By Chris Underwood ZL2CU
The Background Politics of the ZC1.
In the period between the British Prime Minister Chamberlain signing the
pact for “Peace in our time” and the first shots being fired, the British
War Office recognised the very limited time available to re-arm the British
Military Forces for the inevitable conflict. It was decided to seek
assistance from certain Commonwealth Countries including Australia, Canada
and New Zealand (NZ) in the re-armament process. As part of this process it
was determined to invite a small number of leading electronics experts from
those countries to the UK to be briefed on the latest secret developments
such as Radar. New Zealand sent the head of the Dominion Scientific and
Industrial Research (DSIR) Dr Ernest Marsden, his task was, in the space of three
months, to learn everything he could about Radar, then purchase all
necessary components required for the assembly of a system back in NZ. It
was expected that this would stimulate ongoing research and development
leading to eventual local production of Radar sets as required. It was hoped
that in the event of the fall of the UK this transfer of knowledge would
permit the Commonwealth to fight on. How this impacted on the production of
the ZC1 will be seen latter in this article.
second group of technical experts from the same countries were also brought
to the UK; their role was somewhat different. Comprised of military radio
personnel and civilian radio engineers their task was to view the latest
military radios and hardware that the British wanted to standardise on
throughout the Commonwealth. This group was then expected to report back to
their respective Governments on the equipment that should be purchased by
that country. A second task of this group was to report on the possible
local manufacture of such equipment to boost British production capacity.
Yet another third much larger group, was comprised of civilian design staff,
radio technicians and skilled production staff. This group was sent to
the UK and absorbed into the
British electronics research establishment and production facilities to
assist in the urgent need to immediately boost production of war materials
for the rearming of the run down British forces. This step while of
immediate benefit to the British had the impact of significantly reducing
the pool of skilled radio personnel available in NZ. However, the eventual
return of most this group over time brought back many valuable new skills.
Angus Tait founder of Tait Electronics was a member of this group.
All three groups affected the development and production of the ZC1
as follows, although it is the second group from New Zealand that played the
greatest part in the events leading to the development of the ZC1. Included
in the material this group brought back to NZ with them were plans and
samples of a newly developed British HF transceiver known as the No.19 set
manufactured by PYE. This set was originally designed for use in
armored vehicles but it was considered that it might be satisfactory as a
general purpose set for the NZ armed forces. The NZ Army members of
this group, influenced by their Commonwealth counterparts stated intention
to standardise on this set, recommended its adoption. However the civilian
members of the group thought it too complex and believed something better
and cheaper could be designed and produced locally. The debate raged on
for months with claims ranging from extreme pessimism that such a radio
could ever be produced in NZ to extreme optimism that a vastly superior and
cheaper set could be by the respective sides. In the meantime both
Australia and Canada adopted the No. 19 set with Canada becoming a major
manufacturing country of them.
The argument seems to have reached a stalemate and the frustrated NZ army,
who just wanted some radios, attempted to place an order for a number of No.
19 sets itself. However the Army soon discovered that by this late stage
all available production of these sets was now allocated for many months
ahead. This forced the NZ Government and Army to reluctantly agree to
industry proposals that a competition for the design of a suitable radio set
that could be produced locally be held. It was agreed that the design
would be based on the general specification of the No. 19 set. It was
perhaps significant that at the time although reluctantly agreeing to the
competition neither the Government nor the Army committed themselves to the
production of the wining set.
Design and Production of the ZC1.
The outcome of this competition was the ZC1 Military Transceiver designed by
a Collier and Beale design team. Records of meetings show that the Army
initially rejected the design; they wanted the No. 19 Radio which by now was
in full production in Canada and the UK. On the basis that the
ZC1 was unproven the Army refused to fund its development or pay for any
completed sets until totally proven to its full satisfaction. The Army
hoped that this would kill the project and gain it full Government support
for the purchase and local manufacture of the No. 19 set.
To break this stalemate the Government agreed to a proposal that the NZ Post
Office would supply the required components from its large stock holding of
radio components, and that it would also fund the development of the ZC1
including an initial trial production run to be undertaken by Collier and
Beale. As far as I can now ascertain this initial production was for 165
sets and was the only production of ZC1’s to be actually undertaken by
Collier and Beale.
The design and performance of the ZC1 MK1 proved to be superior to anything
else available to the Army including the few No. 19 sets it had been able to
acquire and it was forced to accept the design. Contracts for the mass
production of the ZC1 Mk 1 were then let and the main manufacturers appear
to have been Radio Limited based in Auckland and
Radio Corporation based in
Collier and Beale, at that time considered by many to be the leading radio
manufacturer with the best development and design team in NZ, were not given
any of these contracts. Instead they were required to develop the RADAR
designs and components brought back by Dr Marsden into working equipment which
was then installed in the Hauraki Gulf, Marlborough Sounds and several other
locations around NZ. These RADAR installations were similar to those used
by the British in the Battle of Britain. Collier and Beale were also
required to continue their production and development of high power radio
transmitters and also low emission receivers for maritime use.
The maritime receivers in particular were an important development as many
of the ships sailing in NZ waters at the outbreak of war used
regenerative receivers. These receivers acted like marker
beacons whenever they were turned on allowing submarines to easily direction
find and then sink the ships carrying them. Surprisingly, many of the new
“Victory" class Ships being mass produced in the USA were fitted with
regenerative receivers. Also in some instances ships had been
placed in service only partially fitted out and lacked any receiver at all.
All these ships had to be fitted with NZ manufactured low emission receivers
as they arrived in NZ.
This important work stretched Collier and Beale’s resources but as so many
skilled workers had been sent to the UK recruitment for expansion was
impossible and effectively prevented the company's further significant
involvement in production of the ZC1.