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Cyril Vahtrick – Passed Away 2/1/2017 – Aged 93 Years

03 Jan 17
Peter Bull

Morrie O’Connor (MO’C) and Cyril’s son, Richard Vahtrick, have passed on the sad news that Cyril has succumbed to the illness that has apparently been negatively impacting his health for some time.

Cyril’s wife, Maisie, has not been well for some time leaving Richard and his sister, Ann, to comfort Maisie and make the funeral arrangements as well as look to her health and well-being for the longer term.

Cyril was well known and well respected in the OTC family and we all mourn his loss but are reminded of him and his personal and professional qualities through our many memories of him.

I believe that Richard and MO’C will pass on details of the funeral arrangements once they have been finalised and I will keep you advised.

Please send and personal tributes that you would like me to pass on to Cyril’s family and for use on the OTVA web site.

May He Rest In Peace.


  1. Peter Bull January 3, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    From Tom Barker’s Nomination of Cyril for Life Membership of the OTVA.

    Cyril was a staunch supporter of the OTVA since its inception.

    Cyril was part of the original team of talented men that founded OTC in 1946 and created the history that Australia has experienced and contributed to so richly in international telecommunications.

    OTC was formed in 1946 and it faced the challenge of equipping Australia to deal with the Melbourne Olympics in 1956 less than 10 years away. Cyril was one of the group of brilliant young engineers whose task was to add to the Beam Radio HF services which operated out of Ballan and Rockbank in Victoria and Applecross and Bassendean in Western Australia.

    The construction of HF Radio stations ay Doonside and Bringelly was vital to that task and those two stations bore the brunt of the radio traffic generated during the 1956 Olympics to OTC’s great credit.

    Both Cyril and George Maltby were part of a team that included memorable names like Trevor Houseley, Bob Long, Ron Knightley, Jack Hanson and many others who played significant roles in international negotiations and engineering initiatives that made Australia a lead player in this new and exciting era.

    Both Cyril and George were very much engaged in the international meetings which saw the inevitable transition from the “British” Commonwealth network to the much more truly “international” organisations and networks, Intelsat and Inmarsat.

    Both Cyril and George were loyal advocates and architects of Australia’s roles (via OTC) in all of these momentous events and both were staunch supporters of the OTVA and its membership throughout their careers.

    We should be very proud to have had Cyril as a life member of our association.

  2. Peter Bull January 3, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    Nov/Dec ’83 Transit,
    Cyril Vahtrick retired as Deputy General Manager of the Commission on 25 November.

    Cyril enjoyed a distinguished career with OTC, and was very active in the international telecommunications arena.

    After service with the RAAF during WWIl, he resumed studies at Sydney University and graduated in 1947 with B.Sc Maths, Physics.

    Eight years later, after gaining experience with Amalgamated Wireless Valve Co. and the Department of Civil Aviation,

    Cyril joined OTC as Senior Engineer responsible for the Doonside and Bringelly radio station installations.

    Two years later, as Supervising Engineer (Planning) he was a member of a study team investigating the establishment of repeater submarine telephone cable systems. This led to his becoming a member of the Joint Submarine
    Systems Development Unit in London, 1960.

    In the early 60s, Cyril had responsibility for the oversight of planning and construction of the COMPAC cable, as well as SEACOM a few years later. His
    responsibilities included the cable stations at Cairns, Madang and
    Guam, and the overseas terminal at Paddington.

    From cables to satellites, Cyril represented OTC at various international
    meetings which established the International Telecommunications
    Satellite Organisation (INTELSAT) and he sat on the INTELSAT Interim Committee throughout the formative years of the organisation, 1964-69.

    In 1967, as Assistant General Manager (Technical), he was responsible for all planning and engineering construction work in OTC, including the satellite earth
    stations at Carnarvon, Moree and Ceduna.

    In 1973, Cyril was appointed Deputy General Manager of OTC.

    After that date Cyril represented OTC as a member of the Management Committees for the TASMAN and A-PNG cables, and at international meetings to establish the International Maritime Satellite Organisation (INMARSAT). He was a foundation INMARSAT Council member in 1979-80.

    The $400m ANZCAN project was the biggest submarine cable project ever
    attempted at the time this article was written. Cyril was a member of the ANZCAN Management Committee 1980-83.

    Cyril was an Australian representative at planning meetings for a proposed submarine cable “from Singapore, via the Middle East, to Europe.
    Several functions were organised by Cyril during the days leading up to his retirement, mainly by friends who wanted to wish him and his wife, Maisie, good luck in their future; and an official farewell function was organised at OTC House 25 November.

    The article states that Cyril was very popular possessing an ability to communicate at all levels within the business.

  3. Peter Bull January 4, 2017 at 6:49 am

    CV was the epitome of a 100% OTC person, as I’m sure you’ll all agree.

  4. Peter Bull January 4, 2017 at 6:49 am

    He was a gentleman of the old school. I accompanied him once to a meeting in
    Singapore, and consequently was able to stay at the Shangri-La Hotel; “The
    Shang” was otherwise off limits for mortals lesser than Cyril.

    George Kennedy

  5. Peter Bull January 4, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    This is a sad loss indeed!

    Cyril Vahtrick will always be remembered, by all who knew him, as a true
    and unaffected gentleman.
    No doubt his family will deeply feel the loss of ‘one of the best!

    Rest In Peace Cyril!

    Len Wylde
    (Rtd Customer Relations Mgr. 1990)

  6. Peter Bull January 5, 2017 at 9:30 am

    It was sad to read that Cyril Vahtrick had passed away. He was in the
    interviewing committee which selected five of us to become OTC cadet
    engineers back in 1958, and over the years I had the opportunity and luck to
    work for him in various positions in OTC. On all these occasions I was
    impressed by his sharp mind, his excellent memory and his ability to see
    “the large picture”, as well as his management and leadership skills. He
    was certainly one of the best engineers with whom it has been my pleasure to
    work. Besides, he was a very human person, a real gentleman, who was always held in high regard by others, especially in various international fora.
    May I express my wife’s Laima’s and my sincerest condolences to Cyril’s wife
    Maisie and to their family.
    Guntis (“Ģus”) Berzins in Riga, Latvia

  7. Peter Bull January 5, 2017 at 9:39 am

    To Maisie, Ann, Richard & family

    Please accept my condolences on the passing of Cyril. Maisie must be really upset trying to deal with her great loss. Losing her life partner at her age and her state of health must be very distressing. I visited them in late 2015 and I remember thinking how wonderful they were together but their dependence upon each other was evident.
    Cyril was a wonderful person and a great supporter of OTC and the OTVA. He was a very intelligent man and was largely responsible for OTC’s success in communications engineering in its early decades. He was a great mentor to many of us and a source of motivation and encouragement to many others. He will be remembered fondly by those who knew him. He had an impact upon many lives
    Peter Bull

  8. Peter Bull January 6, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    I was saddened to hear of the passing of Cyril, a very well-respected
    member of the OTC family. It was a privilege for my late husband Gray
    MacDonald and I to have shared so many occasions with Cyril and Maisie over
    the years – both on a professional level with Gray, and on a social level
    with the many get-togethers we all shared.

    Always a true gentleman, I’m sure he will be fondly remembered by all.

    Please pass on my sincere condolences to Maisie and his family for their

    Bev. MacDonald

  9. Peter Bull January 10, 2017 at 9:24 am

    Tribute Provided by Peter Meulman at Cyril Funeral Service.

    I am sure most of you would know that Cyril spent much of
    his professional life with the Overseas Telecommunications
    Commission which was the organisation responsible for
    Australia’s international communications services from 1946
    to the early 1990s. I joined the organisation a couple of
    years after Cyril and have had the privilege of knowing him
    and Maisie for more than 50 years.
    Along with such people as Trevor Housley, Bob Long and
    Graham Gosewinckel who are no longer with us Cyril led
    Australia’s participation in
    – the first transpacific telephone cable, COMPAC and many
    other cables which followed;
    – INTELSAT, the global satellite communications system
    – INMARSAT, the global maritime satellite system.
    These are just acronyms now and some are no longer in
    use but each represents long and arduous periods of
    negotiations of multinational treaties and contracts over
    periods of years.
    Through these negotiations Cyril established a wide circle of
    friends and colleagues throughout the world and he had an
    enviable reputation as a deep and logical thinker and a fair
    minded negotiator who could be relied upon to remain cool
    and calm under all circumstances. He had a wonderful way
    with words that could make all the negotiating parties feel
    like winners.
    One of the hazards, or privileges depending on how you
    look at it, of our chosen careers was international travel.
    I often found myself in Cyril’s company far from home.
    On one such occasion in the early 1970s I almost saw Cyril
    lose his proverbial cool.
    We were on a trip to Kuwait for one of the conferences
    leading to the formation of INMARSAT and it was a bit of a
    first for both of us as no one in our organisation had ever
    traveled into the Middle East.
    Before leaving home we took travel advice from Foreign
    Affairs and among other things we were told emphatically
    “NO ALCHOHOL, it’s illegal to even have it in your
    As a couple of conservative conformists we downed our last
    beers on the flight into Kuwait and prepared for a week of
    dry argument and orange juice.
    At the airport we were met in the arrivals hall by our friend
    Nick al Nakib , an ex patriate Iraqi with a Scottish accent,
    who was our host for the meeting.
    Nick escorted us through customs, no inspections -Nick was
    Collector of Customs! No need to get your bags either,
    they’ll be delivered to your room!
    We were taken to the hotel suite the Kuwaitis had booked
    for Cyril as Chairman of the meeting. Here Nick
    administered his coup-de grace, would you like a beer?
    He then goes to a large chest of drawers and heaves open
    a very heavy drawer to reveal a collection of 60 or more
    cans of beer with labels from every corner of the globe. Nick
    explained that he was “Collector of Customs” in Kuwait and
    this was beer confiscated from visiting ships.This
    contraband was a gift for Cyril.
    When Nick departed I could see that Cyril had a dilemma.
    Here he was stuck with a drawer full of illegal liquor in his
    He couldn’t give it back without causing offence.
    He couldn’t throw it away or give it away.
    He didn’t want the other delegates to think the Australians
    had brought their own booze!
    He would have to think about it.
    Next morning the conference got under way and we had
    other things on our minds. The agenda was almost as dry
    as the desert outside and by close of business Cyril’s
    problem solved itself in a highly predictable way.
    We would just have to drink it all.
    No need to think after all!
    So we Australians invited other reliable delegates to share
    an after work tipple on each evening of the conference. We
    carefully put the empties back in the drawer every night so
    that the hotel staff would remain ignorant! MAYBE!
    There is a postscript too. On the last night of the conference
    when our supplies had run out the Kuwaiti Minister for
    Communications invited all the delegates and local
    conference staff to a cocktail party which was officially dry.
    In fact it played out like a scene from Yes Minister with a
    facade of non-alcoholic drinks and the real stuff (also
    confiscated from visiting ships by the Collector of Customs)
    being administered to all from behind the scenes.
    Cyril and I departed for home on a midnight flight leaving
    lots of potential sore heads behind but with a wonderful
    admiration for the power of the Collector of Customs.
    The success of OTC did not belong to anyone person but
    Cyril was a huge contributor.
    Cyril and Maisie with the help of many others promoted a
    sharing and caring culture among his work colleagues and
    their families.
    Many of us here still feel beneficiaries of that culture.
    To Maisie and the family I can say that his former colleagues
    understand your loss. It is our loss too. Cyril will long be
    remembered for his contribution to global
    Well done Cyril.
    You have enriched all of our lives.

  10. Peter Bull January 12, 2017 at 9:29 am

    I am currently in the USA and learnt the sad news of Cyril Vahtrick’s passing. I have many rewarding memories of working with Cyril since I first joined OTC in 1978. I was well aware of Cyril’s fame before my first meeting with him, especially his frontier work in the RAAF and radar in the WWII and subsequently in OTC. When we first met, the interview consisted of a sequence of challenging counter-intuitive technical propositions which gave rise to a lively if somewhat stressful discussion. Over the years, I had many such discussions with Cyril and his well-developed ability for lateral thinking, which I enjoyed and always learnt from.

    I was fortunate to accompany Cyril and Peter Meulman on my first international visit, to the historic and rather chaotic first meeting of the Inmarsat Board. Among a storm of political manoeuvring by several of the major parties, Cyril stood out as a figure of leadership and insight, hugely respected by all. I learnt a great deal from this experience.

    Cyril was a giant of the international telecommunications industry, during a period of dramatic developments in both technology and international networks. He was always wonderful company and a gifted leader. We will miss him.

    Chris Vonwiller

  11. Peter Bull January 17, 2017 at 11:52 am

    Thanks for your advice re Cyril’s sad passing and the comprehensive summary of his life. I have always admired Cyril both for his personality and management skills. Very sad passing.
    Peter Warrilow

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