• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Dokkio Sidebar (from the makers of PBworks) is a Chrome extension that eliminates the need for endless browser tabs. You can search all your online stuff without any extra effort. And Sidebar was #1 on Product Hunt! Check out what people are saying by clicking here.

View
 

Marconi Training

Page history last edited by Alan Hartley-Smith 5 months, 4 weeks ago

  Organisation

Home

 

Introduction

 

In September 1901, Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company opened the first wireless school in the world at Frinton in Essex. The school supplemented students' knowledge of engineering with the principles and practice of Marconi wireless. Further training courses were established in Chelmsford in October 1901. These two schools subsequently moved to Chelmsford to become Marconi College and expanded into training for all Marconi equipment not just marine operations. The training scheme was extended to Liverpool in 1902 in a building erected at Waterloo, Liverpool and this continued for many years as the gateway through which Marconi operators passed to the various shipping companies.

 

In parallel came facilities for the training of boys and young men, followed by attendance at part-time external day courses and later by the Marconi Apprenticeship Scheme.


In 1912 a school was established at Marconi House to train men in the use of wireless equipment.

 

It should be noted that the young Marconi, with a Wisdom beyond his years, instituted the scheme for the training of probationer engineers and furthered it by every means in his power. Thus he built for future decades at a period when the present was precarious. When sales were few and the Company was losing money heavily. Since that time the World’s oldest Wireless college has been consistently enlarged and improved. Additionally, the Company possesses one of the most advanced training and educational schemes in the country. Its long-term value can be seen, not only in the number of senior posts held within the Company by ex-apprentices, but also in the number of chief engineers and other senior executives in broadcasting and Posts and Telegraphs organizations all over the World who spent their early years at the Chelmsford Works.

 

The Marconi Ethos

 

 

School of Wireless Communications or The Wireless Telegraph School

The life blood of any manufacturing organization is its technical staff. This was realized by Guglielmo Marconi at the conception of his Company, and although for a year or so the training of new recruits was carried out by the senior men this rather haphazard state of affairs ended in September 1901, when a residential school for the training of probationer engineers of the Company was opened at Frinton, Essex. This circumstance made history, for not only was it the first wireless college in the world, it was also the first in which qualified electrical and mechanical engineers on full pay were provided with a training centre where they could be instructed in the latest technological developments.

 

Editors note - the activity at Frinton has raised some interesting questions discussed here


In 1904 the school was transferred to the Hall Street Works at Chelmsford, and for some time the students were absorbed directly into the general research, development and testing areas.

 

In October 1911 the school was re-established as a separate department, this time at the Broomfield Research Station. [Editors note - off the Broomfield Road and also known as Pottery Lane this was established as a receiving station in 1903. By 1911 it was a research station and part of the Marconi Apprentice Training Centre (ATC) until this moved to New Street Bld 720. In 1912 it consisted of a single hut and several aerials on masts. The site was bombed in May 1943, and nearby houses damaged. The site had been manufacturing CR 100 receivers. By 1946 it was a group of Nissan huts. The site was the home of the Radar Development Group from 1949/50 until 1959 when the staff swapped sites with the Broadcast Division TV Development Lab at Gt Baddow.]

 

[Additional comment from Chris Gardiner - In the notes above I think there is confusion between Pottery Lane and Broomfield. Pottery Lane is about one mile north of Chelmsford city centre off the Broomfield Road and was used for the apprentice training and at some time the Broadcasting Division. The Broomfield site was in a large house on Church Green Broomfield opposite St. Mary's Parish church about two and a quarter miles north of the city centre and housed the fledgeling Radar Division. This large house was demolished c.1970 and 22 modern residential houses were built on the site. Pottery Lane is well to the south of the Broomfield parish boundary

 

Editors response - Church Green did house a fairly large Radar Systems group consisting of Field Services and Installation Design; Installation Planning and a Drawing Office were also on site. It hjad its own canteen. There were no laboratories/workshops, these were at Pottery Lane. For the sake of completeness there was another place in Broomfield Road between Duke Street and Railway Street which housed the project office for the USAF Microwave System contract from the late 50s until 1963.]

 

Some instruction was also carried out at Poldhu at this period. The following year saw a considerable expansion of staff occasioned by the opening of the New Street Works and for a time additional training was carried on at other Company research establishments also.


The Great War brought a famine of engineers in the armed forces and every commercial organization was scoured for men. Those engaged on College instruction (and indeed in all other departments) were quickly transferred to the services, decimating the ranks to the point where the College had to cease its activities as a training centre; once again the new recruits had to be drafted direct into the research or development sections. More details of these activities can be seen here


In 1920 the return of demobilized engineers in need of refresher courses and an increase in the numbers of foreign engineers under instruction at the Works, made it advisable to re-open the College as a separate department.

 

Marconi College

 

Liverpool School   Students    1.  2.

Following the establishment of the School at Frinton training classes in Marconi techniques were started at Chelmsford for the instruction of the otherwise qualified men to join the staff as wireless operators. This scheme was extended in the following year when a building was erected at Waterloo, Liverpool, to house a school, a repair shop, office and operating room. This establishment (irreverently christened the ‘Tin Tabernacle’ by its early occupants) continued as the main gateway through which, for many years, Marconi operators passed to the oceans and the four quarters of the globe.


Here they learned much more than simply the dot-dash rudiments of Morse. The School had several sets of working wireless apparatuses that were used for instruction, including a half-kilowatt set which had a range of about 100 miles, which was used for basic instruction, as well as several of the standard one-and-a-half-kilowatt sets that were used on most Marconi-equipped ocean liners, and a powerful five-kilowatt set. The school accommodated sixty pupils and the average term of instruction spanned ten months. Courses in electricity, magnetism, radio-wave propagation, troubleshooting of equipment, and the new regulations, such that they were, of the lnternational Radiotelegraphy Convention, were all included.


The Convention was very clear about how wireless operators were supposed to conduct themselves, and quite explicit about the priority of certain types of transmissions. The courses in radio-wave propagation explained to the operators the effect of the ionosphere on wireless transmission and why both transmission and reception were clearer and longer-ranged at night than during the day. Of course, this benefit in range and clarity often meant that the majority of a wireless operator's work was done during hours when most of the rest of the world was asleep.


The young men who graduated from the Tin Tabernacle quickly found themselves employed on ships all over the world. They were a distinctive type of youth, always intelligent, often high-strung, energetic and intense, yet time and again they would prove remarkably cool and calm in an emergency, carrying out their duties even when their own lives seemed to be in danger. Their position aboard the ships on which they served was somewhat peculiar: although they would be required to sign the ship's articles and were subject to the orders and discipline of the ship's captain and officers, they were not actually part of the crew. The company which owned the particular vessel in question would contract with Marconi Marine for their services, so that they remained Marconi employees no matter to which ship of what shipping line they were posted aboard.


At that time there was no requirement for a 24-hour wireless watch to be maintained by any ships, save warships, so the wireless operators usually worked a schedule set for them by their ship's captain. On large ships, such as the fast German liners or Cunard's soon-to-be-launched Lusitania and Mauretania, there would be two wireless operators who alternated shifts, twelve hours on, twelve off, seven days a week. Smaller vessels warranted only one operator, who usually pulled duty in fifteen-to-eighteen-hour stretches.


It was not hard work in the conventional sense, but the long hours of enforced immobility and intense concentration as the operator sat at his table, headphones on, key at hand, were exhausting. The pay did little to compensate for this: a senior operator only made £8 ($40) a month, a junior operator only £5 ($25). It was the knowledge that they were part of a small, select fraternity, sitting on the leading edge of a new, revolutionary technology that few people understood and even fewer could operate, capable of snatching messages seemingly out of the thin air with their ungainly looking apparatus, that kept most operators at their stations.


The skill of the early wireless operators was nothing short of amazing. Spending long hours, sitting almost motionless, only their hands moving as they worked the key of their apparatus; or sitting listening through their bulky headphones as they sought to pluck the signals from other stations out of the ether. It was all far more difficult than is popularly supposed. Instead of the carefully modulated buzzes, beeps, or tones that today are most commonly associated with Morse Code, the sounds made by the open-spark transmitters of the day were more like bursts and crashes of controlled static, which resembled nothing so much as the interference distant lightning will create on a radio. And yet these bursts and crashes, and the various signals into which they would evolve, would save thousands of lives in the decades to come.

Marconi House - London

In 1912 a school was established at Marconi House in The Strand, London to train men in the use of wireless equipment. It had several sets of apparatus in the school room for the purposes of tuition, including ½kw set which had a range of about 100 miles; a standard 1½kw set that was used on most ocean liners and a 5kw set. The school accommodated 60 pupils and the average course spanned six weeks. By this time the demand for efficient operators was great and the school had a constant supply of students. Marconi Schools were also established in New York and Madrid.

 

The Wireless College

The Wireless College Colwyn Bay North Wales was established in 1920 for the training of Radio Officers in communications techniques. It closed in 1970.

 

School of Marine Radio and Radar

 

Marconi Training School New York 1912

 

 

 

Marconi Apprentices

Along with the developments leading to the establishment of a school for graduate probationers the Company also provided facilities for the training of boys and young men within the organization, initially also in the Broomfield Research station. In 1932 this was given further impetus by providing a scheme whereby the boys were permitted to attend part-time day classes at the Mid-Essex Technical College.

 

Four years later, in 1936, the Marconi Apprenticeship Scheme came into being and has grown steadily ever since. The Apprentice Training Centre (ATC) was established in Building 720 after this was built in 1949 in the New Street works.

 

In keeping with the reasoning behind these wikis there is also a specific one for all things Apprentice which can be found here.

 

This is a typical 1950s Apprentice Manual

 

Editors note

The strength of friendships made during their apprentice years is typified by the establishment of this on-line forum, and the Recollections highlight the quality of the training and experience they were able to utilise during their Marconi and other subsequent working lives.

 

Editors notes
In 1960s, on the 1st Floor of 720, was the Apprentice Training Centre (ATC) Admin offices and outside 30ish clerical/secretarial trainees and their typewriters (The annual apprentice/graduate/clerical intake in 1969 filled the MASC dance floor on the first day induction - See Writtle Road Apprentices). On the ground floor, production of large system racks occurred and, down a short ramp, the infamous 'PIT' where all apprentices learnt in year 1 the basics of the machine shop's tools.

 

In MRSL Echo magazine (Nov 1979) it was stated that MRSL's apprentices under training (Arthur Smith, Chief Training Officer) in Feb 1979 was 741 with 400 at Writtle Road in Chelmsford. Another 400 was the target intake for later that year with 200 for Chelmsford alone. Clearly when Marconi operated an ATC service for all divisions, these numbers would have been exceeded by a factor of 3 or more (See New Street Apprentices). Secretarial numbers were much greater 10 years before. The intake and overall total numbers for 1979 were:

 

Feb 1979 Targets

Type

C'ford

Leic

G'Hd

Total

Craft

35

28

10

73

Tech

60

26

5

91

Commercial

1

10

 

11

Student

40

30

 

70

Graduate

24

45

 

69

Secretarial

12

6

 

18

College Based

5

5

 

10

WEB

10

10

 

20

TOPS

 

12

 

12

DO Trainee

6

6

 

12

Operator Trainee

10

10

 

20

 

203

188

15

406

 

 

 

 

 

Plus another 100 direct entry graduates in 1979

 

 

 

Actual Numbers

Type

C'ford

Leic

G'Hd

Total

Craft

102

63

34

199

Tech

112

70

9

191

Commercial

1

21

 

22

Student

85

73

 

158

Graduate

41

37

 

78

Secretarial

16

3

 

19

College Based

3

2

 

5

WEB

11

5

 

16

TOPS

 

12

 

12

DO Trainee

15

6

 

21

Operator Trainee

10

10

 

20

 

396

302

43

741

 

List of staff [Editors note - contributions needed]

 

Article 1

 

Article 2

 

Learning and Earning

 

Recruitment brochure in GEC period

 

Bodleian archive reference - B.13.3   Historical research papers and literature, 1930-2002 - Shelfmarks: MSS. Marconi 1841-186

 

 

 

Organisation

Home

 

 

Comments (5)

Chris Gardiner said

at 9:57 pm on Feb 26, 2013

In the notes above I think there is confusion between Pottery Lane and Broomfield. Pottery Lane is about one mile north of Chelmsford city centre off the Broomfield Road and was used for the apprentice training and at some time the Broadcasting Division. The Broomfield site was in a large house on Church Green Broomfield opposite St. Mary's Parish church about two and a quarter miles north of the city centre and housed the fledgeling Radar Division. This large house was demolished c.1970 and 22 modern residential houses were built on the site

Chris Gardiner said

at 10:00 pm on Feb 26, 2013

I should add that Pottery Lane is well to the south of the Broomfield parish boundary.

Alan Hartley-Smith said

at 12:52 pm on Feb 27, 2013

Now added to notes. Thank you

de.neumann@... said

at 8:37 am on Oct 2, 2013

I found the following statement in the Midsummer 1911 Greenwich Royal Hospital School Magazine, p20, which, whilst it is not in connection with Marconi, does perhaps shed light on externalities:
WIRELESS TELEGRAPHY
Boys have been examined in Wireless Telegraphy for the first time this term.

Roy Simons said

at 4:15 pm on Feb 14, 2016

Pottery lane was the home of radar development group from the mid 40 s until the work and staff were moved to Baddow in the 60's. Roy

You don't have permission to comment on this page.