On arrival I became the object of much friendly curiosity and was eventually ushered into the Regional Wireless Engineer’s Office to be introduced to the great man himself. Jim Cornwall made me very welcome and over the years that I worked within the Stanton Region I came to admire him very much. He hated Monday mornings and you had to be brave or desperate if you wanted to speak to him at the start of the new week. I later learnt that he had designed the Universal Test Set with its detachable interface panel that was the mainstay of all mobile testing. It seems to me that the Regional Wireless Engineer grade then had more authority and organisational power than was the case when I became a Senior Wireless Engineer many years later but perhaps that was just the perception of a newly appointed member of staff looking up at the engineer and manager at the top of the local management pyramid.
Mid morning on that first Tuesday I was told to accompany Alec Bennet who was the Senior Wireless Technician (SWT) responsible for the maintenance of Northamptonshire’s fixed system, to repair a fault at Broughton (Hutchinson’s Holt) one of Northamptonshire’s two hilltop sites. Later all maintenance, both fixed and mobile became a detachment responsibility but at that time the detachment was restricted to mobile maintenance.
My one-week induction training turned out to be all of a day and a half because on the Wednesday morning I was instructed to return to Wootton Hall.
During my time at Wootton Hall there was never a resident SWT because it was considered too small a detachment to warrant an on-site line manager. This lack of organisational structure never became an issue with Bill, Max Corney or Peter Thompson who followed on in turn after Bill eventually returned to Stanton. It did however mean there were some interesting processes when annual staff reports were compiled but that is another story.
My years at Wootton Hall were happy ones that saw the expansion of detachment responsibilities to include all maintenance of fixed and mobile equipments, the amalgamation of the town and county fire brigades and the introduction of the UHF pocketfone systems including the maintenance of the pocketfones to first and second line levels. The single channel countywide scheme had an equipment replacement (pre Pye Radio Link Assembly) and we also saw the introduction of the SE Labs terminals giving Force access to the Police National Computer. Last but not least saw the replacement of the single channel Pye Vanguards with the ten channel Pye Whitehall mobile equipments.
When call-out was introduced the Northamptonshire Detachment shared a rota with the Leicestershire detachment. Once, having been called out to repair the UHF base station at Gartree prison I was later to be extremely embarrassed when my small son told his friend’s parent “daddy has been to prison”!
Those early years of detached working gave me the experience and the confidence to deal with all sorts of problems. This stood me in good stead during the next and subsequent stages of my career.Acknowledgement: John Leary