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Keith Chittenden

Page history last edited by Alan Hartley-Smith 1 year, 10 months ago




Circa January 2019

We have heard from his family that Keith recently passed away - further details will be added when received.


The following contribution has been received from his colleague Barry Pettican:

Marconi Radar Systems – some personal recollections of Keith Chittenden.

I was saddened to hear of Keith’s passing. Although he was M.D. at Marconi Radar Systems at Chelmsford for a fairly short time from 1982 to about 1987, I knew him in the late 1970’s when he was a senior project manager at Marconi Space and Defence Systems at Frimley. When their MD retired Keith became General Manager there.


Keith was responsible for a number of projects at Frimley associated with the BAe Rapier missile. It was through his work with the Rapier Blind fire radar (DN181) that I first got to know him. This was a transportable radar tracker, working in the millimetre wavelength frequency band and provided a narrow beam width to enable operation in all weathers and at night. Under Keith’s direction this radar had reached the point where it was operational and entering service with the RAF and British Army by the early 1980’s.


This coincided with a time when Marconi Radar at Chelmsford needed a similar performance “radar addition” to the established I band GWS 25 tracker to stand any chance of winning a new competitive contract for GWS25 Seawolf. We had already looked at the feasibility of doing this, but the MOD wanted a new lighter tracker based firmly upon the original, but also now with a low-level Blind fire capability. Keith and his team at Frimley were very helpful in working with us to come up with a solution which eventually satisfied the RN requirement and we won the contract in 1982. This success led to Keith becoming MD at Marconi Radar and in the following years gave Marconi Radar a large amount of business with MOD(N) and various Seawolf spin-offs.

Keith’s early involvement and support to Marconi Radar Systems from before he became MD directly influenced the profitability of our home and export naval business over many years during, and beyond, his tenure. It is also the case that the relevant radars (DN181 and GWS 25) are still in service today.


From Echo magazine March 1982

Mr. Keith Chittenden, who takes up his appointment as Managing Director of Marconi Radar Systems Limited on 1st April, was born at Ipswich in 1934 and was educated at Hymers College Hull, Nottingham High School, and Imperial College, University of London, where he gained a BSc Honours degree.


In 1955 he joined Elliott Bros., Borehamwood, starting as an engineer and progressing to Senior Engineer and Project Leader. In 1962 he transferred to Elliott Space and Weapon Automation Systems, Frimley, Surrey, which was later absorbed into Marconi Space and Defence Systems, becoming Assistant Chief Engineer and then Project Manager DN181 'Blindfire' Radar development. After several years as Divisional Manager, Radar and Missile Systems Division, he was appointed Deputy General Manager in 1978.


At the beginning of last year Mr. Chittenden became General Manager at Frimley, a post he held until appointed "Managing Director (designate)" of MRSL.


Article from Marconi Veterans Association Newsletter Number 11 January 2009

It's what normally happens - worry when it doesn't!

I was delighted to read the comments last year on Lord Weinstock's management style by my old friend and colleague, Dr John Williams. He seems to have suffered slightly less from it than 1 did. I still remember being told that my monthly report should never discuss our aims and achievements but merely explain why any of the 47 statistical ratios did not show improvement. It's difficult for companies selling only a few very high value products such as Martello (or for Yarrow a warship) to show that the second derivative of the profit ratio (ie the monthly rate of increase in profit) always continues upwards!


But one of the most trenchant and abiding criticisms of Lord Weinstock's management style was his belief that, rather than encouraging synergy between his constituent companies, they should rather be expected to compete against each other even more than with those outside his control, and that any co-operation between his subsidiaries was not to be encouraged. (I still remember trying to explain to the President of Indonesia why three Marconi companies were simultaneously making presentations in Jakarta and bad-mouthing each other!)


The joint visit by Paul Robinson (Managing Director of Marconi Communications) and me, his opposite number as MD of Marconi Radar in 1986 to the Sultanate of Oman was thus somewhat remarkable. True, we two had previously been closely connected; I'd served as Paul's Deputy General Manager at MSDS Frimley before both of us were translated to posts in Chelmsford in the early 1980s following Arthur Walsh's acquisition of Marconi Group management responsibility.


But both companies had long been involved in the Sultanate, and, in typically encouraged GEC fashion, now had compet­ing local representation. So the protocol of the joint visit was convoluted, while arrangements were not helped by Paul suffering a severe attack of shingles.


The itinerary initially concentrated on visits (usually by helicopter) to sites on which either company had previously installed equipment, but became more exciting as some of the proposed locations for Martello 713 Surveillance Radars were visited. It was, for instance, a little nerve- racking, (especially for those susceptible to altitude sickness), to visit the Jebel Akbar overlooking Muscat! But a trip to the Musandam, (the detached area of northern Oman), by helicopter far out into the Persian Gulf (to avoid Abu Dhabi airspace) was even more challenging. (Although we all regretted the recent death of the then newly designated Head of the Omani Air-Force who had lately died there in an air crash at Masalah).


We two MDs and our cohorts were first flown to Gebel Hamza (a proposed radar site) and there abandoned for an hour or so. It was difficult to forget that earlier personnel marooned there had perished from cold. We then flew on to Goat Island overloading the Strait of Hormuz. Here we were briefed by a British captain seconded to the Sultan of Oman's Navy. An American destroyer had positioned itself in the Strait and reaction was immediate. The Omani Navy (under British control) dispatched a gunboat, while Iranian, Omani, and US aircraft (ex Masirah Island) appeared on patrol. This confrontation was dismissed by the local British commander as 'What normally happens - worry when it doesn't.'


Then we were all were flown to a picnic lunch on an uninhabited island once used as a repeater station on the telegraph line established in the mid 1980s to permit British communication with India. It was unfortunate that our visit coincided with one arranged (with very special permission to afford them privacy) for officers of the Sultan's Army.




Comments (1)

Ian Gillis said

at 6:07 pm on Feb 11, 2016

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