The History of Sidmouth Amateur Radio Society

The Sidmouth Amateur Radio Society first saw the light of day in 1982; formed by members of the former Sidmouth CB club.  By 1982 CB had run its initial surge of interest and some CB users moved on to take the City and Guilds Radio Amateurs exam.  The formation of a local Amateur radio club was the next requirement.

The club first met in the science lab at Sidmouth Community College where in house talks and lectures were held, some radio operations were possible, but this was limited by the inability to install any type of external antenna.


SARS 1982 first meeting at Sidmouth College

(current members Dave G6XUV and John G6YWX, second and third from right)

Radio on desk looks like Yaesu FT-480r Multimode FM/CW/SSB 10 watts output.

1982

 

In 1983 the club moved to The Norman Lockyer Observatory at Salcombe Hill Sidmouth.  Meetings were held in a derelict "Green Hut" located just east of the current Victoria Dome.  Most of the club nights involved making the hut weather proof; under the guidance of carpenter John Hartnell (G6YWX) we clad and insulated the internal walls and fitted new roofing material.

 

In 1984 the observatory site was purchased by the East Devon District Council from the University of Exeter, and the Sidmouth Astronomy Society and the Radio club started to use the site for their meetings and activities.  At this time the green shed was abandoned and the Radio Group moved into the main building and started limited operations from the members room (now the NLO Library).

 

During early 1984, a chance radio contact with a station in the US spawned the idea of a special event station to mark American Thanksgiving Day in November of 1984.  The special event call sign GB2UST was obtained and the NLO was assigned the job of being the UK link for the day.  Work commenced to get all the equipment needed either by using members own equipment or by the loan of transceivers from Reg Ward's radio shop in Axminster.  Antennas for all the required frequencies were constructed, including a 14 MHz quad antenna precariously perched on top of two 20' scaffold poles!  

When the day arrived (22nd Nov 1984) numerous contacts were made with the US station WA1NPO located at the living history settlement in Plymouth Massachusetts.  The weather on the day was typically British with heavy rain and high winds.

When we arrived at the NLO site the following day our treasured 14MHz quad antenna was a mangled mass of twisted tube and wire,  we all agreed we had been very lucky that the day had been such a great success.

Article above from RadCom, November 1984

 

Tower Installation, August 1989, Ron Hamson aligning the base frame prior to concreting.

 In 1989 the Mond Dome at the NLO was converted into a small Astro Planetarium and a Radio room was constructed.  This enabled us to have a permanent radio room that we could use for club meetings and open days and the call sign GB2NLO was obtained for the station.  This call sign is one of only 38 allocated throughout the UK for permanent special event stations.

During the early 1990s Bob Tedbury (G6SNY) held computer lessons at the NLO and instructed many members in the use of DOS etc..  His amusing and instructive way of teaching allowed us all to gain a good foundations in the mysteries of computing.

 

Bob Tedbury (G6SNY)

In 1995 the Sidmouth and District Astronomy Society and the Sidmouth Amateur Radio Club amalgamated to form the Norman Lockyer Observatory Society (NLOS) and signed a lease with the East Devon district Council to run the observatory site.  At around the same time, a new larger (60 seat) planetarium and a second radio room were constructed.  This enabled us to split our HF and VHF/UHF operations and, by the use of windows and split doors, the visitors on open days were able to see the radio shacks in operation. 

Patrick Moore officiated at the opening ceremony for the new planetarium, which took place on 29th September 1995, Patrick was also a visitor in August 1992.  He showed great interest in the radio group and tried his hand on the Morse key, having been a radio operator during the Second World War while serving with Bomber Command in the RAF.

Patrick Moore with Bill Gregory (G3AQM), at the NLO, 30th Aug. 1992. (Photo: Bob Tedbury G6SNY)

The 1990's were a period during which the NLO site became a vital link in the Packet Radio network that had spread across the world.  As a packet node we linked to CDN, a node in Crediton and ILP, a BBS node at Ipplepen (Torquay).  Operation was on 70 MHz, 144 MHz, and 430 MHz. and the service was available 24/7 and ran without fault for the whole of the 1990's.

By 2000 the rise of the Internet meant that the use of packet waned and the equipment was eventually switched off in 2000.

During the 2000's the group continued to grow operating the GB2NLO callsign at all the NLO's open events and numerous special event call signs to celebrate notable events including GB0HE (for the 145th anniversary of the discovery of Helium) by the start of 2012 relations between the the group and other groups at the NLO started to sour resulting in the radio group in August 2014 voting en masse to leave the NLO there being no way that an Amateur Radio Society could operate under our licensing conditions on the site  despite the charity registration of the NLO the Board of directors ignored their obligations to operate a radio group so after 34 years our association with the NLO ceased.

From August 2014 we restarted the SARS at the Thorn Golf Centre, Salcombe Regis, a site 1 mile North East of our previous location. Our affiliation with the RSGB continues and we have registered new examination venues in the local area.

Since moving the SARS has continued to expand in the period from August 2014 until August 2017 52 people were succesesful in obtaining radio qualifications as a result of SARS training and exams.

 


Bill Gregory G3AQM was the Chairman of the Radio Group at the NLO during the period early 1990's until approx. 2008 

here is a extract from Bills history.

Bill Gregory G3AQM (Golf Three Alpha Queen Mary)

Bill (he was always known as Bill, even though his actual forenames were Frederick James) was born in 1919 and grew up in Tufnell Park in North London. He served in the Royal Navy during World War II starting as a telegraphist. By the end of the war he was responsible for the servicing of all the radio equipment on the destroyers, frigates, sloops and corvettes of the Western Approaches escort fleet using Liverpool, for which he was awarded a BEM.

After the war he trained as a teacher and in eventually became a Headmaster of Firs Farm Primary School, Edmonton. He encouraged his pupils to try radio and taught them morse code. Radio and music (he played the violin in several orchestras) were his favourite hobbies. He was part of the team that operated the Amateur Radio Station on board HMS Belfast, anchored in the Pool of London as a museum ship for some 15 years. He also had private morse pupils.

On his retirement to Sidmouth, Devon, he became involved with the Radio Group of the Normal Lockyer Observatory where he continued to give presentations to visitors and school pupils. He was a trustee of the observatory and was Chair of the Radio Group for several years. He also continued his weekly morse transmissions for training purposes as well as keeping up with friends on the air.

He died in June 2011.

Biog. written by Bill's son Simon. 19/7/2014