G3OLB – Tom Boucher

G3OLB Tom Boucher

The following information was provided by Tom and originally used for a talk at Bristol Group.

I was always interested in communications from a very early age with telephones rigged up around the house and between friend’s houses. I had a morse trainer set with a built-in key and buzzer and a pair of ex-RAF headphones, which were in use until recently. In about 1955 when I was 12, my Dad bought me a t.r.f. receiver kit using a couple of sub-miniature acorn radar valves, a 955 regenerative detector and a 954 af amp. I still have those two valves in my junk box. It used two solid dielectric variable capacitors for tuning and reaction and had a sectional rod aerial, four U2 (D) cells for the valve heaters and a 22.5 volt layer battery for h.t. We put it together using a hefty soldering iron heated on a gas ring. Nothing as clever as an electric soldering iron!

One Sunday morning, tuning down at the very bottom of the medium wave band I could hear some people talking to each other, my first experience of hearing a radio amateur. At that time I lived in Churchill Road, Brislington, only about 200 yards from G6HN and it was probably Joe (“6HN Bristol yer”) that I heard.

I went to Cotham Grammar School and, strictly against all the school rules and not being the least bit interested in playground activities, I used to go wandering off and exploring the neighbourhood during lunch hours. One day I ventured into Picton Street just off the Cheltenham Road and found the most amazing shop full of ex-WD radio stuff. In those days it was only a few years after the end of WWII and there was lots of ex-government radio equipment on the surplus market. An annual trip to the radio shops in Lisle Street, Soho became a must later on.

In the window of Roy Pitt’s shop was a notice inviting anyone interested in radio to join the Bristol and District Amateur Radio Society. Along I went to St Mary Redcliffe church hall, just off Redcliffe Hill and joined the club. Members I can recall were G3JMY, G3IZM, G3IGR, G3IUO, G3IUV, G3GYQ, G3GZA and of course our own Roy G3FYX. The club held the call G3GIS and I can well remember going along to John G3IZM’s cellar shack in Chandos Road, Redland where the club operated the ‘MCC’ Short Wave Mag club contest. There was another one at George G3IUO’s place in Withywood.

R E Pitts
R.E. Pitts

Ted Halliday G3JMY helped me build a DF receiver and frame aerial and organised a club DF hunt at Stockwood Lane where he parked his Vauxhall Wyvern with 160 metre mobile rig. Another member, John Howlett was a close neighbour of mine in Bloomfield Road and helped me a lot. Does anyone know what became of him? The club later moved to Mullers Orphanage, Ashley Down and subsequently folded.

I built another t.r.f set using plug-in coils for 160, 80 and 40, with a 6J5 regenerative detector and an EL33 audio amp. A 132 ft of wire from my attic shack down the garden to a neighbour’s line post was the antenna. This worked fine and I found that by winding up the reaction control so that the detector was oscillating, I could get the locals on top band to start complaining about QRM!

There was the daily 1980 Kc/s net G2FKK, G3IUO, G3IUV, G2DMT and others. These are the calls I can remember from the mid 1950s on top-band: G2IK, G6GU (- Keynsham ‘Testing in the 160 metre band’ every Sunday morning at 9am), G6OZ, G8DA, G3CHW, G3CQJ, G3COP, G3GNJ, G3GYQ, G3HEY, G3IFV, G3ISG, G3IXO, G3KOS, G3MTG (transistor rig), G3NDL, G3NKR, G3NXU. Sunday morning was the peak time for top band nets. Other well known Bristol calls were G2FYT, Cyril G2HDR (who still attends BRSGB), G2BAR, G2HDG, G3BJJ, G6GN.

There were some keen Bristol mobileers on 160 as well, G3IUO, G2HFG, G3CTN who drove a very posh Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire with an ugly Minimitter whip on the roof! Other mobile ops further afield I remember were G3GMN, G3JFH, G5PP, G5UG, G2CDN.

For a while I used to catch the bus to the Bath Spa Radio Club held at the Percy Boys Club in the city where those I can remember are G2CZU, G3III, G3MBN and G3LYW. John ‘LYW used to work with my mother and helped me greatly with tutoring for the CW test.

When I became a little more proficient at CW, I used to listen to the regular high speed CW net on top-band, held at 1pm every Saturday between G3MBN, G6LM, G3PU and G2FIX.

The Bristol RSGB Group used to meet in the basement of Carwardines restaurant in Baldwin Street in those days. G3CHW, G6GN, G2FYT and G3RQ were the leading lights then. Other SWLs who were members were Mike now G3SJI, Julian now G3UHK, and Ray G3OLI who died at an early age.

I obtained my licence in September 1960 and my first QSO was with G3LYW/M on CW. I was using a single 6L6 self excited oscillator (with chirp!) Gordon G3IUV sold me an AR77E for the bargain price of 17/6d (I think). I later bought an ex-WD R109 which was great for mobile use as it had a built in vibrator supply for the HT. I built a rig with a TT21 in the pa and a nice stable VFO in a solid aluminium box with an Eddystone dial, bought from another radio junk shop in Newfoundland Road called Helmore and Hunt. That rig was capable of rather more power than the 10 watts input then allowed on 160!

Later, my folks moved to Thornbury (they are still there), where I had no shack or antennas, so became interested in mobile operation. Probably the best mobile rig I built had a 5B/254M miniature 807 in the PA running from a hefty transistor inverter I built. That rig would run about 90 watts input with screen grid modulation – the audio quality was pretty atrocious!

The LF bands still fascinate me to this day. When 136 KHz was first allocated some 16 years ago, I had great fun with solid state rigs and became quite active with a quarter wave antenna stretched around a field and held up by halyards over 8 trees. When a small band at 500 KC/s (not KHz!) was allocated, I was active there for a while. Top-band still provides me with a lot of enjoyment and I run regular, and sometimes successful skeds with ZL3IX in Christchurch.

In 1964 I became one of the founder members of the Bristol Amateur Radio Club (G3TAD), which met at the University Settlement, Ducie Road, Barton Hill. But that’s another story……………..

G3OLB Shack
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