Insomnia (insomnia) wrote,

On grandfather.

James Neale, my grandfather, died today at the age of 93. He lived a long life, and, according to him, a good one.

James was a member of the British Post Office, radio division, during World War II. The contributions that he and the British Post Office made to the war effort can hardly be underestimated - amongst his co-workers in the postal service was Alan Turing, inventor of the digital computer.

During the war, my grandfather designed radio countermeasures that interfered with the targeting systems used by German bombers to reach their targets during The Battle of Britain. He also was in charge of the creation of mobile vehicles designed to detect broadcasts from German spies. After the war, his work was modified by the postal service to create television detector vans -- so, if you like the BBC, you can thank my grandfather in part for making sure that a relatively small country could afford to make some fairly good television.

My grandfather worked after the war as an engineer and inventor. He was also a very good chess player - one of the top chess players in England at one point.

Over a decade ago, my grandfather recorded recollections of his wartime experiences. I have been editing the old, noisy tape over time, and have managed to improve the sound quality. It seems only fitting that he should tell you a bit about himself... here's an excerpt.

It's worth mentioning that the tunnels that my grandfather talks of are part of the British Post Office's deep level tunnel network that connected the essential government communications hubs of London. This underground network even included a postal railroad. The tunnels that sheltered my grandfather during the war are still under London to this day.

"When one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language."~ John Donne

I cannot speak for where my grandfather's spirit has gone, other than -- to some extent -- it lives on in me. It seems appropriately ironic though that a man whose life was so much about analog now lives on in digital; I think he would have appreciated that.

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