The 1940s BH Control Room

The 1940s Broadcasting House Control Room - some memories

Knitting patterns....

One evening shift, one of the lady TOs, who was a little short sighted, managed to plug up a circuit on TV/OBs with the double ender going through the handle of her handbag and didn't notice till the end of the shift. There were no listen jacks to get round the problem so she had to empty her bag and leave it there! - Barry Taylor
Power mad....

Grade One
For major events of national importance a second programme chain all the way from source to transmitter was set up for use in case of a technical problem.
For Grade One broadcasts it was necessary to run the standby generators and someone from Control Room had to go into the "out of bounds area" to check that the electricians had got the volts and frequency right and in phase with the public mains supply. I once attended this ritual and it was obvious that the electricians knew exactly what to do and indeed had their own supervisors breathing down their necks just to make sure!! - Barry Taylor

By about 1962 the new Control Room had taken over all functions but all circuits were still tied across with double enders in the old control room. A person of no importance (me on this Saturday) was allocated to sit in the old CR, to stare at the double enders and answer the phones. Some men came in to dismantle the old diesel starter rheostats on the wall. They were huge handles wiping across stud quadrants. After a while, when, admittedly things had gone extrememly quiet, I got a phone call on the public phone
Assistant Technical Operations Manager.
from an extremely agitated ATOM in the new CR where there had been a total loss of all programmes. I happened to be looking at the electricians when the penny dropped - they had killed ALL the power to the amplifier bays and the engineering phones rather then just what they were working on! - Andrew Warrington
A different sort of power mad....

The old control room was a pretty filthy, smelly and dusty place. They were days when the ATOM would shout "put your cans on boy" to anyone not apparently glued to their "bay", whether or not there was anything to listen to! - Andrew Warrington
Comfort break....

In the basement there was a corridor that led to the balcony in the Control Room. At the start of this corridor was a gents toilet (it may well still be there) with a sign on the door "CONTROL ROOM STAFF ONLY". - Barry Taylor

When 3E was first decorated as a chapel, they wanted to have it consecrated but abandoned the idea when they discovered that consecration goes down to the ground and this loo is directly under it. - Mike Chessher
You can't get the wood....

Some of the jackstrips on Incomings were, or had been, made of wood. I remember someone telling me that the wood surrounding the BM jack got so worn, where over the years people had 'missed' the hole, that one evening the wood gave way and the jack fell out. - Barry Taylor

Some of the amplifiers were built on plywood chassis, I suppose to save metal during the war. They had all sagged into gentle curves with the valves leaning inwards towards each other. Mind you some of those amps had distortion and noise figures which would put some modern stuff in the shade. - Andrew Warrington

When the BBC started mounting amplifiers etc. on bays in the late 1920s they decided to use a panel width of 22 1/8 inches. It was some few years before the BBC changed to the 19 inch standard (now a world standard) and the majority of bays in the 1940s Control Room were 22 inch jobs. There was even one 22 inch bay in the 1960s Control Room to hold the VFLAs (Volume Folding and Limiting Amplifiers) used for automatic monitoring of the Tacolneston transmitter. - Barry Taylor

The 22 1/8" panel width originated with the design of the relay switching systems used in BH in 1932 and in the various regional control rooms. These relays, of which a large number were required, were all mounted on Post Office relay mountings type 4/17. In addition to the relays, each amplifier bay had a similar relay mounting to carry the relays for switching the amplifier battery supplies. These P.O mountings were 22 1/8" by 2 23/32" and each carried 17 relays.

Since no panel mounted amplifiers or other units were available, all had to be newly designed. It was logical that they should be the same width as the relay mountings.

The Post Office at that time, 1920s, used quite a number of different rack sizes in addition to 22 1/8". - Les "LG" Smith.
Night shifts....

As a new boy I was shown how to dismantle the backs of the tubular chairs (SP9s, I think) so that you could put three in a row and slide yourself through the backs and along the seats to make a bed for quiet night shifts! They were then reassembled in the morning. Of course you couldn't get up in a hurry! - Andrew Warrington