Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society

CARS Operating from Thorpe Abbotts Museum -2009

16th September 2009Added photos and report from the event.

Thanks to Mark Sanderson, M0IEO, CARS operated GB2TAM (Thorpe Abbotts Museum) from the Thorpe Abbotts 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum, Common Road, Dickleburgh, Diss, Norfolk, IP21 4PH for the weekend 11th to 13th September 2009.

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Road sign off the A140 road near Dickleburgh, Diss.
The Museum is about 2 miles allong this road.

Photos by John G8DET

The station ran from Friday evening after 5pm, 11th September to Sunday 13th but the museum was only open on the Saturday 12th and Sunday the 13th, 10am - 5pm.     The Friday evening was used by CARS to set up an aerials.

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To assist finding the Museum

Thorpe Abbotts was a Second World War air station, which was the home of the U.S.A.A.F 100th Bomb Group from 1943 to the end of the war in 1945.   During that time, 753 aircrew made the supreme sacrifice and since then hundreds of veterans have returned to Thorpe Abbotts and continue to do so to this day.   Although much of the air station has now gone, the control tower still stands and has been restored to its former glory by a group of dedicated volunteers over the last 25 years, most of who are still working for the museum.

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100 Bomb Group

GB2TAM has been organised to coincide with the weekend of the 100th Bomb Group reunion, which is held each year in Albuquerque, New Mexico.   It was hoped that band conditions would allow contact to be made with the reunion and possibly speak to some of the dwindling number of veterans who will be attending.

The station was operated on all HF bands using SSB as well as 2m FM.   A GB2TAM QSL card is available for all contacts which will show the Control Tower as it is today in a pristine restored condition.

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Control Tower.

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View from the only small remaining "Perimeter Track".

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View from the Control Tower - good radio country.

Report from the Weekend Event, by Mark, M0IEO.

Friday, 11th September 2009.
After months of planning John, 2E0NNQ and I arrived at the gate to the last remaining section of the airfield perimeter track at 17:30 and were met by Carol Batley and showed us to our pitch for the weekend.

Saturday 12th September.
The alarm sounded at 06:00 on Saturday morning, and following a breakfast consisting of a good old English fry up, John and I were in the field at the back of the caravan by 07:00 to begin setting up the antennas for the weekend.   We were going to be using a G5RV for 80,40,and 20m and a long wire for the remaining HF bands, our usual colinear antenna at the top of the 12m mast for 2m FM and a 5-element beam for 2m SSB.   By the time we had the G5RV and the co-linier set up the sun was up and it was getting hot, it was going to be a scorcher of a day and we were not disappointed, the weather on Saturday was the kind of autumn day you could only dream of having.   Carol Batley arrived at 08:30 and had a chat with us about what we had set up.

At 09:30 Brian G3CVI arrived and we were still no nearer having a working station, there was so much to do - we just hadn't allowed enough time for the set-up.   John and I decided to concentrate our efforts on getting one radio up and running and getting Brian on air, then set the remaining radios up and running from there.   We connected my Kenwood TS480 SAT to the G5RV via a linear amplifier which was kindly loaned to us by Clive, G1EUC.   With radio and amplifier tuned to the G5RV, Brian was up and running and with a 400 watt signal was working into Malta to the station of 9H3YM with a 5/9+ 10db signal on 20m.

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Brian, G3CVI operating
Photos by Norman, M0FZW

Unfortunately it was the weekend of the CQ Europe Contest and getting contacts on 20m was going to be hard work as the contesters were only interested in getting a signal report and contest number before moving on, with that in mind we decided to concentrate on the 40 and 80m bands where we were working mostly UK stations and "Churches on the Air" day.   These proved to be a wealth of contacts and Brian was in his element.

By 10:30 we had the 2m stations up and running and with John working 2m SSB we had a contact with the station of PA5MS in Holland using 25 watts.

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John, 2E0NNQ operating

John then worked a combination of 2mFM and SSB for the day contacting stations all over Norfolk and Suffolk.   Brian by this time had filled half the first page of the logbook, logging stations all over the UK.   I was being kept occupied with talking to visitors to the station, to which we had about 15 over the course of the Saturday, and making tea and coffee for those who wanted them, and keeping things running on the station.

I soon found out that to have 3 people working on different bands within the awning was just not practical as we were in danger of distracting each other.   Brian left us for the day at 15:30 having worked just about everything there was to work on 80 and 40m, at that point I got onto the HF radio and tried working 14m for the few stations that were not involved in the competition, they were few and far between but I did manage to work a few European stations.

At 16:00 (15:00 utc) it was time to try for the station of K5DD in New Mexico to see if we could make contact with the 100th Bomb Group reunion, the whole point of the weekend.

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Mark, M0IEO operating

After an hour of calling K5DD it was obvious that we were not going to be able to make contact at that time.
It was to be the only disappointment of the weekend though.

Saturday evening was to prove to be the radio equivalent heaven, after we had eaten, we went back to the radios, HF was not worth working as the contesters had migrated down to 40 and 80m as 20 had closed down for the night so John and I concentrated on 2m FM.
We came on the band just as the back end of a lift on 2m and we were able to work stations as far away as Manchester, Derby, Milton Keynes, Stratford on Avon and central Kent with plenty of stations in between.   We even managed a QSO with M0GWS in Braintree, Essex and an old friend of mine in Kent, M0RAY in Sittingbourne.   John and I finally shut the radios down at midnight and wandered outside for a stretch and to take the night air and were greeted with one of the best views of the stars I have ever seen.   A cloudless sky with the nearest light pollution at least 5 miles away, you could see the ISS passing over and even see the clouds of the Milky Way, we spent about half an hour looking at the stars before turning in for the night having had one of the best days of radio I have had in a long time.

Sunday 13th September.

100 Bomb Group                                 Just before Brian left
Photos by John, G8DET
The day dawned cloudy and cold which was a total contrast to the previous day, there was talk of rain coming in the afternoon, which was not good news for the event.   GB2TAM was on the air by 09:00 and little did we know that it would be such a busy day.   Brian returned at 09:30 to work his magic on the HF set.

We were soon joined by Norman, M0FZW; Peter, G4OAD and Anne, M6ATE.   Next to arrive was John, G8DET and between them they worked tirelessly on the radios to make as many contacts as they could.   We were still faced with the contest in Europe on 20m so again worked on mainly 80, 40 and 2m.

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        Peter, G4OAD talking to the Rougham team and                    Members of the 100th Bomb Group.

At 10:30 I was phoned by Bob, G0BXP at Rougham Airfield who asked for a sked on 80m at 11:30.   Rougham is another WWII airfield, which is still used as a centre for light aircraft and gliders and is also home to the call sign GB0RTM.   At 11:30 we made contact on the air with Bob and spent 15 minutes chatting and telling him about our station and finding out about the station they were running.   We also chatted to Terry under his own call sign of G1UGH who was with Bob at Rougham.   After the sked Bob and Terry came down to Thorpe Abbotts to meet us and spent about 2 hours looking round the site and chatting with us.

Another visitor to the station was Ian, G0YAP.   Ian was pleased to see us operating at Thorpe Abbotts as he had tried to set up a station there himself but due to lack of support had found that it was too demanding on his time and having young children had to give up.

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Ian, G0YAP seated and assisting Norman to get into the Norwich Repeater

Ian asked that if we were to operate from Thorpe Abbotts again next year that we let him know, as he would love to work along side us.   Ian, you can consider that a date and we will be in touch.

Contacts were harder fought than on Saturday but with the perseverance and patience of the whole team we were able to add another page to each of the logs for both HF and VHF.

We had numerous visitors to the station both from the radio fraternity and from people who knew little about radio and just wondered what was going on.

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Inside the 100th Bomb Group Headquaters

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Letter from President Ronald Regan on the opening of the Hqs.
The mural at the end painted in 1988 by a young lady.

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The propeller recovered recently from a bomber which crashed in the local marches and displayed in one of the many rooms.

On HF we worked into Orkney in Scotland, OE8PCK in Austria and into the station of GI4CBG in Northern Ireland just to name a few.   On VHF we worked ON4ATA in Belgium, M0TTB in Watford and of course John, G8DET who was talking to John, 2E0NNQ on the way into Thorpe Abbotts.   Peter, G4OAD tried working CW for a while on 20m but to be honest, the band was full with contesters who were showing little interest in our little station but it was a valliant effort and well worth trying.

All too soon it was 16:00 and we had to think about closing down the station, but there was one last treat in store for us, just as we were beginning to break the kit down we were treated to a flypast by a Mustang fighter.

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The lovely Mustang which gave a "Fly Past".
Photos by Norman, M0FZW

The pilot bought her in low and fast over the control tower for the first pass and then banked round and came back at treetop height over the car park and directly over our heads at no more then 60 feet for the second pass.   The sound of the Rolls Merlin engine and the sight of the Mustang fully resplendent in authentic livery was a sight I will never forget.   As is always the case my camera was in its case in the caravan but Norman, M0FZW and John, G8DET managed to get some photos.

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John, G8DET up a tree recovering the long wire aerial

With help from Norman, M0FZW and John, G8DET we soon had the antennas down and ready to stow and by 18:30, John, 2E0NNQ and I had the rest of the kit packed and ready to roll.

All too soon we were rolling down the perimeter track heading for home but I did stop for a minute on the way to wonder what must have gone through the minds of those brave men of the 100th Bomb Group as they taxied their B17 bombers down that same concrete strip 65 years ago, and to thank the 753 men who gave their lives so that we could enjoy the freedom we have today.

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The caravan waiting to be loaded before the return to Canvey Island.

There are a lot of "Thank You" to be made to the people who made GB2TAM possible and without whose help I would have had a much harder job.
To Carol and Ron Batley of Thorpe Abbotts and their Staff for making us feel welcome and for allowing the event to take place.   To John, G8DET and Patrick, M0XAP for all the help and guidance in setting up the event, and to Trevor, M5AKA for the help with publicising the event in the press, to Martin, G1EFL; Chris, G0IPU; and Clive, G1EUC for the loan of equipment for the station.
To my Wife, Belinda for the endless hours at the computer designing and printing literature and QSL cards and for supporting the venture from the start.

That just leaves the operating team, without them the whole weekend would have come to a sticky end. A great thanks to John, 2E0NNQ who was behind me all the way and was there from the time I left home to the time we returned.   Thanks to Brian, G3CVI who was there to help set-up and to operate both days and to Norman, M0FZW who was there all day on Sunday and provided transport for two of the team, to Peter, G4OAD and Anne, M6ATE.   Also to John, G8DET who spent Sunday on station and met and greeted visitors most of the day.

To all of you I offer my heartfelt thanks for the work and support you have given.   Thanks also must go to the many amateur radio visitors who took the time to come and visit us at Thorpe Abbotts and to all the stations that worked the station.

73 de Mark,

100th Bomb Group

100th Bomb Group Thorpe Abbotts Museum

100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum

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