Duxford Radio Group
Duxford Radio Trust Communications, Navigation and Radar equipment
at the Signals Museum, RAF Henlow
Lancaster Bomber replica Wireless Operators crew position; use the R1155 communications receiver, try sending your name in Morse code
A few of the static and operational radio communications, navigation and radar exhibits at Signals Museum, RAF Henlow
Who we are and what we do
Please note IWM has closed the Radio Section at the Duxford Airfield museum. We now have a presence at the Signals Museum, RAF Henlow, SG16 6DN
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), 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 others. 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.
Today the DRT collection of Allied military communications equipment is believed to be of particular historical and technical significance, and is unique in that it encompasses complete working equipment systems and, unlike other museum collections, 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, to the public.
Examples of what we collect, conserve, restore and demonstrate to the public
Working Pye WW2 Wireless Set No. 22 Army handcart radio station for Infantry, Paratroopers, Commandos, RAF etc
Working WW2 replica RAF Lancaster Bomber Wireless Operators station - try your hand at Morse code
Working WW2 RAF H2S ground-mapping radar indicating system and static AN/APS-4 airborne Air-to-Surface-Vessel radar pod
Working complete WW2 ARC-5/SCR-274-N 'Command' radio installation as fitted to USAAF B17 and B24 aircraft
Working WW2 'Monica' tail warning radar from RAF Lancaster bomber on right, BC-221 Frequency Meter on left
Working WW2 RAF 'Gee' airborne navigation receiver on right and USA low frequency version 'LORAN' at left with 80 Volt 1500c/s power supplies
Working WW2 RAF R1392 VHF ground receiver at left and T1154/R1155 long-range radio from RAF Lancaster bomber at right
RAF WW2 Battle of BritainTR9D airborne Spitfire radio at left, matching RAF T1422/R1224A ground radio station at right
WW2 field combat portable radios at top and centre, and various WW2 transportable and vehicle borne radio communication sets below
Various WW2 clandestine radio equipment used by Resistance Groups, Secret Agents and Cold War European 'Stay-behind' Resistance groups supported by the UK/MI6 from 1948 onwards
Various Cold War radio equipment for Allied field combat use up to 2005 and items used by European 'Stay-behind' Resistance groups supported by the USA C.I.A. from 1948, eg. Operation Gladio etc.
Radio battery charging in the field: robust 300 Watt petrol generator used on trucks and Armoured Fighting Vehicles, based on the Johnson Chore Horse.
Radio battery charging in the field: lightweight 80 Watt petrol generator carried by Jeeps, Mules and by Paratroopers, etc.
Radio battery charging in the field: man portable hand-powered generator for 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 32 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 supervising 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. For many years DRT has had close links with the Signals Museum, RAF Henlow, and shares curatorial staff.
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, rather than individual internal exhibits. In July 2020 IWM re-organised the volunteer system, and closed the Duxford volunteer Radio Section, radio communications exhibitions and the demonstration radio transmitting station. A similar fate has also befallen 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 DRT equipment is now on display at the Signals Museum, RAF Henlow, SG16 6DN.
How we do it
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 is always a struggle. WS19 needs 12 Volts at more than 25 Amps to start up
Example of item due for conservation/restoration
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 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 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 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
Army 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. This particular mobile radar trailer was manufactured in 1952 to the late WW2 design.
It is complete with 17KW diesel generator, all interconnection cables and target simulator equipment to enable it to operate without radiating microwave energy.
Since 2007 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.
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.
Historic equipment 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.
A Kenwood TS570DG kindly provided by Kenwood UK is available for HF SSB operation.
BBC TV filming our radio station in action
Activities we have supported in the past
Visits by the public to the IWM Duxford Radio Section by individual adults, families with children, either unscheduled or scheduled, on a daily basis)
Operation of two fully equipped radio communications exhibition buildings at IWM Duxford plus the permanent exhibition radio transmitting station
Organised/scheduled group visits to Duxford Radio Section from schools, Cadet Forces, HMG Armed Services parties, tour party operators, special interest groups, etc.
Inside and outdoor exhibits for airshows and other flying displays
Historical and technical research, restoration service, advice and information on communications equipment to the staff of the Imperial War Museums and their customers
- Activities we can support in the future with our collection of historic communications equipment
A licensed HF/VHF exhibition radio transmitting/receiving station with fully qualified operators.
Permanent or temporary, static or interactive, displays of historic radio communications equipment for exhibitions at museums or other events in the East of England.
Other public event days, including celebrations of world events and significant national anniversaries, commemorations and milestones.
Education S.T.E.M. related demonstrations, talks and lectures on radio communications, navigation, radar, cryptology and cypher.
Historical research into communications history and technology by individuals and organised groups/societies.
Conservation, restoration and maintenance of historic radio communications, radar and navigation equipment by DRT/DRL, other individuals and organised groups/societies.
Historical and technical research, restoration service, advice and information on communications equipment.
Publication of a historical-technical journal on radio communications, normally published 3 times per year. This is now archived in Cambridge University Library.
Loan of working or static communications equipment for film or TV applications.
Talking to the world - HF antenna for demonstrating long-range, world-wide, radio communications.
Duxford Radio - origins & history 1984 - 1986
The Duxford Radio group activity was originally co-founded by Major John Brown, the designer of the famous WW2 "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 remarked 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 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 these events were not celebrated in any significant way in 1985.
Duxford Radio - evolution 1986 - 1992
In September 1986 it was agreed with IWM that the Duxford Airfield Radio Society (D.A.R.S.) would provide a restoration service to IWM, exhibit its own radio equipment for public display to IWM customers and operate an amateur radio transmitting station GB4SOE, for which D.A.R.S. later obtained the radio license G0PZJ.
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.
The Duxford Radio Society (DRS) was formed in July 1989, 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 - development 1992 - 2009
In 1992 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. Liaison began between the DRS Vice Chairman and the Signals Museum, Henlow Curator.
Duxford Radio - 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 airfield, the DAS volunteers were told 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, from April 2009 to April 2017, the Radio Section volunteers were not assigned to an IWM staff department and 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.
Duxford Radio - 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 was beginning to deny that the radio section 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 activities. The Curator of the Signals Museum, RAF Henlow became a DRT trustee.
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 - 2021 forced to leave IWM Duxford - now operational at RAF Henlow
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. A similar fate also befell the Royal Navy radio section group at IWM HMS Belfast, London. Consequently, once the pandemic restrictions were eased, throughout summer 2021, DRT has been busy moving the extensive DRT collection of historic communications equipment and systems away from Duxford Airfield to other locations and into safe, dry, off-site storage. Selected items of DRT exhibition equipment are now on display at the Signals Museum, RAF Henlow, with whom DRT has had liaised and shared staff for many years.
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 mystifying 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 and radar, as though they have been of little or no importance. Countless thousands of future visitors are now denied knowledge and understanding of this significant aspect of military conflict or war.
The Duxford Radio Trust wishes IWM Duxford every success in the future.