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Radar Development

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Saved by Alan Hartley-Smith
on October 13, 2017 at 9:36:21 pm


Before and During WWII

Marconi was part of the story of the development of RDF (only later did it become Radar) within the UK from the very beginning, although initially not quite to the level that might have been expected as it was regarded as being under foreign ownership - in the early thirties Marconi himself was still alive and being Italian was a foreign national. Notwithstanding the Company possessed certain skills that were in demand, namely expertise with large masts and wire-strung aerials.There were also the Research Laboratories at Baddow which almost immediately were taken over by various government bodies - we have a personal account of these days. The story of these times not just for radar but for the whole Company is well told in a book "MARCONI A WAR RECORD 1939-1945" by George Godwin. For the first radar, the Chain Home (CH) system, vital components required were 360ft high towers with curtain arrays strung between them. It is also worth noting that the CH transmitter was designed and built by Metropolitan Vickers. later a part of MRSL. Very soon the need to improve coverage to track low-flying aircraft meant a further system was produced, Chain Home Low (CHL), with similar technology but using more directional aerials. As the enemy gained more skill in low flying a new system Chain Home Extra Low (CHEL) was required using a higher-frequency transmitter built round the newly-developed magnetron valve, in the design and production of which the Baddow Research Laboratories were closely involved. In addition to this large scale air defence equipment there was also developments in coastal defence and ship-borne systems and these advances are covered in detail in this wiki. 


In parallel with the CHL equipment, by the addition of a height-finding capabilities and a Plan Position Indicator (PPI) display from 1940 so-called Ground Control Interception GCI stations were developed, first as mobiles and then in 1942 as a fixed installation using the Marconi Type 7 which became the main surveillance radar well into the postwar period. The Type 13 Heightfinder was also developed.


Work continued throughout the war until for D-Day Marconi designed, developed and manufactured an airborne system, Bagful, to intercep signals from German radars, recording the wavelength, time and duration of signals and positions of the enemy radar stations in preparation for the deployment of multiple jamming stations, code named Carpet, to  paralyse the German radar networks. Also for the invasion Marconi Marine provided servicing for all radio, echo sounding and radar equipments. A complete timeline is shown here



In 1946 a Government decision resulted in the whole of Marconi interests being purchased by English Electric and a major company-wide reorganisation followed in 1948 in which radar became the responsibility of a new product area. Work continued at Baddow and is covered in this personal account up to the mid-1950s, during which the Company became a major player in both the home and overseas  military and civil markets with upgrades to existing systems, a derived unique product for the burgeoning civil aviation need, followed by a series of additional designs, new systems of secondary radar and improvements in the display and processing of the data. In 1954 a further reorganisation saw radar becoming a self-contained Division, and this produced in 1968 a completely privately-funded series of radars which sold extremely well. Finally, following the English Electric/GEC merger in 1969, a separate trading company Marconi Radar Systems Ltd (MRSL) was created into which other elements from Metropolitan Vickers, Elliotts were absorbed to provide a wider range of products including a new secondary radar and simulators.



MRSL continued as a separate trading company until a series of reorganisations occurred in the parent group. Radar activities became part of Marconi Defence Systems in 1988,, Marconi Radar and Control Systems in 1992, GEC-Marconi Radar and Defence Systems in 1996 and finally Alenia Marconi Systems in 1998 after which the name Marconi associated with radar disappeared as the activities were partitioned between Selex, Ericsson and BAE, and this history concludes.






Editors note - the above paragraph illustrates how this section will be developed using links to existing pages, so wherever possible please use this method, but if you don't know or can't easily find something relevant please write an entry as I can either incorporate it or possibly know of an existing entry.


This is a work-in-progress and new copy will be introduced to expand and/or include new aspects as-and-when these are picked up from the wiki or new material emerges. Now the wiki is publicly open it is intended to provide a quick way for visitors to navigate our story and then delve deeper as they wish so please explore and point out better or missing paths to follow.


As a reminder this is the reasoning behind this enterprise:

In the light of recent posts of extracts from MCATP and other inputs Ian and I have decided to add a new page to the Radar wiki to bring together as a coherent story the different places and personalities involved in the development of radar within Marconi, using as a basis the multiple but currently separate entries and accounts already on the wiki that trace the significant events. We want to start with the early involvement with CH and the centimetric story; the postwar period of Services Division leading to the creation of the RGD at Pottery Lane, coupled with the arrival of Doc E in the Labs at Baddow with the Rotor story;  the establishment of Datamation and the equivalent in the transmitter/aerial area; the move into the computer era; the integration of AEI et al; on to the advent of the S600 series followed by Martello and if possible later work before it all went pear-shaped. It will be a narrative piece incorporating both internal and external links to tie it all together.

We are asking for everyone to log in to this page and chip in with additions, corrections and comments to allow us to build the story. We know there are areas of uncertainty and, from snippets already posted, gaps and holes - we hope to clarify the whole picture with your help.




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