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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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Peter Copland Works in Meteorological Electronics

For some strange, never to be explained reason, in 1961 I answered an advertisement for a job as an Observer (Radio) with the Bureau of Meteorology. I was interviewed by Regional Director, Queensland, Arch Shields, RMO Bruce Aubrey and someone I cannot remember. As a qualified radio and television technician I didn't really need a Government job, but I do remember being rather fed up with some television set owners, and Mr Menzies' budget wasn't making anyone rich and famous.

So in the middle of winter 1962 I arrived in sunny Melbourne, quite crazy, leaving the Gold Coast, which had been home for the last six years, and a long time lady friend. Two other students for the next six months were Len Dawson and Clarke Crombie; there was another guy who I cannot remember. Our chief instructor was, of course, 'Mac', the legendary John MacDermott, master of all things electronic. The plan was for us to become super Observers with the ability to fix any electronic faults when they occurred, or on the maintenance half day. So one had to conquer the monster slide rule, learn to perform radar and theodolite wind flights, know all about radiosonde observations (72 MHz) and be able to do faultless surface observations using the correct weather codes. In fact, I think the only thing not covered was plotting weather charts. Some of our other instructors were Arthur Shirley, Alan Day, Nils Lied and, I think, a youthful Ken Morley.

The electronic equipment to study was, of course, the 277F and AA3 Mk VII radars, the Metox, the Astor 72 MHz radiosonde receiver and its frequency counter with the noted fan shaped meter and the speedo A recorder. I think the G recorder was also to be seen. The Training School was in a building at the top end of Swanston Street, with a flat roof, good for theodolite flights and cloud observations, and I have heard of some wags dropping water bombs onto the street below. The Metox was on the roof of the 'Pink Palace', and the radars were at Bowes Avenue.

I first ran into George Khan at Bowes Avenue. He had a new Dunlite wind generator installed on a stand to test run it before it was repacked for transport to, I think, Heard Island. The only problem was there were no blades for the generator. For several weeks George would ring up 'Mac' every afternoon to inquire of their arrival. In the end the generator was repacked and shipped out, with fully tested turntable bearings.

Pay was in cash, in a packet, from the school OIC. One payday the paymaster paid us direct in the classroom. Len Dawson had a small problem getting his since his identical twin brother Stan had just been paid over the road, and the pay-man wasn't going to give one bloke two pays. I was also slightly puzzled by the pistol in the box with the pay packets; was the lucky hood to get a gun as well as our pay?

People in Bright Sparcs - Shields, Archibald John

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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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