50th anniversary of the World Record QSO Click here to go back to the home page
by Eric VK5LP

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Part 1.

This is the 50th anniversary of the World Record contact between Clarrie VK5KL and Eugene W7ACS/KH6 took place at 1240 CST (0310 UTC) on 26 August 1947 on the six metre band, 50 to 56 MCs. (At the time, frequencies were referred to as Megacycles or MCs, or megs for a short title.) Clarrie made the contact while he was living in Darwin. VK5 callsigns then were used for South Australia and the Northern Territory. The distance was considered to be 5350 miles or 8610 km. I presume Clarrie will open a bottle of champagne to celebrate the memory of that contact 50 years ago!

I wrote to Clarrie VK5KL, who lives in the Adelaide suburb of Enfield, where he is still active on six metres, these days with 10 watts but this was sufficient to give him contacts to OZ1LO, SM7FJE, IN4KST and OK3RV on 8 February 1992.

Clarrie sent me the following information: "Pleased to receive your letter. It is great to know that a few still remember that contact as it is a long time since the event occurred.

"I passed the AOCP exam in October 1933 but had to wait until my 18th birthday in December before I could apply for a licence. I came on air in early 1934. I operated on the old 56 MCs band (five metres) and in late 1934 had my first QSO with VK5IT. A joint portable operation with Bill Lloyd VK5HD and Pete Bowman VK5FM at The Hummocks north of Adelaide produced a VK5 record five metre contact with Max Farmer VK5GF, who operated from Mount Lofty.

"Soon after, I joined Bill VK5HD and took part in timing the Australian Speed Boat Championships held at Murray Bridge. We used portable transceivers!

"My pride and joy was building a long-line oscillator using copper tubing in both the grid and plate circuits, and this was displayed during a lecture by Professor Kerr Grant at the University of Adelaide.

"During World War II I served in the RAAF as a Wireless Operator Mechanic in Darwin from early 1942 until late 1945. On demobilisation I transferred from the PMG Dept to DCA (Dept of Civil Aviation) and took over the operation of Civil Aeradio early in 1946.

"After World War II, amateur radio licences were issued for the band 50 to 56 MHz, replacing the pre-war 56 to 60 MCs allocation. Following the good results already being attained in the USA, we made efforts to build equipment for the new band. I planned to make a converter to feed into my AR7 receiver, but small variable condensers (now capacitors) were not available. This was overcome by asking one of the Qantas pilots flying to London to buy some Eddystone capacitors for me. The resulting converter used a 956 RF stage, 954 detector and 955 oscillator. It was a rather rough affair as parts were scarce.

"During 1946, whilst working W7ACS/KH6 on 28 MHz we had discussed operation on 50 MHz. Eugene mentioned that a scientist from the Ionospheric Weather Station had suggested we change from vertical to horizontal polarized antennas as this may improve the chances of reflection from the ionised Heavyside Layer.

"Both of us constructed three element horizontal yagis. Mine was made from electrical conduit. There being no one else on six metres in Darwin, on a visit to Melbourne I took the converter to Max Howden VK3BQ to check that it would receive 50 MHz. It did!

"At a disposals sale I had bought a T1131 transmitter. It was made for the Air Ministry as a ground-control transmitter and brought to Australia for use with the Spitfire Squadrons. It ran 100 watts of CW or AM from a pair of 834s, and covered 100 to 125 MHz. I changed the coils to tune 50 MHz.

"Each month, using the Ionospheric Prediction charts issued from Mount Stromlo, careful watch was kept when the MUF charts showed around 50 MHz. This paid off on 26 August 1947 when soon after 12 noon (0230 UTC) a weak signal was heard just inside the 50 MHz band. The signal increased in strength until I identified W7ACS/KH6 calling CQ six metres. The QSO finally occurred at 1240 pm (0310 UTC)."

This world record QSO on six metres was reported in QST under <italics>The World Above 50 Mc<end> for October 1947, conducted by the late Ed Tilton W1HDQ. He wrote: "That 27th again! For the fourth consecutive month, the lead paragraphs of this department are being rewritten to report extraordinary happenings on the 27th of the month. This is an important date to remember, [and still is ... VK5LP], because it gives a good indication of the period to watch each month for DX opportunities through the fall season. Between the 25th and 27th of August there were at least three events that are front-page news to VHF enthusiasts: the first two-way work between Australia and the Hawaiian Islands on 50 Mc., the first Mexico-Argentina 50 Mc. QSO, and a new DX record for home-station worked on 144 Mc.

"The 50 Mc. record passed 5000 miles at 1700 Hawaiian Time, on August 25th, when W7ACS/KH6 at Pearl Harbor worked VK5KL, Darwin, Australia, a distance of 5350 miles (5349.8 according to W7ACS!). This contact renewed interest in the possibilities for 50 Mc. communication over this path, and though no new VK or ZL contacts have been reported at this writing, the prospects remain good through the fall."

The QST article included a copy of VK5KLs QSL to W7ACS/KH6 and a picture of his three element coaxial fed beam, 0.2 wavelength spacing.

<bold>Emil W3EP,<end> in response to a request from me for information about the contact, replied that during 1946-47 winter, W7ACS/KH6 was active on 50 MHz, with much written about him and the main story his contact with J9AAK. Here is a bit from May 1947 QST (page 62 in the <italics>World Above 50 Mc column<end>): [paraphrase] - W7ACS/KH6 has been trying to duplicate his feat with J9AAK and VKs, "but without much success, except for some very brief exchanges between W7ACS/KH6 and VK4HR of Brisbane, Australia." [the text which followed revealed the pair heard one or the other, but not a two way, on Feb 27, Feb 28, and Mar 2.]

In the light of the above, Clarrie was fortunate to have been the first to make a two-way contact with Hawaii.

<italics>Amateur Radio<end> for October 1947, contains an article under the heading <italics>50 MC'S WORLD RECORD<end> and is based on a letter from Clarrie VK5KL advising of his contact with W7ACS/KH6. Excerpts read as follows: "DX on 50 Mc. is not a dream any longer. In all my 14 years of amateur radio nothing has thrilled me so much, not even that first ever QSO or working an elusive South American. Ever since 1934 when I first QSOd VK5IT on the old 56 Mc. band using a battery operated super-regen. receiver and an ultra-audion circuit transmitter, I have dreamed, planned and strived for better equipment and more co-operation to popularise the band.

"The war years intervened, then 1946 and back on the air. Allotted 50 to 54 Mc. and a real chance now as 50 Mc. comes well within reach of MUF prediction, when high enough. Improved techniques, superhet receivers, crystal controlled transmitters and multi-element beams all in the right trend to bring that dream true.

"December 1946. The band looked like opening. Interstate DX was achieved, honors to VK2NO and VK3MJ. Encouraged by activity in Honolulu, Japan, Okinawa, Singapore and India, the chance of real DX might yet be achieved. Close study of MUF Prediction Charts and ionospheric prediction issued by Mount Stromlo followed.

"On 22nd August a severe disturbance took place and the usual watch was kept when at home, usually around noon. Skeds were being kept with VK5NR and VK3BQ. Arriving home at 1200 hours on 26th August, the beam was swung in the direction of VK3, a weak signal was heard and fading rapidly - it was W7ACS/KH6 at Pearl Harbour calling 'CQ six metres.'

"Rushing outside to manipulate the ropes on the beam I became entangled amongst them in my haste. Return inside and frantic calling. Almost unable to hold microphone and speak at the same time. No reply.

"At 1215 W7ACS/KH6 called CQ, R3 S5. I call on 51.5 and 50.025 with no result. At 1230 he calls again, I peak the beam and call again. Perspiration stands out on my forehead as he answers QRZ? Again I call long and loud, at fever pitch now for the reply. Time was 1240 and the greatest moment of my life passes as W7ACS/KH6 answers calling VK5KL Darwin and saying: "Well! Well! This is one for the books", and offering congratulations.

"His signal was S7 now and he gave me S3. We continue for several overs describing each other's gear. We arrange a sked for 1200 each day. His signal was now S8, as can be vouched for by my neighbour VK5SA, who came to witness the closing overs. The contact lasted ten minutes and closed with both looking for other stations.

"I relaxed with radiant joy as I realised that I may have the coveted honour of being the first VK to work outside Australia on 50 Mc."

It must be remembered that both stations were crystal-locked, there was no such thing as answering on the other party's frequency as we do today. The contact was completed because W7ACS/KH6 continued to call CQ and tuning, though apparently not hearing any replies in the early stages, he obviously thought it worthwhile to continue.

Part 2

Frequency allocations to Australian amateurs for five/six metres have varied over the years. The following is a brief summary.

Pre World War II: 56 to 60 MHz 01/01/46 to 30/12/63: 50 to 54 MHz* 01/01/64 to 30/06/89: 52 to 54 MHz From 01/07/89 - read on.

With the introduction of Channel 0 television transmitters to VK2, 3 and 4, plus the expansion from a 11 channel TV band to 13 channels, which included Channels 0 and 5A - these were completely at odds with the rest of the world but Australia seems to have a habit of doing strange things at times - at the end of 1963 we were limited to 52 to 54 MHz until 30/6/89 when portions of the band from 50.000 MHz were again available, on a non-interference basis to Channel 0 television stations.

Six News, the UK Six Metre Group Newsletter of October 1991, provides further insight into the establishment of six metres in an article The History of Six compiled by Neil Carr G0JHC from Harry School's (KA3B) Six Metre Digest 1987, also from an article by Brian Bower G3COJ for the UK Six Metre Group. Excerpts are worthy of inclusion on this occasion, permission having been established.

It appears that a conference in Washington DC in 1927 made a world-wide allocation of 50 to 60 MHz. The distance record for 56 MHz (five metres) was 2500 miles established by a contact between W1EYM and W6DNS on 22 July 1938. On 56 MHz, G5BY was the first station to span the Atlantic when heard by W2HXD on 27 December 1936, which period would have been during the peak of Cycle 17. G5BY and GM6RG were each heard in the USA in 1938. At the Cairo WARC of 1939, the allocation was reduced to 58.5 to 60 MHz to make way for Band 1 television. At the 1947 WARC, amateurs in Europe were no longer permitted to operate between 29.700 and 144 MHz, while Oceania received 50 to 56 MHz.

"The band 50 to 54 MHz became available to amateurs in the USA from 1 March 1946, with the first aurora/Es contact between W1LSN and W9DWU on 23 April 1946 at a distance of 1100 miles. This was extended to 2590 miles on 14 June 1946 by a contact between W6OVK and W2BYM, becoming a new six metre record. The same afternoon a contact between W1LLL and W6NAW became the second trans-continental QSO.

"By September 1946 there was considerable six metre activity in the US and Canada. VK stations on six metres were appearing in all states, and New Zealand.

"During June and July of 1946, each Sunday from 1300 UTC, G5BY made automatic CW transmissions on 58.632 MHz using high gain antennas beamed at the US, from a site situated on a 400 foot cliff overlooking the sea.

"For transmitting G5BY used two 4 element W6QLZ arrays stacked vertically and fed in phase. For receiving he used a rhombic, 240 feet on each leg.

"In September 1946 F2 skip began to appear and during a 27 day recurrence cycle in late October, American FM stations near 45 MHz were heard in England.

"Anticipating a peak in the F2 season to take place in November 1946, G6DH Dennis Heightman of Clacton-on-sea, Essex, England, suggested a series of daily schedules with W1HDQ on 28 MHz. These schedules started on November 13th and took place each morning at 8.15 am EST.

"On several days signals were heard on both sides of the path on frequencies as high as 48 MHz. Test after test was made on 50.002.3 MHz with no results. On Sunday morning, November 24th signals in the 47-48 MHz range were heard on both sides of the Atlantic. Many of them were S9 and higher. Arrangements were made whereby W1HDQ would transmit for 5 minute periods each 15 minutes, listening on 28 MHz for replies from G6DH.

"The first transmission was made at 11.15 am in the form of a QST on voice to all 50 MHz 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 1 minute call to G6DH. G6DH heard W1HDQ and the first trans-Atlantic VHF QSO was on. (A VHF 2-way was attempted on 5 metres to 6 metres but the MUF didn't go quite high enough to permit G5BY to make it on 58.632 MHz with W1BEQ in Connecticut.) W1HDQs signal faded out at 12.00 pm (43 minutes later) at G6DH and at 12.25 pm with G5BY, Hilton O'Heffernan. Although G5BY intercepted W1HDQs signal first, it was G6DH who made the first contact."

Part 3

This section completes the article the UK Six Metre Group Newsletter of October 1991, providing further insight into the establishment of six metres in an article <italics>The History of Six<end> compiled by Neil Carr G0JHC from Harry School's (KA3B) <italics>Six Metre Digest 1987,<end> also from an article by Brian Bower G3COJ for the UK Six Metre Group. Excerpts are worthy of inclusion on this occasion, permission having been established.

1947: A year of firsts

"With a combination of flourishing activity and the peak of 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 50.024 MHz 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 to a 4 element beam. Later PA0UM and PA0WJ followed suit.

"The big news was that G's were given permission for 50 - 54 MHz 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 was worked by 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.

"The second QSO took place at 4.33 PM with signals over S-9. At 4.48 PM, W7ACS/KH6 at Pearl Harbour 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 50 MHz 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[sic] Australia on August 25th at a distance of 5350 miles, breaking the old mark by 750 miles. [Actually, VK5KL was in Darwin, Northern Territory when he made the record contact. ... VK5LP]

"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 priveleges[sic] and put them to immediate use. On October 11th, ZS1T worked PA0UN for the first European 2-way on 50 MHz 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 smashed the record for the third time in less than 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 50 MHz into the US for the first time. W2AMJ made the contact first at 8.14 AM EST followed shortly after by W3OR. W3OR's luck continued. November 1st saw a major opening between the East Coast and the Western areas of North America. In addition to many W6' 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 G4NY worked a record number of US 6 metre stations via cross-band.

The English receive permission for 50 MHz.

"Special temporary licences for 6 metre work were issued by English authorities in early November of 1947. As mentioned earlier, licences for 'experimental' purposes such as these, were to expire on January 1st, 1948. They were later extended to April 30, 1948. The licences were subject to certain time and frequency limitations with 25 watts of maximum input. Stations located within London were not to operate after 1500 UTC. Hilton O'Heffernan (G5BY) received his temporary licence on November 5th, 1947.

"The January 1948 CQ Magazine reported the following: 'Having no rig on 50 MHz, 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 50 MHz 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 50 MHz. Dennis contacted W1HDQ on November 5th 1947 at 1302 GMT. A QSO with W2AMJ took place at 1345 GMT. Later at 1620 GMT, G5BD worked VE1QZ for the first G - VE QSO. The month of November 1947 continued to be an excellent one for British operators. In addition 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.

Transequatorial Propagation is "Discovered"

"By the fall 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 ocasions openings were intense with very solid signals. Although the mysteru 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 W1 contact into South America."

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