© Rediffusion.info 2009
I went to Poulton-le-fylde to attend a course run by Mr Peacock, about the aerial reception equipment that we were using, taking Albert Gill and two others with me for a different course. One of these men was a grand chap who had lived near Blackpool. I subsequently lost him after his father died and he moved back to Blackpool.
At Dover our old reliable Sound Power Amplifiers were replaced by EMI units that used mercury vapour rectifiers. These were a constant source of breakdowns and that meant a lot of out of hours working to repair them by replacing the mains transformers that we had to keep in stock against this event happening.
Eventually we had a separate Sound amplifier Station built further up the valley and the old type amplifiers were installed there.
One summer evening, the electricity supply to this station failed completely on all phases but I was able to connect to the supply of a public house on the other side of the river Dour that ran between these premises. I did this by using two separate lengths of 16swg Quad with the four wires in each, twisted together to form single cables as live and neutral. It worked, our sound was restored and the landlord was suitably rewarded the next day.
It was possible then to open the supply input phase boxes and to say that the seals were already broken if anybody from Seeboard noticed.
We had a visit from the GPO engineers from Dollis Hill who conducted radiation tests of our network. At that time we had used a lot of aluminium, screened ‘Squad’ cable and the aluminium screening was disintegrating in the salt air. These cables were replaced and the copper screened cables had to be bonded across at every junction box on the network.
On another occasion we suddenly had a sound tuning signal impose itself on the BBC about 5pm each evening. We managed to suppress it by using tuned stubs.
GPO engineers came along to locate the source of this interference and I spent an evening tearing around the area with them in their van until we found that it was coming from an old BBC bus that had been parked on a concrete hard-stand at Church Hougham. It transpired that the BBC was in the process of conducting field tests with a view to installing a local transmitter. They did install one at the old Radar site on top of the cliffs. And in the years that followed, I had to ring the BBC in London on a number of occasions to tell them that this transmitter had gone off the air. We received complaints from our customers on these occasions as they thought that it was a problem of ours.
A good signal could be received at Thanet from the Anglia transmitter and this was then added to the network to give alternative choice to subscribers. The men at Coombe obtained some old micro-wave link equipment and the Anglia signals were transmitted by this link from Thanet to Deal to the receiver that was installed on a specially built platform, halfway up the side of Ripple Mill. An underground co-axial cable was then laid from Ripple Mill to Dover via three repeater stations. All three of these towns could now offer BBC, IITA London and ITA Anglia transmissions to our subscribers.
Our ITA London reception had been improved by finding a new aerial site at Capel-le-Ferne where the reception was almost perfect. This entailed the construction of a link from Capel to our aerial receiving station that by now was at the top of Plumb Pudding Hill. A Sqad cable was laid underground across farmland and ploughed in using an old mole plough and no protection round the cable. The depth must have varied, as it was ploughed up and cut on a number of occasions when in service, fortunately always in daytime when repairs were possible. Five repeater stations were required on this link and as the mains voltage varied a night it became necessary to install constant voltage transformer in each kiosk. Subsequently C/V transformers were installed in all of our kiosks.
The technicians at Coombe designed a new four bay corner reflector aerial array and I went to Coombe to collect the component parts on the top of my little Ford station wagon. This array was then mounted about 20 feet above ground level on a special platform erected by SGB Scaffolding. Subsequently it was almost blown over backwards by a westerly gale one night and the scaffolding had to be rebuilt and strengthened.
Performance on this link was not too good and Harry Crewdson who was a technician operating from Rediffusion (Jersey) came along to investigate. He found that attenuation of the higher frequencies was too high between the repeaters. He went away and designed suitable inserts to correct this problem, he then returned to fit them and the pictures were much improved.
During my time at Dover I met many boffins from Coombe, John Gower, Bob Hobbs, John Pacey, Lionel Mudd and others lost to memory. There was one man there who wore a Caterpillar badge, a RAF badge denoting that he had made a successful parachute jump from a stricken aircraft.
We had outgrown our premises at Priory road and a new/old workshop was fitted out in Coombe Valley Road. This was large enough to start with but we soon had to train new staff to cope with a conversion scheme whereby the old terminal units had new front ends fitted to them to cope with the new programs that we were using. I have forgotten the exact reasons for this but it was to do with the old units having too wide a bandwidth.
Some years later the drains flooded. The workshop was unusable whilst the problem was dealt with and many gallons of disinfectant, supplied by the council, had been used.
With the onset of colour transmission I attended a course at Poulton to ensure that I could set up a colour receiver after it had been installed, a film about the building of the Kariba Dam in Africa was shown every morning for test purposes and as it was Wimbledon Week, tennis every afternoon. The colour on these transmissions was superb, far better than a demonstration I had previously witnessed at an ‘Ideal Home Exhibition’, at Olympia. Subsequently two of our lads went to Poulton to attend colour servicing courses and came away with excellent pass marks.
Redifon obtained a contract to install and service VHF radio communication equipment on the four Trinity House Pilot cutters based at Dover. We undertook the installation work and then the maintenance as required, the channel change over relays were not reliable and this frequently meant me taking spares and a technician by road to Dungeness. Trinity House had engaged a boatman to deliver and return our technician to the Cutter that was always cruising off there ready to embark or disembark Pilots as required. I never went to sea myself as I was very prone to seasickness.
We also had to maintain equipment at the Deal Coastguard station and this often meant that I was woken by a telephone call in the middle of the night and then a journey to Deal to fix the problem.
One night I received a telephone call from the Police and had to turn out a maintenance wireman to deal with a cable span that was down across Castle Hill. A yachtsman had decided to take his dinghy complete with raised mast, off the beach at Dover east cliff and to tow it his home at St: Margaret’s Bay. He chose to do it at night when there was little traffic to worry about and did not notice our span in the darkness. Mr Austin was a keen yachtsman so I don’t suppose he sent the man a bill.
In 1965 a new cross channel ferry was brought to Dover to be named, ‘Dover’. I received a call to say that closed circuit television was to be installed on this ferry in a joint effort by Rediffusion and Marconi. On the Saturday afternoon, I went the western dock to see what progress was being made and when I went on board I immediately found John Pacey. He was installing the Rediffusion equipment and told me that as he had expected me to come along, he had added my name to the list of workmen to be on the job. The Marconi lads were busy with their camera equipment on the ships bridge and sometime later the Captain took the ship out for a trail run.
Wynford Vaughn Thomas and Peter Haig were to interview the Captain and others during the inaugural crossing the following morning and W V T was busy drawing some very attractive cartoons. The following morning we all met up and went on board where we discovered that during the night somebody had knocked over the camera tripod and the camera was u/s. The Marconi lads got to work and I went ashore to try to find a certain transistor for them. Being a Sunday, I had to telephone a dealer at his home who informed me that he was about to leave for church, but he did go to his shop and find the transistor for me. By that time it had turned very foggy and at sailing time the Captain refused to have the equipment or extra personnel on the bridge. W V T then had to make other arrangements. There was an open bar for this voyage and by the time we arrived in Boulogne, one or two of us had had a few. We all went off in a taxi to find a restaurant and had a very good meal. Returning to the ship and Cognac and having nothing to do until we arrived back at Dover, I found a quite place to sleep and the next thing I knew was that we had docked in Dover and that the lads had come to find me, thinking that I might have fallen overboard. I was not a lot of help with the necessary offloading and John, -who was sober-, offered to drive me home. Foolishly I refused his offer and after spending a lot of time on the dockside, I felt competent enough to drive home. I knew that once I had crossed Snargate Street, outside of the dock gates, I only had to keep left with a number of left turns at corners and I would soon be home. I was successful and having noticed my state, my wife sent me straight to bed and gave me a severe ticking off later when she heard the full story.
The Dover Harbour Board wanted a new public address system, I C D, (Industrial Communication Division), supplied the equipment and we installed it. A few years later they completely rebuilt the whole of the Eastern Docks and we installed a much larger system. When I left in 1975 a ‘closed circuit television’ system was in consideration.
I was responsible for all of our vehicles and we used a garage belonging to a large chain for all servicing and repairs as necessary. One of the new cars that I was supplied with had an annoying fault as from new. I would drive it out of my garage each morning, leave it ticking over and go back a few yards to close my garage door. On returning to the car I would find that the engine had stopped and it would be difficult to start again. The garage looked at it a number of times but never cured the problem. The next time it happened I went back to them and asked if they knew of a local garage that had a Crypton analyzer? They said that they had one but preferred their own, ‘tried a tested methods’, to using it. I asked them to fetch it out which they did and after taking off the dust covered sheet that was over it, we looked at the instructions and started testing. Quite soon the machine indicated that the ignition coil was faulty and a new one was fitted. The machine said that all was now well, and so it was as I never had this problem again.
Whether the garage staff profited from this experience as they should have done, who knows?
Page 2 of 3
Relay House Westwood, Broadstairs, Kent, CT10 2PX
Tel: Thanet 61561
Memoirs of: Lez Miller EIC. Rediffusion South East Ltd (Thanet) from 1954 to 1975
Associated Companies in over 175 towns in Great Britain and in Barbados, Bermuda. Canada, Ceylon, Guyana,
Hong Kong, Jamaica, Malaya, Malta, Singapore, South Africa, Trinidad and West Africa etc.