About Brooklands Wireless

This website is the home of the Brooklands Wireless Communications Collection a project started in 2014 at Brooklands Museum. The Collection is open most days and Radio Clubs, or other groups are welcome by appointment. Amateur Radio Station GB1BM, is operational for special events.

While many people are aware of Brooklands' record breaking history involving Motor Racing, fewer are aware of its record breaking history in Aviation and until recently hardly anyone knew of the historic firsts achieved at Brooklands regarding wireless communication.

It all starts during September 1911 when trials of airborne wireless begun at the 'Brooklands Aviation Ground' using a Flanders monoplane with a Marconi timed spark transmitter operating from a 6 volt battery shown below. In August and September respectively the previous year, first the Americans and then the British had successfully sent a Morse code message from an aeroplane, but of course the 'Holly Grail' was to have 'two-way' communications.

First air to ground wireless aircraft
First air to ground wireless aircraft later view

The two photos above are Copyright Phil Jarrett, the first shows the Flanders Aeroplane during the early experimenting, the second one shows it after it was extensively modified to improve its performance and also carrying an improved aerial array (note the historic Brooklands banking in the background). We think the people in the plane are A W Mathieu of Marconi and Pilot E V B Fisher and it was this pair that achieved the World's first successful two-way radio transmissions (using Morse code) made while flying over Brooklands on the 9th may 1912.

Sadly the same Pilot Mr. Fisher achieved another first a few days later on the 13th of May, when the same aircraft was involved in a fatal accident at Brooklands. The subsequent investigation carrieed out by the Public Safety and Accident Investigation Committee, was the first of it kind and became the basis of all subsequent aviation investigations

Experimenting carried on at Brooklands until the outbreak of war when the Royal Flying Corps took over the Marconi experimental establishment headed by R D Bangay. A few months later in April 1915 there was a major increase in size of the wireless training school at Brooklands led by Major C E Prince & Major H C T Dowding (who would go on to become Air Chief Marshal Dowding of world war two fame). They were also joined by No 9 Squadron now the oldest dedicated Bomber Squadron of the Royal Air Force and at the time the only radio-training squadron. 

In great secrecy they worked on two way voice communication, because this would mean that any pilot could give a wireless report without the need to use Morse code. The breakthrough came in June 1915 when Capt. J.M. Furnival heard the voice of Major C E Prince, while flying above Brooklands. The exact date is still unknown but a recently located written report by Dowding states, "During the week ending 26th June, for the first time anywhere in the world, a voice was heard on the ground at Brooklands airfield from an aircraft flying above".It is not clear on this occasion if voice communication was two way, or whether Morse code.

This was just the start of Brooklands' connection with Wireless. During 1916 Archibald M Low (the inventor of TeleVista a forerunner of Television) came to Brooklands to work on radio controlled unmanned aircraft (drones) a subject which we are still researching. The concept of communication between racing cars and the pits was also developed at Brooklands in the twenties.