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Chapter 1...The Early Years

The Society, then known as “The Wirral Amateur Transmitting and Short Wave Club”, was formed in 1936. The three founder members being Angus Taylor G8PG, Roy Barlow G3QX and Basil O’Brien G2AMV.

The early meetings were held in their homes until, following an announcement in “Practical and Amateur Wireless” of February 15th 1936 recruiting members, moves were made to various venues. In fact, what was to be the pattern of nomadic existence, insofar as Club meeting places was concerned, was set in those very early days.

As membership increased, one venue for monthly meetings was King’s Square Café, Birkenhead (long since gone). “Wireless World” of November 13th 1936 in “Club News” reported a lecture at that venue by G2RF on “Five metre transmission and reception” (yes, we had a 56 MHz band pre-war and, indeed, post-war until these frequencies were withdrawn from Amateur use and allocated to television services). Membership up to “closure for the duration” in 1939 built up to 25-30 members.

In passing, it is pertinent to mention the procedure for obtaining an “Experimental Licence” which applied in the U.K. at that time. “Amateurs”, although marked as such on some radio receiver dials, did not exist in the realms of the U.K. Licencing Authorities, only bona-fide “Experimenters”.

To obtain the “Experimental Licence” one had to satisfy the Authority of the intention carry out bona-fide experimental work in communication by means of radio propagation and reception.

Since, for the majority, the intention was to enjoy a hobby the usual excuse/reason stated when applying for a Licence was given as “Experimental work on propagation of radio waves”. Old hands usually gave this guidance since most other experimental work could be done and loaded into an “Artificial Aerial” without the actual propagation of radio waves – (in theory that is).

An examination in radio theory and operating procedures etc. was not required, simply answers to a posted questionnaire, which could be completed with access to text-books and help if needed.

Competence in C.W. at 12 words per minute was, however, mandatory.

Most applicants, whatever their claims as to experiments, were initially limited to a period with an “Artificial Aerial Licence” until granted their full radiating ticket.

With the outbreak of hostilities on September 3rd, 1939, Amateur operation in the U.K. was terminated, and all Amateur transmitting equipment was impounded.

Regrettably the equipment belonging to Merseyside Amateurs, which was stored in the India Buildings, Liverpool, was destroyed by enemy action.

Owners were in some cases given compensation for equipment lost, and others were not, dependent upon acceptance or otherwise of the Claimants valuation by the Authorities.

Post-war

After the war, along with most other things, the position regarding Amateur Radio Licences changed (very much for the better as it transpired).

Probably in appreciation of the part played by “Radio Experimenters” in the Communications Branches of the three Services and the “Secret Army” during the war years, it was decided that Amateur Radio with the inherent “Self-training in the art of Radio Communication” was something to be encouraged.

The transmitting Amateur was now recognised, and subject to certain requirements, granted a Licence “as of right” without the need to dream up excuses/reasons for experimental work.

The requirements were stiffened up insofar as competence to pass a full written examination in radio theory and operating procedures, with particular emphasis on avoidance of interference, set by City and Guilds of London Institute was now necessary in addition to the mandatory Morse test, which latter was virtually unchanged.

In the immediate post-war years when the Licence was granted it was limited to C.W. only for one year before application for telephony would be entertained.

For a period of time certain categories of service, related to communications in one form or another, were accepted as exemption from both the City and Guilds Technical Examination and the Morse test and a transmitting Licence granted.

There were many anomalies and all these exemptions were in due course withdrawn. Readers will have gathered that only what is now known as a Class ‘A’ Licence applied at that time.

It is also worth noting that whereas the present Class ‘A’ or Class ‘B’ Licence permits mobile operation, a separate and additional Licence was necessary, certainly well into the 50’s and possibly 60’s.

Mobile operation was mainly on “Top Band” 1.8 MHz with loaded whip antennas and coverage was quite remarkable, without the aid of repeaters.

The reasons for outlining the Licence requirements before and after World War 2 in this history of the Society are two-fold:-

  1. To point out that full Amateur transmitting status as a right subject to a pass in both City and Guilds Technical Examination and the G.P.O. Morse test, was first introduced after World War 2, (about 1946/7).
  2. As an introduction to what will appear later in this history of the Society. That is the resistance in the 50’s of the Local Education Authority to the Society’s request for a City and Guilds Amateur Radio Course, and the action taken by our Society to successfully overcome this.
In 1946 “The Wirral Amateur Radio Society” was inaugurated. Many of the original members of the pre-war” Wirral Amateur Transmitting and Short Wave Club”, disbanded in 1939 (owing to other engagements)! formed the nucleus of the new Society.

Meetings for some years were held on the first and third Wednesdays of each month at the Y.M.C.A., Whetstone Land, Birkenhead, the first of many venues in the years that followed.

Written by Len, G3EGX

Chapter 2...Starting Again

With the resumption of Amateur Radio after World War II, Club members enjoyed a period of access to “Aladdin’s Caves” of war surplus radio equipment.

One scheme, organised by the R.S.G.B., gave its members the opportunity of purchasing war surplus electronic equipment at the bargain price of thirty shillings (£1-50p) per cwt! The scheme was administered by local Radio Societies including our own, most members also being members of the R.S.G.B.

What you obtained for your 30 bob was, to some extent, “the luck of the draw”, but in the main most items were very worth-while. These included transmitters, receivers, such as the BC 348, the complete B2 Spy-transmitter/receiver/power pack and a whole range of very useful equipment.

I did hear of some-one whose cwt consisted of a tea-chest full of 807 valves. Much depended on the skill of the local organisers and I recall going with the late Ron Cumberlidge, G3CK, to Stockport to collect a wagonload of goodies for our Society.

The district was also well served with war-surplus shops, some of which are still in business. The availability, particularly of components at very low prices, fitted in admirably with the pattern of amateur radio at that time.

Armed with his new licence, which restricted operation to CW for the 1 st year, and with ready-made equipment almost non-existent, the new amateur either modified surplus gear or build from scratch with surplus equipment and components.

The simplest band on which to start was “Top Band”, 1.8 – 2.0 MHz, for which a transmitter covering CW could be made up in a few evenings.A modulator for the almost universal A.M. could be added twelve months later. Very few build a receiver, which to the layman is, apart from simple T.R.F. receivers, a much more difficult task than construction of a CW/AM transmitter.

Mention has been made of the R.S.G.B. in reference to the surplus scheme, which no doubt encouraged recruitment to the Society. However, many amateurs are members of the R.S.G.B. which, whatever its shortcomings, is the only organisation representing the Radio Amateur that is recognised by the authorities nationally and internationally. Regrettably, the percentage of the total U.K. amateur fraternity who are members is not as high as one would expect in support of the only body that has a voice in safeguarding our hobby.

The Wirral Amateur Radio Society was affiliated to the R.S.G.B. in June 1948. Membership of the R.S.G.B. is necessary for participation in competitive events such as N.F.D., Side-band Field Day, etc. Although this is a W.A.R.S. history, the R.S.G.B., to which we are affiliated, is so important to the continuation of our hobby that I make no apology for dwelling on it a little longer. There seems to be a love/hate relationship in certain quarters, which in the extreme, results in dropping out because of “disagreement with their policies”. Would it not be more sensible to stay in and endeavour to change policies that may be misguided? Loyalty does not mean blind obedience.

This was personified by the North Western revolt against an R.S.G.B. subscription increase from 15/- (75p) to £1-10-s (£1-50p) led by Basil O’Brien G2AMV in 1952 when he was Regional Representative for North-west England. A year later the subscriptions were increased from 15/- (75p) to 27/6d (£1-37.5p), a trivial difference.

Was it all worth it? Probably yes; the R.S.G.B. who seemed proud of the fact that the subscription for provincial members had been held at 15/- since 1913 learned that holding an unrealistically low sub too long in an inflationary climate was not in the best interests of the Society.Far better to adopt smaller percentage increases at a more frequent intervals.This is something our own Society has found to be sensible management, which members understand and accept when they are kept fully informed.

As is well known Basil G2AMV in more recent years was elected President of the R.S.G.B. for the Presidential term of 1 year. The point that emerges is that criticism at any time does not imply disloyalty provided that it is constructive. The revolt is fully documented in “World at their fingertips” by the late John Clarricoats G6CL (Mr. R.S.G.B.) pages 239 to 241.

Changing the subject I mentioned in Chapter 1 our nomadic existence, insofar as meeting places is concerned. Rather than attempt to bring them in at the appropriate dates, which would be difficult, I list them in what I believe to be the correct order:-

Y.M.C.A., Birkenhead A pub in Ivy Street, Birkenhead – (long since gone) Liberal Club rooms in Hamilton Square Girls Guide Headquarters, Balls Rd.! Birkenhead Scout Headquarters, Birkenhead Park Leisure Centre, Grange Road West, Birkenhead The Concrete Block-house, Noctorum The Community Centre, Woodchurch Estate Minto House School, Hoylake Girl Guide Headquarters, West Kirby A Church Hall in Heswall

Now, hopefully, “our caravan has rested” in our Headquarters at Ivy Farm, Arrowe Park, Birkenhead. Members owe the acquisition of this permanent Headquarters with such excellent facilities and easy availability to the drive and initiative of Norman G3CSG and a small band of enthusiasts. They put in a lot of effort to bring it to the present comfortable and convenient state.

Written by Len, G3EGX