THE HOBBY OF AMATEUR RADIO AND HAMS OF THE INDIAN DEFENCE SERVICES.
India is a vast country with sizeable land, sea and air-space, to defend. We have a well established Defence force with the three important wings like the Army, Navy and the Air Force. The other assisting services are those like the Indo Tibetan Border Police, Border Security Force, Coast Guard, etc.
Amateur radio in India, began in the pre-independance days, with a few civilians and a few army men, taking to this hobby. The civilian has lots of free time to pursue a hobby apart from his profession. The man in the Services, is bound for all the 24hours a day in the service of his nation, and seldom finds some time to take a hobby and pursue it. If a few, from the services took up amateur radio as a hobby, it must be quite a great effort of theirs which is highly commendable. Several Officers of the forces, have guided their men, and have emphasised about the need of a self educating hobby. Only this quality among the leadership made some keen amateur radio operators in the Services.
The army, in the course of their exercises, have to go about in all kinds of seasons, terrain and testing times to get trained and toughened. After such exercises, if the time, the leadership and the occasion permits, an amateur radio expedition can also result. Such have been the cases, and you will read about one or two all army-men expeditions in this write-up. The Armed Forces, in the peace time, take to attending the Disaster management in the natural calamities like earthquakes, regular floods, tsunamis, and controlling of riot/law and order situations on the request of the Central/State authorities. The Army personnel who helped at Port Blair, during the earthquke and Tsunami in December 2004, went unnoticed, as the Armyman has to serve and sacrifice only, and never crave for a name or fame, which is left to the ordinary mortals. I, as a civilian, cannot ignore the tremendous work done by the Services during the War and in the peace times.
In India, the greatest number of amateur radio operators are from Indian Army, and Air Force is in the middle, and the Navy is at the tail end, for the obvious reasons. The Air Force and Navy use sensitive wireless/electronic communications for their regular work, as such, many times, have not permitted operations of amateur radio, with the fear that it may jeopardise the security and interfere with their own communications in the base and on board the war ships. This may be based on the fact that the signals from an amateur radio station, may, at times, radiate harmonic emissions,or other spurious signals, on the amateur bands, and rarely out-of-the bands.
So far, in India, we do not have any complaints about an amateur radio operator's signal interfering with the signals of other services. But, the reverse, is true, as a Monitor, I have observed, logged and reported many such signals of the government departments interfering with amateur signals inside amateur bands.
The International allocation of amateur radio frequency bands are well defined ranges, mostly harmonically related, with least possibility of interfering with other signals.
2. Amateur Radio Operators of ARMY:
The post Independence Era, saw quite a number of native VU amateur radio operators from the Army with a few keen Expeditioners too.
Lt Gen. Umrao Singh VU2US, Maj.Gen. R.Z.Kabraji. AVSM, VU2BK,Brig. Leslie King, VU2AK, Brig. B.M.Ckakravorty VU2BM, were the leading names of hams from the top ranking Officers of the Army.
Lt.Gen.K.Umrao Singh,VU2US (SK) inspired by Maj.Gen, Kabraji VU2BK, and with Brig. P.S. Gill VU2PS, and Maj. T.A. Ramakrishnan VU2TN, gave the world of DXers a new country: "Bhutan", in 1962, in the All-Army DXpedition, assisted by the Amateur Radio Society of India (ARSI). The beauty of this expedition was that home brewed gear and a Cubical quad antenna was used. The use of a cubical quad for an expedition is very unusual and never heard of, even now. The QTH was Yembola, 4000 ft high, 20 miles south of Tashigangdzong.. The call sign was "VU2US/AC5". The QSOs were meticulously logged and QSLs were sent scrupulously. The team used 20 and 15mb for the QSOs. The very rare and invaluable log is still with OM Zal VU2DK.
Another expedition followed much later, to the Lakshadweep Islands. The call sign this time was, "VU7US". That was by, Lt Gen. K.Umrao Singh VU2US who led this ARSI sponsored DXpedition in April 1971 with Col. R.S.Kalha VU2RK, Maj. Haveli Ram VU2HV, Karta Ram VU2KM and V Ananthanarayana VU2QM. A number of long distance contacts were made in this Expedition and the note worthy QSOs were with JY1 (King) Hussain (SK) and JY2 (Queen) Muna his XYL (SK), and several Ws. The whereabouts of the log is not known.
The many contemporaries of Kab, were a well-knit fraternity of amateur radio operators, who were distinguished Officers of the Army. I fail in my detailing, here, if I forget the well-known few, like the following:
Maj.Gen.V.Rangaswami . VRC, BAR. VU2EVR (SK).A keen ham in late 90s. Gen.Rangaswami was a well decorated Officer of the Army Medical Corps . Had the distinction of being an active paratrooper. Was active in SSB, and performed Para Jumping at various Indian cities.
Maj.Gen.S.G.Vombatkere. VU2DY. (earlier VU2DAY) Gen.Sudhir was responsible for building one of the highest highways and a few steel bridges when at Leh.
Maj.Gen.Kunwar Bhagwati Singh. (SK), VU2IB,--Brother of VU2US-Gen.Bhagwati Singh was the first officer to pass out from the IMA at Dehra Dun. Was an active Para trooper of the Army..the only Ham to become the Director General of Civil Defence in Delhi
Brig.H.H.Sukhjit Singh.MVC. ( 9th Maharaja Of Kapurthala)(rarely active) Brig.Sukhjit Singh is another highly decorated officer of the 14 Horse (Scinde Horse)of Armoured Corps, Educated at Doon School ,Graduated from IMA Dehra Dun, and was commissioned in 1954. He attended Staff College, Wellington, and the Joint Services Staff College, Latimer,U.K. Won his MVC on 11th Dec 1971 for his bravery in the Indo-Pak war of 1971. He is a Platinum Cavalier.
Brig.Minoo N. Patel (SK)-- VU2JM, Active till early 80s-Brig.Minoo Patel was one of the first persons to develop the electrical musical organ.--He was a clever Engineer of the Corps of Engineers.
Brig. B.M.Chakravorty VU2BM, was instrumental in lot of amateur radio activity in Bangalore city in the 60s. He was quite active, and his XYL Asha, was the first to get the call VU2YL, much before Audrey. The Electronics and Radar Development Establishment.,LRDE club station VU2TE, was well known for the operator Nambi VU2TD who put his regular AM signal, on 40metres and other bands. Several SWLs continuously monitored the technical topics discussed, and other amateurs were regular in rag-chewing with him.
Brig.Leslie King (SK)- VU2AK. Well known ham through all the years; Was active from Bangalore in SSB, with XYL Audrey VU2YL;LES KING and VU2BK were great home-brewers.They dodged official PT classes for building new gizmos.
Col Bhanu Kumar Rai, VU2RB, was a former Secretary to Government of India, 3rd Graduates Course of the IMA Signals Regiment, Premature Retirement in 1970, B Tech from I T BHU, Post Gradute from IISc Bangalore, Worked as Founder Chairman of UPTRON group, HCL and over 20 other companies. Distinguished fellow of IETE, INAE; Chairman of the Electronics group (BEL, ITI, MTNL, BSNL, ECIL , CMC etc)..Was for seven years Chairman of the Services group (STC, MMTC, PEC,ITPO, ITDC etc.), Director of the Hotline Group of Companies for 16 years. Now settled in Bangalore. Was instrumental in setting up the club station VU2UPT, at Lucknow. He is the only VU to have had a QSO on the air, with Lord Mountbatten while he was using a VS7 call from Ceylon and then an eye-ball QSO when came to India.
Lt.Col. Dady Major, VU2MD, and Maj.Gen Kabraji VU2BK, were the flag bearers of VUs in CW mode. The world knows them for their regularity and good CW. VU2MD had a flair for DXCC and Award Hunting. He had very rare awards with him, all for CW endorsement, which no one else had at that time. We are unfortunate that we did not see him achieve honour roll in DXCC. He had 295+ countries , all in CW only, when he became a silent key. We donot know the present condition of those precious awards and the custodian.
Maj.Ken Gillon VU2CD. Was active in the 50s,migrated to VK land. Ken was another one trained by VU2BK Ken did work on the ancient History of the Corps of Signals.
There may be many more from the other ranks, whom, I have not come across or heard of.
I feel sorry for missing their call signs, details, activities, and whereabouts.
3. Apart from their personal amateur radio stations, some of the Army Officers were quick to establish Club stations in Army Establishments, so that the "state-of-the-art hobby" can be demonstrated, other Officers and ranks could get trained and practise amateur radio communications.
There were two Army club stations, one each at Mhow (Military Headquarters Of War) "VU2SS"and at Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun,"VU2MA" and a third at a Civilian centre at Bangalore with the call VU2TD..
3.1 VU2SS-- The Amateur Radio Club of India , ARCI, was started and located at MHOW,,in Madhya Pradesh. The call sign of the Club station was VU2SS, the suffix telling that it is the School of Signals. After an organisation to represent amateur radio operators was formed, the ARCI moved in May 1954, to Delhi as Amateur Radio Society of India, ARSI. But, VU2SS remained at Mhow only.
VU2SS was very active working local and DX stations too. The call was famously known in DX circles with the nick name VU2 SUFFERING SUSSIE !! The signals of this station with Officers and other ranks at the Key/Mike, was famous round the world.The reason for this activity was the Standing Instructions of the Commanding Officer that the Club station should be on the air regularly. The only time all this changed for the worse, was when all and sundry, started applying for the club ticket\WPC changed the rule and laid down that the club operator must hold hold his own valid licence...Even then, the activity was possible as quite a few, had their own call signs in those years. But, it became an irregular feature, as officers and other ranks used to get posted out of Mhow, and thus, the club would lie idle.
In the late 60s, Capt. Shivaswamy VU2GK, took a lot of interest and got the Club going in his tenure there. Back to square one, after he was posted out, to lie IDLE.
As years went by, it became worse. Thus, this club with huge collection of technical equipment and expertise, as the Military College of Telecommunications Engineering , one of the best in the world, is lying idle.
3.2 VU2MA---Came into existence after the Authorities saw VU2SS and its usefulness.They wanted the Gentlemen Cadets passing out of Indian Military Academy, at Dehra Dun, to have interest in a good hobby. It worked because quite a few Army hams came up after that, but, the WPC rules made this club also go idle. The last I saw VU2MA, was in 1975, when the station was looked after by Maj. .Appachchu. They had an RCA BC-610 transmitter and dipole antenna. BC 348, SX-28, and other receivers.
It may not be out of place to recall that the station ET3MA, was started in Ethiopia, after their trainees at IMA, had seen the club station VU2MA in action
3.3 VU2TD---The third club station in the 50s and 60s was with the call VU2TD, located at the LRDE\Electronics and Radar Development Establishment at Bangalore. The station was very well operated by one Nambi, and the QSOs of this club had lots of technical details. It was very well known among other amateurs and SWLs for the fine AM signals. This office is now a part of the DRDO ( Defence Research and Development Organisation) .But, the club station does not exist any more.
When these Clubs were active , great interest was shown by SWLs, hams and everyone of Designers for various experiments, designing and home brewing.-Terrific ham spirit was involved, so much so, we as youngsters got highly motivated in the hobby, after seeing all such activities and encouragements.
The WPC rules stipulate that a permanent employee of the Organisation, with a Grade I licence, should be in-charge, and custodian of the club station. As all the Army Officers and other ranks get frequent transfers, this condition forced on the Defence Services Club Stations too, brought the club activity to a standstill.
The forces which fight for the country's security, sovereignty and freedom, is thus deprived of educating its fighters in practical two way communications, in the times of peace.
4. Amateur Radio Operators of AIR FORCE:
From the elite Air Force, there was NO amateur, either a British or a native, ever active, in the pre-Independence era. But, Air Cdr.V.Subramanian.VU2UV, was well known, after the Independence, for his work in VHF/UHF/HF communications . The Air Force, had more other ranks, very active, in peace stations, than the Officer Cadre. The most famous among them was MWO P.M.Subramaniam VU2SU, who was very active in all peace stations of Air Force, mostly in CW, using a home brew Tx with 807s and a bug key, with a BC 342 receiver.and a simple half wave dipole for the antenna.. He made India, well known among the Russians, as he never refused any one a QSO. I had personally visited him in Chandigarh, Halwara and Barnala Air Force stations. Seeing him operating in CW mode using a bug, inspired me to take up CW and remain a CW fan for ever. Then, there was Cpl. T.V.George, VU2TV, who was briefly operational, from Bombay. He was well known for his highly technical work of triple conversion of a BC348 with a final IF of 85 kHz. He was famous, more as a designer, than an operator.
Adolf,VU2AF., Marcus, VU2VTM, Gururaj VU2GUR, Murthy VU2MOKtheir amateur radio activities came up after their retirement from the Air Force, and they are very active, in training new comers and in SSB/CW operations.
N.R.Gopal VU2GO, was from the No.3, GTS of Air Force,Bangalore. Gopal too made a few QSOs during the Service life and hundreds of QSOs, after he took retirement.
The postings in the forward areas, made all these operators go QRT, as operating an amateur radio station was restricted for the Security Reasons. Keeping this in mind, the only Air Force operator, who never took an amateur radio operator's licence, but, remained an SWL, with a High Speed CW capability, all through his career, is MWO Viswanathan, who brought name and fame to the Indian Amateurs, by sending his "de SWL- VU-0020" reports to over 320 countries, and has about 300 + confirmed countries, with QSLs. This is a very unique achievement. Whoever, has attended the recent Hamfests, would not have missed the beautiful albums of his QSLs, sorted by DXCC, IOTA, ARLHS, FIRAC, etc.,. Unfortunately, the latest trend in the National Society and the Ministry, is to DROP this SWL category altogether. Alas, they do not know that in several countries, unless an SWL proves his activity, he can never get a transmitting licence of his own. The Iron Curtain countries encouraged the SWLs to operate an amateur club transmitter, under the guidance of the Chief of the Club, who was inavariably a "Master of Radio Sport".
5. Amateur Radio Operators of NAVY:
Among the Navy men, the very first one, heard with lot of activity was Cdr. Harkirat Singh VU3HKQ, who was very active from various cities of India, and was QRV from Dakshin Gangotri., the Antarctic Research Base Station of India. The second amateur from Navy was again, Lt.Cdr.M.S. Prakash, VU2MSW, who was more active in Maitri base(1991-93) .
6 Amateur radio Operators of OTHER SERVICES:
Very few are there, in the BSF, CRPF, SPG, NSG, etc., whose details and activities are not known at the moment. I remember only one call and that is of Om Praksh Sharma, VU2OPS, who was in one of these services.
7. The P&T Strike of 1960:
During the All india P&T Strike in 1960, quite a few amateurs from the Army and the Civilians helped the Government, in handling the Telegraph traffic from different cities, clearing the messages, on an All India basis. Kab VU2BK, Les VU2AK, Haveli Ram VU2HV, Ram VU2TN, and others from the Army, with many forgotten Civilians, stood the ground, proved the worth of Amateur Radio, in all seriousness to the government.
8. Maritime Expeditions by Army Officers:
Among the maritime expeditions, sea expeditions/voyages, the two famous ones using the "Trishna" Swan class boat , one with the command of Brig. A.P.Singh, S.M,Bar,VSM,O.M., with the amateur call VU2 ???. The other one with Lt.Col. Sandeep Kapur. Call: VU2??????, in the period 1999-2000, are well known. One was around the world and the other was in South East Asia only. It is interesting to note that Army Officers had the amateur radio calls in a maritime expedition and successfully completed the voyages, as planned, and several civil amateurs from India, kept tracking and communicating with them.
9. I am highly grateful to OM Zal, VU2DK for all the help, without which, this writeup would not have been possible.
| THE HOBBY OF AMATEUR RADIO AND
HAMS OF THE INDIAN DEFENCE SERVICES |
| Who Is/Was Who of Indian Defence Services | Maj.Gen. R.Z.Kabraji VU2BK |