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This version was saved 1 year, 6 months ago View current version     Page history
Saved by Alan Hartley-Smith
on January 24, 2023 at 3:52:47 pm



The name Marconi has been associated with the concept of detection of objects by reflection of radio waves since the earliest experiments of Guglielmo Marconi himself; he speculated in a lecture in 1922 (see page 237) that by the design of suitable equipment the presence of ships could be revealed in fog or thick weather.


It is therefore fitting that a group of colleagues should get together to set down a record and their recollections of the many ways in which British companies which eventually came together under the Marconi banner translated these early ideas from both government sponsored research and private venture work into the world's most successful ranges of equipment to provide the service of what became known as RADAR. The earliest equipment, developed in a remarkably short timescale mainly by teams of government scientists, played a vital role in both defence and offence during the second World War.


Postwar later developments enabled internationally, on both land, sea and air, continuing military security and the safety and expedition of air traffic for the burgeoning civil airline business.


This was backed by the unique capabilities of the Great Baddow Research Laboratories, highlighted by David Speake and in a wiki dedicated to Marconi in Research. Inevitably this resulted in developing a databank of knowledge covering all aspects of the necesary related science and technology, now reflected in the developing content of the wiki. The laboratories are now the AI Laboratories of BAE.



Radar is an acronym for Radio Detection and Ranging and was developed in the UK under its original cover name of RDF - Radio Direction Finding - during the 1930s in preparation for defence against anticipated German aggression. Marconi involvement was initially as a provider of key elements for the transmission arrays of the metric CH system and general engineering, later in developing and producing the newly-designed magnetron for centimetric systems at its laboratories at Great Baddow and a new Valve works, and in manufacturing in the New Street works in Chelmsford. Work was also carried out on re-engineering systems for different applications. Post-war a decision was taken to enter the market to provide complete radar systems - the birth and progress of this initiative is the core of this History.


However, in the course of time various mergers and takeovers resulted in one radar company that incorporated virtually all of the major companies that have been responsible for radar development in the UK so their stories are also integrated within the History, and for completeness developments in other organisations are referenced.


A prominent Marconi engineer wrote a series of articles for the MRSL newspaper "News and Views", one of which very clearly expounds the rationale for substantiating the claim of Britain to be the first successful developer of radar into an operational defence system; as this is frequently disputed by some commentators it is worth highlighting as part of our History. This article by Colin Latham was written circa 1987 but is just as relevant today. It is also worth examining in more detail what came to be known as the Dowding System  also utilising early Marconi work, which had featured prominently in the First World War, and which was indeed the forerunner of today's integrated armed services.


A significant anniversary was celebrated in 2015: 28 February 2015 - 80th Anniversary of the Birth of British Radar - being the practical solution emerging from the theoretical work described in this article on Watson-Watt and the Daventry experiment.


There was another significant anniversary in July 2019 - the 50th of the Apollo "man on the moon" project" - to which a major contributor was the satellite tracking station erected by the Division on Ascension Island - see details here - which launched the Company's entry into civil space systems.  


2020 was the 80th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Britain - details are available here  


2022 is the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War


Principal Sections of this History

(Click the pics!)




Associated Links

Facebook portal page: https://www.facebook.com/marconiradarhistory

Private group for former employees of Marconi: https://groups.io/g/mogs


Bawdsey Radar

The transmitter building at Bawdsey has undergone a complete transformation thanks to more than a decade of dedication from volunteers and funding of over £1.8m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic England, Garfield Weston and many other partners.
Visitors can enjoy a new state-of-the-art visitor centre and interactive exhibition - now open!
See https://www.bawdseyradar.org.uk/visit/ for details…


The Royal Air Force Air Defence Radar Museum - RAFADRM - now has a Marconi S600 radar as its Gate Guardian.



The BAE Heritage site now has an entry which will incorporate the merger of the former Marconi Radar Systems Ltd

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