The Schoolboy and the Secret Service part 3 – by John Heys G3BDQ

Part 3: Stanley Karl Lewer, G6LJ Radio Amateur Extraordinary.

Stan Lewer was born in 1908 and was only 16 when he obtained his Transmitting Licence. No doubt his father had to stand surety for him, as Stan was still a minor under the age of 21. He gained the call 6LJ (the ‘G’ prefix was still not in use in 1924) and rapidly became a very active occupant of the old 45 metre band.

The growing number of International and Inter-Continental contacts in 1924 and 1925 resulted in the very first Congress of the Amateur Radio Union in Paris on April 14th 1925. There were delegates from the USA (ARRL), Canada, Newfoundland, Argentina, Austria and twenty-one other countries including Great Britain. The British delegates (RSGB) were G2WJ and G5BV who represented the DX-working stations, G2UF and G2SH who were experts on the wavebands and frequencies for radio amateurs, Stan Lewer G6LJ who was to speak about amateur callsigns and G2NM Gerald Marcuse who was leader of the British group. I find it amazing that a just-out-of-school youngster aged 18 and with only two years on the air was chosen to represent the views of British amateurs as a part of the delegation.

Stan obtained his Higher Schools’ Certificate (also called Matriculation) and went to University. After Graduation he joined the Patent Department of the GEC Laboratories. A former schoolmate Ernest Gardiner G6GR joined Stan at G E C. I have been fortunate to have met and had several ‘natter sessions’ with the late G6GR when my late wife and I spent a week in Torquay staying at the Guesthouse run by G6GR’s daughter and son-in-law. Ernest had a bedroom and large indoor ‘shack’ and I had often worked him on 7 MHz SSB. Incidentally his son-in-law and the Guesthouse proprietor was a nephew of J.R. Tolkien author of ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’.

Stan and Ernest were involved in the development of band-pass crystal filters for use in communication receivers etc. when at GEC. G6GR also became RSGB President in 1944.

Stan became active on the 5 Metre Band in the 1930s and designed a simple two valve transceiver for 56 MHz, It could at the flick of a switch change instantly from a  self-quenching super-regenerative receiver to a low power AM transmitter. This design became very well known and as an unlicensed 15 year old enthusiast I built one based upon Stan’s design. This little set using a couple of 2volt filament battery valves was employed for a bit of cross-town ‘piracy’ on 5 metres. In 1939 Stan Lewer was asked by a G E C colleague, an officer in the Territorial Army if he could set up a VHF Network covering distances of up to 5 miles and using very low power.

Stan responded by redesigning the transceiver in a more rugged form producing what eventually emerged as British Army Set No. 17. The Mk1 version covered 46 to 64 MHz and a Mk.2 covered from 44 to 61 MHz. When WW2 began Stan was instructed to produce 24 of the sets by G E C. This initial order in 1939 was followed by an order for 5000 sets and later a further batch of 5000. The sets were in the main used by searchlight and AA Gun Units, and during the period up to the Dunkirk Evacuation my home-brew set was used to eaves­drop an Army searchlight unit that was sited on the hills near the town. A little later as a Home Guard private I actually visited that same Army Unit for instruction on the Lewis Gun. As a keen 17 year old I found it very exciting and noted that the Wireless Set No. 17 there was coupled to a vertically polarised  half wave dipole looking out to the Cheshire Plain. These simple transceivers had a power output of under half a watt but were very effective.

In 1947 there was an ITU Conference in Atlantic City. During that year Stan Lewer was RSGB President so was in the USA as one of the British Delegates. Radio Amateurs were facing a proposal to take away ‘Top Band’ (then also known as the 1.7 Mc band) and also 7 Mhz. The efforts of Stan and Mr. A.H. Mumford of the Post Office  stuck out against the proposal and they were successful in gaining an amendment which ensured that British stations retained both bands. The amateurs in some other countries were not so lucky and it was many years before the two bands were restored to them.

Stan’s retirement was lengthy and fruitful. He remained active on the bands for many years eventually dying at the age of 95 on June 6th 2003 after almost 80 years of amateur radio activity.

In Conclusion
A translation of the mysterious message received by Stan in 1925 remains a secret. No doubt it exists somewhere in the archival records of the Foreign Office, but it seems that the sending of that message might be connected with the opening of the lost tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun.  This event took place on November 11th 1925, just 26 days before the 45 metre band signals from GB1. At the time of the tomb opening there were enormous tensions between the Egyptian and British Governments. Egypt was determined that
everything found in the tomb should remain in Egypt and not be spirited away
by a foreign power. Diplomatic relations between the two countries became
quite nasty as Egypt strained to hold on to what was claimed to be their rightful property. This set of circumstances just may lie behind the urgency of the message to the Foreign Office. It must have worked. for no serious diplomatic incident took place.

The GB1 QSL card has three other callsigns printed on it. It states: “All QSLs, reports, etc via G2XY, G2LZ, G5MO”

schoolboy-and-the-secret-service-g3bdq-part3-1 schoolboy-and-the-secret-service-g3bdq-part3-2

These  callsigns were  held  respectively  by Mr. H.T.Littlewood of Leeds,
Mr. F.A. Mayer of Over Wickford, Essex, and Mr. W. G. Dixon of Newcastle-on-Tyne. This trio worked for the Government Code & Cipher School and were ‘controlled’ by the leader G2ST, Leslie Lambert. To date no one has identified Donald S Lee the GB1 operator who from his sending style was almost certainly a radio amateur.

In Part two of this narrative I wrote that all the callsign lists of British amateurs that I had seen did not show a G2ST. I have since discovered that G2ST was on another list of 1924 callsigns and given an address at 46 Church Road, Holland Park, London. This was not his true address and could have been given to maintain the secrecy of G2ST’s true location.

John Heys G3BDQ from Vital Spark May 2010.

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