Tony Saville

Tidbinbilla Comms Supervisor, 1964-1973.


Tony Saville

Tony Saville, Tidbinbilla’s Comms Supervisor, remembers his time at Tidbinbilla, and his fascinating change of career after Tid, in this telephone interview recorded on 03 May 2022.


Tony Saville is second from right in this photo taken during Tidbinbilla’s first track of Mariner 4 as it approached Mars in March 1965.

Jack Rothwell, standing at left. Bob Leslie and Paddy Johnstone seated, Tony Saville and Bob Cudmore at right.

In the distance, Les Whaley is visible above Bob Leslie. He is speaking with Keith Aldworth. John Weatherly is standing, profile, in the background. (With thanks to Keith Aldworth for his help with the names.)

Photo from Clive Jones via John Heath. Scan: Colin Mackellar.

audio Tony Saville interview
(42 minutes, 31MB mp3 file)

Recorded 03 May 2022.

Apologies for the variable level of the comms (definitely not up to Tony’s standard!).

00:00 – Joined LRWE as Cadet Engineer.

02:00 – Joined EMI then De Havilland – Black Knight, Blue Streak, John Galbraith.

03:00 – Joined SpaceTrack – readiness for DSIF42 – went to JPL. 112A intercom system. Goldstone. Bob Leslie. Bill Bridges at JPL.

05:30 – move to Canberra 01 March 1964. Back to JPL, acceptance testing of Tid comms system. Modifications.

07:10 – Comms often not noticed. Links from Tid to JPL. Technology used. SCAMA. Trips back to USA.

10:00 – Getting the station up and running. Intercommunication points. Rack mounted comms.

comms uniy

Image: A DSN rack-mounted comms unit.
With thanks to Mike Doherty. Photo: Colin Mackellar.

comms unit

A DSN comms unit is outlined in yellow above Les Whaley at the Surveyor Telemetry Specialists Console at Tidbinbilla.
Polaroid scan: Colin Mackellar.

12:30 – People at Tidbinbilla. A tight-knit team.

14:33 – John Galbraith and De Havilland at Woomera. Black Knight, Blue Streak.

17:22 – De Havilland refitting group – commercial jobs, Holden, Sea Slug.

18:44 – SpaceTrack given contract for Tidbinbilla.

19:20 – Ted Peppercorn (later at Orroral Valley) at Salisbury, tranceivers for Len Beadell. Maralinga. Woomera security.

21:40 – Tubby Vale – American Projects Branch, Frank Northey, Tom Reid.

23:00 – MSFN Wing.

24:12 – Comms Centre original location at Tidbinbilla.

comms centre

The Tidbinbilla Comms Centre was originally through a door just out of frame on the right. The steps come from the main entrance. Note the cigarette machine next to the first aid cabinet. DSS 42 photo 1870, 05 July 1969.
Photo via Mike Dinn, scan, Colin Mackellar.

24:45 – Surveyor. Comms Centre, standby line. Tape recordings.

27:00 – Left Tidbinbilla 01 June 1973. Started a fruit processing factory for export from South Australia for 10 years.

30:46 – Contracting. BHP, Whyalla. Y2K preparations for Telstra. DSTO, etc. Then working for son in engineering business. Computer-controlled equipment. Good use of knowledge and experience.

35:50 – RTV with Frank Northey. Hydraulics.

36:20 – in-station views of colour TV. Tony Keillor. Tony’s father’s first TV set in 1934. High fidelity recordings. Maralinga. Mark VII or SCR-584s?

39:50 – EMI, photo-electron multiplier and other stories.

With thanks to Tony for his willingness to share his story.