NO WEB IS COMPLETE UNLESS THE HISTORY ASPECT IS ON LINE.
Together with Johannesburg and Cape Town, Durban played an important role in the History of Amateur radio in South Africa. It was necessary to reference the early Magazine of the Radio (Amateur) to pick up the pieces. This first part of our local history page will be followed with more history already in the pipeline to be published on this web.
It should be noted that although the Divisions were represented before 1928, the “SARL Branches” were formed in 1928. Durban is proud to have right from the beginning been part of this history. The now Club should be ready to celebrate the 75 anniversary of the SARL soon.
This article was put together from writings from Bob during the era 1975, this when the SARL was celebrating their 50th Anniversary. To start with it will be Bob Taylor to tell about the past. .
Bob Taylor ZSGCO:
As the 50th anniversary of our League is with us it is not inappropriate that its development down the years be placed on record. The complete picture can only be found in Headquarters’ archives and in the reading pages of our several journals –
This then is the early story of the League, not necessarily as some of us recall it but as recorded in the pages of its journal of that time. It is a long story and if justice is to be done, not one which can be presented in a single article. It will therefore appear in a series spread over several months at least. For those who still have recollections of that period it will, I hope, evoke many happy memories. For the younger generation it should serve to portray graphically, an era which saw the building up of the organisation we have today.
George Lowe (A6W). It is doubtful whether any copies of this venerable production still survive even in Headquarters’ archives.
So the real story commences with a decision taken at the 1928 Conference, held that year in Durban. Implementing this was the production there of a printed magazine, “QTC”. The first issue, running to 16 pages plus cover, quarto size, appeared in May; 1928, and publication continued there until December, when the magazine was transferred to Johannesburg. For convenience of presentation this first article covers only that 8-
In effect “QTC” was the brainchild and creation of Ralph Ferry (A9Z). a printer by trade and also its first editor. He was supported by a team consisting of Harold Heywood (A3E) as honorary treasurer, and L.E. Levine (A7H) and G.A. Brickhill (A9U) as technical editors. Bill Heathcote (A9R) was the advertising manager for Johannesburg (where incidentally most of the advertisers were located). Les Peyton (still with US). C.P. Causton and T.J. Chester appear to have functioned as dogsbodies in a some-
The first issue was really astonishingly good and was of course received with tremendous enthusiasm as about the only other sources of technical data available at that time were the “Wireless Engineer”, published by Iliffe & Sons, and the organs of the ARRL and the RSGB, neither of which adequately met local needs. As the Editor says “this is your own publication, produced and managed entirely by members of the South African Radio League, and its success or otherwise depends solely upon the support it receives from members. Its object: To inform members of forthcoming tests and results, divisional news, and more especially for the exchange of ideas and hints which may be of help to others, and, last but not least, to foster the spirit of brotherhood which pervades the whole of the amateur wireless organisations through-
The reading matter included “A Word from our President”, Headquarters Notes, Divisional News, The League’s Constitution, I.A.R.U. Notes, Silent Keys, Technical articles on Antennas, and Electrolytic Rectifiers, Ham Ads and a QSL and QRA Section advising the arrival of cards and listing new call signs.
Probably far and away the most popular feature was the Divisional News column, to which official correspondents in each Division contributed.
G.H. Grey (A3J) Division 1 (Western )
B. Hill (A3Z) Division 2 (Eastern Cape)
E. Frost (A9A) Division 4 (O.F.S.)
D.R. Boyce (A7A) Division 5 (Natal)
T. Yule (A8K) Division 6 (Transvaal)
E.C. Ade (4SRA) Division 7 (Rhodesia)
L.J. Huges (1MS) Division 8(East Africa)
(There is no record of activity in S.W. Africa although several stations were located there.)
For the most part this Section consisted largely of news of individual activities. noteworthy contacts, and the like, bur in the family atmosphere which then existed it was absorbing stuff. And as always, the rank and file were tickled pink to see their calls and doings recorded in print. Incidentally. one cannot pass on without paying a most sincere tribute to these Official Correspondents. The devoted and conscientious manner in which they fed the journal month by month with chitchat, gleaned for the most part over the air, is beyond praise. I t is a sad reflection that with our growth as an organisation, and the splitting up of the old territorial Divisions into numerous parochial groups, this type of matter has completely disappeared from our reading columns.
Perhaps next in popularity ranked the well-
Even the advertising matter is of absorbing interest as indicative of the gear used in those days. In the first issue 10 full pages were taken up by 13 advertisers. Mullard offered transmitting valves rated from 5 to 500 watts; Chenik & Barnett “proudly presented” the New C. & 8. Screened Grid 1-
Penman & Jochelson, Siemens, Electrical Supplies of Durban, the Radio Apparatus Company, and the Wireless Service Station all offered components. Bearing in mind the wage structure of those days (a matriculant considered himself passing rich on 10 Pounds a month in the civil service or a bank the prices suggest that only the more affluent could afford to be well equipped. A 3 mfd 3000v condenser sold for 4.4.0, a 1000w 6000v transformer for 12.10 and Weston thermo coupled ammeters for f3.15.0. On the other hand headphones and slow motion dials were available “from 5/-
But generally speaking advertisers were cagey about disclosing their prices, obviously preferring to get the mouse to the door.
Incidentally, a Durban firm of hosiery specialists begged hams to call or write, giving full details of their requirements –
This period was marked by important changes. An International Radiotelegraph conference had been held in Switzerland, attended by representatives of all sub-
For unease there was. Commercial interests were determined to ravish our territory as from January, 1929. Fortunately they succeeded only in restricting it drastically. The IARU, as international arbiter in ham radio, then proposed the following allocations (which today seem generous):
North America: 7-
All other areas: 7.15-
New International Prefixes were to be introduced at the same time. South Africa was allotted ZS, ZT and ZU, the latter two being later dropped by our PMG.
Inevitably these changes led to a campaign, spearheaded by OSR, for a general cleaning up in both the quality of signals and in operating practice, and development of new territory on the higher frequencies.
Interest was encouraged in the 10 metre band, hitherto a most remote area, and OTC published an article on a receiver for 5 metres, at that time regarded as a “laboratory” wavelength and of no practical value to the ham. (Within a few years this region was to have considerable attention focused on it, thanks largely to the pioneering efforts of QST). attended
Attention was also drawn to the merits of the 80 metre band for local contacts when “wipe out” (skip conditions during the hours of darknessl on 40 metres commenced, “to avoid the utter stagnation in our work that has been conspicuous during the past winter months”. Looking back now it seems quite astonishing to find that this region was almost a closed book
for most of us.
However, with the wide open spaces available before 1929 one could find a fairly generous corner between 35 and 40 metres in which to operate, and nobody seemed to mind the resultant noise and splatter. The only really unpopular chap was located in Division 4: he used raw AC. However, gently prompted by our Technical Editors, the cleaning up process forged slowly ahead.
“Radio”, QTC’s predecessor and by that time defunct, had published details of a low powered rig developed by the Burgess Battery Co. This incorporated a 201A receiving tube and a Split Colpitts circuit. The results this little outfit gave were impressive and the signals fairly clean, and more and more hams were beginning to use it.
The Technical Department predicted that the tuned-
(A technical description was published of the new Philips transmitter PCJJ, established in 1927 at Hilversum with an output of about 25 Kw on 30.2 metres, and used at the opening by Queen Wilhelmina and Princess Juliana to address their subjects in the Dutch East and West Indies. The lengthy explanation of crystal control suggests that this method of frequency stabilisation was still a closed book for the ham.)
Telephony too was still the preserve of the better heeled. However, interest was stimulated by A5B’s article on Modulation, in which he described the Absorption Loop, Grid, and the Constant-
Surprisingly little is encountered on the subject of receivers. The Reinartz circuit appears to have been the most popular. It was rare to find more than one HF stage.
And of course rigs were all home-
With Escom still to spread its network to farms and the remoter areas, a bank of Edison primary cells formed a useful LT supply, with dry batteries or even a gene-
The potential of the ham in a national emergency has long been recognised. Col. Creswell, then Minister of Defence, had his attention drawn by a Cape Town member to the splendid work being done by American hams on these occasions, and was much impressed. As a result all transmitting members were circularised by his Department.
Two concrete schemes were submitted by Headquarters to the PMG. The one considered more practicable was in due course passed on to the Minister of Defence.
The League’s President, Joseph White, himself a reserve officer in the Australian radio communications service, was thereupon appointed Officer Commanding and directly responsible to the Departments of Defence and Posts and Telegraphs. The number of stations to be appointed at the outset was limited to 32, and the granting of “valuable concessions” hinted at. A “powerful ham station in Pretoria” (A7EI was designated as
Early plans envisaged a radio link with the aircraft which were shortly expected to pioneer the route between Cairo and Cape Town, following on the recent flight of the “Southern Cross” from America to Australia.
Of expeditions there were several, most organised by those intrepid pioneers from across the Atlantic. Earlier on General Motors had sponsored the Chevrolet Expedition from Cape to Cairo, with Wallie Wilson (A7S) as operator.
Unfortunately, this being already ancient history, no details appeared in QTC (except for a puff from Wallie for the “wonderful PM filaments; you can’t break them”).
In 1928 the Cameron-
In December the Byrd Antarctic Expedition to the South Pole was reported under way In the flagship “City of New York” supported by the “Eleanor Belling”. It carried no less than 2162 tons of storage batteries, destined for the main base and several sub-
At this time two floating trophies were already available for competition. One, the HOS Trough as it was irreverently dubbed, had been donated by Raymond Coombs, and the other by Chenik & Barnett, Ltd. A.S. Innes (A4E), one of the real old timers, followed up with a floating cup, with silver and bronze medals to be won outright each year. Toby’s purpose was “to foster intercommunication between S.A.R.R.L. Transmitters and provide a further inducement to the ham who has won his WAC Certificate and finds the world too small”.
The first contest opened on 1/9/28. It was to be decided on points scored for contacts, consequently all the usual chitchat dropped completely. Editorial comment: “Anyone who tried to start a confab was soon subdued with a “CUL OM” as the business of hooking another QSO could not be interfered with”. This is of course an inevitable consequence of this type of contest, understandable however one may regret it, and particularly noticeable during these periodical exercises in, say, the U.S.A.
The November issue publishes a full length photo of the League’s “very first Lady member”, Miss Marie Rampf of Senekal, and second op to A9M. The way out garb of those far off days must have delighted the puritans. Some of you may even remember what today would most certainly be called The Sack; no curves, only outlines –
But readers are assured that this YL “pounds the key with the best of them”.
The Silent Key column announced the death at the age of 28 of R.S. Fisher (A3K), one of the foundation members of the League and, with Toby Innes, a regular broadcaster of entertainment in the pre-
All this time the League was growing fast, thanks in no small measure to the increased publicity given by QTC. The work at Headquarters could no longer be managed
by HOS alone and Bill Todd (A3D) was roped in to assist him, while J.T. McCash (A9F) took over as Honorary Treasurer.
In the early days there were no Branches as such. but the League was split up into Divisions,
Division 1 being the Cape Province.
Division 2 Eastern Province.
Division 3 South West Africa..
Division 4 Orange Free State,
Division 5 Natal.
Division 6 the Transvaal.
Each Division had its own working Committee and the Headquarters at that time was in the Transvaal, which later issued a monthly magazine called “QTC”.
The League was known as the SARRL the second ‘R’ stood for relay. which, as we were not allowed to relay traffic. was later dropped leaving the present form of SARL.
This happened. I think, some were around the late 1940’s or early 1950’s.
The first conference held in Cape Town (the 2nd of the SARRL) was held in 1927 and consisted of about 18 hams, which included such famous names as the late Mr Streeter and the late Reider Brothers, Henn and Charles.
The “Ham Spirit” was as strong, if not stronger than it is today as in those times, the only way to obtain further knowledge of our hobby was by the exchange of ideas.
One of those who had a highly developed sense of the Ham Spirit. was the late Nick Carter, (ZS1A) who gave a lot of his time and knowledge, by arranging a technical and Morse code class every Thursday evening. These classes were very popular being always well attended by beginners as well as the more informed ham. They were held in a converted garage at the home of OM Nick. The above classes were of course in addition to the normal monthly meetings.
The Monthly Meetings were held at various venues, some of which over the years were:-
Committee Meetings were nearly always held in private homes –
As happens in most Societies there was occasional QRM most of which seemed to occur between Division 1 and Division 6 –
During the meeting a Div 6 ham got hold of the swatter and straightened the “6” into a “1” showing Div 1 as now being under the swatter. However we came off best as we pointed out to the Div 6 hams that what had happened was that Div 6 had now been straightened by Div 1.
Cape Town also organised two Radio Exhibitions. Though I cannot recall the exact years in which they were held, I do know that one was held in the Drill Hall and the other in some building near Green Market Square. Then there was of course the stand we had at the Van Riebeeck Festival though this of course was in more recent times.
One of our Annual Conferences was held in the City Hall. Cape Town and it was here that I installed my Transmitter and broadcasted the proceedings on the 7 MC band. I
remember I nearly broke my neck putting up the antenna on the roof of the City Hall, which was made of slates and darned unsafe to walk over This I think was the only Conference ever broadcast over the ham band.
(Before proceeding with this second instalment I must take our Editorial Department gently to task over its choice of caption to the first (“An Old Timer Remembers” in the May issue). This is decidedly a misnomer. This series is and remains the presentation of the League story as reflected in the columns of its prewar journal, rounded off only where necessary by the background recollections of its compiler.)
In January 1929, QTC came to Johannesburg. It was a momentous month in more ways than one. The nations of the world, in solemn conclave, had several years previously agreed on a new parcelling out of frequencies. There were many claimants, all with powerful political backing, and inevitably the ham suffered. His territory was quite drastically reduced, particularly on the more popular bands. He just had to tighten his belt and learn to live with it.
But more of this anon. At this point in our saga the transfer of our journal from Durban is of greater interest. It is a tale which has been briefly told before but which now, for the sake of historical completeness, must be presented in greater detail.
In those days our League was made up of eight virtually autonomous territorial Divisions. Headquarters in Johannesburg was run by a committee, the membership of which included a representative or “proxy” nominated by each Division. It was the latter’s duty to keep in close touch with his “principals” and voice their wishes. In trivial matters, of course, he used his discretion, but where considerations of policy were involved the final decision was the Division’s exclusive prerogative and it was its representative’s task to consult with and obtain the latter’s views before voting.
Obviously the system was clumsy in the extreme and completely devoid of flexibility. But the Constitution required it. (It was in fact only a matter of time before commonsense prevailed and Headquarters was given the autonomy it enjoys today, subject only to policies laid down at the League’s A.G.M.)
Despite these limitations there were occasions when the Proxy Executive Committee, unthinkingly perhaps, took major decisions without proper authority. After all, the League had been founded in Johannesburg and Division 6 not unreasonably regarded itself as the parent body, with deservedly high prestige. But others ware earning a place in the sun. One such was Natal, where much enthusiastic activity was in evidence. A faint resentment was in the air. inevitably this washed over the Proxy Executive Committee, chafing under its constitutional handicaps.
The pot had to come to the boil sooner or later –
Durban’s reaction was immediate and, with hindsight, predictable. A deputation of four or five travelled up by train (a wearisome journey in those days) to meet the Proxy Executive. It was headed by Dody Loquet, at that time, if memory serves, one of Durban’s Public Prosecutors and happily still with us as ZS5X, and immediately went into secret session with Natal’s representative, Rupert Owen (Who later hinted ominously to the present writer of the wrath to come). Of the usual lighthearted chitchat when hams get together there was none.
So it was with considerable foreboding that all those directly concerned met the visitors that evening. The fact that a professional stenographer had been engaged by the deputation to take down a verbatim record of the proceedings did nothing to dispel the unease. Dody, surrounded by his colleagues and his dockets (“briefs” I think they are called in the best legal circles, and the term is not unknown also in those useful emporia Vending natty gents’ underwear), took up a strategic position at the table. The rest of us took a deep breath.
Joseph White presided. We others, belatedly conscious of our lapse, sat around like a bunch of prep school miscreants waiting to be summoned into the Head’s August presence.
Well, it was painful enough –
less to her great relief, destroying her copious notes. Armed with a sheaf of editorial matter which had already been prepared in Johannesburg, the team returned home the next day.
So QTC remained in Durban and not a word was breathed about the crisis, either in its columns or, as far as can be recalled, anywhere else. The August editorial did carry an apology for the delay in the appearance of that issue. No explanation was given but those behind the scenes knew the reason only too well.
However, the logic of the proposed change was inescapable: –
DURBAN LOOKING AT THE PAST. –
Harold Heywood from Durban was the first amateur to work Australia.
A.S. Andrews who lived in Red Hill designed the present SARL Badge.
M. McIver also from Durban was the first editor of the radio league journal, QTC, in South Africa.
Some more snippets.
L.E. Green was the first amateur to contact Hawai from South Africa..
J. S. Streeter from Cape Town was the first amateur to contact the U.S.A..
M.R.M. McGregor from Caledon was the first amateur to contact New Zealand from South Africa.
Satellite scene 1957.
The first Sputnik was launched. The frequencies was not within the amateur bands and did not really interest the amateurs at that time. Although they listened signals were not really strong. The first “Oscar” was also launched during this time, and amateurs would listen to the chirpy “HI” . There was no real interest as the signals did not mean anything really. To receive the meant special antennas, but the signals did not convey anything that we could understand and their frequencies was not convenient for Hams.
Locally Arthur Arnold ZS5SU and Greg Roberts ZS5BI showed a keen interest and led the local activity. Arthur and Greg was very helpful and got some of the locals interested.
More news on the activities of the local amateurs operating the satellite bands to follow in another article
Unfortunately no records readily at hand for the subsequent years.
DID YOU KNOW. –
The total expenses of the HQ of the League in 1927 came to £10.19.1 and the what do you know, a carry over of £5.18.8.
The SARRL appointed a committee in 1927 to meet with the Government and discuss “Emergency Communications.” Two schemes were drawn up and in the next year and presented to the Minister of Defence. This was adopted and took effect February 1932.
In 1927 the SARRL became a member of the IARU.
During the next year 1928 the SARRL notified the IARU that it would not yet be possible to have the HQ of the IARU in South Africa.
Starting February 1928 the first Certificates of membership was handed out from HQ.
The second Constitution of the League became effective during February 1932. Major Ross –
The Post Master General revised the Radio Regulations August 1932.
That an “Emergency Contest” held in January 1934 was won by A.T Cudmore from Durban.
As from 1933 the league was administered by a Council and during 1934 the following year, Council awarded honorary life membership to T.R. Warner, H.R, Owen, and H.D. Coyte.
It was on the 12.6.1934 that a letter was received by the Council asking –
April 1935 the Council requested Division 5 to nominate a “Technical Committee”.
QSL stickers was introduced during February 1936 by the QSL Buro. This income assisted in the running of the Buro.
The issuing of new transmitting licences ceased to be issued during 1939, being the start of WWII. The council decided that QTC would continue to be published. It was decided to hold the AGM during the Easter week end of 1940.
The QTC ceased to be published in 1940 and it was decided that the League would go into recess till the war was over. Councillors would remain in office till the League could be revived.
It was during October that the SARL sent out questionaries/forms to all members of the League.
Many of the forms were returned indicating the willingness of amateurs to offer their services.
It was decided that members should select a name for this proposed organization, and to make it democratic giving every one an opportunity it was to be by way of a competition. The league held this competition to find the most representative name for the organization. So it became Hamnet, quite appropriately for the time. I am not sure who won the competition but Hamnet it is.
When the call for a Branch or divisional co-
The radio amateur was thus given the chance to take over communications in areas where the normal networks had failed. The authorities recognised the amateur, his hobby and his capabilities. It now became the responsibility of the amateur to come forward and place his hobby and abilities at the service of the community and the country when required.
Locally Hamnet was a member of SATTEPSA , a committee that consisted of all relevant government departments such as Police, Railways, transport, Military and various other.
The amateurs would work in conjunction with the Civil Defence Committees which at this time was being formed all over the republic. Town Clerks were to chair these committees which comprised of members of the departments of Justice, Fire Stations, Hospitals, Ambulance services, all municipal services, the Army and the Police, now including the Amateurs..