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The Editor

The Editor, John Bathgate

I joined the GPO in 1950 as a Y2YC ie an apprentice on a two year training course. This was in Southampton. During those two years I was employed on fitting work in subscriber's premises and then on exchange maintenance. I spent time in UAX12s, 13s and 14s and in a Siemens 16 satellite exchange. I ended my two years in the transmission group. During that time I went twice to Bristol for the Youth's A and B courses at Shirehampton Regional Training School.

My two years National Service was with the Royal Air Force. I went to RAF Locking, near Weston Super Mare for trade training as a Ground Wireless Fitter and was then posted to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire on the maintenance of transmitters, receivers and control tower equipment. The radio gear was all valve of course, but the control tower had familiar relays and uniselectors in use.

When I returned to the GPO in 1954 I was placed on exchange construction work as a T2A. I worked on most types of equipment, all the UAXs, the new satellite equipment with discriminators and finished that phase of my career making the large changes required for Group Charging in readiness for the coming of Subscriber Trunk Dialling (STD). By that time I had been promoted to Technical Officer (TO).

Around 1960 I moved to Clerk of the Works (Auto) duties installing the first STD equipment and moving on to new exchanges and the changeovers associated with bringing them into service. These were very interesting times and really honed my knowledge of Strowger equipment

In 1963 I moved into the Internal Planning Office in Southampton, mostly covering a host of rather boring miscellaneous duties. However I must have been appreciated as I passed the Limited Competion for Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE) and spent six months during 1964 in the Taunton Area on general area training. 1964 was a lovely summer and I spent much of the time out with external staff enjoying the Quantocks and Exmoor. However I did find out what most of the non engineering staff did for a living.

At the end of my area training I was promoted to an AEEs post on external planning in Bristol. I found this to be an odd decision as I was a Strowger man through and through and had very little knowledge of external practices. But I was wrong. External Planning was probably the best job I ever had. With internal work, the best you could do was to follow the specification exactly, but external work allowed you to develop your own solutions to each job. In fact, when I went on my external planning course, I found that twelve planners would come up with twelve different solutions to planning an external network. I spent ten years on external work covering a very wide spectrum of jobs from simple housing developments to major exchange transfers and finally to planning the junction cables that run between exchanges.

By the 70s digital techniques were starting to appear and cables had to be prepared for Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) circuits and my internal background was a great help. Fibre optics were also beginning to be installed in a small way to the larger business centres.

In 1974 I was further promoted to Executive Engineer with a much larger staff to care about. I had the Bristol Area Stores Group and the planning and coordination aspects of the Customer Works Group under my care. Stores was interesting and during my time in charge my staff made a great deal of improvements to the layouts and use of the stores. I was also required to get to grips with the Customer Works Group and introduce external planning techniques so that the group could be wholly responsible for the very large business sites in the Area.

By the early 80s the demand for private circuits (PCs) and the associated services was becoming phenomenal and my other commitments were removed so that I could concentrate on the provision of PCs. By 1984/5 results were excellent but after that time Bristol was joined to Gloucester to form a new larger Severnside District. The new combined district never managed to achieve excellent results in the provision of Private Services and this was the first time that I had a job that was a disappointment.

In 1988 I had the opportunity to retire early and jumped at the chance.

I had little to do with telephony until the early 2000s when I heard that the Dean Forest Railway was looking for help with their UAX13. I came along to see if I could help and immediately got involved with the Electrical and Telecoms Group.

Bernard Wade - my colleague on DFR Telecoms

My first major job with my DFR colleague, Bernard Wade, was in cabling and commissioning the second "A" unit on the Norchard UAX13 and developing the museum telephone exhibits. Since then we have extended the cable network along the railway. The exchange and the public address equipment have been interconnected and various other pieces of relay type equipment have been designed and introduced. I have built the new exchange at Parkend based on PABX4 equipment recovered from the Mid Hants Railway.

Bernard unfortunately died in May 2007.

In 2010, the electrical side of the group disbanded and we were only responsible for telecoms, PAT testing and minor electrical repairs.
In 2013 the group had grown sufficiently for it to be split into electrical and telecoms.
In 2015 the group ceased all electrical work and concentrated on telecoms and related low voltage systems.

John Bathgate


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This page was last updated on
16th May 2016