Find us Contact us Join us Donate

Spark Transmitter, 1916.


'Trench Set Transmitter', 1917


'Trench Set Receiver', 1917


MCR1 'Spy Set', 1943


Throughout history, many inventions and developments have occurred as the result of wars.

In the 1790s the threat of a Napoleonic invasion led to vastly improved signalling devices, such as the Murray Optical Telegraph.

In the 1850s, cables were laid under the Black Sea and the English Channel to relay military news from the Crimea to London and Paris.

The extensive use of wireless in WW1 led to great developments in valves, so that by 1918, the valve had superseded the spark transmitter and was in general use.

One of the Museum's 'Treasures', is a 1916 Wave (or 'Spark') Transmitter, which was originally fitted to an airship, where it produced sparks within a few feet of the (usually leaking) hydrogen filled gas bag...

During WW1, airships were used for patrol work, to spot the movement of enemy shipping and locate artillery shots. This information was then relayed to Base in Morse code by the Wireless Operator on board the airship. As valves were only in the development stage, spark transmitters were still widely used.

However, valves were fitted to the portable ‘Continuous Wave Transmitters and Receivers’ used in the 'Forward Area' (trenches)….The Trench Sets had a range of about two miles and required a 'Volunteer' to go 'over the top' and lay out the 100 feet long aerial.

The development of the valve revolutionised radio communications and within twenty years, complex transceivers were being assembled for use in WW2.

Throughout the War, the role of radio was vital - providing light relief as well as relaying the latest developments and news from 'The Front'.

Clandestine radio played an important role as well. "The Spy Set" was a 4-valve battery set with plug-in coils, produced by the Philco Radio Company. Packed in Huntley & Palmer biscuit tins, thirty thousand of these sets were dropped at night to resistance fighters in enemy occupied countries. Known to the French Resistance as "Radio Biscuite"!

In the war years, enormous advances were made with the development of ground, air and submarine devices, using radio, radar and sonar equipment.

A badly dented 1938 German 'EK' Receiver is another of the Museum's 'Treasures' It was recovered from the wreckage of a Heinkel 111, shot down in an attack on warships anchored near the Forth Bridge during the first air raid of the war on 16 October 1939.
It carries the marks of machine gun bullets, fired from the attacking Spitfire of 602 Squadron.

Display of Airborne equipment, (Saltire Court, Edinburgh). Top to Bottom:- German EK Receiver and damaged front panel; Search and Rescue Transmitter; T1154 and R1155 B40 Valve Receiver, 1952 B40 Valve Receiver, 1952 Wireless Set no.1, 1936 EK Receiver, W.W.2 – German Wireless Set no. 19, ‘Tank Set’ W.W.2 Wireless Set no. 38, W.W.2