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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)

Many years later I related the incident to a meteorologist in Launceston who was driving me home to my hotel. "Strange you should tell me that" he said, "Alan was always scared that he would posted to Darwin; even brought his old mother to live with him to ensure he was never posted away from Adelaide. Eventually his mother died and where do you think they posted him?". "Darwin" I said. "True" said the meteorologist.

The most spectacular explosion in the nuclear series was the Kite trial on 11 October when we were told to expect the Vulcan delta wing bomber for the first time. Arriving late in the afternoon from England it passed right over the top of the radiosonde building at a height of 300 metres and even at that height its wings seemed to cover the best part of the camp. The air drop was to take place in the early hours of the morning but detonation was delayed because the camp authorities received last minute notice that an unscheduled passenger train had pulled into Watson Station. The guard, therefore, had to be told to warn all passengers to not pull up their blinds until after the explosion. After the bomb detonated the surrounding countryside lit as if by the sun, the unusual thing to my mind though was every object around us stood out in shades of purple. No other colour whatever.

Most of us adopt certain ways of doing things and are guided by accepted work values although they may often be outdated. Few hold rigidly to a principle particularly if there is a need to adapt, and only one person I have known went to the extreme. I recall I was walking into the mess for the evening meal when I noticed the sergeant major in earnest conversation with Bruce Pritchard. On this particular night the sergeant major cornered Bruce and explained that it was mandatory to wear a tie in the Sergeants' Mess after 6 pm and that if he didn't put a tie on he could spend the rest of his stay in the Other Rank's Mess. Bruce told him he wasn't willing to do so on principle and we were all staggered to see him turn and leave. Later, I saw him standing in the Other Ranks' Mess, the floor around him covered in spilt beer and broken glasses with the only serviceman who could stand singing on top of the bar.

I became involved with Bruce at the peak of the trials when we were working up to 16 hours a day on continuous radiosonde releases to test the prevailing weather conditions. The pressure was certainly on us and things were getting rough. I was trying to locate a particularly annoying fault inside the radar van just before the scheduled balloon flight and Bruce repeatedly interrupted me to ask when he could start the flight. I had explained that I would come and tell him when the fault was fixed, but he didn't seem to listen. Finally, my patience was exhausted and my response ended the interruptions. The next afternoon I was again working inside the radar van when Alan Ashton opened the door and told me that Bruce wanted to talk to me in the radiosonde building. Alan explained that Bruce wouldn't talk to me after I had sworn at him the day before and so I became involved in a series of three way conversations with Alan acting as intermediary. This turned rapidly into a situation where everyone tried not to laugh and many of us were too pooped to laugh anyway. I found out later that he was also addressing Alan Holmes in the same way but Alan couldn't work out what he had done. Bruce never forgave us and I guess he was thankful when his release came through shortly afterward.

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

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