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The August 1994 issue of Six News
Thanks to all of our authors since 1982!



A look back at the history of six metres, starting from day one. Compiled by Neil, G0JHC, from Harry School's KA3B Six Metre Digest 1987.

The 6 metre band (50 - 54MHz) first came available in the USA on March 1, 1946. Although there were many operators giving the band a try in the Northeast and Great Lakes areas, other parts of the US had very few, if any, active stations. The turn pioneers utilized CW, AM, and even NBFM. Antennas included rhombics, corner reflectors, folded dipoles, to name a few.

The first 2-way QSO involving "skip" was reported to have taken place on April 23, 19:46 at 10.43 PM EST when W1LSN of Exeter, NH worked W9DWU of Minneapolis, MN. This and many other contacts were made on that night via a combination of aurora and sporadic-E. The distance of this contact was 1100 miles.

Although the distance record for 56MHz (the old 5 Metre band) was held by W1EYM and W6DNS for a 2500 mile contact on July 22,1938, G5BY in England began running a series of test transmissions on high gain antennas beamed at the US. Each Sunday through June and July of 1946, G5BY made automatic CW transmissions on 58.632MHz beginning at 1300 GMT. While transmitting 10 minutes on the hour and half hour for 8 minutes, he listened for 10 minutes following each session for replies from American amateurs on 50MHz. G5BY's QTH was on a 400 foot cliff overlooking the sea. For transmitting to the US he utilised an 8 element array consisting of (2) 4 element W6QLZ arrays stacked one above the other and fed in phase.

For receiving he used a rhombic. 240 feet on a leg. Prior to World War II, G5BY was the first European to span the Atlantic on 56MHz when his signals were heard by W2HXD. The historic event took place on December 27, 1936.

The first 50MHz transcontinental QSO, the second in VHF history, was made on the evening of June 14, when W6OVK, Redwood City, CA. raised W2BYM. Lakehurst, NJ, on a CQ at 7.00 PM PST. This was a distance of 2590 miles and a new 6 metre record. The same afternoon, W1LLL in Hartford, CT worked W6NAW in Los Angeles, CA for the second 6 metre transcontinental QSO.

By August of 1946, 6 metre operators were popping up in many areas of the US. Six metre activity in other areas was growing as well. By September 1946, about 30 Canadians were on the band. In the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand had their share of "experimenters" also. Some of the early Australians on 6 metres included : VK2WJ, VK2ABZ, VK2LS, VK2LZ and VK2NO.

Prospects for international work by means of F2 skip began to appear in September of 1946 and during a 27 day recurrence cycle in late October, American FM stations near 45MHz were heard in England. Anticipating a peak in the F2 season to take place in November, G6DH, Dennis Heightman, of Clacton-on-sea, Essex, England, suggested a series of daily scheds with W1HDQ on 28MHz. These schedules started on November 13th and took place each morning at 8.15 AM EST.

On several days signals were heard on both ends of the path on frequencies as high as 48MHz. Test after test were made on 50.002MHz with no results, On Sunday morning. November 24th signals in the 47 to 48MHz range were heard on both sides of the Atlantic. Many of them S9 and higher. Arrangements were made whereby W1HDQ would transmit for 5 minute periods each 15 minutes, listening on 28MHz for replies from G6DH.

The first transmission was made at 11.15 AM in the form of a QST on voice to all 50MHz stations, to the effect that an opening across the Atlantic was imminent and urging all stations to get on and transmit. The QST was continued for 4 minutes, followed by a one minute call to G6DH. G6DH heard W1HDQ and the first VHF QSO was on. (A VHF 2-way was attempted 5 metres to 6 metres but the MUF didn't go quite high enough to permit G5BY to make it on 58.632MHz with W1BEQ in Connecticut) W1HDQ's signal faded out at 12.00 PM (43 minutes later) at G6DH and at 12.25 PM with G5BY, Hilton O'Hefferman. Although G5BY intercepted W1HDQ's signal first it was G6DH who made the first contact.


With a combination of flourishing activity and the peak of Solar Cycle 18, the year 1947 proved to be a winner in almost every respect. South of the border XE1KE put Mexico on the air by operating on 50.024MHz with 100 watts to an 829B feeding a 4-element beam at 90 feet. CE3CV in Chile was attempting to get permission for 6 metre operation. In Europe PA0UN of Eindhoven, Holland was active by special permission with 100 watts with a 4-element beam. Later PA0LTM and PA0WJ followed suit. The big news was that G's were given permission for 50 - 54MHz operation for experimentation lasting until January 1, 1948. This special authorisation was later extended to April 30, 1948 and was available to anyone paying the 10 shillings tax. Maximum power was 25 watts input.

By late 1947 there were large amounts of activity taking place in VK-ZL and in South America, with nearly 50 active stations in Argentina alone. The first major event of 1947 took place on January 25th when Major W.O. Brewer (J9AAK) at Okinawa worked Captain Bob Mitchell (KH6DD) at Ewa, Oahu for a new distance record of 4600 miles. The QSO began at 3.13 PM Hawaiian time and lasted 27 minutes with signals as high as S-7. A second QSO took piece at 4.33 PM with signals over S-9. At 4.48 PM, W7ACS/ KH6 at Pearl Harbor took over, until 5.07 PM when signals faded out.


Although the South Africans were not allowed 6 metre operation. ZS1T. ZS1P, ZS1AX and ZS1DJ were actively listening on 50MHz for hopes of possible cross-band contacts. On March 26, 1947 the automatic transmissions of PA0UN were heard S9+ by ZS1P and others. On March 29th, ZS1P worked PA0UN cross-band with S9 signals both ways during an hour long QSO.

Seven months after the famed KH6DD - J9AAK QSO, a new distance record was set once again. This time, W7ACS/KH6 worked VK5KL in Perth, Australia on August 25th at a distance of 5350 miles, breaking the old mark by 750 miles. DX in the form of F2 propagation returned with a vengeance during October 1947 placing the 6 metre band in a frenzy. The South Africans finally obtained operating privileges and put them to immediate use. On October 11th, ZS1T worked PA0UN for the first European 2-way on 50MHz with South Africa. This contact broke the short lived world record set two months before. The record now stood at 6000 miles. Six days later, CE1AH Chile and J9AAK Okinawa and smashed the record for the third time in less thin a year, with their QSO covering 10500 miles.

The latter part of October saw many days with cross-band activity between England and the eastern portions of North America. On October 29th, PA0UN worked 2-way 50MHz into the US for the first time. W2AMJ made the contact first at 8.14 AM EST followed shortly thereafter by W3OR. W3OR's luck continued. November lst saw a major opening between the East Coast and the Western areas of North America. In addition to many W6's and W7's, W3OR landed Alaska, in the form of KL7DY. On November 3rd an opening across the Atlantic took place, lasting for over 2 hours. The band opened at 8.10 AM EST. G5BM, G5ZT and G4NT worked a record number of US 6 metre stations via cross-band.


Special temporary licenses for 6 metre work were issued by English authorities in early November of 1947. As mentioned earlier, licenses for "experimental" purposes such as these, were to expire on January 1, 1948. They were later extended to April 30. 1948. The licenses were subject to certain time and frequency limitations with 25 watts of maximum input. Stations located within London were not to operate after 15.00 UTC. Hilton O'Heffernan (G5BY) received his temporary license on November 5th, 1947.

The January 1948 CQ Magazine reported the following: "Having no rig on 50Mc, Hilton grabbed a few eats and worked until 4.30 AM to get a rig on. He then went to bed for 2 hours sleep and got up to have his first 50Mc 2-way QSO with ZS1P, a distance of 6000 miles. Forty-five minutes later he had a QSO with W1HDQ and in another 30 minutes with a local. Within 1 hour and 15 minutes 3 contacts and 3 continents had been worked"!

Between November 6th and December 1st, G5BY completed 175 QSOs with 93 different stations in North America, South America. Egypt and Suez. Actually, Dennis Heightman (G6DH) was the first "G" to work the US on 50MHz. Dennis contacted W1HDQ on November 5th, 1947 at 13:02 GMT. A QSO with W2AMJ took place at 13:45 GMT. Later at 16:20 GMT. G5BD worked VE1QZ for the first G to VE QSO. The month of November 1947 continued to be an excellent one for the British operators. In additions to the numerous trans-Atlantic openings which took place, rare DX in the form of MD5KW (Suez) and SU1HF (Egypt) graced a few logs. G6DH was the first "G" to work MD5KW which was being operated by Major Ken Ellis (now G5KW). This QSO took place on November 10th with MD5KW running 35 watts to an HK54, and a S27 receiver, and a 4 element beam at 35 feet.


By the fail of 1948, Mexico had as many as 15 active operators on 6 metres. Most of them ran high power levels to Yagi antennas. In Argentina, as many as 50 stations, some running as much as 300 watts. were looking towards the north for contacts. As fate would have it, the operators of both countries soon realised that a path between them existed quite often on 6 metres. On many occasions openings were intense with very solid signals. Although the mystery of "why" was unanswered at the time, amateurs took full advantage of this propagation medium. On January 24th, 25th and 26th, 1949, a very severe ionospheric storm took place. The storm began at 1400 EST on the 24th and continued to 0700 EST on the 26th.

The 6 metre band was full of Sporadic-E and Aurora. On the 25th, HC2OT in Ecuador worked W5NXM at 1800 EST followed by other W5's. HC2OT’s signal was heard as far north as W0. This was the first prime evidence of TE propagation during an ionospheric disturbance. Less than a month later during another aurora session, Bill Colburn W1ELP in Massachusetts worked HC2OT via TE for the first WI contact into South America.

THE EARLY 1950's.

As Solar Cycle 18 drew to a close activity continued to grow, especially in the Western Hemisphere. Active stations included C02EV, C02QY, C02WL, C02FN, C06WW, CX1AQ, CX1AY, CX3AA, HC1CA, HC10T, HC1JW, HK1DW, HK1DX, PZ1A, PY1DS, PY1LQ, PY2AC, PY2PK, PY4CL, TG5CH, TG9UA, TI2AFC, KZ5NB, KZ5AY, XE1FE. XE1A, XE1GE, XE1QE and XE2C. About the same time, a new mode called Single Side Band (SSB) was making inroads and SSB articles began appearing in amateur publications. Although many jumped on the SSB bandwagon realising its full potential, most 6 metre operators stayed with AM operation. As a matter of fact, it would be another 15 years before SSB would reign as the dominant mode on the band.

In late 1955, the Swiss Federal Observatory announced that the new sunspot cycle 19 began in April of 1954 and would be one of outstanding intensity, with a maximum likely to surpass all others observed.


Spring of 1956 saw a few openings between North America and Argentina but it wasn’t until the winter that things began looking up for the first time in 7 years. By late October, European signals well up to 53MHz with facsimile, RTTY and ship-to-shore were heard in the US. BBC Channel 2 video on 51.75MHz was heard clearly and the BBC TV audio on 53.50MHz was broadcast quality at times. The big news of 1956 was the new world record which was set by LU9MA and JA6FR on March 24th at 04:20 GMT. This historical QSO took place on a frequency of 50.350MHz and stretched the distance record to 12,000 miles.


International Geophysical Year began during 1957 - an international cooperative research programme concerning the geophysics of the earth. This research program included major studies of the ionosphere as well as other areas as climatology, meteorology, and geomagnetism. To further enhance these efforts, many countries not normally operational on 6 metres were granted privileges. The first of these countries was Portugal, who authorised amateurs to utilise 50 - 54MHz until December 1958, the official end of the IGY. This authorisation included CT2 (Azores) and CM (Madeira). Operators who took advantage of these privileges included CT1CO, CT1ST, CT3AN and CT3AE. Other countries allowing operation on 6 metres included Norway and Sweden. Norway authorised 50 - 54MHz with daytime operation up to 1900 GMT.

The original authorisation was to expire on July lst 1958 but was later extended until the end of 1959. The Swedish amateurs were allocated 50.0 - 50.5MHz on an individual basis to class A licensees. With 150 watts maximum allowed on CW or voice, their privileges were valid from June 1, 1957 until December 31, 1958. Active Swedish stations included SM5SI, SM6ANR. SM6BT7, SM5CHH, and SM7ZN, By March of 1958, SM7ZN had worked 29 states and SM6BTT had worked 27.

In addition to Poland who allowed full 6 metre privileges with stations such as SP2DX, SP5AR and SP5BR active, Russian amateurs operating on their 38 - 40MHz VHF band were looking for cross-band contacts. Authorities in Switzerland gave temporary permission to amateurs allowing them full use of the 6 metre band. However, the Swiss stations were restricted to a maximum power of 50 watts and could only operate when TV was off the air. RB9BZ was quite active and on April 5th he worked ZS6UR. Probably one of the most well-known European amateurs to be granted special 6 metre privileges during the IGY was Harry Wilson, EI2W. Harry's station was located at Foxrock. Co. Dublin, Ireland at a height of 240 ft ASL. Harry used a homebrew AM transmitter, with in input of 40 watts, crystal controlled on 50.016MHz. He was only able to operate until January 28, 1958 due to business commitments, however his extensive research with various antennas in a very short period of time brought about some interesting questions concerning propagation Even today his findings are quite fascinating.

With the extra added activity on 6 metres and a high sunspot count, the stage was set. A record amount of DX was worked by all during 1957 - 1958. By early 1957 the African continent was jumping with 6 metre activity. In addition to the approximately 50 ZSs that were active on the band, other countries represented were Kenya, Uganda, Nyasaland, Belgium Congo, Mozambique and Northern and Southern Rhodesia. On February 18, 1957 W8LPD in Cincinnati, Ohio worked VQ2PL and ZE2JE for the first W to Africa 6 metre contacts. The late 1950's were definitely exiting times. In brief, active European cross-banders not previously mentioned at this time included: EA1EY. F9BG, G2BVN, G2CDI, G3BTA, G3BA, G3COJ, G3FXB, G3IUD, G3XC, G4LX, G5BD, GM3EGW, PA0FM and OH5NW. Even though Cycle 19 was winding down and DX was scarce, 6 metres experienced a tremendous growth in the US and Canada. The early 1960s saw many new equipment manufacturers arrive on the scene with 6 metre gear being available in large quantities. The gear of the early 60's was primarily AM. However, by the end of the decade, multi-mode and SSB only rigs were being produced. Six metre nets and round-tables popped-up in many areas. By the early 1979s, many groups, nets etc. moved to 2 metres leaving a very small number of operators on the band. The DX exploits of cycle 20 were very disappointing as compared to Cycle 19. The first evidence of F2 propagation due to the now cycle in the winter of 1967 with southern areas of the US working South America. Probably the biggest DX news of cycle 20 was on December 1st, 1969 at 1515 GMT when Hank W2UTH nabbed ZD8NK on Ascension Island.

Another event occurred during 1969 when Mel Wilson W2BOC made the first recorded aurora reception across Atlantic by making a strip chart recording of the BBC TV signal on 41.5MHz.


The early 1970's were somewhat uneventful in terms of DX. By 1976, things started to get interesting. During that year, sporadic-E was very intense and consistent. The most bizarre event of the year was reported by Bill Tynan W3XO in his "World above 50MHz Column" in March 1977 QST. It was reported that VK3BIZ in Australia worked two Russians on the 6 metre band. The following is from QST Magazine, March 1977, page 83: "The VHF column in the December issue of Amateur Radio, the Journal of the Wireless Institute of Australia, contains a fascinating story. It relates that after working a number of JA's and UA0's on 10 metres; VK3BIZ of Melbourne went to 6 and worked a raft of JA's. At about 0505 UTC followed by a CQ, VK3BIZ was called by a station thought to be a JA0. A QRZ brought a request to QSY down. After some frequency gyrations, he identified the calling station as UA0CCY. Reports of 569 both ways were exchanged but QSB set in before final "rogers" could be received. At that point a second station was heard signing RA0CCM. A full CW contact including exchange of names was completed with this station. The frequency for VK3BEZ was 50.001MHz and for the Russians, 51.990MHz. The VK band extends from 52 to 54MHz while the allocation in Eastern Russia must be only to 52MHz. Thus it was that piece of VHF history was written as a result of alertness and good operating on the part of one Australia and two Russian hams.

Thanks to Ray Clark K5ZMS for passing along this interesting story of 6m.

UKSMG Six News issue 31, October 1991


six in fifty-seven
down memory lane
6m history
historical 6m rigs
6m history by G6DH
50yrs of 50megs pt1
50yrs of 50megs pt2
50yrs of 50megs pt3
50yrs of 50megs pt4