Tony Bridgewater

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Interview Date(s): 
28 Jun 1990
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Born 1908, Tony  describes his early childhood and schooling; his father got a job in Canada and so the family moved to Toronto where he went to the University of Tonto, aged 16. His father’s job folded so they came back to the UK and he went to the Wireless Telegraphy School (Marconi) and was padded out and went to sea as a Third Wireless Officer, didn’t see a future, and via his father’s contact over Baird Company share issue, joined Baird Company in 1928. He describes his early experiences with Baird’s and then he joined the BBC to transmit the original 30 line television transmissions. He describes the early days of Alexandra Palace and the close down for war, and he then goes on with his wartime experiences. He then talks about his role in the reopening of BBC television services after the war and his becoming the engineer in charge of the newly formed OB (Outside Broadcast) Unit and then his rise to become chief engineer of the television service.


Tony Bridgewater Side 1

Alan Lawson  0:03  

The copyright of this recording is vested in the ACTT History Project. Tony Bridgewater, senior BBC Television engineer, pioneer television engineer. Interviewer, Norman Swallow, and Alan Lawson recorded on the 28th of June 1990. Side one

Norman Swallow  0:39  

So, first of all, Tony, when and where were you born?

Tony Bridgewater  0:45  

I was born on the first of June 1908. In Sidcup, Kent, 

Norman Swallow  0:53  

And schooling ?

Tony Bridgewater  0:58  

Where shall we start?  The early schooling was in World War One. And was one or two different schools, hardly worth mentioning, I think. I went to a very nice, quiet good prep school at the age of 11, just after the war finished, in 1919, at Broadstairs, Three years there . Then went to Cranbrook School in Kent. Which was then a grammar school, Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, it's now a bit different, independent and so on. I only had one year there, because my father had come back from war World War One to find his job missing. You see, it had gone. He had previously worked in the Financial Times, which my family owned.  My grandfather, and two of my  grandfather's sons, and my father being one of them had worked there. Well, then it while, the war was on my grandfather died and the paper was sold and they weren't interested in offering jobs back to the former Bridgewater family, you see. So my father had various odd jobs. He was really a financial - well he was a, he was a journalist - but economics and finance were his subject. He had various odd jobs. I won't go into that. But one in particular, took him to Canada to be secretary to a goldmine there. And that happened in 1924 or there abouts, 23 perhaps. And soon after he got there, he said, it's all fine here.  Told my mother to sell up and bring myself and my sister out to Canada you see. So hence, I had this one year at Cranbrook School was taken to Canada, where we settled in Toronto and went to a school there called a Collegiate Institute, North Toronto Collegiate Institute. I still think it's something like what we'd here call a comprehensive.  It was a state school, a state school. Well, my sister and I both went coeducational, new experience, of course, in those days. And I had a year there which took me to the age of 16. And at the end of that year, I passed enough examinations to get into Toronto University. That was a bit young and I did go to the university, I didn't enjoy it terribly, because most of the students were older. I felt different from them in various ways, particularly being English or not being able to play ice hockey or do all the things that Canadians do you know, even talk like them. I felt very conspicuous, rather shy as I still am. And, but that is less that only lasted a year.

Norman Swallow  4:26  

What were you studying? Actually,

Tony Bridgewater  4:27  

I was studying a strange course, the name was Commerce and Finance. That was my father's idea, I think or perhaps he thought it was the only one I could cope with with my particular exam results. But his job failed. That was after two years that would have been two or three years, and the mine turned out to be not a good mine at all, but a pretty dud one and he had, we had to come back to England, with our tails between our legs. He thought he'd better get back to England ,we had friends and family and more chance of getting a better job. So, we came home on steerage which is quite an experience.  Ship called Minnedosa .  Then we arrived and of course had usual welcomes from the family and so on. Having got back, well I should mention perhaps to lead into my subsequent career became,  while in Canada, I became mad on wireless. In the very few first few months there I made a crystal set and got it working. I... The only wireless I had ever heard before was just at school in Kent. Cranbrook where they had an old army set for the OTC which I was in there, given to them by the army ex army, you know, thing. And I remember hearing this would be you know, 22, 23 some music tinkling away you know, I'm thinking that was very thrilling.  I suppose it was 2LO. And I got very keen on making making first of all my crystal set, and then what I'd saved up enough money and knew what to do. I bought a A valve you see, one valve and added that and got an amplifier. And I used to listen in with this valve to the American stations - well there were a few Canadians, quite a lot by the end -  of American stations, particularly KDKA Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which was one of the famous early stations over there. And I was really rather hooked on on radio. And so when we got back to England, having now had to give up my university course you see my wish was to do something in radio. I should of course, have gone straight to an English university and learned the job properly, you see. But my father's situation being what it was then, he was still looking for a job, took him about a year to find a decent job. Finally, he got it... exchange, City Editor of the Exchange Telegraph Company, and remained that ever since the rest of his life. But that took some while. Meanwhile, they couldn't quite think what to do with me, and my father thought I want to go into banking; I even had an offer of a bank clerk's job. But my mother said 'no, Tony wants to do radio'. They gave in and I went then to the London Telegraph Training College in Earls Court where they trained students to be sea-going wireless operators. Which meant you had to learn the rudiments of electricity and magnetism and wireless, you know, but it's very early days, you know, spark sets and all that. But they had all this equipment, which we were trained on; duplicates of Marconi equipment that would be on a ship. So after a year, we sat for the Postmaster General's First Class Certificate of Proficiency in Radio, Wireless Telegraphy. And I passed see, so I then immediately wrote to the Marconi International Marine Communication Company who provided the operators or most of them for ships. And soon was offered a position on a ship which was going to New Zealand. Is this too detailed?

Norman Swallow  8:59  


Tony Bridgewater  9:00  

You can cut it anyway. A ship called Temeraire. The SS Temeraire  and I was the third wireless operator, there were three you see, three watches you do four on, eight off (?) I think that was it. Because that fill the (inaudible)... eight hours?

Norman Swallow  9:18  

 Yes it would. 

Tony Bridgewater  9:21  

Or you know, day and night, depending where you were on. And learn, learn what to do, and did it and we made our way and it took about five or six weeks, you know, through the Panama Canal to Wellington, New Zealand and round the coast, both islands North and South. Had a bit of time ashore, doing that and so on. Met one or two, well met one friend in particular who had been at the college with me he was on another ship and we happen to be in the same port at the same time. Dennis Kirk, who joined the BBC later on. Well then I we came back to England and they gave me another ship, a coastal ship, well it was P&O ship that went round Antwerp and a few ports abroad but not far. And and in England too. Immingham I think it was, places like that. But not long, months or two voyage. Then they said you must now go on some ship or other, that's going to the Far East. And we'll be trading between Far East ports for three years without coming home proper. Well meanwhile, I'd heard from my fellow wireless operators, the other two, all sorts of stories about what a life it was, you know, and no future in it and so on. So they'd rather talked me out of the idea of making a career at it. And I thought, three years away from home and still only, I wasn't 19 yet you see. And I didn't relish this very much. I thought that might write me off forever. You know.

Norman Swallow  11:26  

What were they? What was the kind of what was the wage?

Tony Bridgewater  11:29  

Oh the wage was 35 shillings a week? I think it was. It might have only been 30. Yes, I can't exactly remember but that that sort of thing. 

Norman Swallow  11:43  

Yes. Yes.

Tony Bridgewater  11:45  

 Something like that. Yes. You were found (?) of course.  You were an officer, you were a ship's officer. A junior one, the most junior I suppose. But you, we messed with the officers and had fun. We had quite a nice time. And and of course, the first ship was a passenger ship, the Temeraire, so mixed mixed in a bit. Anyway, I had only a few days to.. 

Norman Swallow  12:10  

make your mind up, 

Tony Bridgewater  12:10  

...make my mind up, you see, the ship was due to sail. So I rushed things when I picked up the paper and look for advertisements and things, rushed into a place in Regent Street called the General Radio Company where they wanted some assistant. Saw a man called Morphey (sp?) there

Norman Swallow  12:13  

 They had advertised had they?

Tony Bridgewater  12:24  

It was advertised and wanted a sales assistant or something. So I saw this chap, he gave me the job. So I immediately wrote resignation to the Marconi Company and got this job. Well, it was quite a... it's since become well known because it had one two clever research people there. Particularly a man named Walton, who had a lot to do with intelligence during the war, I think, and so on, and television too, in an inventive kind of way. However, that's by the way. I was just in a showroom in Regents Street selling radio sets to customers, you see. General Radio it was called. And then we moved to some new showrooms down the road near where Austin Reeds is now. Well, all that went on for about less than a year, I suppose. And during that time, I was wanting to get into more technical kind of work. And through friends, I got an introduction to a man who was head of Research at Dollis Hill, the Post Office Research Station; a man called Robinson. He pulled the strings a bit and got me appointed as a youth-in- training you see, oh, I had to pass a medical. So sorry, I had to pass medical for that. But I scraped through.  If we do, but scraped through. I was stationed at Northolt, which is not far away. 

Norman Swallow  14:06  

Where the airport is or what?

Tony Bridgewater  14:07  

Near there. Now, yes. And yes, South Harrow, where I was in digs. And I found an old telegraph station. Post Office you see,  run by the Post Office to communicate with various places abroad sending telegrams to - Cairo was one of the destinations I remember. I had a very ancient set there, a spark transmitter, and also a more modern transmitter with valves you know, continuous waves. They had two transmitters. In other words, the old one was a Poulsen Arc which was quite exciting to operate because, you the arc is in a chamber you know, a sealed chamber with mercury vapour and when you have to start up the transmitter. You wind two carbons close to one another you' see there when they meet cause it draws the spark. But at the moment he draws the spark there's an explosion. If the mercury vapours ignited, and the lid of this cast iron chamber nearly jumps off. But it's prevented by springs and wing nuts, you see, but it's rather terrifying because it lifts about an inch or two in the air. You see and when you're just young and and an apprentice it's quite an experience! Anyway, from there, after six months or so, the duties were merely just sort of maintenance and cleaning apparatus and overhauling it under, under instruction, you know. I met nice people there. I was posted down to Bodmin in Cornwall. Where there's a very modern beam system, Marconi beam system, this was the great new thing, shortwave beams. Shortwave was very up to date. Huge station it was, you know, huge arrays, masts stretching over about half a mile across the place with aerials in between you see. 

Norman Swallow  14:49  

On Bodmin Moor?

Tony Bridgewater  16:23  

Yes right, on Bodmin Moor. Maybe still there. I don't know. It's the far side of Bodmin from here going further on. About a mile and a half, two miles. I think outside Bodmin, that side of Bodmin, the far side.

Norman Swallow  16:42  

And whereabouts are we in time now?

Tony Bridgewater  16:44  

Well, we are a year we are about

Norman Swallow  16:48  

26, 27?

Tony Bridgewater  16:49  

No, no. Not nearly there, no, we're still only 1920. I think. You see, I had less than six months at sea. Only a year...

Norman Swallow  16:58  

 in Regent Street. 

Tony Bridgewater  16:59  

Yes. Less than a year in Regent Street less than a year. We're barely 1920.

Alan Lawson  17:09  

 Really? I say. Are you sure?

Tony Bridgewater  17:11  

Absolutely. I can explain all that. If you need it. These are short episodes I've been mentioning 

Norman Swallow  17:11  

yes, yes. that's the build up.

Tony Bridgewater  17:18  

A bit long in going over them you see. Yes, it can't be 1920. I know, we'll come to that in a moment. Anyway, I was sent down to this place, same sort of duties rather minding you know, not really, because the transmitters run themselves. It would tell 'you read metres and write down the results' and so on. Well, by this time, I was beginning to study seriously, because I realised I had no very, very useful qualifications. So while I was down there, I studied and I took an examination called the City and Guilds Radio Communication Final, which I managed to pass and that helped me on later. So I filled in the time fairly usefully down there, but somewhere around,  it would be about June 1920. I suddenly, oh, I had to do a medical. They said you must do another medical now and you need another checkup I was sent to the local doctor. And he found me deaf in one ear, which I was and still am and always have been you see. So he said the report was that 'he's no good at allat d see he must be dismissed'. See, even though I didn't even have to wear earphones or anything you' see but they couldn't have anybody who could only hear with one ear minding a radio station. So I received notice. And I was rather incensed about this and we had a union and the only time in my life I made use of its services, Post Office Engineering Union. I appealed to them. They took it up and eventually got, oh they got me to a specialist in London to be examined and so on the report went through and subsequently I would have been reinstated. But meanwhile I didn't know that was going to happen you see. In fact it took some months and meanwhile I thought I must get another job as quickly as possible. So my father being in the City, had a few contacts, and so on, and one of his contacts was Baird, John Logie Baird. You see the reason being that the Baird Company was just in the throes of floating a company. That's another story. The early  history bit, there's quite a bit  in the book, some other books anyway,  there's plenty of them; too many I think. But through his business of having to write about share issues and so on, you see, he contacted Baird to get some information. And because Baird was the managing director of this new company, which was raising quite a lot of money. 

Alan Lawson  20:14  

They were, sorry. They were based in London were they?

Tony Bridgewater  20:17  

Baird? Yes, in long in Long Acre by this time in Covent Garden. 

Alan Lawson  20:21  


Tony Bridgewater  20:21  

Already already by then. Yes. We're now in the summer of 1920. Just to be right. Absolutely. Right. In 20. You see,

Norman Swallow  20:31  

I was a little worried because when you know when you were born...

Tony Bridgewater  20:36  

Sorry Norman... Absolutely...

Norman Swallow  20:40  

Can't be that. 

Tony Bridgewater  20:41  

Can we cut for a moment? Yes. I've got it all--. (CUTS)

Tony Bridgewater  20:45  

 Yes, I'm sorry. That was awfully stupid. I feel really daft.

Norman Swallow  20:52  

...we're 1928.

Tony Bridgewater  20:53  

Oh dear I was at prep school in 1920. Oh dear, that's that's really awful, I hope it's not going to go on like this. Yes.

Norman Swallow  21:07  

So 1928.  We're going

Tony Bridgewater  21:11  

1928 when I was 20. Anyway, my father having just had this brief acquaintance with Baird. Knowing that I was in trouble and wanting a job, said  my son is working at wireless and very interested in such things. Would you by any chance have a job going you see? And Baird wrote back and said he'd be pleased to see me. So I rushed up to London, and got interviewed by Baird. The interview hardly consisting of anything at all. He didn't know what to say or what questions to ask. He was a very shy quiet man. Oh yes.  And he took me to see the chief engineer ,a chap called Jaycombe who you may have heard of?

Norman Swallow  21:56  

 Heard of but  I've never met 

Tony Bridgewater  21:57  

He just about gone when you went I suppose. But he was a well known character. He was so called chief engineer. He was so busy fiddling with the transmitter on the roof, that he didn't want really to see me at all. So he was sort of winding and turning knobs you see with one hand, 'Right ho, Yes, Alright'. You know. Three pounds a week or something was blurted at me and um, I was in. It was very, very simple. So I had a letter confirming. And went there a week or two later, reporting for duty; gave my notice to the Post Office. Well, I suppose I'd had notice, I forget the exact conditions there, which came first. And of course, that changed my life. Real turning point - naturally. Well, as it turned out.

Norman Swallow  22:56  

It was almost a coincidence. I mean life is full of coincidences. 

Tony Bridgewater  22:58  

Yes. Yes. Yes, it is. Yes. 

Norman Swallow  23:01  

You're having to be available and you had to apply for it and you got it.

Tony Bridgewater  23:05  

Quite, quite. 

Norman Swallow  23:06  

So you became a pioneer by chance.

Tony Bridgewater  23:07  

Well, I found myself with a very small bunch of people. Very happy bunch it was. And we had lots to do there. Making amplifiers and building television sets, demonstrating them a lot. Frequent demonstrations had to be given, you know, to interest people and get publicity which they've always very, very keen to have. 

Norman Swallow  23:31  

This is 30 lines. 

Tony Bridgewater  23:32  

This is 30 lines. Just in embryo really it was just coming on. By this time. They'd standardised on 30 lines.  And um, we gave a demonstration at Selfridges I remember.  Within about two months of my being there. We worked all night and slept on the floor of these improvised studio we put there.  We did all these sort of things. We were a really jolly crowd, it was enormous fun. And err, nice atmosphere of adventure. It really was adventurous.

Alan Lawson  24:08  

And it was sorry. It wasn't...technical question. There was no sound because...

Tony Bridgewater  24:14  

We weren't broadcasting

Alan Lawson  24:17  

In Selfridges or wherever. Or was there sound?

Tony Bridgewater  24:19  

Well, we it was closed circuit in Selfridges. So yes, we had sound, we always had sound on closed circuit. Yes. That was no problem on closed circuit and it was all closed circuit at the moment. Well, they did have a radio transmitter on the roof of Long Acre of the labs. And a few transmissions were done from there -  experimental transmissions - and the staff would take part to make some sort of entertainment you know, the telephone operator would sing and secretary play the piano and that sort of thing was done. A few demonstrations were given to different reception points in London and round about.  A medium wave transmitter - 2 TV it was called - licenced transmitter. Yes, we that that was going on, on and off. And otherwise it was just closed circuit demonstrations that we were doing and of course, research. I didn't do very much research. But we had some very clever people who did. Well, one or two. There weren't many people there then. But luckily, Baird did have one or two good, clever people to help things along. 

Norman Swallow  25:35  

Who were they? 

Tony Bridgewater  25:36  

Well, JC Wilson is the most outstanding one who's written a classic textbook. And Jaycombe himself was very clever ex Naval man. Signals officer. He was very clever, very erratic. Didn't always turn up. But he was, when he did he was, he had bright ideas. And later on, they had more clever people like Baldwin Banks. Was he there in your time? 

Norman Swallow  26:07  

Yes, yes.

Tony Bridgewater  26:09  

And then he went to Marconi and other places. He was very clever. And a chap called Myers (?), who did electron optics and introduced the cursor (??). This is later on, a few years later. Well, I've been I've been rather lengthy about all this. Well, while we were doing this demonstration at Selfridges - I think it was in September - having only started work in August - the word went round that there was to be a trip to Australia. At this time, the company had a lot of money you see and had raised a lot of capital, about a quarter of a   million or something out of the poor public who never saw a penny back. But they didn't know that at the time, you see. And Baird and his fellow directors thought they were very rich. Money should be spent you see, particularly on publicity and trying to spread the word and make, form, and yet more companies overseas. And a man called Ben Clapp whom you will know had already been to America and received television across the Atlantic before I even went into the company, but in that same year, early 28. And that's always been on the record as the first reception. It was done on shortwave from his own transmitter in Coulsdon.  Amateur transmitter. He says he got some sort of picture in New York. We- Nobody could quite make out what it looked like that something must have happened. He got the semblance of something. It's on the record now, as the first transatlantic transmission of television. Well Ben Clapp - who incidentally is still alive at the age of 95 - had come back, and as he had this reputation for being you know, travelling and knowing what he was about. It was deputed to take charge of an expedition to Australia. Well already Baird and Hutchinson, his co managing director had been in negotiation with some man who purported to have business contacts in Melbourne and could set up a company and offer all sorts of attractions. And err, somebody else, a man called Sherrin (?) was reputed to go with Clapp. Sherrin was working with me at the time on this Selfridge demonstration. He said 'I don't want to go, I've just got engaged to somebody or something like that' And he asked not to go so I jumped in you see. I said, I rang Jacombe the chief engineer and said 'I understand Sherrin doesn't want to go, I would like to go can I go?' And he said, 'oh I expect so yes. All right'. He was very casual. You know. I probably wasn't the best suitable man for the job being so new in the company. But anyway, he agreed. So I was thrilled to have this chance. I didn't know much about it yet. I was only.I'd been only months in  the company. Well anyway, to cut it short, I duly met Clapp who turned up and we made a few preparations and packed a lot of gear. A great deal of it. Packers were called in you know, and shippers to put it all into crates, television sets, television camera or as we called it then. I mean it didn't really call it camera but it's what you'd call a camera now. Now it was a huge scanning disk, you know with a lamp, all that business and photoelectric cells and all these things. Valves and amplifiers. It was all packed up and we went out on the SS Oronsay  leaving on the 28th of October of that year, only about a month after I'd had the word. 

Norman Swallow  30:29  


Tony Bridgewater  30:29  

28 Norman, 28, I'll stick to that one! Yes, stick to that one. And had lovely voyage. Five and a half weeks through the Panama Canal. No, the other canal this time. The Suez, yes, yes. Got to Melbourne was met by this man called Tucker who got us into a hotel and so on. We were very well fixed up. The company was quite prepared to spend any money necessary to have a sort of good hotel in Melbourne and Mrs. Clapp came to. All expenses paid. Yes, indeed. And the three of us were introduced to a broadcasting company in Melbourne called 3DB. Doing radio. And the theory was they might like to buy an interest in Baird you see. So we  gave demonstrations there to them.  We set it all up in a room they lent us somewhere in the middle of Melbourne. Got it all working. Well, I suppose over a few weeks or months or so, we gave these demonstrations in between having a jolly good time seeing the country and swimming in nice...oh, and seeing the Test Match. It was on at the time. Yeah, so they met somebody made us honorary members of the Melbourne Cricket Club, you see and I took time off and set through days. It was one of these timeless tests, I think. Saw Hobbs and Sutcliffe and all these people you know, the APF chap, and he was on the boat going out. No, no, he wasn't. But his father was going out to see his son. APF Chapman was the England captain - before your time Norman - but he was captain of Kent and a very great man and Jardine. DR Jardine, who was very good. Is the tape running out now? No. Anyway, other business people started nosing around and we had this sort of entrepreneur man who was finding other contacts who might be interested and we were told to go to Sydney and set up there and try to interest there a newspaper.  So we packed up,  got all our stuff packed and went on the ship actually to Sydney.  Got settled in there, settled into a hotel that's a very nice one on bathing beach called Coogee, near Sydney centre and had a lovely time surf bathing and that sort of thing. And simply awaited instructions as to where we were to set up this gear and to whom to demonstrate it and so on. The newspaper man - I've forgotten his name now -  he was a Knight

Norman Swallow  33:46  

Australian, yes..

Tony Bridgewater  33:47  

yes, yes. I might think of it sometime.  He kept saying yes, we shall want you to install your gear quite soon, but that quite soon never happened. I never understood why there was this delay or why they didn't seem to want to get on with it but the business machinations going on were of no concern to me at all. I didn't mind. He lent us a car to use. And we drove to Canberra which then was only just about being built you know, I think they just finished the parliament building but there wasn't much else there. One hotel I think which we stayed at. Saw the caves at Jenolan and did a lot of nice things, you know, but absolute waste of time of course. After about six weeks there, we heard that a businessman in - so called businessman - had been sent out by the Baird company.  More expense course - to ginger us up and see what was going on you see. Well, of course we were totally excited. I keep fiddling don't I? Clapp and I were just at the mercy whatever we were instructed to do; endless telegrams from London too.. between us. Clapp was sending them, saying what he was doing and awaiting instructions and so on. Anyway, the word came through from this new man called Major MacClulick (?)... I think I'm too detailed don't you?

Norman Swallow  35:23  

it gives the early days, the trials and fortunes..

Tony Bridgewater  35:27  

Yes. We were to go back to Sydney. No, to Melbourne. We were then in Sydney. You see, this new manager arrived, MacClulick. He was supposed to be a great man, a great organiser, and he's going to put everything, get everything on the rails and so on. So we just left Sydney having never even unpacked the equipment, took it all back to Melbourne, unpacked it there, and we did set it up. We met this major who turned out to be a madman. He, the poor man, I think had been shell shocked in World War One.  He was evidently a pal of Captain Hutchinson, who was Baird's managing director, friend, co managing director -  sent this chap out. But he did,  well, just to give one example, when we went to see him, he was in the Menzies Hotel in bed - this was our first meeting with him - sitting up in bed.  He had some ladies sitting beside the bed, whom he never introduced us to even. And he had a parrot on his shoulder.

Norman Swallow  36:43  

(laughing) that was it? In business terms...

Tony Bridgewater  36:44  

Well, we set up, we did more demonstrations. We didn't know who we were demonstrating to half the time or what was the result was going to be.  We just did what we were expected to do. And then one day MacClulick said to me, I want you to go home. Only me not Clapp you see. I didn't know why he didn't tell me why. So I said 'all right'. Found a ship,  you know, we had our return tickets you see, and I came back on this time around the Cape on the Blue Funnel  steam boat. Yes, coal burning steam. Incidentally, on the journey back the same lady who had been sitting beside this major at the hotel was on the ship. I gathered she just been out on a trip and met him you know, she rumbled him, I think fairly soon. Anyway, I got back to England. Nobody told me why I'd come back. They didn't know even I don't think. I don't know what sort of report had been sent about me or why but I got back to the company. Clapp came back two or three months later. And that was that. Absolutely nothing came of the Australian trip. I'd had a marvellous time. And just got back to work again.

Norman Swallow  38:20  

Well, one important thing is I think, granted all you're talking about. It must have been very expensive and all the equipment. How did the Baird company exist financially?

Tony Bridgewater  38:31  

They were still using all this quarter million, they hadn't got through it yet you see. They were trying hard, but... a year or two later it all came to grief, you see, and they had to be reconstructed and taken over and so on. But oh, it was mad. It was absolutely mad. And while I was in Australia, another expedition JD Percy with with the Bray had gone to Cape Town. 

Norman Swallow  38:58  

So yes, yes..

Tony Bridgewater  38:59  

And Fox had gone to Amsterdam and, the same sort of jaunts you see. All coming to nothing. Well, anyway, we got back and by this time, there was a great agitation to do broadcasting. And the Baird company pulled a few strings best it could. And the BBC were very reluctant. The Postmaster General stepped in and said the BBC ought to give facilities to the Baird Company for experimental transmissions. And this was done. And they began on the 30th of September 1929, which year we are now in.

Norman Swallow  39:43  

Yes, got that.

Tony Bridgewater  39:46  

 And I was in the studio. My job now was namely operating the studio equipment with Campbell, whom you will remember I expect? DR Campbell, do you remember? Lighting expert. Err, the two of us ran it, it's all you needed to run a control room in the studio in those days.

Norman Swallow  40:05  

And this is Grays Inn Road still?

Tony Bridgewater  40:10  

Long Acre, still Long Acre. They'd built - meanwhile, while I'd been in Australia - they'd built this studio. Very small room hardly bigger than this. But good enough.  Head and shoulder views of people was all you could do. And so we got on the air twice a week, starting at midnight, for half an hour and about three times a week at 11 in the morning for half an hour.  Something like that. It varied a bit over the years but it went on for three years having once started and a lot of people who subsequently became quite well known came along and for one guinea were glad to do their little performances. People like Betty Astell who married Cyril Fletcher and that chap Eric Barker who died the other day. He was with his wife Pearl Hackney.  He was one of them until... and various others. They all just did it for the fun of it and thinking it was something new.

Norman Swallow  41:16  

My first point which I got wrong the first time in 1929. September, there was no synchronised sound was there?

Tony Bridgewater  41:24  

No. Yes,  good point there Norman and I should explain this. 

Norman Swallow  41:27  

When did it change?

Tony Bridgewater  41:28  

 It changed in in March 1930? Yes, I ought to mention that.  We had a big flourish to the opening. Ambrose Fleming came along and Professor Andrade and various people, you know, all for publicity, and Baird spoke. And this chap Mosley who was always around. 

Norman Swallow  41:49  

Sydney Mosely, yes

Tony Bridgewater  41:50  

Yes, he was great publicist, but he was quite helpful in getting Baird on the map. Yes, it was sound or vision. So you'll, you'd shove somebody in, tell them to sing. Start singing and you'd listen to them perhaps for half a minute and then you'd switch and you could look at them. Of course, in the studio, we could see both you see, but then, but on the air, there was only one transmitter. It was initially the BBC transmitter on Selfridges' roof. But after a few months, it moved to Brookmans Park where they were just setting up and in six months, they had the second Brookmans Park transmitter going you see. And then we had sound and vision simultaneously, thereafter for another two years. So this went on and on.

Norman Swallow  42:51  

Really based on conversations, Tony, you and I had in the past, you mentioned some names. I think Gracie Fields,  did she appear in the thirties?

Tony Bridgewater  42:58  

 In the very, very first programme on the first day. 

Norman Swallow  43:01  

Gracie Fields is a name that might be worth mentioning. And then there was this drama, Pirendello.

Tony Bridgewater  43:06  

The Pirandello drama was a year later. Yes. And that was rather significant because it was the BBC's idea. Or, or at least, they went along with it quite wholeheartedly and Mosely was the sort of link man with Val Giulgud. And they chose this play. Val was supposed to be - sorry I keep -  Val was supposed to act in it. But in the end, he got through and couldn't do it. But the producer was Lance  Sieveking, who was already well known BBC man, rather eccentric, but nice chap. And then they had these well, they're in the book, these names. Gladys Young.  People became famous or whatever, already, to some extent. And it was great fun doing this. This sort of introduced us to a new world, you know how the BBC did things and they brought along their effects man.  The effects boy was George Inns who later came a big variety producer. But he was just the effects boy then. Another chap called Dennis Freeman put the gramophone records and, and so on. We were very impressed, you know, with all his professionalism and wealth of staff and people to do all these these things. And it it went out quite well. Of course, you saw very little, you know, you saw a head and shoulders, one person then he'd have to slide out of the picture. There were three characters. Next one slid in and then he did his stuff and the next one slid in and she did her stuff, and in and out, but they had some nice background pictures done by the artist Nevinson.

Norman Swallow  44:59  

I'm going to stop you there

End of Side 1


Chief Engineer, BBC Television