Duxford Radio Trust
Preserving the history and technology of Radio Communications, Navigation and Radar
in military conflict and civil emergencies, for the education of the public
Above; a working USA manufactured version of Pye Wireless Set No. 19 MK II, HF transmitter-receiver from World War 2, originally designed for use in armoured fighting vehicles but ultimately found so useful that 75 different installation types were created, including use in single-seat ground-attack fighter aircraft
Below; examples of past DRT exhibitions of radio communications equipment
On the left, children's corner; see your voice on an oscilloscope, and tune in a simple 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 Air-to-Surface-Vessel radar pod
Left, working RAF R1392 VHF ground receiver
Centre, RAF T1154/R1155 TX/RX from Lancaster
Right, Hallicrafters S27 VHF receiver
Left, RAF aircrew distress beacon
Right, TR9 the RAF TX/RX used in Battle of Britain with a Pipsqueak timer on top
Left, the T1422/R1224 RAF ground station TX/RX which talked to the TR9 in the Spitfires and Hurricanes
Right, the AR88 communications receiver imported from the USA
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 station 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 individuals and groups. 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 section at IWM Duxford Airfield.
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 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 station - try your hand at Morse code
Working complete WW2 ARC-5/SCR-274-N 'Command' radio installation as fitted to USAAF B17 and B24 aircraft
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 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 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.
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.
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 can be a struggle. WS19 needs 12 Volts at more than 25 Amps to start up
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 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.
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.
Example of item due for conservation/restoration
Large Replica of Lancaster Bomber Wireless Operator & Navigators crew positions
This 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 Airspace at 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 Unit, etc. and other items such as the Sextant Type 9 for taking optical bearings.
This exhibit is now waiting for a refit to return it to full working display condition.
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
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 events, 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 - our HF antenna for demonstrating long-range, world-wide, radio communications.
Duxford Radio - the full story 1984 - 2022
The Duxford Radio group activity was originally co-founded by Major John Brown, the designer of the famous WW2 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 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 GB2IWM, 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 in London and Duxford. Liaison began between the DRS Vice Chairman and the Signals Museum, RAF Henlow.
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
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 it could not immediately meet the new commercial contract requirements to be an IWM partner. A similar fate also befell the Royal Navy radio section group at IWM HMS Belfast, London. Consequently, once the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were eased, throughout summer of 2021 DRT was very busy moving the extensive collection of historic communications equipment and systems away from Duxford Airfield into safe, dry, off-site storage.
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, 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 war.
Duxford Radio - Autumn 2022
DRT is currently working to overhaul its exhibition and demonstration equipment and reduce duplicates in the collection. Some items will be loaned to other local museums.
DRT/DRL is still seeking a permanent exhibition location in the Cambridge area.
More to follow.