Title:
Two oral history interviews with Gerald Isted, past employee of the Marconi Company
Level: Category
Sound Archive
Level: Fonds
MISCELLANEOUS TAPES
Scope and Content:
Two interviews recorded with Gerald Isted about his work for the Marconi Company from the 1920s to the 1950s, and memories of his early life in Terling and Chelmsford.

Side A of original cassette tape – First interview (c. March 1991)
Part 1: His early life; summary of his career; further details about his childhood in Terling including education in Terling and at Chelmsford Grammar School [King Edward VI Grammar School]; first job on leaving school working with his brother [Harold] manufacturing radio equipment in the 1920s; move to work at the Marconi Company, working at the New Street factory [Chelmsford]; moved to Marconi House in London to join Marconi’s staff (4 minutes 35 seconds).
Part 2: His responsibilities at Marconi: researching the beam system of wireless communication and multiplex device to overcome fading; sent to Bridgwater [Somerset] to work on beam station, receiving station for international communication; lack of training at the company; Marconi’s own personal work and laboratory at Marconi House; impressions of Marconi as an employer; other significant members of the team, the Kemp family (6 minutes 18 seconds).
Part 3: Marconi’s emphasis on developing technology regardless of cost; company’s focus on short-wave radio communication; Marconi’s preference for working alone; continuation of long-wave communication alongside short-wave; ongoing development of valves; Marconi’s aim to broadcast at higher frequencies (6 minutes 2 seconds).
Part 4: Transfer of work to Italy in 1929; Marconi’s marriage to his second wife [Maria] Cristina [Bezzi-Scali]; support from [Benito] Mussolini; discussion about Marconi’s political views; Isted’s move to Italy with Marconi in 1929; his time on the Elettra yacht researching microwaves; first telecommunication circuit linking to the Vatican (7 minutes 18 seconds).
Part 5: First observation of radar effect; public demonstrations in Italy; Marconi’s death; Isted’s return to England when sanctions were imposed on Italy; his work there (5 minutes 21 seconds).
Part 6: Work at the Marconi Company during the Second World War; managing RAF [Royal Air Force] and Wren [Women of the Royal Naval Services] personnel; ISIB (Inter Services Ionospheric Bureau) supplying propagation data to Allied forces to aid their radiocommunications; changes in the Marconi Company over time, shift away from being family affair; work on development of television stations in Britain; installation of first television transmitter in Croydon; challenges of covering the whole of the United Kingdom; ongoing developments in technology (9 minutes 13 seconds).
Part 7: Reflections on use of technology for warfare (2 minutes 56 seconds).

Side B of original cassette – Second interview 28 March 1991
Part 1: Memories of Terling in his childhood, feudal nature under Rayleigh family; establishment of Rayleigh Arms; visit of Lady Rayleigh’s brother, then Prime Minister [possibly Lord Balfour]; agricultural focus of village; attending school (5 minutes 22 seconds).
Part 2: Memories of headmaster and deputy headmistress; morning parades and drills; subjects studied in school including handwriting, religious studies, singing; move to grammar school in c. 1914-1915 (7 minutes 52 seconds).
Part 3: Time spent at grammar school, subjects taught there and style of teaching; schoolteachers called up to serve in First World War, replaced by women; science classes; left school aged 18 (5 minutes 5 seconds).
Part 4: More details about working with his brother manufacturing radio equipment; manufacture of single valve wireless set; sold at exhibition in London; working out of the Rayleigh Arms; story of getting job at Marconi Company after Mr Tilly and Mr Ward saw their aerial on fishing trip to Terling (5 minutes 45 seconds).
Part 5: Started working for Marconi’s in 1923; travelled to Chelmsford by bicycle; how New Street assembly shop worked; women employed in winding shop; chosen to work in London; wages when working at New Street; challenge of paying for lodgings in Chelmsford (5 minutes 43 seconds).
Part 6: Spent 18 months in London developing multiplex; sent to Bridgwater to test system; lack of competition; time spent in Spain for commission for telephony circuit from the king; move to Italy in 1929 (5 minutes 20 seconds).
Part 7: First stay on Elettra when it was moored in Plymouth; further details of his time in Italy, including Marconi’s second marriage and support from Mussolini; Marconi’s place in England and Italy; ongoing research to extend range of transmissions [pause in recording]; Isted’s return to England in 1935; friendly attitude of Italians to the English (7 minutes 22 seconds).
Part 8: Changes in Italy under Mussolini; time spent at Great Baddow from 1935-1939 developing the site there; outstation in Broomfield; move to Baddow to get away from sources of interference; move of London staff to Baddow in 1939; work in the ISIB [ends abruptly] (7 minutes 17 seconds).
Dates of Creation:
c. March 1991
Extent:
91 minutes 35 seconds
Creator Name:
M Scollan
Admin History:
Gerald Isted was was born in Terling in 1904. He grew up in the village then attended King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford. On leaving school he joined his brother's venture manufacturing wireless equipment, before both were recruited to work at the Marconi Company in 1923. In his service for the Company, he worked in Chelmsford, Great Baddow, London, Bridgwater (Somerset), Spain, and Italy. During the Second World War, he was part of the Inter Services Ionospheric Bureau, supplying military forces with information about conditions in order to improve their radio communication. He was also involved in the installation of television transmitters across the UK, early observations of the radar effect, and the beam system of wireless communication.
Archivist Note:
Catalogue description amended by SJM 05/06/2020
Custodial History:
The second interview was recorded on 28 March 1991. The first interview was likely recorded shortly before.
Copyright:
Copyright ESVA and Gerald Isted

Key terms

TypeKey termsDescription
Subjects Engineering INTERVIEWS WITH GERALD ISTED OF THE MARCONI COMPANY
Subjects Engineering INTERVIEWS WITH GERALD ISTED OF THE MARCONI COMPANY
Subjects Telecommunications INTERVIEWS WITH GERALD ISTED OF THE MARCONI COMPANY
Personal Names Gerald
Isted
INTERVIEWS WITH GERALD ISTED OF THE MARCONI COMPANY
Personal Names Marchese
Guglielmo
Marconi
INTERVIEWS WITH GERALD ISTED OF THE MARCONI COMPANY Reflections on working for Marconi
Place Names Europe, Italy INTERVIEWS WITH GERALD ISTED OF THE MARCONI COMPANY Working in Italy during the 1930s
Place Names Terling INTERVIEWS WITH GERALD ISTED OF THE MARCONI COMPANY Memories of growing up in Terling in the early 20th century
Document Types Sound recording INTERVIEWS WITH GERALD ISTED OF THE MARCONI COMPANY
Institutions Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company Ltd INTERVIEWS WITH GERALD ISTED OF THE MARCONI COMPANY