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Harry Cole

Page history last edited by Ian Gillis 11 years, 10 months ago





Extract from his "History"


I joined Marconi Radar as a Systems Engineer in May 1960 when it was a Division of Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company having spent 17 years with A. C. Cossor. The impact of the Company upon a newcomer at that time helps to give an idea of its moving spirit. In the late '50s the notion of 'image' began to filter down from its use by the advertising fraternity and gain everyday currency. When contemplating joining The Marconi Company, the image conjured up was one of great competence, vast endeavours, lasting quality, things built like brick outhouses enduring forever, probity, academic foundation and professional training. Its very seriousness was, for me, somewhat daunting. Within days of joining the Company I came to see the Company's 'image' was, indeed, a true reflection of itself.


Editors note - I did not know that Harry had written a book "Understanding Radar" which ran to two editions the first in 1985 and the second in 1992. What follows is an extract from the preface to the first edition which I think embodies both his and, as he implies above, the Company's style:


Footsore and hoarse, in the exhibition area at an air show I am doing a turn of duty on my company's exhibition stand. Equally footsore, a visitor musters courage to mount the step from the concourse onto the stand. Courage is needed, for he suspects I might sell him something or - what is worse - blind him with science. I offer him a welcome seat and we sit down. "I'm a controller at.....(he mentions an airport I've never heard of) ..... We have a radar for approach control. Sometimes when a craft goes into a turn over the hills we can't see him on the radar - why is that? Can't something be done about it?"


This is one example of hundreds of similar questions put to me by operators during the many years I've been in the radar business. Comparing notes with my colleagues, my experience is by no means unique. I am sure that such questions are put by users to their local technical staff and that answers are given; it seems they are not always clear enough.


The radar world, like many another is peopled by two different sorts of animal:


  • Those who are responsible for procuring and running technical services for operational staff and who therefore have expertise in engineering, physics and technology 
  • Those who have expertise in the operational use of the technical services


Each of these disciplines is demanding, not only in their own right but because of constant developments in both. In an ideal world, those with technical expertise would know in detail both the operational requirements which led to the provision of the services and the operational uses to which they are put. Equally, users would be schooled in technology, its working and its limitations. Alas, we are mortal and have neither the time nor the money for such an ideal to be reached. Indeed, it is even harder to achieve in these days because of pressures in both areas to do more with less. The result is a growing information gap between the members of these two disciplines.


The technical press does a first-class job in reporting new developments, but almost always for a technically-minded readership. The speed with which new, strange technical terms and ideas pass into currency leaves the luckless user even further behind in the race to understand what is going on. This distances the user even more from a vital section of a community of those who together should form a cohesive whole, dedicated to getting the right radar tools for the job in hand,


There are, of course, enlightened authorities who always introduce operational staff into the team planning new systems or changes to those existing. But it is unrealistic to expect such such representatives to be engineering or physics graduates - and the other members often are. The technical bias of such teams is natural and proper because their output must be in the form of technical specifications. This is yet another example of a mechanism of how users become disadvantaged


This work aims at giving users some better understanding and insight into problems and solutions in radar engineering. By doing so it is hoped that the mystery of the technocrat's language will become less deep and the gap between them and the user made narrower. But how to achieve this aim?


Most of my experience is in the design and use of radar systems for air traffic control (a.t.c.). It will be therefore no surprise to readers if they find many examples in this book drawn from this. There are compensations however because of the wide variety of operational requirements found in a.t.c., and their radar equipments cover most of the available frequency spectrum.


This wide variety of operational requirements for radar systems leads to an equally wide spectrum of frequencies, power, processing techniques. data gathering rates, etc. The parameters embodied in the many different designs must be chosen to optimise equipment performance for the user. But no matter what choices are made, all radar systems both primary and secondary share certain fundamental principles and are subject to the same laws of physics.


I have structured the book to cover first those principles and effects common to both primary and secondary radar, and then split the work into detailed examination of each. I have striven to be rigorously specific wherever such rigor is called for, but ask forgiveness for occasional breaches where rigor has been sacrificed for clarity. In doing so I may have offended the purist but stress that it is not my intention to present a work for radar engineers.


There are many excellent books on radar engineering - some are referred to in this work. If this book enables users to consult them with greater confidence and to learn more, it will have achieved its aim. 


A History of The Marconi Radar Company

a foreword by Ian Gillis 

In 1997 Harry Cole gave me a copy of his opus "A History of The Marconi Radar Company" to review; it had been rejected for publication by the GEC Review for over-personal, judgemental, inaccurate and inappropriate content; it does, however illustrate the company from the viewpoint of one of its systems engineers.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, it was written with passion, affection and concern, but it would have needed a major redraft in order for it to be published in a learned magazine.

However I've long thought that it should be available to those who were part of that history, but, as far as I know it remained a draft until Harry died. Most of the big projects get a mention and I'm sure every MOGS member will find something of interest in it.

All I had was a xerox copy without pictures, so I converted it to a PDF and posted it on the MOGS site. I've proof-read it but they may be the odd error by the OCR process still lurking.

I hope Harry would approve and is sitting in some celestial hostelry with a pint and a wry grin.

My 1997 review is at isn't very kind but I wouldn't change it even in retrospect.


Comment by Roy Simons

MOGS members may like to know that it was as a result of Harry Cole writing his paper, and the realisation that it would require too much work to get it into publishable form, that John Sutherland and I wrote the paper '40 years of Marconi Radar'. which is also included in the History. 


A History of The Marconi Radar Company - unpublished draft by H. W COLE     IJG Review


With the advent of our History Ian has taken the opportunity to produce a series of extracts from Harry's History, listed below, each of which are also to be found in its relevant Section.


 Radar Division 1945 - 65


 Radar Division - Late 60s


 Radar Division - The Seventies


 Support Division


In praise of the 50cm Wavelength


Martello 3D Radar S713 and S723


Sea Wolf (GWS25)




Comments (1)

Ian Gillis said

at 4:55 pm on Feb 11, 2016

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