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Blog posts of '2012' 'January'

MULLARD IN THE EARLY 1950s - EXPANSIONS AND ENDOWMENTS
Well, the early to mid 1950s were an exciting time for Mullard – some would say, the ‘Golden Age’, 1950 dawned and Mullard was selling a nice range of TVs in the shape of MTS 521 & MTS 634 models to the hungry post war market as endorsed by Arthur Askey – a grateful public and Arthur said ‘ I thank you all!’ or was it ‘Where’s me washboard!’

Also in 1950 we first see the appearance of Sidney The Service Engineer whom you also see gracing the top of these pages – he was a jolly chap utilised in much Mullard advertising to exhort the consumer to replace valves in manky old sets. In conjunction with Auntie Beeb running an advertising campaign in Radio Times in November 1950, they both ensured that valve sales were healthy. After all, in 1950 there were 12 million radio sets within the UK utilising 60 million valves – if Mullard could snag just 10% of that replacement valve market, say 6 million devices per annum that would translate into 3 million pounds of wonga in sales!

But it wasn’t just radio valve sales that were in the ascendancy, in late 1950, official figures showed that TV licences had doubled from the 1947 level to 500,000 users. With the transmitter building programme meaning that Holme Moss were due to come on stream in October 1951 and Kirk O Shotts in February 1952, a potential swathe of new consumers that Philips TV and hence Mullard picture tubes could tap into was now available ooop t' Nooorth. In fact, following a board meeting and mindfull of the success of the Blackburn plant, Philips cottonned on to the market possibilities t' Nooorth represented and a high profile advertising campaign resulted using Gracie Fields advocating the purchase of Mullard equipped Philips TV sets - I wonder if she had one on Capri? Possibly the answer is YES as in April 1952 the first Italian television transmitters went live in Milan and Turin and maybe our Gracie's telly was one of a batch of 50000 exported from the UK to meet the demand from a jaded post-war Italian populace.

Overseas opportunities such as the Italian TV sales were something that Mullard was keen to capitalise on, so to help with this, Mullard Overseas Ltd was formed in December 1950.

Continuing the new product introduction with a theme of diversity, Mullard, in conjunction with Ilford Photographic heralded the era of electronic flash photography. 1/2000 of a second motion stopping photography was here with the Mullard LSD & LSD2 flash tubes were with us and soon found acclaim with photographers such as Ronald Perlman, Hans Haas and Walter Nurnburg – the celebrated industrial photographer whose Rolleiflex 2 ¼ square images were utilised in much of Mullard’s promotional materials throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. Ilford are still with us today, one of the last bastions of Black & White Photography – why not look em up under the Harman Technology brand name.

Of course, this expansion in sales needed a consequent expansion in production which entailed the start up and operation of a number of new factories. Fleetwood, Warrenhurst Road came on stream in January 1950, Fleetwood, Radcliffe Road came on stream in May 1951, Waterfoot, Rawtenstall in October 1953, Lytham St Annes in February 1954 and Blowick Southport in October 1954. All of these factories made use of existing industrial premises which were converted to meet Mullard’s needs as feeder factories supplying necessary raw materials and sub assemblies to the main Mullard Blackburn Works. However, using Board of Trade funding, the massive Mullard TV Tube factory was built at Simonstone, Lancashire in May 1955 along with local feeder factory that came on stream in early 1956 at Padiham. Not wanting to leave Mitcham out of the equation – now a lesser valve and TV tube producting site but of no lesser importance- feeder factories were set up between 1949 – 1953 in Gillingham, Hove and Whyteleafe. Waddon served as a Service & Return department servicing the Blackburn, Mitcham & Simonstone sites as well as providing limited microwave and transmitting valve production that was of too low a scale to be economically viable at either Blackburn or Mitcham.

Economic viability played a part in the expansion by takeover of a competitor in 1952. Previously, Mullard had come to gentlemen’s arrangements with other valve manufacturers about product lines and intellectual property rights, however, they wanted to service the limited market that existed in the supply of American type valves within the UK. Despite BVA’s strenuous attempts to block imports of American type valves during the 1930s & 40s, they failed in that task abjectly – hardly surprising as in some cases, American equivalents were available for 40% of cost of indigenous ones!!!!!!!!! The trouble was, the market size for replacement American valve types was insufficient to make production viable at either Mitcham of Blackburn. As a consequence, Philips had their beady eye on British Tungsram, a British Subsidiary of the United Incandescent Company of Budapest which had been quietly manufacturing as well as building and sealing valves since 1933 as a relatively low key player. In 1952 Philips pounced and gained a controlling interest and started producing a range of American equivalents under the Mullard brand. Sadly though, due to poor efficiency, parlous quality and to prevent the sullying of Mullard’s good name, Philips pulled the plug and this plant closed in April 1956.

To put Mullard’s valves sales into perspective, it is estimated that the scale of Mullards valve manufacturing was 4x greater than their largest UK competitor manufacturer. Based on official figures for 1954, valves formed 80% of Mullard’s total sales. The valves sold by Mullard represented 60% of the total valve sales made within the UK and this equated to 34 million devices. Of these 34 million devices, some 7 million were imported either from Mulard Holland or from US manufacturers and distributed under the Mullard Amerty brand.

To put Mullard’s TV tube sales into perspective, it is estimated that the scale of Mullards TV tube manufacturing was 50% greater than their largest UK competitor manufacturer. Based on official figures for 1954, TV tubes, although a minor component of Mulard's total manufacturing output, they nevertheless formed some 56% of the total TV tube sales made within the UK which equalled 1 million devices. Of these 1 million devices, some 400,000 or 40% were imported. It is interesting to note that during the early days of TV tube manufacture, that Mullard regarded these devices very much as a loss leader. For example, during 1947 to 1948, Mullard sold 21,000 TV tubes at less than cost with a resultant loss of £81,000. It was the same story during 1948 to 1949 when the sales of 50,000 TV tubes resulted in a further loss of £140,000. The tide turned during 1951 – 1952 when Mullard not only passed break even but actually returned a slight profit on TV tube sales. Things improved even further as due to the enormous buying power of Simonstone, Mullard’s management convinced Pilkington Glass at nearby St Helens to produce pressed glass subassemblies to Simonstone which meant that not just production time and costs were slashed but also retail selling price. In January 1950, a 12 inch dia round TV tube cost £6 BUT by November 1957, the tube size had grown to 17 inches diagonal and cost just £5.

By the mid 1950s, SS Eriks, Mullard’s general Manager was pleased. The business was going well, Philip management thought he was great and on Queen Juliana's brithday on April 30th 1953, he was awarded, or should I use the correct term - endowed - with The Order of Orange Nassau - the Dutch equivalent to an OBE. This honour was endowed for his works at Mullard that helped liberate The Netherlands from Nazi occupation and for his special merits to society..

Whew, we’re only half way through the decade and already SS Eriks must have wondered what other successes and pitfalls lay in store for Mullard for the next five years. You'll have to wait for my next blog entry to find out...............

 

 

POSTWAR MULLARD
Well, the war was over and 1946 dawned. America had cut off Lend-Lease money to the UK and materials for home and export production were in short supply. There existed a massive surfeit of military surplus electronics which was growing at an alarming rate as war supplies were withdrawn from various theatres of operation. At this time, the great military surplus gravy train was about to commence where not only radio equipment and componentry were available for knockdown prices but military vehicles and even aircraft – and ex RAF pilots to fly them – typically those that did not possess a decent golf handicap that enabled them to get a job with BOAC and an IWC Mk X or Mk XI watch into the bargain!!!

Of great concern to Mullard was not only the fact that valve demand had dropped to 50% of it’s wartime peak but also that the cash strapped Government hit on the plan to dispose of their massive war stocks of valves to the ‘radio trade’ at a bargain price of £5000 per million devices. In all, this disposal lasted for ten years after the end of WW2 and in excess of 32 million devices were trickled back for domestic and industrial use in this way.

To put this into perspective, this mind boggling number equates to the entire sales of valves made by Mullard during any single year throughout the 1950s!!!! Add this to the worry that an immediate post war television boom that never came – at least until 1952 (wonder what happened that year) and you can see why various belts had to be tightened at Mullard. SS Eriks, General manager of Mullard realised that innovation and product introduction were the key to a successful and stable future, to this end, he arranged for the Mullard Research Laboratories to be built in 1946 at Cross Oaks Lane in Salfords, Surrey and thence for the laboratory to be generously funded.

1947 also brought some corporate and boardroom shennanigens as Philips Gloilampen Fabrieken (UK) was reorganised into Philips Electrical Industries UK. This had the knock on effect of The Mullard Radio Valve Co. Ltd being renamed Mullard Limited and for the Mullard headquarters to be situated within the Philips Electrical Industries UK headquarters at Century House, Shaftesbury Avenue, London -can you pick out SS's office in the photo below?

This was followed in 1948 by the renaming of the Mullard Wireless Service subsidiary to Mullard Electronic Products to ensure placement of the Mullard name in areas other than traditional ‘wireless’ manufacturing. Also in 1948, as a reward for his sterling war effort and his vision of the future, a grateful nation awarded SS Eriks his OBE.

Thus reorganised, the Mullard machine marched onwards to face the challenges of the fabulous 1950s.

 

CV NUMBERS AND UK MILITARY DATE AND FACTORY CODES

I have just received an e-mail asking for details of military valve markings so here's a little primer for anyone who might have a similar interest.

Valves used by the British military Armed Services were marked with a  CV or common valve name which was defined by the  Inter-Service Technical Valve Committee in 1941.     Often, below the CV number a two part  alpha code of the form KB/xx  or JB/xx will be seen  which gives the devices manufacturing specification and qualification .  For the first part of the alpha code, the K designates a valve manufactured to specification K1001 or K1006; similarly a J designates a valve manufactured to a JAN or MIL spec.  The second letter of the first part of the alpha code describes the qualification approval the valve type has, a B denotes qualification by a UK authority, a U denotes US qualification,  a D  denotes Australian qualification and an X  denotes Director of Electronics Research and Development  (DERAD)  approval.

The second part of the alpha code identifies the factory that manufactured the  device, the most commonly seen codes and their corresponding manufacturers are:- 

A Mullard, Blackburn, pre Jan 1951
A Thorn, Tottenham, pre April 1964
AB Sylvania-Thorn, Enfield
AC Brimar - Thorn-AEI, Footscray
AD Brimar - Thorn-AEI , Rochester
B Edison Swan, Baldock, pre Sept 1945
BA AEI, Woolwich
BC Joseph Lucas, Birmingham
C Edison Swan, Ponders End, pre Sept 1951
CC Cathodeon, Cambridge
CE 20th Century Electronics, pre  March 1957
CF 20th Century Electronics, New Addington
CN Pye Industrial Electronics
CO Newmarket transistors, Newmarket
CS Cathodeon, Southend
D Mullard Radio Valve Co., Mitcham
DA Mullard Radio Valve Co., Blackburn
DB Mullard Radio Valve Co., Salford
DC Mullard Radio Valve Co., Whyteleafe
DE Mullard Radio Valve Co., Fleetwood
DF Mullard Radio Valve Co., Waddon
DG Associated Semiconductor Manufacturers, Southampton
DH Societe Anonyme Philips, Brive, France
DJ Wiener Radio Werke, Abbeygasse 1, Vienna
DK Philips GMBH, 140 Ebentalstrasse, Klangenfurt
DL NV Philips Gloeilampenfabrieken, Nijmegen
DM NV Philips, Stakskanaal, Holland
DN La Radiotechnique, Caen, France
DP Valvo GMBH, Hamburg, Germany
DQ Philips SpA, Milan, Italy
DR Philips AG, Zurich, Switzerland
E Thorn-AEI, Brimsdown
EA Edison Swan, Ponders End
EB Edison Swan, Gateshead
EC Edison Swan, Tottenham
EN Thorn-AEI, Sunderland
F STC, Paignton
FB STC, Footscray
FC STC, Lorenz,. Esslingen, Germany
FD STC, Rochester
FDA Alexandria, NSW, Australia
FE STC, Oldway (Additional to Paignton factory 'F')
FF STC, Harlow
G Ericsson, Beeston
GA (Ericsson), AB Svenska Elektronror, Stockholm, Sweden
H Hivac, Harrow
HC Hivac, Chesham
HR Hivac, Ruislip
J STC, Crewkerne, pre Jan 1946
J Radar Electronic Equipment
JA SGS Fairchild, Ruislip
JB SGS Fairchild, Agrate, Milan, Italy
JD Elliott Bros. (London) Ltd, Borehamwood
JE Elliott-Litton, Borehamwood
JK La Radio Technique, Suresne, Paris, France
JN International Rectifier Co., (GB) Ltd, Oxted
JQ Associated transistors, Ruislip
JT Microwave Associates Ltd, Luton
K Electronic Tubes, High Wycombe
L CSF, Levallois-Perret (Seine), Paris, France
L MOV Highgrove pre Oct 1951
LB CSF, St. Egreve, Grenoble, Isere, France
M Gramophone Co., Hayes
MA EMI research labs, Hayes
MB EMI research labs, Ruislip
ME EMI, Hayes
MR EMI (Valve Division), Ruislip
MT EMI, Treorchy
N Nore Electric, Southend
N STC, Footscray, pre August 1951
NP Texas Instruments, Dallas Road, Bedford
NQ Texas Instuments, Bedford
NR Texas Instruments, Nice, France
O Rank Cintel, Lower Sydenham
OR Rank Cintel, Rotunda
OS Rank Cintel, Sidcup
P Philips, Eindhoven, Holland
P GEC, Shaw, pre August 1948
PA Philips Teleindustri, Stockholm, Sweden
PDA Philips, Hendon, Australia
Q English Electric Valve Co., Chelmsford
QB Marconi Wireless Telegraphy Co., Great Baddow
QC Marconi Wireless Telegraphy Co., Chelmsford
QD English Electric Valve Co., Stafford
QE English Electric Valve Co., Kidsgrove
QF English Electric Valve Co., Nelson Research Labs, Hixon
R Ferranti, Moston
R Ferranti, Gem Mill Oldham, pre July 1947
RA Ferranti, Edinburgh
RB Ferranti, Dundee
RC Ferranti, Chadderton, Oldham
S AEI, Rugby
SA AEI, Lutterworth
SB AEI, Lincoln
SC CFTH, Usine de Joinville, Seine, france
SD SESCO, Rue de L'Amiral, Mouchez, Paris, France
SDA Amalgamated Wireless, Australia
SF CFTH, Rue Mario-Nikis, Paris, France
SL AEI, Leicester
SP AEI, Peterborough
T British Tungsram, Tottenham
U MOV, Bulmer, pre Oct 1945
U Nucleonic and Radiological, Stratford
V Cossor, Highbury, pre Sept 1945
V Gilbert Photoelectrics
VA Westinghouse, Chippenham
VF MCP Electronics, Alperton
VL Hughes Internations (UK) Ltd., Glenrothes
VR Brush Rothermell Crystal Co., Hythe
W GEC, Hirst Labs, Wembley
ASM Ltd
WB GEC, Coventry
WD Claude General Neon Lights, Wembley
WE ASM Ltd, Hazel Grove
WF ASM Ltd, Broadstone
X MOV, Springvale, pre Oct 1951
Y MOV, Moray, pre April 1945
YA Leigh Electronics, Havant
YC Semiconductors Ltd., Cheney Manor, Swindon
YD Semiconductors Ltd., Towcester
Z MO Valve Company, Hammersmith
ZA MOV, Gateshead, pre March 1957
ZB MOV, Perivale
ZC MOV, Springvale, pre August 1957
ZD MOV, Dover, pre Dec 1956
ZE Osram GEC Lamp Works, MXT Dept, pre March 1957

In a separate cartouche there often is a two character alpha code which denotes manufacture date   eg AA.    The first letter denotes the year and uses the entire alphabet except for I and O  and started in 1945.  Hence an  A denotes 1945 and Z denotes 1969.    In a similar fashion the second letter denotes the month of manufacture with A  denoting January and M denoting December.

An additional system of dating is also used which records the date of valve labelling, this dating system utilises a four digit numeric code in which the first two integers denote year and the second two integers the week of the year.   Hence 6712 would denote March 1967.

WAHEY! OUR FIRST WEBSITE ORDER

Welcome to our 423 newly registered customers and thank you for our first web shop order which is going to Italy!

IT'S COLD ENOUGH TO CRYO TREAT YOUR VALVES!

Brrrr, isn't it cold outside.  Anyone keen to DIY cryo treat their valves?  For your delectation, here is a picture of some valves dressed up to protect them against the cold - they don't look too happy do they?  This seasonal jape comes from a marketing film to be shown in German kinema by Telefunken some time in the early 1930s.

MULLARD DURING WARTIME

It was a difficult time at Mullard during wartime. First of all, they were cut off from Philips - in more ways than one as the Philips and Mullard parts of the Blackburn facility were segregated with building doorways staffed by Corps of Commissionaire guards who were instructed to not let any Philips personnel into the Mullard areas. The problem was that Philips senior staff were now treated as suspect due to having family members in enemy occupied territory and were hence a coercion and security risk.

As if that wasn't enough, the jolly Germans had a crack at the Mitcham site, first of all in October 1940 when a stick of bombs hit the New Road site towards the rear of the complex which resuted in the total destruction of a machine shop. Many wags said that this was no great shakes and that Mitcham should be thankfull than the nearby marzipan factory of Renshaws was spared bombing! The next attempt was a hit purely by fluke as a V1 Flying Bomb belted a buliding again towards the rear of the complex in June 1944. The nose cone of the V1 was found in the nearby Wandle river and rescued as a trophy by a group of local children - I wonder if it still survives today?

SS Eriks decision to transfer much of valve production to Blackburn was vindicated as the Mullard Blackburn facility was never bombed, even though the first bombs hit Blackburn residential areas in August 1940. Strangely enough, Lord Haw Haw, Nazi propagandist and radio broadcaster continued to warn the people of Blackburn that the Nazis were aware of the local Royal Ordinance Factory locations and bombs would follow but Blackburn remained unharmed. It is interesting that the Nazis either didn't know about or chose to ignore the Mullard Blackburn facility.

An interesting aside is that a single V1 Flying Bomb hit Hoghton on the outskirts of Blackburn on Christmas Day 1944 - was it just off course or was it an attempt to give Mullard Blackburn a Christmas present? It's a real enigma as gyroscopic control kept all of he V1 flying bombs on their launch preset course and a turbine dynamometer situated in the nose cone of the V1 cut the fuel supply and hence stopped the pulse jet engine after a preprogrammed distance had been travelled the result being that 15 seconds later the V1 came to earth with a big kaboom. So why was Lancashire chosen - did the gyroscope wobble the V1 away from the Home Counties or was the V1 deliberately set on a Lancashire trajectory?

To put the V1 Flying bombing of Mullard facilities into perspective, the statistics are quite interesting - 2 V1 flying bombs out of the 8025 fired in total hit Mullard facilities. 1,126,998 premises other than Mullard facilities were damaged or destroyed by V1 flying bombs.

 

 It is interesting to compare the performance of Mullard Mitcham and Blackburn during the war years, figures from 1944 show that Mitcham produced 5 million valves whereas Mullard produced 6.5 million - not bad for this six year old site! Part of this was due to the more modern production techniques ad equipment at Blackburn and part also to the larger staff quota - in 1944, Blackburn had 4185 staff on site.

Mullard valve manufacture was perceived by the government of the day as essential war work and if we compare Mullard's manufacturing to the traditional industrial mainstay of Blackburn, cotton manufacturing, some interesting facts and statistics are revealed. It's quite ironic that the latter suffered as a result of the former! Govenment policy was quite adamant that it was essential to release as many indigenous workers as possible for war production which had the effect of concentration in Blackburn (and much of Yorkshire & Lancashire) whereby many cotton mills were closed down until the number of active cotton mills in Blackburn dwindled from the peacetime level of 64 to just 19. The surviving mills found themselves engaged on the production of such unfamiliar fabrics as parachute cloth (- not very successfully as the machines were outdated and unsuitable), camouflage material, and khaki drill. The empty mills were used for storage of food supplies or strategic material as Government Storage Depots or Buffer Depots. During the "Blitz" two mills were used to rehouse firms whose premises had been bombed.

 

IT'S THE NEW YEAR - WHAT HAPPENED IN THE NEW YEAR OF 1939?

Here we are with the first blog entry of 2012 and where better to pick up our story of Mullard in 1939. Well by February 1939, the fledgeling Mullard Blackburn factory was working of sorts with just 38 staff and by June they were firmly entrenched in the manufacture of domestic receivers, components and lamp filaments. SS Eriks, mindful of the voracious demand for valves pressed ahead and by the end of 1939 a second building had been erected at Blackburn to allow valve making to commence with manufacturing instrumentation and equipment hurriedly shipped from Eindhoven in Holland. The idea was that Blackburn would commence pilot manufacture of the new EF50 valve, introduced in Holland in early 1939 principally for television receiver use. 

Like it's contemporary, the Acorn valve, the EF50 was very different from any valve Mullard had manufactured previously. It needed a skilled labour force, new equipment and instrumentation and the consistent application of hitherto unknown manufacturing techniques because in the EF50, the traditional micanol base was replaced with a 'disc seal' glass base which required, special manufacturing equipment, special glass and three types of special wire!!!!!

Early attempts at base manufacture were catastrophic, mindful of waste, the winds of war circulating Europe and the shame of being looked down on by Philips management, Dr E A Roberts of Mullard Blackburn was seconded to the Emmasingel development laboratories of Philips Eindhoven in February 1940 to perfect the required glass forming techniques. In May 1940, as the Panzer tanks rolled into Holland, the good Doctor made good his escape from Holland by hitching a lift on a passing British destroyer. Thankfully, he carried a briefcase stuffed full of drawings, formulae and information on glass forming but more importantly, he had helped broker a deal with Philips Eindhoven to supply 25,000 completed EF50 devices and 500,000 pre - formed EF50 bases that would jump start the bulk manufacture of EF50 valves in England and these were shipped on the 9th of May 1940 by road freight and thence a Zeeland Steamer Company ship. After a harrowing journey in which the ship was attacked and damaged by Stuka dive bombers, the ship with it's precious cargo arrived safely in England, six days later - a few days after Dr Roberts' escape. With both man and materials safe, Mullard and the EF50 went on to play a pivotal part in the Allies' success, so much so, that the EF50 was crowned ' The Valve that Won the War!' but more on that particular story in a future blog entry!