By Geoff A4AFJ
Further to Jack's fascinating article about the commissioning of GB3LE all those years ago. Much of what Jack related was not known to me or I had forgotten more like! I do remember the dismantling of the mast from the top of the warehouse. It was hair raising to watch, never mind actually doing it. The only problem was that my memory suggested that there was something wrong with the dates quoted. So I have dug out my logbooks and looked at the RMC/RMG/RWG records of RSGB. RWG was the Repeater Working Group of the RSGB set up in 1975 to facilitate the processing of repeater applications with the Home Office as the licensing authority in those days. It eventually became the Repeater Management Group (RMG) and last year became the Repeater Management Committee (RMC). I served as secretary from 1979 to 1988 and then became Chairman until January 1997.
The first repeater in the UK was GB3PI licensed in 1971 on 2 metres.
The first UHF repeater was GB3PY licensed on a 2MHz split but not in the current part of the band. If I remember correctly it was output on 433.350 and input on 431.350. The problem with this arrangement was that it could not be used in the northern part of England as the lower segment of the band was not allowed to amateurs due to the early warning radar station at Fylingdales. This was prior to the agreement with the MoD on the use of the RB channels i.e. our present system. The RU system (the reverse of our present system) could not be used because of objections raised by the MoD.
The Leicestershire Repeater Group was formed in 1975 with the purpose of putting on a 2 metre repeater in Leicestershire (proposed call sign GB3CF!) but, unfortunately at that time, there were a number of problems associated with urban 2 metre repeaters which can be summed up in one word - abuse! As a result the RSGB negotiated with the licensing authority that there should be a system of UHF repeaters with a more local coverage area. A 100km square rule for VHF repeaters i.e. one repeater per 100km square had been laid down as a guideline for VHF units. For UHF repeaters RSGB was able to negotiate a 33km guideline and in 1976 invited applications for a batch to be submitted to them for licensing.
The Leicestershire Repeater Group was extremely unfortunate in that they very narrowly missed the deadline for UHF phase 1 which was licensed in 1976 and so had to wait for about 15 months for phase II to be licensed. Phase I included GB3ME at Rugby and GB3CI in Corby. In those days batches of 10 or so repeaters were, at the licensing authorities insistence, submitted in batches at very infrequent intervals! Such was the interval that the first UHF batch was licensed in mid 1976 and the second batch was not licensed until October 1977. Nowadays they are submitted in monthly batches and take a few months to be processed so things have improved considerably over the last twenty years on the repeater-licensing scene as a result of the persistence of RSGB.
GB3LE became operational on Saturday 15th October 1977. The other East Midlands repeaters GB3DY and GB3NM came on a few days before on October 13th 1977. A new era in mobile communications in the East Midlands had begun!
Eventually after a lot of negotiations between the RSGB and the HO it was agreed that further VHF repeaters could be licensed and on 31/12/78 GB3CF eventually became operational. Again a lot of midnight oil burning took place down the hole. This time we were greatly indebted to the efforts of G3MYI who almost lived down there!