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WO Frank Heath's history of RC Sigs station VEA

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After five years absence Heath, now Sgt. Maj. (W.O I) returned to Dawson, Aug. 16th 1933 to once more take charge of what he always, and fondly considered "his" station. SM. Armstrong left for the Depot a few weeks later. To Heath it was like coming home again, and in no time at all was settled into the old familiar routine and surroundings as if he'd never been away.

By now the call sign of Dawson was no longer XWBA but, since 1929, VEA, and some progress was being made with "short wave", or S/W as we commonly referred to it. The more or less famous Signals M7X, Short Wave (or S/W, or High Frequency, or HF) transmitter and a welter of special aerials, leads and gadgets of all sorts had been installed, and we had accumulated several modern receivers and, incidentally, the facilities to receive occasional broadcasts from Pacific coast stations which had recently been opened in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Even in 1933 our broadcast reception was erratic and inconsistent. The receivers available were mainly intended for standard broadcast frequencies, and we were still a long way from the comparatively low power source of the broadcasts; in addition we were just beginning to realize that atmospheric, or ionosphere conditions greatly influenced reception in this area, especially the reception of high frequency of short wave signals which were then just commencing to come into more of less general use, and it was no fault of the receiver if signals failed completely for days at a time. Our own long wave, or comparatively low frequency signals however, remained fairly consistent and reliable day after day.

In the summer of 1934 Red Waddell was posted to Burwash landing, a small "Bush" station operated by the newly organized pan American Airlines on its route from Fairbanks to Whitehorse. Instead of another operator being posted to Dawson to replace him, we hired a local lad to act as messenger, janitor and counter-clerk. We were now a two operator station yet we kept the business moving as before; but if one man went sick, or was off duty for any length of time it made things quite awkward for the other man, because we were still handling weather reports, and three times daily by now, at 3 am, 9am and 3 pm., plus regular traffic.

We certainly missed that third operator, especially whenever trouble developed with engine and batteries and lots of times we were on the verge of hollering for more help or saying "to hell with it all". Meantime, S/W was being experimented with extensively to ascertain and check some of its peculiarities, workable and consistent frequencies, etc. But the M7X transmitter was patterned very much after the Signals SITD.500 long wave rig. It was the "Tuned-Grid-Tuned-Plate:" circuit with two VT5B valves in a series feed, push-pull connections; and, with two sets of suitable, ¼" copper tubing coils, ranged from 19 to 54 meters. No refinements whatever. Very simply constructed and easy to "get at". Sometimes it worked; but often it just wouldn't. For four long years we wrestled, coaxed and begged it to justify its existence.

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