Hilary Wallace writes: –
I was very interested to read your article about growing up in a radar family. My father, Ron Taylor, was in the TRE radar group from 1938 to 1951 and then worked with Sir Robert Watson-Watt in his partnership until 1954. Life was complicated for my parents as they moved around a great deal and having got married in 1941 spent a lot of time apart until after the war for various reasons.
My father was recruited from Baird Television with the group which went to Bawdsey Manor in Felixstowe as radar was being developed. From the little I knew about this he found this time exciting and enjoyed being by the sea and sailing which was his lifelong passion. Then they were moved to Swanage and he was one of the team which designed the original radar sets. As far as I know he spent much time liaising with the manufacturers of these sets, testing them on flights and travelling to meetings in London and Cambridge where progress was discussed. In 1941 my parents were married in Christchurch and had a house there for a short time. My mother, Molly Davis, was a teacher at Ledbury Grammar School then and I have no idea how they met. In 1942 my father moved with the rest of the TRE group to Malvern and they were housed in a flat in a large old Victorian house in Hanley Terrace. My father was a Scientific Officer working at Malvern College. He collaborated in writing various reports on radio locating apparatus and automatic blind landing which are held in the Malvern RSRE archives. I believe at this time my mother was still teaching at Ledbury Grammar School. She had to give up the job when my sister, Ann, was expected and born in 1943 at Hereford.
I didn’t know much about my parents’ life at this time until after they died, my father in 1995 and mother in 2001. Then I discovered numerous letters they had exchanged when my father was working in different locations. These describe the practical difficulties of accommodation provided by the Malvern Council which was generally unsuitable and unsatisfactory social life for my mother when father was often away. Eventually when I was born in 1945 she moved to live with her sister in Porthcawl. She described this as chaotic with two babies, my cousin and myself and my sister aged 2. One of the aspects of Malvern which she disliked was walking up and down Church street with a pram whilst heavily pregnant while my father was able to drive around with free petrol!
The situation soon changed again as my father was offered a job as Acting Superintendent at BLEU in Martlesham near Felixstowe and in 1946 we all moved there to a house on a road leading down to the beach. I have very little memory of that time but I imagine it was fun living so near the sea except in the harsh winter of 1947 when the sea froze. We moved back to Worcestershire in 1948 when my father spent a year at STC before re-joining the Ministry of Supply as a Principal Scientific Officer in 1949 back to Malvern. Then we lived in an isolated country house near Stanford Bridge on the River Teme. I remember the floods when water came over the platform of the bus on which we were going to school! My mother was then teaching at a local primary school, where I went first at 5, and my sister went to Alice Ottley School in Worcester. This must have been quite an arduous commuting schedule for my father working in Malvern but he still had time to set up a chicken farm with electronic incubating system. In my memory this was an idyllic childhood with a wild garden next to woods beside a lake where we had play houses amongst the trees. For a short time I also attended Alice Ottley School which I hated and cried most of the time. We were on the move again in 1951 when my father joined Sir Robert Watson-Watt & Partners in London. We then went to live in a rambling old farm house in a village near Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, where my father had a laboratory with fascinating flickering screens (oscilloscopes?) and we had acres of fields to explore and a pond where we could skate in winter. My sister went to St Albans High School but my education was fragmented by a short time at the village school and two years being taught by my mother with a friend. This was a great time as we also went to our friend’s house for art lessons and swimming in their pool. in 1955 we moved again when my father went to work for WH Sanders (Electronics) in Stevenage and left the Civil Service.
I’m not sure how much of this is relevant for your website! As you can see my sister and I did not grow up in Malvern but my parents retained contacts with many families who had worked in wartime TRE. Names that I recall but have sadly lost touch with since my parents died are; Bernard and Barbara Newsom, Brian and Julia; Derek and Pauline Wareham, Nicholas and Fiona; Harold Pritchard. A list of names with best wishes on their wedding includes A.P. Rowe, A.C.P. Lovell, F.C.Williams, D.H.Preist, F/Lt Griffiths and F/O Wright (with whom he flew according to his Flying Log Book). The Flying Log Book also includes the names of officers killed in an accident on 17 July 1941 – Ft/Lt Rayment and Sgt Sadler.
I have already sent copies of some of my father’s letters describing some events during his time with TRE to the MRATHS and Bawdsey Radar Group, where my sister worked as a volunteer for some time when she was living in Felixstowe. Do you wish to receive copies of these also? I will try to attach some photos of people I think are associated with TRE.
Photos 1 & 2 TRE group – location unknown.
4 Page from Flying Log Book