Another aspect that the section was involved in was to find and install replacement monitor tubes for supplied equipment that had reached the end of their production run and replacements had to be found to enable the equipment to continue working. This sometimes meant that modifications had to be produced and sent to depots for use in maintenance of such equipment they had responsibility for. However, the monitors more than often ended up at Weyhill M.U. for conversion.
Planning at Horseferry House was under Fred Buxton, with the aid of Peter Wickson and others during the early 1980’s. Weyhill M.U. CCTV section were not involved in the planning of installations. However, the staff were on more than one occasion requested to attend on site meetings to give a technical input. This could be on camera angles, de-mounting techniques or displays in the control room. At times it was apparent that planning an installation in an office environment was quite different when viewed from the practicalities of on site installation and servicing. Where called upon the section managed to provide a practical assessment of a given situation.
In the early years, Weyhill Maintenance Unit did all the installation of such equipment; with only three members of staff this was quite a load. Not only did they have to install the equipment and instruct the Prison/Police staff on its use, but also had to involve the local Directorate staff on its maintenance and serviceability. This sometimes entailed producing service and spares manuals as the equipment supplied by the contractors were either non existent or not fit for purpose.
One of the projects that the section was involved in was with a Thermal Imaging camera for the Fire Service. As the CCTV section had never seen this type of equipment before let alone worked on one, this was quite a steep learning curve. This type had high speed reciprocating mirrors, cooled by liquid nitrogen (I think!); compare that to what is in use today. Thankfully, there was no further involvement in the project.
At this time, the section was involved in Infrared surveillance techniques for the Directorate, this resulted from the sensitivity of a new generation CCD cameras with IR capabilities. The bonus from this was smaller camera housings and less obtrusive IR lighting. Test were undertaken at Weyhill M.U. after dark hours to assess this area of surveillance. As this was all in mono not colour, grass appeared as white, like snow, which was quite startling.
Another area involved in was recording. At first, recording machines were of the large reel to reel Sony Umatic type. The weight and size made them definitely non-portable, the second generation used a large cassette. However, the industry was at the time making smaller appliances and this resulted in our first introduction of the VHS cassette machine.
As this new technology came along, the CCTV section was tasked to access, service and document the equipment and pass this knowledge onto staff at detachments and depots. The first machine was purchased from the Curry’s group as a portable recorder for video cameras; this was installed in the ‘Hooly Van’ as its power supply was 12 volts. During the reign of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister, the section was involved in this project; a mobile CCTV fitted Transit Van, designed and produced at the Home Office Experimental Establishment Sandridge, near Boreham Wood in Hertfordshire. These vans would be at football matches, looking for persistent troublemakers and hooligan activity which erupted at that time. Their actions would then be recorded for prosecution by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
In late 1980’s rumour was circulating the Directorate was to be privatised. The CCTV section was starting to be run down as outside contractors were not only now supplying the equipment directly to the end user but also installing it, so the workload went from maximum to only having a single SWT. The sections involvement was progressively run down and work gradually transferred, with all spares and documentation passed on to Kippax M.U.
With this transfer complete the section was no longer responsible for repairs or maintenance, the input was solely in running training courses on CCTV maintenance at Home Office Training Establishment, located in the old RAF station at Brockley Hill Stanmore. Each depot sent a technician for one weeks intensive training to make them self sufficient.
At the same time BS5750/ISO 2000 was introduced within the stores system, the section was involved in the documentation coupled with PAT (Portable Appliance Testing). For this, on site training was undertaken at depot level for technicians to become familiar with the practices and principles before the issue of test equipment involved.
Following a short redundancy programme the CCTV section along with the rest of the functions carried out by Weyhill M.U. ceased to exist during 1992 resulting in establishment closure and the building/land subsequently sold on to a medical supplies company.
Names of those who, during my time, were an active part of the CCTV section at Weyhill.
Finally, as an aside:
Roy Vaine, Norman Tuffin (Maintenance Planning Group) and I had worked together as Television Engineers for a local firm in Andover and Whitchurch (Wiltshire & Rimmer Ltd). It was strange to think that all three ended up working for the Directorate at Weyhill. Norman and I were mobile TV engineers based in Whitchurch, whilst Roy was the Andover workshop engineer. Both were great guys and friends. Sadly Norman is no longer with us but Roy is still alive and living in Andover.Acknowledgement: John Perry