Marconi Veterans (there are over 1,400 of you still active) sit down for a few minutes and drop a line to our Editor.  I need inputs to keep this Newsletter going and despite my appeals I have received less than a dozen stories etc.  If you want this Newsletter to continue over the ensuing years, then a constant stream of reminiscences, photos, news of Veterans, births, marriages and even deaths are useful to pad out the Newsletter.  Remember, like you, other Veterans would like to know what is going on in the world of ex-Marconi.

It is up to you now Marconi Veterans – this is your very last chance.  Depending on the amount of inputs will decide if you get a Newsletter in 2005.  You will not get another reminder – the Newsletter will just die as the headline suggests unless ……….

In the last twelve months we have had our Annual Re-union.  There was a very good turnout to mark the Presidency of Veteran Stan Church.  He gave us many happy memories of his working life in his introductory speech.  Charles Rand our Chairman introduced him and Guest of Honour was ex Managing Director of Marconi Radar Systems, John Sutherland.  John gave a very polished presentation of the pitfalls of the previous mismanagement of our parent Company resulting in the loss by shareholders of many millions of pounds.  Many of those present at the Re-union including John, lost large sums of money because of the failure in recognising the state of the market and the wrongful purchase of non British companies which had or later made tremendous financial and trading losses.

The current Marconi management are desperately trying to keep the Company name of Marconi going and shares in the new Company are healthy at the moment.

Marconi Recognised at Long Last in Chelmsford

Your Editor over many years has had personal “run-ins” with the local Chelmsford Borough Council to get our Founder recognised in the town.  One result of his intervention two years ago was the erection of signs at all the entrances of the Borough of Chelmsford that Chelmsford was “The Birthplace of Radio” (the last word should have been Wireless) but something is better than nothing


Notwithstanding this, your Editor pushed further for something more tangible tied to our Founder.  The result was that Chelmsford Borough Council decided to run an International competition to find a suitable solution to recognise the work of Marconi in Chelmsford over so many years.  Your Editor sat with others on a panel to decide the most fitting result of this International presentation.  Over 40 presentations were made which were ultimately sifted down to a shortlist of 6.  Each of the presentations was examined again and one was chosen as the most representative of our Founders work.  It was a life-size statue, prepared in bronze by Suffolk Sculptor Stephen Hickling

It took well over a year to prepare and a Macquette of this was shown in 2001 to Princess Elettra Marconi when she unveiled the entry signs to the town in November of that year.  In February 2003 Princess Elettra came back to Chelmsford at the invitation of Chelmsford Borough Council to unveil the life size statue of her father Marchese Guglielmo Marconi.  The cost of which was met by the three remaining firms in Chelmsford who were part of the original Company plus of course the Chelmsford Borough Council.  The ceremony in front of Press and Television cameras took place at The Essex Records Office in Wharf Road Chelmsford.  The statue at the moment remains within the walls of the Records Office but it is hoped in future years, following the building of a hotel and other complexes, that the statue will be rehoused in a more prominent position alongside what is hoped, will be the final resting place for the Marconi Archives.

There has been a lot of comments in the local press on the placing of the Marconi Statue in a more prominent place in the centre of the town.  The development of the Wharf Road area is off the mainstream of Chelmsford and the statue will not be seen by people for years to come, unless they make a specific journey to the Essex Records Office.  Marconi did a lot for Chelmsford giving employment to many thousands of people, supplying some of the worlds best electronic products and above all putting Chelmsford on the map from a sleepy market town to a major industrial area.  This in itself brought orders from all over the world for both Commercial and Defence products.  The people benefiting from this were of course those employed and their families and the shopkeepers of Chelmsford who took advantage of the growing population brought about by not only industrial Marconi, but also by Cromptons, Hoffmanns and Christy Brothers.Chelmsford ought to recognise more fully its famous sons and whilst we have now got recognition after 100 years of Marconi’s work, let us be proud and show the rest of the world by putting his statue in the centre of Chelmsford.  After all, Marconi’s has brought fame and fortune to Chelmsford and the town has become a tourist attraction because of this.


Caption Competition

Again the inputs to this were very few considering the number of Veterans who receive this Newsletter.  Does this mean you are no longer interested in having a little light relief?  We will try once again to whet your appetite and if this fails again, it will be the last time we try.  In fact as mentioned earlier, this could be your last Newsletter unless you Veterans respond to our request for inputs.  All the entries are detailed and the winners who will receive a copy of Editors book “Chelmsford, a Stroll through Time” are marked with an asterisk.


Harry Edwards
“It’s for youoo”

Colin Page
* “These mobile phones will never catch on” and
“Vatican City 2 – Arsenal 0”

David Speake
“It’s your wife.  She is asking if you have seen her ear muffs anywhere”
Gordon Snell
“Chelmsford on the phone, more redundancies in the pipe-line”

Peter Farnworth
“I thought you’d brought the batteries.  Oh well, just keep talking and perhaps no one will notice”  and
* “I’ve had to wear this dratted hearing aid ever since I went to the MASC disco”

Dr. Brian Wardrop
“You know, Guggy, I really can’t see this mobile radio thing being of much use”  and
“Early days in wireless transference”

Alan Stevens
“Don’t you think, Mr. Marconi, that we should be achieving a greater range than two feet?”

New Caption Competition

Nellie Melba

image004 The Editor will once again present one of his own books “Chelmsford, a Stroll through Time” recently published and covering life in the town in the late 1940’s as seen through the eyes of himself to the three best captions received.

Chelmsford a Stroll Through Time

As mentioned in the previous Newsletter, the Editor has written a book covering life in Chelmsford in the late 1940’s onwards.  This has been selling at £11.00 each.  However, if Marconi Veterans purchase this book at £8.00 per copy plus 75p UK postage, 50% of this cost will be given to the funds of our Veterans Association.  Orders should be sent with cheque or Postal Orders direct to the Editor whose address appears on the last page of the Newsletter.



Each year we produce a Coaster, which is handed out at the Annual Re-union.  These Coasters are rapidly becoming a Collectors item.  Our Secretary Bernard Hazelton has got some of the Coasters, which were issued at previous Re-unions, and these are pictured below.  If you would like to purchase any of these for your own collection, please forward Bernard a cheque at £1.00 each Coaster plus a further £1.00 to cover postage and packing.  If you collect them yourself, you save the postage and packing costs.

Becoming a Veteran

Since we published on the front page of the January 2003 Newsletter details of Marconi Veteran new membership requirements, we have had a number of people applying for Membership.  In most cases our sub-Committee have been able to give a positive response and, it is encouraging that more people are taking up membership of the Association.  If you know of anybody who might fall into the categories previously mentioned of 21 years with Marconi or associated Units, then please contact our Secretary Bernard Hazelton.


Fellow Veterans, your Annual Subscription is now due.  The Veterans Committee have once again agreed to keep the amount the same as last year i.e. £5.00.  Will you all please send your Subscription as soon as possible to Bernard Hazelton whose address appeas on the “Contacts” page. A Subscription form with Bernard’s address is included as an insert to the paper copy of this Newsletter.  It would be appreciated if subscriptions could be sent before the end of March.

For a downloadable copy of the Subscription Form in PDF format click here.


The obituaries published in this newsletter have been moved to the Archive.  To view the list from the newsletter Click here.  To view the whole archive Click here.

Mr. Osman Mortada died on 4th March 2003 aged 87.  He was born in London of Egyptian/French parents and returned to Cairo to receive his early education.  As a young man he worked for the Marconi Company of Egypt and travelled and worked in nearby Arab countries.  He later returned to England to receive higher education and his degree qualification at Imperial College in London.

He worked for several companies including Redifon and Standard Telephones and Cables before joining the Marconi Wireless and Telegraph Co. at Chelmsford in the Export Department.  For a time he was the Company’s Resident Representative in Cairo but returned to UK in 1952 to become Middle East Representative.  Based initially at Marconi House in the Strand and later with International Division at Chelmsford, he travelled extensively throughout the Middle East.  He was responsible for promoting, negotiating and overseeing many major projects throughout the region including Egypt, Iran, Iraq and Turkey.

In 1959 he became Export Manager but his interest and undoubted expertise lay in the Middle East and he left the Company in 1960 to set up his own company representing many important companies in the M.E.
He always followed with great interest the achievements of the Marconi Company and was saddened at its demise.  Those who knew him and worked with him greatly respected his abilities.

N.B. It would help if Veterans hear of the passing of any Ex Marconi Veterans that they telephone our Secretary Bernard Hazelton with details as we do try as far as possible to have representatives attending the funeral or advising Marconi Units.

Marconi Memorabilia

Over the last year, many of you have contributed to the Marconi collection in the Chelmsford Industrial Museum at Sandford Mill.  Many thanks for helping to preserve the work of our Company.  Dr. Geoffrey Bowles will be pleased to receive any Marconi item, letters, books or photographs and better still equipment.  If you have any item, please advise the Editor or any Committee member.  You can of course take the items direct to Sandford Mill where they will be gratefully received and catalogued.  The Marconi Collection there is growing fast and is very impressive.  Please visit the Sandford Mill on Open Days which are extensively advertised in the local Press.  There is always one in July and sometimes one in April.  In due course Chelmsford Borough Council hope to have improved access roads in the area resulting in the Museum being open more frequently.

Marconi Veterans’ President 2004

Your Veterans Committee is pleased to announce that David Frost previously Financial Director of Marconi Avionics at Basildon has agreed to be our President for the year 2004.  David is now a Consultant to BAE Systems.  He started with Marconi’s on leaving King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford.  He rates among his past times Golf and Badminton as ways of keeping fit through the year after the strenuous days of accounting.  The Re-Union for 2004 is on Saturday 17th April.


The Marconi Veterans Website

The MVA has been planning a Web Site for the Association for some time.  A usable site has now been designed, at the moment it only contains seven pages and a few pictures.  It has been tested on a computer and seen by all members of the MVA Committee.  It will remain essentially a text based site in the short term as we must assume that the majority of Veterans will only have a dial-up connection that is not really suitable for a graphic intensive site.  However, it is designed for the benefit of Veterans and, within reason and legality, it can contain anything relative to the old Marconi Company that people require.

Marconi Corporation plc has registered the domain names “” and “” on behalf of the MVA but, the Association will have to find an Internet Company which can host the site.  The two addresses above will then be re-directed to the host.  At the time of writing the Webmaster is in discussion with a possible Internet Company and it is hoped that the site can be made live by early 2004.

The Website will have facilities for electronic communication with members of the Committee.  We will pass on e-mails to other members if we know their address although we cannot divulge members’ individual addresses.

Note from webmaster; You are now reading this from the website so some of the information in the above paragraphs is clearly out of date.  However, it has been retained in this newsletter for completeness with the paper copy sent to many members.


Apologies for the poor printing in the January 2003 Newsletter of “Letters to the Editor”.  We have decided to retype the letters in this issue rather than scan them which was the reason for the poor presentation previously.

From Dennis Moore

I was pleased to see in your January 2003 Newsletter a cricketing face I remember, that of Billy Lee recalling games at Waterhouse Lane and Beehive Lane. I joined MWT Co. Ltd. in 1956 as a Grad. Apprentice and worked in the Aeronautical Division at Writtle from 1958 and Basildon until retirement in 1995.The team members I recall were Micky May, Pat Saltmarsh, Vic Church, Jim Dyer, George Ottley, Ken Goody, Ray Morgan, Bobbie Lincoln, Denny Clark, Reg and Roy Sleet, Ted Hutchings and many others.

I can recollect playing at Chelmsford ground when Geoff Hurst was the wicket keeper for Chelmsford  Highlights of our season were the annual fixture against Ernest Turner the Instrument Makers from High Wycombe (Managing Director Norman Turner would drive us around the field at Waterhouse Lane in his new pride and joy Jaguar!) and our annual tours to Hampshire around Havant and Emsworth. Best wishes to all survivors of those halcyon days!

From Douglas Francis Camp

I noticed in your recent Newsletter that not many Veterans send you material for publishing. I feel very diffident to give my personal experiences after many years – but as the time spent with the Company (1946 – 1974) was both happy and satisfying, I feel that perhaps a few words might help.

I joined the Marconi Instruments Company in its old corrugated ex-war food storage Nissan hut after being demobbed from the Army where after some “interesting postings”, I ended up with the Royal Corps of Signals Unit – which was quite a small unit attached to the Foreign Office and centered on the Post Office Research Station at Dollis Hill.  I fear that if I elaborate further there may be a problem with classified information so you may draw your own conclusions.

When I was demobbed I began to think about taking up my teaching of Mathematics in schools but as I now lived in St. Albans I went for an interview to Marconi Instruments.  All I had to offer was my teaching experience and work in the Royal Corps of Signals where I had taken, in my spare time, City and Guilds Certificates in Radio.

It may be worth relating that at this interview the manager of the Calibration Department – greeted me with the news that they were not really interested as they had already been forced to take on some ex-service men and were not keen to take many more.  I explained that even after the first World War at the age of 10 I had begun to build my own crystal sets – and this I continued to do and progressed as equipment became more modernised – I finished up at last building my own television set using the latest and only (at that time) nearly flat screen.

Anyway as a last resort (to get rid of me the manager gave me a blue-print and said “what do you make of that?”  To my surprise it was the blue-print of a B.F.O. (Beat Frequency Oscillator).  Strange to say – I had been sent up to Dollis Hill – to make some modifications to a model of the B.F.O. for use in the field.

Without revealing the truth I convinced him that I did know something more than an Army “key thumper”.

As a result I was taken on and spent many happy years calibrating test instruments which at that time were improving all the time.

Finally I was sent to India to the English Electric factory in Madras to teach Indian Staff how to manufacture Calibrating Instruments – Signal Generators both A.M. and F.M. – I was there until I retired in 1974.  I apologise if this has been too personal and too boring but you did ask for it.  (p.s. India is another story).

From Bill Barbone

I was so interested in the notes by Tom Gutteridge about the production of the “B” set because I used one in Rome in 1945 at the end of the Italian campaign when Ham Radio was starting up.

How this came about I have described on the web site of the History of Communications in Vienna on

You might be interested to look at this site as I have also described the development of Signals use of High Power Marconi equipment in War Office Communications to the Mediterranean Theatre, including lots of photo’s.  If you go to the site and click on the “XA riddle”, you will come to my article.

Also in the current Newsletter is the note from Jimmy Leadbetter on the Gothic installation of the SWB11X.  I was the development engineer responsible for the production versions of the SWB8X and the SWB11X.

As it happens I was the first Engineer to move in Bld 46 in 1950 and my first job was the uprating of the two SWB transmitters to the X edition to meet the new post war 1947 CCIR regulations and to incorporate the use of Single Sideband voice transmission.

Not many new ones were produced, in fact we had a contract to upgrade a lot of the old War Office stock and I remember going to various MoD Depots to pick suitable models to uprate!  This was because restrictions had been placed on the purchase of new equipment, but the refurbishment of old equipment was allowed (even if it cost twice as much!!)

I well remember A.J.G. Corbett and the preparations for the Gothic installation.  Also I seem to remember that the use of the Worldspan Transmitter was it’s first operational use and there was a great deal of panic in the lab (Bld 29 then) to get it fully up to performance for the Gothic.

From Colin Page

Did you know there was a fairly new book now available about the history and work of Marconi and others called “Wireless” from Marconi’s Black Box to the Audion.

It is by Sungook Hong and was published in 2001 so you may well have seen it, but I thought I would tell you in case you had not.

I have it on loan from the Library at the moment, but it will be back sometime when I have finished it.

From Tom Gutteridge/Bill Meehan

My letter in the previous Newsletter about Suitcase Sets produced a reply from Bill Meehan, which I found interesting.

The “suitcase set” comes in quite a lot of different versions, the three most popular being:

a)      Type 3 Mark I or B3: Probably used 1941-43.  24” long suitcase, gross weight 42lbs.

b)      Type 3 Mark II or B2: Probably introduced 1942-43 as a lighter version of (a).  About 18” long suitcase.  Gross weight 32lbs

Both (a) and (b) above are said to have been manufactured at the Special Operations Executive’s factory at Stoneley Park North London.  32-42lbs is a lot of weight to carry but was about par for the course for a robust portable military transceiver in those days.  The army manpack sets, Nos 18 and 22 were both in that range and carried as backpacks.  Carrying that sort of weight in a suitcase, to be swung nonchalantly in one hand while strolling down the street in front of the Gestapo, must have needed some practice and intestinal fortitude.

c)      A Mark III or A3: More of an attaché case size.  Weight said to be only 8lbs but I’m not sure I can believe that.  It appeared in the field in 1944.  There is some documentary evidence at the Signals Museum that more than 400 of these were made by “Marconi”.  I guess these were the ones you tested at Parsons Green.

d)      A Special version of the Army 18 set made for the SOE “Jedbergh” teams.  These were three man SOE teams consisting of one Brit, one American and one Frenchman, who started parachuting into France a little before D Day to help the various French resistance groups form into proper fighting/sabotage groups.  They were in uniform, unlike the SOE teams of agents.  The standard 18 set was modified to be powered by a hand cranked generator, tripod mounted.  Three satchels of equipment could be made into one backpack, weighing 45lbs.

The technical spec for all of the above was much the same:

Crystal controlled.  Frequency range about 3.5 – 12 (or 15) MHz.  LT or AC operation.  At the lower frequencies, the range is said to be up to 500 miles with the right frequency selection but I suspect that the UK base stations all had propagation advice from somewhere and they dictated the frequencies to be used by the agents at different times and seasons.  I guess they were all about 30 watts output to an inefficient aerial, said to be about 70 ft.

There was also a US Army set, circa 1945, called the “AN/PRC1 Suitcase Radio”.  Two bands switchable 2-5 and 5-12 mc/s.  30 watt. Crystal controlled.  18” x 13¼” x 7¼”.  Weight 32lbs.  Don’t know where it was used.

Recommended reading on the subject – History of the Second World War – SOE in France by M.R.D. Foot, published by HMSO in 1966.  There is a copy in the Essex library system.  Also, a book with lots of wireless operator interviews: Behind the Lines – The Oral History of Special Operations in WWII by Russell Miller.  Published by Secker & Warburg 2002.  Neither of those has much real technical data, but both are interesting reading.

However, you can see a selection of suitcase sets at the Royal Signals Museum, Blandford Camp, Blandford, Forum, Dorset.  Open Mon-Fri 9.30-4.30.  The main exhibition open to the public includes a display of suitcase sets and ancillaries, some of which you might recognise.  There is also, as you might expect, quite a lot of kit there.  The phone number is 01258 482413 and it might be worth checking in case they’re closed for Spring-cleaning or something.

Apart from SOE doing this sort of stuff, there was a separate organisation with MI6 in the field with wireless operators.  Within SOE, in addition to the French F section there was the RF section controlled by the “Free French”, plus another SOE Section organising the escape routes for POWs and aircrew on the run, another for the large Polish communities in France in the coal mining and industrial areas.  All of these unknown to each other, theoretically.  I have concentrated on France here but the same sort of thing was going on in most of the countries occupied by the Germans and the Japanese.

The Germans, in particular, devoted quite a lot of resources to tracking down the SOE wireless operators, with constant monitoring of the HF bands and the use of mobile D/F units to home in.  According to one respected authority, the young male and female wireless operators had a life expectancy of just six weeks before being picked up.  Many were then executed.  The trick was to change location for every new transmission, to operate out in the countryside and to spend a little time as possible on the air.  To do this they had to lug a heavy battery around in addition to the 32/42lbs.

From Bill Godden


MV Gothic:     With reference to Jimmy Leadbetter’s article in Newsletter No. 5.  This photograph of the Gothic I hope is of interest.  I took it in April 1968 as she was leaving London on what I understood at the time to be her last voyage.  She looks to have a full cargo so I suppose she possibly discharged in New Zealand before going up to the breakers in Taiwan

I sailed as 2R/O on the Gothic in 1956 with Bernie McGovern as Ch. R/O, he was a very patient man.

At that time she was trading to New Zealand as a First Class passenger cargo liner, the sparkle of the Royal Tour faded but still within memory.  She carried about 80 passengers.

I believe there were many alterations made to the ship before and after the tour and when I was onboard I think the radio installation consisted of:-

“Oceanspan III” main transmitter.  “Reliance” reserve transmitter.  “CR300” main receiver.  “Alert” (fixed tuned to 500khz) guard receiver.  Automatic keying device.  “Vigilant”(?) Auto alarm.  “Salvita” Lifeboat transmitter.  “Lodestone” D/F.  I don’t remember the radar or echosounder.  “Oceanic” S.R.E.

It was a good run to New Zealand, bunkering at Port of Spain, through the Panama Canal and stopping off at Pitcairn Island home of the “Bounty Mutineers”.  At Pitcairn Island we drifted off and the islanders came out to us in longboats to bring out patients for the ship’s doctor, collect stores and any mail, to put mail on board for delivery to New Zealand.  They also brought out fruit and souvenirs for sale to passengers and crew.

Some years later there was a fire on board which caused some fatalities.  The radio room was put out of action and the R/O used the Lifeboat transceiver to communicate with AwaruaRadio.  The ship only carried freight after that.

From Kenneth Hutley

I spent a very happy 48 years with the company retiring in 1987 one year early mainly due to health problems.

In early May 1939 my father and I were interviewed in the old Canteen by Jack Frost the then General Manager with a view to my employment.  The next week I had a letter asking me to start work in the Standards Room under Mr. R. Cartwright on the 19th of May.  For the first few weeks my pay was 13/3 per week.

I spent three years with that section and was mainly employed drift running and compensating Franklin Drives, Master Oscillators used in SWB8 and SWB10 and SWB11 transmitters.

My next section was MobileTest which was led by Bill Stroud testing quite a variety of transmitters used in portable stations.  Whilst there it was my luck to test the first VHF transmitters for vehicles.

About 1950 work took me to VHF Development Group.  Jobs were varied and most interesting here, most of the section subsequently moved to Writtle after a year or two.

There was a shortage of work in 1958 at Writtle and so I was seconded to Rivenhall to help with a large project going on there.

Two weeks after my marriage in 1961 I was recalled to Writtle and give the task of forming a section to Repair and look after all the Test Equipment on the site.  This was an enjoyable time and the help given me by permanent staff and apprentices was much appreciated.

We moved to New Street in 1974 and finally to West Way from where I retired still repairing Test Equipment although more specialised.

In 1986 I took the Radio Amateurs Examination and today hold the Callsign G0VDP.  My 2 metre equipment is on most days as is also the HF rig and it would be a great pleasure to have a chat with other Veterans who also have amateur call signs.

From Peter Helsdon

In the latest Marconi Veterans Newsletter I was interested to see a mention of John Sidebotham.  I first met him when he visited Power Test during the War.  He mentioned that he had been a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy on board a Destroyer which was involved in The Tizard Mission which took all the British Military secrets to the USA in 1940.  This included one of the first six production magnetrons.  These were taken by the ship Duchess of Richmond from Liverpool, which was later escorted by two Destroyers.  I presume John was on one of these.

One object of the Tizard Mission was to have the thousands of magnetrons needed, to be mainly produced by American resources.

Production in Chelmsford by Marconi started at Great Baddow where twenty a week were made by the end of 1940.  Later the new valve Laboratories in Waterhouse Lane took over production where several thousand were made.

From Keith Benzie

I worked in the Planning Department of Marconi Radar Systems at Bill Quay, Felling, Gateshead, and Tyne & Wear.  For almost thirty years (until the factory closure in the 80’s) and listed below are some of the shop floor humour/comical situations that I can recall.

The Balloon Man
Jack Frost (Foreman)
When replying to the question ”will you work overtime at the week end” Jack would say, “you will not let me down, will you?”

The Station Master
Bill Headly (Progress Man)
When asked about item shortages he would reply with the words “its due in now, any time”

The Alcoholic
Len (Progress Man)
He ended every phone conversation with the words “cheers now, cheers”

The Photographer
Allen Conley (Production Engineer)
Allen’s typical response when asked about an engineering problem would be “I will put you all in the picture”

The Vicar
Stan Rodham (Foreman)
When asking someone to work harder, he would say, “I’ll have you on your knees by 10.30”

Approximately 30 or so years ago one project that was taking place in the heavy fabrication shop was the manufacture of several small gear boxes, which were manufactured from plate and welded together, after welding they were filled with paraffin to check for leaks.

As paraffin is very viscose, the floor had a covering of sawdust to soak spillages.  The tale begins: An inspector by the name of Norman Lonsdale noticed a fire had developed in the area where the paraffin testing was taking place, he immediately informed the Gate House who in turn informed the Felling Fire Brigade, Gateshead Fire Service, Hebburn & Jarrow Fire Services, in all 9 Fire Tenders arrived.

The first Fire Engine arrived and was duly stopped from entering the factory at the Gate House by the Senior Security Officer, a Mr. Garvin who asked the dark skinned driver where he came from, the driver replied “Nigeria”, Mr. Garvin exclaimed “Never in the World you’ve arrived before the Felling Fire Brigade.

From Peter Helsdon

Dull Emitter Q valveimage0011

Attached is a photo of Captain H.J. Round’s Dull Emitter Q valve.  Which he designed in the early 1920’s to be used in the RF stages of wireless receivers.  I saved the Q valve from the New Street Scrap Yard, for 3d. about 1943.  In 1960 he came to Pottery Lane to have a record made of his life’s work at Marconi’s on film.  I loaned him my 1900 coherer and the DEQ valve to put on his desk for the film.

Soon afterwards I visited a seller of second hand items in Wood Street.  He had a similar radio receiver which had about five DEQ R.F. stages and some audio stages.  Unfortunately it was too heavy for me to carry home.

Marconi Marine – A Few Memories from 50 Years Ago – Jimmy Leadbitter

In the 1950’s the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company was taken over by English Electric and later on by GEC who then formed GEC-Marconi. The Marine Company was known as The Marconi International Marine Communications Company Ltd (MIMCO) was formed out of M.W.T. Co with Head Office Management, Administration, Accounts and Technical Staff housed in various areas of New Street Chelmsford including the roof. (Radar training under Harry Galway). Sales staff in Marconi House in the Strand, and the Main Stores at the East Ham Depot.

Every port in UK and many overseas, had a MIMCO Depot staffed by MIMCO personnel. Overseas ports included Accra, Aden, Chittagong, Freetown and Port Said. There was also a Technician based in South Georgia (Falklands) providing service to the Whaling Fleets. Major Depots in UK such as Southampton, Cardiff, Liverpool, Glasgow, Newcastle, Hull and East Ham employed more than 60 staff, the majority of whom were ex seagoing Radio Officers.

More than 2,500 Radio Officers were employed by the Company and allocated to ships by the much maligned Staff Clerk at major depots.

Hundreds of ships were being refitted by Depot technicians to meet the requirements of the 1952 Merchant Shipping Safety of Life at Sea, Radio Rules.

Among the new vessels being fitted with Marconi equipment were Iberia, Arcadia, Southern Cross, Empress of England, Empress of Britain, Orsova, Trawlers George Irwin and Fairtry and many cargo vessels and tankers.

At the Company AGM in 1954, the Chairman reported the British Merchant Fleet now compares in size to that of 1939 and MIMCO had received orders for re-equipping the majority of ships. Orders were received for supply and fitting of a full range of equipment for 12 “H” and “V” class Shell Tankers, and the supply of 67 Salvita portable lifeboat equipments for Ellerman Lines. More Radiolocator 1V’s were installed on British and Commonwealth Merchant ships in 1953/54 than the combined total of all other types of radar.

New equipment being designed and manufactured by MWT for MIMCO included Seaguard Auto Alarm receiver, Oceanspan V transmitter, Autokey (Automatic Keying Device), Graphette Echosounder and Salvita III Portable Lifeboat Equipment.

Newcastle Depot which had been in PUDDING CHARE since 1928 moved to Melbourne Street (this later office has now been demolished and luxury flats built in its place). Thorpe Hall was purchased.

Arrangements were made for the clock on the Royal Liver Building in Liverpool to be provided with electronically produced chimes. Previously it did not chime.

June 4th 1954. The 50th Anniversary of the first daily newspaper produced at sea on board RMS Campania. The Cunard Daily Bulletin consisted of 8 pages and cost 5 cents or 2½ old pence.

November 1954. The 50th Anniversary of the invention of the Thermionic Valve by Sir Andrew Fleming FRS who was at the time (1904) Scientific Adviser to MWT Co. This anniversary will be celebrated at the 2004 Reunion.

One Hundred Not Out and Still Going Strong


K K PangKuo Kuan Pang, for many years our man in Hong Kong at Marchilim, celebrated on 29th November his 100th Birthday. “KK” as he is better known, was our Marconi Veteran’s President in 1979 when he was the first Overseas Veteran to obtain this honour.

KK was born in 1903 in Tiajan mainland China and spent his early years with Marconi’s in Peking and then later in Shanghai where he helped set up a Marconi factory. Marchese Guglielmo Marconi spent some time in Peking with KK and it was not until the late 1930’s that KK was forced to leave China for Hong Kong to set up the main Marconi office in that area.

Anybody passing through or to Hong Kong on Company business always stopped to meet the office staff and it was invariably KK or Sydney Heward the then Marconi Office Manager who showed them the sights of this fascinating city.

KK married Celia the Secretary of the original Marconi Company Manager in Peking, Mr. Richards. They spent many happy years together before Celia’s passing a few years ago. KK and Celia had one daughter, now living in Melbourne Australia and one son Francis who lives in Chelmsford. Francis was educated in the UK as an Architect and has recently retired.

Congratulations KK we wish you well.

Then and Now

These photographs show The Marconi Marine Depot in Newcastle just before the demolition contractors moved in


and after they had razed the building to the ground.


Yet another of the famous Marconi units to bite the dust. This place must bring back memories to a great many Marconi Marine people.  What a shame we have to lose such a building.

New England in the Fall – By Peter Bickers ex-President MC Inc (previously with MCSL)

image0013Despite spending four years at MC Inc in Washington I never managed to visit New England in the Fall, so this year with my wife Jean I set out to not only see the fall but to seek out a couple of Marconi related areas of interest in this part of the USA. Our trip started in Cape Cod area where I had read the first transatlantic radio station had been established. Sure enough on the second day on the road to Provincetown we came across a sign to Marconi Beach (South Wellfleet) and the site of Marconi’s first wireless site in the USA. A small visitors centre and plaque record where the first US commercial wireless station was established.

The Station was operated as Marconi Wireless Telegraph Station of America and the bright red station board proudly proclaimed “Rapid automatic Transatlantic Service”. The first Wireless Telegram was sent from President Roosevelt on January 19th 1903 to King Edward VII. It was intended for re-transmission via Glace Bay in Canada but the conditions were so good that it was picked up direct by Poldhu. Apart from the visitor centre the only evidence of the site are two concrete footings from the original wooden antenna towers.

image0022Leaving Cape Cod we headed for New Hampshire to call in on the Marconi Museum. We found it located in a beautiful leafy suburb of Bedford. The Museum is the result of ten years planning by Ray Minichiello P.E. and his wife Dr. Pricilla Cusi. It is located in an old school house which after extensive renovation provides an excellent home for the extensive collection that Ray has assembled during his career with the General Electric Company. Besides having some very early Marconi equipment including a spark transmitter, there is a very interesting collection of early commercial and domestic American radio equipment including some beautiful three valve receivers which besides providing radio reception were built as works of art to be proudly displayed. Ray had even obtained the original station plaque from the Cape Cod station. While we were there we met some of the volunteer support group who help to run the museum. Why has Ray who never worked for Marconi devoted himself to establishing the Museum and its foundation? When he was five his father took the young Ray along to meet Guglielmo Marconi and he has never forgotten the great man and that he patted him on the head. If you have an opportunity and are in the area the Museum is a must for any Marconi Veteran. I can guarantee a warm reception, if you can go look out any old equipment or documents they would be most welcomed.

Early Days of a Secretary at Marconi’s – By Val Cleare, Ex Marconi Comms (now with AMS)

I can recall when I was a trainee on an Intensive Secretarial Shorthand-Typist Course, I learnt to “touch-type” using a manual typewriter at the local College of Further Education. We were not allowed to look at the keys, all we had was a diagram of the keyboard at the front of the classroom. During the training period I also had to type to some military music without looking at the keys! What fun! During the first year I spent 6 months at the Company’s Secretarial Training College, the keys of the manual typewriter were covered up completely!

During the first 4 months of my training course in the Company, I worked in a department learning about systems and office practices and had access to a manual typewriter which comprised of the following: the carriage belonged to an Imperial 66 and the main keyboard to an Imperial 70 with a very large typeface (which was difficult to change the size). One of my first tasks was to type lots of columns of figures which proved to be a nightmare with such a typeface! I felt that the typewriter was fit only for the Museum! Fortunately, I shared the office with another secretary who worked part-time, so I saved up the difficult tasks to use her manual typewriter which was far superior to mine.

At the end of my first year’s training, I spent a fortnight in the Technical Information Department where I used a manual typewriter which included technical symbols. I can remember that some symbols I was required to type I had to make up by using a combination of two or even three keys at the same time (so different from modern information technology)!

p.s. In the distant past I have vague recollection of telex machines and stencilling!

Christmas 1944

Jenesis poemimage0014

This photograph was found in an old office at New Street Chelmsford. The name at the bottom is “Jenesis” but the Author is unknown. In 1944 the Second World War was still in progress and it is assumed this could have been either a morale booster poster or a Christmas Card for those in the fighting services or employed in the factory. Please let the editor know if you have any information on this photograph. Note: reading the first letter on each line spells MARCONIS.


The Lizard Meneage

What does this title conjure up in your mind? No it is not the name of any predator or even a simple Gecko. It is the name of a Newspaper issued in Cornwall and published by Newsquest on behalf of LPTA Lizard Peninsula Tourism Association.

The Newspaper, issued four times a year, covers all the events in Cornwall especially around the area known as the Lizard. It is here where our Founder Guglielmo Marconi carried out his early experiments of sending wireless signals across the sea and especially when the transatlantic signals were sent across the Atlantic Ocean to Newfoundland in the early 1900’s.

It is well worth visiting the Marconi site in this area and better still, send for a copy of the Lizard Meneage before you visit as this contains pages of useful information and details of forthcoming events. On a regular basis, the newspaper provides details of Marconi past and current activities in the area. The people living in this part of the UK are extremely proud of their Marconi connection and will always be pleased to show you the artefacts and the original Wireless Station.

For further details contact Rosemary Peters 01326 281079 or E-mail

Whistle Blowers of Marconi


The photograph above was taken in the New Street Canteen when all Referees who worked for the Chelmsford based Marconi Units came together for a photocall. Editor reckons this was in the late 1970’s and although faces and hairstyles have changed most of the “refs” can be recognised. However, one or two names are missing and if you recognise these then please drop the Editor a line.
Back Row (reading from left to right)
Boot Baines, Peter Evans, Peter Crisp, Brian Beatwell, Peter Parkhurst, unknown, unknown.

Middle Row
Unknown, unknown, Roger Wiseman, Charles Rand, Tony Harrington, Gordon Evans, Fred King, Roy Hurrell.

Front Row
Unknown, Charles Brown, Len Liddle, Bert Gilbert, Don Mott, John Pickering.

One notable and well known referee missing from the photograph is Jim Leadbitter who for many years before retirement was a Marconi Marine Manager. Jim lives locally and with Charles Rand is still very much involved in local football.

Professor Sir J. Ambrose Fleming

Sir J. Ambrose Fleming, a Professor of Electrical Technology and Lecturer at University College London, was engaged by Guglielmo Marconi to become his Scientific Advisor at the Chelmsford Development Laboratories in July 1900 but at the same time he retained his position at UCL.

One of Guglielmo Marconi’s attributes was a realistic assessment of his own practical limitations. If ever a problem lay outside the range of his own experience he would consider no loss of face to call in outside help. Just such a situation had materialised by reason of the super power transmitting stations (one in the UK and one in America) which were postulated, for it must be remembered that battery driven laboratory-type equipments were the only one in use at this time: nothing more powerful had ever been built. It was rather like proposing to build a Cathedral in a world which had never seen anything more than a grandiose log hut.

Characteristically, Marconi enlisted the services of a man whose past experience had run closest to that needed for the job in hand – Dr. later Sir J. Ambrose Fleming.

Dr. Fleming worked very closely with Marconi and many of the early Marconi stations at Poldhu and at Niton in the Isle of Wight were constructed with power plants and high voltage circuits designed by him.

In 1904 Dr. Fleming, one time pupil of the great Clerk Maxwell, embarked on some highly scientific work with Marconi to produce what we now know as the first “Thermionic Valve” which would become part of the Marconi Transmitters under construction. The “Thermionic Valve” (or diode as it would be termed now) was an oscillation valve (a one way device) and this invention patented by Fleming, was used as a standby to the Marconi designed Magnetic Detector.


The photograph shows the experimental Fleming “Thermionic Valve” which in 2004 will celebrate 100 years of its first introduction into Marconi equipment.

University College London, in conjunction with the IEE and Science Museum, will at the end of June and early July 2004, be holding exhibitions, conferences and lectures to celebrate this outstanding achievement in the early days of electronics and wireless communication. Marconi Veterans Association hope to have one of the leading Professors of UCL as their guest at the Veterans Re-union on 17th April 2004 to celebrate this achievement of Sir J. Ambrose Fleming.

A Special Day on the Lizard, Saturday 18th July 1903 – David Barlow, The Radio Officers Association Radio Society

In the summer of 1898 the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) had injured his leg and was convalescing on board the Royal yacht “Osborne”, which was lying off Cowes. Queen Victoria was insistent that regular medical bulletins were passed to her about her son’s progress. She was only a few miles away residing at Osborne House, but intervening hills made visual communications impossible. In the first three weeks of August over 150 messages were sent from the yacht to the Queen, using Guglielmo Marconi’s newfangled apparatus.

This event was the start of a friendship between Marconi and members of the Royal Family. It is well documented that Edward VII’s son George was an especial friend of Marconi and very interested in his work. When his father acceded to the throne in January 1901 George became Prince of Wales (subsequently King George V).

Poldhu on the Lizard had already made history when, on December 12th 1901, it sent the first transatlantic signal received by Marconi in Newfoundland. In 1903 Poldhu obtained a commercial licence from the Post Office and commenced a news, telegram, navigational and weather information service for shipping.

On 17th July 1903 the Prince and Princess of Wales were staying at Tregothnan, the home of Lord and Lady Falmouth. The party also included Guglielmo Marconi, Prince Alexander of Teck (brother of the Princess) and General Lord Grenfell.

Preparations were underway at Poldhu for the royal visit the next day. The wireless masts were decorated with bunting and flags and instructions were given for all the Marconi staff to be in attendance, wearing clean white pseudo navy uniforms. The other instruction was that on no account was anyone to speak to the royal party unless they were asked a question.
On the Saturday morning a convoy of motorcars transported the guests, via the King Harry Ferry, to Poldhu arriving at noon. After refreshing themselves in the Poldhu Hotel (today the Poldhu Nursing Home) and signing the register (using the inkwell shown), the royal party then passed through a guard of honour of the smartly dressed Marconi staff to the “Wireless Field” and inspected the generator house, transmitting and receiving rooms.


Messages were received from the Lizard Wireless Station six miles to the south west. They read:-

“The Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company presents its respectful homage to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales and welcomes him to the Poldhu station”.

“To the Princess, Marconi W.T.C. in welcoming H.R.H. to Poldhu, presents respectful homage to H.R.H.”

Marconi gave the visitors a full explanation of how these messages were sent and received.

The party then proceeded to climb the 300 Steps to the top of the 250ft. northern tower where one Marconi employee had been stationed at each landing. At the second landing Princess Mary became tired and stopped, while the Prince carried on. The Princess said to the landing attendant “My man I am not going any further” Mr. Axelby, a Mullion man, forgot what he had been told and replied ” I wouldn’t if I were you my dear, you come and sit here and I will look after you” – and she did!

It is also reported that the Prince ascended to the top of one of the towers in a boson’s chair hauled up by ropes pulled by Marconi employees.

In the afternoon the royal party drove to the Lizard and visited the lighthouse before walking to the Housel Bay Hotel, where they took tea and signed the visitors book.

While there is no record of a visit to the Lizard Marconi Wireless station, there are strong grounds to believe that Marconi would have shown the Prince the place from where the signals he received at Poldhu earlier in the day were sent. The station is but a few minutes walk from the hotel. There exists a photograph which shows a very neat and tidy station with a distinctive picture on the wall, and one can only surmise that it was taken on that day as such photographs were only taken on very special occasions.


After a full and probably tiring day, the convoy of cars set off for the return journey. In those days motorcars had somewhat flimsy brake linings likely to become worn on the hills to and from Poldhu. On the hill down to the King Harry Ferry, Marconi’s car was close on the tail of the royal car when his brakes burned out. It was only by very skilful driving that the chauffeur prevented the car from speeding past the royal car and ending up in the water.

Saturday 18th July was a day to remember on the Lizard peninsular. The royal visit provided significant publicity for the Marconi Company and highlighted the benefits of wireless to the wider public.

The Housel Bay Hotel, the Marconi Centre at Poldhu and the Lizard Marconi Wireless Station celebrated the centenary of this visit and saw many visitors during 2003. The photographs are by kind permission of the Marconi Corporation and show the royal party arriving by car and walking along the road towards the Wireless Station. Note the masts in the background. Guglielmo Marconi is on the right wearing a straw boater.

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 via this website or at his home address which is 96 Patching Hall Lane, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 4DB, UK.

In Memoriam

We report the deaths of the following Veterans and extend our sympathy to the families of those mentioned.

D. Atkinson
M.H. Austin
D. Bailes
J.R. Barber
N.J. Beane
L. Bellamy
J.A. Blatchford
D.F. Bowers
D.W. Brown
D.W.C. Burling
E. Collicott
R.J.H. Carew
H. Carter
Mrs. E.D. Cartwright-Smith
W.G. Chapman
W. Chinnery
W.J.R. Clark
S. Collicot
R.H. Deighton
A.A. Desborough-Hunt
L.G. Edwards
J. Everard
J.F. Fagg
L.L. French
G. Frudd
R.A. Gale
C.D. Gildersleeves
A.E. Green
A. Greenslade
H.W. Hayward
C. Heasman
E.J. Heathman
S.H. Hudgell
L.A. Hooper
J.A.C. Jackson
G.L. Lang
K.C. Lanham
C.F. Mole
E. Newman
D.R.H. Oddy
W.E. Parker
S.L. Pettitt
T.D. Rainbird
C.W. Rich
Mrs. E.D. Rusby
L. Seymour
Mrs. G.M. Smiles
G. Stubbs
J. Swan
S.A. White
B. Wojick
A.H. Wood
J.E. Wright

This list was up to date January 2004 and was published in the January 2004 newsletter.

Newsletter 2003

Note from Webmaser

This newsletter has been published as it was in the paper copy.  In 2003 attempts were made to produce the letters as they had been received but they did not produce good photocopies.  What is shown here has been digitally improved but I am afraid are still almost impossible to read.

Number 5
January 2003

Welcome to Newsletter number 5. We are fast approaching Christmas 2002 and this letter is being prepared ready to send out with the invitations for our annual Marconi Veterans Re-union which will take place at the Marconi Athletic & Social Club on Saturday 12th April 2003. Our incoming President is a very well known person, Stan Church who was with various Marconi Units for more years than we can remember. Stan was and still is a very energetic and popular member of the “Vets” and I am sure you will give him a warm welcome in April when for the next year he takes on the mantle of our President.

For those in the Chelmsford area watching the television on 27th October they might be wondering where our Annual Re-union would take place as the news commentary stated that the MASC building in Beehive Lane had been blown down. This of course was due to the exceptionally high winds and was sensational news. Many phone calls to the Club took place before it was established that a Groundsmans Hut with Tractor and other implements inside was the building blown down. The Clubhouse itself had only minor damage.

Rumours exist that the MASC Clubhouse has or is about to be sold and therefore we are actively looking for an alternative place for future Re-Unions just in case the news is true and we are landed with a problem.

Marconi Veterans Association

With our revised Constitution in place as agreed by the majority at our last Veterans AGM, we are now in the process of some small amendments to allow people who have worked in various Marconi Units which have been taken over by other organisations to become Marconi Veterans providing they fulfil the new criteria.  The most important of these is that they have completed 21 years service and not 25 years which was our previous requirement.  The details of this are set out below and perhaps if you know of any employee or ex-employee who fulfils the new criteria, please drop a line to Bernard Hazelton our Secretary so that we can verify the details and if possible invite the person to be one of our Veterans.


Employed within MES Group
21 years (not necessarily continuous)
Full Membership

Employed within MES Group and transferred to a controlling company (or its subsidiaries) or any organisation under State Control
21 years (16 with MES Group + 5 years continuous with other company/organisation)
Full Membership

Employed within GEC Group (prior to 29.11.1999) with relevant company becoming a subsidiary within the MES Group prior to 29.11.1999
21 years (11 with MES Group + 10 years continuous with other company prior to 29.11.1999)
Associate Membership

Employed within MES Group and transferred to an associated organisation outside the MES Group
21 years (16 with MES Group + 5 years continuous with other organisation)
Associate Membership

Employed within GEC Group (prior to 29.11.1999) and transferred to at least a 50% MES Group owned joint venture company
21 years (11 years with JVC + 10 years continuous with GEC Group company)
Associate Membership

Employed within JVC at least 50% owned by MES Group having less than 10 years continuous service prior to 29.11.1999 or no service at all within the GEC Group)
21 years continuous with JVC
Associate Membership


It is most important that all Veterans understand that from now on we cannot expect a lot of financial assistance from sources within the ex Marconi and other Chelmsford based companies. The name of Marconi as far as Chelmsford based Companies is concerned is virtually nonexistent. Whilst a number of Ex-Marconi employees are working in the companies in the Chelmsford area, the units have new names and their interests no longer include the Marconi Veterans Association. In fact we understand at New Street there are only 21 employees who work directly for Marconi plc based at Coventry.  The remainder are under the name of Marconi Mobile Limited a Finmeccanica company.

Under the circumstances we are making a special plea to existing Marconi Veterans to complete the payment form enclosed with this Newsletter by sending as soon as possible your Annual Subscriptions of £5 to our Secretary. If you can afford more, even if only a little more, it would be very much appreciated. Unless we receive this subscription we regret many of our activities including this Newsletter will have to be curtailed.

We have been warned that the offices occupied by our Secretary at Great Baddow and also the assistance he receives in the way of records, computer services etc., is under threat. If this is the case we will have to seek alternate accommodation and unfortunately cut down on the amount of services which can be offered. We will learn more about this at the Re-Union.

Museum Thanks

We asked if you would let the Editor know of any Marconi memorabilia either in your possession or elsewhere.  The response was good and many books, artefacts, letters and Company Newsletters and photographs were handed over to the Chelmsford Industrial Museum at Sandford Mill.  We have been asked through this Newsletter to thank those people who kindly made available those items.

Recently we received a telephone call from a widow of a Marconi employee advising that a number of Marconi booklets and photos had been found in the effects of her late husband. Would these be of any use to us?  Among the items were booklets of Marconi Jubilee celebrations and other useful items which were passed to the Museum.

Can we make a special plea to you to include in your will (or better still hand over Marconi items now) that upon your decease the items of Marconi interest in your possession are made available through the Veterans Association to the Chelmsford Industrial Museum.  This will ensure that forever the name of Marconi will carry on.

Marconi Name

The last two years have seen the name of Marconi removed from many of the original companies. Indeed right now we are not sure how much longer the name of Marconi will be used.  The parent Company Marconi plc are virtually in the hands of the UK banks. How much longer can they continue under severe financial restraints. The price of the Marconi shares are at rock bottom and many Marconi ex-employees have lost many thousands of pounds through the untimely poor operation of the parent company.

Marconi to be Recognised in Chelmsford

A full size bronze statue of our Founder Guglielmo Marconi is now in the London Foundry having last minute adjustments made. This will be erected in Chelmsford near to the Essex Record Office in Navigation Road early in the New Year. It is hoped that Princess Elettra and other dignitaries will also attend. We will endeavour to keep you advised of the date.


Come on you Veterans. I pleaded with you in my last Newsletter for you to let me have reminiscences, photos and anything to share with fellow Veterans. Unfortunately very few of you responded. I have had a lot of phone calls and letters saying please keep the Newsletter on a regular basis. Yes, we will do this but, please we need your help to fill the pages. So get out your pen, pencil or computer and write or e-mail me with a few anecdotes. It will only take you a minute. If you can supplement these with photographs so much the better. Ed.

Old Memories

We have no hesitation in including below a copy of a letter which Veteran Margaret King MBE sent to us. Margaret for many years was a Secretary in the old Marconi International Division here in Chelmsford. Her last boss was Stanley Clarke and other names in the area were John Sidebotham and Eric Royle to name but a few.


From Stan Church President elect of the Marconi Veterans Association


From Bill Lee


From Eric Peachey ex Secretary of The Marconi Company

Dear Peter,

I have just finished reading the M V A Newsletter No. 4 – another excellent production.  However, for the purposes of accuracy I must correct the date of the change of name of the Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company Limited to Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company Limited provided by Peter Helsdon. It was not the 23rd February, 1900 but the 24th March 1900.

For the benefit of all interested parties I set out below the various name changes which have taken place and their effective dates:

1. The Company was incorporated in the name Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company Limited on the 20th July 1897
2. Changed to Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company Limited on the 24th March 1900
3. Changed to The Marconi Company Limited on the 19th August 1963
4. Changed to GEC-Marconi Limited on the 24th April 1990.
5. Changed to Marconi Electronic Systems Limited on 4th September 1998
6. Changed to BAE SYSTEMS Electronics Limited on the 23rd February 2000.

The date of the change on the 24th April 1990 I engineered to coincide with my wife’s birthday
I also attach for information a detailed record of the Share Capital of the Company from its inception to the present time and hope this will be of interest

Yours sincerely


Authorised and Issued

£8,000,000 Divided into 16,000,000 Ordinary Shares of 10/- each, fully paid.

Original Capital

£100,000 in Ordinary Shares of £1 each.

Alterations to Authorised Capital

Resolutions dated
7th October 1898 to £200,000 Ordinary shares of £1 each.
31st March 1903 to £300,000 Ordinary Shares of £1 each
11th July 1905 to £500,000 Ordinary Shares of £1 each
30th April 1908 to £750, 000 divided into
….250,000 £1 Preference Shares
….500,000 £1 Ordinary Shares
25th October 1911 to £1,000,000 divided into
….250,000 £1 Preferences Shares
….750,000 £1 Ordinary Shares
3rd October 1913 to £1,500,000 divided into
….250,000 £1 Preference Shares
….1,250,000 £1 Ordinary Shares
13th November 1919 to £3,000,000 divided into
….250,000 £1 Preference Shares
….2,750,000 £1 Ordinary Shares
20th October 1922 to £4,000,000 divided into
….250,000 £1 Preference Shares
….3,750,000 £1 Ordinary Shares
15th March 1927 to £4,000,000 divided into
….250,000 £1 Preference Shares
….499,935 £1 Ordinary Shares
….6,500,130 10/- Ordinary Shares
16th December 1964 to £4,000,000 divided into
….250,000 £1 Preference Shares
….7,500,000 10/- Ordinary Shares
1st April 1965 to £4,000,000 divided into
….8,000,000 10/- Ordinary Shares
6th October 1965 to £8,000,000 divided into
….16,000,000 10/- Ordinary Shares

Capital Reduction 1927

By Special Resolution passed on the 15th March 1927 and approved by an Order of the High Court of Justice dated 11th November 1927 the Capital was reduced from £4,000,000 to £2,374,950 divided into
….250,000 7% Preference Shares of £1 each
….499,935 Ordinary Shares of £1 each
….3,250,038 Ordinary shares of £10/- each
1)   cancelling 10/- per share of paid up capital on 3,250,038 Ordinary Shares of £1
2)   cancelling 27 Ordinary Shares of £1 each which had been forfeited.

NB The 499,935 un-issued Ordinary Shares of £1 each were not affected.

On this reduction taking effect, the Capital was restored to £4,000,000, by the creation of 3,250,092 new Shares of 10/- each.

Allotment of Un-issued Capital July 1957

By Resolution of Directors passed on the 3rd July 1957 the 3,250,092 Shares of 10/- each were designated Ordinary Shares of 10/- ranking pari passu with the existing Ordinary Shares of 10/- each.

On 17th July 1957 the following Shares were issued to The English Electric Company Limited bringing the Issued Capital up to its Authorised Amount of £4,000,000.
….104,821 Ordinary Shares of £1 each,fully paid.
….3,250.092 Ordinary Shares of 10/- each, fully paid.

Sub-division of Capital 1964

By Ordinary Resolution passed by the Company on the 16th December 1964 each of the 499,935 Ordinary Shares of £1 each was sub-divided into two Ordinary Shares of 10/- each ranking pari passu in all respects to the existing Ordinary shares of 10/- each,

Scheme of Arrangement 1965

By Special Resolutions passed on the 2nd February 1965 and approved by an Order of the High Court of Justice dated the 15th March 1965 the capital was reduced from £4,000,000 to £3,744,717  10/- divided into.-
7,489,435 Ordinary Shares of 10/- each by
i)      cancellation of the 250,000 7% Cumulative Participating Preference Shares of £1 each and
ii)     cancellation of the Ordinary shares not held by The English Electric Company Limited and its nominees.

On this reduction taking effect on 1st April 1965, the Capital was increased to its former amount of £4,000,000 by the creation of 510,565 Ordinary Shares of 10/- each, which were allotted as fully paid to The English Electric Company Limited.

On the 6th October, 1965 the Capital was increased to £8,000,000 by the creation of 16,000,000, 10/- shares.

From J.F. Keohane

jf_keohane1From Peter Helsdon

A Comfortable Childhood
Ten years after Maxwell’s 1864 electromagnetic wave predictions; on 25 April 1874, a baby boy was born in Bologna, Italy. Guglielmo Marconi spent his first weeks at his family’s town house, the Palazzo Marescalchi, in the Piazza San Salvatore.
Guglielmo’s father, Giuseppe Marconi was a wealthy landowner. He loved the countryside and was known as a keen businessman. His mother, Signora Marconi, was formerly Annie Jameson, whose Scottish family lived in Ireland. The two had met in Bologna while Annie was a music student and married in 1864.
The baby Guglielmo had a nine year old brother Alfonso, and also an elder half-brother, Luigi, by his father’s previous marriage.
Life was comfortable for the Marconi’s. Soon after Guglielmo’s birth, they moved to their country house, the Villa Griffone at Pontecchio, near Bologna. In what became a settled early routine, they lived at the villa with its beautiful gardens in summer. In the harsh Bologna winter, the whole family would move to Florence or Leghorn, for milder weather.
This family photograph shows five-year old Guglielmo with his mother and older brother Alfonso. In the background is the family home, Villa Griffone.


From George Stebbings

george_stebbingsFrom Leonard Oakes

Thank you very much for your last Marconi Veterans letter. I notice that most of your items come from people who live and work around Chelmsford. I worked over thirty years for Marconi Instruments at Stevenage. I would like to put on record that we did some valuable work for the Company at Stevenage and St. Albans. Why not ask for memories from those great towns by the people who worked there?
I started in a small company, one of the first factories in the New Town of Stevenage which was soon purchased by Marconi. I was blind, and after a few months I was shown the layout of the New Town and its factories. I already had my name down for a Guide Dog and I was informed that it would be a good idea if I could bring my application forward.

This I did and in June I got the letter that I was waiting for asking me to go down to Exeter for training. The boss said “We will take you down there”. I was to be away for a month. It did cause a bit of a stir for a young man to be brought to the centre in a Rolls Bentley, and a crowd from the centre came out to have a look. After a month I rang to ask if they would come and fetch me, and the lovely dog called Jenny that I had trained with. Again the Rolls Bentley arrived.
A few days at home and I was ready to start work. What I did not know as I neared the factory was that there was a crowd of friends and staff waiting to welcome us both back to work.
After the first excitement I was called to the office and was told that the dog was to be put on the payroll, and she was also going to have a Clock Card. Then she will be covered if any accident occurs.
I worked as an inspector and I had a complete range of Braille equipment both in Imperial and Metric, and all was checked by the staff in one of the special rooms free from dust and humidity. Correct temperature all the time. All of these instruments were approved by Government Inspectors who came to the factory. For most of the work was for the MoD.
I retired in 1992 and towards the end of that year I received a letter from 10 Downing Street asking me if I would like to receive the B.E.M medal from the Queen. I said I would and was informed not to tell anyone. The following January I was in the New Years honours list. Soon the bell started ringing from the local press and many of my friends congratulated me.
Later that year I was invited to Bowes Lyon House in Hertfordshire to be presented with the medal along with four other people. I was told my wife and daughters could accompany me. It was a beautiful house and after drinks and then a citation was read out and the medal was pinned on me. The citation spoke of the work I had done for Guide Dogs and the instruments I had been involved with at work, measuring by sound.
Later on my wife and I got an invitation to one of the Queen’s Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace, the company took my wife and I up to the Palace and we spent a lovely afternoon there, looking around the gardens and seeing members of the Royal Family. The chauffeur met us again afterwards and brought us home. A once in a lifetime trip.
I have written this so that you will see what a great Company Marconi was to me and many others, it’s a great pity it has been on the decline recently. Nevertheless as a Radio Ham G.W.8F.O.Y. It will be remembered as long as one can send out a Radio Signal

Marconi Veterans Website

We are currently putting the final touches to the Marconi Veterans Website before it goes live early in 2003.
Subject to approval from Marconi HQ, the address will be so try logging on around February/March. If we are unable to use this address we will announce the correct one at the Annual Reunion and in the next newsletter.
Initially, the presentation will be rather basic, but we hope to improve the standard as time goes on and are always open to suggestions on what you would like to see there. One section will give the latest news and another will enable you to read or download the current newsletter. Another section will help you get back in touch with old colleagues via the MVA.
Write a letter to the person you are trying to contact, place it in a stamped unaddressed and unsealed envelope and send it with a few details about the person (where they worked and when, will help us to ensure that your letter is sent to the right address) to:- The Secretary (Search), The Marconi Veterans Association, at the usual address.
If we have an address for your colleague, we will address the envelope to them and post it. If we have no address, or if we have been informed of your colleague’s demise, we will address the envelope to you and return your letter. We regret that, for confidentiality reasons, we are unable to give out addresses directly and that it is not practical for us to deal with passing on messages via the telephone.
We hope that, by the Annual Reunion, the website will have been up and running for a few weeks and that some attendees will have logged on. Please let me know what you think – It is, after all for you!
Barry Powell, Marconi Veterans Committee c/o Secretary Marconi Veterans Association

From Jimmy Leadbitter

In the Queen’s Jubilee Year various TV “shots” have mentioned the Commonwealth Tour to Australia, NZ etc on the “Gothic”.
How many of our members know that the “Gothic” was fitted with Marconi equipment originally at the end of 1951 for the tour to take place early 1952 by the then Princess Elizabeth & Prince Philip. Due to the death of the King this was cancelled but the tour was then held December 1953 to April 1954.
MWT equipment installed was the 7kW Transmitter SWB 11 X with three Rx’s, one OC 13, one CR150/3 and a CR150/5. A.J.G. Corbett the Marconi Engineer sailed with the ship.
MIMC Equipment (the majority manufactured by MWT) installed additional to the existing mandatory equipment was
Worldspan Transmitter
Mercury, Electra (2) and Yeoman Rx’s
Navigational equipment Radiolocator Radar Lodestone Direction Finder Visagraph Echometer
“Oceanic” Sound reproducing equipment (SRE) was specially designed manufactured and installed to provide Broadcasts and entertainment throughout the vessel.
MIMCO Radio Officers C.H. Roberts, H.A. Palmer, D.J. Pilgrim and D.C. Clayton manned the station.
The installation provided high speed telegraphy, ship to shore R/T and speech inversion for state, naval and press traffic with broadcast facilities for the BBC. Godfrey Talbot was the BBC Commentator on board.
The above info was extracted from various articles in The ‘Marconi Mariner’.

From Tom Gutteridge

tom_gutteridgeFrom Charles Boyton


Bradwell Bay Essex Airfield

Charley Rand, ex Marconi Radar and Chairman of our Veterans Association, came across an article recently depicting the Bradwell Bay airfield which during the last war was extensively used to test Radar equipment. Low flying aircraft attempted to fly under the Radar net and this gave valuable information in the design of the now famous “Chain Home” Radar defence system which covered most of the south and east coasts of England. An article and photograph found in the write up entitled “The unknown airfield – R.A.F. Bradwell Bay” are repeated below.
As the allies entered Germany in 1945 an RAF Regiment officer found on a Luftwaffe base a magnificent model of the Marconi works which had apparently been made for briefing pilots for the attack.  This is now in the entrance hall at the Chelmsford offices and Chris Vlotman, now captain of a KLM DC8 jet, flew from Alaska some years ago to be the company’s guest and speaker at a charity dinner-dance for the Trueloves school for physically handicapped boys at Ingatestone.

Editors Note: The model is now housed with other Marconi artefacts awaiting a
decision on their final resting place.

“The History of the Radio Officer in the British Merchant Navy and on Deep-Sea Trawlers”

The above is the title of a book recently published under the name of Joanna Greenlaw. It is extremely well written and the research undertaken has been very painstaking and thorough. A foreword by His Highness The Duke of Edinburgh complements the Editor on the accuracy of the work undertaken.
The book is on sale direct from the publishers Messrs DINEFWR, Rawlings Road, Llandybie, Carmarthenshire, Wales, SA18 3YD Telephone 01269 851989 and is priced at £19.95 plus postage £3.50, however, a discount of 20% on this price has been agreed and providing the person ordering the book states that they are a Marconi Veteran, then this discount will be accepted. Cheques made payable to Dinefwr Publishers.
Although written under the name of Joanna Greenlaw, the Editor of this book is known to many Marconi Marine ex-employees as Paul Lintzgy. He was for many years Personnel Officer at Elettra House, Westway, where he dealt with the activities of Marconi Radio Officers.
The Editor now living in Wales, has a number of other books published including “The Swansea Copper Barques and Cape Horners”, “Swansea Clocks” and “Longcase Clocks” and lectures worldwide on these subjects.

Caption Competition

The response to this competition to put it mildly was pathetic. Only two answers were received. One from our incoming President Stan Church who suggested the names of the “four bald men” from left to right as George Stock, Charley Britton, George Strutt and Charley Swanborough. The caption he gave was “We wish we could bowl a maiden over’.
The other contributor was Basil Rolfe who many of you will remember worked in the New Street Stores. He also suggested the same names as Stan Church and his caption was “Marconi Selectors at work”.
The Editor is awarding a bottle of wine to each of them in view of their efforts. Perhaps next time we can have a few more responses – that is if you feel like dropping us a line. Ed.

New Caption Competition

The Editor will award one of his own books “Chelmsford a Stroll through Time” just published and covering life in the town in the late 1940’s as seen through the eyes of himself to the best Caption of the following.



Obituaries are now included in the ‘In Memoriam’ section of this site

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 by e-mail peter or at his home address which is 96 Patching Hall Lane, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 4DB.
Opinions and comment expressed in this Newsletter are those which have been given to the Editor. The Editor and Marconi Veterans Association are unable to enter into detailed correspondence or accept views of other people in connection with any article or comment written herein.

In Memoriam

We report the deaths of the following Veterans and extend our sympathy to the families of those mentioned.

D J Biglin
G A Bullen
C G Cornell
R W Drane
G E Firmin
A K Grimwood
J Mahoney
A G Millen
Rev. J A Mills
E J Moffatt
L Peagram
J Perry

This list was up to date January 2003 and was published in the January 2003 newsletter.

Newsletter 2002

Number 4
December 2001

Welcome to Newsletter number four. This is being compiled in the month of October. By the time it is finished, the Marconi share price at 18p is likely to be down to 15p and the Company ripe and ready for a takeover. What has gone wrong? You might well ask since one year ago the price of each share was 212.40. How is it possible for a Company which boasted many firsts over the years and had thousands of loyal employees could go down so quickly. Management and organisation skills appear to have vanished and now the once famous Company has been brought down to the lowest level in its history after over 100 years of existence.
A sad sad story and very worrying for those still employed under the name of Marconi plc. Let us hope that the future for them will be OK. However nobody can erase the name of Marconi and its past achievements. Companies may come and go but the name lives on and it is the intention of Marconi Veterans to continue as long as is possible.

In Memoriam

We report the deaths of the following Veterans and extend our sympathy to the families of those mentioned.

W E Ashdown
L J T Bellamy
J Bennett
H E Butt
J M Ginn
Dr. G Grisdale
K G Hodge
F J Martin
J R Pigram
F J Swain
A F Ward
P L Williams

This list was up to date December 2001 and was published in the December 2001 newsletter.

In Memoriam

We regret to report the deaths of the following Veterans and extend our sympathy to the families of those mentioned.

R Franks OBE
E Hall BEM
R Kent
J Oliver

This list was up to date in January 2001 and was published in Newsletter No.3 on that date.

Newsletter 2001

Number 3

January 2001

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

two_poundsA 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 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

radar1radar2The 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

Dear Peter,

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!

Yours sincerely

David Speake

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.

Yours faithfully

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

Dear Sir
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


(W.V.Barbone OBE)

From Jimmy Leadbitter

Extract from the “Marconi Mariner” Volume 1, No.1 July/August 1947

Elsie, the Squigger-Bug
elsie_thumbSquigger-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

Dear Sirs
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.

Yours sincerely

Peter R Springett

From Ron Doubleday

30 October 2000

Dear Bernard

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
Sincerely yours

Ron Doubleday

From Robbie Boram

Dear Peter
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

Dear Peter
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
For example
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.
Yours sincerely
Eric W Lawley

From George Grisdale

Dear Peter
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.
Yours sincerely
George Grisdale

From Bryan Carey

26th October 2000
Dear Peter
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!
Bryan Carey

From Peter Helsdon

swbIn 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.

Best wishes

Peter Helsdon.

From W L Peace

Dear Sir
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.

Newsletter 2000


Welcome to this the second Newsletter from the Marconi Veterans Association. Our first issue went down extremely well according to the feedback, which we received. We may decide to issue this twice a year providing we get from our Veterans some written comments, points of view, ideas and even recollections. The request for you to send snippets seems to have fallen on stony ground. Nearly 2000 copies of the first Newsletter was sent out to Veterans and members of the old Marconi Communication Systems Transmitter and Studio Group members. To date we have received just two written replies. Not much reward for our efforts in trying to keep you in touch with current events, news and other items. So come on you retired Veterans with little else to do. Please put pen to paper and let us have your recollections etc.

Newsletter 1999


Welcome to this the first Newsletter from The Marconi Veterans Association. We intend to issue this annually to bring you news of people and events which take place during the year. Hopefully this will prove useful, especially the dates of various functions. We cordially invite you to send your own snippets to an one of the Veterans Committee or the Veterans Secretary at BAE SYSTEMS, Research Centre, West Hanningfield Road, Gt. Baddow, Chelmsford, for inclusion in the next edition.