Chapter VI

World War II and After in Greece

Socrates Coutroubis SV1AE described to me how his interest in radio was aroused in 1935 when he was 13 years old. His father had decided to buy a domestic radio receiver.

"Of course in 1935 Athens had no broadcasting service", Socrates said, "so the receiver had to be able to tune in to the short wave broadcasting bands. As we already had a Westinghouse refrigerator my father decided we should try one of their receivers. When I say 'try' I must explain that it was the usual thing to ask a number of agents to submit their latest models for comparison at one's home. I remember that together with the Westinghouse, we had an Atwater Kent, Philco, RCA, Stromberg-Carlson and several sets of European manufacture such as Philips, Blaupunkt, Saba etc. We finally settled for the German Saba because it was the prettiest and blended better with our living room furniture!

"There were very few stations to be found on the short waves. But I remember the Dutch station PCJ run by the Philips company in Eindhoven. The announcer was Edward Startz who spoke perfect English and about a dozen other languages. "This is the Happy Station, broadcasting from the Netherlands" he would say cheerfully.

"A couple of years after we had bought the radio we were returning from an open air movie round about midnight when I noticed a book on sale at a road-side kiosk. It was entitled The Radio Amateur's Handbook published by the A.R.R.L. I had no idea what the initials stood for. The price was astronomical for my pocket but after a little coercion I got my father to buy it for me. When I began to read it I discovered the existence of radio amateurs. It was the 1939 edition and I found a circuit for a receiver which looked simple enough for me to try. It was described as a regenerative detector and audio amplifier.

"At that time the best place to buy components in Athens was at a store called Radio Karayianni, but three others shops also stocked valves (tubes) and components. One was the Electron run by George Spanos, who was the agent for the Dutch Philips company. Then there was a shop in a basement next door, Konstav Electric, owned by 'Bill' Tavaniotis SV1KE. A wide range of components were also stocked by the Raytheon agent, Nick Katselis SV1NK.

"I obtained some plug-in forms and wound the coils carefully according to the instructions but unfortunately the receiver didn't work very well, if at all. When I asked a few friends they suggested I should shorten the very long wires I had used between the components, and sure enough I had the greatest thrill of my life when for the first time I heard Rome on short waves on my very own home-made receiver. Outstanding stations in the broadcast band in those days were Trieste in northern Italy, Katowice in Poland, Breslau in Germany and Toulouse in south-west France.

"Although I had read about the activities of radio amateurs in the Handbook I had not yet heard any of the half dozen or so stations that were already operating on CW and AM telephony in the Athens area.

"My father used to buy the periodical London Calling which contained the overseas programmes of the B.B.C. as well as the programmes of the principal European broadcasting stations. This publication also carried advertisements and it was there that I first saw an illustration of the Hammarlund Super Pro and realised that there were receivers specially designed for the reception of short waves.

"But during the German/Italian occupation of Greece between 1941 and 1944 my little home-made receiver played a vital role in enabling us to listen (secretly) to the B.B.C. broadcasts because the authorities had sealed all radios to the broadcast (medium wave) band and to the frequency of Radio Athens. Most people devised ingenuous methods of listening to stations other than Athens.

"After the end of the war a friend of mine who returned to Athens from Cairo brought me the 1945 edition of the A.R.R.L.Handbook, which is still on the shelf as you can see."

Socrates explained that in 1945 there was complete political upheaval in Greece, owing to the events that had taken place during the foreign occupation, so the General Election of that year was carried out under the supervision of foreign observers from the U.S.A., the United Kingdom & France. The Russians did not send a mission.

"Owing to my knowledge of English I was employed by the American mission to act as interpreter. One day when I was off duty I was taken by a friend to a signals unit where there were many pieces of equipment which had been 'liberated', and I was able to buy a BC 342 receiver. Later when Harry Barnett SV1WE who was in the Press Department of the British Embassy returned to England I bought his Hallicrafter SX28.

"It was at Harry's house in Kolonaki that I had my first taste of amateur radio in action. He had a National HRO for reception and he had constructed a 50-watt transmitter using surplus components which were in plentiful supply at that time.

"Another friend of mine, Jim Liverios, was employed at the Civil Aviation transmitter site on a hill south of Nea Smyrni.The American Mission had set up their short wave transmitters on the same site and later Interpol installed their own equipment as well. Liverios was always on night shift because he attended the University during the day. I still don't know how he ever managed to get any sleep. When things were quiet he would 'borrow' a 5 Kw transmitter and tune it in the 20 metre band. Using a callsign of his own choice (probably a different one every night) he would have contacts with the whole world. On his invitation I went there at midnight one night and stayed until the morning. I remember we had QSOs with Cuba, Chile, New Zealand and Australia."

The Affair of the Piraeus Police.

In 1947, there was a war in northern Greece which some people called a civil war and others a war against the guerrillas, depending on whose side they were on. Suddenly one morning all the Athens newspapers came out with some amazing headlines:

"The Wireless Transmitters of the Communists have been Seized in Athens"

"Wireless Transmitters Found in Communist Hands"

"How the Five Transmitters of the Communists were Discovered"

"The Six Installations Seized by the Police"

Two of the newspapers printed the identical photograph (included in the montage) with the following caption, 'The Communist transmitters seized by the Piraeus police'. This was a photograph of the shack of Mikes Psalidas SV1AF. At the top right one can see a 2-inch home-made monitor oscilloscope, which the newspapers described as a 'powerful radar'!

"During the last three days", wrote one newspaper, "the police in Piraeus have been investigating a very serious case implicating leading cadres of the Communist party." Of course, it was nothing of the sort. The equipment they had seized belonged to five radio amateurs, George Gerardos SV1AG, Mikes Psalidas SV1AF, Nasos Coucoulis SV1AC, Aghis Cazazis SV1CA and Sotiris Stefanou who didn't have a callsign yet. In fact Mikes Psalidas was not even at home at the time of the police raid, as he was in a military camp in the outskirts of Athens, doing his compulsory military service. The newspapers described in detail what had been found. "At the house of Mikes Psalidas, who is a student at the Athens Polytechnic, the police found wireless telegraphy receiving equipment (a National HRO), wireless telephony equipment in full working order, that is, two transmitting microphones, a step-down transformer and various other items."

The same newspaper went on "Unfortunately, at the house of Aghis Cazazis, at 25 Tenedou street, the search was inconclusive because a certain person, well known to the police, and whose arrest is imminent, removed a high power transmitter just before the police arrived and disappeared with it."

Another newspaper referred to "telegrams in code", received from abroad and from the secret headquarters of the Communists, "which are now being deciphered by a special department". These were SV1AG's little collection of QSL cards.

Stefanos Eleftheriou of the Ministry immediately took up the matter. Firstly, he pointed out to the Piraeus police that Athens did not come under their jurisdiction, and they had no right to arrest anybody there without a warrant. Secondly, all the five radio amateurs they had arrested were known for their nationalistic political convictions, particularly Psalidas whose father was a senior officer of the Royal Hellenic airforce.

Before the 'suspects' were released and their confiscated equipment returned to them, they were warned not to speak to newspaper reporters at the risk of getting a kick up their backsides. This was to prevent the public from learning how ludicrous had been the accusations, and how completely unjustified the arrests had been. But one newspaper came out the following day with a banner headline "The Owners of the Wireless and Radar Equipment All Turned out to be Staunch Royalists!" This paper sent a reporter to interview SV1AC. They wrote, "In reply to a question from our reporter, Mr Coucoulis said that when the police realised the foolishness of their action, they issued a summons against him under Law 4749, which has absolutely nothing to do with amateur radio."

"During the ten years following the end of World War II there were about 15 to 20 very active amateurs in the Athens area, all using callsigns of their own choice because no government legislation had yet been enacted. Most of these operators subsequently obtained licences and had to change to the official series. I remember two YLs who were very popular in Europe and the U.S.A. because they spoke several languages fluently, but they never re-appeared when licences began to be issued."

Since 1945 the U.S. and British signals units were authorised by the Greek Ministry of Communications to issue calls to military and diplomatic personnel in the series SV0WA in the case of American staff and SV0AA for the British.

Socrates continued: "I heard that the Americans had formed a club called 'Attica Amateur Radio Club' in Kifissia, a suburb to the north of Athens, and in due course I was able to become a member."

"In 1954", Socrates continued, "George Zarifis (currently SV1AA) who was a regular army officer in the Legal Branch approached Mr Nicolis who was Director of the Wireless Division at the Ministry of Communications and asked him 'Since you have authorised the Americans and the British to issue licences to their personnel, why do you not grant the same facility to us Greek amateurs?'. To which Nicolis had replied 'There is no law of the land recognising the very existence of radio amateurs so how can I issue licences to you?'.

"It was then that we decided to form an association whose principal objective would be the enactment of legislation recognising officially the existence of radio amateurs in Greece. As a recognised body we would then be able to go back to Nicolis and get him to pursue the matter.

"That was how, late in 1957, we formed the Radio Amateur Association of Greece, R.A.A.G., Greek initials E.E.R.

"At the same time, after considerable effort, we got the Ministry to issue 7 licences based on the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1930 (No 4797) and the regulations relating to Law 1049 of 1949, as well as a document dated July 8th 1957 issued by the radio division of the Central Intelligence service (Greek initials K.Y.P.-R). This order authorised the installation of a 50 watt transmitter to an applicant under certain strict limitations, one of which was that the station could only be operated from 06.00 to 08.00 hours and from 13.00 to midnight. The seven lucky recipients are shown in the accompanying photograph.

Akis Lianos SV1AD, Socrates Coutroubis SV1AE, Nasos Coucoulis SV1AC (silent key), George Zarifis SV1AA, Mikes Psalidas SV1AF, George Vernardakis SV1AB and George Gerardos SV1AG (silent key).

"At that time (1958) my AM station consisted of a Hammarlund SP600 receiver and a home-built transmitter using an Italian Geloso VFO-exciter driving a pair of 6146s in the final, with anode and screen modulation by a pair of 807s in class AB2. I had also assembled a double conversion receiver using a Geloso front end. This was typical of the equipment used in Greece and Italy in the early 1960s.

"Licences continued to be issued until 1967 when the Junta Colonels Papadopoulos and Patakos established the military dictatorship. We were all ordered to seal our equipment and obtain written confirmation from the nearest Police authority that the disablement had been carried out.

"Six months later, in December of 1967 we started getting our licences back. Most of us believed that because some of the younger officers in the military government had received training at the Pentagon in the U.S.A. they convinced their superiors that it was better for the genuine amateurs to be allowed to operate their equipment under close supervision by the military and under new regulations, rather than have under cover operators starting up all over again.

"George Gerardos SV1AG had a friend Oresti Yiaka who was involved in government telecommunications and it was through him that draft legislation for the issue of amateur licences was instigated, but not for the first time. Unsuccessful attempts had been made before the war.

"In 1965 when George Papandreou was Prime Minister, on the very day when the Draft Bill was going to be put before Parliament the government resigned and another 10 years went by. When legislation was finally published in the Government Gazette in 1972, owing to the prevailing political situation (military dictatorship) it had serious limitations imposed by some Ministries which had to look after their own interests, especially the Ministry of National Defence. But George Gerardos, SV1AG, who had been closely involved, decided that it would be better to overlook certain details which may seem strange to us at the present time--details which could be rectified at a later date, provided the law was finally on the Statute book. For instance, I refer to the very restricted frequencies we were allocated in the 80-metre band, 3.500 to 3.600 MHz. Obviously when we began transmitting SSB telephony below 3.600 we were greeted with angry protestations from the CW operators there. And what was worse, the voices of Greek amateurs were not heard in the DX portion of the phone allocation from 3.750 to 3.800 MHz.

"Unfortunately, there was another and more serious snag. The last paragraph of the Law said that it would come into force only after publication in the Government Gazette of regulations clarifying certain details and procedures. So we were back to square one.

"But this did not prevent the General Staff of the military dictatorship from continuing to issue new licences under the special restrictions they had laid down. When the dictatorship came to an end the new government finally published Regulation 271 on April 30th 1976, which made the 1972 law fully operative."

During the period of the military dictatorship a break-away club was formed by Dinos Psiloyiannis SV1DB who added the word 'national' to its name making the Greek initials E.E.E.R. His motives were rather dubious, one of them being that he objected to a regulation which required an applicant for a licence to produce a declaration signed by the President and the Secretary of Radio Amateur Association of Greece. Psiloyiannis, who had contacts with the military authorities (both his father and brother were officers) declared "I will form my own association and issue declarations myself." By this manoeuvre he obtained licences for quite a few newcomers, but after a year or two his club ceased to function and most if not all of its members joined the R.A.A.G.

An amendment of Law 1244 of 1972 published in the Government Gazette No.114 dated June 3rd 1988 finally abolished the requirement of the controversial declaration, as well as the rule which said that before anyone could apply for a licence they had to join an officially recognised association or club.

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