Duxford Radio Trust

Interactive Wireless Museum

Preserving the history and technology of Radio Communications, Navigation and Radar

Researching, collecting, conserving, restoring and providing historic communications equipment for exhibition and demonstration to the public

The Duxford Radio group provides the equipment, materials and knowledge for the preservation and demonstration of the history, technology and application of radio communications, navigation and radar, for the education of the public.

It mainly demonstrates equipment used in military conflict and civil emergencies.

Below is a small selection of items from the DRT collection and a few details of our recent 'Interactive Wireless Museum' activities.

Working WW2 Wireless Set No. 22 Army handcart radio station for Infantry, Paratroopers and Commandos 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

Who we are and what we do

The Duxford Radio Trust (DRT), 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 and technology of radio communications, radar and navigation, and celebrating the efficiency of the UK Armed Forces of the Crown and the Police, Fire, Ambulance and rescue services, for the education of the public.

We fulfill our public education obligations by providing the materials 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. DRT/DRL publishes a four-monthly journal containing articles on specific historic equipment and communication related techniques. 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 others, 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, to the public.

Examples of what we collect, conserve, restore and demonstrate to the public

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 British Army field combat portable radios at top and centre, and various WW2 transportable and vehicle borne Army radio 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 from 1948 onwards

Various Cold War radio equipment for British Army field combat use up to 2005 and items used by European 'Stay-behind' Resistance groups supported by the 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 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.

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 exhibition radio transmitting station. A similar fate has now 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 is planning a replacement venue to once again exhibit and demonstrate its collection of historic radio communications equipment to the public.

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 a small WW2 ARR-5 USAAF airborne surveillance receiver - effectively an airborne Hallicrafters S-27 - used for detecting enemy radar

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 - radar operators console circa 1939/1940

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 developed a prototype coastal defence radar system to detect shipping and as an aid to 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. In use a second console 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 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

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 main operating position of the DRT exhibition radio communications station, which uses 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 configured for use includes Wireless Set No. 12 with R107 receiver, Wireless Set No. 19, T1154/R1155, Wireless Set No. 22 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

This programme appeared on national TV in 2018


Activities we have supported in the past at Duxford

  • Visits by the public to Duxford Radio Section by individual adults, families with children, either unscheduled or scheduled, on a daily basis (not normally on Saturdays)

  • 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, 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.

The sun has now set on radio communications exhibitions and displays at IWM Duxford and London

2020 - 2021 IWM closes the Duxford Radio Section - the real story

Until 13 July 2020 DRT/DRL provided all equipment, materials, local management and administrative support to the IWM Duxford radio section for the static and interactive radio, navigation and radar exhibits, displayed for the benefit of IWM visitors, funded entirely by DRT/DRL. IWM provided the site facilities, buildings and electricity. All members of the IWM Duxford radio section were registered IWM volunteers, and had been since April 2009, although IWM tried to deny this on a number of occasions. The team of IWM radio section volunteers had supported IWM Duxford for the past 32 years, with some 36 communications engineers, hardware and software designers and experienced technical/historical explainers, giving IWM Duxford between 6000 and 8000 specialist volunteer hours per annum. IWM does not, and has never employed, any equivalent staff. As technical specialists, the hours contributed by the IWM radio section volunteer explainers were worth £350 per 8 hour day to IWM as National Lottery matched funding for IWM on HLF approved projects. The radio section attracted about 12,000 visitors each year at IWM and coached some 9000 children in Morse code each year among its diverse range of educational activities.

IWM Duxford management recently required DRT to become a 'commercial partner' and agree to a detailed and onerous commercial supply contract which, according to IWM Duxford management information, was driven by 'the need for regulatory compliance, and instructions from Government Auditors'. DRT was designated a partner organisation because it owned all the radio equipment on display in the IWM radio section, and from November 2019 discussions about the future began with IWM management . The standard IWM commercial contract was difficult for DRT, as a small privately-funded charity without employees, to comply with in its entirety for a number of reasons, some of which are mentioned below. To try to reach a mutually acceptable arrangement, the DRT trustees proposed a formal loan agreement that would continue to make available, free of charge, the unique DRT historic communications equipment collection to IWM and its visitors. Regrettably, this was rejected by IWM Duxford management, who insisted on treating DRT as a commercial organisation using the standard IWM commercial contract for multi-million pound companies.

The most difficult aspect of the IWM contract requirement was for DRT to provide £10M public and £10M product liability insurance protection to IWM - along with a number of specific related IWM conditions. Before 2009 this cover had been provided by DRS being part of DAS. Since 2014 this cover had been theoretically provided by IWM on its general insurance policy via an annual subrogation certificate, in exchange for the old Duxford Radio Society, and later DRT, taking responsibility for health & safety risk assessments and management/supervision/team leadership of the IWM radio section volunteers, rather than IWM staff performing this role (which was a full-time job). Such insurance proved difficult for DRT to arrange with insurance companies during the COVID-19 lock-down period and was further complicated by the very specific terms and conditions insisted on by IWM, concerning the decisions on who would be permitted to operate and take responsibility for DRT radio equipment. The terms insisted on by IWM management would not legally comply with the ITU/OFCOM radio regulations and health & safety considerations relating to who should have access to transmitters and equipment using high voltages. After much dialogue with IWM Duxford management, eventually these conditions were eased slightly and on 9July 2020 a suitable insurance quotation was obtained by DRT. The activities of DRL and the exhibition radio station were already separately insured via the Radio Society of Great Britain group policy.

However, on 13 July 2020, the trustees were advised that despite finally obtaining the IWM required insurance cover, it was too late, there was no place for DRT/DRL at IWM Duxford and no agreement would be made for DRT to remain there. The trustees were formally instructed to remove all the DRT radio, navigation, and radar exhibits and equipment from the site, instructed to clear the maintenance workshop portakabin within 2 weeks and told that the IWM Duxford volunteer radio section would be closed. No valid reason was given for this by the IWM commercial department despite DRT operating 6 days per week and explaining to 12,000 IWM visitors each year. IWM have repeatedly issued a misleading statement which incorrectly claims that the DRT trustees decided to leave Duxford. It is important to record that the most recent written review of the Duxford volunteer radio section and DRT/DRL performance (Dec 2019) by the IWM Lambeth Head of Volunteering was full of praise and expressed a desire to expand and promote the DRT activity as an asset to the public offering of IWM Duxford. In 2018 the IWM Duxford radio section volunteers were awarded a certificate of merit by IWM for their performance.

The Duxford radio section volunteers served and supported the IWM on an almost daily basis for 32 years, providing the historic radio communications, radar and navigation equipment, plus engineering and history expertise to IWM staff at both Lambeth and Duxford, together with complete, working historic communications systems for the benefit of the public. They have designed and developed interactive exhibits in their own time and at their own expense for the education of the public, to support the school S.T.E.M. education syllabus and also to inspire children to take up technology and science in the future. The radio section also provided a respectful attraction for military veterans and their families who were able to enjoy a hands-on experience once again with the field equipment which they or their parents had used in the past.

It is important to note that IWM is not able to use its own accessioned collection of radio equipment (which it holds on behalf of the nation) to actively demonstrate to the public in the same manner as the DRT collection, which includes many items of working equipment.

The DRT trustees, who also served as IWM volunteers themselves, are all incredibly sad to be forced to close the public exhibition and leave IWM Duxford after such a long and successful period of service to the museum and the public. The DRT trustees also apologise in advance for the disappointment to the many visitors who pay to enter IWM Duxford specifically to visit the radio section.

The DRT trustees continue to believe that IWM Duxford is the best location to display, demonstrate and explain its collection of complete, working, historic military radio equipment systems for the education of the public, in order to tell the history of communications in military conflict and civil emergencies. DRT is believed to have had the most comprehensive publicly available collection of working, historic communications systems in the UK.

The Duxford Radio Trust wishes IWM Duxford every success in the future.

Duxford Radio - origins & history 1984 - 1986

The Duxford Radio group activity was originally co-founded by Major John Brown, the designer of the "B2 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.

Duxford Radio - changes 2009 - 2017

In April 2009 at the request of a new IWM Duxford 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 change, 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, administration, 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 2017, in anticipation of IWM Duxford's new strategic plan with a changing IWM approach to non-IWM employees, and 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 Trustees and Directors of Duxford Radio Trust and Duxford Radio Ltd continued to provide all 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 - 2020 - 2021 leaving IWM Duxford

As of 13 July 2020, quite independently of the COVID-19 pandemic, IWM abruptly closed the Duxford volunteer Radio Section and told DRT/DRL to leave the site. A similar fate has now befallen the Royal Navy radio section group at IWM HMS Belfast, London. Consequently, DRT/DRL is looking for a new exhibition home, and during summer 2021 DRT is now busy moving the extensive DRT collection of historic communications equipment and systems away from Duxford Airfield and placed into safe, dry, off-site storage.