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Billinge Depot
Bridgend Depot

Directorate of Telecommunications
Roy Hodgkinson MBE (DTels 1957-1990)


I was born on 2nd December 1932 at Haydock, which is 18 miles from Liverpool and 18 miles from Manchester.

Alan Thomas was a close friend and we attended the same church, St. James the Great at Haydock and also Ashton-in-Makerfield Grammar School.   Alan later became a Wireless Technician at Billinge.

On leaving School in 1949 I was employed in a Physics Laboratory at the Wigan and District Mining and Technical College. In February 1951 I started two years National Service in the RAF as an Air Wireless Mechanic and served at Padgate Warrington, Innsworth Gloucester and Cranwell Lincoln (No.1 Radio School).   The majority of my time, after basic training, was moving the Radio School to RAF Locking at Weston super Mare.

On leaving the Forces in February 1953, I returned to the Physics Laboratory in Wigan. During 1954 I was employed by the Air Ministry and was seconded to the American Airforce Base at Burtonwood near Warrington,  it was here that I first met Frank Mitchell, Joe McQuillan, and Cyril Cobley. Cyril was our Supervisor at Burtonwood and later became a Wireless Technician at Billinge, as did Joe McQuillan.

Frank Mitchell and I both applied for a Wireless Technician job at Billinge. It was a casual visit by Frank and I on a Saturday morning to Billinge Hill to enquire if there were likely to be any vacancies in the near future. We were greeted by Bert Green, given a cup of tea and was interviewed by Mr. Birchall, RWE, and Tertius Dobson CWT and also Bert Green as SWT.  Frank and I both started as Wireless Technicians at Billinge in 1957. Frank was also the best man at my wedding in July 1956.
Looking back at all the characters at this time, the RWE was Mr. Birchall with his CWT being Tertius Dobson, who later transferred to Colwyn Bay.  His vacancy was filled by Norman Lee. The SWT’s were Bruce Thomson, Andrew Petrie and Bert Green.  Later we had Fred Buxton and Fred Cattterall. The Technicians who come to mind were Jim Wallace, Harold Ashcroft, Ken Roberts, Dick Rycroft, Ronnie Bayman and Ken Schofield.   I bought my first car from Ken for 5. which was an old Austin 7.  I did not appreciate it at the time but when I disposed of it some three weeks’ later I should have kept the number plate as it was RH ----.

Later came Joe McQuillan, John O’Connor, Cyril Cobley, Tony Hulme, Ben Yates and Bill Stringer. The Office and Stores Staff were Frank Disley and Mrs. Prescott, with an ex-Tank Commander as Storeman.   Mrs. Fairhurst was the cook, Eric White the Transport Officer and George Fyles the Handyman.  Ray Stoodley, who was at Billinge before I arrived used to be accommodated at the home of George Fyles.
The CWT, SWT’s and several WT’s all lived in the Staff Bungalows at the bottom of Crank Road. TV Aerials were not allowed especially if you got a picture on your home made TV before the RWE had managed to do so.

At this time in the Directorate we did not have Wireless Mechanics or Aerial Riggers so a WT was expected to turn his hand to almost everything.  At weekends when we were on duty apart from repairing equipment and attending breakdowns you were expected to top-up all rechargeable batteries, de-clinker the central heating boiler and maintain and run the emergency generator.  When you needed to carry out aerial rigging duties you were entitled to borrow a duffle coat from Stores, if you could persuade the Storeman that we had a need.

When installing Civil Defence vehicles in the open compound you lay under the vehicle in all weather conditions.

In order for me to get to Billinge to work at weekends I travelled two miles to my father’s on the bus to borrow his bicycle in order to travel the five miles to Billinge and then on Sunday night I would return the bicycle. There being no public transport to Billinge Hill.

During the Sixties we often attended Premiership Soccer Grounds to provide crowd control communications e.g. Burnley, Bolton, Liverpool and Everton, etc.  We were privileged to enter the ground via the player’s entrance and also sit in the dug-out at the edge of the pitch during the game.  On one occasion at Burnley I was leaving the ground after the match and was thought to be Ray Pointer, Centre Forward for Burnley and also at that time England.  The only way I could escape was to sign all the autograph books as Ray Pointer!!

On another occasion Bert Green and I were about to depart to another football venue when we were diverted to Winter Hill where a passenger aircraft had crash landed. Unfortunately there were no survivors. Bert Green and I became TV celebrities for a day.

There are an abundance of stories to tell of events and characters of my time at Billinge.   There was a tremendous spirit between all members of staff and excellent relations with customers, who were very appreciative of the response and enthusiasm of the staff.

In 1965 I had the opportunity to transfer to Bridgend as Senior Wireless Technician, which was to follow and fill the vacancy of Bert Green, who had been promoted to Chief Wireless Technician.  Wilf Bridger had just left Bridgend and the other SWT being Jim Johnson.   The RWE was Joe Chamberlain.

The Bridgend Depot was housed in the old Fire Station of the armaments factory in the grounds of Glamorgan Constabulary at Waterton Cross.

In 1966 we were heavily involved with the communications following the Aberfan Disaster at Merthyr Tydfil.   We were accommodated in a terraced house in Moy Street for several weeks as well as Eglwysilian and East Glamorgan Hospital.

The reorganisation of County boundaries throughout Wales brought a heavy demand on the workforce with the formation of remote maintenance units and the employment of Wireless Mechanics and Aerial Riggers, e.g. Dyfed Powys Police covered two thirds of Wales with thirteen hilltop sites and three VHF channels, all controlled from Carmarthen.

When Glamorgan Police moved to a new control room it had to be all personally hand built using the Albert Sipson Radio Operator and Incident Officer 2A Key and Lamp Units and an abundance of ancillary equipement.

Bridgend and the sub-depot at Colwyn Bay also had many weeks of high security involvement during the education of Prince Charles at Aberystwyth and eventually his Investiture at Caernarvon in 1969.

In Aberystwyth we were accommodated in almost derelict buildings within the traffic yard compound.  All the hotel accommodation in Aberystwyth had been taken by security staff and Police officers.  It was also necessary for a select few of us to have driving instructions and tests in order that we could drive the Police Mobile Column 4x4 Vehicles to and from Aberystwyth.

During the Investiture we set up and lived for twenty four hours in a mobile hilltop site in an area of bad radio communications at Cross Foxes. This had temporary radio links across the water to the Lleyn Peninsula.

As a depot we were involved with Swansea University during trials for CFAM working using F300 transmitters.  Wyn Crompton was in charge and we set up a control station on the A48 lay-by at Pyle.  The remote stations used were at St.Hilary, Eglwysilian and Swansea University.

In 1972 Bert Green was promoted in situ from CWT to RWE to replace the retiring Joe Chamberlain.  I was fortunate to be promoted to fill the CWT vacancy.  Ralph Oglesby had filled the vacancy for a short period of time, but withdrew from the opportunity and returned to his old station.  We had several CWT’s at Bridgend during the 1980’s Pete Pinel, Laurie Elliott, Bryn Oliver, Gordon Wyatt and Dave Rees. Peter and Bryn later got promotion to RWE (RTE).

1977 when Bert Green retired as RWE, I was again fortunate to be promoted to fill this vacancy.  At about this time we were also heavily involved in moving the depot some three miles to ex-REME workshops at Litchard Cross, Bridgend.   Although this was a difficult time with endless meetings with PSA and other contractors, it was a good exercise which gave us purpose-built facilities and an independence we had not previously enjoyed.  This location has now been developed as a housing estate following major evacuation of radio-active sub-soil.

Unfortunately during early 1990 it was necessary to commence the closure arrangements of the Bridgend Depot, since the majority of our customers had decided to make alternative maintenance arrangements.  This was a very emotional and stressful time for all members of staff, who were being asked to retire gracefully but continue to provide a service until the last day.  I must place on record that the co-operation and understanding of the staff at this time, although difficult to understand and accept, the objective was achieved well within the timescale allocated to it.   We all enjoyed a couple of months of “gardening leave”.

Having come to Wales some forty two years ago, I have no regrets and have made many good friends and long-standing relationships. 

The greatest surprise of all was following my early retirement in 1990, I was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List of 1990 for services to the Home Office.  I attended Buckingham Palace with my wife and mother.   I would like to think it was awarded for all the achievements of the Welsh regional staff, who proudly provided an excellent service to all its user services right up to the last day.


Although I have enjoyed good health most of my life in March 2006 I needed quadruple heart bi-pass surgery and August 2007 needed two major operations, one for an aneurysm, which was more severe than first thought, and the second operation the day after for removal of part of the colon.   Although it is only seven weeks ago, I appear to have made a remarkable recovery and I expect to be fully fit by Christmas 2007.

Roy Hodgkinson MBE
1st October 2007

Acknowledgement: Roy Hodgkinson

page updated: 22/07/19

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