The Story Behind the card #28 – The First RSGB National Field Day

Early in 1933 the Society President H. Bevan Swift G2TI suggested an annual Field Day event which it was hoped would stimulate a little competition between Affiliated Clubs and Societies and which might also prove useful as training in case they were needed to assist in any future emergency.   His vision was of truly portable battery powered stations that could be carried in a couple of suitcases.   Council warmed to G2TIs idea and right away planned for a Field Day event to take place over the first weekend in June of that year.   The few rules were hurriedly framed thus leaving inevitable ‘loopholes’ that waited to be exploited by contestants.

A power limit of 50 watts was agreed, a generous power limit at that time and each club was allowed two stations, an ‘A’ station to operate only on 1.7 and 3.5 mHz and a second ‘B’ station on 7 and 14 mHz.   The country was divided into 18 RSGB Districts and working portables in them would gain extra contest points.   There were no aerial restrictions and the portable stations could be set up well in advance of the Contest date.   All transmissions were to be in Morse Code and no equipment could be powered from a mains supply.

The winners were the West London Group in District 15 which made a total of 364 points and second place was Glasgow with 357 points.  Edinburgh only had an ‘A’ station but came third with 209 points.   The West London team included a gaggle of leading and well known amateurs including G6WZ, G6YK, G5CV (Doug Walters the 5 metre DX man) G2UV (Uncle Vic reputed to have invented the QSL card) G6CJ (Dud Charman) and G6JP (George Jessop the airborne 5 metre chap).   The West London gang sent their ‘A’ station miles away into the hills but their ‘B’ station was craftily sited at Northolt where the Post Office had just closed down its station GKB and had left in situ a couple of lattice masts that had been reduced in height to 150 feet and also a row of 75 ft poles with insulators at their tops.

The RAF was going to take over the site for its ‘Met’ station (Call sign GFV) but G6JP managed to get permission to use the lattice masts and poles that remained.   The ‘Antenna Wizard’ Dud Charman G6CJ A Professional Aerial engineer supervised the erection of two dipoles each fed with 600 ohm impedance open wire ‘ladder line’.

The 40 metre antenna was up at 150 feet and the 20 metre dipole hung at a mere 75 feet.   The ‘B’ station had plenty of spares including a stock of LS5B transmitting valves (thank you Mr. Mullard)  numerous car batteries, 1000 yards of telephone wire, a rotary converter for the HT supply ad even an employee from G6JPs work place to do the cooking and other domestic chores.   On both bands some fantastic (for that time) DX was worked and ZL marvelled at the strength of the West Londoner’s signals.

As was expected, when the dust settled and the entrant’s scores, were published there were groans and complaints from disgruntled clubs highly critical of what they called the ‘unethical aerials’.   This loophole was securely closed when the rules for the 1934 and later NFDs were framed and a maximum antenna height of 45 feet was mandatory.

The Field Day in 1934 gave clubs enough time to get special QSL cards printed for the event one of which is illustrated.   I have never seen a card confirming a contact in the 1933 NFD. Today’s NFD entrants work more stations during the first twenty minutes of the contest than the total number worked by the West London Group 73 years ago.

John Heys (G3BDQ) – February 2006.

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