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British Grand Prix
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Eric Davies
Eureka Moment
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Made Lived On
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Not a 9 to 5 Job
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Billinge Depot
Bishops Cleeve MU
CCE Harrow
Control Systems

Directorate of Telecommunications
Control Systems and Bishops Cleeve MU
I started with the Directorate at Billinge in August 1967 following nine years in the R.E.M.E (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) I was fortunate to work with two of the best people I ever met In the Directorate John O’Connor on county schemes and the late Joe McQuillan on Installations.

It was during this spell I attended a Mascot 200 course at PYE in Cambridge and unknowingly started on a long association with Control Systems of all types. I installed the majority of Mascot 200 in the Billinge area and for LGR (Local Government Reorganisation) I installed a 30-34 operator hybrid Mascot 200 and a Mascot series? 600, which was the valve and relay predecessor of the 200. This installation also included access to PNCU and link equipment to control 6 countywide vhf schemes and interforce links to all adjacent Counties this was at Gt.Manchester Force HQ and similar but smaller systems were installed in Merseyside and Cheshire. I should have mentioned that all HQ. Mascots were modified with Pip and Talkthrough panels and had Divisional access to UHF channels via PO lines.

I was promoted to SWT at CCE Harrow and worked in the Equipment preparation section. There was a variety of work but yet again a substantial amount was on control systems. We provided assistance to several Depots with faults they couldn’t find, again mainly on Mascot. We built a HQ Mascot 200 and installed this at Bristol HQ.

The most interesting work however was the introduction of the Gustave Ring HQ Control system.    The company provided a course that I thought was inadequate. We were in the early stages of courses in digital circuitry and this system was almost totally digital. It was controlled by a “computer” and we were inadequately equipped to service this. There were, to the best of my knowledge, only three systems purchased, one, which was installed at Maidstone, one installed at Guildford ? And one at CCE to act as backup to the two operational systems. I provided a small “booklet” giving a system description and faultfinding techniques with various signal levels found throughout the system.

One other task I had was to produce a handbook on the Mascot 200. I had completed about half of this when I was promoted to CWT and posted to Horseferry House.  Someone else finished the Mascot handbook but unfortunately I can’t remember his name.

 While I was with EPS I ran approximately six courses on the Mascot 200 on behalf of the Training Section. Depot staff who were responsible for maintenance of these systems but who had little or no training on them attended this course. I produced diagrams showing the logic state and signal levels throughout the system for the different conditions ie.RX.TX.TT and Connect plus various other diagrams and System descriptions.

I took up post at HQ in the Control Room Planning Section working to Steve Philips. My first job was to check on the status of the Lero C12. This System had originated in a “Company”? in Watford. The Company consisted of a British Rail Signalling Engineer, another was a Traffic Light Engineer and another was a supposed System Design Engineer.

Lero was a Company employed in the production of Automotive components for the Motor industry and was looking to diversify hence the purchase of the C12 system. I couldn’t believe that an otherwise professional little company could be so naive as to purchase this System. The “System” which had been on display at the Birmingham Exhibition consisted of the metal fascia’s with flashing LED’s to supposedly simulate various signal conditions and not one scrap of circuitry.

The question must also be asked who? in the Directorate had not only ordered the System but had also given East Midlands Fire? the go ahead to start the refurbishment of their Control Room. At a slightly heated meeting it was decided to fit a temporary modified Mascot until such time as we could supply a working C12.

My second job at HQ was to go to Lero and assist in the development of the System. I spent approximately 8 to 9 Months working with Lero’s Development Manager and a young technician designing and building what turned out to be the C12. The final hiccup occurred when we took the system to the B.T. engineering plant in north London to have it certificated for connection to B.T. lines, IT FAILED the test. The problem was in the balance between the lines and earth.  This problem was put out to contract and was finally sorted by using heavier duty line transformers this solution was accepted by B.T. and permission for connection to their lines was given.

All the initial work was built up on Vero board and in fact the first system, installed at East Midlands Fire, had these boards fitted until proper build quality units became available.

I don’t know how many systems were ordered by the Directorate but I do know that Manchester Fire Brigade had one and that this one had an Auto changeover fitted to the P.S.U.s  I provided the information for a handbook but I don’t think Lero ever took it up. At Manchester I assisted the Depot staff in the installation of the system and gave them a quick course.

The final irony was I had been away from HQ so long they had changed the Security passes and I was refused entrance and had to get someone to sign me in. Shortly after this I had to ask for a transfer back to CCE due to my wife’s ill health and was eventually transferred to Tech writing. I must say that I was thoroughly disgusted with the treatment and consideration or lack of it shown to me so much so that I was on the point of resigning.

I took up post in Tech. Writing working to George Reynolds and spent a pretty uneventful time both at CCE and at Bishops Cleeve, after a period of time the post of CWT in charge of the Maintenance Unit became vacant and I applied and was accepted.

The post in the MU working to the RWE at Weyhill, began one of the most pleasurable jobs I’d had since I started in D.TELS. After a while I got to know the staff and managed to establish a regime where certainly the majority of staff were happy and yet the output of repaired equipment continued to exceed previous output figures.

The skill levels of many of the staff in the areas they were employed was very high but because of the narrow field i.e. Pocket phones and Fireman Alerters they had very poor chances of promotion. I began to press for more diversified equipment to be repaired at the MU and eventually got the Mascot 200 and attachments to the Cheltenham Detachment to get at least some idea of County schemes etc. but this didn’t last long.

Photo: Gordon Wasserman, Rt.Hon Douglas Hurd (Home Secretary) and Eric Davies

The highlight of my time in the MU has to be the visit of the then Home Secretary Mr. Douglas Hurd. I had the pleasure of giving him a conducted tour of the MU with explanations of the functions of the various sections and where we fitted in the overall picture. I have to confess I was amazed at how quickly and how much information he could absorb in a short time. When he arrived at Bishops Cleeve he was briefed by the departmental heads on the various functions carried out. He then went outside and spoke to the Press with all the authority and knowledge as if he was the head of the Unit, he never put a foot wrong.

Later on Ken Staves the CWE in charge organised visits by Comms Officers from the various Police Forces and Fire Brigades. They came down and were given conducted tours of the Site I think this was an attempt to stop privatisation if it was we all know now that it didn’t work.

The final chapter in this little ramble was my promotion to SPTO in charge of the Northern Region Civil Defence based in Manchester. I was in charge of the Comms equipment in the regional Bunkers and was responsible for the National Training of volunteers who would man the Bunkers if required. I also had to liaise with all the County Emergency planning Departments in the North of England. My employment was terminated on my 50th birthday in February 1991 by a massive heart attack and stroke.

I would like to say I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Directorate, I met hundreds of very nice people whom I’m glad to have known I can close my eyes and see faces but due to stroke damage which has affected my memory I cannot remember many names and I would like to apologise to all those I’ve forgotten. I would also like to apologise for my grammar etc but this is for the same reason and I’m totally dependent on spell check.

Eric Davies
8th January 2008

Eric and Barbara Davies in 2007
Photo: Eric pictured here with his wife, Barbara in 2007

Other Photos from Eric Davies
Eric has kindly sent in a number of photos that have been added to the relevant galleries in this site.  Click on the links in the left hand menu bar to view.

Webmaster Note
Following the Directorate’s involvement with the Lero C12, the control system became the preferred choice for many English and Welsh Fire Brigades during the 1980’s. There may still be a number in use prior to the rollout of Firelink, the replacement digital telecommunications  network.  Please let me know if there are.

Acknowledgement: Eric Davies

page updated: 22/07/19

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