Comment: Feeling supersonic about radio communications

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Supersonic heterodyne. Now that’s something not often heard in daily conversation.

But the term came to mind at the recent Newton Longville Festival of Transport, while perusing the radio amateurs stall. For there on display was a radio set made during WW2 for clandestine use by secret agents. In fact such equipment was manufactured in the grounds of Whaddon Hall, and this area has quite a connection with radio matters.

Born in 1872 Alfred Peerless joined the Telegraph Battalion of the Royal Engineers and when Marconi conducted early wireless experiments on Salisbury Plain he was detailed to maintain liaison between the transmitter and the receiver. During WW1 he became an instructor at Staple Hall, Fenny Stratford, where in 1917 the personnel of the Royal Engineers (Wireless) Depot arrived. During WW2 secret transmitters in the local countryside broadcast ‘black’ propaganda to the enemy, and among other activities from Whaddon Hall and its outstations radio communications were maintained with secret agents.

Whaddon also handled the radio traffic of Bletchley Park and after the war the operation became the Diplomatic Wireless Service. Centred at Hanslope Park, for many years a feature was the forests of radio masts. However, these disappeared with the advent of satellite communication.

Today Hanslope Park is involved in monitoring all manner of radio communications, with banks of computers sifting for any suspicious traffic.

In fact during WW2 Alan Turing was involved there on a speech enciphering project. And on the subject of projects, with today’s world entirely dependent on electronic communications most people are adept at using such gizmos.

Yet if transported back in time few would have the foggiest idea how to reinvent the technology. So perhaps as a project for the enthusiasts of the Milton Keynes Amateur Radio Society, now based at Newton Longville, how about compiling an idiot’s guide to the basic workings of such modern day electronic essentials as the internet, digital radio, Skype, etc.

No doubt many people would be interested, and if it explains the mystery of ‘supersonic heterodyne,’ so would I.