Plymouth Amateur Radio Club

23 06 2009 original release date

Plymouth Radio Club History

The following article is from an issue of Practical Wireless dated December 1965. Thanks to Laurie M0VRT for preserving this and letting me use it. They certainly had grand ideas to build their own club house - I wonder what that would cost now? How much do we have in the kitty today?

Plymouth Amateur Radio Club has roots going back over 70 years. It is a place for anyone with an interest in radio to meet. Most members also have an interest in computing and/or electronics and some enjoy constructing their own equipment and aerials. You do not have to be a licensed Radio Amateur to be a member and the Society welcomes those who want to find out more about anything Radio. We have our own instructor for those who want to take the Radio Amateurs Exam's and the club organizes social events throughout the year many of which are suitable for families.

THERE has been some sort of radio society in Plymouth ever since 1926 but "The Plymouth Radio Club" as now constituted dates from 1956, when ,the few staunch members of the local "R.S.G.B. group" broke away and formed the P.R.C., affiliated to the R.S.G.B. Since that time the Club has transformed from the informal meeting of a few enthusiasts in a small room to the current position of nearly 70 members with 35 licensed members. Meetings are held every Tuesday throughout the year except for the. first two weeks in August, when informal meetings are held on the world-famous Plymouth Hoe. Three meetings every month take the form of “organized” " functions such as lectures, discussions, business meetings, etc., the fourth meeting being left free for "rag chewing" and informal discussions. Morse classes are held every week prior to the commencement of the evening's programme and a team of experts can take any aspirant from 0 to 40 w.p.m. (or higher if desired). During the winter months film shows are held once per month and many of the latest and most advanced films, technical or lay, are screened during the October to April session. There is a large amount of inter-club activity in the South West of England and apart from many quizzes, informal social evenings etc, we organize an inter-club picnic on Dartmoor every August. This is always a highly successful event. Visitors on a holiday and contingents from all the surrounding area clubs are welcomed and enjoy an unorganized but pleasant afternoon with amateurs, wives, families, friends, SWLs etc. Our annual dinner and social evening is usually held at the end of January or the beginning of February each year and again on this occasion many friends from contemporary clubs are welcomed, the attendance usually being around 80. The highlight of this event is always the “grand draw" when up to 50 valuable radio prizes are offered. There is also a "ladies' draw", together with a few speeches by the officers, a little dancing and the evening usually passes all too rapidly.

Whilst on the subject of officers a word about them would not be out of place. The ranks of the committee are as in every radio club, microcosm but including more than a few. Well known call-signs. The president G3SZT is probably best known as the first person to make a two-way contact by amateur television in the early 50's. ,Decades ago, indeed before the war, he was a pioneer of the h.f. bands and, whilst he achieved post-war DXCC, the majority of his time nowadays ;is spent on v .h.f where he holds many "firsts", including the first-ever QSO GTOGC on 4m. ;The two vice presidents are known for their contributions to amateur radio away from these shores G3BRJ in the Far East, especially Singapore, and G3WL has held many exotic calls in YK, TA, SU, VP3, to mention but a few. Between us all bands from 160m to 70cm. are actively used on all modes, c.w., a.m., SSB and even RTTY. There are many members In other parts of the world, Singapore, Trinidad, Nigeria are again but examples, to say nothing of the members in H.M.Forces scattered abroad both within and outside this island.

However, for all its other facets, the hub of a radio club is its "station" and the impression which it portrays to other amateurs over the air. At one time a "defunct" CR100 and a two-valve 160m transmitter were its sole contents. However, when the long awaited call G3PRC, for Plymouth Radio Club, was issued in 1962 then began the rapid transformation from our humble beginnings of a station to the somewhat different picture given by the photograph. Basically the receiving side comprises a "hotted-up" CR100 running; from a KW/Geloso converter at 4.6Mc/s and the transmitting side a KW Vanguard. However, a great deal of work has been put into designing the station to our exact specifications. The console operating position was built with ease of operating over long periods in mind and all operations can be performed by using the fingertip controls immediately in front of the operator. The transmitter/ receiver set-up has beat modified for full break on c.w., with switching handled by “Londex" relays, and for single switch control on 'phone, side tone is, of course, incorporated for the former mode.

The “Sky wire " arrangements comprise a G5RV fed with open wire tuned feeder for the "34' down-lead " section and then with low loss coaxial cable. For the h.f. bands there is a G4ZU beam fixed on the east. Operations are roughly half 'phone and half c.w. and there is a great deal of activity on all bands, especially in contests during the winter DX season. The R.S.G.B. National Field Day is a must every year and a highlight in the Club calendar. A certain amount of other portable activity is indulged in - the station is operated at the aforementioned annual picnic and also from specially selected sites high up on Dartmoor during a few week-ends. The clubroom itself is situated in Virginia House Settlement, where we have our own accommodation. The meeting room holds a coffee bar and the shack is partitioned off. All the work, console, station. Clubroom. shack, etc.. has been done by members in their spare time. Situated only a few hundred yards from the Mayflower steps whence sailed the “Pilgrim Fathers" when they left to found the United States in 1620 the clubroom is in a part of old Plymouth near the famous Barbican and. indeed, inside the original walls of the old "Sudtone " which appears in the Doomsday Book (a little before radio! ) and within easy walking distance of the "Hoe " and we often go up to see Drake playing bowls when operating /m ! So much for the past and present but what of the future? Plans have been drawn up for a new building with a radio shack and station drawn up by the architects to our specifications. A lattice tower will be built into the roof, an earth mat into the floor and the shack will be separated from a laboratory by a glass partition through which measurements and readings can be made on the test equipment n the laboratory bench. The present station will be used to train novices, whilst the new equipment will probably be on the lines of a Collins "S" line or its equivalent in about five years' time, when we can reasonably expect these plans to materialize! In the meantime we intend to fit s.s.b to the existing station by purchasing an SB10U which will be built by our technical committee and will enable the call-sign "G3PRC" to be broadcast even further than the five continents and some 80 countries which have already been contacted.

Laurie added these comments:

Hi Bob, As promised, here are a few personal memories concerning the early days of Amateur Radio activity in Plymouth. Feel free to use, amend, or whatever. So far I can't get any info. about the original Club being one of the oldest in the country , but I will pursue that one. When I came to the city in 1951, as a keen SWL, straight from S.Bristol A.R.C. I made extensive enquiries about the existence of a Radio Club from the Library and a couple of local licensed Hams, but with no success! There were of course a good number of Operators around, especially ex-service personnel, who had regular nets on 80M and 40M to which I would often earwig Sunday mornings. There was, however, a small group of SWL's who met regularly in each other's houses, and I joined them. Around 1954, a young ex- Radar mechanic came to work with me and he had a considerable interest in Radio, especially VHF. He lodged at Virginia House and with the kind permission of the Warden, got us the use of the attic room there for meetings. His name was Ian Milne, and he is now VK71R in Hobart. Thereafter, numbers attending increased rapidly, including many licensed Amateurs, and apparently the Club became formalized in 1956. For my part, between work, night school, and family, Radio took a back seat for 50 years but that's another story!

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