Interview with Malcolm Frost, 18 May 2021
Level: Category
Sound Archive
Level: Fonds
Level: Series
Communicating Connections
Scope and Content:
Malcolm Frost [MF] interviewed by Laura Owen [LO] about working at the Marconi Company from 1961 to 1998. Recorded remotely via Squadcast.

[00:00:15] LO begins the interview. MF confirms his name and date of birth. Describes joining Marconi as a technician apprentice in September 1961: his qualifications; salary; working in various locations; and training to become a draughtsman at the Marconi Drawing Office School on Springfield Place. Comments on keeping in touch with friends and how well-regarded Marconi apprenticeships were.

[00:05:00] Recalls travelling to Chelmsford from Battlesbridge on his first day and the work he did at the Drawing Office School and the Marconi Apprentice Training School. Mentions the noise levels changing in the machine shop around women and the higher number of female workers in the drawing office.

[00:10:00] Talks about the atmosphere in the drawing office and working with other divisions on teleprints. Comments on the teleprinter project being scrapped and asking Robert Telford [the managing director of Marconi] why.

[00:15:00] Mentions travelling to Kent on for the teleprinter project. Describes transferring to Basildon in 1972 and working in the surveillance division of the Electro Optical Systems Group, first as a design draughtsman and later as project designer. Comments on designing products for aircraft. Then the world leaders in stabilised platforms, including the Heli-tele system; sold to the BBC and the Iraqi air force.

[00:20:00] Describes spending five weeks in Baghdad installing Heli-teles: transporting the equipment; having an escape plan; and being taken on day trips on Fridays when fighting stopped. Then went to the Falklands. Mentions the Monument to the Unknown Soldier in Baghdad.

[00:25:00] Talks about communicating with the UK via fax from Baghdad and going on holiday in Jordan on his way home. Explains that he went with the design team; more usual for field engineers to travel.

[00:30:00] Describes adapting a design for an RAF Nimrod plane for the Falklands War: travelling to British Aerospace in Manchester with his wife; flying the equipment from Southend to RAF Kinloss on a Royal Fleet plane used by Margaret Thatcher; hearing about the bombing of Port Stanley Airport; and a trick the pilot played on him.

[00:35:00] Talks about working on contracts with the US Air Force from 1988 as programme director. Comments on working with the Americans and the challenging specifications. Recalls Boeing hiring the boardroom of the Queen Mary liner in Long Beach, Los Angeles, for a celebration dinner.

[00:40:00] Comments on visiting the US with his family, fixing infrared equipment onto fixed wing jet aircraft, and working long hours due to time differences. Moved to work in product development at BA Systems in Edinburgh, on a torpedo programme for the Royal Navy. Comments on liasing with Marconi Underwater Systems in Southampton on testing equipment.

[00:45:00] Talks about the toll of working long hours and on the American contracts. Comments that Sue Wood was the most supportive managing director he worked for at Basildon; recalls the advice she gave him.

[00:50:00] Describes volunteering for early retirement in 2001, aged 60, Comments that he misses the people but not the stress. Mentions keeping in touch with colleagues and writing articles for the Marconi Veterans Association (MVA) newsletter. Reflects on his time at Marconi.

[00:55:00] Recalls positive feedback he received and meeting a lot of good people. Describes writing a book about his experiences and tells anecdote about flying back from Philadelphia with the Financial Director. Comments on his involvement in a top-secret programme for the Ministry of Defence.

Recording note: Pause between [00:37:39] and [00:37:59].
Dates of Creation:
31 August 2021
1 hour 1 minute 21 seconds
Creator Name:
Laura Owen, interviewer
Archivist Note:
Custodial History:
Recorded for the Communicating Connections project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF).
Copyright transferred to ESVA
Physical Characteristics:
1 MP3 file
Related Unit of Description:
For a transcript of this recording, see SA 13/8/19/3
Dates of Description:
6 June 2022
Not Available:
Essex Sound and Video Archive: use digital copy available on Soundcloud