Another 2 days as VK100AF

On Thursday 3rd June and Friday 4th June 2021, Marija VK5MAZ and I had another turn as VK100AF, celebrating 100 years of the Royal Australian Air Force.

Unfortunately, Marija and I both had to work on Friday, so in effect we were on air for only 1 & 1/4 days. I didn’t get into the shack until 11.00 a.m. on Thursday and did not get on air on Friday until very late in the afternoon.

All up we made a total of 208 QSOs on 10, 20, 40, & 80m SSB.

We logged 25 different DXCC entities:-

  • Asiatic Russia
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • England
  • France
  • Germany
  • Guadeloupe
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • Morocco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • USA
  • Virgin Islands

The map below shows our contacts around the world.

Above:- Map showing our QSOs around the world.

There was a small opening on Thursday afternoon on 20m on the long path (LP) into Europe and the United Kingdom. Conditions were not as good as we have experienced previously, but any opening is better than nothing. Unfortunately by the time I had got home from work on Friday, 20m LP had closed and I logged just a handful of European stations.

It was quite interesting to work two Irish stations, EI2HI and EI6JK, on the long path on 20m at 11.00 a.m. on Thursday morning. This is 3-4 hours before the band normally opens up to Europe.

The map below shows our contacts into Europe on the long path.

Above:- Map showing our contacts into Europe and the UK.

A total of 137 VK’s and 10 ZL’s were logged on 10, 20, 40, & 80m. There was a small opening to VK2 on 10m on Thursday.

Above:- Map showing our contacts around Australia and into New Zealand

This time around the most interesting QSOs were with Volker ZS3Y in South Africa on 20m. We had a chat for about 20 minutes and were 5/9 both ways. I also spoke with FG5IM in Guadeloupe in the Carribean. I also had a good chat with Mike VE6MB in Alberta in Canada on 40m about our recent trip to Canada and also the various aircraft used by the RAAF and the Royal Canadian Air Force.

I also spoke with Phil VK2NE who was a former RAAF Air Traffic Controller, and Frank VK6ALF who is former RAAF.

THANK YOU to everyone who called.

Contact with Mike G0WKH and Louis Stanley ‘Doc’ Watson of the RAAF

On the 30th April 2021, whilst I was using the special Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) callsign of VI100AF, I made contact with Mike G0WKH on the 20m band.

Mike followed up with a very interesting email to me which reads as follows:-

Hi Paul,

I was pleased to make contact with you today. I thought you might be interested to know that my family played host to a number of servicemen during WW2. We had a large house as there were 13 in the family of 3 generations. There was a mobile extra population of service men from all the Services and those with large houses were compelled by The War Department to make room for them. In some cases the whole property was requisitioned. Amongst 3 men who were billeted with us when the Australian 461 Squadron of Sunderland Flying Boats came to Poole was one Louis (Doc) Watson. He was flying as an airgunner on anti submarine patrols in the Channel and the Bay of Biscay. He was well liked by my family. I was 11 at the time and I think he was glad to talk to and play with me. The squadron eventually moved to Pembroke on the coast of Wales and we lost touch with him as,indeed, we did with practically all our’Guests’. Some years ago some enterprising people in Poole set up a club called the Friends of the Poole Flying Boats. They have extensive archives on activity covering these aircraft both civil and military. At a meeting some years ago I gave their Secretary a lot  of info. From memory about our contacts which included Doc. She subsequently  came back to me with the sad news that he had been shot down and killed on a patrol over the Bay of Biscay. His plane was attacked by 6 Junkers88 and there were no survivors. Included in the material she gave me was the fact that his home was in  the Mile End area of Adelaide. I believe there might be some sort of Memorial to Aussies in Thebarton. A long story but it seemed to be appropriate!

Best regards

Mike G0wkh.

As a result of Mike’s email I decided to do a little research on Louis ‘Doc’ Watson.

My first stop was the website of the Friends of the Poole Flying Boats.

Louis Stanley Watson was born on the 12th day of February 1918 at Adelaide, South Australia. His parents being William Henry Watson (1881-1954) and Mabel Wilhelmina Watson nee Rogers (1880-1964).

At the age of 22, he enlisted with the Royal Australian Air Force at Adelaide on the 21st day of May 1940. His locality on enlistment was recorded as Mile End, South Australia. His next of kin was recorded as his father William Watson.

Louis attained the rank of Sergeant in the RAAF, with his service number being 26588. He served with 461 Squadron.

Louis Stanley Watson. Image c/o awm.gov.au

The No. 461 Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) was a maritime patrol squadron during the Second World War, which operated under Royal Air Force control. The Squadron was formed on the 25th day of April 1942 and was disbanded on the 20th day of June 1945, following the end of the war in Europe. The role of 461 Squadron was to protect convoys and deter submarine attacks. They flew over miles of the Atlantic to hunt and destroy U boats, the German submarines. Personnel were drawn from many countries of the British Empire, although the majority were Australians. 

The Squadron were originally based at Mount Batten and then located to Hamworthy. In 1943 the Squadron was relocated to Pembroke Dock in Wales.

Above:- Map showing the location of Pembroke Dock.

The Squadron consisted of Sunderland flying boats. The Sunderland was a slow flying aircraft and often came under attack by enemy German fighters. As a result, ground crew modified the Sunderlands with twin gun nose turrets and galley mounted machine guns. As a result, the aircraft became known as the ‘Flying Hedgehogs’.

Throughout the war, the Squadron was credited with destroying a total of six German U-boats, and operated mainly in the Bay of Biscay and Atlantic. RAAF 461 Squadron lost a total of twenty (20) Sunderlands to enemy action and accidents. A total of 86 Squadron members were killed on operations, including 64 Australians.

RAAF 461 Squadron emblem. Image c/o RAAF Museum Point Cook

At about 12.55 p.m on Wednesday the 2nd day of June 1943, a Short Sunderland GR3, serial number EJ134, with its famous callsign of “N for Nuts” took off from the Royal Air Force Base Pembroke Dock, under the command of the Captain of the aircraft Flight Lt. Colin Braidwood Walker. The flight was described as ‘a normal A/S (anti submarine) patrol in the Bay of Biscay.’ Sergeant Louis Stanley Watson was the Rigger aboard the aircraft.

Above:- the crew of EJ134. Sergeant Watson is fourth from the left.

Their mission that day included to look for a civilian aircraft, a DC-3 Dakota which had failed to arrive in Bristol and was suspected to have been shot down by the Luftwaffe. Aboard the aircraft was the British actor, Leslie Howard.

Above:- Leslie Howard. Image c/o Wikipedia

The crew did not locate any sign of the missing Dakota. At about 6.45 p.m. EJ134 was patrolling over the Bay of Biscay at a height of 2,000 feet in are area known as ‘Tiger country’. It earnt this name due to the number of lone aircraft which had been shot down by German fighters in the area. It was at this time that eight JU 88 German aircraft rapidly closed in on the aircraft and the Sunderland came under attack.

The Junkers Ju 88 was a German WW2 Luftwaffe twin engined multi-role combat aircraft. 

Above:- A JU 88. Image c/o Wikipedia

In what followed, the crew of EJ134 won their places in aviation history. In a prolonged attack by the Luftwaffe, the Sunderland lost one engine and its tail turret. Despite this, EJ134 managed to shoot down three of the eight German fighters. Of the remaining five JU 88’s which were damaged by EJ134, only two returned to Bordeaux in France. The remaining three JU 88’s are presumed to have crashed into the sea.

During the firefight, Sergeant Louis Stanley Watson was in the nose turret of the aircraft.

A number of the crew sustained injuries, while Edward Charles Ernest ‘Ted’ Miles, the First Flight Engineer, aged just 27 years, was killed.

The severely damaged Sunderland EJ134, with about 500 holes, most of the bridge destroyed with all radio and some flying instruments destroyed, made the 350 mile journey back to Cornwall. It did not make it to Pembroke Dock, and made a forced landing in the shallows on the shores of Cornwall, at Praa Sands.

Sir Charles Portal, Chief of Air Staff sent the following to the crew:

“I have just read the account of the flight by Sunderland N/461 against 8 JU88 on 2nd June. I should like Flight Lieutenant Walker and the surviving members of his gallant crew to be told of the admiration and pride I felt on reading the details of this epic battle which will go down in history as one of the finest instances in this war, of the triumph of coolness, skill and determination against overwhelming odds. I am sure that not only the heavy losses inflicted on the German fighters but above all the spirit and straight shooting of the crew will have made a profound impression on the morale of the enemy in the Bay of Biscay and will thus greatly assist in the war on the U Boats. From Sir Charles Portal, Chief of Air Staff.”

Four of the crew of EJ134 (and a BBC staff member) recording the story of the encounter with the JU88’s in a BBC studio. Sergeant Watson is in the middle. Image c/o awm.gov.au

Many of the crew of EJ134 were all back to operational flying from the 8th July 1943 and completed a further 4 operational flights together. In August 1943 they shared in the sinking of U-106 with a 228 Squadron Sunderland. However Sergeant Watson was not to be so lucky during August of 1943.

At 7.08 a.m. on Friday the 13th day of August 1943, a Short Sunderland Mk III, serial number DV968, took off from the Royal Air Force Base Pembroke Dock for an anti-submarine patrol over the Bay of Biscay in the Atlantic Ocean.

Above:- No. 461 Squadron Sunderland Mark V landing at Pembroke Dock, Wales. Image c/o Wikipedia

Nothing was heard from the aircraft until 2.47 p.m. when a signal was received which stated that the aircraft was being attacked by six JU 88’s.

It is suspected that the Sunderland was shot down by one of the JU 88’s and crashed into the Bay of Biscay. Louis’s aircraft was later claimed by Lt. Artur Schroeder of 13/KG 40. Kampfgeschwader 40 (KG40) was a Luftwaffe medium and heavy bomber wing and the primary maritime patrol.

The following day, Sunderland JM683 patrolled the area where it was suspected the aircraft was shot down, however no dinghies or survivors were located.

Above:- Map showing the location of the Bay of Biscay. Map c/o Google maps

An extract from Herrington; J (John) book entitiled ‘Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939-1943, read as follows:-

“Flying Officer Dowling of No. 461, leading the gallant crew which under Flight Lieutenant Colin Braidwood Walker (404610) had won the heroic struggle against eight Ju-88’s on 2nd June, failed to return from patrol on 13th August after reporting enemy fighters approaching his Sunderland.”

The crew members of DV968 were:

  • Flying Officer Wilbur James Dowling (400788) (Pilot)
  • Flight Sergeant Alfred Eric Fuller (576061) (RAF) (Wireless Air Gunner)
  • Flying Officer David Taylor Galt DFC (400976) (First Pilot)
  • Warrant Officer Ray Marston Goode DFM (407499) (Air Gunner)
  • Flying Officer James Charles Grainger (400411) (Second Pilot)
  • Flight Sergeant Albert Lane (414701) (Wireless Air Gunner)
  • Flight Sergeant Charles Douglas Les Longson (415338) (Wireless Air Gunner)
  • Warrant Officer Harold Arthur Miller (405083) (Wireless Air Gunner)
  • Flight Lieutenant Kenneth McDonald Simpson DFC (403778) (Observer)
  • Flight Sergeant Phillip Kelvin Turner (26697) (Flight Engineer)
  • Sergeant Louis Stanley Watson (26588) (Flight Mechanic / Air Gunner)

Not flying that day in DV968 were James Collier Amiss and Colin Braidwood Walker who were aboard EJ134 during the 2nd June incident.

Louis was just 25 years old. His body was never recovered.

Louis is remembered at the Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England. He is also remembered at various other locations including the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, and the National War Memorial of South Australia in North Terrace, Adelaide.

References.

ancestry.com, 2021, <https://www.ancestry.com.au/>, viewed 31st May 2021

Air Crew Remembered, 2021, <http://aircrewremembered.com/>, viewed 1st June 2021.

Australian Government, 2021, <https://nominal-rolls.dva.gov.au/veteran?id=876708&c=WW2>, viewed 31st May 2021.

Australian War Memorial, 2021, <https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C251485>, viewed 1st June 2021.

Australian War Memorial, 2021, <https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C147771>, viewed 1st June 2021.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 2021, <https://www.cwgc.org/>, viewed 31st May 2021.

Highgate RSL, 2021, <https://highgate-rsl.org.au/afcraaf-roll/watson-louis-stanley-26588/>, viewed 31st May 2021.

Knifton; John, 2021, <https://johnknifton.com/tag/leutnant-artur-schroder/>, viewed 1st June 2021.

RAAF Museum Point Cook, 2021, <https://www.airforce.gov.au/sites/default/files/minisite/static/7522/RAAFmuseum/research/units/461sqn.htm>, viewed 1st June 2021.

RAAFA Aviation Heritage Museum, 2021, <https://aviationmuseumwa.org.au/afcraaf-roll/461sqn-430602-ej134/>, viewed 1st June 2021.

Virtual War Memorial Australia, 2021, <https://vwma.org.au/explore/units/392>, viewed 31st May 2021.

Wikipedia, 2021, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junkers_Ju_88>, viewed 31st May 2021.

Wikipedia, 2021, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kampfgeschwader_40>, viewed 1st June 2021.

Aeronautical mobile contacts

A few weeks ago on the ANZA DX Net I spoke with Denny KN6KNE who was aeronautical mobile. He was in the cockpit of American Airlines 1209 from San Diego to Miami. Following our QSO, Denny sent me an email to let me know that one of the Captains at his base had the same first and last name as me. 

About a week later on 25th May 2021, I spoke with Denny again on the ANZA DX Net on 20m. This time he was in the cockpit of an American Airlines 737.

The flight AAL456 was between Dallas and Sacramento.

While speaking with Denny I was able to track him on Flight Radar 24 as he flew over Utah in the USA. Signal report was 5/6 both ways.

And then a few days later, on 27th May 2021, on 40m, I spoke with Steve VK4VN who was in a Cessna flying over Queensland.

Again, I was able to track Steve on Flight Radar 24.

I have spoken with Jerry PH9HB a number of times in the past, while he has been flying over Europe. However, I have not heard Jerry for a few years now. I think the band conditions are starting to pick up, so hopefully my next contact with Jerry won’t be too far away.

What is HEMA?

What is HEMA?

HEMA is the acronym for HuMPs Excluding Marilyns Award. A HuMP is a summit which has at least 100 metres of prominence. A Marilyn is a summit which has 150 metres of prominence. The HEMA program commenced in the British Isles.

Categorisation of mountains and hills in the British Isles

The mountains and hills of the British Isles (England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Hebrides and other smaller islands) are categorised into various lists based on different combinations of elevation, prominence, and other criteria including isolation.

This includes:

  • P600 – the ‘Majors’
  • Marilyns
  • HuMPS
  • Simms
  • TuMPS

What is a Marilyn?

The Marilyns are mountains and hills in the British Isles that have a topographical prominence of at least 150 metres. As at April 2020, there were 2,011 Marilyns in the British Isles.

The list of Marilyns was first compiled in 1992 by Alan Dawson. The name was coined as a humorous contrast to the designation Munro, which is homophonous with Marilyn Monroe.

A Munro is defined as a mountain in Scotland with a height over 914.4 metres (3,000 feet).

Munros are named after Sir Hugh Munro (1856-1919). In 1891, he produced the first list of such hills, known as Munro’s Tables.

Above:- Sir Hugh Munro. Image c/o Wikipedia.

What is a HuMP?

HuMP is an acronym for ‘Hundred and upwards Metre Prominence’. The Marilyns were expanded in 2007 by the HuMPs.  Though he did not use the term HuMP, Eric Yeaman’s Handbook of the Scottish Hills (1989) is considered an early source as it included lists of hills with a prominence above 100 m. The name and first formal British Isles list was compiled by Mark Jackson from a number of sources and published online in 2010 in More Relative Hills of Britain. As of April 2020, there were 2,984 HuMPs in the British Isles: 2,167 in Scotland, 833 in Ireland, 441 in England, 368 in Wales and 11 in the Channel Islands.

What is prominence?

In topography, prominence (also referred to as autonomous height, relative height, and shoulder drop in US English, and drop or relative height in British English) measures the height of a mountain or hill’s summit relative to the lowest countour line encircling it but containing no higher summit within it. 

Above:- Vertical arrows show the topographic prominence of three peaks on an island. The dashed horizontal lines show the lowest contours that do not encircle higher peaks. Curved arrows point from a peak to its parent. Image c/o Wikipedia

How does HEMA differ to SOTA?

In the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program, a summit must have 150 metres (about 492 feet) of prominence. In HEMA, a qualifying summit (a HumP) must have at least 100 metres of prominence. A ‘Marilyn’ is a summit which has 150 metres of prominence and these do not qualify for HEMA. They have their own program, SOTA.

What countries is HEMA operating in?

HEMA is active in 19 different DXCC entities, including Australia. In Australia, there are currently qualifying HEMA summits in VK1, VK3, VK5, and VK6.

Activation Zone

As is the case with SOTA, activations must take place within the activation zone. The activation zone is defined as the area within 25 metres vertically of the summit’s highest point.

When is the summit activated?

The HEMA summit is considered to have been ‘activated’ when four ‘successful QSOs’ are obtained. It is important to note that the four QSOs must be with different stations and operators. Previously this was four different callsigns. However the rules have been re-written and different stations and operators must now be logged. The HEMA website states:

“This is a noteworthy revision from previous versions of the rules – where four different callsigns were valid. This will stop multiple “contacts” with the same operator holding many callsigns which, it’s believed, is contradictory to the spirit of the programme.”

What is a ‘successful QSO’?

A ‘successful QSO’ means a contact between a chaser and activator where callsigns and signal reports are correctly exchanged.

What isn’t allowed

Contacts via any ‘relay’ including satellites, repeaters, the internet Echolink, etc, are not allowed.

Gathering points as an activator

Each successful activation will earn you 1 point.

Only your first activation of a summit will qualify for a point in the Uniques Table. You can attract another one point for that summit once per calendar year. You can activate a HEMA summit as many times as you like each year, however points will only be awarded for that summit once per calendar year. Awards are available for both Uniques and Qualifying points. Please see the “awards” section for further details.

Can I drive into a HEMA summit?

The HEMA website states the following:-

“HEMA is a mixture of outdoor pursuit and amateur radio. To this end it’s expected the equipment and operator arrive at the operating position by traditional means (walking, cycling, etc…) and the equipment is powered by a portable energy source (battery, solar panel etc…). The “spirit” of the programme here is key. For example, operating from a vehicle or ascending by quad bike is not permitted as a result.”

Gathering points as a Chaser

Only your first chase of a summit will qualify for a point in the Uniques Table. However, you may repeat your chase and accrue chaser points of the same summit once per day and this will attract a point in the Qualified Points Table. Awards are available for both Uniques and Qualifying points.

Database

In the HEMA database you can keep track of your progress as both an Activator and a Hunter.

Awards

All HEMA awards are free of charge and are sent as a PDF file.

Classic – The ‘Unique Summit’ Awards for Chasers and Activators

This Award is based on the number of unique qualifying HEMA Summits activated or chased.

For each 25 uniques HEMA awards a certificate. There is also a 10 unique activations starter certificate to encourage activity.

Classic – The ‘Qualifying’ Awards for Chasers and Activators

In additon to the Unique Summit awards; additional awards are available based upon ‘Qualifying’ activations and chases. For every 50 qualifying activations a certificate is available and also for every 100 qualifying chases.

First H2H DXCC Award

In cases where two activators have a ‘Successful QSO’ between each other and they are both on HEMA summits – this is called an ‘H2H contact’ (HEMA2HEMA).

Both activators will receive a special certificate where this is the first ever H2H between two DXCCs.

HEMA Facebook page.

There is a HEMA Facebook page which can be found at…..

https://www.facebook.com/groups/558986724305791/

More info on HEMA

More information can be found on the HEMA website at…….

http://hema.org.uk/awardsWebsite.jsp

HEMA video

References.

  1. HEMA, 2021, <http://hema.org.uk/index.jsp>, viewed 28th May 2021.
  2. Wikipedia, 2021, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_mountains_and_hills_in_the_British_Isles#Marilyns>, viewed 28th May 2021.
  3. Wikipedia, 2021, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topographic_prominence>, viewed 31st May 2021.

VI100AF for the last time.

On Saturday 22nd, Sunday 23rd, Monday 24th, and Tuesday 25th May 2021, Marija VK5MAZ and myself had the special event callsign of VI100AF for 4 days.

We operated from home on Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday. At home our operating equipment is a Yaesu FT-2000, and 100 watts. The antenna for 80m is a home brew dipole, inverted vee. The antenna for 40m is a rotatable dipole at 55 feet. And the antenna for 10, 15, & 20m is a 5 element yagi at 50 feet.

On Monday I activated from the field – activating a park and two HEMA summits.

Over the 4 days we made a total of 557 QSOs on 15, 20, 40 & 80m SSB.

Above:- Graph showing our QSOs per band.

A total of 35 different DXCC entities were worked.

  • Antarctica
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Balearic Islands
  • Belgium
  • Bosnia
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Canary Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • England
  • European Russia
  • Germany
  • France
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • New Caledonia
  • New Zealand
  • Panama
  • Poland
  • Puerto Rico
  • Romania
  • Slovak Republic
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • Ukraine
  • USA

On Saturday and Sunday afternoon there was a nice opening on the long path on 20m into Europe. The callsign proved to be very popular, with some very big European pile-ups. Unfortunately there was no opening at all on Tuesday to Europe.

We also logged a sprinkle of USA and Canadian stations, along with two stations from Panama (HP6DJA and HP6LEF), NP4A in Puerto Rico, and ZF1DM in the Cayman Islands.

Pedro NP4A was a huge signal on 40m.

Despite the callsign having been on air since 1st March 2021, there was a a nice steady flow of callers from Australia and New Zealand.

A number of former RAAF personnel were logged. This included:

  • Frank VK1VK
  • Tony VK3CCM
  • Wayne VK2DWP
  • Ron VK2MU
  • Bernard VK3BFH

Overseas former Air Force stations who I spoke to included:

  • Gerry W5RJJ
  • Jack FK8GU

Jacques ‘Jack’ FK8GU and I were 15/9 to each other on 20m and had an interesting chat. He is former French Air Force.

Above:- FK8GU. Image c/o his QRZ.com page

I worked John VK4VT using a former RAAF transceiver, a Racal TRA906, which was another interesting contact.

Above:- Racal TRA906. Image c/o worthpoint.com