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Australian Royal Tour (1954)
* The information on this page was adapted from an original report by Mr. A. F. Dawes, with the permission of the Author. Since contributing this original report and photographs, Angus Dawes has sadly died.

Report of Installation and Working of Pye Radiotelephone Equipment

Sydney - New South Wales

Premier’s Department Letter
Letter from the Premier’s Department, Perth concerning installation of Pye PTCA116 mobiles as part of the Royal Tour

The equipment was set down to be installed at the Watsons Bay Signal Station - a location with a commanding position out to sea and over the harbour. The existing switchboard was to be used via a special exchange line. It was discovered, however, that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) had taken over this site for their broadcasting point and monitoring station. This meant transferring to the only other site of any promise, namely the Macquarie Light about half a mile away. The lighthouse had no switchboard or telephone and only one mains outlet.

The Post Master Generals Department (PMG) proved very co-operative (as they did throughout the Tour) and within eight hours installed a new exchange telephone line with a separate silent line for checking purposes between the Lighthouse and the Signal Station switchboard. The aerials, folded unipole hi-band, were fastened to the railing at the top of the light, giving us an effective height above sea level of approximately 200 feet.

The Royal Yacht SS Gothic was due to arrive at about 7.00am on 3 February off Sydney Heads. The equipment was switched on and watch kept from midnight on. The monitor speaker was left in circuit for the first contact. At 4.00am the receiver came to life with such startling clarity that the rather sleepy operators were rudely jolted back to earth. It was estimated that SS Gothic made first contact about 40 miles from the base station.

The line termination unit was switched across to the switchboard operator at the Signal Station and SS Gothic was advised that the Sydney Shore Station was open for calls. A copy of the calls made is attached - the calls in other ports were very similar, varying only in the number of calls made. The ABC made use of Pye in most ports as a que-line for shipboard broadcasts.

The equipment was left in position and was used to cover mechanical trials on SS Gothic during her stay and of course for the departure. SS Gothic moved out of radio contact about midnight on 18 February, again about 30 or 40 miles out.

Hobart - Tasmania

While SS Gothic was in Sydney a similar base station unit was flown to Hobart for installation. The situation was complicated here by a couple of sizeable mountains obscuring the lower Derwent River. The only position available was beyond the reach of PMG landlines. A block by block search of southern Hobart brought to light an abandoned Army barracks which was only 60 feet above sea level.

PTCA704 Hobart
Temporary installation of a PTCA704 base station in garage of a patriotic Hobart citizen

However one could see almost to the mouth of the river, a distance of between 10 and 20 miles and at the same time cover the dock. Permission was granted by the Army for its use and here as in Sydney, two telephone line pairs were laid to the nearest exchange. The line termination unit, however, was installed at the City trunk line exchange where normal operating and supervision were available.

The aerials were erected on portable masts and the base unit installed in a patriotic citizens garage. This somewhat interrupted his home boat-building efforts, but the cause was great enough and his cooperation was assured.

SS Gothic was contacted at the mouth of the Derwent, Cape Raoul and the circuit was open all the way to the dock. Here the Pye equipment proved a godsend owing to a minor tragedy on the wharf. A mobile crane ran over the PMG landlines laid in readiness to go aboard as SS Gothic docked. This caused a delay of some hours and the Pye unit was used most effectively.

The departure followed the same pattern as earlier and SS Gothic was lost again at Cape Raoul.



Mackay - North Queensland

Three more base stations with line interface and line termination units were set up and flown to Mackay, Townsville and Cairns in Northern Queensland.

The location of the unit at Mackay was on the roof of the Pye Agent in that town, Fields Pty. Ltd. - the aerials just cleared a small mountain at the mouth of the Bay.

Here again the lines were run right down to the local trunk exchange under the supervision of the normal trunk monitor. In actual fact SS Gothic called at Townsville first, Cairns second and Mackay last.

Contact was made about 7.30am at Mackay and as SS Gothic was not berthing at the Northern ports the Pye unit was the only link with shore (Apart, of course, from the usual O.T.C. equipment). Here again the ABC used Pye as a cue line. SS Gothic departed four hours later and contact was lost about 20 miles out.

Townsville - North Queensland

The unit was installed here on the roof of the Queens Hotel and as before, the line terminated at the trunk exchange. This hotel is right at the foreshore and commands a view over the bay to Magnetic Island in the lee of which SS Gothic was to anchor.

Cairns - North Queensland

The aerials for Cairns were fastened to two handily placed flagpoles on the top of the highest building in the City. The line was terminated as previously at the exchange.

It was here that disaster struck - contrary to our information that SS Gothic was to anchor off Green Island, she dropped anchor off Fitzroy Island which was separated from the aerials by two 3,000 feet peaks and the Island itself which rises to over 1,000 feet. As we were operating in the 150 - 160 Mc/s band, the results were disappointing to say the least. We could not obtain dependable signals, however the station was left open in case SS Gothic should move.

With Mackay, the Eastern Coast set-up was completed and attention was turned to Perth, West Australia.

Perth - Western Australia

The Pye contribution here was more elaborate than at previous locations.

Several cars in the Royal Progresses, three escort Motor cycles, the Police Depot and the Marshal’s office all had to be capable of communication among themselves.

The SS Gothic equipment was installed at the Fremantle Signal Station and the line termination unit was mounted on the Customs Department switchboard. Here the PMG supplied a special monitor to watch over SS Gothic’s interests. Pye were not required for the arrival as the Royal Party was not on board.

Owing to a Polio epidemic the Royal Tour arrangements were rather at sixes and sevens up to the last minute before the Royal Party arrived. The Marshal’s office finally decided on which cars were to be fitted and standard PTC116 Reporter units were installed in four of the cars in the entourage. These sets worked into standard broadcast car-radio aerials.

The Motor cyclists were fitted with PTC116 units modified to receive only and the audio output was fed into an earphone which was worn under the patrolman’s cap. A quick release plug was fitted so that the rider could perform his "mount and dis-mount" drill unhampered. Special brackets were also fitted to the cycles to enable quick removal of the sets for long distance running over rough outback roads at high speeds.

The base station at the Marshal’s office in the heart of Perth, and the PTC116 at the Police Depot (working into a base aerial), kept the Royal Progresses in touch with events while in motion.

A Pye PTCA122 Walkiephone was also provided for "round the town" reports back to the Marshal.

For short range procession riding, shorter aerials were fitted to the Motor cycles on movable brackets, to lessen the danger of physical interference in thick crowds.

One of the following Press cars was also fitted out with a mobile radio and this particular unit was given quite a lot of use.

This Western Australia network was the first complete mobile radio system hook-up in the Australian Tour and both the Marshal’s office and the Police declared it invaluable at the conclusion of the Royal Visit.

SS Gothic departed Fremantle at 5.00pm on the 1st April. Here again the Pye unit provided the one line for the Queens Farewell speech. Radio contact was maintained up to 89 miles when SS Gothic closed down.

Report on the Equipment used
  • Six PTCA704 high band base stations
  • One PTCA703 low band base station
  • Three modified PTCA116 low band mobiles
  • Seven PTCA116 high band mobiles
  • One PTCA122 Walkiephone
  • Associated test equipment

During the Royal Tour this equipment travelled many thousands of miles throughout the continent by air, including fairly rough trips in the cyclone season in North Queensland. All the units, with the exception of one mobile, performed throughout without a breakdown of any kind. The mobile was later found to have suffered from a faulty vibrator. Telegraph line pairs totalling some 40 miles were placed at the disposal of the SS Gothic equipment.

Sources: 1. Mr. A. F. Dawes Pye-Electronic internal report 1954.   2. Photographs copyright A. F. Dawes.   3. This version document is copyright R. Howes 2007

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A note from Angus Dawes
A note from Angus Dawes in 2004 which accompanied his company report about the installation and operation of the Pye equipment