Amateur Radio in Hastings 37 Years Ago

This little look back is largely a personal view of the amateur scene during my first year ‘on the air’. Formerly a resident of Macclesfield Cheshire, and for five years a guest of His Majesty’s Air Force, I founded myself living in an attic room at No .2 Carlisle Parade, then aptly named ‘Sunshine House’! This was in mid-1946 and I immediately applied and took my Morse Toot at the local Post Of ice (where I was told that I exaggerated my ‘Q’ s), sent off my money and a circuit diagram of my proposed transmitter to the Licence Authority and, on December 11th ( it was dated the 10th ), received a blue piece of paper granting me the call G3BDQ for one year.

This first licence was obligatory and one was restricted to 25 watts input CW only and one also had to show proof in the log that at least six CW QSOs had been achieved by December 10th 1947: if not, the licence would be cancelled. The idea was to prevent ‘phone only’ types from just hanging on for twelve months before gripping their mikes and, no doubt, forgetting all the Morse they ever knew.

I already had out a ‘W3EDP’ 85 ft wire on the rooftop arnd a small TX using a Franklin variable oscillator with a Buffer/ doubler into an 807 running about 15 watts. It worked well for I had made a few bootleg QSOs with Europeans late at night using a variety of G3 calls! My first official QSO was with G3AMGin Dunton Green on 7Mhz (Megacycles then) at 1400 on the 11th of December squeezed in during my lunch break from duties at the Art School just over the road. That same, day I worked Norway and Germany and several G stations on 7 and 3.5 Mhz.

The receiver was a modified 1155 ex RAF job with very little ‘bandspread’ on the higher frequency range which included 14 MHz. That Christmas I went up to Macclesfield for a few days and bought a second hand American Harvey UX10 transmitter. This could use xtal or ECO, and its RF department sported a pair of 6L6 tubes. It also had a modulator for anode and screen mod. using a carbon mike! I had a crystal marked 7011 which gave me also the frequency of 14022 where I lurked waiting the DX like some conger eel in its hole.

The first real  DX was LU8AK in Buenos Aires, and up to the end of January, 1947 K had not heard another station in the Hastings area, there was virtually no activity on CW for miles around. then I heard one ….. it was G3AXL at Ore, worked on February 2nd. Harold Ballard lived on the bank above the shops where French’s now are and we of course got together and swapped experiences.

I also soon met Roy Sutherland G5RO who lived near the Tivoli at Silverhill, (actually in Mildenhall Drive, he had a long wire running out over some allotments). Roy  worked phone only so I plugged a mike into into my Harvey and worked him on topband. The band started at 1725 Khz then!  A certain G3AFN who proved to be a ‘phoney’ gave me several phone QSOs on 7 MHz and claimed it be in St. Leonard’s.

There was also a G8 in St.  Leonard’s who worked phone into the States easily on twenty who was not even licenced he soon had to abandon amateur radio but could be heard on CB. There was GBAAL (named Miles I think), who had a radio shop and flat an the High Street G4FV in Eastbourne, and also Ron G2FTS over in the ‘Suntrap’. They were all worked on phone in flagrant disregard of the small print!

Tommy (L.H. Thomas) C6QB one of the ‘greats’ in our hobby lived then at little Common, and I worked him or phone on Top Band for our first ever QSO on March 2nd 1947. Then it happened! The first ever Hastings Top Band Net. At 2230 on 4th March, myself, G5RO, G4FV and G6QB had a party. The next day on 160 I hooked. Tim Bradley G2AX over at Hythe. Tim sang on 2LO as a baritone soloist before the BBC started operations. Later in March I worked Tom Shanks in Hurst Green, who later went out to Durban. Tom is memorable for the full sized bath he used as his ashtray.  Also at Hurst Green was Ken Gasson G2BGIJ at the bakery.

Fed up with crystal control and sitting hog-tied on 14022 I 0ot an American surplus. TU5B tuner and turned it into a VFO. This machine served me faithfully until about 1960! Immediately the DX rolled in. Ply 40 watts ( – ), (yes, a 6L6 can handle 40 watts with 500v on its anode ) into a VS1AA type Windom enabled WAC in one day on 20 metres. I landed ZE3JO Mal Geddes who is still out in Zimbabwe, and active. my pirate friend G3AFN surfaced as G3BRD. John is still a real mate and lives now in Seaford, after a spell in VE3.

We meet and QSO often.

In August, I upped sticks and went to live at G3BRD’s house when we had two shacks, two antenna systems and a load of fun. We developed, the BDQ/BRD QRT test technique. Call CQ with about 1/2 watt signing as AC4YN (Tibet). This really tested John’s (BRD’s) antenna and the world came back to us whilst we rolled about on the floor!

I had to leave to begin at College in October, but just before Christmas when on holiday from the academic grind, found a new amateur here. It was G3CMN, Jack Sargent, then living in Victoria Avenue. .That first yeas gained me 694 QSOs in a total of 79 countries mainly on 14 Mhz I had no TX for Ten and we did not have 21 Mhz in those days.

A certain Mr. Barnes from the Post Office inspected my station and saw that I had worked my six stations in the year. He also didn’t seem to like my phone QSOs and said so!

However, I got my ‘full’ licence by December 10th 1947 and, within a couple of days, had 120 watts going. I used a PT15 pentode PA with more than 1000v on its anode. It was suppressor grid modulated too so I didn’t need a big modulator. The sunspots were kind then and DX was easy.

With the rather poor receivers available it was possible to work exotic DX almost every, day. There was nothing like the competition or QRM that exists now. Notes were either T9X from the xtal boys or grotty chirpy efforts with some ripple on them. The 60 Hz burble on the Yanks made them easily distinguishable The Russian notes had to be heard to be believed. They were using self excited high power oscillators with the antenna taped on to the anode coil and no HT smoothing!

What about you young sprigs who read this doing a write up about today’s amateur radio in Hastings, sometimes 37 or 40 years hence? Keep your logs and your memories intact, for they are always of source of pleasure and interest.

73, John d. Heys (G3BDQ). February 1984.

Return to the index of Vital Spark articles or you may like to look at a selection of John Hey’s interesting and quite rare QSL cards.

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UK Amateur Radio Repeaters

UK repeaters

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GB3EB 2m in Uckfield- Active
MB6EB 2m DStar Node in Eastbourne - Active
MB6RY Wires-X DigiGate in Broad Oak - Active
GB3HE 70cm in Hastings - Active
GB7HE 70cm DStar in Hastings - Coming soon
GB3ZX 70cm in Eastbourne - Low Power
GB3JT 23cm ATV in Hastings - NoV cleared
GB7RY 70cm X-Wires Repeater Rye - Active
GB7ES Eastbourne - DSTAR Rpt. - Active
GB3ES 2m in Hastings - Active

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Get your amateur radio licence - Find out more about amateur radio licence training.
Month on the Air - G3MGQ's popular monthly DX contest/expedition list.
Wilf Gaye Memorial Cup - The clubs annual operating event in the memory of Wilf Gaye M0GYE.
St. Richard's College Buildathon/STEM/ARISS - HERC attends St. Richard's Catholic College for their various events surrounding the Tim Peake ARISS contact.
G3BDQ - John Hey's Rare QSL Cards.
Sussex Electronics Radio Fair - SERF Sussex Electronics Radio Fair 2016.
Vital Spark - A selection of articles re-published from the Vital Spark.
RSGB News - Find out how to get RSGB news on your mobile or PC.
Experimenters Corner - A selection of Proteus projects by Bob Gornal (G7DME)
BBADL - Bath Based Distance Learning Course.
Conquest Hospital Radio - Presented by HERC member Antony (G4CUS).
Radio Rallies 2016 - An up to date list of radio rallies scheduled for 2016.
Club QSL Cards - A selection of QSL cards the club has received over the years.
Other Newsletters - Excellent newsletters and magazines from other clubs.
TX Factor episodes - Take a look at the TX Factors YouTube videos.
John Taplin - A bio of the late John Taplin.

Amateur Radio Resources

Other Radio Clubs & RAYNET

BSARS - Brede Steam Amateur Radio Society

RAYNET - The Hastings and Rother RAYNET Group.

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Sigord - Gordon Sweet
Hastings Radio Comms - Andrew Haas-Campbell
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