TELFORD,  Robert Cecil [1915-2008]

Robert Cecil Telford joined the Marconi Company as a management trainee aged 22 and rose to become its senior figure, overseeing a period of ground-breaking technical developments including radar, guided missiles, satellites and television.

He was born in Liverpool on 1st October 1915, the son of Robert Cecil Telford, a clerk, and his wife Sarah Anne (née Mercer). At the time of his birth the family lived at 9 Auburn Road L13, later moving to 21 Micklefield Road L15 near Wavertree Playground. Robert Cecil attended the recently opened Quarry Bank High School. In 1929 the economic slump caused his father to lose his job and the family relocated to Tamworth, Staffordshire to try their hand at farming. Robert transferred to Queen Elizabeth School, Tamworth where he shone academically, gaining a county scholarship to Christ’s College, Cambridge to study mechanical engineering.

Graduating in 1937 he joined Marconi and within three years was made manager of the Hackbridge Works in south-west London. During the war years the plant produced radio equipment for aircraft. Between 1946-1950 he was Marconi’s managing director in Brazil. Throughout the various take-overs in the 1950’s and 60’s Telford continued his rapid rise to the top. He was managing director of Marconi from 1965-81, chairman from 1981-84 and was appointed life president in 1984. Prior to this only the founder Guglielmo Marconi had been life president.  He was appointed CBE in 1967 and knighted in 1978.

His career saw him present at some key moments. He was in the Marconi office in 1938 for the first ever testing of live televising of sport, the momentous occasion being the England-Australia test in which Len Hutton scored 364. He was also present at Cape Canaveral for the launch of Marconi’s first satellite. This was not, however, a very successful occasion as after 2 hours it went out of orbit and was lost in space. He was a close friend of Christopher Cockerell, who demonstrated his early design of the hovercraft in Telford's bathroom.

Sir Robert Telford died on 10th March 2008 aged 92. He was married twice, having four children by his first marriage and three by his second.

9 Auburn Road L13

The Telford family home at the time of Robert's birth in 1915

21 Micklefield  Road L15

The Telford home during the 1920's before their move to Tamworth.


The most comprehensive account of his life is the entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. There is a recording of an interview with him on YouTube.