wythall radio club

having fun with RF

The History

This is an old historical document, unedited to keep it’s timeless quality

Club History, Wythall Radio Club History
by Alan Sammons G0HBC


Some months ago I was sitting in the lounge as we gathered as usual on Tuesday evenings; I was actually in conversation with two other club members who ought to remain nameless, as they are the guilty persons of what has transpired. We got around to talking about the beginnings of the club and both Chris EYO and Lee MTN suggested that I should write the history of the club.

Can anybody realise what this eventually amounted to?

One Tuesday evening Chris gave me an extremely heavy bag of files and papers, saying something like “Here you are muggins.” There was obviously no turning back. Some of the papers in the files were actually in correct date order – some. That also applied to the loose papers.

It is amazing to think that there were some committee meetings and correspondence with no dates on them and I can assure you that it can take quite a bit of doing to try and trace where they all should go in the files.

Obviously paperwork can only tell part of a story, but I was fortunate to be able to contact some club founders and early members, who gave me some valuable information. I am indebted to Ian and Jane Hewitt G4SVL and G0BNZ, Charles and Betty Hawkins, Mike Goode G4SMA and Gil Cleeton G3LBS.

Anyway, I do hope that readers find the history interesting and I can only apologise if any facts are wrong and if I have omitted to mention anybody that I should have

Alan G0HBC 2 January 1999

The Beginning

Ever since Marconi and others even before him began to experiment with what we now know as radio waves, man has been intrigued with the idea that they can communicate with each other without wires between them. (Is the Internet a backward step?)

Both amateurs and professionals progressed through the various experimental stages of radio, with many amateurs making vital contributions to this new technology and with many of them becoming the first of the growing number of so called “hams.”

Some fifty or sixty years ago, some of us present day older people, would perhaps tune in on the short wave band of our radio receivers and listen to some of these amateurs, on either the 20 or 40 metre bands, using then AM or CW only. It was all very mysterious, as we didn’t understand what they were talking about when they exchanged reports.

CB appeared in Europe I believe in the 70’s and quite a number of people used the AM rigs when it was illegal to do so, some of them of course causing TVI. Eventually the use of FM CB was legalised in the UK in 1981 and one could buy a very good rig for about £25 and just purchase a licence, without any need to take an exam.

This was all great fun for very many people and so was the use of a “handle” so called. The author was “GOLIATH” operating out of Shirley and also mobile in various parts of the country. I still have that rig, a Harvard, which converted to 10M FM did some sterling work about ten years ago, when conditions were excellent on all bands.

It was perhaps only natural that some “breakers” would want to meet each other and perhaps discuss various technical aspects of radio. So it was that several “breakers” centred around Wythall, met together and decided to form a club and have regular meetings.

The first recorded meeting was on the 19th of February 1981, when a few people met and formed a committee. This was all done very formally and properly and I think that those people’s names should be recorded as the club’s founders.

Chairman – Jackson – Ian Hewitt
Secretary – Ski Man – Toby Jackson
Treasurer – Wrangler – Dave Faulkner

These officers and the rest of the committee made rules and regulations, opened a bank account, set membership fees and lecture fees and also made a constitution for the club. They knew that they would need to organise fund raising events to enable them to buy equipment. It is interesting to note that committee members were exempt from paying fees!

The club had obtained the use of a room for their meetings at The Wythall Heath Social Club in Chapel Lane and the committee meeting on 5th March 1981 recorded that 76 members joined at the first meeting, and there were also 29 visitors, who presumably only attended, but did not join. The first lecture organised was to be about the pros and cons of FM and AM generally and the fee for this lecture was to be £1.00, but would also include a cold buffet.

There was a very unfortunate gap in the meetings on one specified meeting day, members arrived to find themselves locked out of the room at Chapel Lane. The committee were eventually able to find a new home for the club, in hiring Park Hall at Wythall House. Even so there was a strict proviso that no trouble be caused. CB did not necessarily have a very good name in some people’s minds at that time!

The club settled down and eventually there were 100 members including some families. Various talks and film sessions were organised.

One interesting club article records a treatise on the use of CB and the possibility of it eventually being licenced; it was after all illegal at this time. Another article concerns the use of a specific aerial for CB use.

It was quite apparent that the club members were in earnest in wanting to know more about radio and to progress further, as a club information bulletin soon followed, announcing a course of lectures that would commence on Tuesday 15th September 1981. This was quite a momentous occasion, because these lectures were to study for the RAE examination, to be held in May 1982.

This was made possible because a member was fortunate enough to meet a Shirley school teacher by the name of Gil Cleeton, G3LBS, who had suggested the idea of CB people taking the RAE course. Having made that suggestion, Gil was pressed into giving the lectures and of course this was to change the whole being of the club.

There is no written record of how many people passed the exam but I have been told by a past member that of 13 people who took the exam, 11 passed. So they became “B” licencees.

Continuing the desire to go further and become “A” licencees, the knowledge of morse was necessary. Again, the club was fortunate in that one of the members “found” Lew Williams, who was willing to thump the key (sorry Lew) to enable members to learn morse and so pass the test. Lew has done this over the years until just recently, when he has had to stop owing to eyesight problems.

Lew was made a club member very early on; he has been Chairman, and has become club President and considering that he is not a Radio Amateur, that is really something for which the club must be very grateful.

In December 1983, the club was offered the tentative sole use of the cellar at Wythall House, but on the understanding that they would have to clear it out and put it in a suitable condition for safe use.

Apparently there was quite a lot of work to be done, including brick laying and getting rid of some asbestos and it took quite a lot of club members spare time to make it suitable for use.

One interesting thing told me by Ian Hewitt G4SVL, is that before the bowling green was laid out, a trench was dug around the outer area and a loop of copper wire was run around it and buried, so forming an earth for the shack.

January 3rd 1984 was a milestone in the club’s history, as the licence G4WAC was issued to Mike Goode G4SMA, who had by then been secretary for some time.

In February of 1984 the club went another step further in becoming affiliated to the RSGB.

Among the lectures organised for 1985 was one in January, to be given by a Mr. Chris Pettitt of Eddystone Radio.

When the AGM was held on 26th March 1985, a new Treasurer was appointed in the person of David Dawkes, an SWL member, and the balance of funds was given as £1372. Later, in August, there is mention of the balance only then being £366. Perhaps there had been an expenditure on equipment, although this is not recorded.

The committee decided to change the date of the AGM to be later in the year instead of in March, so another AGM was held in 1985 on 29th October.

The January newsletter in 1986 makes mention of the club having successfully participated in a contest and had made plans to enter another one.

The same newsletter also advised of a Mini Rally to be held on Sunday 9th March 1986 and at the committee meeting following that date, a profit of £400 was announced by the Treasurer. What isn’t mentioned is that the event was organised by Chris Pettit G0EYO.

On 20th August 1986 the long awaited callsign G1WAC was issued to the secretary Mike Goode G4SMA.

The AGM for 1986 was held on the 30th September. It was reported that Gil G3LBS had now moved away from the district. Gil had taught the RAE course for five years and had been instrumental in enabling quite a few people in achieving an exam pass in amateur radio. This certainly established the Wythall Radio Club as a very viable amateur radio club.

Fortunately Mike Goode G4SMA had acquired the necessary technique of teaching the RAE course and so he took over as instructor. Mike had been secretary for some time by then but felt that he needed to give up that post on becoming the instructor. Chris G0EYO was elected as secretary. The balance at that AGM was reported as £283.

The second club rally was held on Sunday 8th March 1987 and despite the snowfall that had occurred, it was a successful rally and a good profit was made, enabling further equipment to be bought.

The July 1987 newsletter reported that Colin G6NPS would be starting the next RAE course. This was because Mike Goode G4SMA would be leaving the area later in the year. Mike had been club secretary for quite a few years and had done sterling work in steering the club along to its then present successful state.

At the AGM on September 1988 when the balance was reported as £1411, it was said that the club could now consider the purchase of a tower and a suitable antenna array to go with it.

This idea was delayed a bit, but in December, a club member, Ralph G6VRH (still a member if not very active) got busy in drawing up details of a site and specifications, to apply to the Bromsgrove Council for planning permission for the mast and array.

These plans were submitted on 10th July 1989 and in the September newsletter, it was reported that the planning permission was granted. Needless to say, the Wythall Community Association had previously given their permission.

All projects take some time to get under way and it wasn’t until January 1990 that it got going. This is recorded in the author’s article in the May 1990 newsletter which is here reprinted and is followed by the reprint of Chris G0EYO’s story of the erection of the antennas.

“Three Men in a Hole” with apologies to Jerome K Jerome by Alan G0HBC

So as we were leaving the club following the very interesting talk on satellite working, the voice of the Hon. Sec. was heard to cry out “Anyone available next Saturday morning at 10.00am to help dig out the hole for the new telescopic mast foundation?” Did anybody hear or want to hear I wonder. There may have been some mutterings or even some ribald comments, I don’t remember.

So, Saturday 20th January (that long ago?) at 10 am; why did I turn up for goodness sake? I never operate any of the club rigs, I’m too shy. What’s it got to do with me ? Don soon appeared on the scene and it was a case of wellies on before the approach was made to the site where a stick marked the centre of the proposed hole. A square was soon marked out to the appropriate size, well, near enough; a spade was tentatively pushed into the soil – just to get the feel of it. Soil? Have you ever looked at the site?

Before many shovelfulls had been dug a thunderous noise was heard, but it was only the footsteps of the Hon. Sec. coming along the path. A few more shovelfulls and peering through specs over the lower fuzz was our esteemed Editor, Lawson. He was soon reflecting as to why he should have left his warm bed. Even so, we were really under way by then and the sods were flying thick and fast – figuratively speaking – and the words as well. Bricks, stones, even some earth; lower and lower we go. Dear me, this is a hard lump, whatever have we come across? The English language is so very expressive, especially when you find slap bang across the centre of the hole, three feet down, there is a concrete reinforced drain pipe. But that’s not all, it has a branch at an angle. During the morning, coffee, tea and advice was kindly provided by Alan and Miv and this was of course a very welcome interlude.

The following Saturday after firstly bailing out the water, Don especially proved that he has muscles. He works like a horse, no doubt he has oats for brekkie. Our Frank joined us, having torn himself away from satellite working. Before long we find a galvanised water pipe running diagonally across the hole underneath the drain pipe. It leads to the remains of part of the old walled fountain that old sages say used to operate in the grounds way back. The Social Club brains including General Manager Alan were very perplexed at our findings, but they assured us that those things weren’t really down there in the hole, because the plans did not show them, so there.

Anyway the Saturday’s came and went; rain didn’t help, with water draining into the hole and depriving us of the opportunity of working at least once. This was especially so when Lawson, Frank and Mick suggested that it was going to rain all morning and it did too !

The big day was Saturday 9th March when the concrete mix was to be delivered. Unfortunately the Ready Mix truck was going to have to dump the mix twenty to twenty five feet away from the hole, so that more volunteers had been requested.

There was Don, Frank, Peter, Chris, Lawson, Dale, Ronnie, Ian and son, Darren and myself (did I miss out anybody?) and three wheelbarrows. The truck came early with the hole not quite ready, but then soon came the action. True that sometimes the wheelbarrows went into the hole along with the mix, but after all we are only amateurs. Anyway, the level of concrete in the hole gradually rose, but by the time the whole of the load was in the hole it was close to “going off” and also, it was apparent that we had been short changed in quantity. Don came to the rescue by getting the makings of a mix quickly delivered to site. It was speedily manually mixed and the hole was filled. We were all somewhat knackered and that’s putting it mildly. We were grateful once again that Alan and Miv supplied us with coffee, tea and bacon sandwiches also this time.

Well that’s the story of the hole, but following that, Don and Frank fitted the base plate of the mast and then one Sunday morning a team of worthies erected the mast. Also a gated fence has very professionally been fitted around the base by Don, with Frank helping.

It is true to say that the mainstay behind all the work and most of the ideas also, have come from one man and that is our worthy Don G0NES. I am sure that I am speaking for all the club in offering our grateful thanks to him for all that he has done.

(Wythall Radio Times – May to July 1990)

Antennas, Towers, and other Madness

Other scribes have written how it came to pass after what seemed like forty years in the wilderness, the mast came to be erected, and how those of the tribe of Wythall Radio Club came to worship this erection as a wondrous thing to behold. However it was not long before the more revolting amongst them began to spread dissent by saying how much better it would work if we put antennas on the mast and connected them to the radio. The high priest G0EYO was unable to persuade them otherwise and so began the period in the sects history known as the lost weekends.

Several weeks delay was cleverly organised by having the roof repaired at Wythall House thus preventing any outside work. However inside work was carried out on the feeders that were to connect the antennas to the preamps and the preamps to the cable junctions planned to be just below the rotator. A couple of the tribe became quite expert at putting N type plugs and sockets on the Westflex 103 cable. Everything was colour coded so that the correct cable was connected to the right antenna.

Another weekend was spent running out the main feeder cables and terminating four of them in N plugs. They were then each wound back on to individual drums together with preamp control cables and the rotator cable. At a previous session the gantry from the fence surrounding the mast to the adjacent cottage had been painted black and this was re-erected.

It seemed like there could be no further excuse for not getting on with the job so the next Sunday was spent securing a cable tray to the top of the mast head unit (which houses the rotator) and securely fixing the cable ends to this cable tray with multiple plastic cable ties. (It must be remembered that the weight of four coax feeders and two control cables is quite substantial.) Cables were then bunched together and tie wrapped, and made to hang from the top of the mast before being secured to the gantry. The following Sunday, the cables were fixed to the cottage wall and run in via the conservatory, through a steel cable duct and down into the shack. A start was also made that weekend on building the 2m Boomer.

The next Sunday was the big one. The 29ft 2 metre 18 element Boomer and hopefully the two 70cm antennas were to be put on the pole. This was the only activity that could not be planned in detail in advance with some sure degree of success. This very much depended on it being all right on the night. In the end it went very well. The 2m antenna was put together on the roof and after a short pause whilst we found some more fixings, was put on the aluminium pole which had been removed from the mast. At the same time the 70cms antennas were installed together with the preamps for both antennas. Now came the moment of truth, how to get it back on the mast. Non-participants will need to realise that in the lowered position most of the pole is in fact situated over the peaked roof of the Britannia Hall. Some clever use of ladders by Don and Colin, with them using their bodies as cushions to support the pole and the antenna and to protect the elements from the roof, soon had the pole back on the mast. A bit of tidying up with tie wraps and amalgamating tape and the job was done. A quick winch up of the mast and there it was in all it’s glory. A great monster of an antenna nearly 30 ft long on top of the 20 ft aluminium pole and waving about in the wind like a flag. No time for the faint hearted or to start worrying about the yield point and stress factor of aluminium. It was there just waiting to be connected up and used. And so it came to pass that on the 5th of August, approximately 9 months after work began so the Wythall Radio Club made a 5.5 ssb contact with an EI on 10 watts. Easy wasn’t it ?

Thanks for all the regulars and irregulars. Don, Colin, Mick, Tom, Frank, Mark, David, Lawson, Ron and anyone I have forgotten. There is still more to do of course, putting up the 6 meter 6 element and the HF 3 element (now that’s a big antenna!) Re-laying out the shack to give us better operating positions and of course finishing off the refurbishing of the shack started so well last year.

73s Chris G0EYO
(Wythall Radio Times – August to September 1990)

After all that work, the club was really in business as regards being on the air; it was real team spirit that made it all happen.

In 1993 Colin, G0JPN by then, finished his period as RAE instructor and our present chairman, Martin G8VXX, took the job on and continues to enjoy having good results in getting people through the exams.

The following years have passed with the annual rallies which Chris G0EYO has always successfully organised, with the usual help of dedicated club members. Hard work but very satisfying.

In 1993 there was the official founding of the Wythall Contest Group with it’s own officers and committee. The callsign G7WAC was acquired for the express use in contests. However, it should be noted that some years before, the club had entered contests that were mainly organised by Michael G4VPD, a long standing club member.

Another long standing member is Colin G6ZDQ, who has given many hours of his time working on various projects from the early days onward, including the cellar work.

Simon G4TVR and his parents Charles and Betty Hawkins who are life members of the club, were also members in the early CB days.

We now have a very well run club; Chris G0EYO is no longer secretary – he did his bit, a big bit, but he still organises the rallies – what a job! Chris G6KMQ dared to take on the job of secretary – heaven help him. Lee G0MTN is the newsletter secretary and also organises the contests, with help from his fellow contest members. These contests are now becoming a large part of the club’s activities and are making us more widely known. David G0ICJ retired from being treasurer some 3-4 years ago and Carol now looks after our finances with a professional touch. Her husband Darren G7HOC is the club’s tame poet laureate. Lawson G7DCM has printed our news-sheets for quite a number of years and has now retired from doing that.

The club takes part in the Wythall Carnival, JOTAs, Beer and Skittles evenings, we have Christmas parties and the club Christmas Contest which really gets many members in touch with each other.

Our membership is about 44 presently, with members coming from all walks of life, their ages running from the later seventies down to the mid teenage years.

One could go on a bit, but here we are now at the beginning on 1999 and we can look forward to still being very active in the New Millennium, just one year away.

Alan G0HBC
January 1999