to the Queensland Advisory Committee
THE CENTENARY OF THE WIRELESS INSTITUTE IN QUEENSLAND”
1912 ~ 2012
“THE MEN BEHIND THE SPARK”
BY MICHAEL J. CHARTERIS VK4QS
Once again I am truly indebted to the research of Mr. Alan Shawsmith, VK4SA. AOCP 1935, VK4SS, 1951, who’s monumental book “HALCYON DAYS”, is in fact the backbone for my articles on this site. If Alan were alive today, I am sure he would relish the opportunity to write these Centenary articles himself. He only missed out by a couple of years, but I am sure he is enjoying it all from above.
Harking back briefly to the year 1910, we find that three Wireless Experimenters came to prominence in the state of Queensland. Firstly, was Mr. David James Garland, who operated a Spark Station before the days of any Official call signs. His station, after much testing, saw a distance of some thirty miles achieved by way of Spark transmissions.
Some years later in 1916, David answered the call to arms and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He served in a Wireless & Signals unit in France, before returning home in 1918. David did not embrace the hobby actively post war, but rather went on to retain an administrative interest only in Amateur Radio as one of the early QWI Council Members. Two other Gentlemen Wireless Experimenters were none other than Mr. Marcus J.G. Brims and Mr. Andy Couper Jnr, who were cooking up a storm in Mareeba, North Queensland. These men have the distinction of having been issued the first couple of official call signs, “XQA & XQM respectively. Today, almost one hundred years on, the fact that Marcus Brims did not reassemble his station after the Great War is most fortunate for us. Instead he stored it away, and it is still as good as the day he made it. Spark Station “XQA” is proudly displayed in Mareeba for all to see. It can be found on the Internet, by typing in “Spark Station “XQA”, following the link to the Tablelands Radio Electronics Club.
Amateur Radio began to flourish on the Darling Downs in 1913, when a small group of Experimenters built their own Spark stations. A leading light in this group was Mr. William (Bill) Bright, who was noted as a Gun Telegraphist. Bill has the honour of being issued the first ever “4” Call in Queensland as “4AA”. Later he went on to operate under VK4WB, as his initials and later still as VK4OO. He is well noted for his Spark Transmissions, as they achieved the greatest distance at the time. By the greatest of coincidences, I worked with his Grandson, Mr. Steve Bright, now in his early 60’s, at the Redbank Railway Workshops.
In the year 1914, the first official list of Australian Wireless Experimenters was published. It was later republished in Amateur Radio magazine in August 1970. The List, now regarded as incomplete, shows only 10 Queenslanders out of a total of several hundred experimenters. It is an honour to be able to list these early Queensland “Wireless Pathfinders” by their name and call sign in this our Centenary Year 2012.
Call Sign Name Location Call Sign Name Location
XQA M.J.G. Brims, Mareeba XQG G.H. Gibson, Brisbane
XQB L. Freeman Rockhampton XQH H.B. Rockwell Wynnum
XQC R.H. Berry Rockhampton XQI W.H. Hannam Stamford
XQD H.A. Shepherd Rockhampton XQJ A.G. Bamfield Corfield
XQF S.V. Colville South Brisbane XQK C. Wicks South Brisbane
Most of the above men were interested in receiving only, and did not construct transmitters. One of them, Sydney V. Colville, call sign XQF, attempted to build a high frequency alternator phone transmitter in 1919. This appears to be the first effort to broadcast SOUND in Queensland. Unfortunately, it could not be regarded as a success, as the maximum range attained by the Long Wave transmission was approximately 500 yards. However, Sydney Colville has stamped his imprint on VK4 history in another way. He played a major role in creating the Queensland Wireless Institute, (QWI) in 1919. Shortly after this Sydney terminated his experiments in Queensland and returned to Sydney, New South Wales.
Next to transmit Sound, was a group of QWI Members, when they constructed a valve transmitter in 1920-21. Using the Institute’s official call 4AE, they succeeded in sending signals both interstate and to ships 500 miles out at sea. These broadcasts originated from the Y.M.C.A Building, Edward Street, Brisbane and the Old Fire Station, Ann Street, Brisbane. These achievements were deservedly commended by local news purveyors, but almost immediately eclipsed by other experimenters. Such was the rapid progress of Wireless as the hobby took off.