Louis Varney, G5RV

Louis has a field day

For NFD this year MSARS again used our much treasured call, G5RV, for the two Metre station entry and, elsewhere in these pages, there is an account of the operation.

At some later date we will learn of our degree of success in the contest but before then I would like to take you back in time to an earlier NFD when G5RV himself competed.

The year is 1948. The Amateur Band allocation for two metres was released in two segments in 1948 and 1949 but it was not until ten years after that, in 1959, that the first VHF Field Day took place. Back in 1948 the contest Louis is taking part in is on HF and what’s more, in his preferred mode, CW

The local press picks up on the story and this is their reporter’s version of the event.

"Crouched over their transmitting and receiving sets in two tents in a meadow behind the Running Mare, Galleywood, nine Chelmsford radio amateurs, several of whom have held licenses for over twenty years, contacted the world during the weekend. They were one of the five portable stations in Essex taking part in the National Field Day organized by the Radio Society of Great Britain.

The rules of this field day were that the amateurs must use portable sets, must be under canvas, aerials and masts must not be fixed to buildings and they must not use a mains electricity supply.

Although the members thoroughly enjoyed the field day, which started on Saturday at five in the evening and continued till five on Sunday, it was organized as a practice for making amateur stations available to the authorities in times of national emergency.

These radio “hams” are members of a world-wide movement which embraces every creed and colour in one brotherhood. Among them there is a prince and the mayor of a large English industrial town. They bar politics in their conversations and boast “ours is a world of total peace.”

The two stations in Galleywood, which are known throughout the world by the call-signs G5RV and G2HPF transmitted on four wavelengths -- G5RV on 170 and 80 metre bands and G2HBF on 20 and 40 metres.

They picked up messages from Jersey, C.I., Holland, Eire, Czechoslovakia, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, and Hungary.

Messages consisted simply of code words giving the strength of the signals and greetings. At other times the “hams” held conversations with other amateurs across the globe as easy as two people converse in a room, using no more power than is required for a motor car side lamp.”

That report shows that the newspaperman had been well primed, and even in those instances where there is a suggestion of intrigue, with the operators “crouched over their transmitting and receiving sets” and “messages consisting of code words” it is likely that Louis would have approved. After all it was only eighteen months earlier that he’d been released from his SCU in Royal Signals where his wartime duties gave him scope for a spot of cloak and dagger.

Let us now look at the event from the alternative perspective, Louis’ log and the entries for the 5th and 6th June 1948.

June 5th 1948

QTH - Meadow back of Running Mare, Galleywood

Tx. CO – PA. Input 4.4 W

Rx. HRO

Ant.   270’ long wire

The A Team. G5RV G2AAU G6LB G3CKJ  G2SA

The A Team: G5RV G2AAU G6LB G3CKJ G2SA

What does that tell us? Well, for openers Louis wasn’t going to go short on creature comforts. The Running Mare, a short walk from Louis home in Galleywood Road, was his local, so how civilized is that? Incidentally, I’ve googled it and not only is the Running Mare still there but the Google Earth link shows that the meadow also remains in place.

The transmitter, the CO is almost certainly the Colpitts Oscillator, built by Louis in 1927, which survived to be exhibited by him when he was the guest of honour at the Leicester Rally in 1998.

For those of you unfamiliar with the HRO receiver, in its army designation it is the R106, has plug-in coils and weighs a ton. I’m exaggerating, maybe it’s only half a ton but you get the idea.

HRO Receiver

Louis, still fit from his army service and just four days shy of his 37th Birthday would have had his work cut out to lug it across the meadow but no doubt he would have had some help from the rest of his team. The long wire antenna; no problems there, the Google link shows plenty of trees surrounding the meadow to support 270 feet of wire.

With the contest scheduled to start at 1700 hrs, on the 5th of June, the five man team get off to a slow start, recording their first entry in the log at 1747, on 80 metres.

Start of Log

From then onwards, rotating, in shifts of from one to two hours, members are making a steady number of contacts, mostly Gs but a few from overseas are also giving and receiving good reports.

Once the log registers the last contact before midnight Louis changes the date to June 6th Sunday, confirming my thought that it is being maintained in BST. The contacts begin falling off around 01.30, so he now QSYs to Top Band where things are a lot livelier for a couple of hours.

There’s a bit of a slack period after that but changing back to 80 metres at 5 o’clock changes their luck when Rotterdam and Jersey are logged. Rubbing the sleep from its eyes the rest of the country is waking up and from then onwards, by continually switching between the two bands, the team keep things ticking over until the last contact of the contest is made at 1659. Louis makes the final entry in the log. “1700hrs. OFF  STATION  G5RV/P  CLOSED”

End of Log

In all, 114 contacts and against each of them Louis has recorded the number of points awarded, ranging from one to four, and to begin with the numbers aren’t making much sense. Distance worked doesn’t seem to have a great deal of bearing on the result.

How can it be that a contact between Chelmsford and Chingford, in the same county, qualifies for three points whilst Chelmsford to a GM in Stirling is only worth one? I ponder this for a minute or two and then it all clicks into place. You calculate one point for a UK base station, two points for an overseas base station with a bonus of two points for /P for either.

Nothing startling by way of DX but nevertheless satisfying to work an Easy Item an Oboe King and an Oboe Nan. Indulge me; I’m still back in 1948, visualizing Louis and his boys dismantling their gear and trooping into the Running Mare for a sustaining pint or two so that they can cart that blooming great HRO back home.


Written by Ron Glover G0WGP