Welcome back to part 2 and my second and final foray into Amateur Radio!
So then, as I stated in part one, there was a 16 odd year wait until I decided to get back into the hobby once more.
RAF Cosford Airshow 2013
It all started with a chance encounter with a council member of RAFARS (Royal Air Force Amateur Radio Society). I got chatting and popped in for a cup of tea at their HQ station G8FC. Id walked and drove past G8FC many times as it so happened to be located at the RAF base that I was serving on at the time. After casting my eyes over the equipment, it sparked my interest once again where I thought I could get some hands on with the radio and also try and help out the society at the same time, it could be a win win.
In the weeks that followed I reactivated my radio license, joined RAFARS and started to get on the air a couple of times a week. I started to really get into the hobby once more and try to at least get G8FC back into the present once again. It is to note here that in the 10 years previously to my activation of G8FC, the log books had about 2 pages completed. Within my time using G8FC, I filled out the remaining log book, started a new one and even implemented logging on the computer!
I started to make video content and post it to youtube thinking it might generate some interest in both RAFARS and the hobby? I really wanted to engage the members with content they could interact with, after all there was about 700 or so members, not a great deal but there might of been scope to recruit some more?
My first video was a G8FC station tour so at least people could see what G8FC RAFARS HQ looked like.
Sadly the video only received about 600 views over the 3 years it has been posted. Most of them were driven from the QRZ.com page!
Engage your membership but fail!
I tried my damm hardest to engage the membership. I created Station Report videos, edited the newsletter and even got G8FC on the air as much as I could including some net controlling on their actual RAFARS net down on 80 Meters. I created a blog with lots of archive photos, edited the Facebook page and Twitter all in an attempt to further the society’s aims. I upgraded the shack with some computers, connected the rig to the laptop and even including some new equipment that was gifted to the society on the death of one of its members.
Despite all of this, there were some members of the society who couldn’t resist having a moan at the state of things. I was challenged via email about the potential purchase of equipment in a manner that was very negative. Somebody even complained that I was making G8FC complex to use by putting an amplifier inline!
Sadly, there are a few individuals who are so stuck in the past its laughable. They dont embrace change and then wonder why nobody wants to either join the society or embrace the attempts at bringing it back into the 21st century.
Want assistance? You are on your own mate.
This wasn’t the first time I didnt get any help when it came to maintenance of the club. The antennas were not in the best condition especially the Tribander. The antenna was slightly wind damaged, covered in bird shit and stuck on top of a rotator with a bent top pole which caught in the top bearing everytime the antenna was rotated. The coax was old and water ingress was a problem.
Despite trying to get some assistance on getting the tower down and doing some repairs, it was left to me calling in a favour from an old mate who tempted with a free lunch helped me to perform some maintenance tasks.
This wasn’t the only time I had to call Ian in, he came to my aid a couple of times and without his help G8FC would of been off the air much sooner and for much longer than planned.
A membership of 700 or so and it took a non member to offer any help.
Here is a video I made of one of our repair afternoons.
VP8RAF – Falklands Exped
I kept on at it regardless of the lack of support from some quarters with an DXEXPED to the Falkland Islands.
This had been talked about a lot but again, nobody took it any further than just that.
The society received a request from Bob VP8LP to see if any of the military ARS would like to participate in a special event in the Falklands. The event was to commemorate 100 years since the Battle for the Falklands.
It took me nearly 9 months of constant emails and phone calls to get the exped of the ground as we were taking some of my students along on the trip and also some RAFARS members as well.
The exped was a great success with a sack load of QSO’s in the bag and a chance to actually use my own VP8 callsign (VP8DNU).
Here is some footage from the VP8 trip.
Finally throwing in the towel!
My attempts at engaging the membership and trying to drive things forward like long term G8FC maintence were failing. This coupled together with poor band conditions, rude operators on HF, arguments bordering on violence within the society (which led to the resignation of one of the key council members) and a career change all contributed to my dropping of the hobby once again.
It had been a challenge, certainly with a few successes but on the whole I felt a little let down and disappointed with the lack of enthusiasm from both the membership and RAFARS council. The only council member who seemed to share my vision was the one that resigned after an AGM argument. This chap wanted to push things forward in the same way as me, a really nice bloke who was driven away by a stubborn minority.
All of this was more than enough to persuade me to give it all up.
What happend to G8FC?
G8FC still resides at RAF Cosford but is rarely on the air if at all. The HQ building is a disgrace with collapsed internal ceilings, damp and such a lack of general maintenance it’s embarrassing. As of writing this article (December 2016), both HF antennas are unserviceable. The HF beam started to lose tune and the long wire fell down. Annoyingly all of this could of been avoided if my requests for funding and maintenance had been approved instead of been talked about for hours on end in pointless council meetings.
Sadly RAFARS will probably cease to exist in a few years time as the membership dwindles and the money on keeping the society going fades away.
When it happens it will be because of the membership themselves and perhaps the low popularity of Amateur Radio in the UK. I personally didnt see much value in handing over 15 quid a year for what? I magazine now and again! I got my moneys worth with hands on a station that could of been world class but sadly good old G8FC will once again fade back into the wilderness of Amateur Radio.
Thats all folks
So there you have it, I dont do radio anymore as I just don’t find it interesting as I once did. Pissing about with antennas and radios is a chore and I just dont have the time either. My experience not only with RAFARS but operating on the bands has put me off for good.
Maybe someday in the future I will find myself picking it up again but until that day, Id rather have a cup of tea thanks very much.
Good Luck and 73s de Martin G7FTN / VP8DNU
Oh, here is the full playlist of all my videos produced.