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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Marconi 500Watt pack wireless set


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Has anyone access to the wiring diagrams or field manual for the 500W wireless set ?  These were used right through the war, although more extensively in the various theatres other than the Western Front.


Photo of recently acquired generator unit built to the Marconi design at the RAN factory in Sydney in 19165906f08549332_Right-rearquarter.thumb.JPG.7e801937829e4c2ee22d2d51d4fd58ad.JPG.



500W wireless station in German East Africa in 1917


The upper box houses the major equipment for the transmitter and receiver, the lower box the HV transformer and leydon jars. The LV cable connects from the lower side of the generator to the left side of the lower box in this photo. The HV from the right side of the lower box to the horns on the upper side of the spark interrupter on the back of the generator and then back to the lower box. The small box on the top is probably a valve amplifier for the crystal receiver using the R-valve. The antenna is not visible in this photo, two 10m steel masts each of 8 sections, with a 100m horizontal antenna and copper earth mat.


Pre-war and early production units were configured to be moved by 5 pack horses (loads: 2xwireless boxes, generator set, 16 mast segments, 2xsuitcases holding guywires, antenna, earth mat, and power cables, and 2xboxes of spares & fuel). The photo above shows the generator on a pack saddle type frame but with a skid base which could not be transported by pack horse. The RAN generator at the top is actually dated 1916 but shows that late style cast aluminium base plate.




Equivalent German radio generator captured near Ypers (capture date unclear) belonging to Royal Australian Engineers Museum. This presumably originally had a similar HV spark generator, however the generator was used by RAE tunnelling companies to power lighting and the HV spark box is likely to have been removed at that time.













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  • 4 weeks later...

Some updated photos



Rear of the engine with the flywheel removed showing that it was built at the RAN Randwick factory in 1916.  The factory had been established by the infamous Father Shaw who sold it to the Commonwealth Government in 1916. So this gen set is the first year of RAN production.



Cover removed from the synchronous high voltage spark housing.




The German equivalent in use on the Marne, March 1918. IWM Q23691.





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Sorry I can't help regarding  your original question Ross, but fascinating details and images all the same.  It's interesting to note the typical German engineering efficiency on their unit - it having force-fed cooling air over the cylinders, as opposed to the rudimentary flywheel  'vanes' on your set.   Presumably this would have been almost a direct 'copy' of the Allied set.


I'm also presuming that the power unit is in fact a Douglas?


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Hi Pete

The British set was first introduced in 1913 by the Marconi company with the generator engines sourced from the Douglas Motorcycle Company using their 2 3/4 hp engine mounted on a pack saddle frame. They were intended to be issued at cavalry Brigade and cavalry Division level. The Commonwealth of Australia Govt purchased 6 sets which were delivered in 1914 prior to the war. These were deployed at Gallipoli and used to co-ordinate naval gun fire. Apparently they were the only wireless available for the Dardanelles campaign. During the war the design progressively moved from horse to truck transport although some stations were maintained as horse pack transport until the end of the war. They were used extensively in Palestine and Mesopotamia.


I had always believed that the generator sets assembled at the RAN factory were built using imported Douglas engines. This may not be the case, the RAN factory definitely made the crankcase housing and may possibly have built the entire engine as a license copy of the Douglas. As the restoration proceeds I will learn more, but for a few hundred engines rational thought is that they surely must have purchased the engines rather than made them from scratch. Then it was "Father Shaw's factory" and rational thought has no relationship to anything he touched.


With the German engine/generator, it was very much an equivalent machine. The engine was built by the firm "Gardiner" and the generator by "Bosch".  It has a variety of superior features, maintenance would have been much easier.


This example was recovered at Ypers in about 1916. There is a fanciful story of it's capture - Capt R V Morse, of the AIF Tunneling Companies workshops (actual tittle "Australian Electrical and Mechanical Mining and Boring Company - AIF") was placed in charge of a workshop in a former motor cycle accessories factory, needing a generator to power lighting he went out and liberated the machine from the enemy. Much more likely is that when the German IV Cavalry Corps had occupied Ypres on 7 and 8 October 1914 that the generator had been taken to the motorcycle workshop for repair and subsequently left behind. Then when Capt Morse's company was allocated the workshop, they found, repaired and subsequently used it to power the lights.


Morse ultimately brought it back to Australia as a souvenir, and lived not far from me in Lindfield. Some time after his death his family donated it to the RA Engineers Museum at Holsworthy.




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  • 4 months later...

Last week-end the Marconi crystal receiver unit for the 500W station was sold at the Historical Radio Society Aust (HRSA) auction up on the central coast. Particularly interesting as it was also made at Father Shaw's factory at Randwick. Unfortunately brought a few more dollars than I could afford. THe wood box underneath is not original.







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  • 2 years later...

Tacking  this link to the Marconi Collection and catalogue on to this thread. (I have the vaguest idea that the collection has been mentioned before, but I can't trace the reference.)

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For the 500W pack set, a surviving example of the upper wireless station box



The crystal receiver is on the right,

the telegraph key is screwed down to the desk flap and has a cable to plug into the lower box.

the lower left of the unit has equipment associated with tuning of the transmitted signal, while the upper compartments are storage.


And a surviving example of the lower box housing the HV transformer and capacitors (leydon jars). This is together with the HV and LV cables to join the lower box to the generator and the spark generator at the generator.






Detail of transmitted signal tuner

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