Bill Marsh Snr. – Part Two

Wjm001

tribute to new zealand dxer bill marsh snr, holder of the NZRDXL record of 10 sabc stations confirmed on mediumwave

Invercargill to South Africa

These lines were penned by Bill Marsh (Junior) in 2013 who was himself a DXer for a few years either side of 1960.

Over the period from July 1949 to June 1955 Bill listened to, and wrote reports to, 14 South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) stations operating on the medium wave band from his home location of 429 Elles Road South, Invercargill. All stations were logged on a Hallicrafters S18 communications receiver using a 400 foot long antenna orientated in a WSW direction. The direction of this aerial was absolutely ideal for short path reception of radio signals from South Africa. All stations were logged during the shorter months of the year namely April through August. All stations were heard between the hours of 6.30 am and 7.30 am NZ Standard Time with a couple of exceptions being up to 2 hours earlier. It is very likely that he stumbled on his first logging in 1949, being Bloemfontein on 620 kc, quite by accident. I recall him telling me that in most cases the reception of the signals he received, was during a time when the band was otherwise dead. Most DXers faced with this prospect would have gone back to bed. Usually at these times the band would have been alive with Europeans. He ventured to say that he thought propagation was at a time when magnetic waves emanating from the South Pole were at a minimum. The short path signal between Invercargill and South Africa would take a path just north of the Antarctica. It is also thought that adverse weather conditions occurred namely snow at either end of the reception path. A neighbour of ours was a full time radio operator for the NZPO Ship to Shore radio complex at Awarua Radio. He often commented that Awarua Radio was the only one of the NZPO Ship Shore stations in New Zealand that could have reliable and regular contact with shipping sailing up the west coast of Africa. Over time Bill got to recognise what to look out for and hence his success in verifying 10 stations. From what I recall him saying signals would come up out of the blue with a sort of fluttering or whooshing sound, then become audible and understandable then disappear as fast as they appeared. Other DXers would have experienced something similar when logging South Americans on broadcast. This achievement was generally recognised within the NZRDXL as a New Zealand record and thought by some to be a world record. This is a record that will likely stand for all time, with the introduction of FM broadcasting on the 1st September 1961 the next decade saw a massive roll-out of this service all over South Africa and this resulted in a massive decline of broadcasting on the medium wave band. Although he verified some very low power stations in his time, this was to become his most outstanding achievement in the hobby of DX. It is very possible that he could have extended this tally further but for the fact that during this time frame he was heavily involved in the construction of approximately 17 super DX receivers to become known as the “Marsh Specials” for fellow DXers. He spent many long hours in the radio workshop during this time at the expense of time tuning the dial. He also became disillusioned with the hobby sometime just before 1960 preferring just to listen and not log.

The following is the chronological order in which these stations were heard and logged:

  1. 30th July 1949 – Bloemfontein 620 kc – verified, Special Mention see “Extracts” below

  2. 8th April 1951 – Durban 665 kc – verified,

  3. 1st May 1951 – East Rand 1025 kc – not verified,

  4. 14th June 1952 – Bloemfontein 809 kc – verified,

  5. 2nd August 1952 – Johannesburg 728 kc – verified,

  6. 3rd August 1952 – Port Elizabeth 773 kc – not verified,

  7. 21st August 1952 – Grahamstown 602 kc – not verified,

  8. 21st August 1952 – Johannesburg 836 kc – verified,

  9. 28 March 1953 – Pietermaritzburg 701 kc – verified, Awarded NZRDXL Best of Month Broadcast (Senior) – Certificate misplaced.

  10. 2nd August 1953 – Capetown 557 kc – verified,

  11. 29th August 1953 – Pietersburg 863 kc – verified,

  12. 30th August 1953 – Port Elizabeth 773 kc – possibly verified see “Extracts” below,

  13. 2nd June 1955 – Pretoria 1268 kc – verified, Consolation Best of Month, Southland branch

  14. 5th June 1955 – Pretoria 1439 kc – verified.

I have no doubts in my mind that the stations that were not verified were actually heard as he was a very honest man. Given the strange propagation conditions at the time of reception it is very likely that these were the only significant signals on the band.

At least two other Invercargill DXers that I know of logged stations at 429 Elles Road and had them verified. Des Frampton logged 1 or perhaps 2 SABC stations. Des Smith logged at least 1 SABC station. It is very likely that Peter Chin logged at least 1 SABC station as our home was his second home. Reference to NZRDXL ladder charts shows Peter with a high African Continent tally so it is very likely that he verified more than one at his second home.

The following photo gallery of verifications and certificates awarded follows the above chronological order.

SABC 01 Bloefontein 620 kc copy

#1 SABC Bloemfontein 620kc QSL

SABC 01b Bloefontein 620 kc

NZRDXL Best of the Month – Bloemfontein 620kc

SABC 01a Bloefontein 620 kc

Southland Branch Best of the Month SABC Bloemfontein 620 kc

SABC 02 Durban 665 kc copy

#2 SABC Durban 665kc QSL

SABC 02a Durban 665 kc

NZRDXL Best of the Month SABC Durban 665 kc

SABC 03 Bloefontein 809 kc copy

#3 SABC Bloemfontein 809 kc QSL

SABC 03a Bloefontein 809 kc

NZRDXL Best of the Month SABC Bloemfontein 809kc

SABC 04 Johannesburg 728 kc copy

#4 SABC Johannesburg 728 kc QSL

SABC 04a Johannesburg 728 kc

Southland Branch Best of the Month SABC Johannesburg 728 kc

SABC 05 Johannesburg 836 kc copy

#5 SABC Johannesburg 836 kc QSL

SABC 05a Johannesburg 836 kc

Southland Branch Best of the Month SABC Johannesburg 836 kc

SABC 06 Pietermaritzburg 701 kc copy

#6 SABC Pietrmaritzburg 701 kc QSL

SABC 07 Capetown 557 kc copy

#7 SABC Capetown 557 kc QSL

SABC 07a Capetown 557 kc

NZRDXL Best of the Month SABC Capetown 557 kc

SABC 08 Pietersburg 863 kc copy

#8 SABC Pietersburg 863 kc QSL

SABC 08a Pietersburg 863 kc

NZRDXL Best of the Month SABC Pietersburg 863 kc

SABC 09 Pretoria 1268 kc copy

#9 SABC Pretoria 1268 kc QSL

SABC 10 Pretoria 1439 kc copy

#10 SABC Pretoria 1439 kc QSL

Footnote:

Unfortunately some of my dad’s cards and certificates may not have survived the test of time. He used to store all his verifications, logbooks and certificates etc in a floor level cupboard in our kitchen. As a youngster this was a great place for me and my two younger sisters to find unusual stamps for our stamp albums. As grandchildren came on the scene this cupboard held a fascination for them also. It is not known how many verifications were lost to little fingers, as his log books have obvious gaps in them and there is no easy way to reconcile his total number of verifications. It is however felt that the incidence of loss if any would be quite small.

Some extracts from old NZRDXL literature:

  1. December 1949. “Kings of the Kilocycles” – …….. We must mention one event of importance – a South African verification for Bill Marsh. Bloemfontein (620) was logged in August before Cario on the same channel came up. He joins the honoured few who have verified South Africa ………

  2. August 1953 ……… Best-of-Months. Broadcast (senior), Bill Marsh, Invercargill, Pietermaritzburg (701) South Africa, 2 kw…………………..

  3. September 1953 …….. Best of Year (Broadcast) Port Elizabeth (773) 2000 w Des Smith ….. (It is known that this station was heard at 429 Elles Road, and as a companion DXer with Bill. Des did a lot of his serious Broadcast DX at our home, as he only had a modest setup at his family home in Nelson Street. This substantiates my suspicions that Bill may have actually verified 11 SABC stations. His log book is not clear for the 30th August logging however. Although showing a report away at this time the verification column is blank. Perhaps this was a classic example of one of the frustrations of companion DXing where the station manager decides only to send out 1 verification)

  4. August 1956 …… Best of Year (Broadcast) Pretoria South Africa (1439) 2000w Des Frampton …. (It is understood that this station was heard at 429 Elles Road on Bill (Snr’s) Hallicrafters. Des did a lot of his Broadcast DX from this location)
G6BW QSL

G6BW Amatuer Radio SWL QSL card

3 responses to “Bill Marsh Snr. – Part Two

  1. Hello James

    Pleased you enjoyed the article. Please contact me through the website should you require further info on the article.

    Regards

    Bill Marsh (Jnr)

  2. Greetings from South Africa!! How lovely to come across this DX material. My late father , Dudley Parry, was a radio engineer at the Bloemfontein studios of the SABC in the late 1940’s until 1960 when he was transferred to Cape Town and it is moving for me to see QSL cards from the SABC from that time. I can remember going there with him in the evening when he sometimes read the regional news and also the stock market reports for ten shillings a time. A colleague of my fathers Alan Horsfall, worked at the Paradys transmitters near Bloemfontein – these broadcast on the shortwave bands. I am also interested in DXing, having built simple radio receivers in the 1960’s whilst at school and then again in the mid 90’s. I have recently acquired a Yaesu FRG 7700 and am using it with great joy, having picked up quite a lot of stations. On my homebrew receiver (the Moorabbin set designed by Peter Parker VK 3YE ) I have picked up the Voice of America on medium wave.
    Best wishes to you all and happy DXing

  3. Pingback: SABC Broadcast Stations In 1943 | radiodx.com

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