The Crystals of Abu Zaabal

Abu Zaabal was a scruffy Egyptian village some 20 miles NE of Cairo. It is also the site or Radio Cairo, which in the forty’s was an enormous beast of several hundred kilowatts, Marconi Vintage. At that time there was also a civilian radio terminal which our forces used for unimportant traffic. It is probably still there.

One day I was told to go to the radio terminal, and see what spares they really did need from us, and to cut down their rather optimistic shopping list. This being completed the chief man led me to see their now dug-out (paid for by British tax payers), of which he was extremely proud. Well he might be. It was obviously the bottom story of a high building to be, complete with large holes in the 2ff thick roof for stair cases, pipes etc  All dug out probably unique in military history.

The scene was of course somewhat dominated by the masts and Aerials of Radio Cairo, Which operated at about 550m. It was one of those prestige stations and was an object of great National Pride, with a potential coverage of all the neighbouring Arabic speaking lands. It broadcast in roughly equal times of French and Arabic plus a little English news for the troops.

However, the enormous aerial had a funny little, extension at an angle at one end, and according to my mate this had been added to try and increase the coverage in Saudi Arabia whore the Koran readings were very popular. It seems that the Russians had quite illegally used Cairo’s wavelength with some station down by Samarkand, which produced a lovely heterodyne, washing out the Saudis. Moreover the extension did not work. I asked my mentor why they didn’t change frequency and he said “why not go over the way and ask them?”

This we did and indeed I knew a few of the lads there. They said that the station had a crystal oscillating on its fundamental frequency which was a cubic, and such crystals did not abound. I had 4 look at it whore it sat in a sort of cats cradle of silk threads within an oven. In a weak moment I offered to make them another one, some 15 2Hz down, where there was a nice gap in the radio spectrum in those parts. It seems that the Russians had refused to move and also did not even answer their letters. The Bear changes little over the years.

We had intact made a few cubics amongst our thousand crystals per month, and technically it would be easy. But, politically it was not. A fine old hornet’s nest was raised. It was suggested at one extreme that the British wanted to sabotage the station, and at the other they couldn’t make crystals anyway! In the end the head of ESB came round and saw our crystals duly made and  was converted Also those rather nice old gentlemen who know the Koran by heart, and more often blind, agreed that if Allah had put the idea into the heads of the infidels it would probably work out O.K., for were they not also People of the Book?

My own people were not very pleased. I was told that if it did not work out, heads would roll, so I had better be careful.

A nice piece of quartz was selected with prominent edges, for fixing the axis free from optical twinning so far as we could make out. Then a slab at right angles to the main axis was cut and then taken up to the neighbouring hospital (military) with our x ray gun and a short squirt of their machine on the top gain setting, produced an excellent scatter spectrum resulting in a small correction of the axis assessment by about 20.

A number of oversize crystals were then cut off from a corrected slab, etched for twinning,  etched for deeper flaws and finally a couple were finished to the correct frequency and tried out in a mock up of: the Marconi unit. As all checked with .known data as to thickness/frequency, temperature drift etc. the new crystal was slipped into position one midnight. A few controls were tweaked here and there round the station. An agent in the Saudi Capital had been alerted and he reported a miraculous improvement! No thanks were received or expected. The thanks arc to God who put the idea into the hearts of the Givers.

Some times after my return from Egypt I would listen late at night and check that the frequency was where we had left it. Suez however altered all that.  Our lot bombed the radio station and it was off the air for some time. Perhaps the crystals escaped destruction  – they deserved to, for I doubt if any other pair received such careful treatment and caused such bother!

Eric Vast (M1CYF) July 1986.

Return to the index of Vital Spark articles.

G3MGQ’s Month on the Air

Prepared by the clubs RSGB trainer, G3MGQ, you will find the latest DX contests including the ones to shoot for as well as ones to give a wide berth. Why not download the latest edition of Month on the Air and enjoy your DX just that little bit more.

Become a member of HERC

Join the Hastings Electronics and Radio Club.

Why not join one of the largest and most established Radio clubs in the South East of England? Very low joining cost, and free for a year to new licencees.

Vital Spark Archive

Vital Spark newsletter articles

Take a look through a large selection of articles written by club members over the years which have been published in the monthly Vital Spark newsletter .

Used Ham Radio Equipment

View HERC's Used Ham Radio Equipment for sale list..

Every four weeks, HERC's Used Ham Radio Equipment for sale list is updated on the site. Bookmark the gear for sale page to re-visit easily and take advantage of the used equipment on sale through the club.

Club Photographs

HERC Image Galleries.

Here is the official HERC photograph archive which contains multiple image galleries spanning several decades since the club was formed many years ago. Enjoy the images!

UK Amateur Radio Repeaters

UK repeaters

Click button above for full list, or a local repeater callsign below for info.

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

For a complete list of repeaters, head over to
the UK Amateur Radio repeaters list.

Popular pages

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.

HERC members sites

Sigord - Gordon Sweet
Hastings Radio Comms - Andrew Haas-Campbell
Hoofbags - Liz Costa

Categories