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Royal Air Force Henlow Signals Museum

Radar and me.

My name is Colin Hinson, and I joined the R.A.F. Henlow Signals Museum as an Assistant to the Curator in October 2014, having visited the museum with Ken Horne shortly before that. Most of the equipment in the museum is either Radio or Airborne equipment, with only 3 pieces of Ground Radar equipment being Consoles 60, 61 and 64, along with odd items such as a Type 84 magnetron and Type 85 Klystron. There are also 4 large models of radar heads: Type 80, FPS6, Type 84 and HF200, and two small models: Type 7 and AR1.

I should first give you a summary of my 16year career in the RAF so that "you know where I'm coming from". I trained as an apprentice at RAF Locking from 1958 to 1961 (89th entry - along with Ken Horne mentioned above) as a Ground Radar Fitter. I was trained on the Radars Type 80 Mk I, and FPS6 and the Fixed Coil display system (phase 1). On completion of my apprenticeship I was posted to RAF Patrington (near Hull) which at the time was being re-furbished to Fixed Coil phase 1A standards. The radars there were Type 80 Mk III, Type 7 (remote), 2 x FPS6, 3 x Type 13 and a Type 54.

There were vast differences between the Type 80 Mk1 and MkIII, I'd never seen a Type 7, Type 13 or Type 54 and the Phase 1A display for all the height finders (FPS6 and Type 13) used Console 64, whereas the FPS6 I was trained on had its own (weird!) display, and the Type 13 originally used a Console 61. All in all the only bits I really knew were the FPS6 transmitter and turning gear (Control Group Assembly - CGA), and the bits in the radar office that were retained from phase 1 Fixed Coil such as the Bulk Power Supply (BPS) for the Console 64's. I was promoted to Corporal Tech in 1962 and was in charge of a Radar watch for the rest of my stay - by the time I left Patrington in late 1964 I was familiar with most of the Radar Office equipment and how it was joined together. In particular, I worked with the Elliott people who came to install "Firebrigade" - an Elliott 803 computer designed specifically to assist Fighter Controllers with up to 12 tail chase intercepts at once - this was my introduction to computing.

When I left Patrington I was detached to RAF Staxton Wold, the domestic site for this being at RAF Bempton - another radar site (then closed). Staxton Wold is near Scarborough and is the oldest radar site in the world. At the time it was one of 3 Linesman Radar sites (the other two being Neatishead in Norfolk and Boulmer in Northumberland). The radars at Staxton were a Type 84, Type 85, 2 x HF200 (height finders), a Secondary Surveilance Radar (IFF - SSR) and an HSA (aka PD or RX12874 - a passive jamming receiver). Shortly after arriving at Staxton I was temporarily detatched to RAF Troodos in Cyprus to work on the T84 radar there. This radar was in a "golf ball" on the top on Mount Olympus (6,400 ft), with lots of snow (boundary fence height!). The display for this newly installed radar was a Console 60 in an RVT 510 vehicle. The system was powered by a generator in another RVT 510 which wasn't the most reliable and I was grateful for the training I recieved as an apprentice at Locking by "Diesel Dan". Fortunately, the Console 60 never went faulty - this Console is a "moving coil" display (i.e. the deflection coil is rotated around the CRT neck to produce the Plan Position Indicator (PPI) display). I returned to Staxton after 6 weeks in Cyprus and was one of the 4 watches looking after the T84 (along with my brother Neil). When on watch, we lived in the T84 (R17 building) and cooked in the Marconi hut (no mess on site at the time). The T84 had a display suite consisting of 3 x Console 64 within the R17 building..

After a couple of years, the T85 radar was commissioned and most of the personnel were then situated in the R12 building with the T85 and the rest of the equipment for the other radars and the T84 display equipment that had been moved from the R17 to the R12. In 1966 I was promoted to Sergeant (the technician ranks with the "upside down stripes" having been abolished) and started trying to teach myself about the equipment for the computer for the HSA. This computer was a backwards step from the Elliott 803 machine that I'd worked on at Patrington. I never got to the end of this as I kept getting pulled off onto other more urgent things.

In 1968 I married Pauline (a Bempton girl) and was immediately posted to RAF Troodos. The equipment at Olympus had changed considerably from my last visit (thank goodness) and was a mixture of Phase 1 and Phase 1A equipment, however the only display that wasn't a Console 64 was the dreadful (valved) display for the HF 200. After a 2 year honeymoon, we returned to the UK and Staxton Wold again.

At Staxton they were desperately short of QSLR (Qualified System Linesman Radar) and they suggested that I might like to teach myself about the T85 radar so that I could fill in an empty position as a DSC (Duty Site Controller) which the QSLRs normally filled. This I did, and on promotion to Chief Tech. in 1971, I was put in charge of one of the Radar watches as the DSC. I spent a lot of my time for the first year learning about how the various equipments functioned together and ended up quite confident that with the watch team, we could quickly fix anything that went wrong.

So, to summarise, I knew in depth about how various radars worked (T80, T84, T85 and FPS6) and about display systems that used the Console 64. I never met a Console 61, and only met a Console 60 once (which I never worked on as it never stopped working). I did however know how the later equipments worked together and this was to be of great use in getting the console 64 at the RAF Henlow museum up and running.

In 1974 I was told that my services were no longer required (too many chiefs and not enough indians, and only 6 months to go so I could get a pension). In October of that year I left the RAF for pastures new: 2 years with Spectra TV, - around 2 years with Marconi Radar (working on GWS25 - Seawolf), 20 years with Texas Instruments (designing Teletext decoders and supporting the TMS9900 processor family), 10 years with Europe Technologies (designing Teletext decoders again!), and 8 years with Highland Scientific (working on high vacuum coating systems). I have looked after the Genuki (Genealogical service for the UK and Ireland) pages for Yorks, Beds, Hunts and Cambs since 1996 (some 150,000 web pages and another 160,000 image files etc.). I now fly gliders for fun from the Cambridge Gliding Centre at the Wartime airfield at Gransden Lodge (the Pathfinders flew from there during the war) and get all over the southern part of the country. When not doing these, among other things I write software, such as for a High Vacuum Data Logger project for Evap Solutions, and for other people so that they can maintain their own webpages such as Idle Book Sellers. My wife and I have a small business selling scanned images in pdf format of Old and Rare Yorkshire books.

Console 60.

Console 61.

Console 64.

Page last updated 30th December by Colin Hinson.