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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 Broughton Tells the Story of Maralinga (continued)

Mike Winterson was one of the civilians employed by the Department of Supply to look after radio communication in the camp after the RAF had returned to England following the Buffalo tests. An incident that I recall started during a warm afternoon after we had completed our daily chores. The OIC, Alan Holmes, was sitting at his desk and I was standing in the doorway of the radiosonde hut when the telephone rang. As he listened to the caller I sensed his conversation was private and made to move outside but paused in the doorway when I caught sight of a figure standing in the doorway of the communications hut about a hundred metres down the road. I must point out that Alan had served his appointed time at Maralinga and was under considerable pressure from his wife and family to return to Perth, however, the Bureau seemed to have suddenly turned deaf. "Oh yes Mr Dwyer", he was saying, "thank you Sir. I'll ring my wife and tell her the good news". I became slowly conscious of the fact that the figure in the doorway was somehow mixed up in Alan's telephone conversation. Mike was leaning out of the doorway with the telephone in his left hand whilst his right arm was swinging in a wide circle like a 'one-bladed windmill' in what can only be described as an obscene gesture. I started to take more interest in linking Alan's conversation and Mike's antics down the road. When Alan finally put down the telephone and turned to me, wreathed in smiles, I had to break the sad news. "You've been had" I said. I could see Alan was puzzled so I took him by the arm and led him to the doorway. "You've been had" I repeated. "See that bugger down the road, he's been impersonating the Director and you fell for it." I am not going to repeat his response, but I am sure the whole of Maralinga heard it.

Alan Ashton was a character who turned every subject into a joke. I remember we met one morning, walking in opposite directions along the road leading to the radiosonde hut. As I looked at the sky he remarked "what are you looking at?". "I'm just wondering what height to put down for the altocumulus in my observation" I replied. "What on earth are you worrying about" he said, "if its altocumulus I just put down 12,000 feet, after all, who's going to question it anyway". When I arrived at the radiosonde building to carry out the 3 pm observation I had to smile as I looked for the inversion on the morning radiosonde chart because this was where to find the height of the altocumulus, but later I would turn tables and the joke would be on Alan.

As time went by it became increasingly difficult to entertain ourselves in the evening and I suggested a little experiment if we could get four persons together around a table. "What are you going to do" Alan Ashton asked. "Have a glass-moving session" I replied. "What a lot of rubbish" Alan rejoined. "I'll guarantee I can read your mind" I said. "Rubbish!" said Alan. Ignoring his remarks I asked Dick Head and Phil Cardew, who were RAAF Flight Control Officers, if they would like to join Alan Holmes and I that night. "We'll do it just for fun" I said, "it can't do any harm and it will break the monotony for at least an evening". We all agreed to meet late that evening in the room I shared with Alan Ashton and Alan Holmes. Dick Head and Phil Cardew eventually came and we set up the characteristic alphabetic circle and found a small glass to act as a pointer. "Think of something Dick" I said. "Thinking" said Dick. Off went the glass and printed out a four letter word. "That's what you're thinking, Dick isn't it" I said. Dick got up and left the room. Now we were one member short but Alan Ashton continued to sit on his bed reading a book and would have nothing to do with it. "Rubbish!" he kept on mumbling. Undeterred, the three of us settled down to make the best of the evening by making the glass respond to simple questions. After awhile I could see Alan Ashton peering at us over his book. A thought struck me, "a message for Alan Ashton" said I quickly and off went the glass 'Johnny's on the railway line'. "Who's Johnny, Alan?" I asked. "Dunno" said Alan, "it could be Johnny at home next door; he's always climbing over the back fence and getting on the tram tracks at the back of our house". I could see that we had Alan's interest and knew I had to retain it. "Another message for Alan" I said. The glass moved again. 'You're going to be posted to Darwin' it spelt out. "No I'm not" shouted Alan angrily as he jumped up from his bed. We had found Alan's Achilles heel and later learnt that he had gone off to ring his wife in Adelaide to see if Johnny had strayed onto the tram track at the back of his house.

People in Bright Sparcs - Holmes, Ralph Aubrey Edward

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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

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