Interview with Charlie Manning, 3 June 2021
Level: Category
Sound Archive
Level: Fonds
Level: Series
Communicating Connections
Scope and Content:
Charlie Manning [CM] interviewed by Jacob McGill [JM] about working at the Marconi Company between 1962 and 1996. CM describes his various roles and promotions, the gradual decline of the company, and the general supportive and caring working community. Recorded remotely via Squadcast.

Part 1

[00:00:00] CM describes being interviewed for a job at Marconi in 1962 and becoming a wireman assembler in the electronics factory. Discusses his secondary education at Billericay Secondary School, enjoying sports, and attending night school to get maths, English and science qualifications. Tells anecdotes about various school teams.

[00:07:51] Talks about his characteristics and the influence of his upbringing in the countryside. Mentions the sports youth centre at his school and his parents’ backgrounds and jobs.

[00:12:18] Describes his first day at the training centre, befriending a fellow trainee called Ray Keeble, and the skills they were trained in each week. Mentions the tool club. Describes the mass of people and vehicles along New Street at the start and end of shifts.

[00:19:07] Comments that Marconi employed over 6,000 people at the time. Explains the layout of the New Street site and where different offices and trades were located.

[00:26:01] Recalls the sounds and smells of the factory and being sent to the raw stores. Describes the supportive culture at the factory at the time. Mentions work packages new employees were given and bonus incentives. Explains how they worked together in the workshop to get jobs done more quickly.

[00:36:29] Tells anecdotes about his mentor Roy Neville, a skilled assembler. Mentions his starting wage for a 57-hour week. Recalls how the soldered joints for every job got inspected. Describes the ‘common practice’ of fiddling the times.

[00:45:24] Lists projects he worked on, including Mark V cameras and jobs for Marconi Marine and Marconi Radar. Describes meeting his wife when she was making large cable form looms at Marconi. Mentions trips and social events organised by workers, and pension schemes.

[00:54:38] Talks about Marconi being the ‘heart of the community’ in Chelmsford; like a family.

[00:59:48] Describes installing a transmitter at Crystal Palace, a television studio in Basildon for Ilford Films, and a television studio in Belfast during the height of the Troubles.

[01:09:53] Describes modifying a studio in Tyne and Tees in 1972, during the World Cup, and an installation job for Churches Television. Comments on how welcoming people were. Tells anecdote about a bad job modifying a transmitter near Newcastle.

[01:15:57] Comments that Marconi moved into making outside broadcast [OB] vans in 1973. Describes the process of building OB vans on tight deadlines down Waterhouse Lane. Later manufactured the vans at New Street after the scale of production increased and they started getting international orders.

[01:24:54] Lists people who worked on the vans and their skills. Comments on the kindness of his managers. Describes how he improved the way the vans were manufactured.

[01:37:37] Comments on the hours they worked at the time.

Part 2

[00:00:00] Talks about the development of a ‘mini mobile’ OB van and taking the first and only mini mobile to a demonstration in London. Explains how the concept failed to take off and the subsequent closure of the OB section.

[00:05:52] Describes moving on to pre-build a studio for Granada Television, which was transported to Liverpool and set up within two weeks.

[00:10:31] Then returned to the assembly workshops and was promoted to charge hand. Describes the process for manufacturing cameras and video recorders in 1975. Briefly mentions strike action carried out by the manufacturing staff over parking disputes.

[00:15:38] Mentions receiving his 25-year veteran award and taking part in the annual Marconi veterans’ reunion. Describes the reorganisation of the different sections at Marconi and the decision to create a new printed board manufacturing area within New Street. Details the process of manufacturing printed boards and being promoted to foreman in charge of running the repair section.

[00:25:55] Comments on his relationship with those he supervised, in both the OB van assembly shops and the printed board repair section.

[00:30:25] Describes incorporating the mobile radio section within the printed board section. Recalls a film crew filming his section for a documentary about mass production.

[00:36:48] Talks about his role overseeing the production of RC690 mobile radios for the Home Office. Praises the two women who worked for him. Explains how he increased production of the radio and control units by recommending the right training for operators.

[00:44:34] Describes the introduction of the Financial Status Review (FSR) at Marconi and how the increase in oversight was indicative of a general cultural change within the company. Lists the benefits (discounts, car insurance) lost at this time. Recalls a time production was shut down completely; explains how teamwork amongst the women who worked for him got production up and running again.

[00:53:13] Took on a new job running the autos solder and was promoted to senior foreman at the printed boards factory in the late 1980s. Then applied to become a production manager at the new machining department at Waterhouse Lane and was moved to the components division. Describes the struggle within the department to improve its performance.

[01:08:10] Describes the decision to replace the manual machines with a new machining centre, a Matsura, and how redundancies were made due to the reduced manual capacity required in the machining, sheet metal and tool room departments.

[01:19:23] Reflects on making long-serving, skilled employees redundant. Explains the introduction of a process acount, a new accounting system. Talks about adjusting to the new structure of the company and designing telecommunications street cabinets.

[01:26:05] Explains why he applied for voluntary redundancy. Praises the operations director in his department and describes how he supported his work. Talks about leaving the company in 1996.

[01:35:30] Comments on his strong relationships with colleagues, even at the end of his career, and his sadness on his last day of work. Given three months gardening leave. Lists the colleagues who had the most influence on him during his career at Marconi.

[01:46:03] Reflects on his time at Marconi and his best and worst day at the company.
Dates of Creation:
3 June 2021
1 hour 40 minutes 11 seconds
Creator Name:
Jacob Magill, interviewer
Archivist Note:
Custodial History:
Recorded for the Communicating Connections project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF).
Physical Characteristics:
2 MP3 files
Related Unit of Description:
For a transcript of this recording, see SA 13/8/11/3
Dates of Description:
6 June 2022
Not Available:
Digital item(s). For access please email ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk