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The Falklands Story

Page history last edited by Alan Hartley-Smith 2 years, 2 months ago







The Company was intimately involved with action both in the air and at sea.


This writeup of the war has been extracted from the Imperial War Museum website.


Input from Bernard de Neumann

The following Marconi people received awards for their part in the Falklands conflict:
OBE: Andrew Glasgow, MUSL

MBE: Dave Breen, MRSL - see the captain's appreciation in the HMS Brilliant Reunion blog.

BEM: C.W. Wilson, MRSL
Bernard de Neumann
Naval Awards Advisor, The Gallantry Medallists' League


Also from the Birthday Honours list, 1991 (note the date; not immediately following Falklands)

MBE: Ronald Victor HAMMOND, Seawolf Technical Manager, Naval Division, Marconi Radar Systems Ltd


The following pieces describe this particular instance of Marconi radars and defensive systems being used in earnest.


In the Air



Input from Peter Moore 
Two S600 systems were sent to the Falklands. The main S600 was a production standard system and consisted of a single S5016 L Band Transmitter Cabin and S1016 L Band Antenna, an S5013 C Band Transmitter Cabin and S1017 Heightfinder Antenna, plus two Anvil Display Cabins. This was built with great haste but was a little late for the war. I was involved with its pre-shipment handover trials at RAF Wattisham during the autumn of 82. The surveillance system was re-branded as the RAF T97. The heightfinder became the T98.

The 2nd S600 system was the original Bushy Hill prototype S Band Surveillance, Heightfinder and single Anvil display. This was refurbished by Technical Services and completed a little later.

Both convoys were sent to the Falklands by sea towards the end of 1982. The L Band convoy was installed by the RAF at 303SU on Mount Kent, East Falkland. The transmitter cabins and antennas were housed within two large radomes. The Anvils were sited some distance away, within a crude "office" complex.

The L Band surveillance system continued to give excellent service at Mount Kent for the next 14 years . Unfortunately, the Heightfinder was a found to be too complicated for the RAF to maintain. Their 4 month tour cycle and a reluctance to ask for assistance did not help.

I first visited the Falklands with Brian Sermons and Norman Davies in 1984, once the RAF had finally admitted defeat. We found that most of the faults were minor and was able to return both systems to full serviceability within days.

During this visit, I observed that the L Band Antenna had been badly sited just below the mountain peak, which caused a massive blind spot in one direction. I proposed that the antenna could be raised up within its radome upon 6m stilts, similar but much higher than the Oman S600's. My proposals were accepted and I returned the following year with a Marconi team to carry this out. - quite a major exercise to be achieved without using a crane!

The L Band then performed reliably for many years but the RAF continued to have maintainability problems with the heightfinder. The H/F was soon decommissioned.

I visited Mount Kent on a number of occasions over the following years. My final visit was in March 1997 when I supervised the decommissioning and return to UK of the L Band system after 14 years excellent service (to be replaced at Mount Kent by a Plessey AR327 T101).

The story of the 2nd ex-Bushy S Band convoy was not so glorious. It was never used operationally but was originally placed in storage among sand-dunes near Port Stanley. It was then used as a BDR (Battle Damage Repair) system and soon became badly cannibalized. After a couple of years it was decided to return the surveillance system to UK where it could be better utilized for training future RAF crews. The Heightfinder was scrapped.

During 1984 or 85 the S Band Transmitter Cabin, Antenna and single Anvil were returned to MRSL at Bushy Hill, where it was again refurbished and used to train many RAF teams prior to their Falklands tours.

This S Band system remains mothballed at Bushy Hill today. I believe it to be in good condition and was the subject of much MOGS correspondence last year (see "S600 opportunity" July 2011). It would be nice to see this put on display at. Neatishead. It there anything our group could do to make this happen?

[Editors note - plans to do this now accomplished see here The little caption stand in front has this description.]


We have recently received from Peter a video recording of his experiences which has been trimmed down to a manageable size and can now be seen here.


Input from Dave Lowry (now with RAFADRM) 

I never knew there was a second system sent out. Our L band system was first set up at RAF Wattisham where we conducted both training and trials. We were held back and dispersed for a little time and eventually taken in a road convoy to Marchwood Docks, opposite Southampton. We sailed early November 82. Prior to this I was serving at RSRE Malvern and involved with selecting the sites. This entailed visits, together with Ian MacDonald, to HQ STC and Northwood where we gained agreement for our siting at a very high level. The poor siting on Mount Kent wasn't my idea. The only information I received by word of mouth when on Canopus Hill was that 'someone,' on site, decided that it only needed to look over Port Stanley, totally incorrect. Obviously it wasn't anyone with a knowledge of Air Defence and they should have had taken advice from someone who did. I was furious but powerless. I would really like to get to the bottom of the correct story. If you know anymore I would like to know.


Nick Pinnock's photographic essay on a visit the the RAF Air Defence Radar Museum includes a picture of the S600 antenna.


Input from Archie Ferrier:

At the end of Peter's interesting account of the S600 in the Falklands he states that he visited 303SU Mount Kent in March 1997 when the radar was withdrawn. I was SNCO i/c the S600 from July until October 1997. The equipment was switched off and withdrawn from service in August and I then supervised its decommissioning and dismantling ready for transportation off the mountain in the September. Following the link in the Editors Note to the PDF description for the caption stand at the RADAR Museum I noted that it correctly states August 1997 as the month it was taken out of service.


Input from Alan Matthews

I must say I am amazed that the old prototype Anvil at Bushy could be made to work well enough. The printed boards were in a pretty bad way when it was demonstrated in 1968 at Farnborough and were mostly very different in detail from the ones used in the production versions.

However I believe Ron Moule managed to keep this old S Band system going somehow at Bushy as a demonstrator for many years and it is a great credit to the Field Services and other people involved that it was made to function well enough to be sent to the Falklands - sorry, it seems, it was never used in anger.

I am a little surprised however that the designers of the S600 mobiles were never to my knowledge consulted during this process - John Brand, Chris Arnold, Alan Prior did the tricky to set up, very clever heightfinder, Harry Fancy, Mike Lewis and myself designed the Anvil, 3 display, height calculating and comms control cabin ,- John Ellis, and Keith Damon the signal processors. The transmitters were a pretty established design with the signal processors in another cabin and should not have caused very many problems.

I worked with Dave Breen in Malaysia after he had been involved in the Falklands war. He did not mention his part in it but I was told he had an MBE for his efforts which also involved fixing damage to the wiring for Seawolf and was very lucky to survive the missile/bomb which went by him in the control room injuring a crew member near him.


Inputs from Neil Bennett

30 years on I'm a bit vague about the time scales, but the 600 radar that was cobbled together and sent to the Falklands in a matter of weeks was prepared for shipment in E Block WRW by getting almost anyone who had knowledge of the systems, guys from Test, Systems, Engineering, the Shop Floor to work 24/7 until it was ready to go.

We had free access to the Print Room, all the Stores from Goods In, WIP, Finished Stock etc. and it was more or less built and commissioned from memory without any formal Requisitions, Work Tickets and the like.

Amazingly it worked when it left the factory and again as far as I'm aware when it got to the islands.


Pity Production wasn't allowed to work that way all the time, had it been so perhaps that arm of Marconi would still be thriving!


As I said it was all down very quickly and mostly by the Shop Floor fitters and Test Engineers; as far as names go:
Jeff Harrington, Rodney Reeder, Roger Cummings, Ismet Hassan, Les Turner, Neil Bennett (myself), Roger Berreclothe, Doug Skingsley, Ken Simms and many others worked on this; where the cabins came from and whether it was a complete system comprising L Band 2011, C Band 2013 and an Anvil I don't recall, or whether we refitted and upgraded a cabin dredged in from places like Rivenhall & Bushey. Also although it all moved out of E Block for all we or I know it may well have gone nowhere else! It's 30 years on so perhaps others with better memories may chime in and fill the gaps.


Input from Les Turner

I did indeed work on the Anvil cabins for the Falklands conflict, 12 hour shifts and 7 days a week. Also the DSP’s (S-60-7100) I seem to recall. With Roger Cummings on the Tx’s. When we first saw them they were empty and with all of the sub units spread all around E Blk, they were in various mod states which had to be brought up to the latest mod state. Not forgetting all of the ecr’s.  I can remember the pds engineer DOUG THOMAS who sorted out the tracker ball markers that had a huge amount of mains hum on them, because the signal leads were run under the floor picking up all sorts of noise and ac. He was Welsh and sadly committed suicide some months later. I can also remember the Air Vice Marshall who came in to thank all who worked on the systems.


Input from Les Turner



A picture of one of the ANVIL cabins. I am sitting on the desk which was a bit risky as it had been known to break, Martin Higgins is at the other end of the cable. [Editors note - another source says second person is Dave Watts]


The following series of pictures show the radar at Mt. Kent and its final removal.







Input from John Dell (former RAF technician).

The aerials of the "S600 Radar Convoy" parked in the sand-dunes next to Stanley airfield 1983 - The cabin was nearby.



Input from Ian Gillis

An extract from a company paper 

600 Series - The Story of Success


Input from Don Halstead

From e-Goat:


: ".... I knew a couple of guys who did UK to ASI [Ascension Island - DFH] on the Atlantic Conveyer with the S259 Radar from Wattisham, fortunately for them the kit and themselves got cross-decked to RFA Stromness to do the second half of the trip to San Carlos. (of course it was one of that lot that stated the radar was from 1 Air Control Centre, a unit which at the time had been disbanded for a few years (it became 144 SU sometime between 82 and 90 when I joined the unit)."


DFH: This seems to tie up with some other reference I have seen recently to a transfer of the kit from Atlantic Conveyer to ?Stromness at ASI using a Chinook. It may also explain various suggestions that the S259 was ex-1ACC (aka Portreath).


From other e-goat pages:

"1 ACC was a direct result of RAF warfighting during WW2 and went on to serve with distinction in both Cyprus and Zambia (controlling 29 Sqn(?) Javelins) before disbanding in 1981. RAF Air C2 elements went ashore in San Carlos during the FI conflict with a mobile radar that can be seen outside the SABM at RAF Boulmer today. 1ACC reformed in 1995 and have provided a valuable service in both Iraq and Afghanistan."


"Type 95 Radar (Marconi S259) was what was at Ajax Bay in 1982 (rumour has it that we stuck another one on a big mountian in Chile as well, to give warning of when the Argies were on thier way)."


'Turning' to  http://www.e-goat.co.uk/forums/archive/index.php/t-385.php, note references to S600 and Anvil - but just when?


30-05-2008, 08:51

Half of the Techies shift on Kent were AF ???? Most definitely half on Byron and Alice in the old days because of the Type 94 Radar (it was counted as an Airfield radar for reasons, I won’t go into). As for Kent, No T94 on that hill.

The shift when I was there was one JAFAD and one of gods chosen AF's - Marconi S600 - 2 radomes - radar in one volleyball/badminton court in the other! Leaky Comms Cabin and scopies who used to kip in the Anvil! - wouldn't know a '94 if it bit me! :)


30-05-2008, 08:54

Can anyone remember what was at PPQ?


30-05-2008, 09:01

Can anyone remember what was at PPQ [Premier Mountain? - DFH]?

A very leaky s259 - I was stood in it up to my ankles in water one morning - scared the sh1te outta me - thing was blasting out - arcing and sparking from all over the cabin - scary sh1t!





30-05-2008, 09:58

A very leaky s259 - I was stood in it up to my ankles in water one morning - scared the sh1te outta me - thing was blasting out - arcing and sparking from all over the cabin - scary sh1t!

AKA Type 95, (S600 was also known as the Type 97). Type 94 you most like know as the AR-3D, which you should have seen as it was based in a car park at Locking for at least the 12 years up to 1999 when the place shut. T95 did live in the second dome at Kent before it moved to PPQ."


DFH: Googling 'falklands marconi martello' throws up at least one claim that Martello was shipped out there - but BSquared memory flatly contradicts that!


There are also odd references around to "Plessey S600 radar convoys", possibly lost on the Atlantic Conveyer. Does that make ANY sense?


All in all, lots of confusion - but the e-goat stuff is, I judge, from 'hands-on' exposure.




Input from Norman Davies

I know that a S259 got down there, as evidenced by the photo in the link in Steve's e-mail. I felt quite attached to the S259, having worked on the last of these at Bushy Hill. The ops cabin contained the signal processor (ahh ...those wonderful quartz delay lines) and a couple of Plessey liquid cooled autonomous displays. Conveniently situated under the console was the antenna control unit, which used a thyratron bridge controlled by a magnetic amplifier. The aerial had a normal rotation mode but could also be used under manual control, where it could be swung backwards and forward using a knob on the operators console. The aerial did come to a shuddering halt when you switched from normal rotation to manual, but the aerial was quite light. In fact, part of the spec. was that the aerial and turning gear could be installed on the roof of the cabin by two men without handling aids.


Input from Peter Moore

With regard to the S259 (T95). I remember flying down to Port Stanley from Acension in a RAF Hercules in '84. I spent much of the 15 hour flight stretched out on a sleeping bag on top of the S259 Tx Cabin. This radar was later deployed on Mt Kent to provide temporary cover while the S600 (T97) was disabled. In later years an S259 was often deployed down at Mount Pleasant airfield. The tiny turning gear had great difficulties with the constant Antarctic winds and was eventually housed within an inflatable radome with mixed success.



Input from John Dell, ex-RAF technician re the S259 in the Falklands and elsewhere.



At Sea



First recorded use during this engagement. See above link for more equipment details.


Input from Malcolm G D Mack

Work of Field Services at HM Dockyard Devonport during the Falklands War 1982.

At the outbreak of the War in April 1982, HMS Broadsword, HMS Battleaxe and HMS Brilliant were on Exercise Spring Train in the Eastern Atlantic. HMS Broadsword and HMS Brilliant were sent south and HMS Battleaxe was returned to HM Dockyard at Devonport. She had been stripped of her Ready Use Spares, Deep Hold Spares, plus other items of equipment from the GWS25 MOD0 systems to provision the two ships going south. The job of the team at Devonport was to rebuild and modify the two Tracker systems and the Surveillance system; recommission in readiness for the ship to sail south In June. The Site Engineer was Dave Beal, and the SQR Malcolm Mack, and as we were working twelve hour shifts, Mike Plumridge came down to assist. Martin Wager and the modification team carried out the implementation of the modification programme. Rex Hopper was the Site Administration Controller based in the Portakabin on Quay 3 in the Dockyard.

Personnel on ships in the Falklands Exclusion Zone:-

Dave Breen  - HMS Brilliant

Bill Ullyart  - HMS Broadsword

Jim Geddes  - HMS Andromeda

George Edwards  - HMS Battleaxe


Input from Barry Pettican

When the Falklands War erupted in 1982, as with all involved organisations, it was a time of national emergency and Marconi had to react quickly. The basic message was that the armed services were to be given any support that was required in the provision of equipment, spares, repairs and services during the preparation and and sailing of the task force. Therefore the Marconi Radar organisation comprising Airspace Control, Naval and Customer Support Divisions had to ensure their resources were employed as necessary.


I was in the Naval Division at the time and there seems to be very little written down about the vital role played by the GWS25/Seawolf point defence system fitted to RN Type 22 frigates forming part of the defence force.  GWS 25 Mod 0 had entered service and most of the development and trials had taken place during the 1970s. Each Type 22 had a double headed system with a Type 910 tracker mounted fore and aft. The dedicated Type 967 surveillance radar (co mounted in prime mast position with Type 968 and IFF) was mechanically stabilised to remove shops motion effects.


967 was a very high performance pulse Doppler surveillance radar designed to detect small targets in conditions of heavy clutter. Therefore it had a very advanced signal processor and very low noise transmitter and receiver. The whole system including track forming, threat evaluation and weapon assignment was designed and implemented by Marconi Radar engineers . The TEWA was programmed by Marconi into a Ferranti 1600B main frame computer for commonality with other RN computer systems of that era. The 967 radar performance was so good when the ships had to operate close to land (frequent in the island geography of the Falklands) many other radars were blinded by clutter. The 967 data was adapted to provide radio data targeting to other ships, like the type 43 destroyers, and this improvisation proved very effective.


The whole GWS 25 naval point defence system was designed for a very fast automatic response through to engagement with no manual intervention, except the ability to abort.


The Type 910 tracker was also a pulse Doppler system and the main transmitter and receiver system(s) operated through a 1.5metre diameter cassegrain polarisation twist antenna designed at Marconi,  Gt. Baddow. One of the special challenges with the design was to maintain receiver linearity and stability at up to three frequencies simultaneously. Basically the  target channel radar measured the angle (azimuth and elevation ) with respect to a stable boresight. The missile, although capable of skin echo tracking, carried a beacon. This was also continuously measured against  (ideally) the same boresight. The two frequencies differed so the boresight for one, was not necessarily the same for the other. A regular frequency calibration sequence was designed to check this, and re calibrate if necessary. However testimony must be paid to the inherent design features which ensured the required accuracies were maintained within calibration check intervals. Actual tracking accuracy (Target to boresight) was not as critical as the missile to target measurements. These measurements were fundamental to the guidance loop performance. 


A coded command  link transmitter signal provided guidance commands to the missile during flight.

British Aerospace were the design authority for the missile and its guidance system and there were obviously several interface issues between the Marconi  910 tracker and the guidance system. 


The tracker functional controls were programmed by Ferranti and the software requirement defined by Marconi. Again this used a Ferranti 1600B computer. Once a tracker alert was given, usually from the 967, the tracker would slew to a designated bearing, a vertical angular search was performed given approximate range and bearing. the target acquisition sequence was scan, detect (1), overshoot, reverse, detect(2) overshoot and move to predicted target angle. This would signal “target acquired” The 6 barrel Seawolf launcher would also move to the approximate firing angle. The launcher was manufactured by Vickers of Barrow in Furness.


Target tracking would continue until the rules for engagement with Seawolf had been met, The first missile would then be fired. Initially the missile beacon was acquired by a wide angle static split “gather” antenna (horn) The missile was then steered towards the target angular position using guidance signals from the command link. Once within the main guidance beam (1.5 metre dish) both target and missile were tracked differentially, the closed guidance loop action continually making the angular difference at, or near, zero. A second missile could be fired once the first missile had been gathered.  


There was an additional tracking and guidance system co mounted with the radar. This comprised a special television camera which could be targeted manually via an operator and joystick, using cross wires. A second television channel tracked the Seawolf missile flares. Angle data from the target to cross wire  measurements were fed via the guidance system as well as the flare to cross wire measurements to keep the missile close to the cross wire centre.  The television system was designed and built by Marconi Avionics Basildon. Marconi Radar and B.Ae jointly agreed all guidance loop interfaces. The television system was mainly a back up to the radar and for use in very low level engagements. 


In 1969 the GWS25 Mod 0 system had just completed a feasibility study and was starting development. There were at different times in the 1970s hundreds of engineers working at Chelmsford, Aberporth, Woomera,Stoughton and RN trials ships (e.g.HMS Penelope) Most were Marconi but at certain times they were joined by Ferranti, B.Ae and Marconi Avionics. These engineers had specialist systems experience, software development and particular radar hardware design skills, antennas, transmitters, microwave, receivers, advanced signal processing , servo and control systems, manufacturing  HVAC, environmental, installations, mathematical modelling, test and trials design and analysis


I was involved with GWS 25 and its successors for most of my time with Marconi (1963 -1998).- finally helping to secure the prime contract for what was then called Seawolf mid life up date.  We had already successfully completed, as prime contractor, GWS25 Mod 3, and as B.Ae subcontractor, the tracker radar design modifications for vertical launch Seawolf (fitted to RN type 23 frigates)


As threats and requirements changed before and since 1982, Marconi Radar was always involved in associated studies, collaborations, prototype testing and development projects. We were examining multifunction radar solutions with simultaneous multiple threats in the NATO 6S project in 1979. We went on to collaborate with Alenia (Italy) in the development of EMPAR (European Multipurpose Planar Array Radar) This system is now in service with the Italian Navy, and Marconi Radar made a major investment in expertise, and finance especially in its preproduction phases.


The origins of the Royal Navy SeaCeptor system have their origins in Marconi Radar’s contributions to Seawolf  mid life update. The Long Range Radar fitted to the latest type 45 destroyers, and aircraft carriers started it life as a collaboration between Hollandse  Signaal Apparaten of Hengelo and Marconi Radar of Chelmsford.


I was personally involved in much of this work until 1998, so it is clear that there is a major legacy left by this company not only in the Falklands War but in the radar systems operating now and into the future.


Barry Pettican C.Eng. F.I.E.T


Input from Ian Gillis

An extract from a company paper 

A story from Chelmsford News & Views August 1982 by David Breen on HMS Brilliant dated 9th June 1982 - almost its 30th anniversary.


Operation Black Buck - The Vulcan raid on Port Stanley


Reunion Dinner

There is an RN Reunion Wardroom Dinner held at significant anniversaries of the Falklands campaign.  There was one onboard BRILLIANT in 1992 for the 10th anniversary. The 30th was in HMS NELSON, the 35th in HMS EXCELLENT and the 40th will be in 2022 at the Victory Services Club in London - sadly without the CO, Vice Admiral Sir John Coward, who died last year.



Royal Navy post-World War 2 - BATTLE ATLAS of the FALKLANDS WAR 1982 by Land, Sea and Air by Gordon Smith






Comments (4)

Ian Gillis said

at 6:27 pm on Feb 15, 2016

Page checked
e-Goat links repaired

Ian Gillis said

at 12:18 pm on Mar 25, 2016

Message from archieferrier@gmail.com via Marconi Radar History (http://marconiradarhistory.pbworks.com/):

At the end of Peter's interesting account of the S600 in the Falklands he states that he visited 303SU Mount Kent in March 1997 when the radar was withdrawn. I was SNCOi/c the S600 from July until October 1997. The equipment was switched off and withdrawn from service in August and I then supervised it's decommissioning and dismantling ready for transportation off the mountain in the September. Following the link in the Editors Note to the PDF description for the caption stand at the RADAR Museum I noted that it correctly states August 1997 as the month it was taken out of service.

Kind regards

Archie Ferrier

Ian Gillis said

at 1:54 pm on Aug 18, 2017

The second link against David Breen (http://www.rna-10-area.co.uk/files/gazette_0810_4.pdf) gives a 404 not found. I'd fix it if I knew what it was…

David Lugton said

at 10:02 am on May 5, 2021

Thanks Ian for a very interesting account. A friend of mine, Ernie Hobbs, from my subsequent career on UAVs with Thales was in the RAF and had previously mentioned his time in the Falklands. So I sent him a link to your article. Here is his reply which might cact a little light on the question of radar site selection:
" I was on Mt Kent from Dec 85 to April 86. While I was there we had a visit from a senior Army officer (I’m pretty sure he was at least a full colonel, if not of star rank, ie Brigadier or above), who wanted to see the radar because he installed it (I believe he actually picked the locations for the radar head , the ops room control cabins and the crew room). He was very proud of his work; we weren’t allowed to tell him it had been a stupid idea to put the ops room control cabins and the crew room on, literally, the very top of the mountain (hill in reality), and the radar head lower down!"
Best regards
David Lugton

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