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Duxford Radio Society

Imperial War Museum, Duxford, England 

DRS Origins & History

Updated 15-01-2011

Duxford Radio Society - The Radio Section at IWM Duxford

Major John BrownThe Duxford Radio Society (DRS) was co-founded by Major John Brown, the designer of the "B2 Suitcase Set" and many other items of radio equipment used for espionage and other clandestine purposes.

The DRS origins stem from June 1984 when Richard Pope, G4HXH met up with Major John Brown, G3EUR at Duxford Airfield where an informal association of Special Forces Signals Groups operated a special event radio station to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of "D" Day.
In May 1985 when a similar group met and operated GB4SOE for the 40th Anniversary of "VE" Day, it was remarked that despite the various Air Displays, Military Vehicles Displays, and the Imperial War Museums intent to restore the WWII Operations Room at Duxford, there was a forgotten side of the Second World War.  Namely, how did all those people in the Armed Forces communicate with one another to get the orders and information back and forth to those on the front line, on land, sea and air?  Wireless was of course the answer, but to what extent was this acknowledged in official museum circles?

The years 1939-45 saw great strides made in radio and electronics with many new concepts and inventions; VHF radio communications, Radar, I.F.F, and the GEE navigational system are just a few, but in the UK these events were not celebrated in any significant way and are still not today in 2011.

The group decided to try and persuade the Imperial War Museum to acknowledge the great advances in radio communications of this period, and to set up an area to display typical examples of these equipments to the public.  In September 1986 an agreement was reached between the Imperial War Museum and the newly formed Duxford Airfield Radio Society (D.A.R.S.) in which the latter would provide a restoration service, assist the Museum in exhibiting radio equipment for public display and operate an amateur radio station, for which the call sign GB2IWM was obtained.  From this time, the Society began its co-operation with the Imperial War Museum Department of Exhibits and Fire-arms to produce displays appropriate to the special events for which Duxford has become well known.

The name was changed to Duxford Radio Society in July 1989, and was formally constituted in 1990 as an unincorporated association with the above purpose.

Today the Society forms the Radio Section at IWM Duxford and has evolved to serve the IWM and the interests of its members by active work in documentation, collation, conservation and restoration, by staging exhibitions of military communications artifacts, by publishing a four-monthly Journal containing articles on specific historic equipment or techniques, as well as the daily operation of radio station GB2IWM by a larger roster of volunteer operators in order to demonstrate radio communications in action to the public.

DRS now operates from Buildings 177 and 178 at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford which are located either side of the large Gibraltar Gun, and adjacent to the American Air Museum.  Building 177 houses the radio station and a fixed display of radio equipment.  Building 178 is the inter-active display and demonstration room, which houses an active display of working conserved or restored radios. Opening times are dependent on the availability of volunteer members, and the buildings are only open to the public when DRS members are in attendance, for reasons of security, health and safety.

Radio station GB2IWM operates mainly single side band (SSB) transmission or Morse code using modern equipment, but on other days (or by prior arrangement), especially during the major Duxford display events when flying aircraft and military vehicles draw large numbers of spectators, older wartime equipment can be demonstrated using continuous wave (CW) Morse Code or amplitude modulation (AM).

Volunteers who wish to become Working Members and obtain free staff-access to the site must be registered as volunteers with the Imperial War Museum, Duxford and contribute 12 working visits per year on approved projects.

The Duxford Radio Society welcomes applications for membership, particularly from those with experience in military electronics or radio communications, or who are competent to work safely on high voltage thermionic valve equipment (valves are termed 'tubes' by our USA cousins).  Also those who are licensed to operate the Amateur Radio station, or who can contribute to the range of Society activities, either from their past experience or by utilising their present skills on a variety of Society projects.  Please contact the Secretary for more information.
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V2.00  Updated  15-01-2011