Rolland 511

This radio from the 1940s or early 1950s was a bit of a mystery

 It has a badly degraded label on the back panel as you can see

Something like B/D/P/R + O + I/M/Y + L + A + N + D + ?

After more than an hours investigation I determined the name was either ROLLAND, or maybe ROEWLAND.

The model name Rolland has been linked to Sobell and eventually I traced it to be the Sobell Model 511W by it's valve types.

These are listed as 7S7, 7H7 (=W148), 7B6 and 7C6 or 6V6 with no rectifier listed which fits with a metal rectifier.

 I decided to investigate Sobell a little more to see how Rolland became linked to that name.

It turns out to be associated with the old story of restrictive practices in the radio industry. Lots of entrepreneurs had attempted to get into radio manufacturing. Some names came and went almost overnight, but some managed to make a go of it. As the lucky older ones got bigger they attempted to close the door to new upstarts. A trade organisation, BREMA (British Radio and Equipment Manufacturers Association) was founded and that restricted supplies of parts to its members so anyone wishing to start up in ernest had to become a member. Michael Sobell was small fry before the war but managed to get a few government contracts during WW2 enabling him to increase his workforce and premises. Not able to join the restrictive trade organsation he looked for a way forward and found it. He took over a wartime factory in South Wales and relaunched his business. Because of the location of the factory he was able to obtain parts for his radio sets via a government enterprise scheme, but had trouble recruiting staff. His personnel manager decided to recruit foreign labour from the many people that had moved to Britain from Europe, such as Poles. Poles and the like didn't care where they worked so the Welsh Rhondda factory took on staff.

There were still restrictive practices. Radio dealers were obliged (under dire threats) to stock only sets produced by members of the restrictive trade organisation, so to whom could Sobell sell his sets?

The answer was Great Universal Stores. So, until Sobell finally managed to join the gang his sets were available from the mail order business known as GUS. I'm guessing, but the fact that Sobell and the GUS management were both Jewish might go a long way to explain the partnership? GUS eventually went on to devolve into lots of companies including Littlewoods, Argos and Sainsburys....

By 1950, the date of this Rolland, Sobell had finally joined the organisation that had thwarted his efforts to become successful and went into the TV business.... and his son-in-law, Arnold Weinstock.. well that's another story.

No doubt, the GUS mail order catalogue included Rolland radios (has anyone seen a copy of the 1950 catalogue?).... and did GUS influence or decide on the styling of these sets. and for how long did "Rolland" hide the true manufacturer's name?

The front looks pretty ordinary with extruded aluminium mesh. The dial has markings for Long, Medium and Short wavebands.

A clue to it's manufacturing date is the Light Program and the Third Program which started in 1945 and 1946 respectively.

The unusual type and location of the centre wavechange switch was key to identification of the model

 and a view of the rear shows it has a set of three loctal-based valves (B8B/B8G); Cossor 7S7 + Marconi W148 + Brimar 7B6 and a Mazda 6V6GT plus underneath the chassis is an HT metal rectifier.

The centre electrolytic is dated March 1948 so the set was manufactured after that date.

 A rather thoughtful serviceman has written in pencil next to the mostly uninformative interior label "W/Change knob pulls off";

The label shows the serial number as 5559.

Below: a proper Sobell 511W

Here's the trader sheet

See the Rolland's refurbishment

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