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Directorate of Telecommunications
Special Services Memories (1980)

My first dealings with The Directorate were when I was a member of the Ministry of Defence Police special escort group.  Because we provided an armed police escort all over the country we required to be able to communicate with many Home Office Police forces.

As a result I dealt with CCE at Harrow during the early 80's. As I recall it was behind the HMSO building in Harrow. We used Pye Whitehall's at this time and in order to work the forces along the route we had to carry three sets in a rack behind the drivers seat in a Range Rover. This proved to be interesting because there were only two control boxes mounted between the front seats, when the boxes needed to be changed over the driver had to move his seat forward and the radio operator in the back had to change the leads over. This was OK if the change was possible during a stop but interesting if it had to be done on the move.

The sets were designated "A"  "B" and "C" for normal use and then there was a "D" set which was for special jobs. These were crystalled as required for these jobs and we had to take them to CCE for this to be done.

We also had a job that required the use of a train and the set used was an ART177, which gave access to most Police VHF main scheme radio channels in the UK.

This was a wondrous piece of radio kit after dealing with the Whitehall especially to the Radio amateur in me. Even though it was early logic design they were remarkably reliable. The fit was done by Racal from Bracknell due to the HF system we also used. The usual thing that went faulty was the special tuned slot antenna that the Racal engineers had installed because of the limited gauge on the carriage for antenna clearance. It was tuned to 100 MHz Rx and 82 MHz Tx by means of switched matching circuits.

However, due to the hostile environment, it would often de-tune and give poor Tx and Rx performance. The Racal engineers fixed it a few times but it was so unreliable that I eventually took a quarter wave mag mount whip tuned to 82 MHz Tx. After one job the Racal engineers came to fix the slot antenna and asked how we had managed to get any comms using a quarter wave whip tune to 82Mhz when the Rx frequency was 100 MHz It took quite a bit to convince the guy that a quarter wave antenna like this was quite broad band on receive and the normal fit to almost every Police vehicle in the UK. But then he was also the Guy who when faced with a Pye Reporter that would intermittently blow the supply fuse told us to keep fitting a bigger fuse until the fault became permanent on the set…… solution I suppose.
Covert Installation

Photo:  covert installation in the late 1980’s using the ART177

Then in the mid eighties we moved onto the ART177 for all our vehicles and come the WARC change over installed dual fit ART177and RC675 sets using the ART177 control box with an interface and then a further interface to allow scan and voting on the Scottish Police systems.

This required a number of visits to CCE who as I remember at this time was at Government Buildings Stanmore. The only name I can remember from this time is Bert Sipson there were others that I dealt with but unfortunately my memory fails me. The welcome was always good and with the added bonus of a nice cup of tea and a biscuit and a good technical chat while we waited as the sets were worked on.

Near the end of the eighties or early nineties I had some dealings with the Depot at Hannington, which is only about 5 miles from Aldermaston where I was based. It always struck me as strange that we went all the way to CCE for stuff when Hannington was so near but apparently it was to do with the way the inter departmental funding worked.

One of the memories from this time was a conversation with an engineer at Hannington about Quasi synch AM systems and how when some American engineers visited Hannington and listened to the Thames Valley Police system they could not believe it was AM this was because the system had been set up properly and was well engineered, certainly a testament to the Directorate engineers concerned.

However, times moved on and most of the maintenance of the equipment was put out to competitive tendering resulting in a variety of companies including NTL taking over the servicing of the sets.

With the introduction of TETRA  (which will always be Trans European Trunked Radio Association and not Terrestrial Trunked Radio (isn't every existing trunked system?) all the old systems are being disposed of and it is the end of an era as they say.

Webmaster Note
Many thanks to Dave McKay for submitting this article relating to memories of the Directorate from a user perspective.Acknowledgement: Dave McKay

page updated: 22/07/19

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