Duxford Radio Trust

 The Duxford Radio Trust (DRT) charity No. 1169780 registered in England

Preserving and demonstrating the history and technology of Radio Communications, Navigation and Radar in military conflict and civil emergencies, for the education of the public

Small replica Lancaster Wireless Operators station now exhibited at Waterbeach Military Heritage Museum, with Gee and LORAN systems 

Above; a working USA manufactured version of  Wireless Set No. 19 MK II, an HF transmitter-receiver  from WW 2, originally designed by Pye Ltd in Cambridge England for use in land warfare armoured fighting vehicles.  This set was ultimately found so useful that 75 different installation types were created, including use in single-seat ground-attack fighter aircraft such as the Hurricane and P40 Tomahawk

Below; examples of past DRT exhibitions of military radio communications equipment

On the left, children's corner; see your voice on an oscilloscope, and tune in a simple analogue communications receiver

Left, working WW2 'Monica' tail warning radar from  RAF Lancaster bomber. Right, working Gee and LORAN navigation receivers

Left, working WW2 RAF H2S ground-mapping radar indicating system.  Right, static AN/APS-4 airborne under-wing Air-to-Surface-Vessel radar pod

Left, working RAF R1392 VHF ground receiver, tuned to a local airfield control tower

Centre, RAF T1154/R1155 TX/RX from Lancaster

Right, working Hallicrafters S27 VHF receiver  imported from the USA for use by UK armed forces 

Left, working RAF aircrew distress beacon transmitter with associated aerial kite

Right, TR9 the RAF TX/RX used in Battle of Britain with a Pipsqueak transmission timer on top


Left, the T1422/R1224 RAF ground station TX/RX which talked to the TR9 in Spitfires and Hurricanes 

Right, working high grade AR88 HF communications receiver imported from the USA for use by UK armed forces 

Who we are and what we do

 The Duxford Radio Trust is a charity registered in England (a not-for-profit organisation) which, along with its wholly owned subsidiary Duxford Radio Ltd. (DRL which operates the exhibition radio transmitting station and publishing activities), is dedicated to preserving and demonstrating the history, technology and application of radio communications, radar and navigation in military conflict and civil emergencies, and celebrating the efficiency of the UK Armed Forces of the Crown and the Police, Fire and Rescue Services and Ambulance Services of the UK, for the purpose of the education of the public.

We fulfill our public education obligations by providing the equipment, materials and knowledge for public exhibitions of historic radio communications, navigation and radar artifacts, by active independent work in research, documentation, collection, conservation and restoration of historic radio equipment, by providing a licensed exhibition amateur radio transmitting station and by supporting/facilitating the historical and technical research, conservation and restoration of communications equipment by other museums, groups and individuals.  Under normal circumstances DRT/DRL publishes a monthly newsletter to supporters and a four-monthly journal containing articles on specific historic equipment and communication related topics.  Copies of the Duxford Radio Journal are held in Cambridge University Library.  For 28 years the group operated the IWM volunteer radio group at IWM Duxford Airfield and from 2009 to 2020 directly managed the IWM Duxford volunteer radio section.

Today the DRT collection of Allied military communications equipment is believed to be of particular historical and technical significance, in that it encompasses many complete working equipment systems and, unlike many other museum collections, (including the IWM collection which we identified and catalogued in a 4 year project) the DRT collection is not a fragmented collection of individual/incomplete objects, resulting from random donations.

The demonstration radio station equipment owned by DRL, can operate single side-band (SSB) transmission, Morse code, amplitude modulation (AM) or frequency modulation (FM) as appropriate on the international HF and national VHF frequency bands, using both vintage and modern equipment, to demonstrate radio communications in action, world-wide. 

Examples of what we have collected, conserved, restored and demonstrated to the public in the past

Working Pye WW2 Wireless Set No. 22 Army handcart radio station used by Infantry,  Paratroopers, Commandos, RAF etc 

Working WW2 replica RAF Lancaster Bomber Wireless Operators crew station - tune in the receiver and try your hand at Morse code

Working complete WW2 ARC-5/SCR-274-N 'Command' radio installation as fitted to USAAF B17 and B24 bomber aircraft

   WW2 tactical radios                     WW2 clandestine radios         Cold War tactical radios

A selection of WW2 land combat portable radios at top and centre, and various WW2 transportable and vehicle borne radio communication sets below

A selection of WW2 clandestine  land radio equipment used by Resistance Groups,  Secret Agents and Cold War European 'Stay-behind' Resistance groups supported by the UK/MI6 from 1948 onward

A selection of Cold War combat radio equipment for Allied field use and items used by European 'Stay-behind' Resistance groups supported by the USA C.I.A. from 1948 onwards, eg. Operation Gladio etc.

Radio battery charging in the field

Radio battery charging in the field: robust 300 Watt petrol generator used on trucks and Armoured Fighting Vehicles, based on the USA Johnson Chore Horse engine. 

Radio battery charging in the field: lightweight portable 80 Watt petrol engine generator carried by Jeeps, Mules and by Paratroopers, etc.

Radio battery charging in the field: man portable hand-powered generator for powering light-weight man-pack radio sets 

Radio battery charging in the field: steam powered generator for silent operation in jungle warfare  

and much, much more

Some of our past activities

For 28 years the Duxford Radio Group successfully facilitated and supported the daily operation of the Volunteer Radio Section at the Imperial War Museums, Duxford by providing free of charge, all equipment, materials, documentation and funding and also for the past 10 years by managing a department of 37 suitably qualified, licenced and experienced IWM volunteer explainers, operating in daily roster teams, thus enabling the IWM Radio Section exhibition buildings and radio station to operate 6 days per week, demonstrating historic radio communications in action to the public.

From 1992 to 23 March 2020 the IWM Duxford Radio Section operated from Buildings 177 and 178 at the Duxford airfield site, located either side of the large Gibraltar Gun, and adjacent to the American Air Museum.  Building 177 housed the exhibition radio transmitting station and a display of radio equipment principally with land warfare and clandestine radio themes, together with a working replica of the Wireless Operators position from the RAF Lancaster bomber.  Building 178 was an interactive display and demonstration room, which housed a display of working conserved or restored radio, navigation and radar equipment principally with an aviation theme.

The recent IWM masterplan for Duxford aims to make the WW2 RAF airfield itself the main attraction.  In July 2020 IWM re-organised the volunteer system, and after pressing DRT to become a commercial partner, closed the Duxford volunteer Radio Section, radio communications exhibitions and the demonstration radio transmitting station.  A similar fate also befell the IWM volunteer radio section group at IWM HMS Belfast, London, previously operated by the Royal Navy Amateur Radio Society. 

DRT has now established an independent storage and engineering base near Cambridge and is supporting local museums in Cambridgeshire with historic demonstration equipment and explainers.

How we do it in our engineering workshop

Conservation and restoration of large items of communications equipment such as the WW2 APS-4 airborne under-wing radar pod

Restoration of WW2 British Navy communications receivers B28 (a variation of the Marconi CR100)

Restoring the famous WW2 Pye Wireless Sets No. 19 and making them work well can be a struggle.  WS19 needs 12 Volts at more than 25 Amps to start up the power supply motor-generators

Example of item due for conservation/restoration

Pye Ltd Plan Position Indicator No. 1 - WW2 radar operators console circa 1940

Used on early VHF radar Chain Home Low (CHL) and later Ground Controlled Intercept (GCI) radar systems to display the position and  bearing location of a target aircraft or ship.

In the Battle of Britain, the British 'Chain Home' radar network gave vital early warning  of enemy attack, enabling the Spitfires and Hurricanes to get off the ground and meet the incoming threat.  However, a particular limitation of the original Chain Home radar system was that due to the low frequency of operation and aerial structures employed, it could not detect low-flying aircraft well.

At the time, the British Army was tasked with coastal defence activities and by using the VHF radar technology developed for Airborne Interception radar (AI) and Air-to-Surface Vessel (ASV) radar at Bawdsey Manor by the team led by Dr. Bowen, the Army radar team developed a prototype coastal defence radar system to detect shipping and as an aid to coastal gun targeting.

Once the potential of this version of early VHF ground radar was realised, Professor J.  Cockroft (formerly of the Cambridge University Cavendish Laboratory) and his Army team transported the prototype VHF Coastal Defence (CD) anti-shipping radar to the Cavendish Laboratory and consulted with Pye Ltd regarding assistance in finalising the design and making it production-worthy.

Pye Ltd turned the prototype 200MHz radar design into a practical working system for coastal air defense which by then was needed to detect low flying German bombers (and submarines) and working with the Government scientists, first 4, then a further 24 and finally a total of 52 radar stations were installed  to cover the entire UK coastline and called Chain Home Low (CHL).

Invicta Radio Ltd., a Pye Ltd subsidiary company, produced this example of the Plan Position Indicator No. 1  display console, serial number 22.  In use a second  console alongside would have provided a Type-A horizontal radar range display.

The PPI display uses a 12 inch Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) with motor driven scan coils  rotating around the neck of the tube in order to create the plan view map display with a moving trace which mirrored the rotation of the radar aerial.

Once this rare surviving WW2 radar unit is conserved and restored, the rotating scan coil system repaired and driven by the DRT radar computer simulation system, the unit will provide a unique working demonstration of early Second World War radar home defence technology and can be displayed along with the DRT Chain Home radar demonstrator unit.  

Example of item due for conservation/restoration

BTH British Mobile Air Defence radar AA3 MK 7 1944 - 1968

This WW2 and Cold War era mobile anti-aircraft radar station, which was designed to control the Vickers 3.7 inch anti-aircraft gun, was last restored and repainted in 2006 when it received a bare-metal respray and overhaul in the workshops of the Duxford Aviation Society Motor Vehicle Section.  This particular mobile radar trailer was manufactured in 1952 to the 1944 WW2 design. The generator dates from 1942.

It is complete with 17KW diesel generator, all interconnection cables and target simulator equipment to enable it to operate without radiating microwave energy.

Unfortunately, from 2007 to 2021 it waited out in the open for IWM to marry it up with the IWM 3.7 Inch AA gun on display in Hangar 4 at Duxford, and now requires overhauling and repainting again. The units are in dry storage. 

Example of item due for conservation/restoration

Large Replica of Lancaster Bomber Wireless Operator & Navigators crew positions

This large scale replica of the fuselage section of a British Lancaster bomber contains the complete Wireless Operator and Navigators crew positions and was originally constructed as a fully working demonstration exhibit and from 2007 to 2021 was on display in front of the Lancaster aircraft in Airspace at IWM Duxford.

The Wireless Operators section contains the T1154/R1155, Fishpond Indicator Unit, Intercom amplifier, crystal monitor, and trailing aerial etc. and the necessary power supplies to make it functional.

The Navigators position contains the R1355 Gee Navigation Receiver, Indicator Unit Type 62, H2S Indicator Unit 184, Height/Range Switch Controller Unit, etc. and other items such as the Sextant Type 9 for taking optical bearings.

This exhibit is now undergoing a refit to return it to full working display condition and has been mounted on a 6-wheeled steel frame to enable it to be moved. 

Exhibition Radio Station

The previous main operating position of the DRT exhibition radio communications station, which used both vintage and modern equipment to demonstrate radio communications in action by talking to the world.

Equipment is available for the international HF shortwave bands and the national VHF and UHF bands using directional and omni-directional antennas using SSB, AM and CW.

Historic equipment visible in this image includes Wireless Set No. 12 with R107 receiver, Wireless Set No. 19, T1154/R1155, and receiver Type HRO.  Other Larkspur, Clansman family and Bowman trial equipment is also available.

BBC TV filming our radio station in action

This programme appeared on national TV in 2018


Activities we have supported in the past

Talking to the world - our HF antenna for demonstrating long-range, world-wide, radio communications.

Duxford Radio Group - the full story 1984 - 2022

The Duxford Radio group was originally co-founded by Major John Brown - the designer of the famous WW2 Special Operations Executive (SOE) 'B2 Spy Suitcase Set' and many other items of radio equipment used for espionage and other clandestine purposes during WW2 - and by Richard Pope, a radio engineer from the Civil Aviation Authority.

This activity stems from June 1984 when Richard Pope, G4HXH met up with Major John Brown, G3EUR at Duxford Airfield.  John Brown  had organised an informal association of Special Forces Signals Groups to operate a special event radio station to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of 'D' Day.

In May 1985 when a similar group met and operated radio station GB4SOE for the 40th Anniversary of 'VE' Day, it was realised that despite the various air displays, military vehicle displays, and the Imperial War Museums future intent to restore the WWII RAF Operations Room at Duxford, there was a forgotten side of the Second World War.  Namely, how did all those people in the Armed Forces communicate with one another to get the orders and information back and forth to those on the front line, on land, sea and air?

Radio communications (called wireless at the time) was of course the answer, but to what extent was this acknowledged or reflected in museum circles?  Museums tend to focus on large structural objects such as aircraft, tanks, trucks, ships, trains - although they purport to be telling the story of the people concerned - and often fail to deal with the details of the real field equipment used by people in action. 

The years 1939-45 saw great strides made in radio and electronics with many new concepts and inventions; VHF radio communications, Radar, I.F.F, and the GEE navigational system are just a few, but in the UK in 1985 these events were not celebrated in any significant way - are they today?

Duxford Radio Group - evolution 1986 - 1992

In September 1986 it was agreed with IWM that the Duxford Airfield Radio Society (D.A.R.S.) would be formed to provide a restoration service to IWM, to exhibit its own radio equipment for public display to IWM customers and to operate an amateur radio transmitting station GB2IWM, for which D.A.R.S. obtained the radio license. 

Major John Brown contributed key items of clandestine radio equipment designed by him during the war, and Richard Pope, a serious collector of military radio equipment led the development of a collection of historic equipment and materials.

During this time a group of both local and distant supporters was developed who provided materials, equipment and funding to sustain the group's operation.

Later, in July 1989, the Duxford Radio Society (DRS) was formed, as an unincorporated association governed by a constitution and funded by its members.   

In 1992 the Imperial War Museum Duxford provided two small buildings (numbers 177 & 178) on a permanent basis and permitted the positioning of outside radio aerials which were usually physically installed by the evolving Duxford Airfield Fire Brigade.

Duxford Radio Group - development 1992 - 2009

 In 1992 the IWM Duxford management decided that the Duxford Radio Society (DRS) should become the Radio Section of the Duxford Aviation Society (DAS).  During this period the group extensively developed its equipment collection and conservation/restoration activities in order to conserve, restore, exhibit and demonstrate radio communications in action to the public visiting IWM Duxford.  The Duxford Radio group was fully supported by DAS  for health & safety and other essential functions.  DRS provided technical, historical and electronic engineering support to various IWM departments in London and Duxford.

Duxford Radio Group - changes 2009 - 2017

In April 2009 at the request of a new IWM Duxford local management,  because the DAS Radio Section formed a 'Front of House' public-facing  explainer activity on the IWM Duxford site, the DAS volunteers were instructed in writing by IWM to become registered IWM volunteers to form a new IWM Duxford Radio Section.  However, after following this instruction, and registering as IWM volunteers, during the period April 2009 to April 2017, the Radio Section volunteers were not assigned to an IWM staff department and were not managed directly by IWM.  They were obliged to take responsibility for their own organisation, management, administration, scheduling, care, well-being and health and safety.   The Duxford Radio Society continued to provide all radio communications equipment, direct funding and supervision for the IWM Duxford volunteer Radio Section until 2017 and provided extensive technical, historical and electronic engineering support to various IWM departments in London and Duxford.

Duxford Radio Group - restructuring 2017 -2020

In 2016, in anticipation of IWM Duxford's new strategic plan with a changing IWM approach to non-IWM employees, and because IWM Duxford management was beginning to deny that the radio section members were IWM volunteers, in order to protect the historic equipment collection and the personal liability of the individuals, the assets and activities of the Duxford Radio Society were transferred into a trust.  The Duxford Radio Trust was then registered as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) and a wholly owned trading subsidiary, Duxford Radio Limited, was formed for the radio station and other activities.

The Trustees and Directors of Duxford Radio Trust and Duxford Radio Ltd continued to provide all management, materials, direct funding, scheduling, administration and health & safety supervision for IWM volunteers in the Duxford Radio Section from April 2017 to 23 March 2020 (when IWM Duxford closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Duxford Radio Group - forced to leave IWM Duxford 2020 - 2021

Starting in November 2019, IWM denied that the Radio Section were IWM volunteers and citing compliance with regulatory requirements, demanded (among other things) that DRT become a commercial partner of IWM and contract to supply volunteers for 6 days per week to IWM, and insure the Radio Section activities. Unfortunately it did not prove practicable for DRT to secure commercial liability insurance during the June/July Covid lockdown due to the light staffing of major insurance companies.  As of 13 July 2020, quite independently of the COVID-19 pandemic,  IWM commercial management abruptly closed the Duxford volunteer radio section and told DRT/DRL to leave the site as, during the pandemic, it could not immediately meet the new IWM commercial contract requirements to be classed as an IWM partner.  A similar fate also befell the Royal Navy Volunteer Radio Section group at IWM HMS Belfast, London.  Consequently, once the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were eased, throughout 2021/2022/2023 DRT has been very busy moving the extensive collection of historic communications equipment and systems away from Duxford Airfield into safe, dry, off-site storage.  This task continues today and will soon be completed. 

In view of the fact that military battles, whether on land, sea or in the air are won or lost depending to a large extent on whether communications and intelligence were good or poor, it is most unfortunate therefore that IWM, the biggest military museum in UK and possibly in Europe and the rest of the World outside the USA, should decide to remove all evidence of, and reference to radio communications, electronic navigation and radar from their exhibitions, as though the subject has been of little or no importance in the past and present. Countless thousands of future IWM visitors are now denied knowledge and understanding of this significant aspect of military conflict or emergency communications. 

Duxford Radio Group - Autumn 2023 

DRT/DRL is now exhibiting at the Waterbeach Military Heritage Museum, at Waterbeach airfield,

 near Cambridge.

 DRT is also working to overhaul its exhibition and demonstration equipment and reduce duplicates in the collection.  Some items will be loaned to other local museums.


More to follow