Club origins and the first 39 years

This article, by Club President Geoff Ellis G3LFZ spans 39 Years of our club history from (1967 – 2006).

The Society

The inaugural meeting of the Southdown Amateur Radio Society was held in the Gilda Café, Polegate in 1967. Regular monthly meetings followed at the Beachy Head Hotel.

Time dims memories and one forgets now whether it was the elevated situation of the locale, the price of the beer or the prospect of losing membership from such a notorious location that the meetings were changed to the Park Field Hotel, Hampden Park. When, after 5 months, the Park Field landlord gave notice of raising the rent by 300%(!), SARS changed to the Victoria Hotel, Eastbourne in the heart of the guest-house territory where the promise of out-of-season trade became our trump card.

We used the Victoria from October ’68 to March ’77 but sadly the narrow staircase approach to the first floor meeting room precluded attendance by our disabled members who remained confined to the downstairs bar. The change of Victoria Hotel management and the imposition of a massive rent rise to finance building modernisation prompted our next move.

We needed a venue that catered for the needs of the disabled without prejudicing the requirements of the more able-bodied brethren.

Our search was brought to a satisfactory conclusion when one of our members, himself a disabled resident of the Chaseley Homes for Disabled Servicemen negotiated with the CHDS management for use of a room.

Club Shacks

During the early years SARS had a shack at Bushey Wood, Hailsham courtesy of the local Scouting fraternity. A contemporaneous RadCom front cover records the scene amongst the trees.

The transmitter used was a massive 6ft rack-mounted home brew 10-80M AM/CW device with an 813 in the final that ‘toddled’ at 150W and modulated the camp lights if abused!

With the benefits to the Radio Amateur Emergency Network in mind, Dick Jeffries G4KAR negotiated with Wealden District Council Emergency Planning Officer to set up a radio station in shared accommodation at Hailsham Leisure Centre, which serves as shack and committee meeting accommodation.

More recently SARS has acquired gratuitous access to a redundant former NATO communications post on Beachy Head that comprises two short containers, one fitted out as a radio room with elementary refreshment facilities, and the other equipped with a 1.5KW diesel generator.

The site boasts a tilt-over tower, with the elevated site being clear of all obstructions and almost unlimited antenna prospects. It is ideal for VHF contests.

Society Membership and Achievements

The passing years have seen many changes in the committee, and all have left their mark in one way or another. To the best of my knowledge I share a joint honour by holding the post of Chairman the longest: from July ’69 to December ’78, an honour shared with Peter Hayes who served as Treasurer from July ’67 to December ’76.

We could not let Peter Hayes’ generous contribution to the Society in the early years go unmentioned nor unrecorded. Over a period of some ten years Peter hosted the SARS committee meetings at his home in 78, Hawthylands Road, Hailsham until his professional career demanded his presence elsewhere.

By my reckoning that’s about 115 evenings from 1930hrs to 2300hrs (and well past midnight on many occasions) which were always concluded by a mountain of Anne’s delicious gastronomic delights and coffee for twelve. In those days members fought vigorously for a place on the committee!

The Society is indebted to all it’s past and current committee members, and no less to all members who have supported the efforts of those elected to serve them. Special thanks are due to those who have, and continue to organise Contests, R.A.E. instruction, Morse classes, and to Dick G4KAR and others whose endeavours have resulted in the Club rooms we enjoy at Hailsham and elsewhere.

Besides my term as Chairman, it has also been my pleasure to serve as ordinary committee member and Vice-Chairman. From 1976 to date I have been SARS Radio Club de Normandie Liaison Officer, and wish to acknowledge the support shown to me in this capacity. It is said that the greatest expression of acclamation is duplication. As a tribute to our twinning SARS has acquired the call sign G1KAR (to match RCN’s F5KAR and F1KAR), whilst three of our members hold G0KAR, G4KAR, and G7KAR.

Our greatest accolade came in 1988 when East Sussex County Council recognized the contribution of SARS twinning to Anglo-French relationships. At a special ‘Europe Week’ presentation ceremony held in Michelham Priory Barn on Wednesday, 4 May 1988, East Sussex County Council Chairman Noel Mackilligin presented the Southdown Amateur Radio Society with the prestigious Europe Flag for its twinning association with the Radio Club de Normandie.

Another notable twinning achievement of which we are justly proud is the installation of a unique VHF Packet-Radio Link between Normandie and East Sussex provided jointly by members of RCN and SARS. This provides a direct link between the UK and France for all radio amateurs interested in data transmission.

One cannot reminisce over a period of 38 years without also remembering those who are now Silent Key. It can be dangerous to cite individuals lest one in all innocence overlooks other no less worthy persons. However, that said, older members can no doubt recall some of our founders G8KS Les Hill, G2AON Will Allwright, G2FTS Ron Nugent (ZL2APW), G3GZG Norman Chadwick, G3KLX Doug Richey, G3ZFE Mike Welling, SWLs’ Les Tagliaferro, George Townsend, Wally Waterfield, and a host of others.

MW 2.30Polegate High Street with a view of the corner of Gilda Road on the  right, where the Gilda Café used to be back in 1960s