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Table of Contents

Radio Technical Officers





Chapter 1: The Early Years

Chapter 2: The Training School

Chapter 3: Equipment Installation Records

Chapter 4: The 'Techs' in Antarctica

Chapter 5: The 'Techs' Tell Their Stories
Trevor Donald Tells It All; Life in the Bureau from 1947 to 1989
Ray Clarke Looks Back
Some Memories from Ralph Bulloch
Peter Copland Works in Meteorological Electronics
Some Titbits from Dave Grainger
A Very Modest Tale from Alf Svensson
Adrian Porter Pulls No Punches
Jack Tait Recalls
Some Stories by Colourful Freddie Soutter
Some Snippets from Noel Barrett
Stephen CourbÍt Has His Penny Wworth
And a Flyspeck or Two from Lenny Dawson
Some Interesting Reminiscences from Jannes Keuken
Brief Stories from Phil Black
From Gloria West, Wife of the Late Bob West
The Life and Bureau Times of Graham Linnett
Tales Out of School from Bill Hite
Peter Copland on Cyclone Tracy
Peter Broughton Tells the Story of Maralinga

Appendix 1: 'Techs' Roll Call

Appendix 2: Trainee Intakes

Appendix 3: 'Techs' Who Have Served in the Antarctic Region

Appendix 4: Summary of Major Installation Projects

Appendix 5: Summary of Major Equipment Variously Installed at Sites and Maintained by Radio Technical Officers


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Ray Clarke Looks Back (continued)

Whilst in the West, a story was told to me involving that icon of Regional Directors, George Mackey. The story goes something like this. A certain Observer was posted to a one-man station in the sticks. He asked for OIC's allowance. For some reason best known to George, said the teller of the story, he didn't see fit to pay this particular allowance so refused the Observer's application. The said Observer subsequently arrived at the station. He did his normal observations but opened no mail. The mail mounted up to such an extent that the office was full of it; here, there and everywhere. The Observer was queried as to why he wasn't submitting stock returns, requisitions and other miscellaneous paper warfare which validates the existence of a station OIC. The Observer correctly reported that he couldn't open the mail as he wasn't the OIC. George had a fit and in his earth-shattering manner reserved for errant and out of favour employees directed him to do so saying "you're now the paid OIC—now open the bloody mail". Now this was the story as told to me by an Observer, but you know how they can stretch the truth.

In March 1973, Bruce Duck and I went to Kupang, West Timor, Indonesia, for installation of an Australian Government-donated WF3 radar. The installation followed an information-gathering trip done by Ralph de la Lande, a Superintending Engineer in Head Office. The project proved to be a challenging logistical exercise. The equipment was loaded onto two reconditioned DC3s, themselves a gift to the Philippines Government from Australia. This loading was done at Essendon Airport by Bruce Duck, myself and Works staff. The DC3s took off for Darwin with the gear, but Bruce and I flew in a more comfortable jet, staying overnight in the RAAF quarters at Darwin where we renewed our involvement with the two DC3 pilots and local 'techs' Peter Copland and John Byrne over a few cold tubes. What a life!

The following morning we took off for Kupang which is roughly 650 kilometres north-west of Darwin across the Timor Sea. Bruce and I travelled in one of the DC3s, actually the one that looked better of the two. Both planes, heavily laden, took just about the whole strip to get airborne. Our pilot told us later that the thought of abortment had crossed his mind. Relieved to get into the air, we enjoyed the two and a half hour flight across the whitecaps not that far below. We had plenty of time to pass the time of day with the pilot, an interesting character and ex-Beaufighter pilot, who, by strange coincidence, was returning to the very same airfield that he used to strafe in 1943 and 1944. In his own words "we used to take off from Darwin at piccaninny dawn and get to Kupang about breakfast. We'd hug the mountain range then dip down to and race up the strip and machine gun everything in sight and then go like hell for Aussie before the Zeros got in the air . . . it just seems like yesterday". I take my hat off to this pilot. It must have been something very special for him going once more across the sea to Timor.

When we entered Kupang airspace we were quizzed repeatedly in broken English as to the purpose of our visit, and were forced to circle for about 20 minutes or so whilst they presumably made checks with their chiefs. Obviously, there had been some communication gap but eventually sanity prevailed and we got approval to land.

People in Bright Sparcs - Clarke, Raymond W.; de la Lande, Ralph; Mackey, George William

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Clarke, R. 1999 'Stories of the Bureau's Radio Technical Officers from 1948', Metarch Papers No. 14 February 1999, Bureau of Meteorology

© Online Edition Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre and Bureau of Meteorology 2001
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