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OTVA Newsletter May 2012

08 Jun 12
Peter Bull
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Overseas Telecommunications Veterans Association



Registered Address: 805/41 Meredith Street BANKSTOWN, 2200

June 2012                       ABN 75 502 170 235


President’s Message                             34

Memories of the DCA RTS                     35

Allan Mason in PNG                              36

Artefacts Collection History                   37

Seacom Tales                                      39

OTC/DCA TiTs Reunion                         40

VALE                                                  40  

Office Bearers 20011–12

President: Peter Bull

Phone:  0411 260 542

Secretary:  Will Whyte

Phone: 0411 100 445

Treasurer:  Alex Ebert

Newsletter Editor: Bob Emanuel

Phone: 0412 062 236 or

02 4787 5558 or 02 9332 3930

OTVA Membership Subscription:

$10 p.a. is due in May each year.

Please check your mailer as the indication “5/12″ or earlier indicates that your subs are now due.

Mail Address

1/284 Great North Road, Abbotsford NSW 2046

Email Alex for OTVA account direct deposit information

Our Websites





 Coming Events

                                                                                           OTVA 56th Annual General Meeting

Friday 15th June 2012 at 11.00 AM

NSW Bowlers Club

Phillip Room, Level 2,   99 York Street, Sydney NSW



The OTVA Newsletter REWARDS Program

 OTVA will pay a reward of $50 to members whose contribution to the Newsletter is judged by the Committee to be the best contribution. Henry Cranfield won the last edition’s award.


 From Our President

 Fellow Members of the OTVA,

I hope that you and your families has been enjoying life free or illness and other causes of stress in our daily lives.

The OTVA web page and the associated BLOGs continue to be a good reference for members seeking to keep abreast of events and/or news relating to OTC or its employees or industry-related participants. The web site statistics confirm its high levels of patronage.

I am most happy to announce that the health of your Newsletter Editor, Bob Emanuel, has started to improve and he will once again be in a position to generate the OTVA Newsletters for which our membership has been clamouring over the past 6 months. I wish Bob E continued good health and improved happiness in the future.

Email continues to be a great source of communication with you our members and your committee will continue to pursue efficiencies to reduce costs by channelling as much information as possible via email and the BLOG pages of the OTVA web site. If you send an email to  I will review it and where appropriate email it out to those on the email distribution list as well as upload it to the BLOG site.

Your Committee has also undertake a project to digitise Transit and Contact magazines which will eventually be transferred to DVDs which can then be made available to financial members of the OTVA upon request. Kevin O’Brien (ex-ITMC Paddington) has provided valuable support in processing of the scanned images into a format suitable for upload to a DVD and the production of an index that can be used to search for keywords associated with topics of interest to members. The DVD should be available by the end of 2012.

Unfortunately several more of our ex-OTC brothers and/or their partners have departed this life since I last addressed you. I extend my sincere condolences to their many friends and family who are saddened by their passing but are gladdened by the fullness of their rich and long lives. May They Rest In Peace

 Warmest regards,

Peter Bull

0411 260542


                                                                                          Have you checked out our website of late?


With extra articles, more colour photos and more information than we can publish in this Newsletter.

Have your recollections, stories and reminiscences recorded online for posterity.

If you would like to contribute to the oral history of telecommunications, please contact Bob Emanuel on 0412 062 236. Content will be uploaded to our website.



Robert Brand’s New Website

Rob’s new website is a treasure trove of stories and pictures, well worth a browse. Great to see you back on the air, Rob.

As well, Rob featured on the Channel 7 News nationally about his business plan to take over the former satellite earth station at Jamesburg to set up a data centre. Good luck Rob!


Memories of the Dept of Civil Aviation Regional Training School.

From Robert Brand and others

It has been 45 years since I stepped in the doors of the DCA training School at Waverton. All that is left these days is the land it sat on and that is a car park for sailors at HMAS Waterhen that sits below the old site.

I started on Jan 8th 1968 and I was the grand age of 15 years old. It was a nervous time, not knowing what was in-store for us, but I was pretty happy about getting paid to learn.

The picture of me shows what kids with an interest in technology did before home computers were invented. That is a number 19 tank radio transceiver and I was wiring a small homemade intercom with a very loud speaker. OTC was perfect for me. That was one corner of my bedroom and the light above was for developing prints when I turned it into a dark room. It has been 45 years since I stepped in the doors of the DCA training School at Waverton. All that is left these days is the land it sat on and that is a car park for sailors at HMAS Waterhen that sits below the old site.

George Nettle was the Head of the school and we had three classes, although that dropped to 2 classes after the first year. The main instructors were Frank Mann, Bob Williams, John Dryden and Reg Breen. The classes were made up of a few Navy trainees that washed out after the first year and it left 50% OTC and 50% DCA trainees in our year.

The antics we got up to were amazing. We stuffed as many trainees as possible into Greg Waller’s car and drove around Balls Head Reserve and back. There were complaints from HMAS Waterhen about flaming paper planes launched from the school above, dart fights between the two buildings with thorn tipped paper darts blown through PVC conduit, radio jammers getting built and the annual instructors vs. trainee rugby league game. There was so much more and I wish I had photos of it all.

Peter Burgess (DCA in 1973 to 1975) recalls

There was another complaint from HMAS Waterhen the day someone in our team flushed the leftover white paint down the toilets and found out that it went into the harbour near Waterhen.

All the boats had a white line around the waterline!

Geoff Larcombe got up to tricks

I remember to time when we re-broadcasted a rock station over 2CH frequency using one of the lab transmitters. We could only imagine the confusion for the local 2CH listeners.


The latest adventures of Allan Mason and Josette Docherty in PNG

Sydney couple Dr. Josette Docherty and Allan Mason didn’t waste any time reconnecting with health in Western Province. For seven months this formidable twosome – Josette, an experienced GP with a special interest in obstetrics and gynaecology, and Allan, an occupational first aider, first aid trainer and IT&T professional  travelled to the most remote villages of this jungle province, making a big difference to the health of local communities.

Our assignment has been challenging and frustrating at times, but overall rewarding. It’s not like we didn’t know what we were getting into, given this is our second ADI assignment and fifth medical trip to the Pacific Islands (we’ve worked in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu with other NGOs). From the start, we knew it was going to be hot, hard work. We also knew it was going to be incredibly remote with few drugs and treatment options for patients.

More than medication

During our 11 health patrols we treated a total of 2,379 patients and trained health workers at every stop. We also gave health education group talks to 14,354 adults and children to teach them how to protect themselves against accidents and illnesses.

Each patrol lasted 5-30 days, with some covering up to 11 villages. Travel was by boat, plane, 4WD and/or foot. Accommodation was simple – traditional huts, sleeping mats draped with mosquito nets, and bathing in nearby rivers.

During several patrols to Middle Fly, we greatly appreciated being able to stay at Sasol’s camp where we were treated to hot showers and good food. Whilst not on patrol, Josette spent many hours at Kiunga Hospital – where there has been no resident doctor since February 2011  helping with ward rounds and assisting in theatre. She oversaw the obstetric department, advised and taught staff, and managed complicated cases.

Allan repaired medical and electronic equipment such as high frequency (HF) radios (the sole form of communication for many isolated health centres) and solar regulators for vaccine fridges.

Pictures can be seen at


Field report:


Artifacts Collection History

By Henry Cranfield

With the closure of the Telegraph Cable Service in the early 1960’s, items of equipment, code books , and cable test equipment were sent to the Paddington Terminal from the closed stations and stored on level 8 in a vacant room opposite the lift motor room, where it remained for some years in open cardboard cartons. This was prior to the expansion of the building. Finally it was all sent to the Broadway Terminal (Ramsay Building) next door to the Broadway terminal in 1977 or 8, together with some materiel held in Head Office by P.R.

Initially, Keith Vincent put forward the idea that O.T.C.(A) should commence an “Historical Collection” of equipment etc and O.T.C.’S Management agreed and supported the idea. Also OTC appointed an “Archive Officer “ thanks to GM George Maltby. The need was emphasised when the “ Bi-Centennial Exhibition” was constructed in 1988  in the basement P.R. area of the Paddington Terminal with John Phillips being the driving force.

In the late 1970s the top floor of the Ramsay Building was cleared out and the PR section stored there a large amount of material, including items from the former A.W.A transmitter site at Pennant Hills. When the La Perouse station was rebuilt a large amount of materiel from there was sent to Broadway and stored on the ground floor of the Ramsay Building together with some items from the “Compac Disaster Spares” after “The Barn” at Doonside collapsed. Trevor Thatcher and the Broadway ITMC staff then moved some items to a lockable vacant space under the car entry ramp to the building.

Will Whyte kept a list of all items held which were tagged as (MUXXX) and this he updated until 1992 when it was handed over to Sandra Hinchey where it was kept as part of data base of her “Historical records Collection” Subsequently when OTC was taken over by Telstra , John Phillips reviewed the list of all items held.

The collection of equipment and miscellaneous items was originally stored at the old Ashfield Telephone Exchange, along with material ex-PMG also stored there. The Telecommunications Society of Australia. providing the collation and identification under Bert Spratt . Due however, due to a lack of space at Ashfield, all were transferred to the Carlingford telephone Exchange Building. This was an unsatisfactory solution as when checking it was found that the storage area was unsecured , cartons opened and items pilfered.

All the OTC artifacts etc that were stored at Broadway were transferred to Sydney Radio, La Perouse when it was closed down together with a very large number of records and equipment handbooks ex OTC library and records section. These were subsequently sorted at La Perouse, by a group from OTVA under the guidance of the Telstra Museum Curator from Melbourne, labeled and given “LA Numbers” and transferred by truck to the Bankstown Exchange building. The Telstra Melbourne Curator then compiled a spread-sheet of same, a copy of which is held by Bankstown museum and OVA. However there was some mix-up in the transport and we discovered some discrepancies and breakages on checking same. As Bankstown Museum was short of storage space at that time most items were stored in their Garage Area. This space shortage has now been rectified as Telstra has refurbished the area and added more space from the “Diesel Room “ We then rechecked against the spread -sheet in an attempt to obtain a list of items held. however due to overcrowding this operation required several trips to Banks town.

Meanwhile, Telstra sent another load of items from 231 Elizabeth Street which comprised items presented to OTC’s GO.ME so by Overseas carriers etc.  At the same time other items from the garage area were also relocated to the diesel room from the garage area and these were checked and a new list compiled..

On checking the “New List” against the LA list we discovered some items are wrongly defined and Brian Mullins from Banks town Museum has asked us to check items they have on display against the list as they are unaware of where they were used or for what purpose. The “usage” is required to enable better labeling of items on display?

An ” Interpolator Unit” ex Pacific Telegraph Cable from this collection was taken to Southport, Queensland, on loan for their Cable Centenary Celebrations. This today, is an extremely rare item as it was refurbished for OTC’s Bicentennial Exhibition at Paddington.

On a visit to Norfolk Island, I noticed, in the foyer of the ex ANZAN Cable Station, some ex-OTC and Pacific Cable Board equipment items and books. The station is ill-kept and used for Telstra’s satellite service to mainland Australia. Brian Mullins is taking steps to have these sent to him.

Over the past year, Telstra have renovated the Bankstown Museum area, providing new air-conditioning, carpets, painting, etc and given them more space for storage in the exchange building. This ensures a better display of the exhibits. They have also decided to compile a “Nationwide List” of items held in the various museums in Brisbane, Melbourne Adelaide etc hence the need to accurately identify same .

Once we have checked the lists and have identified the items, we have then completed our mission as the material all belongs to Telstra and what we are doing is to ensure all items are correctly identified and labeled and we have will have something to be proud of.

A great vote of thanks must be extended to Ray Hookway, Will Whyte John Phillips and all who have participated!


Seacom Tales

From “The Madang Chicken Hawk” via Henry Cranfield

Brian Woods’ yarn on his ham radio attempt at Doonside reminded me of our Madang Seacom HF radio Installation . The transmitter, a CRS 500watt, AWA-CTH-P5J came by ship, was unloaded onto the wharf and lay out in the weather for 5 to 6 weeks in 2 wooden cases, Lost and Forgotten).

On un-packing, the blower motor was rusted solid but otherwise seemed OK as were the other items in the wooden cases.

The blower motor was dismantled, and the armature released by tapping it with a piece of hardwood and a hammer. We then put the armature into our ¾ inch drill press on slow speed and carefully removed the rust with various grades of emery paper and “WD-40”; then cleaned the armature slots with a thick feeler gauge from ex- PMG relay adjustment kit and an old handkerchief; then washed with X55 and dried. This was tested as to its affect on the varnish first. For the stator, we slit a length of 25 mm diameter steel rod length-wise for about 50 mm and inserted flaps of emery cloth held by a transverse screw at the feed end. We clamped the body to the drill bench and using the previous technique cleaned off the rust, No new bearings were available so we cleaned these with “Brasso” spun in the drill washed in X 55 and greased All was re-assembled, powered up and it ran!! Wailing but not warming up to an excessive degree. After a few hours it still whined but never over-heated.

The transmitter was then installed at the Posts and Telegraphs Transmitter site(EX-AWA/OTC) plus the Rhombic aerial(Single tier directed to Sydney) connected ready for testing. The remote control to the OTC station was then tested and we managed to control the on/off function and press to talk but the frequency change, failed even though we only used the HF frequencies. .

At “the OTC station for “a receive antenna” we connected a length of 23/0076 inch earth wire between two convenient Coco-nut trees about 30 metres apart 30- 20 metres off the ground and a 30 metre lead-in via a Knife switch for earth protection plus Collins 51J-4 receiver on Single side band. This was replaced later by Racal RA 17 from Bringelly?? Then an Eddystone Model 888 “borrowed from PNG- P and T at a cost of for “technical services given”

The combination gave most reliable service during the cable lays, as we worked the ships from Madang to Fiji, Guam and Cairns and even the manager Cairns on his ham rig when all else failed? Together with a single channel telex service to SOR via ISTC Paddington , Bringelly and Doonside after the cable lays and extremely so for repairs. We changed frequency, by my travel to and from work times and when conditions required. Frequencies used were 6-8 MHZ at nights and 16-18 MHZ during daylight time. Much credit for this success must come from my days at STC and PMG in the bush, plus John Lilley’s patience.

One evening, before the first cable lay, we disconnected the terminal resistor from the rhombic, used the frequency standard ex-Bringelly as a VFO and John Lilley’s VK9 call-sign and called CQ. We had responses from all over the world, could not handle the traffic and so shut down. John got QSL cards from all over the world.

I also remember Doug Lloyd telling me he tried to do this at Bringelly using a transceiver. However, he patched the output of the transceiver into the input side of the aerial splitter which reacted rather violently to having 400 watts driving it. Geoff Warner and John Peel were not amused.

Dit dah dit dah dit and 73s to all.


 OTC/DCA TiTs Get together after 50 years.

By Dennis Grant

In 1962 (just 50 years ago) a bunch of young OTC TiTs  (Technicians in Training) started training at DCA (Department of Civil Aviation) Marrickville. The guys Paul Suttie, Richard Faddy, Dave Stimson, Paul Black and Dennis Grant got together on February 6th this year (2012) along with several close associates, at the Occidental hotel in Sydney to reminisce about our incredible lives and adventures.

Over the intervening years through various work positions, business ventures etc close friendships had developed and so an extended group, Gary Beaton, Roy Docherty, John Eades, Dick Stevens, John Spry, Howard Wilson, Henry Cranfield Terry Niperess and our OTVA president Peter Bull joined us.

The Dynamic Duo (Stimmo and Blackie) had been cultivating the idea of a reunion for some time. Dave did quite a bit of the chasing around amongst the originals and Paul came up with the Occidental venue as it is next door to the old Art Deco AWA building where some of us had done Morse code training (What’s that?).Paul Suttie had flown in from KL where he lives running an extensive business empire. Doc has recently returned from Singapore and still works as a VP for Oracle.

Of course we had all changed a bit in those 50 years but still instantly recognisable from old photos of us in our grey dust coats as we stood around admiring our various cars in Carrington Road at Marrickville. Stimmo’s Austin Healy, Vanguards, Holdens etc. Several of the team had worked at the MRS site at Paddo so that features in the photos as does the Station building and aerial farm at Bringelly where many a week of field training was spent.

A great reunion, set up at pretty short notice. Great camaraderie and a recognition by all that OTC was a brilliant place to work as it engendered a serious esprit de corps. in us. The other recognition of course was the tremendous technological changes we had worked through. The Morse school had been next door along with some hefty transmitters. This day we were all tied to our tiny mobiles. or IPads, just so we could stay in touch with the world.

Thanks for coming guys and thanks for the memories and thanks especially to Dave and Paul for initiating.

(Photos on the website – Ed)




Alf Ricketts

Alf  Ricketts grew up in the Sutherland Shire and then later at Newtown, attending Fort Street Boys High School in his senior years.

His working career began at the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) at Mascot Airport, as a junior Telegraphist. He was  in one of the last classes to learn Morse Code at the Marconi School of Wireless in the old AWA building in York Street Sydney, his teacher was the famous “Mrs Mac”.

This training eventually saw him gain employment at OTC (Overseas Telecommunications Commission) the international government commission for overseas communications between Australia and the world. Commencing employment with them in December 1954 aged 19 he faithfully served OTC for 38 years until retirement in 1992 at the young age of 57.

His career began in the Sydney Operating Room, better known as the SOR in Spring Street, Sydney. Alf’s first major challenge was being sent to Melbourne for the Olympic Games in 1956, he then realised the possibilities of being an active participant in the future of this industry, as an explosion of new methods of telecommunications were beginning to appear around the world.

Possibly the most challenging projects were his involvement in the American space programmes and putting man into orbit. He then moved from technical to sales/marketing/training – this new pathway led him into being involved in marketing and public relations throughout Australia and the world.

Alf went on to participate in the Brisbane Commonwealth Games, the Olympic Games in Los Angeles and the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games – Marjorie, Matt and Alison joined him there and after the Games drove from the top of Scotland to the bottom end of England having a wonderful family holiday together for eight weeks.

Involvement in the introduction and consequential customer training of new products was a an important aspect of his part in the OTC network, working out of Martin Place, the Paddington Station and in his final years from his Broadway office all showing his immense knowledge and dedication which were greatly admired by his colleagues and customers.

Seventeen years ago he had a triple by-pass and 3 replacement pace-makers over the years, his health gradually deteriorated over the past 12 months with other medical problems surfacing that caused his final admission to the Macquarie University Hospital, where after an emergency operation he had another major attack leading to his death.

Marjorie Ricketts and family would like to thank all the Veterans and OTC friends who attended Alf’s  Church Service and the Northern Suburbs Crematorium on the 1st November 2011 celebrating his life.  There are simply no words to express our heartfelt thanks for the sympathy and support you have extended to our family on the death of our beloved Alf. 



Vales for which we  have no obituary

Alan Oakford

Kevan Hook

Jimmy Anderson

If I have left any out -please advise me.


 Last Word

If anyone knows the contact details for Peter Rexstraw would you please contact me (details on the front page).

 Try our BLOG to communicat with  ex-OTC mates for whom you  no longer have telephone numbers or email address.



 As always, editing this Newsletter is fun, but I do need YOUR stories, please. At my last reunion both George and Morrie said the best stories cannot be printed, but try me anyway.


 Are you able to contact people who should be in the Vets? Ask them along to our AGM – it’s always a fun day. Folks from other carriers, DCA and Telstra are also welcome.


Bob E


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