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Guys Farm

Page history last edited by Ian Gillis 9 months, 1 week ago Saved with comment


Guys Farm at Writtle is occasionally spelled with a possessive apostrophe as "Guy's Farm". This page will use "Guys Farm" as adopted by Google Maps.


Correspondence Pettican/Brown

The following text is a largely verbatim exchange between Barry Pettican and John Millard Brown with regard to the employment history of one John Goodacre. It is reproduced here for the detail that it includes of the Guys Farm operation:


1) From Barry Pettican

In 1967 I joined Marconi Research Division. My first appointment was to the Mechanical Engineering Research Lab at Guys Farm, Writtle.

I am pretty sure John Goodacre was also working there at the time. I think he was in the Metrology section under Tim Mosse (section leader)

I joined the Servo Section under Ernie Hoare and worked on the later development and commissioning stages of the Goonhilly 2 satellite tracking system. I think at that time John was involved with the design of a very accurate digital shaft encoder which was almost certainly used on later similar systems supplied to Hong Kong and Bahrain by the newly formed Space Communications Division.

I can certainly remember John (it was not a large team) although I never worked directly with him. Len Glover was the manager of the group at Guys Farm. Other names which I am sure John would have known quite well were Harry Rosenbaum, (Assistant Manager), Doug Price (Finance/Admin Manager?)   Colleagues of John in the Metrology Section would have included Terry Deighton and Ron Mills

After 1970 Guys Farm was closed down and the work force broke up to follow their specialities in either Research at Baddow, Marconi Communications (New Street) or Marconi Radar Engineering (also at Baddow under E-R)

I assume John continued in Research at Baddow from that time but I am not sure. I hope the above helps to ring a few bells associated with a relatively small part of his career with Marconi.

2) John Brown to Barry Pettican

I realise that you were responding to a request for any memories of the late John Goodacre (who I didn't know); however, I was most interested in your lucid recollections of Guys Farm Writtle, and the Servo Section in particular.  I was the the Radar Division Systems Engineer for the NATO Early Warning Chain contract, and my initial priority was Norway, where there were to be five stations (time-wise I am referring to 1959-61).  My No.1 concern was the truculent S244, and its many development problems at the time, which included the servo control system. Thus I became a regular visitor to Ernie Hoare (who became a good friend) - as effectively I was 'the launch client' for the S244, and seven were required for Norway alone. Another engineer in Ernie's team was Don Rainbird.

The other name, which caught my attention in your interesting account, was Harry Rosenbaum;  a fellow student on the electrical ONC & HNC courses at Southend Municipal College. I was doing my 5-year indentured apprenticeship with EKCO's, while Harry was doing his with Marconi's (but chose Southend as it was nearer to his home in Hockley - (incidentally, he already possessed an HND in mechanical engineering).  We were both keen motorcyclist's, and used to engage in runs-out at weekends.  Harry must count among my contacts over the years, as among the brightest and gifted individuals I encountered -  as no doubt his subsequent career would show. Unfortunately, with my travelling around the prototype sites to check them out, and then later moving across to the start-up of Space Communications Division in 1965 I lost contact with him;  he may, in fact, have left the Company? Or Barry, do you happen to know?

3) Barry Pettican to John Brown

This is written as a result of the response John Millard Brown gave to my brief memories of John Goodacre and mention of some Guys Farm staff in the late 1960s. I hope it is general interest to other MOGS.

As you probably know Guys Farm was so-called because there was once  an operating dairy on the site. Just down the road in Writtle village (Lawford Lane) in the mid-late 1960s there was also a much larger Marconi site accommodating Line Communications Division. I will also mention nearby Beddells End which was basically a hut in a wheat field. The access road was opposite Lordship Lane off what is now the A1060 (It used to be the A414). We used the hut (it had a very robust 3 phase power supply) for initial testing of two 415 volt three phase drive motors for the Goonhilly 2 system. One day Sir Neil Sutherland paid us a visit and I remember receiving strict instructions from Ernie Hoare to tidy the place up before he arrived.

 When I joined Guys Farm much of the development work for Goonhilly 2 was nearing completion. The servo section under Ernie Hoare had responsibility for the main elevation/azimuth servo systems, the 2 axis hydraulic sub-reflector servo systems and the control systems for the offset spinning microwave feed. The system had to be commissioned in time for live television pictures to be received in the UK from the Mexico Olympic Games in 1968. The parabolic dish on Goonhilly 2 is 90 feet in diameter. I say “is” because I visited a few years ago and it was (circa 2006) still in occasional experimental use by BT.

I was principally involved with the main servo systems and a considerable amount of the development had been already been done by Ernie Hoare and Mick Cranmer. As usual, there were some work-up problems on site (fine tuning,we called it!) and we were sent off to Cornwall to resolve this in conjunction with the installation team. When it came to acceptance tests, Ernie often joined us on site. Space Communications Division were responsible for the whole contract and because considerable parts of the design had originated in Research, we were often referred to as “the Farmers” especially if something wasn’t working as planned.

Ernie was a very gifted  hands-on engineer and an excellent section leader.  I learned a lot from him, especially when applying the theory of feedback control systems into achieving optimum performance from practical design applications. He also had two senior engineers reporting to him. Jon Chaplin, who was responsible to Ernie for all aspects of the Goonhilly servo systems, and the handover of design information to Space Comms Division - much of this was also used in subsequent production contracts.

 Don Rainbird was  the second senior servo section interface with Radar Division. At the time he was involved with design tests on heightfinder radar (a.k.a. Noddy) and various 600 series projects. I was not working closely with Don at that time, but that was to change in 1970.

When the Guys Farm teams were split up Ernie, Mick and Jon elected to join the Marconi Communications Company. Don Rainbird moved to Baddow to work as the servo section leader for Bruce Neale in Marconi Radar Engineering. I decided to move there too to continue with work I had started on GWS 25 - so then Don became my boss. In those days the feasibility study for GWS25 Seawolf had completed, and early development work had started. I had been involved whilst still in research and found the control systems aspects of both tracker and surveillance radars interesting and challenging. I stayed with Don and his team until the mid -late 1970’s, and then  moved into a more general radar systems engineering role with Eric Gildersleve, Tony Edwards and Alan Forwood.

Don continued his role a servo section leader until various re-organisations in Marconi Radar plus the opportunity to do some specialist work with Marconi Avionics drew him back to the Research Division.

I lost touch with Jon Chaplin, but Ernie Hoare and Mick Cranmer were active in the Communications Company at New Street in the 1980’s  The last time I met Ernie Hoare was in the early days of JORN (Jindalee Over the Horizon Radar Network) for Australian Telecom. Ernie was doing some systems work for the Communications Company elements of this joint radar/comms project.

I heard no more of Harry Rosenbaum after the break up of Guys Farm.  I am pretty sure he did not join Marconi Radar. He may have moved to Comms or Baddow Research or left Marconi altogether. There was quite a lot of choice and opportunity for skilled experienced engineers in those days, but some of what I have described took place over 50 years ago - the days of Anthony Wedgewood Benn and the “white heat of (British) technology”.




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