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Duxford Radio Section

Imperial War Museum, Duxford, England 

Origins & History

Updated 15-12-2018

History of the Radio Section at IWM Duxford

Major John
                    BrownThe Radio Section at IWM Duxford was originally formed by the Duxford Radio Society, which 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 during WW2.

The operation at Duxford stems from June 1984 when Richard Pope, G4HXH met up with Major John Brown, G3EUR at Duxford Airfield.  John Brown  had organised an informal association of Special Forces Signals Groups to operate a special event radio station to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of 'D' Day.
In May 1985 when a similar group met and operated radio station 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 in 1985.

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 equipment 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 (and others) to produce radio communications 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.  At the request of the IWM, from 1992 to 2009 the group operated as the Radio Section of the Duxford Aviation Society (DAS).  From 1st April 2009 IWM removed the Radio Section volunteers from DAS and the Duxford Radio Society volunteers became the IWM Radio Section.   In 2017 the assets and activities of the Duxford Radio Society were transferred to the Duxford Radio Trust, a registered charity, which continued to provide the function of the volunteer radio section. 

Today the Trust forms the Radio Section at IWM Duxford and has evolved to serve the IWM and the interests of its volunteers and supporters 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 explainers/operators in order to demonstrate radio communications in action to the public.

The Radio Section operates from Buildings 177 and 178 at the Imperial War Museums, 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 aviation related radio equipment. Opening times are dependent on the availability of volunteer members, and the buildings are only open to the public when Radio Section volunteers are in attendance, for reasons of security, health and safety.

Radio station GB2IWM operates single side band (SSB) transmission or Morse code or amplitude modulation using modern equipment, using both modern and vintage equipment.

Suitably qualified persons who wish to become working volunteers and obtain free staff-access to the Duxford airfield site 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 Section welcomes applications 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) and who wish to operate as historical/technical explainers to the visiting public.  Those who have a valid radio transmitting license can operate the exhibition radio station GB2IWM.  Please contact the Membership Secretary or the IWM Volunteer co-ordinator for more information.
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V2.00  Updated  11-12-2018