John Edward Copeland

Hi Anne I would like to thank you for speaking out for our parents who devoted their lives to their work, sometimes sacrificing family relationships.

Dear Anne

My name is Lindsey Copeland m Malkic, I was extremely interested to see your article and site, it’s true that our fathers were not recognised by the world for their enormous talent and bravery, maybe now after all this time some appreciation should be shown. I think I met you many years ago when we were children your name and face is familiar. I’ve lived in France since 1975 so I haven’t followed your career, it was a friend who sent me your article.

I visited the Transmitter block at Bawdsey Suffolk in 2015, where I met some dedicated people trying to find out as much as possible about the things our parents kept secret during their lives.

My father John Edward Copeland was born in 1912, he studied Electronics in Ipswich Suffolk.

He was always very discrete about the war and his work. It was at the end of his life that my brother David and I realised what an extraordinary life he had lived.

Dad worked for Sir Robert Watson Watt the pioneer of Radar at the Bawdsey research station in Suffolk during the 1930s.

He participated in the Home Chain project traveling round Britain installing Radar detection systems, on 360ft metal towers, climbing to the top in all weather conditions. I have the original paper listing all the tower positions that he carried with him, I also have an official permit he carried, to give him access to the sites concerned.

He met my mother Sadie in 1939 while on a mission in Scarborough. My parents met on a blind date in secret and fell madly in love, they married in 1942.

My Grandmother who ran a Boarding House in Scarborough for the soldiers wasn’t very happy, she spoke of my father with disapproval, the RAF boys drank too much and got into fights. I suppose they were letting off steam. Dad spoke about Scotland and he’d spent some time at Malton, where my mother joined him for a while.

He was sent abroad to Palestine, Egypt, Malta, Greece, and other unspoken destinations deploying Radar systems. He had signed the official secrets act, so unfortunately, I don’t have any information on the work that he did during that period. He mentioned M i5, the jungle, where he claimed to have been injured on his leg by a poisonous grass, that unfortunately never healed up, but my mother didn’t believe him, thought he was making things up, when he eventually told his doctor , he didn’t believe him either.

Dad mentioned the terrible flights they endured in planes ready for the scrap yard!  He told me of a tragic incidence at Bawdsey where a security test was done at night offshore, unknown to the personnel on the ground that it was a trial, the security was so successful, a few men perished. These were rare conversations we had at the end of his life. At the end of the war, Dad was transferred to Malvern TRE which later became RR£, then RSRE.

He lodged at the Hostel in Geraldine Road, later my mother Sadie and my brother David joined him, I remember my mother telling me how she put David to bed in a draw. They moved to a Nissen hut on a military camp and then to a prefabricated house at Orfordway. Which has now been demolished, but the tree where David played is still standing.

On 30/04/1949 there was a reunion held at Church House Westminster for everyone who’d worked at Bawdsey prior to September 1939, Dad was picked up in Great Malvern, a coach specially organised for the function. Later I remember my father mentioning this reunion and his sadness at how some of his colleagues hadn’t survived the war. He mentioned that he’d been involved in some very difficult and dangerous work.

I was born in 1952 and a year later we moved to a new council house in Coronation Rd built for the ministry workers. David went to the Pickersleigh road primary school and later to Hanley Castle boy’s grammar school. I went to the Summers Park Avenue primary school, then to St Marys Convent girls’ school in Worcester.

During the 50s and 60s I remember the weeks of absence when Dad was traveling around England, going to Salisbury Plain with the military on the Laser project involving night vision, he thought the problems with his eyes, were due to the tests that they had carried out.

He also worked on the oil tankers, Radar guidance systems to prevent collisions, then in the 1970s he worked on the Radar system for motor vehicles, intended for preventing road pile ups in the fog.

Dad was upset about the TSR2 supersonic plane project being scrapped and all the money being thrown away. He complained that the Government were paying for the development of the most incredible inventions but gave it all away to the Americans.

Our father didn’t have a University degree, but he devoted his life to his work. He was operational, he didn’t want to stay in the office.

In 1973 he was awarded the Imperial Service Medal. He retired in 1977 and passed away with his secrets in 2003 aged 91.

I have some wonderful memories of growing up in Malvern, Ballet classes and ball room dancing lessons at the Marjorie Chaters Dance school behind Warwick House, the sand pit in Priory Park, swimming club at the outdoor pool in all weathers after school. Opera singing lessons with Prof­ essoressa Marie Lloyd Foulkes learning to walk up straight with a book on my head.

I remember the magical RRE Christmas parties at the Geraldine road sports club and the sports day which I hated, as I always came last in the running race.

My Dad had an allotment where he built us a bonfire for Guy Fawkes and let off the fireworks, while Mum cooked potatoes on the fire and friends came to join us.

Sledging on the Link common, picnics at Golden Valley, picking blackberries on the hills with friends. My mother made homemade wine from Dandelions and Elderberries in large laboratory bottles generously supplied by her majesty that exploded in the airing cupboard in the middle of the night! She made beer in an old metal boiling container which stood in the Kitchen. I was told never to let anyone in the house, but we left the door key outside under the door mat!

The Dinner parties when our parents got together and us children would have our party upstairs.

At 12 years old I joined the Girls Venture Corps, Cadets for the Air Force in Banards Green and we put on Pantomimes at Xmas at Christ Church, the vicar was always the Dame, we sang songs, tap danced and imitated the Blue Bell girls, put on plays, and even marched in our Uniforms on remembrance Sunday up to Malvern Priory.

Our mother Sadie suffered from the secrecy around our father’s work, but she became involved in The Piers Ploughmen club putting on dramatic performances in which David occasionally participated, she went on to supporting The Malvern Festival Theatre producing plays and created the Young Theatre group in 1966.

She was a teacher at Dyson Perrins secondary modern school from 1963 -1983, teaching home economics.

I progressed to the Young Theatre Group started by my mother, meeting up in the Theatre cellar, she wanted to keep me occupied and out of trouble. After a year she had a bad car accident and was unable to carry on, so I became the Chairman for a year, and with help we put on shows and plays.

We organised a Barbecue at the quarry with a light show and disco.

I remember great Saturday nights at the Winter Gardens ball room seeing the Kinks, I even got an autograph, the Who, the Small Faces, Pink Floyd, Gino Washington, and the Ram Jam Band!

Disco dancing at the Bank House to Soul music, meeting friends at the Unicorn, House Parties. I even swam in the Quarry near the Wyche cutting which is now closed to the Public.

With some Kings School friends, we did the tour of the scrumpy houses, went sailing on the river seven and I fell in laughing.

During the school holidays I went fruit picking and worked in Alan Vaughn’s work room hand sewing curtains.

We didn’t have computers, so we were outgoing and new how to enjoy ourselves. I could never understand how people could leave Malvern and the beautiful hills.

After five years at Art School and working in London I moved to France in 1975 and married.

We returned to Malvern during the school holidays, till my mother passed away in 2004 my three boys have wonderful memories of flying Kites on the hills and swimming at the splash.

David is, now living in Australia after a nomadic career traveling the world with his work. Maybe our unique education gave us tools and wings to fly away.

By Editor

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