- Alan Stiles remembers -

My first job was in 1942 as a lab. assistant in the electro mechanical development laboratory at Nash and Thompson at Tolworth. We were developing some types of AI equipment, notably Type 75 anti submarine radar to tackle the snorkel problem. One of my jobs was testing production units of the nose cone radar on Mosquitos produced by Parnell Aircraft in the adjoining factory before they were sent to the Squadrons and I also worked on the stabilised platform fitted to Lancaster bombers in a bulge under the fuselage. This kept the H2S radar steady when the aircraft pitched and rolled. When my call up came the firm asked the MAP if they could keep me as I was "doing more valuable work" than the Bevan Boy I would otherwise have become. I gratefully agreed with them as I was not keen on going down the mine, daddy!

Having signed the Official Secrets Act I have not talked about the T80 since working on it. I have been amazed at what Google can do and tried a T80 search which to my amazement turned up your website. I would add that I would not be able to improve on your memory about technicalities as we were restricted to knowing only what we needed to know -- so we didn't ask questions. We all had to wear radiation monitors because of the very high power of the magnetron, but nothing ever registered.

The radar started development in what had been the Fox and Nichols garage on the A3 at Tolworth. I worked there and was put on the team to get a prototype made in our model shop. The 10 cm waveguide needed very highly skilled fitters to make it and most of the initial electronic cabinets were made there. After several months a special building was erected on the Record Company site at Shannon's Corner near New Malden also on the A3. This consisted of a large development test area, a model shop, an electronics laboratory, design offices and a large systems test area used to soak test all the units before sending them on to the RAF sites. This building, of a temporary nature was known as The White City due to its white panelled construction. You will note that it had no loos!!

As early units were completed at Tolworth they were shipped by Decca transport to this new building. On one occasion I was asked to ship one of the cabinets to the White City and filled in the documentation for the move. Several hours later I got a call from the driver who had tried to deliver this top secret unit to the White City Dog Track. Fortunately they would not accept it.
The work on the slipring unit was mainly concerned with testing various materials for the wire brushes and involved some good work by Johnson Matthey who had precious metals on tap and the expertise to go with it.
I also had some input to the design of the cooling unit which hung on the outside of the rotating cabin. The cabin at Bard Hill rotated at 6 rpm and had four motors on the turning gear. I was involved mostly with the design of the high voltage rotating joint, which I seem to remember was situated below the slipring unit. One of the early models at Bard Hill failed and I went up to Norfolk to see if I could find the reason for this. It was a completely charred mess and I asked the RAF lad on duty why he had not reported the problem when it started so that I could have sorted out the cause. He replied that he had reported it to his Sergeant when he first saw the signs of failure and was told to wipe it off.

I can't remember why I had to go to Ventnor. I arrived one cold and foggy November afternoon with a couple of fitters, checked into a dingy hotel and went up to the site. We introduced ourselves to the guards and were allowed to proceed. Having sorted out what was needed we decided to go back to the hotel for dinner and come back to the site afterwards and work through until the job was done. On the way out we told the guards that we would be back later. On our return we drove through the gates, waved to the guards and drove onto the radar without stopping. We did not know they had changed the guards who knew nothing about us and came out with firearms and dogs to sort us out

There was a call for volunteers to go to St. Margaret's Bay one weekend to change the plastic cover of the linear array. You will recall that this was held on to the aluminium channel by hundreds of bolts. So it was "bring your own spanners and get stuck in" on a very hot summer's weekend. Travel costs and my accommodation were on the company so I took the family and dropped them off at a B& B and went to work. A holiday of any kind was very welcome in those days.

I visited Locking only once, this was to measure up for air ducting between two rooms on a one day trip, but after doing this it was decided not to proceed so nothing came of it. After the T80 the Department in which I worked produced the HF200 Height Finder Radar but I was not involved with that and moved over to Davis Road , Chessington where they were designing Met. Radars. After one year there they tried to sell me with the furniture to Plessey on your beautiful Island and as a dinghy sailor I almost let them do it but decided that it would not be a good move for me and got another job.

I don't suppose any of the above is of much use to you and in my opinion certainly not worth publishing. It is all I can now remember of a very interesting time as an engineer in the early part of my career. I'm now living in Chichester and when I go up on the Downs I can see the IoW very clearly on a good day, but Ventnor is a bit too far and out of sight round the headland. Kind regards, Alan

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