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Page history last edited by Alan Hartley-Smith 8 years, 3 months ago




Input from John Brown

I joined the Systems Group of Radar Division on 29 June 1959, having transferred from the Datamation Group at Baddow. Colonel Elford was at the helm, Hugh Wassell was Chief Engineer (shortly to be succeeded by Jerry Todd); Len Firmin was Chief of Sales; Bill Quill was Chief of Special Projects Group, that had recently won the NATO Early Warning Chain contract; Peter Max, was Chief of the Systems Group; and Maurice Burrage was Chief of Installations Group. The Division had sponsored the development of a comprehensive range of radar display equipment (the SD1000 series), both moving-coil and fixed-coil type (the latter benefitting from the work of ROTOR); the back-up equipment was modular in concept, to make it adaptable for both civil and military applications. This proved to be ideal for system engineering. The private-venture programme also included a new range of radar surveillance antennas, both civil (S232 and S264) and the military S247 and S300 series; and high-power transmitters SR1000 (10cm) and the SR1030 (23cm) for military use, together with 50kW and 500kW operating on 50cm for the civil market. A new high data rate, long-range height-finder, the S244 was available for both markets.


On my arrival for my first day at Marconi House, New Street, I reported to Peter Max, who said I would be working in the Military Section, which was the busiest, as it currently had the NATO Early Warning Chain contract, RAE Aberporth Range, Jordan Air Defence System, Austria, and a number of other NATO contracts. I was then introduced to John Gorton, who briefed me on the work of his Section.


Initially, I worked with Alec Stewart, on the system design of the NATO Early Warning Chain of sixteen radar stations which were to be sited from North Cape, Norway through to Eastern Turkey. Prior to the bidding for the NATO Early Warning contract, the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) had sought bids for two Control and Reporting Centres  (CRCs), which Marconi had won. When bidding for the NATO Early Warning Chain contract, it had been decided for political reasons, to bid in conjunction with the French CSF company; however, when it came to the final adjudication of the bids, Norway requested that all of its stations under the NATO Early Warning contract be supplied with Marconi equipment, as it would be similar to that already ordered under its CRC contract with the Company. Thus there could be commonality of spares, training, and documentation. This was accepted by NATO. We therefore designed two versions of station, an all-Marconi for Norway, and a Marconi/CSF for the remainder; however, even here in both cases, there were variations, and where stations were to have their radars at a remote location, and the Operations Centre elsewhere. After I had become familiar with both basic designs, it was decided that Alec should look after the Marconi/CSF, and I would take care of all of the Norwegian stations, CRC and Early Warning.


A further task Peter Max gave me was to be the specialist on the new range of radars being designed  at  the Company’s  Felling works, near Gateshead. Accordingly, I visited Felling on a number of occasions to become familiar with the design staff and the products; a task I really enjoyed.


When I joined the Systems Group, I was viewed with a degree of suspicion by my colleagues, as I was the first engineer to have come from Baddow; everyone else within the Group had been former installation engineers working out in the field on the ROTOR sites. I was judged to be an academic, and from Baddow to boot! Amusingly, I discovered that Baddow was regarded by them as being for egg-heads and the conceited! I resolved to live with it, and after a time my presence was accepted (or possibly tolerated); I was also found to be rather useful when mathematical calculations were involved!


Shortly after I started, it had been decided that Rivenhall (one of the Company’s radar test and demonstration sites) should have the new back-to-back antenna surveillance radar, the S247, and the new height finder S244, together with a representative NATO display set-up installed in Hut 28. It already had a basic display system to receive signals from the S264. Peter Max tasked me to have a NATO display system ready to be demonstrated to the RNoAF by late October 1959. Having completed the design, I worked with the maintenance team of Hut 28 on its incorporation, and the demonstration duly took place on time. Peter Max, John Gorton, and Bill Quill, brought out the RNoAf visitors, and everything worked as required.


Early in 1960, Cyril Newland and I visited the Norwegian MoD, accommodated in the Akerhus Festning, an impressive mediaeval fortress over-looking the Oslo Harbour, to discuss and clarify operational, technical, and installation matters with the RNoAF staff, and the military civil works department, FBT. The discussions lasted all week, as we had to cover the requirements for five stations; however, an excellent working relationship was established, which served us well over the following months, especially important when we were experiencing a number of technical problems with the new S244 height-finder. The NATO specification had called for fifteen heights per minute on random targets; to achieve this high rate, it had been decided by Felling to employ hydraulics for both slewing and nodding modes. Severe problems were encountered with the pumps and the flexible hoses, because of the enormous hydraulic pressures demanded. It was jested that an oil well had been created in the sub-soil area close to the installation at Rivenhall, resulting from all the spillage from burst hoses! Eventually the problem was solved by changing to Vickers pumps and triple-ply flexible hoses; thereafter, the S244 established a good reputation throughout NATO.


To support an increasing workload, the Systems Group needed to be expanded, and move out of New Street to new premises. The Company acquired Broomfield House, attractively set on the edge of Church Green, opposite the 12th century Broomfield Church. It was about three miles north of Chelmsford, and during the 1940s and 1950s, had been a Royal Auxiliary Air Force Fighter Control Regional Headquarters. Behind the House, the Air Ministry had erected a number of Seco huts, linked with a corridor, which at its end led to the former Operations Room, as well as to the Mess. The Air Ministry had vacated it a few months earlier. After extensive refurbishment by Marconi’s, the first floor of the House was occupied by Peter Max and the Systems Group sections (Military, Naval, UK Ministry, and Civil Aviation); and on the ground floor, the Radar Division Installation Group, together with its Chief, Maurice Burrage. Cyril Newland’s Installation Planning Group occupied most of the Seco huts, and the Drawing Office was housed in the former Operations Room. The Mess was re-equipped, and converted into an excellent canteen. The existing car park was extended to the south and east of the site. The whole complex was titled ‘Church  Green’, and  proved to be ideal for the task. I always regarded it as a ‘happy ship’, and the closeness of all the different sections, one to another, made it a very effective organisation.


The installation of the CRCs and the Early Warning Stations (titled HPRPs-High Performance Reporting Posts) was underway in 1960, and a promise had been made by the Marconi management to handover one CRC (Kletkovfjell- in the Bodo area), and two HPRPs (Honningsvaag- North Cape and Maakeroy- south of Oslo) by the end of 1961. At the request of the RNoAF, and agreed to by Peter Max, Bill Quill, and Maurice Burrage, I was seconded to Norway to assist with the commissioning (having written the station test specifications earlier), and to liaise with each of the Site Managers, and the SHAPE inspectors, to ensure that the target was met. The target was achieved the day before Christmas Eve 1961, when the Commander-in-Chief of the RNoAF signed the Acceptance Certificate in my presence at Maakeroy; thereby, releasing a progress payment cheque for £500,000, which I flew back with to London.


As an aside, a few lingering memories of those stimulating times in that beautiful country:

  1. At the Honninsvaag site, having set-up the acceptance test for the SHAPE Inspector to check that the S244 could achieve fifteen heights per minute in the automatic programming mode, I left him observing with his stopwatch, and went outside for a breather. It was late afternoon, pitch black, and I stood listening to the height-finder’s  hydraulic  sounds, amplified by the radome, as it responded to the demands of slew and nod. Then I happened to look down at Honningsvaag a thousand feet below; to my amazement, I observed the lights of the town brightening and then dimming in step with the commands of the S244. Clearly, the electricity regulation in this part of Norway was not up to IEE standards! Fortunately, our acceptance test was judged to have been met by the SHAPE Inspector, and we could cease upsetting the residents of the town.

  2. At the CRC site at Kletkovjell, we had reached the stage where we were displaying live returns on the Radar Office monitor console, and now needed to set up the radar head/console system, which involved the auto-align Selsyn link. For this purpose, I had previously bought a protractor in Bodo, and carefully set the contacts on the cam at the head end to eight degrees. When we rotated the surveillance head once more, we discovered that, instead of the Lofoten Islands painting where they should be, they were skewed further north, according to the map. After some puzzlement, I discovered that I had purchased a 400 degree protractor (NATO standard) instead of a 360 degree version!

  3. On one of the sites, I encountered an electrician whose task was a major wiring job up in the back-tube of the surveillance radar head. Because he was so isolated from the rest of the team, and he thought that he might be forgotten, he used to set his alarm clock for lunch-time and knocking-off time, just to be on the safe side! The transport, whether it was a Snocat, cable car, or all ski down the mountain together, was always held until everyone was accounted for. Duty of care of each other was a by-word within the installation team. 

  4. I was invited to the British Polar Club, which had been established at the RNoAF Bodo Air Base. Early on, after the Marconi Team had arrived to install Kletkovjell, it was discovered that there were a number of British people at the Air Base, most originating from marriages after the Second World War. On my first visit for the social evening the welcome was so genuine, and the atmosphere wonderful. Amongst the many who I met, I particularly remember Major Klepsvik, who as a teenager, had rowed with two friends under cover of darkness in an open boat, across to the Shetlands to escape the German occupation and to join the RAF; he later qualified as a fighter pilot. Everywhere I travelled in Norway, I sensed a real bond of friendship towards the British, originating from the Second World War, and also the fact that we gave safe haven to their Royal Family. It also explained why the Installation Team had painted a Union Flag beside the Marconi roundel on our Land Rovers; when the Team first arrived, the locals had associated Marconi’s  with  Italy  and  thought   they were all Italians as well. As soon as it was explained that Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company Limited was a British company, the Norwegians could not do enough for the Team.


Having proved the design of the all-Marconi stations in Norway, the installation teams completed the remainder, incorporating any modifications that I had found necessary in the first group to be commissioned. I now turned my attention to finalising the acceptance test specifications for the Marconi/CSF stations, and in the Spring of 1962, travelled to the island of Bornholm, set in the Baltic, which had now reached the commissioning stage.


Environmental requirements laid down by the Danes meant that the radar station was hidden away in a coniferous forest; the Operations Building was buried, but the radars were mounted on concrete towers to raise them above the tops of the trees. The back-to-back surveillance head was supplied by CSF the RV377, which was 10cm (two ER365BL transmitters operating in double diversity), and 23cm on the other side; the transmitter being the Marconi SR1030. The Marconi S244 height-finder had a CSF ER365BL transmitter. The remainder of the station was similar to that supplied for the HPRP Norway stations. Commissioning proved to be fairly straight-forward, except we had a video signal level 50% of what it should have been from the CSF equipment into the Marconi displays. Fortunately, Bruce Neale back at Baddow designed a 2:1 step-up transformer for me, and this economical solution to the problem was applied to all the Marconi/CSF stations. In May, I needed to travel to the HPRP station at Burglengenfeld, a few miles from Regensberg, to check  it  out,  as  it  was  a  ‘split’  site  (the  radars  a  distance  from  the  Operations   bunker), and was the first to use a CSF cable/repeater system. In practice, it worked satisfactorily, and commissioning proved to be straight-forward.


Back at Church Green, I learnt that Project Nassau was under way and John Gorton asked if I would take over the remaining work associated with NATO, especially as on the horizon was now talk of NADGE- NATO Air Defence Ground Environment, which would integrate the HPRP chain of stations, in to a new control and reporting network, totalling some eighty-five radar stations.


Re-organisation of Radar Division

During 1962, Dr T W Straker (who had succeeded Colonel Elford the year before) reorganised the Division into business groups, and Bill Quill headed up the NATO Group. Unrelated to these arrangements, Peter Max had left the Company to become General Manager of Cossors, it having been recently acquired by Raytheon of the USA. The system engineers were moved out of Church Green to be with their appropriate new Groups, either at Marconi House New Street or at Baddow; I became Chief of Systems with a team of six, responsible to Bill Quill. It was an intensely interesting time with a number new business opportunities for which to bid. One such project was the NATO Missile Firing Installation (NAMFI) to be located on Crete, for which Bill Quill had formed a consortium with CFTH of France and HSA of Holland; another was the preparatory work towards setting-up the NADGE consortium. With the near completion of the HPRP Chain, the flight-checking programme of the individual radar stations was now gathering pace. Discussions with the RAF No. 360 squadron (tasked by NATO) had been held earlier at Church Green with John Gorton, who had expertise in this area having been a former Fighter Controller. English Electric Canberra aircraft were being used to carry out the flight- checking task NATO-wide.


NADGE (NATO Air Defence Ground Environment)

This programme had been budgeted at £110M; in 1962 it was still steeped in international politics as to how the spoils should be divided; eventually, the ’balance of payments’ sharing formula was accepted by the fifteen NATO nations. The principle was that each contributing nation should receive back, either in production or in ‘kind,’ to reflect its national financial contribution. For instance, the USA would expect to receive 33%; Germany 25%; UK 11% etc. It was evident that when various consortia were being set-up to bid for the programme, each would be lead by an American company. Previously, there had been an association with France, following an agreement between the UK and French Governments known as AFCAD (the Anglo- French Consortium for Air Defence), comprising an industrial grouping of Marconi and AEI of the UK, and CFTH and IBM of France. With the USA blocking the idea of AFCAD undertaking the task of implementing the new air defence system, NADGE emerged as the new agreed programme; however, in the preliminary discussions with Hughes, Marconi said they would like to continue their past association with CFTH, and it was agreed that CFTH would be invited to join as the French member company within the Hughes Consortium. Continuing negotiations brought in to the Consortium, HSA (Holland), Selenia (Italy), Telefunken (Germany), and Northern Electric (Canada). All the meetings were held in the Hughes offices in Paris; this was still the time when the NATO HQ was in Paris. A number of committees were formed to gather specialists together (e.g. Technical, Commercial, Legal, Contractual, Administrative etc, etc.). All of these operated under the authority of the HUCO Management Board who governed overall policy matters. Each member of my team was involved in the technical discussions at different times, depending on the topics to be aired. I would attend the overall system discussions, and if required, at the Management Board in support of Bill Quill, who was the permanent Marconi Representative. Jim Evans was the HUCO Boss in Paris, and in a relatively short time, had welded the different companies in to a committed team, and the proposal work started in earnest. Sensibly, Hughes advocated their ‘in-house’ format of proposal writing so that each company’s contribution was in the same layout.   They called i  ‘STOP’ (Sequential Technique Of Presentation), where the text on the left-hand page was self-contained, and directly referred to the illustration on the facing right-hand page. It took a little time to get used to this arrangement, but we soon found that it forced the writer to be succinct, and not revert to the traditional form, which the Americans dubbed ‘the river-raft’ approach, where the text can meander on, leading into ‘the tunnel of confusion’! To maintain the same appearance, irrespective from which company had originated it, each  typist had to use the ‘golf-ball’ type machine.


After the broad commercial/technical decisions had been made, the detailed technical work began in earnest. One aspect of the inter-company discussions that I found most heartening was that, even allowing for understandable inter-company rivalries around the table, there was general respect and acceptance of the experience of Marconi’s in air defence radar system design and implementation. It was often the case, when uncertainty arose over the best approach to adopt with a particular problem or situation, the Chairman would turn to the Marconi representative and ask ‘what do you think is the way to go on this?’ I can remember a few years later, when we were working with Hughes on space communication studies for SKYNET, the enormous respect that it had for the Company in general. This obviously served us well when Marconi was playing its part in implementing NADGE, although I had moved into Space Communications Division by that time. My other recollection of the period when my colleagues and I were each writing our contributions to the HUCO Proposal and attending technical meetings in Paris, was the limited field that some of the representatives felt confident to discuss. On many occasions, the Chairman would say that we would be discussing so and so the following day, and who would be their representatives? Invariably, another person would be flown over for the meeting, because it was outside the realm of the representative present; however, unless it was a fairly obscure subject, our engineers felt confident to attend the meeting, and be prepared to play their full part. I am certain that it was the way that our engineers had been trained, and had had the opportunity to gain such wide experience with the Company, which gave them the confidence to think on their feet. The Americans, in particular, seemed to rely on specialisation in each post, and felt unable to talk outside these boundaries.


From 1963 and onwards, Dr Straker asked me to also become involved with space communications and look at all opportunities as to how the Company could get involved. He could foresee that it would be a market of great potential; within Radar Division and the Company, we had the ability to design and manufacture large antennas, mechanical engineering, transmitters, receivers, precision control gear, displays and so on. Thus, in parallel with my heavy commitment with NADGE, I became involved in what clearly was going to be an exciting venture. I stayed with NADGE throughout the proposal generation phase, but moved from Radar Division in October1965 in the major re-organisation of the Company, and to the newly created Space Communications Division.


HUCO won the NADGE competition the following year.


Input from John Brown


I have previously described Marconi’s various contracts in Norway for the provision of two Control and Reporting Centres (CRCs) at Kletkovfjell near Skjerstad , Bodo, and at Hoggumpen, near Sorreisa, in the Tromso region, and the three High Performance Reporting Posts (HPRPs) at Honningsvaag (North Cape), Hummelfjell (Trondheim area), and at Maakeroy, to the south of Oslo, as part of our overall contract for the provision of the NATO Early Warning Radar Chain of stations stretching from North Cape to Eastern Turkey.


By early 1962, the surveillance radars (S247s and 266s) and the height-finders (S244s) had been installed and commissioned; three complete stations (including the radar display facilities) had been handed over, on target, to the R No A F the previous December, leaving a further two to be completed. In January 1962, I flew to Oslo for meetings at the Norwegian MOD with the Chief of Signals, Colonel Widerberg, and Lieutenant Colonel Boger, his Radar Systems Chief. We discussed the remainder of the radar station programme, and in particular Hummelfjell, which was now to become a ‘split’ site, with the Sector Operations Centre (SOC)/ Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) located some 70miles away at Graakallen; there would be a need for a 2-hop radar link – a new requirement. I confirmed that Marconi’s would wish to bid for this link, as well as the already known requirement for linking Kletkovfjell (now handed over to the R No A F), to a new operations bunker being constructed across the fjord from Skjerstad, at Reitan. This would become the Air Defence Operations Centre (ADOC) for Northern Norway, as well as being an SOC/CRC. I was given a copy of the requirements for both radar links, which were to operate in the 3.8-4.2 Ghz band: this fitted in well with our standard SX101 Radar Link equipment; however, two months later I received an urgent request to attend a meeting at the Air Material Command Headquarters at Kjeller per Lillestrom to discuss a revision to the specification of the radar links for Kletkovfjell and Hummelfjell. The operating frequency band would have to be changed to 4.4-4-8Ghz, because of possible interference with television stations; this was now a problem for us.


On my return to Chelmsford, I set up a meeting between Baddow (the designers of the SX101 equipment) and Writtle (who had a communications link the-HM510- which operated in the 4.4-4.8Ghz band. I asked Jerry Todd, Radar Division’s Chief Engineer, if he would chair the meeting (which I knew would be difficult) as there existed an intense rivalry between Wilber Wright (Group Chief of Communications Research at Baddow), and his opposite number at Writtle, Sam Fedida. Sam had a fiery temper, and Wilber had a short fuse; however, both were first class engineers. The arguments revolved around the performance of the HM510 modulator, and its ability to successfully interface with the SX101 channelling equipment. After Jerry had diplomatically soothed the egos of the two principals, and established that technical compatibility of the two sub-systems should be possible, we had an agreement. I was to chair a technical discussion the following day between their second-in-command’s, Pat Sergeaunt of Baddow and Eric Anderson of Writtle, both of whom I knew to be excellent designers and who were keen to co-operate. The outcome of the meeting was that we could bid the HM510/SX101 hybrid with confidence.

Both of the applications in Norway would require three forward links and two reverse links to convey the various radar video channels from the back-to-back ‘S’ and ‘L’ band surveillance radars, the antenna turning and auto-align data, the equipment monitoring information, as well as the corresponding information from up to two S244 height-finders. The reverse links would need to carry the information for precisely azicating the S244 on to selected targets, as well as the remote switching circuits. Both forward and reverse links would carry the ground/air communication connections, as well as the engineer order wire (EOW) lines. The Hummelfjell to Graakallen link would also need a repeater site.


A few weeks later the Radar Links tender was issued for open bidding, and after an evaluation of each of the bids received, the choice narrowed down to a straight fight between Marconi’s and Collins (USA). The final argument by the Host Nation (Norway) and the SHAPE Evaluation Team was about the claimed accuracy made by each bidder for azicating (‘laying-on’) of the remote S244 Height-Finding Radar. Collins proposed conventional synchro transmission, whereas Marconi’s offered an ingenious dc channelling equipment. This had been developed by Pat Sergeaunt for use on the UK Defence Passive Detection (PD) system, and enabled high accuracy in transmission of position to be achieved. Calculations made by the Evaluation Team proved that synchros would not meet the accuracy required. Collins disputed this: SHAPE and the R No A F disagreed, and Marconi’s won the contract with the HM510/SX101 hybrid. The Radar Links were installed in 1963, and successfully integrated into the NATO Air Defence Norwegian System, and remained in full use well into the 1990s. The most impressive feature was that it was impossible to tell at the radar display tube face whether the S244 was on the same site as the SOC/CRC or at a remote location, such was the azication accuracy consistently achieved.





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Ian Gillis said

at 4:52 pm on Feb 12, 2016

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