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David Speake

Page history last edited by Alan Hartley-Smith 11 years, 3 months ago





Short summary of wartime service

1939 Completed first year of Mathematics Tripos at Cambridge University.

Already registered for military service under national scheme initiated in 1938, but  advised (with most of my contemporaries) by the University authorities, to volunteer for assessment by a  panel of government and university officers, who would make recommendations on the wartime activities to be undertaken. Interviewed by panel in October 1939 and accepted a recommendation that, in order to help satisfy a potential need for physicists  by the Services, to switch from maths to a physics course.

May !941 Completed course with 1st Class degree in Physics.

Interviewed again and directed to work as a civilian technical office with the RAF

June 1941 Short introductory period at RAF West Drayton followed by posting to 6o Group (radar) and allocated to the maintenance of CH and GCI stations in the areas of North Wales and Northern Ireland  (No course of instruction but acquired knowledge of the technology by working at the Group headquarters at Liverpool and by practical experience on the stations).

May 1942 Offered and accepted a direct Entry commission in the RAF; undertook initial course on disciplinary and other duties and emerged with the title of Acting Pilot Officer.

Returned to the same duties in the Liverpool area but posted to Portadown in Northern Ireland in the autumn to take charge of the calibration unit there.

July 1942 Transferred to Wing HQ at Dollar in Scotland on closure of the Northern Ireland unit, but still with responsibilities for the stations in N.I. as well as others in Scotland.

May 1943 Transferred to Wing HQ at Ashburton in Somerset, covering stations on and near the south Coast

July 1944 Short training course on the Blind Bombing system OBOE and posted to unit at Deal in Kent (now with the rank of  Acting Flight Lieutenant)
(Editors note - some idea of David's vital work to ensure the optimum performance of the wartime radar chains is given in this paper)

April 1945 Advised by the university that permission had been given for early release from the RAF in order to study for a PhD degree. Decided not to accept the offer as the war was still in progress

June 1945 Short course for overseas service and posted to the isle of Ischia in Naples as Commander of a chain of three stations - the base station on Ischia and the other two on the mainland – providing navigational information for over-flying RAF aircraft.

May 1946 Instructed to close the station and transfer equipment to storage unit.;  posted as O.C. of a maintenance unit near Udine.

October 1946 Ordered to close down and dismantle the unit and posted back to the UK for release from the Service.

January 1947  Given a temporary job with the Ministry of Works in London.

August  1947 Accepted a job on Instrument Development with ICI Plastics Division at Welwyn Garden City,

September 1949 Saw advertisement that Marconi were seeking engineers with radar experience. Interviewed at Baddow by Dr Eastwood who had been the Squadron Leader to whom I had reported on technical matters for part of my RAF service!

Took up appointment in the Research labs. 


Subsequent appointments in Marconi: Section Chief, Microwave Physics; Group Chief, Antennas & Microwave Devices; Deputy Chief of Research


In 1954 David Speake was given direction of a new Vacuum Physics Section at the Baddow Laboratories by Dr. Eric Eastwood the newly appointed Chief of Research. In 1962 he succeeded Dr. Eastwood as Chief of Research when the latter became Director of Research for the English Electric Group. In the major Marconi Company reorganisation in 1965 he became Director of Research. In 1968 he became General Manager, Telecommunications at the Marconi Headquarters. In 1970, now Technical Director of the Marconi Group, he returned to Baddow to also act as Director of the Laboratories  In 1982 following another reorganisation he became Deputy Director of Research for GEC.


The Marconi Research Centre - Great Baddow, Essex

This very important paper written by David in 1985 is a detailed exposition of the research carried out within the Marconi Company, ranging from Marconi's own work in 1897 right through to the Marconi Research Centre within the GEC Laboratories.


It shows the extremely wide range of theoretical research and practical work carried out for "blue sky" investigations of potential development assets for the company, for the complete gamut of requirements presented by the divisions of the companies, many related to the science and technology of radar, and also for many external organisations during peace and war, and is a testimony to the remarkable capability, probably unique in British industry, which the Company possessed.


To quote Sir Eric Eastwood " Baddow was the Mecca of research".


[Editors note: The paper is 63 pages long and is therefore a large file  - to ease download time this set of links is to each of four parts 1234.]



Comment on Marconi Centenary

A meeting at Savoy Place to celebrate the Marconi Centenary was convened under the auspices of the IERE and the IERE on 25th April 1974.  It included papers by Sir Eric Eastwood, Gerald Isted (who had worked with Marconi himself) and J.A. Ratcliffe, of Cambridge University, who had made a theoretical  assesment of the probability that Marconi really did receive a signal in his first transatlantic experiment. The IEE Journal of 2nd May 1974 reports on the proceedings. There was also a conference organised by Rotary International at the University of Bologna on 14,15,16 October at which many important people were present - and some less important (I presented a paper entitled The Marconi Heritage and its implications for the future). The proceedings, mostly in Italian, were published as a hardback by the Marconi Foundation.





Comments (1)

Ian Gillis said

at 2:49 pm on Feb 9, 2016

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