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Air Interception radar like this Mk VIII version were fitted to Mosquitos and Beufighters. Too late for the blitz, but from 1942 onwards they kept Britains skies clear of German bombers and helped take the air offensive to Europe. 8500 such sets were manufacture by EKCO at its factory in Wiltshire. Further development continued after the war with them being fitted to jet interceptors like the Hawker Hunter.  Tail mounted versions were also fitted to UKs V bombers.


3000 ASV (Anti Surface Vessel) radars were also developed and built which enabled the Fleet Air Arm to defeat Nazi U Boats.

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A natural technological development of the wartime AI radar was systems that made enormous advances in the airliner safety, ie weather radar. As an apprentice draughtsman I was involved in the development of the advanced E390 system for the supersonic airliner, the Concorde.

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EKCO
in WAR and Peace

Development work on airborne radar began in 1939, and EKCO, because of its outstanding reputation for quality and innovation, was requested by the Air Ministry to participate in the research and development or AI (Air Interception) and ASV (Anti Surface Vessel) radars. Also radio sets were modified to listen to the enemy. These were used to intercept the Enigma codes being decrypted at Bletchley Park. All this was of course top secret work. Although under the Southend site a maze of  bomb proof  shelters was constructed, most of the wartime development and production was moved to a stately home near Malmsebury in Wiltshire, while in 1942 the large assembly plant in Southend was used for assembling wiring looms for Lancaster bombers.

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The WS46 Man Pack portable transmitter /receiver was designed and manufactured for Commandoes



Along with domestic radios EKCO was at the forefront of car radio design like this 1934 example. Initially the motor industry stayed clear of this innovation except for Rolls Royce who fitted them as an optional extra. Eventually however, car manufacturers were won over, in particular Ford with its base down the road from Southend in Dagenham.

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After TV and radio production ceased EKCO at the main Southend site was split into three companies, although they shared facilities. These were EKCO Instruments and EKCO Avionics and EKCO Plastics. Whilst Avionics focused on airborne systems, Instruments were involved in many divergent technologies, in particular Nucleonics manufacturing radiation dose meters, scintillation counters and paper mill automation as well as crane safe load indicators.

I am particularly proud of serving my apprenticeship at EKCO and of my father Frederick Petchey who managed the coil winding department for most of the 40+ years he worked for the company.

 

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