For many years, Mr. John Banner MBE, lived and worked in the village of Rhigos. He was an outgoing yet modest man described in the book ‘Angel Visits from Biplane to Jet’ by its author, Group Captain Frank Griffiths (Rtd) as ‘A large man – a splendid press-on type’.
Mr. Banner became the general manager of Sobells (later GEC) when Sir Michael Sobell chose to move his factory to Hirwaun in the 1950’s. Labour costs here, were low compared to London and where,of course, Sir Michaelcould get discounts and grants from the government as Hirwaun was a re-development area.
John Banner was awarded his MBE for the work he did for the TFU (Telecommunications Flying Unit) which was based at RAF Defford, during the second world war. Whilst working at the TFU (later known as Radar Research Flying Unit), along with others, he designed a ‘homing device’ that went on to save the lives of numerous aircrew at sea and on land and on the 1st. October,1942 he bravely tested this devise by jumping into the Irish sea from an aeroplane, fully equipped with a parachute and a dingy. The devise was named ‘Walter’ and consisted of a small telescopic mast and a small amount of ‘boffinery’ which was powered by a tiny battery. ‘Walter’ was packed into the pilot’s parachute pack.
Mr. Banner was born in 1905 in West Bromwich. He died in 1986 shortly after suffering a car accident. He was married to Ivy and they had three children. Two girls and a boy.
A memorial can be seen in the village of Defford Worcs. dedicated to the memory of RAF aircrews, scientists, engineers and civilian personnel.