Wartime Civilian Receivers

The Wartime Civilian Receivers, or Utility Sets as they were commonly known, were produced by over 40 British manufacturers (with only slight circuit divergence) to a standard Government specified design. The chassis was stamped with a code indicating the manufacturer to enable dealers and service engineers to obtain spares, but the sets were otherwise unbranded and the buying public were unaware of which manufacturer made a particular set. Valves were similarly coded.

Two versions were produced - an AC Mains model and a Battery model. Today the mains version is naturally more popular with collectors.

AC Mains Model

Wavebands - MW

Valves - BVA211, BVA264, BVA243, BVA273

Date - 1944

Status - Contributed photo and descriptions, one now in my collection.

Peter Preston kindly sent me the photo (left) and the following information about his set:

The mains version performed reasonable well and after the War several designs for long-wave adapters were published.

This set, like many other low-current appliances [such as electric irons] would frequently be found plugged into the lampholder of a pendant light, using a 'two-way adapter'. At that time there were two domestic electricity tariffs: one for lighting and a more expensive one for sockets [i.e. power]. You therefore used the lighting circuit whenever you could!

Colin Carmichael provided the following information:

The Wartime Utility Set or Civilian Receiver was designed by Dr.G.D Reynolds of Murphy radio. It is very basic with only one waveband and no tone control etc., but is efficient and goes well. The cabinet is made from solid pine and has a very austere appearance. Each set was given a manufacturers code number, my set is stamped with U7 which means that it was made by Murphy Radio.

Nigel Hughes details the restoration of his set in the Recent Repairs section.

I have recently purchased one of these sets on eBay for (I think) about £25. I have now restored it (right photo) and included the details in the Recent Repairs section.

Battery Model

Wavebands - MW

Valves - BVA172, BVA142, BVA132, BVA162

Date - 1944

Status - Contributed photo and description

Peter Preston kindly sent me the photo and the following information about his set:

I have a lovely example of this set - albeit with a perfect [and expensive!] reproduction case, as so many of them now are battered, bruised and half-eaten by woodworm. I guess the AC mains version is a tad more prolific as it could be used until it finally gave up the ghost or got replaced, whereas the batteries and accumulators for the other model were very cumbersome and became unavailable not that long after the war.

The Wartime Civilian sets were very austere, the battery version being something akin to an orange box - except no-one saw oranges during the War, of course! The repro is, in fact, an exact and faithful reproduction; that is indeed what the original was like. Cabinets [if you could call them 'cabinets'] for both the mains and accumulator versions varied somewhat, as did the components inside.

Although manufacturers built the receivers to a published specification, some flexibility was permitted in order to allow them to use materials at hand; so you will find different coil formers, knobs, cabinet finishes etc. all depending on what an individual had left over from pre-war days and which wasn't required at the time to support the war effort.

A large proportion of these sets were actually sold off through surplus dealers in the early-to-mid 1950s - for those of us who can remember those halcyon days exploring the shops in Little Newport Street, Lisle Street and the Edgeware Road. Very few of the battery sets were distributed and, as the cumbersome, glass accumulators and expensive HT batteries soon became obsolete, this receiver is much rarer now than its mains-operated counterpart.

Occasionally the battery receiver does appear in an auction or British Vintage Wireless Society 'swapmeet' but rarely in recoverable condition. I have an old battery for mine, into which is built an inverter, supplied by eight 1.5v Duracells and this provides about 15mA of HT. Two parallel D-type cells are used for the valve filaments. It works a treat!

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No part of this website may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission from Paul Stenning.
All details are believed to be accurate, but no liability can be accepted for any errors.
The types of equipment discussed on this website may contain high voltages and/or operate at high temperatures.
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Last updated 14th April 2006.