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INSIDE WESTERGLEN

Photos by Gilbert Pollock, contributed by Jim Pollock

Jim's father, Gilbert Pollock (1911-1985) was born in Cumberland and migrated to Sydney, Australia with his family in 1922. He became interested in radio and received his amateur radio operators licence in 1931 with the call VK2XU.

He held the position of engineer at Radio 2KA, Katoomba (medium wave commercial broadcast radio station located about 60 miles west of Sydney) in 1937. In 1938, he and his wife Enid travelled to London. He volunteered for the Army Signal Corps at the outbreak of war, but dissatisfied with his conditions of employment and since he now had a baby daughter, he applied for and was granted his discharge.

He joined the BBC in late 1940 or early 1941 and moved to Falkirk in Scotland where he worked as an engineer at the BBC transmitter at Westerglen. After the War he ran a successful electrical retail shop at 122 High Street, Falkirk, near the Falkirk steeple.

He and his family returned to Australia in 1951. He retained his interest in amateur radio and operated under the call sign VK2FU until his death in 1985.

All of these photos were taken by Gilbert Pollock during his time at BBC Westerglen. I suspect that most of them date from about late 1940 to 1942. At this time, Westerglen would have been about ten years old.

All of the original prints measure about 80mm by 55mm and were taken with a Kodak “Baby Brownie”. As this was wartime, film and photographic paper were in short supply and economies had to be made. Also, I suspect that he was taking a big security risk photographing the inside of the station at this time. Many of the photos were time exposures of up to two minutes. In some of the photos you can see Gilbert with arm raised, apparently adjusting something. What he was actually doing was looking at his wristwatch to time the exposure!

Fortunately, most of the prints have a full explanation written on the back in Gilbert’s handwriting. The descriptions in quotes are his descriptions. So here, thanks to Gilbert's courage in taking these phots at the time and with great thanks to Jim, is a unique insight into a BBC transmission site in wartime...

“Enid and I went out for a walk past the station. This snap shows Enid and baby in pram with masts in the distance. 500 feet high. Two small masts for experimental purposes.”

Gilbert Pollock
Starting the 350HP diesels

“The four diesel engines which generate our own power. Six cylinder 630 HP. You can see in (the) far engine the six tubes which convey the oil to each cylinder from the compressor (2,000lb per sq. in.)”

“Better views of compressor in near engine. Six little levers stop engine when lifted up, thus cutting off fuel from each cylinder.”

 
The generators

“Engine room switchboard or part of it. Exposure time 2 minutes in electric light. I set up camera and ran to board for two minutes and then ran back and switched off the shutter. The camera not quick enough to record my movement but OK on long pose.”

“3-phase mercury arc rectifier panel. We pull 2,500A at 230V from mains when using outside supply.”

A 50kW output inductance coil

“Tuning the final stage of the 50kW TX. Each wheel controls each half of the push-pull final. One half is shown to the right of the unit where I am. The other half is out of the picture on the left. Aerial feeder meters can be seen. Two stages way down on right.”

Control desk no. 2


A sand-bagged anti-aircraft gun.

 

Fortunately, Westerglen was never considered to be a strategic target during the War (assuming it could be found by German bombers) although I do recall Dad mentioning that one night when he was not on duty, a bomber dropped a stick of bombs nearby. However, I do remember him saying that just before raids were expected they sometimes received orders to shut down the transmitter in case it was being used by the Germans for location finding purposes. He said the BBC would regularly shut down one transmitter and switch on another on the same frequency and at a different location, to confuse the enemy. Glasgow and the Clyde shipyards were far more attractive as targets.

The BBC Bus in the Falkirk Snow.

"The BBC van coming to pick me up for work.”

Westerglen Gallery | Inside Brookmans Park

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