Unaccountable and strange but true by John Heys G3BDQ

Before WW2 when I was in my final year and just weeks before leaving school when aged 16 I received a copy of the Cambridge School Certificate Exam results. I had passed, but on looking through the booklet I noticed that another boy named John D Heys, a pupil at Wisbech Grammar School had also passed. I have always signed documents, cheques etc ‘John D Heys’ and where I then lived the surname was very uncommon; my mother and I being the only known bearers of our surname. I will tell you much more about this seemingly not unusual co-incidence later.

Square Bashing

When stationed in Blackpool at the start of my RAF service I was in a squad of about twenty chaps and in the charge of a Corporal PE Instructor named Preston who before the War had been a professional Stage Ballroom Dancer. One member of our squad had little spatial awareness and could usually not correctly interpret ‘Left’ or ‘Right’ and he helped to make our frequent drill periods chaotic and hilarious. On the day of the ‘Passing out Parade’ which was keenly scrutinised by a high ranking officer our Corporal Preston made sure that his ‘Left, Right’ confuser was not present for the great occasion for any mistakes seen by the Group Captain would rebound upon him. The fortunate oddball spent the whole afternoon amusing himself somewhere in town. The squad split up soon afterwards and I found myself in the centre of Glasgow for some months. Where the spatially confused ‘erk’ was sent I have no idea, but about eight years later he re-entered my life. Again, all will be revealed to you a few pages down the line.

‘Red’ Geary

My initial radio course was in Glasgow at the Royal Technical College which after a spell in Hospital with Diphtheria and a Mastoid operation was followed by a radar course at Prestwick near Ayr. Then I was posted to 425 Bomber Squadron, a Canadian unit at Dishforth in Yorkshire. Another one of the radar gang there had the surname ‘Geary’ his forename I forget but he was always known as  ‘Red’ no doubt because of his striking hair colour. A couple of months later I departed 425 and found myself with 466 Squadron, an Australian outfit. I didn’t see ‘Red’ again until long after the war when we had an unexpected face-to-face.


In 1947 I began a two year Teacher Training course in Chelsea where all the chaps with surnames beginning ‘ H ‘ had rooms off the same corridor. One was Michael Hoddell whom I got to know well and we often went to the cinema etc. together. All the ‘H’ gang stuck together and were good mates. Michael had a girl friend (as did most of us). She was 17 or 18 years of age and named Fiona. Fiona was a ‘Chorus Girl’ and danced in West End shows. I only met her on a few occasions for she rarely visited the College. Soon after I married in April 1952 my wife Betty and I had a short holiday with my grandparents in Macclesfield Cheshire. One morning we went to the beautiful village of Prestbury nearby (now the home location of football and other millionaires) and popped into a small cafe for ‘elevenses’. As we entered I noticed Fiona at a table with a middle-aged man who I faintly recognised. He was the Officer who commanded the ‘Young Battalion’ of the East Cheshire Home Guard with which I served from the age of 17 and up to my joining the RAF in October 1941. We had a chat and I discovered that Fiona was his daughter. His name was Hunt and he was owner-Headmaster of a small prep school nearby. Dumbly I asked Fiona how Michael was getting on and she replied that she no longer saw him. The atmosphere chilled at this point so I rapidly changed the subject of conversation. Fiona married a popular musician and entertainer who is sadly no longer with us, and I have seen her several times on TV News programmes.

Square Bashing – Part 2

Following my spell at Teacher Training College I started work in a Junior School in Hastings, the old Mount Pleasant. This was in the autumn of 1949. I joined the National Union of Teachers and attended my first meeting that was held in a room called ‘The Library Extension’. Up on the platform was the local NUT Committee and Officials one of which was the Treasurer named Ted Pilkington the chap excused the ‘Passing Out Parade’ in Blackpool eight years earlier! He taught Juniors at Hollington School and had the annoying habit of shouting out “Hello John” should we encounter him when in town shopping. He did this across crowded streets. His grandsons both became our Newspaper Boys who lived just 600 yards down my road. Ted had some difficulties passing his Driving Test and he told me that became especially confused when approaching traffic lights.

‘Red’ Geary

When living at number 201 London Road, St. Leonards and towards the end of our stay there in the 1960’s I went out of the front door one Sunday afternoon and a few houses down outside number 189 was a car being loaded up with luggage. It was ‘Red’ Geary. He was visiting his parents who still lived in the house where he had been born and raised. For some reason he did not seem surprised at our meeting and he said he worked in Finance somewhere in London.  ‘Red’ when I knew him in the RAF used a fiendish contraption that he had devised to make coffee in our brick pre-war barrack room. It was a circle of plywood with two carbon rods from the inside of a dry battery pushed through which were dangled in a water/coffee powder mixture. The rods connected to flex which had ordinary pins at its ends. These were pushed through the flex of a light fitting in the room. Lethal I think now but at the time seemed a cunning device!

John Heys June 2008.

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