July 2019
Newsletter 3
The main focus has been on taking the equipment out of MCR21 before the vehicle is transported to the restorers, Ward Jones, in High Wycombe. We have also been promoting the MCR21 at every opportunity. Charles Runcie, former Head of Sport - BBC English Regions, has been helping with the promotion. He has written an article for the BBC website, linking MCR21 with the 50th anniversary of Prince Charles Investiture.
Link to BBC History Of MCR21
Charles has also written a press release with a successful start to our campaign -  BBC South have been filming Brian Summers and Harry Coventry with MCR21today (Friday 19th July). The BBC are planning to broadcast the film on South Today on Monday 22nd or Tuesday 23rd July.
Adam, a BBC South Today video journalist, filming Brian and Harry

Preparations are going well with the MCR21 Project launch at Amberley Museum, Friday 16th to Sunday 18th August. It would be great if you could come along and support the Project. We have been fortunate that West Ent Ltd and Horizon Integration are sponsoring the launch by supplying equipment and crewing.

We are also working with Royal Holloway- London University and Solent University whose students are helping with the Project.

We were unsuccessful in our applications to the Garfield Foundation and Sainsbury Family Trust for match funding we need to complete the Project. The sponsorship, that we have been promised, has allowed us reduce the overall budget from £124,000 to £110,000. The National Lottery Heritage Fund have agreed to this amended budget and are willing to keep their contribution at £99,000, meaning the Fund will be paying 90% instead of 80% of the cost. We still have to find £10,000 so efforts are being made to carry out our fundraising campaign.

Brian has been organising weekly sessions at Camberley to remove the broadcast equipment from MCR21
Tea break on the first day stripping out the equipment from MCR21
from the right
Paul Read, John Stevens, Nick Gilbey, Jeremy Owen and Brian Summers
A lot of preparations are underway for the display at Amberley. Paul Elkington has arranged for his company, West End Ltd, to sponsor the event by supplying the lighting rig, display boards and audio-visual equipment. He will be helped by Stuart Harris from Horizon Integration. Equipment from MCR21 will be on display, the vision mixer with a
Pye Mk IV and MkVII cameras, which are similar type to the Mk VI used in MCR21. Visitors will be able to have a go at operating one of the vintage cameras. Some of the MCR21 volunteers will be there to answer questions but also find out what visitors think about the mini-exhibition. There will also be information telling the story of MCR21 and the history of BBC TV  Outside Broadcasts - below is a sample display board - the real size is A2 and there will be 16 of these telling the story
The Model Railway will soon be ready -so that visitors to Amberley will be able to try their hand at operating a camera and follow the train around the track
Below is a full BBC TV OB Unit outside the Palace of Arts, Wembley, in the early 1960s before MCR21 arrived. At the rear, is the radio links team with and an Eagle Tower and PTA. These vehicles are explained by Dan Cranefield when he worked in the Radio Links department of BBC TV OBs. He later joined LO21 as a vision engineer
Radio Links from Outside Broadcasts in the 1960s by Dan Cranefield
During the 1960s, the period when MCR 21 and the other scanners were in use, and before the days of satellite uplinks, the vision signal from an OB was carried back to the receiving points, usually transmitter masts, by microwave links, often involving several hops as every link had to be line-of sight, with no obstructions in between. The receiving points in London which had permanent receiving equipment were Swains Lane in Highgate, which had a 90ft-high mast, and Crystal Palace where the equipment was about 300 ft. up. These receivers could be frequency-tuned remotely and the dishes rotated remotely of course.
London Tel OBs’ base at this period was the Palace of Arts, Wembley, and there was a separate Radio Links department. There were three sorts of link in use in the mid 1960s which were a BBC designed UHF, an EMI type where the transmitter or receiver was mounted on the front of the 4ft diameter slotted dish and a TRT type where the equipment was mounted at the rear of a similar diameter solid dish.
If the distance from the OB to the studio was short then BT cables could occasionally be used instead but with equalisers installed at intervals. Sometimes the distance from the OB to the BT exchange involved BT vans every few hundred yards! I have known this to happen but this was a fairly rare occurrence. Some regular venues had permanent cabling to the BT exchange.
Depending on the location of the OB the first transmitter could be mounted on a suitable roof, or on an “Eagle Tower” which was a lorry-mounted extendable mast reaching up to 60 feet. There were also originally two “PTAs” each of which had a Merryweather fire-appliance-type ladder which reached to 100ft but this was limited in capacity and rather wind-dependent. An Eagle Tower had to be rigged while the mast was in the vertical position at 30ft and the PTA was rigged in the lowered position using a ladder. So staff, like me, working on Radio Links, had to be fit and not afraid of climbing vertical ladders or of heights! I don’t ever remember being asked about this. I also had to take a BBC driving test because Land Rovers, often with towed 1-ton generators on the back, were frequently needed at mid-ponts.
There usually needed to be a mid point, or sometimes more than one, if distances or land contours demanded it and this would be on high ground and sometimes a water tower was often used, which are always built on high points. At a mid point the roof of the radio link van could be used in exposed places, or an Eagle Tower if trees or buildings were a problem. The longest individual link I remember was Walbury Hill, outside Newbury, to Crystal Palace which was about 50 miles if I recall. At each mid point a receiver converted the signal back to video for monitoring and then converted it to a link on a different frequency for onward transmission. A generator would be needed, towed to site by the radio link van and a spare generator would be needed if there was no mains supply which would be towed to site by a Land Rover. This vehicle became the crew transport in some cases.
To set up each Radio link each crew had an “RT” set on a frequency of 74.7 MHZ for their communication. Each would be given co-ordinates to the previous or next location and the appropriate frequency to use for each link. When ready to set up the transmitting crew would point in the correct compass direction and the  receiving crew would pan around until the signal was found and final adjustment would be done at each end until the signal-noise ratio was at its best and within the standards required. All calculations were done using contour maps and calculations by the office staff beforehand and, in the case of a link or series of links from a site not used before, (and there were many!), a test would be carried out well in advance to check that it worked.

Above - a mid-point which relays the broadcast from the OB unit to the nearest receiver - usually a transmitter tower. Below -  an Eagle Tower and radio links van next to a MCR at Nottingham Ice Rink.
The 60ft high Mast on an Eagle Tower
Volunteers Needed
There are many tasks that can be carried out from home
We are happy to receive broadcast equipment which we will find a new home for and, in doing so, raise money for the MCR21 Project

Or you would like to help the MCR21 Project by giving a donation

our Bank account details are here
Broadcast TV Tech Trust
Sort code 40-47-08,
Account no. 22502453 or
We would very much like to hear from you for any information about MCR21 or the other 1960s BBC units, so please do give me a call.  
Nick Gilbey
Tel 07831 219957

our website  is

The MCR21 Project is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund

Link to Newsletter 1 Feb 19
Link to Newsletter 2 May 19

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MCR21 · The Abbots House · The Street · Charmouth, Dorset DT6 6QF · United Kingdom

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