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Directorate of Telecommunications
SAMBA (1975)

"…………………and then there was the time in 1975 when, as a CWT Project Officer in R&D at 60 Rochester Row, Colonel Jack Hallett, our Deputy Director, said that I was to accompany him to the Police Staff College at Bramshill. He had been invited to give a lecture to the Inspectors and other Senior Officers Courses, on the background and operation of D.of Tels. To support his lecture, he said that I should take with me a selection of equipment that I had under development. There was no mention of my speaking. The day arrived and I laid out the equipment on a table on the Stage of a very large Lecture Hall. The place was packed with rows and rows of black uniforms with more twinkling stars on their shoulders than in the sky at night.

I stood in the wings while the College Commandant introduced Col. Hallett, who then gave his lecture on the origins and history of D.of Tels. He outlined the main constituent parts and operations of "Field Services, Current Engineering, CCE/Central Stores, Forward Planning/R&D." (these were known irreverently, by some members of D.of Tels staff, as the " Farmers, Cake Makers, Hoarders and Dreamers", respectively).

Jack finished his presentation with a question and answer session and received a polite and restrained round of applause. Then, to my horror and amazement he announced, "John Maloney will now describe and display some of the projects he is currently working on". I, along with many others, liked and admired Jack Hallett, who sadly died recently, but to put me on the spot like this stretched my admiration.

As we exchanged places centre stage there was some subdued clapping. Then I stood there in total silence while these hundreds of intimidating uniforms and faces stared at me to see what would happen next. As I frantically tried to think of something to say I looked at the equipment on the table, and decided to tell them about SAMBA.

I told them of an incident in Hertfordshire where a Farmer was holed up in his cottage, with his shotgun, which he fired at anyone who came near. Police negotiations had failed and it was decided that a CS Gas canister would be fired into the cottage The cottage would then be stormed by officers wearing respirators and a police dog and Handler, also wearing a respirator. The tear ducts of dogs and humans are different and CS Gas does not affect dogs in the same way as humans, which is why you seldom see a dog wearing a respirator. (Not a lot of people know that). The CS canister was fired and the dog and Handler went in. The dog did not understand the Handler's commands, because of the respirator, and the dog bit the Handler, very badly, and the Farmer promptly shot the dog. It was all very nasty but this event prompted ACPO to ask D.of Tels. if communications between police dogs, and their Handlers wearing respirators, could be improved. And so the "Speech Amplification from Mask or Breathing Apparatus" SAMBA project was born.

From my initial state of panic, I felt I had now captured the interest of a least some of these stalwart protectors of law and order, sitting stiffly in their seats, arms folded in the body language of scepticism. But I pressed on and told them that the work I had done to date had showed that there are a number of possibilities in meeting the SAMBA requirements of Police Dog Handlers, and that I would now demonstrate four techniques.

I said that the most promising technique so far is to use a SR6 type Respirator. I then put an amplifier/loudspeaker device on the front of my chest, connected a microphone to a diaphragm on the respirator, but before putting on the respirator I said that I would read a police recruitment poster on the wall so that they could compare the results from the four techniques. I completed the first demo. of the mask mounted microphone technique then moved onto the next, the well-known throat microphone technique. This sounded a bit like Donald Duck, which caused a few smiles in the audience. I started to feel more confident and I began to look forward to finishing the last two demos and then getting out of there as quickly as I could.

I told them that the next demonstration would involve the well-known Bone Conduction technique. I placed the Bone Conductor on a bald spot (which I blame on having to attend the "H" Bomb Tests on Christmas Island in 1958) on my head and secured it with some Elastoplasts. The speech results were not as good as the previous two demos. But when I demonstrated that it really was Bone Conduction, by rapping my knuckles hard on my head, the BOOM BOOM from the loudspeaker on my chest was quite startling. There was a moment of silence then the whole place erupted into gales of laughter. It was not a pretty sight to see grown men giggling like two year olds. I looked towards Jack Hallett who seemed engrossed in some aspect of the ceiling and the College Commandant had his hand on the door seeming about to leave.

When calm was eventually restored I was able to move on to the final demonstration of a technique known as Ottolaryngical. I told the audience that this is a little known medical term that describes how the very fine hairs in the human Ear, wave about in the pressure waves as sound travels to the Ear Drum. The interesting thing is that these hairs also move in sympathy with the voice as a human speaks. These minute hair movements can be measured and amplified by a sensitive device placed in the ear canal. I mentioned that BA Pilots, who need to communicate if cabin pressure fails and an Oxygen Mask is used, were interested. Some Security Agencies were also interested because the user could transmit and receive messages while apparently only wearing a simple Hearing Aid.

And now for my final demonstration. I placed the Sensitive Device in my Ear, put on the Respirator, and started to read the police-recruiting poster on the wall. While I admit the reproduction was poor I did not think it justified raucous laughter that nearly lifted the roof. It went on and on and started to border on being hysterical. There was the odd handkerchief being used to wipe eyes and when I looked over to Jack Hallett for support, he was intently studying his fingernails. What surprised me was that these budding future Chief Superintendents/Chief Constables, found the concept of being able to "Speak from your Ear" so hilarious. I remembered the old adage, "get out while you're ahead". I quickly took off the Respirator, thanked them for listening (which caused more laughter) and left the Stage to, surprisingly, enthusiastic applause and happy smiles. Even now, some 30yrs later, I still get the odd nightmare about that visit.

I produced the Final Report on SAMBA in December 1976.

Acknowledgement: John Maloney

page updated: 22/07/19


An exhibition stand showing how SAMBA would be deployed - this photograph also appears in the Image Library (HQ Exhibitions).

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