P .P. Eckersley and Sir J.C.W Reith – More Secrets by John Heys G3BDQ

Quite recently the BBC vacated Bush House and relocated the World Service in new accommodation within Broadcasting House. One of the newly acquired rooms there is named the Eckersley Room and perhaps represents just a small beginning towards the Corporation’s long position (pretence?) that Peter Eckersley had never existed. He was the first and perhaps greatest BBC Chief Engineer until his resignation in May 1929 a resignation that was virtually a sacking by Reith.

We must not forget his planning and designing the complex arrangement of main and lower powered secondary transmitters which resulted in the complete radio coverage of the British Isles. His marital indiscretions ought not to have levered him out of the Corporation employ so savagely. For this we must blame Sir John Reith the BBCs Director General. This Scottish self regarded puritan, who incidentally was standing on legs of clay himself at the time whilst getting the approval of his actions from the six Governors. He was behaving as if he had sole command of the BBC.

In the 1930s Peter Eckersley drifted towards the new and growing Fascist movement represented in Britain by Sir Oswald Mosley its leader. Mosley and his party held opinions and views that were supported by a large section of the middle class. I well remember reading my family’s Daily Mail which applauded and warmly supported Mussolini’s attack and conquest of Abyssinia, now known as Ethiopia, in the year 1935.Eckersley and Mosley even planned their own Radio Network of broadcasting that would rival and they hoped, eventually smash the BBC. Its transmitter would be located in Europe or the Channel Isles. Nothing came of this concept, but it led later to Eckersley’s ‘Radio by Wire’ system which later became Rediffusion Ltd. Despite his closeness to Mosley, Peter was recruited to M16. whilst his former wife Dorothy was in Germany during WW2 busy broadcasting Nazi propaganda with her colleague the so called Lord Haw Haw. After the war she was tried and jailed for helping the enemy. I don’t ever remember reading or hearing about this at the time. The old British cover up

I have copies of the 1928 and 1930 BBC Handbooks and they make fascinating reading. The 1928 book has a lengthy four and a half page Introduction. This is one of the most turgid and boring pieces of prose that I have ever encountered. Here is a short extract.

“……for the same people, matter entirely proper in a hall or a newspaper may be in bad taste or even frankly objectionable in a family group. This is not Philistinism but common sense.”

I read a description of Reith which described him thus, “he had his umbrella rolled like a sword, his shoes highly polished and his suit impeccable”. Here was the man who insisted that all male broadcasters should wear evening dress and bow ties when before the microphone.

It is recorded that as a youth at Greshams Public School in Holt, Norfolk. Reith became a bully, played much sport and showed little interest in the female sex. He had a bachelor partnership with David Bowser, a young Army officer for many years which eventually petered out. Surprisingly at the time Reith was expelling Eckersley from the BBC for adultery he himself although by then married was actually conducting an intimate affair! This was perhaps known in some circles at the time but remembering how the Press ‘clammed up’ when important individuals misbehaved they suppressed the news. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII had torrid affairs with married women which never appeared as news items in the Press or on the BBC. Fortunately, sometimes many years later, the activities of some ‘high ups’ become widely publicised in the media.

By John Heys G3BDQ – Vital Spark October 2012.

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