|Amateur Radio History
|Callsigns held :
(Kenya), 5Z5KL (Lamu Island), VQ9/KL, 5Y4XKL, 5Z4KL/A (Uganda), G3VLB, KH6/GM3VLB
(Hawaii), W4/GM3VLB (S. Carolina), 3D2LB (Fiji), VY1/GM3VLB (Yukon), VE6/GM3VLB (Alberta),
VE8/GM3VLB (N.W.T.), VE7/GM3VLB/P (Canadian IOTA Islands),
VY2/GM3VLB/M (Prince Edward Island),VE1/GM3VLB/M (Nova Scotia and
Cape Breton), ZB2/GM3VLB (Gibraltar),
CT/GM3VLB (Potugal), GM5K (St Kilda), GM4KHS (Kelso High School Club Station) and /M from
many european countries
André, GM3VLB, started in radio (building many crystal sets) over 60 years ago. From
crystal sets, he progressed to Short-Wave TRF radios and a Superhet using the then popular
B7G 1.5V valves.
This was then followed in the early '50s by the Practical Wireless electronic organ
which used 6SN7's but which was later rebuilt using the (then) latest B9A ECC81/82/83 series.
Each key was individually sawn out of a lump of wood, but again these were later replaced
by home-made aluminium counterparts!
At around the age of 12, a pair of ex-WWII '38' sets was acquired, and illegal entry was
made to the world of 2-way radio. The favoured frequency was that used by transatlantic
airliners on their way to Shannon. If the pilots heard him, they
(wisely) declined to reply when they were called
by GM3VLB-to-be/portable on the local golf course!!
As a student, André pursued his love of the soldering iron by building (according to
his 1957 C.V. from CERN's Synchro-Cyclotron division) an "electronic coincidence circuit
for milli-microsecond pulses". It had a huge number of valves and was the size of a
After graduating, André worked for 6 years in Switzerland, first as a scientific
translator and then as an international school teacher. 'HB9' calls were not available to
foreigners at that time and so André remained off the air (except as a member of the IARC
in Geneva, where he frequently operated 4U1ITU). The family then moved to Kenya, a country
which had recently gained its independence André taught
Maths/Physics at Kenya High School and,
later, Radio and Telecomms at the Kenya Polytechnic.
As in HB9-land, 5Z4 calls were not available after independence in 1963 (even with a GM3 licence) until May 1967.
During the 'waiting time' André refurbished a Hallicrafter SX28, built a 25W 5-band CW
Rig running a 5B254M, and built a 10 metre tower from slotted-angle steel, topping this
with a home-brew 3-band 2-element quad. The rotator was also home-brew, relying on a
non-reversible 78rpm gramophone motor feeding a WW2 hand-generator gearbox and
incorporated a system of slip-rings. SWR meters were unheard of in those days!
5Z4KK beat him by minutes for the first new 5Z4 call in May 1967! DXCC followed in 2 weeks, but it
took 6 further years to get on the Honor Roll. Time between 'new countries' was filled by
activity on the LF bands. A, then, very rare 160m WAC certificate has pride of place in
his shack, and bears witness to the many 'firsts' on the 160m band. He holds IOTA-100
certificate No. 13 (dated 1968!) and IOTA-Africa No.7. André initially operated CW only.
BERU (now the 'Commonwealth Contest') records show he won the low power section several times using
his 25W home-brew rig.
He gained much portable and mobile experience through his involvement (latterly as
Communications Manager) with the International East African Safari Rally - even as a
competitor, entering a Mk I Ford Cortina GT in 1967. His, now famous, 'Webster Band-Spanner'
mobile antenna still works as well today as it did when purchased second-hand back in
9 years in 5Z4-land were followed by 4 years in G-land, finally returning, after a
20-year absence, to GM-land. A conscious decision was made early on to retire
from serious contesting or chasing DX and IOTA islands etc. Much time was devoted (both in
G- and GM-land) to the running of Radio Amateur Examination courses, and to teaching CW. In the late 70s
and early 80s, André set up Kelso High School Radio Club (GM4KHS) and founded the
Kelso Amateur Radio Society. In 1982, he also inaugurated the Anglo-Scottish Rally, held annually
in Kelso, until May 2000.
Following retirement in 1995, André has
concentrated on /M and /P operation, as well as designing antennas for
these modes. This, combined with his lifelong love of fishing and
camping, eventually led to island activating and, ultimately, the
setting up of the 200-island
SCOTIA program. In June 2012 he completed the activation of all
200 islands and an
activation activation of 298 islands on four continents.