The initial meet went well, Mr Nicol arriving in a very large green Ford Zephyr towing a caravan trailer, picked up Mr O'Connor and both gentlemen departed safely after complimenting us on our workshop. We were required to stand by for the return visit in due course, probably in a few days.
The due time came - and went. No sign of our beloved superiors until well into the evening there was a mighty crash as the Ford Zephyr and caravan ground to a halt outside. Rushing outside to check for injuries and damage, we found all was well with the occupants.
It was apparent as we took out some of the luggage from the trailer, that the noise emanated from a tremendous cascade of empty bottles inside the caravan! Mr O'Connor emerged from the car and stood wordless and stiffly to attention whilst Wilf brought up the Depot car to transport him home. Mr Nicol exited the compound in fine style going the wrong way through the one-way entrance, complete with swinging trailer and another rousing crash, and departed to the South East with a glassy expression and no comment whatever. After inspecting the walls of the building for trailer paint marks and the HQ front lawn for tyre marks, amazed that we found none, we then went home as well.
One of the features of working at Kidlington was the access arrangements to servicing the link equipment for the sites. This installation of Pye U450 equipment was in a purpose built 'hut' placed on top of the flat roof at one end of the main building. The aerial tower in use at that time was adjacent. The link room could only be accessed via the female police cadet quarters, also on top of the main building where there were a number of young ladies under training. As you can imagine, this area was STRICTLY out of bounds to all male personnel and this was rigidly enforced by the lady police officer responsible for the girls. NO un-chaperoned visits were allowed by order of the Chief Constable. Needless to say, there were many occasions (genuine I might add!) where both Stan and I were needed in the link room, and we achieved the most sought after-status of being privileged to access through the quarters at any time with just a knock at the door and a warning shout of "Link Room!" whereupon we passed quietly through regardless of the state of the occupants without having to be cleared by the Queen Bee. We even had our own key at one stage! The girls themselves are all probably long retired by now, but they were great fun and looked upon us as friends and almost mascots. That was where Stan, Stan, the radio man gained his nickname.
We also had the usual problems with the local GPO (BT) man. Called out on a Sunday to Oxford Fire HQ for a control breakdown, it was traced to an open land line between HQ and Cowley base station. When the BT man in turn was called it turned out that the land lines had been disconnected by them just outside the Fire HQ. "Ah well" said the man "There was no ring tone and no-one was talking on it so we disconnected it and used it for something else!" Typical!!
If the conversation in the local snug gets boring, just remind your drinking associates of the prisons you have been in. It's guaranteed to a) open their eyes and b) change your circle of acquaintances in short order. I mean of course for maintenance visits. TVP were well supplied with HM lodging houses with Oxford (now a proper hotel I believe), Aylesbury, Reading and Grendon Underwood. During those days it was usually popping along to tweak, adjust, coerce or generally beat up a Pye UHF base station. You couldn't take the van in, so all the tools and possible testing kit was manhandled from the entrance to the radio room with an accompanying Prison Officer brandishing key on chain, locking and unlocking innumerable doors, gates and grills but unlikely to assist in any other way. It usually took two trips to set yourself up, and they used to absolutely hate it when you wanted to go all the way back to the van for another item of kit! This was in the days before the issue of trolleys to carry kit on.
During this time Aylesbury detachment opened with a technician (Tom Chandler) and a mechanic (George Lacey) who took on the Eastern side, we acquired our first mechanic at Kidlington (Robbie Worth) for vehicle fitting and Terry Jeffery from Hannington was posted in as SWT. At that stage I believe that there was also some type of detachment at Taplow, which was initially supported part time from the Depot. Even then the Goring Gap was notorious for reception and the situation was not really alleviated until an additional police site was put in at Reading itself giving rise to the third Southern channel (HT). The Berks & Reading Fire service (HD) however, did not have access to this and their coverage in this area was always a matter for extreme harassment and innumerable journeys to Lockinge Down and I think Britwell Salome site to fiddle about with power and patterns. It seemed extremely difficult to make the customer understand that if you pinched a bit from here, you lost a bit from there! There is no doubt that the scars laid upon me by the continued harassment from the Fire Comms Officer at that time and again when acting as a WARC planning officer for them in later years are still with me today!
Sometime during the late 60's, early 70's, the Force changed over the car radio units from modified 2 channel Pye Vanguards to the new solid state multichannel STC 681 to cope with the increase if force radio channels. What a problem set! At one stage we had 20 spares on the shelf and used about 18 every day. Everyone became expert at changing the transmitter transistors without disconnecting any wires to the board even though it was necessary to unscrew the board to access their securing nuts. Every day there would be a procession of cars with either faulty transmitters or faulty receivers where the BFY 51's had blown; sometimes both faults on the same sets. It wasn't until the set was modified into a Mark II by sorting out the Rx audio stage and changing some Tx transistors that any sort of improvement was seen. I believe that at that stage the Mark I sets were passed to the Fire Service! By this time I think that Mervyn Neil had joined the team, as well as an additional mechanic (John Howkins).
Eventually it was time to move on. Terry moved to Weyhill as CWT, Stan requested a move and in 1971 I was promoted to SWT (in waiting - prospective salary £1643 p.a.). Mike Long appeared from Shapwick as the new SWT for TVP. As there was no detachment in Cardiff at the time I requested to go to Cwmbran as my father was seriously ill; Stan wanted to get near Pendine in Carmarthenshire for his aged Mum. In the true detached manner reminiscent of many a military establishment, Stan got Cwmbran and I arrived at Carmarthen and I did not meet up with Stan again for some years, when we both were working at CCE Harrow.- but that's another story.
10th December 2007Acknowledgement: Brian Hill