Oral history of British science

Bird, Raymond (Part 5 of 15). An Oral History of British Science

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  • Subjects

    Computer Hardware; Electronics

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Newbury

  • Interviewees

    Bird, Raymond, 1923- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 5: Remarks on interview so far. Describes journey from Liverpool, wartime liner through Atlantic, Gibraltar, Mediterranean, Suez Canal, Great Biter Lakes [cough] to Bombay, troop train to a Victorian cantonment at Ambala in the Punjab. Mentions posting as head of offshoot from Delhi signal station. Describes technicalities of signal station. Short story about monsoon season insects overwhelming transmitter air conditioning. [06:10] Remarks on snakes being a problem in monsoon when the racecourse the signal station was on flooded [short pause to close door, coughing]. Mentions boredom and lack of female company. Describes life in the officers mess and role of servants. [09:50] Short story about commander monitoring alcohol consumption. Remarks on differences between career and wartime officers. Comments on mess games that destroyed furniture, British Bulldog, formal diners in the mess and the importance of such activities in military team building. Mentions freedom of working on a small base. [14:10] Remarks on the end of the war and commander buying a beer barrel. Comments on commanding the signal station: importance of following instructions, 'Kings Regulations' and 'Air Council Instructions', shrinking staff. Remarks on frequency changes and instructions. Remarks on importance of technical qualifications to support RAF technical personnel and his duties as an officer. Short story about a large cable drum they had no instructions for. [20:30] Comments on human problems of commanding: servicemen with girlfriend problems and skivers. Short story about a skiving cook. Remarks on another flying officer as admin officer. Remarks on conditions in the cantonment and Indian town of Ambala Remarks on great trunk road from Peshawar to Delhi and Calcutta. [24:45] Remarks on societies in the cantonment: Masons, Odd fellows, Rotary. Remarks on base cinema. Comments on separation of base and local town, violence at partition, Gandhi's 'Quit India' movement, riots, comparison with later American base at Greenham Common. [28:35] Comments on Shimla and radio sub station there. Story about visiting Shimla, by train, via Kalka. [32:10] Remarks on Franco-Burmese girlfriend in the WACI at Ambala and visiting her children in a Shimla orphanage. Further remarks on Shimla: monkeys, visiting years later, Kipling. Comments on shooting Black Buck Indian Antelope, competition for shooting the male with the longest horn, post independence fate of Black Buck, Tiger hunting licence. [39:10] Description of hunting trips with Muslim driver and Hindu bearer, with remarks on buying a rifle, the incompatibility of Halal animal slaughter and getting an animal head to mount, eating buck in the mess. [43:30] Comments on shooting Peacock and wild boar. Mentions swimming pool at Cantonment. [45:50] Remarks on build up to Indian Independence, Jai-Hind quit India movement. Short story about a riot at Delhi railway station when travelling to Ambala for a polo match and to visit girlfriend. Remarks on grading of messes and cycling, Lutchen's design of Delhi and the Raj Path, social life and attractions. [50:20] Story about winning a mid tour leave lottery and waiting in Wurley, Bombay. Description of the Willingdon Club. Remarks on: Indian feelings about independence; Jinnah and Mountbatten; partition and massacres. [55:40] Comment on European opinions to independence, 'Jewel in the Crown', Addiscombe school in Croydon for Indian Civil Service, stability of British rule. Remarks on religious make up of India, Muslims and Sikhs. Remarks on Sikhs involvement with transport, visiting Sikh clubs. [1:00:00] Comments on visiting an Anglo-Indian friend in the Indian Royal Mounted Artillery Regiment Mess. Further remarks on Anglo-Indian friends, procedures for preventing airmen marrying locals. [1:05:40] Comments about Sikh friends in Delhi met via friends in Winchester later in life. Remarks on female companionship in India. Comments on Franco-Burmese girlfriend, and story about her being ignored by white women at a party. [1:10:00] Remarks on rigid structure of life, on feeling sad at collapse of British Empire. Comments on status of technical officers in RAF. Remarks on life in Delhi. Story about a veteran breaking the mess rules. [1:15:35] Mentions being in Ambala on VJ Day. Remarks on relationship with commander. Story about a car accident with an army officer and resolving the problem with the help of the station warrant officer. [1:19:10] Remarks on feelings at end of war, hating Germans and Japanese, celebrations. [mic crackle] Remarks on dealing with service regulations, story about a warrant officer dying his greatcoat mauve. Story about a visit of a large formation of aircraft flying to China. [1:25:15] Comments on RAF demob mutinies. Remarks on winning mid-tour leave lottery. [1:28:00] Story about accounting for a lost watch. Story about loss of a signal school revolver, but avoiding a court marshal with the aid of a warrant officer. [1:35:00] Remarks on warrant officers and relationships with men under him. Remarks about dealing with personnel problems. Remarks on technical problems, quality of new equipment from Marconi and slow service procedures.

  • Description

    Interview with electrical engineer and computer designer Dr Raymond Bird.

  • Related transcripts

    Raymond Bird interviewed by Thomas Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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