I woke up on Wednesday morning, a little concerned about the weather. I hadn’t heard any rain overnight, so with a degree of nervousness, I poked my head out of the cabin door to have a look at the weather. I was pleasantly surprised to see generally clear skies, even though it was only 7.00 a.m. But I still hadn’t heard from David or John. So I headed out to the HiLux and put out a call on 7.095 but didn’t hear back from my two missing mates. So I headed back inside and had some breakfast and a shower, and by 7.40 a.m. Marija and I were on the road.
Above:- Map showing the location of Farina in the north of South Australia. Map courtesy of mapcarta.com
As a group we had intended to activate the Lake Eyre National Park, VKFF-276, but roads north of Marree were closed, so that put a halt to that. Plus, our other 4 travelling companions were ‘MIA’. So Marija and I decided to activate the Gammon Ranges National Park. On the way south towards Copley, I fired up the Icom IC-7000 in the vehicle and spoke with Alan VK5FAJS at Mount Gambier (5/9 both ways), followed by a contact with Mark VK6BSA who was mobile on his way in to work. Mark had a very nice 5/9 signal and he reciprocated with a 5/9 for me. The Codan 9350 antenna seemed to be working well.
I then moved up to 7.098 and called CQ and much to my pleasure, this was responded to by David VK5KC. He had and John were on the move and were heading north. The Warrioota Creek level had dramatically dropped overnight. I now felt a lot better.
As David & John and crew were going to head to Leigh Creek for a shower, Marija and I had a bit of time up our sleeve so we decided the activation of Gammon Ranges was a goer. It was slow going along the bitumen as there was a lot of wildlife and stock on the road, including sheep, horses, kangaroos and emus.
Upon reaching Copley we took the time to have a look at the tourist info boards. Copley was originally called Leigh Creek after a nearby pastoral holding, and was surveyed in 1891. It was officially named Copley after William Copley, Commissioner of Crown Lands. The Great Northern Railway made its way to the town in 1881.
Whilst in Copley we caught up with John VK2KJO and his wife Sue who had also pulled into the town, hoping to head out the Gammon Ranges as well. And they were the bearers of bad news, advising that the road out to the Gammons was closed. After a chat with John and Sue we headed out to the Copley Road which heads out to Nepabunna and the Gammons. Sure enough, it was closed due to all the recent rain. Marija and I were very disapointed.
So Marija and I headed south to Leigh Creek and caught up with the rest of the gang and had morning tea at the Open Cut Cafe and Visitor Centre.
John and Joy wanted to do a bit of washing, so Marija and I headed back north along the Outback Highway (Bandioota Road), and stopped briefly to view the Leigh Creek coal fields. Sadly the viewing platform for the coal fields no longer exists. We also stopped for a photo opportunity, as there was a magnificent Wedge Tailed Eagle in a tree not far off the road. We continued north and stopped at the ochre pits, just north of Lyndhurst. Aboriginal people traded ochre from Lyndhurst and other nearby quarries within the Lake Eyre region for items such as pituri (native tobacco), spinifex resin, and stone axe heads.
We continued north on the road between Lyndhurst and Marree, and turned left into the dirt track leading to Farina. Farina is a ghost town and is situated about 620 km north of Adelaide. Farina is a Latin name meaning Farinaceous or flour. Farina was surveyed in 1876 by W.H. Cornish and R. Peachey, on a reserve baned Government Gums or Gums Waterhole. It was laid out in the pattern first used by Colonel William Light. Farina had 432 allotments of a 1/4 acre each and 88 suburban blocks ranging in size from 5 acres to 11 acres. Farina was officially proclaimed on the 21st day of March, 1878.
By 1882 the narrow gauge railway had reached Government Gums. This year also saw a severe grought, but despite this, optimists hoped that the town would become the centre of a vast agricultural storehouse. The railway soon became known as the Transcontinteal Railway and the Great Northern Railway.
By 1888, Farina’s population had reached about 100, with about 30 houses in the town. The town grew quickly and soon had two hotels, a church, hospital, and a school. Farina’s population which at one point reached more than 400 people, supported several shops, including those of Manfield and Bell.
Today, Farina is a ghose town, with many of the old stone buildings, being lovingly restored by the Farina Resoration Group.
For more information on Farina and the Farina Restoration Group, have a look at the following…..
There is also a very good video from the ABC’s Landline program on Farina. Please click on the link below…..
Our reason for activating as VK100ANZAC from Farina was to commemorate the 75 year anniversary of a secret mission undertaken by two Australians and two Englishmen, to rescue the DeGaulle family from German occupied France during WW2. The pilot of the aircraft flown in that mission was John Napier Bell, who came from Farina.
At 2.55 a.m. on the 18th June, 1940, an amphibious Walrus aircraft, took to the sky from Mount Batten, near Plymouth in England. There were four men aboard the plane: a crew of three and a special passenger, British Intelligence officer Captain Norman Hope. The crew consisted of an Australian pilot, Flight Lieutenant John Napier Bell, an Australian navigator, Sergeant Charles William Harris, and a British wireless electrical mechanic, Corporal Bernard Nowell. As they left Plymouth in the early hours of the morning, the crew were totally unaware of their mission and destination. It was the role of Captain Hope to brief the crew following their take off. What was their mission? To fly to the French coast and rescue the family of General Charles De Gaulle. Following the invasion of France by the Germans in May 1940, De Gaulle instructed his wife to take their three children and leave their home near Rheims, and travel to Brittany. There, safe passage to England would be arranged. It is reported that De Gaulle flew to London and met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and asked him to assist in the rescue of his family from Carantec on the coast of the English Channel, where they had sought refuge with an Aunt.
However, there are no known official records to confirm this meeting. What is known is that at 9.00 p.m. on the 17th June, 1940 a ‘green form’ (authority for a flight) was received at Mount Batten Station at Plymouth. It originated from Admiral Dunbar-Nasmith the Commander in Chief Western Approaches. It stated: “One Walrus to proceed with Admiralty passenger from Plymouth sound to north coast Brittany at earliest 18/6. Passenger will give details of destination on arrival about 2359/17. Aircraft to be fully armed and to keep defence watch at all time especially water borne. Return to base upon completion.”
At about 4.30 a.m. on the 18th June, locals in the small village of Ploudaniel were awoken by the sound of a low flying aircraft. It was the Walrus. There is speculation that the plane may have been shot at. But what is known is that the plane subsequently crashed at Kerbiquet adjacent to Ploudaniel, and all 4 on board were killed. They were buried at the Ploudaniel churchyard, Ploudaniel, Brittany, France.
Above:- John Napier Bell’s headstone. Photo courtesy of http://www.aircrewremembered.com
Since 1940, each year the people from Ploudaniel honour the crew with a special service at the crash site and the local church grave site. So who were the crew and specifically the Captain? John Napier Bell was born on the 25th day of April, 1916 at Largs Bay South, South Australia, to parents John ‘Jack’ Henry Bell and Eva Annie Bell. Coincidentally, this was the same day that the Australian Government declared that day to be called Anzac Day. On leaving school, Bell helped his father to run Mansfield’s Store (later renamed as Bell’s Store) at Farina in the Far North of South Australia. Bell became an Air Force Cadet in July 1935 and in July 1936 at age 20, he was appointed Pilot Officer. In April 1937 he was promoted to Flying Officer.
Above:- Bell’s store in Farina, c. 1930. Image courtesy of State Library of South Australia
Farina was a buzz with activity. We saw numerous vehicles with vans entering into the old town and the camping area, with number plates representative from all around Australia. Marija and I set up the amateur radio station behind the old Post Office, which is on the main dirt road entering Farina. We decided it was a good operating spot, as people entering Farina could see us in clear view, but it was behind the old Post Office, so it didn’t inhibit those that wanted to admire the beautiful old building. For the activation I ran the Yaesu FT-857d, 40 watts and the 40m/20m linked dipole, supported on the 7 metre squid pole. Power to the radio was supplied by a 44 amp hour power pack. As it was quite a sunny day, the solar panels were deployed to provide some extra grunt to the battery.
I started off on 40m and called CQ on 7.095. Our very first station in the log for VK100ANZAC at Farina was Karl VK2GKA who had a lovely 5/9 signal. This was followed by Adrian VK5FANA on the Yorke Peninsula running just 5 watts. And Jeff VK5IU/8 portable at Alice Springs then called with a nice 5/8-9 signal, followed by John VK6FABC who although very weak, was extremely readable. The noise floor at Farina was very low so I was able to hear John very clearly. I was very pleased with the first four contacts coming from all around Australia.
Not long after setting up, David & Joy, and John & Jenny had arrived at Farina. They headed to the camground and after settling in fired up the radio and operated from there.
After working 46 stations on 40m, I headed over to 20m and called CQ on 14.250 and this was answered by Tony VK2RI who was portable at Botany Bay. I worked another 3 VK stations in VK7 & VK3. And it was at this time that two families approached me and were curious in what I was doing. So I put down the mic and gladly explained to them the hobby of amateur radio and the reason for us being at Farina. They seemed to be very interested and continued talking for about 20 minutes.
By time I had got back onto 14.250 some other VK’s were on the frequency so I headed down the band and found 14.243 clear and called CQ again. This time my CQ call was answered by the first DX station, IU2EFB in Italy with a good 5/7 signal. Local South Australia time was only 2.12 p.m. so long path into Europe was still opening up. This was followed by a call from Peter VK3CFA and Alex VK4TE. I then had another visitor to the station and again took the time to explain the hobby and why we were activating at Farina. In fact, this trend continued for most of the day with a lot of visitors, including a crew from Chanel Seven who did a little bit of filming whilst I was operating.
I remained on 20m until about 0630 UTC (4.00 p.m. SA local time) before going QRT. There was a planned commemorative service at the Farina War Memorial at 5.00 p.m. so I wanted to freshen up a bit and pack up the gear before that started. I had a total of 42 stations in the log on 40m SSB and a total of 49 stations in the log on 20m SSB. Unfortunately, it was not as busy on the bands as I would have liked. Countries worked were Australia, Italy, USA, Belgium, Switzerland, England, Spain, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, and Hawaii.
At 5.00 p.m. we attended at the memorial service held at the War Memorial. There were quite a few people in attendance, including members of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Sadly, the planned fly over by the Orion PC3 did not occur (apparently it was redployed?).
After the service, we all regrouped at the campground and decided what we were going to do for dinner. We had planned on going to the Lyndhurst Hotel for tea, but the Farina Restoration Group were hosting a camp oven dinner, so that sounded like a good idea.
Me, being the crazy radio addict, I headed back to the Old Post Office and set up again. I had promised Roy VK7ROY that I would book in to the 7130 DX Net if possible. I was set up a little early, so I warmed up 7.130 for Roy and worked into Queensland, New Zealand, Tasmania, Western Australia and Victoria, before the 7130 DX Net commenced at 0930 UTC (7.00 p.m. SA local time). Unfortuntaley just before the Net commenced, some JA’s came up on the frequency and they were extremely strong, making it incredibly difficult. So the Net moved to 7.133, but it wasn’t long before we were swamped with QRM again. A station came up on 7.135 from Honduras and he was very much in demand. Sadly, the Net shut down early due to all the QRM, But before it did close, I was able to work a total of 5 stations on the Net in Tasmania, New Zealand, Western Australia, Queensland, and the USA.
After the net I moved up to 7.145 and called CQ a number of times, but only worked a further 3 stations in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia.
So I packed up and headed back to the campsite where we set up my linked dipole for 20/40/80 metres, and we made a few contacts on 80 metres, enjoying the warmth of an open fire and a few glasses of red.
Thanks to Adrian VK5FANA for posting on the VK5 Parks Facebook site that we would not be activating the park.
Thankyou to Adrian VK5FAJH who placed us up on the VK5 Parks Yahoo group.
And thankyou to those that took the time to spot us on the DX Cluster.
So, it was the end of day one at Farina, and I had a total of 108 contacts in the log. Marija and I headed back to the Lyndhurst Hotel. On the way I fired up the IC7000 in the Hi Lux and booked in to the Southern Cross DX Net and worked W1FDY in Virginia, KC2KU in Florida, W9WJ in Illinois, W5IZ in Texas, AI4JU in Florida, and W4AZB in Tennessee.
I worked the following stations at Farina on 40m SSB:-
- VK5IU/p (Alice Springs)
The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-
South Australian Tourism Commission, 2015, <http://www.southaustralia.com/info.aspx?id=9002305>, viewed 29th June 2015