Maurice Legg

Chapter 12….Next stop Stoke d’Abernon

There is a French proverb that “in Paris life is a dream”. Our life in Paris ended in July 1967; maybe we only dreamt it. Whatever, we came down to earth in a rented house in Stoke D’Abernon and I started work in Feltham with Nadgeco in summer 1967. Our first challenge was to find schools for some of the children. Suzanne and Stephanie were nine and we interviewed Miss Doran, who was the headmistress of Claremont , a Christian Science school in Esher . We’d had them assessed previously, both had the same IQ sufficient it was thought to go to university and pass if they worked hard. We favoured Claremont because of all schools we figured that there wouldn’t be a drug problem. I think that it was a reasonable choice especially considering the alternatives but it was no academic hot-house. They did not go to university. Suzanne got a degree as a mature student and Stephanie showed that a university education wasn’t really necessary anyway.

We sent Michael to Reed’s School as a boarder. He was a nice boy and didn’t really deserve that and we came to regret our choice. But you can’t do everything right and we thought that, since Reed’s was only 3 miles from our house, the boarding problem would be minimal. We were wrong and it was quite a few years before he forgave us. David and Peter went to a local kindergarten and John Paul was too young for school. As I write this I have an insight that 90% of this account deals with me and my activities. The table on a later page …. helps to provide a justification for this. It is easy to see that if I’d written a narrative account of the to-ing and fro-ing of the children between schools, I’d have doubled the size of this account.

If you believe our children, I was never at home from 1967 -1973! I don’t fully agree but I must concede that I spent a good long time away. Nadge was a huge international project implementing 110 radar /computer sites in ten of the Nato countries, The system blanketed the frontier of Nato from northern Norway to eastern Turkey to a depth of 300 miles or so. Any aircraft crossing this frontier is detected, identified as friendly or hostile and tracked for all the time it is in this airspace. If it is hostile, fighter aircraft are alerted. The Nadge system computes the optimal profile for the fighter to intercept the enemy aircraft and off it goes under the control of Nadge. This is all not as easy as it sounds! As I said already there were 110 Nadge sites all different in detail but there were families of sites which made the task of designing and implementing them slightly easier. I started work on the first day as my involvement with Nato gave me an expert knowledge and moreover I knew where all the dogs were buried.

The equipment and software were designed and manufactured all over Europe and the US as countries had to be given work equivalent to their contribution. Hughes in California made the computer and the software, Marconi in England , made Radars. Thompson in France designed some large Radars which were then manufactured by AEG in Germany , Phillips in Holland made digitisers and Selenia in Milan made Displays. I mention only the top tier contractors: clearly the were dozens at lower levels. Nadgeco’s involvement was to do the design which ensured that all of these items played together. The design of the system went very well – there were some very clever people on Hughes who were really, really responsible but it took longer than planned largely due to Nato’s attempt to second guess everything we were doing. 

As the design work progressed and manufacturing started, the next problem which loomed large was to move all of this equipment into these 110 sites in an orderly way and then to make it all work together, firstly on a site by site basis then on a Nato wide basis. Naturally, radar sites are on the top of mountains: sites in north Norway and Eastern Turkey were under snow for part of the year, different crews with different skills had to move around as their particular equipment was installed and tested while at the same time some semblance of Nato’s existing air defence system had to remain operational. Where is all of this description aimed you might ask?  I was made a director and given the job of planning and organising all of this. It didn’t daunt me at all: if you remember my earlier description of my father’s job of running a marshalling yard, you’ll see that my genes were right for it! I had the global view of the system and I knew the details, where we’re told is where the devil is. To plan all of this in a systematic way, we made a huge logical description about the tasks that had to take place: for any task, you specify how long it will take, what has to happen before it can start- ie the equipment and a team must be there -and what has to happen before it can finish- ie what other things must be completed so the it can be tested and a Nato man must accept it. As you can easily come up with 10,000 activities this requires a mighty big piece of paper and many inputs from a lot of people and much midnight oil. My staff, who were good at this sort of thing, then put it in a computer, which links it all together and you have it all - the critical path, the possible finish date and the means to change the plan if you don’t like the what you see.

The main answer was that we were a year late and we could do nothing about it and the customer needed to be told the score. I went to Nato by myself and faced up to General Accart , the big Director -  Grande Cross, Legion d’Honneur, Free French Hero, friend of de Gaulle etc- and a big group of my past associates. I knew General Accart quite well; I’d subscribed to the cost of his Grande Cross – the practice is that associates buy the Cross and in return he offers a Coupe de Champagne. Very civilised, this after all is France . I supposed that the group were no more terrifying than if they were recruits to take physical training and I’d beaten that and my nerves were quite settled. I had an advantage that they were friends. I gave them a briefing about my findings and as far as possible blamed the slip on them for delaying necessary approvals. It went well. Why I was allowed to go myself without the Nadgeco  President, I’ll never know.

A year or so later, when the plan had been updated to take care of delay after delay, I reported progress to the Board meeting in Rome (for tax reasons these couldn’t take place in UK ) and told them where we were and the forecast end date. Some panic had begun among the very top brass because a fear was developing that this was one of those programs which would go on and on. The bosses of the normal board members were there also. John Sutherland was the board member from Marconi and by chance I had travelled to Rome with his boss the previous day and we had chatted for some time but not introduced ourselves. It turned out that he was Sir ………, one of Sir Arnold Weinstock’s lieutenants and the chat was a life saver.  The Hughes board member, who was a bit of a shit, asked me how believable this plan was. I have forgotten his name also!  I had a momentary rush of blood to the head and I said I could give three comments:-.

Firstly, I’d been round all of the project managers of the six companies asking them for estimates for their own tasks; all I did was put it all together.  Why didn’t he question his own man? 
Second, I could go motivational and say trite things like “We’ll do it even if it kills us”.
Thirdly, “How about 50:50”.

He said “for that answer, you should be fired”.  Sir……… saved my bacon saying “I thought it was a perfectly reasonable answer”. Battle raged and I, posing as the messenger, wasn’t shot although it must have been close.

All of this took time and an enormous amount of travel. If Airmiles had existed, I would still be using them. The company as a whole was the biggest user of British Airways in the U.K.   Hence my families remarks about absent fathers!

Chapter13… Self employment , The European Space Agency
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