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GB3AF at The Aberdeen Festival in 1968

The following description (reproduced here with only minor edits for clarity) appeared in the Society's May 1969 edition of 'The Voice of Blenheim' (a handbook published every so often and containing a variety of articles produced by members). It was written by Sandy Smith GM3AEL (SK) and gives details of the special event station GB3AF, operated by the Society at the Aberdeen Festival the previous year. The equipment used was the Society's Sommerkamp (early Yaesu) FR-100B receiver and FL-200B transmitter. Note that the call sign GB3AF pre-dates the introduction of amateur repeaters to the UK, after which time GB3 + two letter call signs were allocated exclusively to repeaters.


This year, for the first time, Society members participated in The Aberdeen Festival. Permission was granted to operate an exhibition station under the call sign GB3AF at Queen's Links, Aberdeen, on the last day but one of the Festival (Saturday, 29th June 1968). 

Organisational matters were gone into well ahead of schedule but preparations suffered a little on account of NFD preparations and NFD itself, the event taking place only three weeks after NFD. Never-the-less things went smoothly until 2 days before the event was due to take place, when it came to light that we were not to be given a free tent by the Authorities, as initially understood, but had to supply our own. This was a temporary 'set back’ and the forerunner of a GPO 'Field' Day, committee members being actively engaged for the following 2 hours pushing sixpences into little grey/black boxes within large red boxes (TK's ~ telephone kiosks). 

Tension was eventually eased by the acquisition of a small marquee tent at a most reasonable monetary ‘QRK' by Jim Smith and GM3SHB. Our Society is most fortunate that in sticky circumstances zeal and initiative is always forthcoming. Members deserve great credit for some, though such things are sometimes taken for granted. The tent measured about 20' x 12' x 12'. 

On the Friday night prior to the day of the event members left the Clubrooms en bloc and, being favoured with good wx, put up the tent, installed the operating equipment, set the 'display' and erected the antenna by 10.30pm - a really good effort. Operational testing was impossible as ‘mains’ power was not being laid on until the day of the event.

GB3AF station general view

All equipment was laid out along the full length of the back side of the tent on 3 long tables and 2 small tables, the tables previously being covered with tartan rugs. The equipment consisted of the Society's Sommerkamp transmitter and receiver with ancillary gear (for operating purposes), ‘ham' gear in general and members' equipment. This was supplemented by the usual large map, QSL cards, and 'blown up’ photographs. Three aluminium paint coated metal crowd control barriers were laid out for the full length of the tent about 5 feet back from the ‘operative’ position to keep the spectators from overcrowding that area. This proved a most necessary measure. 

A thousand leaflets giving a ‘run down’ on the Society were set in a container on a small card table behind the central crowd barrier with an 'indicating notice' to take one.

The antenna in use was the Hustler (of which more is said in this issue). It was decided to use this antenna for safety reasons and on account of the limited space available, our tent being one of many on show. It was set on a wooden plank atop the roof of a motor van belonging to a firm of some repute (so HE says) and adequately stayed to the four corners of the vehicle by nylon cord; the vehicle itself being drawn up in a fixed position at the rear of the tent. 

Weather favoured the occasion and great interest was shown in the display by the many visitors. Without being immodest, it would be fair to say that our display was the best on show!

GB3AF station operator
Many spectators came back for 'seconds' and ‘thirds’. One woman, with two children, in fact came in about seven different times for about half an hour each time (no kidding). Yours truly was visualising a tentative approach as to the exchange of the Society's gear for a washing machine, until told that she had her 'eye' on certain multi-coloured headgear. No matter, she said she was 'enthralled'. Not long after this certain members present were ‘ribbed' about being 'fly men'. Reason? - they all wore pants with the same defect - self activating 'zippers’ (deadly in the case of middle age spread!). Such is life! Still... as long as someone is 'enthralled'. 

Variationally, we had “the happy wanderer", who fell over one of our uncovered guy rope pegs either through ‘occasion intoxication’, crowd pressure, or sky-gazing wonderment at our antenna set up. This involved him in slight altercation with one of our worthy members, who gave him a discourse on tent pegs - where they can reasonably be expected to be found and where to stick them on certain occasions! Apparently this guy did not expect to see tent pegs around an area that looked very much like a Red Indian preserve! His complaint however was gone into by the Authorities and he apparently got some form of remuneration, recompense or compensation... or whatever they had to offer! The Society were not affected in this settlement. Never-the-less the matter is a very noteworthy one for future occasions of like nature. It was noticeable that the other tents had rubber covered pegs.
GB3AF station AM equipment

And... there were those who mistook our ‘set up’ for an AA (Automobile Association) installation (Shame!) and did not come in about for that reason and fruitlessly searched otherwise. This was, in a way, understandable, as, from a distance our antenna fixed on top of a yellow van was very much like the usual AA show installation... but we had a 6 feet long 3 feet broad indicating board showing the station call sign etc (made by Bill Wilson, with his customary touch) prominently displayed at the front of the tent for all to see, and easily discernible for some considerable distance!

Operating conditions were not very good during the day (same was apparent at home QTHs) but really livened up during the evening, the W's being worked right, left and centre, much to the enjoyment of operators — and spectators, who could hear all by loudspeaker. The tent was really packed all evening!

The station had to close (regretfully I think, for members and spectators alike) on official request, at 10.30pm.

The whole effort was a great success. No doubt about that. Everything went so well and exceeded expectations. Definitely a future ‘must’. Great credit must be given to the Station Manager, and to every member who assisted and participated. Spectators were allowed into the showground at 2pm. By 5pm all the leaflets about the Society had gone! Special QSL cards, with the exhibition station call sign and a view of Aberdeen, are being sent to people who QSO'd us. 

Dismantling of the tent and equipment was carried out in f.b. fashion. We did have a moment of disquiet; members being temporarily nonplussed by a dark shawl enshrouded figure lurking furtively against a neighbouring tent in a manner similar to that likely to be adopted by the fore-runner of an illegal inmigrant landing from the nearby shore. Things promptly returned to normal however when it was discovered that it was that guy GM3FRI (panicking the boys again!) sheltering from the cold, damp mist then descending.

The following write-up (with a photograph of the station layout) appeared in the RSGB Communicator: 

"The Aberdeen Amateur Radio Society recently took part in the Aberdeen Festival where on the final day they staged an exhibition open to the General Public. 

Over 8,000 people saw an excellent display of amateur radio which created considerable interest and should prove most beneficial to the hobby. 

Club members and friends worked extremely hard to make this display as interesting and attractive as possible and the compliments received more than justified their efforts. 

Items on display included home-built transmitters and test gear, modern SSB equipment and a new transceiver. 

The Society's Sommerkamp equipment was operated under the call GB3AF using a “Hustler” vertical aerial."