1935 and 1939, before the start of the Second World War, scientists and
engineers at Bawdsey Manor, on the East Coast of England were working
on various radio direction finding (Radar) equipment for future
airborne and land-based operation. For the radar receivers they
needed a good quality (and stable) broadband, intermediate frequency
(IF) amplifier assembly with a gain of about 80 to 100dB. The scientists
were led by Dr.' E.G. Taffy' Bowen, (who later became known as the
"father of airborne radar").
At the suggestion of Professor Edward Appleton, in May 1939 Dr. Bowen visited the
Pye works in Cambridge. Edward Appleton (later Sir Edward
Appleton), had previously been his Professor at King's College, London
and by then was the Jacksonian Professor of Physics at Cambridge
Pye, Bowen saw the Model 915 television receiver chassis, which, as a
Tuned Radio Frequency (TRF) type of receiver, was essentially a high
gain, broadband, band-pass 45 MHz amplifier based on the Mullard/Philips EF50
valve, and most suitable for use by the team at Bawdsey for processing radar returns. With help from
B. J. Edwards, then the Technical Director of Pye Radio Limited, Bowen
left Cambridge with several samples of the Pye TV chassis. The cathode
ray tubes developed by Pye were also found to be suitable for radar
meeting between Edwards and Bowen led to further co-operation between
Pye and other Government telecommunications research
establishments. The final outcome of Bowen's visit was that the
Pye design, using the Mullard/Philips EF50 valves was adopted as the
standard IF amplifier strip for most of the radar equipment
designed in the UK during the War. Pye Radio Limited, together
with other radio manufacturing companies in the UK, produced many
thousands of radar sets using the Pye design and the EF50 valve during
World War II. The early airborne interception radar (AI) and
air-to-surface vessel radar (ASV) receivers were manufactured by Pye,
E.K. Cole and EMI. The Pye co-axial connector was developed at
this time to allow convenient RF interconnections to be made between
the modules of airborne radar systems.
Pye Army Wireless Sets
August 1939, Pye was asked to quote for the manufacture of an Army
man-pack radio transmitter/receiver for the Infantry, which had been
designed by the Government Signals Experimental Establishment
careful consideration, Pye declined to quote for the manufacture of the
set as initially designed,
because the Company considered it too costly to manufacture and too
heavy for the application. However within 6 weeks Pye offered the
prototypes of two alternative configurations to the Ministry of
Supply. These were built in light-weight tin cases with heavy
ribbing for strength.
Eventually, after successful field trials in France, orders were placed
for one of these alternative designs and the equipment was designated
Wireless Set No.18. This set was developed by a small team, which
included Donald Hughes and William Pannell.
small quantity (about 500) of the original SEE designed sets were
manufactured by Murphy Radio and called Wireless Set No.8, however
Royal Signals figures show that by the end of hostilities, 76,000 of
the improved Wireless Set No.18 design had been made by Pye and other
manufacturers (Invicta Radio - another Stanley family company, Murphy
Radio, Bush Radio and EKCO).
Hughes was also the principal designer of the famous Pye Wireless Sets
No.19, which soon became the standard UK radio set for armoured
fighting vehicles (AFV) used by the British Army and also in many other
vehicles and ground station applications.
For a time Pye was the only manufacturer of WS19, but eventually three
other British and six other companies in the United States, Canada and
Australia were also contracted to manufacture the MKII and MKIII
Wireless Sets No.19. in order to increase production. Some of
these later sets produced under the Lend-Lease scheme had dual
English/Russian front panel and dial markings. A total of about 115,000 WS19
sets were manufactured during the war by the various companies.
Sets No.19 contained three different communications systems in one case
- two separate transmitter-receivers and an intercommunications
The main 'A' set, which was used for medium and long range
communications covered the frequency range 2.5 to 8.0MHz in two bands,
and the 'B' set, which operated between 229 to 241MHz for short range
communication between tank commanders.
The 'B' set (which fulfilled part of the specification of Wireless Set
No. 24) could be claimed as the first ever Very High Frequency (VHF)
mobile radio that was built in quantity by Pye.
It is not generally
known that early in the war, Pye also designed a VHF hand-held
radiotelephone for Infantry Soldiers to use for communication with the
WS19 'B' set in tanks. This was intended to fulfill part of the
specification of Wireless Set No. 24, and was proposed to the
Government in a secret report dated 9 November 1942. However, this revolutionary concept was turned down.
is believed that samples of this hand-held radio were sent to the USA
with the Tizard Mission, and shared with the Canadians. Just
after the war, in 1946, this Pye hand-held two-way radio was featured in
a cinema newsreel film to demonstrate how such advanced communications
concepts could be utilised in the future by the general public for
personal radio communications.
1941 and 1942 Pye designed the Wireless Set No. 22, primarily intended
as a general purpose low-powered radio for non-armoured vehicles and
which could also be used as a man-pack or as an animal-pack set.
W.M. Pannell also led the design of this set, and Pye and the Mitcham Works
factory of Philips Lamps Ltd
manufactured a total of 55,000 of this equipment during the war.
add-on linear amplifier called Amplifier RF No 2 was also designed by
Pye to boost the transmit power output of the WS19 and WS22 equipments.
military wireless set funded, developed and manufactured (only) by Pye during World War II,
was the Wireless Set No. 62, intended as a replacement for WS22.
This was a lightweight, low-power (0.5 to 1.5W), high frequency mobile
transceiver covering the frequency range 1.6 to 10.0MHz in two bands.
It was constructed mainly of aluminium and was designed to withstand
immersion in water for up to 5 minutes. The British Army adopted this
as a vehicle mounted station for un-armoured vehicles, as a man-pack
station for use by airborne troops, and also as a portable animal-pack
station. W.M. Pannell was again the principal designer and
started work on the design in early 1944. First prototypes were
demonstrated at RAF Leeming Bar in Yorkshire in June 1944, and shortly
after this Pye was given the go-ahead for quantity manufacture.
In February 1945, about 200 equipments had been delivered, and at the
end of the war Pye Ltd had manufactured 7,350 WS62 units.
the war, Pye continued to supply the WS62 to various armed forces and
later sold the WS62 commercially as a rugged HF transceiver. This
remarkable set was still in volume production in 1955 and was finally
removed from the Company product catalogue only in 1965.
early 1944 Pye finalised the drawings of a portable communications
receiver type PCR which covered long, medium and short wave
bands. This equipment was based on the receiver section of the
Wireless Set No.19 "A" set, together with an external PSU and internal
loudspeaker. This receiver is often mis-described as a forces
entertainment receiver, which became its later post-war role.
However, according to wartime Pye employees, it was intended to be used
for reception of Army information broadcasts by troops in Operation
D-Day invasion, and was also dropped to Resistance Groups in Norway,
Holland and France. Pye was contracted to produce 17,000 of these
receivers, and Philips Lamps also manufactured the design as did
Invicta Radio, London, a company managed by C.O. Stanley's sister,
Donald H. Hughes has now been identified as the design authority
for the PCR receiver family from original blueprints.
also designed and produced the receiver section of the transportable
microwave link, Wireless Set No. 10. GEC and TMC were responsible
for the transmitters and the multiplex filtering respectively.
This advanced equipment was the worlds first multi-channel Time
Division Multiplex (TDM) microwave radio relay link, and operated in
the 4GHz frequency band. WS10 was used by the British Army following the D-Day
invasion to maintain
communications back across Europe and over the English Channel to
Jersey and then by land-line to London. Pye was initially
contracted to produce 400 of these units, and the design was shared
with USA companies who subsequently pioneered commercial microwave
links after the war.
During the War, Pye Limited expressed great
dissatisfaction with the Ministry of Supply procurement system, which
led to other companies being given contracts to manufacture larger
quantities of the Pye designs than Pye itself. This led to an increasing reluctance by the
Company to accept military design contracts (as opposed to military
manufacturing contracts). As a result, the design of Wireless Set
No.62 was privately funded by Pye Ltd, and subsequently only
manufactured by Pye Ltd over its 20 year production life.
Following the War, Pye Ltd largely (but not
completely) withdrew from the military supply field to concentrate on
commercial two-way radio, trading as Pye Telecom, and also industrial
electronics and domestic radio and TV.