Nearly all the photographs of the period were taken by the author.
1. Athanasios 'Takis' Coumbias (1909-1987)
When I met Takis in his office in May 1983 I told him I was thinking of writing a small book about the history of amateur radio in Greece before it was too late--so many of the old timers had already passed away. Little did we both suspect at the time that he also would not live to see the finished project. I asked him how far back he could remember.
"Well, I can start from 1924 when I was about 15 and living in Odessa in the Soviet Union. There was a lot of interest in wireless and two magazines were published in Russia which dealt mainly with the construction of receivers. My interest was first aroused when a friend of mine at school proudly showed me something he had just made. It was, he told me, a variable capacitor and he was going to use it to make a radio receiver. The contraption was enormous by today's standards and must have weighed about half a kilo. My friend said it had a capacity of 250 micro-micro farads, which meant absolutely nothing to me at the time.
"When he completed his receiver I became very interested and decided I would build one too. But materials were hard to find and very expensive. Two items one had to buy: valves and headphones.
"I asked my friend where he had found the sheet metal to make the plates of the capacitor. He took me to a row of small shops which had a metal-faced ledge below the shop window. The metal was thin and seemed easy enough to remove. We sat on the ledge for a while and when the coast was clear we tore away a section and ran like mad. Later I ruined a pair of my mother's dressmaking scissors cutting out the plates. I used rings of some thick copper wire to space the plates but I could not drill holes in the plates for the spindle so a friend did that for me. I used about 15 plates and to this day I have no idea what the capacity of the finished capacitor was. Some small items for the receiver could be found in a little shop owned by an old man who charged exorbitant prices, so I decided I must go to Moscow for the valve and a single headphone that I needed.
"But Moscow was three days and two nights away by train, and it was the middle of winter. So what, you may ask. Like many others I had to travel on the roof of a goods waggon. I took with me a loaf of bread, a piece of cheese and two hard-boiled eggs. My father said I must be mad but he gave me some spending money and his blessing.
"I had eaten my food by the end of the second day so when we stopped at Brensk which is famous for its 'piroushki' I decided to try them. They were kept warm in large metal tins ready for the arrival of the train. There were seven varieties and I had one made with liver and a savoury sauce.
"When I arrived in Moscow I went to see the Greek ambassador as I was carrying a letter of introduction from my father who was acting Consul for Greece in Odessa, but it was Saturday and the ambassador's office was closed. I learned later that only foreign establishments closed at the week-end. So I went to look for a cheap hotel. Looking out of the bedroom window I saw a lot of people running in one direction. At that moment a woman brought me a towel and a small bar of soap, so I asked her what was going on outside. She said the butcher near the hotel had just received some liver. Would she buy me some I said. I gave her some money and she returned nearly two hours later with the liver wrapped in newspaper. When I opened it I saw it was horse liver cooked with corn and it had an awful sour smell. I just could not face it, although I was starving by now."
I asked Takis about the shops in Moscow. He said he had found several shops with parts and some made-up receivers in the State owned shops. He learned later that these receivers were made by amateurs because the factories only made equipment for the armed forces. He bought a triode valve called 'micro' and was told it had an amplification factor of 7. He wrapped it carefully in cotton wool for the return journey to Odessa. He also bought a dry battery pack which gave 80 volts, and an enormous single headphone for one ear which was ex-army surplus.
When he returned home and began to build his receiver he raided his mother's kitchen to build things like terminals, switches etc. There was an electric bell circuit between the dining room and the kitchen and as they didn't use it his mother said he could dismantle it and use the wire, which was quite long because it went up into the loft and then down again to the kitchen.
"I had acquired a small square of bakelite and I used a penknife to make a holder for the valve, twisting a few turns of wire round the pins as I could find nothing to use as a socket. I had no idea how to connect the various items I made or bought. I had seen a circuit diagram in a French magazine of a detector with reaction. I made the connections by twisting wires together and finally the receiver was complete. The next thing was the aerial. I made an enormous aerial with four parallel wires, like the aerials I had seen on ships. Putting it up was a dangerous operation as our house had a rather steep tiled roof, so I got some friends to help me. Some of them who had 'superior knowledge' told me the down-lead must have no bends. I got hold of a stiff copper wire and supported the down-lead on two enormous bell insulators as used on telegraph poles. I had to smash a corner of my bedroom window to bring the wire in. I had bought a large knife switch which could be turned over to connect the aerial to ground. I was afraid the large flat top of the aerial would attract thunderbolts. When I finally connected the aerial to the receiver I heard Absolutely Nothing."
I asked him how he tuned the receiver. He said he had put many taps on the coil and he twisted his antenna to these taps trying various combinations with the tuning capacitor.
"All I heard was this breathing noise. I learned later that it was the 'carrier wave' of a broadcasting station without modulation, but I didn't know what that meant. As my friends also heard the same noise I was convinced my receiver was working. We soon found out that the long wave transmitter at Ankara, the capital of Turkey was making test transmissions without modulation. Ankara was one of the first broadcasting stations in that part of the world."
Norman: "Regeneration should have produced a whistle."
Takis: "Yes, indeed. And in a peculiar way. When I approached the receiver my hand produced the whistle."
Norman: "Hand capacity effect."
Takis: "And foot capacity effect as well! When I approached my knee to the metal leg of the work-bench I would lose the station I had been listening to." He said the tuning capacitor he had made was obviously too small and he had to alter the taps on the coil continuously. About three o'clock in the morning during a cold winter night he heard a new sound--the breathing (carrier) noise and a sort of regular ticking. He later found out that it was the new broadcasting station in Vienna, Austria, which transmitted the sound of a metronome throughout the night. This would have been about 1926.
I asked Takis about school. "In spite of the late nights listening I never missed a day at school. My father was the Chairman of the School Committee and I couldn't let him down. But I had to earn some pocket money to pay for the bits a pieces I needed. Particularly a decent pair of headphones; I had to hold the army headphone to me ear with one hand which gave me pins and needles. For some years I had kept goldfish and pigeons, so I sold them. A friend of mine had gone to sea as a cadet and his ship went abroad, so I asked him to get me a pair of headphones.
"I must explain to you that it was no easy matter for a Russian seaman to serve on a vessel which visited foreign ports. First one had to go through the Communist Party sieve and then he was told that if he jumped ship his family would suffer for it.
"Anyway, he bought me a lovely pair of Telefunken headphones when the ship berthed at Constantinople (Istanbul) which I have to this day. But not on his first trip, when he was not allowed to go ashore. And it was not the captain who decided who could go ashore. A trusted member of the Party would pick out a group of seamen who could land but they had to stay together the whole time.
"I never managed to go abroad. At the Club I had obtained a morse test certificate for 40 letters a minute (8 wpm) in Latin characters and 90 letters (18 wpm) in the Cyrillic alphabet (Russian). To go abroad one had to up-grade to 80 Latin and 120 Cyrillic letters. (16 & 24 wpm). I was put on a small coastal ice-breaker which cleared the river estuaries in the Black Sea.
"The Black Sea is one of the most treacherous inland seas in the world. During the winter its northern shores are frozen whereas the coast of Asia Minor keeps the southern shores relatively warm by comparison. This results in gale force winds and rough seas. Waves follow each other very closely as opposed to the long swell one gets in the Pacific. Ships have to leave port to avoid crashing into each other.
"I was about 18 when I first went to sea as a cadet W/T operator. One day when we came out of an estuary the sea was so rough that the captain decided to turn back. As we turned to starboard we noticed an American freighter behind us heavily laden with wheat and very low down in the water. To our horror it was caught between the crests of two enormous waves and broke in two roughly amidships. Although we were only about half a mile away the freighter sank before we could get to it. We saw a few survivors in the water, but it would have been impossible to put a boat into that treacherous sea. Apart from which a man cannot survive many minutes in a water temperature just above freezing. It was all over in a flash and we returned to Odessa in deep shock.
"Odessa used to have four harbours. The callsign of the W/T station was EU5KAO. I remember it very well because it was my job to take the weather forecasts for shipping which it transmitted regularly."
Takis spoke about some amusing misconceptions of that period. When he first completed his receiver and was getting poor results with it he asked a more experienced amateur to look at it. The 'expert' immediately found the first fault: the downlead from the antenna had a bend in it of more than 45 degrees which was quite unacceptable. Secondly, the ground connection to the central heating radiator was no good because it was winter and the radiator was hot so it presented a very high resistance! It must be soldered, he said, to a cold water tap.
"I tried everything I could think of to solder the wire to the tap, but to no avail. Then one day I had a brain-wave and I made a stupendous invention! I wrapped a copper strip round the tap and bolted it tightly, together with the ground wire. I was really very proud of myself and wondered if anybody else had ever thought of doing it that way."
I asked Takis if he had done any transmitting from home. "We amateurs of foreign origin were not allowed to own transmitters but we could operate the club station under close supervision by the Party member who was always present. My own SWL callsign was RK-1136 as you can see from the QSL card I received from EU5DN in 1929.
"I remember our excitement when we first contacted a station outside Russia. It was a station in Saarbrueken and we were on a wavelength of 42 metres. All the members of the Club sent him our SWL reports and he sent us back his cards and a photograph of his equipment which was published in the Moscow amateur journal and so Odessa became famous. On 42 metres most of our QSOs were with German stations. As a result of this success many young lads joined our club and we 'experts' would explain to them about bends in the aerial down-lead and the high resistance of a ground connection to a central heating radiator when the water in it was hot!!
The club transmitter consisted of 4 valves in a Hartley parallel push-pull oscillator circuit which we considered to be of relative 'high power'--perhaps all of 10 watts."
Takis continued: "In 1930, my family, like many other families of Greek origin, moved to Athens. I built a cw transmitter using four Philips valves. I went and saw Mr Eleftheriou at the Ministry and he informed me that there was no way that he could issue me with a transmitting licence, but he thanked me all the same for telling him I had built a transmitter."
Takis continued: "I would like you to notice these two QSL cards I received in 1933. I1IP wrote on his card 'I am on the air since 1924 but you are the first SV station I have heard'. And the British listener BRS1183 wrote 'Dear old man, very pleased to report your signals. Are you the only active station in SV?' I think those comments speak for themselves."
Norman: "Had you not heard about Tavaniotis, who had also emigrated from Russia?"
Takis: "No. It was you who took me to the basement shack and introduced me. I remember how I gaped when I saw the 150 watt transmitter Bill had built."
Takis then described how he had heard a distress signal on his home-made receiver. It was in a language he could not understand so he called his father, who was quite a linguist, to listen. It appeared that the vessel had caught fire as it was approaching the port of Piraeus, south of Athens. The captain of the ship said their predicament was complicated by the fact that they were transporting a large circus, with many wild animals. Takis ran to the nearest Police station and told his story, but was greeted practically with derision. How could a young lad like him know there had been a fire on a ship which was not even in sight of the shore? Anyway, somebody was brought to the station and the officer said "Go with this man." Takis was taken to the coast at Palaio Faliro where he boarded a salvage tug, and they set out to sea. He said the vessel in distress had been bound for Piraeus, and sure enough the salvage tug located it, but when they approached it there was no sign of fire as it had been put out, before any of the animals could be harmed. But the engine room had been damaged, so the tug towed the vessel into harbour. What Coumbias didn't know was that by law he was entitled to a proportion of the salvage money, and he never got anything.
Another incident involving a small yacht which belonged to a friend of Takis' led to an interesting assignment. The yacht was considered to be not seaworthy any more, and a W/T transmitter it carried was dismantled completely by an electrician who knew nothing about wireless.
"I was asked to put it together again by the owner who wanted to sell it to the ship to shore W/T station where they did not have a short wave capability yet. When I was shown the parts I was horrified to see that there was no circuit diagram or instructions of any sort. It took me more than a month to figure it all out. The transmitter was of French manufacture and consisted of two enormous triodes in a Hartley oscillator circuit. When I got it to work it was installed at the Naval Wireless station at Votanikos, where the Director, Captain Kyriakos Pezopoulos used it for experimental transmissions. There were already two other transmitters there, one on Long Waves and one on 600 metres. The callsign of the station was SXA. As this was the third transmitter they used the callsign SXA3. The operator, Lt. George Bassiacos, had discovered some telegraphy stations which replied when he called them--he had accidentally stumbled upon the amateur 20 metre band! With a transmitter supplied with unrectified A.C. at 400 Hz. and a power output of several kilowatts, no wonder contacts with any part of the world were easy. When Captain Pezopoulos met Bill Tavaniotis the latter suggested that if the 'experimental' transmissions were to continue in the amateurs bands, the callsign should be altered to SX3A. Thousands of successful contacts were made as it was the beginning of sunspot cycle 16, a very good one as old timers will know. If anyone reading this has a QSL card from SX3A it would be appreciated if he would donate it to the Technical Museum in Greece."
(Takis Coumbias died suddenly of a heart attack in September 1987.)
2. Pol Psomiadis N2DOE (formerly SV1AZ).
The text which follows was written by Pol N2DOE of Bergenfield NJ.
Norman Joly and I first met in 1935 when I started working with Bill SV1KE as his radio mechanic. Norman was then working for the local agents of RCA selling broadcast receivers. The last time I saw him before the war, was in September 1939. I was still working with Bill and I went to the British School of Archaeology in Athens to deliver a National NC 100 with a Spiderweb all-band antenna. Norman had been recruited to set up a monitoring station for the Press Department of the British Embassy, which had been moved to a building in the grounds of the school. After the end of the war I saw him again in 1948 in the uniform of a Superintendent of Police working in the British Police Mission to Greece. He told me he had obtained a special licence and was back on the air with his pre-war callsign SV1RX.
In 1951 I emigrated to Brazil where I stayed for 17 years and then came to the U.S.A. in 1968, where I have been ever since. We had lost contact with each other and it was five years later that I found Norman's address in the American callbook. I wrote to him and in his reply he begged me to come on the air again. Owing to a prolonged family illness which culminated in the loss of my beloved wife it was 1980 before I was in the mood to take up amateur radio once again, with my present callsign N2DOE.
When I went to London in 1984 to spend a few weeks with Norman he told me he had started recording some reminiscences on a tape recorder about the first radio amateurs in Greece, and he asked me if I would like to help. As I was one of them myself I agreed. When I left to return to the U.S.A. he gave me a number of cassettes to transcribe. Although he speaks fluent Greek without any accent at all, he never attended a Greek school and couldn't write the memories. He told me to add anything else I could remember about those pioneering days long gone by.
So, to start from the beginning, let me say that I was born in Constantinople (now Istanbul) in Turkey, in October 1910, of Greek parents. Although we spoke Greek at home I did not go to a Greek school until I was nine. But I soon moved to the French College where all the lessons were in French and Greek was only taught as a foreign language for two hours every afternoon.
My elder brother had subscribed to a French magazine called 'La Science et La Vie' (Science & Life) and I had become fascinated by a subject called 'Telegrafie sans fil' (Telegraphy without wire). The broadcasting of speech and music had not started yet in that part of the world, though in 1923, a broadcasting station was built in Ankara the capital of Turkey. Broadcast receivers began to appear in the shops, either with headphones or large horn loudspeakers, but we never had one at home.
In 1926 we moved to Athens, Greece, where I went to school. Strangely enough, as I found out later, that was the year when Norman also came to Athens for the first time. At school I met Nasos Coucoulis (later SV1SM and SV1AC) who was also very interested in wireless. I made a crystal receiver and was able to hear the Greek Royal Navy station at Votanikos SXA and the old station at Thiseon in Athens itself, which was still a spark station. There just was nothing else to hear. I acquired a Philips 'E' type valve and built a grid-leak detector circuit, but all I got was silence. The four volt heater drew one amp and I had been trying to get it going with a small torch battery. As I became more experienced I began repairing simple broadcast receivers for my friends and putting up wire antennas for reception for people who had bought broadcast receivers.
In 1929 Nasos and I were in our final year at the Megareos School. We built a very simple AM transmitter tuned to about 500 metres and we broadcast the performance of a play acted by the final year students. I have no idea if anybody heard our transmission, but it was certainly the first amateur broadcast in Greece.
Nasos and I spoke to each other with very simple AM transmitters across the 60 metres or so separating our homes, again without knowing whether anybody else ever accidentally tuned in to our very low power transmissions.
In 1932 I was called up for my compulsory Military service and ended up attending the Reserve Officers Cadet School. After my military training I started work at the Lambropoulos Brothers shop in the Metohikon Tameion building. It was there that I made the acquaintance of Takis Coumbias, who had come to Greece from Russia with his family. Takis had had eight years experience of amateur radio in Russia, and he told us how the radio clubs operated under the strict supervision of the Communist Party.
Three years later, in 1935, I moved to Tavaniotis' workshop as his mechanic. 'Bill' had built an AM and CW transmitter with an output of 150 watts. He used the callsign SV1KE. We had regular contacts with George Moens SU1RO in Cairo, Egypt. George is still active in his native land of Belgium with the callsign ON5RO in Brussels. He should be well into his 80s by now. In 1938 George came to Athens with his wife Beba and their little boy Robert to visit her parents who were Greek, and of course they came to our shack and we had the pleasure of meeting them in person after many years of chatting over the air.
In Greece we are 7 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time and so our contacts with the U.S.A. took place well after midnight, our time. One of the stations we contacted very regularly was Charles Mellen W1FH in Boston. Chas was born in Boston of Greek parents. His father came to Greece in 1936 or 1937 with Charles' younger sister, a pretty little girl of about 14. They came to Bill's shack and were able to speak to Boston with the equipment shown in this photograph taken by Norman. After the end of World War II W1FH together with W6AM of California were the two leading stations in the U.S.A. topping all the achievement tables. But W6AM had a slight advantage; he had bought a site previously belonging to Press Wireless which had 36 rhombics whereas W1FH always operated with his simple Yagi at 60 feet.
Another station with which we had frequent contacts on 20 metres was W2IXY owned by Dorothy Hall. One night Dorothy gave us a big surprise. In the course of a QSO she told us to listen carefully. Suddenly the three or four of us in SV1KE's shack heard our voices coming back from New York. Dorothy had recorded our previous transmission on a disc. A few days later we turned the tables on her. We had hastily put together some recording equipment and played back her transmission. Dorothy said that was the first time she had heard her voice coming from 5,000 miles away. I must explain that at that time (about 1933) home recording was a novelty even in the U.S.A. Recording on vinyl tape was invented by Telefunken towards the end of the war in 1945. Today even little children play with cassette recorders, and the latest revolutionary home recording system invented by Japan DAT (Digital Audio Tape) provides high fidelity studio quality with no background noise; really a 'super' version of the mini cassette recorder.
In Athens we continued to operate even through the Dictatorship of General Metaxas which began with a coup in August 1936, but not without some problems. The main target of the infamous Maniadakis, Minister of the Interior under Metaxas, were of course the Communists, but the handful of radio amateurs also came under suspicion of being subversive elements. Things got worse, in fact, when the newspaper Estia owned by K.Kyrou, published an article blaming 'amateurs' for being responsible for interference to short wave reception. I must explain that the writer was referring to the dozens of pirate low power broadcasting stations operating in the medium wave (broadcast) band. Regretably, I have to place on record that owing to the late development of broadcasting and official recognition of amateur radio in Greece, the word 'amateur' in the minds of the general public embraces CBers, pirates of all kinds operating on medium waves and recently in the FM band, and genuine licensed amateurs as well. So, as I was working in the basement workshop at SV1KE's one afternoon, three of Maniadakis' plain-clothes men turned up and said they had come to seize 'the broadcasting equipment'. Fortunately Bill was not in the shop when they came. I asked them if they had a search warrant and they said no. I replied that I was only an employee and could they call back a little later when Mr Tavaniotis himself would be there to answer their questions, and thus managed to get rid of them. When Bill returned I told him about the incident and he left straight away and went to the Ministry of Posts & Telegraphs to see Mr. Stefanos Eleftheriou. And so it came about that Eleftheriou who knew all about our activity in the amateur bands issued the first three licences to SV1KE, SV1CA and SV1NK 'to carry out experimental transmissions relating to the study of propagation on the short waves'. He knew that he had every right to do this as Greece was a signatory to the international telecommunication treaties.
I would like to record at this point that Aghis Cazazis SV1CA now a silent key, has left his own 'monument' in Athens. After the end of World War II, in his capacity as Head of Lighting Development with the Electricity authority, he designed the magnificent floodlighting of the Acropolis which is admired by tourists to the present day.
To return to 1937: Mr Eleftheriou entrusted us with the task of preparing draft legislation for legalising amateur radio activity. We wrote to the U.S.A., to England, France and Germany and obtained copies of the laws governing the issue of licences in all these countries, and we began the long task of drafting a text which would be appropriate to the political situation then prevailing in our country (military dictatorship). Norman Joly, then SV1RX, had written a text in English, but before we could translate it into Greek or do anything about it, all our hopes were dashed to the ground by the outbreak of war in September 1939.
In 1944 while serving as a reserve officer in the Greek army, I was seconded to the British Military Mission to Greece (B.M.M.) because of my knowledge of English and French. There I met several amateurs serving with the British forces, and one of them gave me a small military transmitter, so I was able to come on the air again with my old callsign of SV1AZ.
3. Constantine 'Bill' Tavaniotis (formerly SV1KE).
There is no doubt that the most active and best known amateur in Greece before World War II was 'Bill' SV1KE. He was active on 20 and 10 metres on AM phone and CW, using his famous McElroy 'bug' to good advantage. (No electronic keyers and no 15 metre band in those years).
Tavaniotis was born in Rostov, USSR, of Greek parents. His father was a well-known doctor. Like many other Greek families Bill and his parents left Russia in the early years of the Communist regime and moved to Istanbul, Turkey, where he began his studies at the famous Robert College. Later he went to London where he first came into contact with radio amateurs, while studying Electrical Engineering. After that he went to Belgium.
Bill had a knack of picking up languages and when I met him in Athens in the early thirties he spoke at least seven to my knowledge: Russian, Greek, English, French, Italian, Turkish and German. His pronunciation in all them was excellent. On one occasion at a party in the Athens suburb of Palaio Psyhico one of the guests was an amateur from Italy who spoke no English, so Bill interpreted from that language into Italian for his benefit. He then translated what the Italian had said into English for the others. But suddenly their faces went blank. Quite unconsciously Bill had translated the Italian's remarks into Turkish! Many years later Bill was employed at the United Nations in New York as a simultaneous translator. In October 1946 Bill and his wife Artemis visited Charles Mellen W1FH in Boston for an 'eyeball' after more than ten years of QSOs over the air, with the exception of the war years of course. Chas photographed Bill outside the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Bill photographed Mary (Chas' xyl), Chas and Artemis standing in front of the W1FH tower.
The first transmitter he built can be seen in the photo taken from the book Greek Broadcasting published by Radio Karayianni in 1952. His shack was in the basement workshop at 17a, Bucharest Street in Athens, an address which became known world-wide as the first QSL bureau for Greece.
The gang of enthusiasts who met at Bill's included Nasos Coucoulis SV1SM, Aghis Cazazis SV1CA, Nick Katselis SV1NK, Mikes Paidousi SV1MP, Pol Psomiadis SV1AZ (now N2DOE) and the writer of these memoirs, SV1RX. Of course all visiting amateurs made a beeline for the shack in the basement. As most of our contacts were with the U.S.A. we were usually up most of the night because of the 7-hour difference with Eastern Standard Time. None of us had motor-cars and public transport was not available during the night hours so we all got plenty of exercise walking back to our respective houses.
Bill was closely in touch with two men who played a very important role in the development of amateur radio in Greece. I am referring to Stefanos Eleftheriou who was Section Head for Telecommunications at the Ministry (Greek initials T.T.T.)., and to Captain Kyriakos Pezopoulos, Director of D.R.Y.N. (Greek initials for Directorate of the Wireless Service of the Navy). The long wave spark transmitter at Votanikos, a suburb of Athens, (callsign SXA) had been built by the Marconi company before World
(Bill Tavaniotis died of cancer in 1948.)
4. Harry Barnett G2AIQ (formerly SV1WE).
In July 1946, Harry Barnett, a Royal Air Force officer attached to the Press Department of the British Embassy in Athens obtained an experimental transmitting licence from the W/T section of the Ministry of Posts & Telegraphs, with the callsign SV1WE. At that time he was living in a flat in Athens and could not put up an antenna, so it was not until June 1947 that he became active.
The terms of his licence were in themselves rather strange, one might even say quite 'experimental', the final paragraph reading:
"This experimental research must be carried out as follows:-
1. With a maximum power of 50 watts. 2. In the frequency bands (harmonics) 130, 260, 520 Mc/s. 3. In the frequency bands 28 Mc/s and 56 Mc/s. 4. With the call sign SV1WE."
From June 1947 until April 1948 Harry worked 61 countries, mostly on phone in the 10 & 20 metre bands, at a time when there were not many stations on the air--a minute fraction of the millions now active.
He used a National HRO receiver he had got off a scrap heap which he modified to take the efficient EF50 valves in the R.F. stages and EF39s in the I.F.
The transmitter was completely 'home brew', consisting of a metal 6L6 Franklin oscillator on 3.5 MHz followed by two more 6L6s doubling to 14 MHz. In the final amplifier stage Harry used a Telefunken pentode, the famous and very efficient RL12P35 which was used in the German tank transmitters in all stages, oscillator, P.A. and audio amplifier/suppressor grid modulator. He adopted the same method of modulation using a record player amplifier and an Astatic crystal microphone.
W.A.C. was achieved by February 1948 with about 50 watts of R.F. into a simple dipole antenna. During the ten months that SV1WE was active 750 QSL cards were sent out. Of the 61 countries worked only 49 were confirmed.
Today (1989) Harry is still regularly on the air under his original callsign G2AIQ which was first issued to him on the 1st of January 1938, 51 years ago.
5. George Yiapapas (formerly SV1GY).
George Yiapapas is a Greek amateur who was very active for over 25 years yet nobody seems to have heard of him. In 1935 George and his father Costas built a one-valve transmitter using a type 59 pentode with suppressor grid modulation, and succeeded in contacting most of the world with this QRP rig. The electron coupled oscillator could not have put more than 4 or 5 watts into the antenna.
After the war George went to Jordan in 1956 to work for Cable & Wireless the English company which operated the old Eastern Telegraph cable network. He used the callsign JY1GY for about a year and was then transferred to Tripoli in the Kingdom of Lybia, during the reign of King Idris, where he obtained an official licence with the call 5A3TA.
In 1960 he was again transferred, this time to Kuwait, where he operated the equipment of Mohamet Behbehani 9K2AM for over six years. George now has a small shop in Piraeus, the port of Athens and is no longer active on the amateur bands.
6. Stefanos Eleftheriou (1895-1979).
Stefanos Eleftheriou, Head of the Telecommmunications section of the Ministry of Posts & Telegraphs (Greek initials T.T.T.) played a vital role in the early development of amateur radio in Greece.
When he returned from Switzerland, where he had studied Electrical Engineering, he had to do his compulsory military service which had been deferred while he was completing his education. A friend of his told him "Don't go into the Army, join the Navy; they have an amazing wireless station at Votanikos with which they can contact the Fleet anywhere in the world". As it happened there was a vacancy for an officer and Stefanos together with another young man called Nikolis faced a Selection Board of naval officers who really didn't know what qualifications they were looking for. He was successful whereas Nikolis went to the Ministry of Posts & Telegraphs where he ended up as Director-General many years later.
The Marconi Company of England had built an impressive wireless station for the Greek Royal Navy at Votanikos, a suburb of Athens. There was a transmitter which operated on 600 metres and a larger one on long waves above 2,000 metres which used the callsign SXA.
Stefanos told me how he was summoned by the Director of the Naval Station Admiral Mezeviris who asked him "Tell me, young man, what do you know about wireless?"
"Well sir", replied Eleftheriou, "I studied Electrical Engineering in Switzerland--I really don't anything about wireless."
"Neither do I", replied the Admiral candidly. "Nor do most of my officers. We must set up a school to train technicians and wireless operators. I entrust you with the task of getting all the necessary books and other materials. Write to England, the U.S.A., France and Germany and get whatever you need. When you are ready I will appoint staff to assist you." That was how Eleftheriou became the head of the first school for training wireless officers for the Greek Royal Navy.
A couple of years later Eleftheriou joined the staff of the Ministry of Post & Telegraphs. A newspaper of 1930 had a photograph of him with one of his triplet sons.
In his capacity of Head of the Telecommunications Section at the Ministry he worked hard to get official recognition of amateur radio. A handful of us who were active 'under cover' so to speak, frequently visited him in his office. He was a very likeable person and had a talent for anecdotes. One day he told us that he had attended a Joint Services Committee which had been set up to study the requirements for building a broadcasting station in Athens. A station had been in regular operation in the northern city of Thessaloniki (Salonica) since 1928, built by the pioneer of Broadcasting in the Balkans Christos Tsingeridis.
When the question of wavelength for the proposed station was considered somebody said a wavelength of 2,000 metres might be appropriate. One of the military officers, who shall be nameless, remarked angrily "What! 2,000 metres. We are spending all this money only to be received up to Koukouvaounes? This is outrageous!" (Koukouvaounes was then a small village with a funny name about 3 miles south-west of Athens.
Eleftheriou lived to the ripe old age of 84. When I last saw him he promised to give me his collection of old photographs and a large number of books and documents relating to the development of radio communications in Greece. Unfortunately, shortly after his death his wife and three sons moved house temporarily and a packing case containing all these priceless papers was lost in
7. Norman F.Joly G3FNJ. (Formerly SV1RX).
I was born in Izmir (then known as Smyrna), on the west coast of Turkey in Asia Minor, in 1911, of British parents. My British nationality was established through the Treaty of Capitulation which was then in force between Turkey and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I remember there was a British Post Office in Smyrna and we posted our letters with British postage stamps (of King Edward VII) overprinted with the word LEVANT.
My grandmother on my father's side had come from Russia. It is a strange coincidence that Takis Coumbias (ex SV1AAA), Bill Tavaniotis (ex SV1KE) and I all had roots in southern Russia. My grandmother on my mother's side was the daughter of the Dutch consul in Smyrna. Quite a mixed bag.
In 1922, at the end of the war between Turkey and Greece, the town of Smyrna was destroyed by fire when the Greek army was routed. My widowed mother with four young children, was advised to take us on board a British merchant vessel while the town changed hands. We were told to take a little food with us just for a day or two. We carried a large string bag with some bread, cheese and fruit, and one knife, one fork and one spoon between the five of us. I remember it was night and my mother put all her jewelry in a small leather bag. As I pulled the cord to close it the pin of a large broach stuck out through the top. My mother grabbed it and said I would hurt myself--I was only 11 years old at the time. She looked around the bedroom, lifted up a corner of the mattress of her bed and hid the pouch 'safely' underneath it. We hurried out of the house--and never went back.
We and many other families spent one night on the merchant vessel where there was no sleeping accommodation. Next morning we were transferred to a large hospital ship called Maine. All day we watched small groups of the Turkish and Greek armies skirmishing on the sea-front and in the evening many fires broke out in the town. In the middle of the night while we were sleeping the hospital ship sailed away to an unknown destination. After two or three days we arrived in Malta, where most of us stayed for the next four years.
It was in Malta that my interest in wireless telegraphy was first aroused. We were housed in some military 'married quarters'. Close by there was a wireless station which produced bright greenish-blue sparks and crackling noises. Its antennas were supported on three very tall wooden masts painted bright yellow. I soon discovered that it was GYZ belonging to the Admiralty. Malta was then (1922) a very big base of the British Navy, in the good old days when England had an Empire.
I bought a kit of parts and assembled a small receiver and being so close to the powerful spark transmitter that was all I ever heard.
In 1926 when I left school my family moved to Greece and my brother who was 7 years older than me, opened up a shipping office on the island of Mitylene, in the Aegean sea. My father and grandfather had been in this business in Turkey.
It was in Mitylene in 1927 that I constructed my first short wave receiver. It had 3 valves with 4 volt filaments, heated by an accumulator (storage battery). H.T of 130 volts was obtained from a bank of small accumulators in series. As I had not learned how to make a charger I had to carry these two units to a local garage regularly for re-charging.
Apart from commercial telegraph stations there was little else to hear. I had still not heard about 'amateur' radio. The B.B.C. was carrying out test transmissions from Chelmsford for what became the Empire Service (now the World Service) using the callsign G5SW. There was also G6RX which stood for Rugby Experimental, operated by the British Post Office. They were experimenting with ship-to-shore telephony, and after setting up a circuit the operator used to say "over to condition A" (and sometimes B) which was very frustrating for me because the voices then became scrambled and quite unintelligible. When I first began transmitting six years later, having 'discovered' the amateurs, I chose the callsign RX as I had been a listener so long, and also remembering the excitement of listening to G6RX.
In 1930 I moved to Athens and became a salesman for RCA radios. It was there that I met Bill Tavaniotis, SV1KE, and his mechanic Pol SV1AZ (now N2DOE). None of us had official licences because the Greek State did not recognise the existence of amateur radio, and in fact Athens did not even have a broadcasting station until 1938, although a station had been operating since 1928 in Salonica (Thessaloniki) the second largest city of Greece. But the Head of the W/T section at the Ministry of Posts & Telegraphs (Greek initials T.T.T) Mr Stefanos Eleftheriou knew all about us and gave us his unofficial blessing.
My first transmitter was just an electron coupled oscillator using a type 59 output pentode from a radio. With an input of around 5 watts I was able to achieve W.A.C. on 14 MHz in 25 minutes one very exciting afternoon. There were very few stations around and single frequency working had not been heard of yet. It was the middle of the sunspot cycle (which I knew nothing of) and propagation must have been exceptionally good.
Another thing we had never heard of in those innocent days was SWR. I had a Hot Wire ammeter and always tuned for maximum deflection, completely oblivious of the fact that a large proportion of the indicated value was 'reflected power'. I moved to 'high power' when I added a 210 P.A. to my rig.
Obviously the prefix SV was quite a rare one and SV stations were much sought after, particularly the handful who used CW. But as I described in a short article in the October 1948 issue of the Short Wave Magazine published in London, it was not all fun being a rare DX station. A photo copy appears below:
To return to pre-World War II operating: Most operators used crystal oscillators in order to have a clean '9x' note. It was quite normal procedure to call CQ on one's crystal frequency, say 14,076 KHz and then go over and start combing the band from 14,000 for replies. At that time 20 metres covered 14,000 to 14,400 KHz., and the 15 metre band had not been allocated to the amateur service.
In September 1939 Hitler invaded Poland and all of us hastily and voluntarily dismantled our transmitters and scattered the components, as there was nobody to order us to close down.
In the latter part of April 1941 the German army marched into the northern suburbs of Athens at 11 o'clock in the morning. At 3 o'clock in the afternoon of the same day, a strong unit of the Gestapo arrived in the southern suburb of Kallithea and surrounded the block in which my house was situated and broke into it, looking for me and my transmitter. Of course I had dismantled everything 19 months previously and even taken down the antenna. So after this long period of QRT how did they know where to find me? Well, four years earlier I had won the first prize for Greece in the D.A.S.D. DX Contest for 1937 and the German society had sent me a nice certificate. You can draw your own conclusions. I heard later (because I had left a few days earlier for Egypt with the staff of the British Embassy) that the Gestapo had visited all the active amateurs and had managed to arrest only one of them, Nasos Coucoulis SV1SM (later SV1AC) and put him in a concentration camp in Italy for nearly a year.
I would like to sketch briefly the turbulent events of the following three years with some extracts from my diaries.
One year earlier, in 1940, following the invasion of Greece by the Italian army operating from Albania, the broadcasting authority in Athens (Ethnikon Idrima Radiofonias) began a news service in English which was beamed to England and the U.S.A. on the short waves. In my capacity as a member of the Press Department staff of the British Embassy I took part in the first programme, and in fact read the first news bulletin, which went out at 3 a.m. Athens time. As I said above, early in April I was transferred to the British Embassy in Cairo, Egypt.
1941: Very small contingents of the British army landed in Greece to help the Greek army. But they proved totally incapable of standing up to the onslaught of the German army which followed soon after. The Greek army laid down its arms in Epirus (north-western Greece). General Tsolakoglou became the first 'Quisling' Prime Minister of Greece. King George and his government, under Premier Emmanouil Tsouderos had left for Cairo.
1942: In North Africa General Rommel had advanced to within 100 miles of Cairo, but his supply lines had become very long. One of the most important was the railway link through Greece, so the British strategists decided that attempts must be made to disrupt it. The Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) in London, despatched two small groups of saboteurs (about a dozen men altogether) under the command of Brigadier Eddie Myers and Major Chris Woodhouse who had the task of linking up with the various bands of 'Andartes' (Resistance movement fighters) which had started forming in the mountains.
Unfortunately, the British officers were told nothing at all about the bitter rivalries between the various groups, most probably because H.Q. in Cairo were themselves ignorant about the real situation. It didn't take Meyers and Woodhouse long to discover that by far the largest group was E.L.A.S. (the Popular Liberation Army) under Aris Velouhiotis, about 120 ill-equipped men operating in the Pindus mountains. Another smaller group of about 60 men had rallied round a regular officer of the Greek army, Colonel Napoleon Zervas. They called themselves the National Republican Greek League (Greek initials E.D.E.S.)
I met Zervas personally years later when he was Minister of the Interior (and therefore responsible for the Police). I was then acting as interpreter for the Assistant-Head of the British Police Mission to Greece. I remember vividly with what relish he described to Colonel Prosser his method of torturing E.L.A.S. prisoners, which left no physical marks on any part of the body.
It was in the course of a secret visit to Athens that young Chris Woodhouse found out the real chain of command, when he was introduced to George Siantos, the Secretary of the Greek Communist Party (Greek initials K.K.E.). The K.K.E. controlled E.A.M., the National Liberation Front which, in turn, ran E.L.A.S. But with a title like that (National Liberation Front) it was easy to see why E.A.M. enjoyed such widespread support, not only in the countryside, but also among the intelligentsia in Athens.
But the task of the S.O.E. officers was made very difficult for various reasons: Winston Churchill had given orders that they were to support, as far as possible, only those guerrilla leaders who favoured the King--but there were none, or very few. The S.O.E. units had orders to cause the maximum disruption to the German occupation of the country. And that was impossible without the support of E.L.A.S., which was controlled by the Communists. At the outset, it became obvious to the S.O.E. officers that military and political priorities were already in conflict.
E.L.A.S. forces were getting stronger every day and very soon they began attacking fellow Greeks in non-communist Andarte units. The successful attack on the railway bridge over the Gorgopotamos river on the 26th of November was the first and last time that Elas and Edes co-operated against the common enemy under the coercion and technical guidance of the British.
1943: Friction between Edes and Elas continued to increase. When Eddie Myers told them that he had been instructed to destroy the bridge over the Asopos river, Elas said it was too dangerous a target and refused to help, so this became an all-British operation. A 24-year-old demolition expert of the Royal Engineers Captain Ken Scott, was sent from Cairo. He was dropped by parachute, and planned the successful attack on the bridge. It took the Germans four months to rebuild it.
On the 11th of September 14,000 Italian troops in the north-west surrendered to the Andartes with all their arms. A month later Elas seized the weapons and attacked Edes. The civil war had begun.
1944: The friction between the various groups of the Resistance movement erupted into full-scale war, described as the 'civil war' or the 'guerrilla war' depending on whose side you were on. Elas were determined that they alone would be in control when the Allies arrived. As a result of intense negotiations on the part of the British officers, all the Andarte leaders signed an Armistice document on the 29th February 1944 agreeing to stop fighting each other and to concentrate all their efforts against the common enemy--the Germans. Unfortunately, barely a month later Elas attacked and completely annihilated the smallest andarte group E.K.K.A. Now only Edes and the 200-strong S.O.E. force stood between the 40,000 Elas Communists and total control of the Greek countryside.
In the Middle East, the Lebanon Conference, attended by delegates from all parties, including representatives of the Andartes, elected George Papandreou (father of Andreas Papandreou, recently Prime Minister of Greece), to act as Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity in exile. In September the government moved temporarily to Italy. In October, following the withdrawal of the Germans from Athens, British troops began landing in Greece from Greek and British warships. By far the largest contingent landed near the port of Piraeus and tens of thousands of Greeks turned out to cheer and welcome the British forces as they marched through the streets.
On October 18 the members of the Greek government returned to Athens under the leadership of the Premier George Papandreou, who was accompanied by Lt. General Ronald Scobie, the Allied military commander.
Sadly though, in December Elas marched on Athens. The British troops, so recently feted and garlanded now found themselves fighting on the same streets of their earlier welcome. S.O.E. had been warning Cairo for two years that this might happen. After three or four weeks of intense fighting in the streets of Athens and in the suburbs, Elas withdrew.
Winston Churchill came to Athens on Christmas Day to mediate. A couple of Elas snipers hiding in a school a few hundred yards away from the British Embassy took a few pot shots at him as he got out of an armoured vehicle which had brought him from the airport. Next day, when he attended a meeting of all parties, the Elas representative walked in wearing a military-style uniform with crossed bandoleers across his chest, and carrying two pistols. Churchill turned to his interpreter and said quietly: "Tell him to leave his toys outside, or I fly back to London immediately, to spend Christmas properly with my family."
1945: On the 1st of January Archbishop Damaskinos was appointed Regent. (It had been agreed that the King should not return to Greece until his position had been clarified by a plebiscite). Plastiras replaced Papandreou as Prime Minister. After the Varkiza agreement the guerrilla war (or civil war) was officially brought to an end.
Years later in a broadcast, Chris Woodhouse summarised what the S.O.E. mission to Greece had achieved.
1. It had provided the technical expertise, such as the handling of explosives, without which the major sabotage successes would have been impossible.
2. It had provided the tactical planning and supplied the communications which successfully harnessed the courage of the Greeks to the strategic requirements of the Allied commanders.
3. Most important of all, in the long run, it assured that no armed force in occupied Greece would gain a monopoly of power on the day of liberation. The final aim of the mission was to leave the Greeks with a free choice at the end of the war--a choice between a Monarchy, a Republic or even a Communist regime if they wanted it. But the recent dramatic events in the closing months of 1989 in Poland, the U.S.S.R., Hungary, the East German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia and finally Romania have proved that the last choice would have been an unwise one if the Greeks had also opted for Communism.
1946: Following a plebiscite King George II returned to Greece at the end of September and appointed Panayis Tsaldaris as his Prime Minister.
When I returned to Athens in October 1944 on H.H.M.S. Averof I had been appointed Radio Monitoring Officer of the Anglo-Greek Information Service (A.G.I.S.) with a staff of about 25 W/T operators and typists to assist me. My unit was a section of the Press Department of the British Embassy. I think the choice of title was a rather unfortunate mistake. The English words 'information' and 'intelligence' have only one equivalent word in Greek pliroforiesq. And most Greeks hold peculiar views about the C.I.A. and the British Intelligence Service. So here I was strutting about in the uniform of a war correspondent bearing the flashes 'I.S.', the butt of many a joke from my friends who accused me of being a master spy. My boss, Colonel Johnson, who had been the British Council representative in Greece prior to the outbreak of war in 1939, came to my office one morning and told me that he had heard a rumour that King George of the Hellenes, who was then in London, was going to broadcast in the Greek service of the B.B.C. I replied I had heard nothing, but would try and find out if the rumour was true. As he left my office I glanced at my watch; it was 11 o'clock in the morning, 9 o'clock in London. I telephoned the General Manager of Cable & Wireless, Mr Briggs, who was a personal friend. I told him I wanted to make use of his facilities to ask an urgent question of the B.B.C. in London. He replied, "Tell McTaggert" (the engineer in charge of the Central Telegraph Office) "that I said he should help you in any way possible."
"Mac", I said over the telephone, "would you get one of your operators to ring the B.B.C. in Bush House (from where the World Service originates) and ask them if they have any plans for a broadcast by King George of the Hellenes." I immediately tuned one of my receivers to the frequency of the London telegraph link, which was carrying high speed morse traffic. In a short while the tape was stopped and an operator, using a hand key, asked my question slowly in plain language, and then the tape was put on again. I waited anxiously for about five minutes. Again the tape was stopped, a single letter 'R' (for received) was sent by hand, and traffic returned to normal. My telephone rang; it was McTaggert. "Nothing doing, old boy. The B.B.C. have no plans for such a broadcast." I thanked him and looked at my watch. It was 11.25, just 25 minutes had elapsed. I called my boss and told him the answer to his question. "How do you know?", he asked. "I asked the B.B.C., sir." "You what?", he shouted at me. "Don't you know there's a war on? I'm coming to see you." He stormed into my office and demanded an explanation, so I told him what I had done. "Good God, what is this going to cost us?". "Nothing at all, sir. There is no provision for anything like that in the operating procedure". "Then I must write a letter to Cable & Wireless to thank them." I thought to myself, why don't you write a letter to Norman and thank him for having friends in the right places. But I kept my mouth shut.
My equipment and my staff of 20 men and 5 girls were housed on the 6th floor of the Metohikon Tamion building. When Elas marched on Athens, there was constant firing, shelling and bombing throughout the 24 hours of the day and night for three or four weeks. The bombing was by light aircraft of the R.A.F. on the Elas positions in the suburbs and Beaufighter aircraft straffing them with 20 mm cannon. Then Elas set up a 75 mm gun in the northern suburb of Aharnon, and started hitting us back. When we had received several hits on and around our H.Q. building, I was ordered to move down to the second floor, to safer accommodation. I extended some of my antenna down-leads, and resumed normal service. One of our assignments was to transcribe, every day, what was said in the Greek transmissions of nineteen different countries about the situation in Greece, and to produce a daily summary in English, for the benefit of the Press Department.
In the summer of 1945 we began having interference on GIN, a station of the British Post Office which operated around 10MHz, transmitting a Reuter news service for Europe on the German Hellschreiber (Hell printer) system. This was a sort of very course TV picture of 49 dots, seven by seven. The letter 'I' for instance came out as seven dots vertically, and the letter 'T' just had another six dots across the top. The letters were very crude but readable, provided there was no interference, or crashes of static. The interference, which made our tape quite unreadable, used to start around 3 in the afternoon and fade slowly away about three hours later, when the tape became readable again. I decided I would try and identify the source. All I had in the way of recorders were office-type Dictaphones using wax cylinders. I removed the three weights from the speed governor, and the cylinder spun round like mad. I managed to record for about three minutes and when I played the recording on another machine at normal speed the cylinder yielded up its secret--it was high speed morse traffic in 5-figure cypher. I typed it all out and noticed that some of the paragraphs began with the letter 'B'. I subsequently found out it was a characteristic of stations carrying Royal Air Force traffic. I sent my text to London, and three weeks later the interference stopped. It was more than a month later that I was told what had happened. The transmitter causing the problem was located in Kandy, Ceylon. It operated with a rhombic antenna beamed to R.A.F. Calcutta. Its frequency was only 500 Hz away from GIN. The department which had allocated the frequency never imagined that it could possibly cause interference in Europe to the Reuter news service. But sunspot cycle 20, which was a good one, had decided otherwise.
In 1947 I was transferred to the British Police Mission to Greece, which was headed by Sir Charles Wickham. My principal duty was to interpret for Sir Charles, and for his second in command Colonel Prosser. My friend Mr Eleftheriou at the Ministry issued me with a special licence and I came on the air again using my pre-war callsign SV1RX. When the Police Mission closed down in 1948 I came to England and got the callsign G3FNJ which I have now held for over 41 years.
8. Wartime Broadcasts from Cairo.
Elias Eliascos, a former teacher of English at Athens College (a joint U.S./Greek institution) described to me how he came to be a news-reader at Radio Cairo in 1941 together with his brother Patroclos.
"When Hitler declared war on Greece and after the collapse of the front in northern Greece and in Albania, my brother Patroclos and I were summoned to the British Embassy in Athens and told that owing to our close ties with the British Council (of Cultural Relations), it would not be prudent for us to remain in Athens or even Greece after the German army had occupied the capital. We were told that we would be helped to leave Greece together with the British Embassy staff, the staff of the British Council and all the British nationals in Greece.
"The British Consul-General provided us with the necessary documents for my brother and me to board the last evacuation vessel sailing from the port of Piraeus. It was the s/s 'Corinthia' which left Piraeus on the 18th of April 1941. It happened to be Good Friday according to the Greek-Orthodox calendar. About five days later Hitler's army marched into Athens.
"The ship was packed and the British Embassy staff carried most of the Embassy files with them. One of the passengers was David Balfour who was the vicar of the little chapel attached to the Evangelismos Hospital, an impressive tall figure of a man sporting a large black beard. Although he had been ordained as a priest of the Greek-Orthodox Church he was a British national and it was widely rumoured that he was an agent of British Intelligence. His official title was 'Father Dimitrios'. He was also the spiritual father of the Greek Royal family. I refer to David Balfour because recently the 'athenian' which is the only English language magazine in Athens, in its issue dated January 1988, published a feature article about him, saying that even before the Germans had entered Athens he had shaved off his beard and divested himself of his clerical robes.
"I can say quite categorically that this was not true. When the 'Corinthia' sailed he was still 'Father Dimitrios' and in fact he officiated at a Resurrection service while we were still at sea. On the voyage we carried out lifeboat drill on two occasions, once when it was thought that there was a U-boat in the vicinity, and another time when an aircraft flew overhead which turned out to be friendly. I shall never forget how I was moved with emotion when I saw the women getting into the boats, most of them carrying babies or children in their arms, calmly singing hymns in low voices.
"Some time later I met David Balfour again in Cairo, and this time he had shaved off his beard, and he was wearing the uniform of a Major in the Intelligence Corps which is a regular unit of the British army."
Eliascos said he would like to quote a little more from the sensational article written by J.M. Thursby in the 'athenian'.
"Several years before war was even declared, the Abwehr (German military intelligence), along with the Nazi civilian secret service, had highly trained undercover agents operating in Greece. With consummate skill they had catalogued all military and civil information that could be useful to the Third Reich, and organised spy rings throughout the country. As war became more and more inevitable, it also became increasingly imperative that Britain and other anti-fascist countries should gain specific and accurate knowledge of these operations.
"During this period a monk, who had embraced the Orthodox faith in Warsaw, arrived from Poland via Mount Athos, to join the monastery of Pendeli, just outside Athens. According to his biographer John Freeman, his registration at Pendeli reads,
Cell 102 Serial number 75 Secular name David Balfour Ecclesiastic name Dimitri Place of birth England Age 35 Inscribed order of His Holiness the Archbishop of Athens. Coming from the Russian Church. Archbishopric ordinance number 3197 of 9 May 1936."
"Father Dimitri was obviously a well-educated and very courteous person. He had studied in various parts of Europe and spoke several languages fluently. These included ancient, Byzantine and modern Greek, not to mention colloquial 'mangika' (slang). When a vacancy arose for a priest to serve the chapel at Evangelismos Hospital in central Athens, who should be more suitable for this post in the heart of the select neighbourhood of Kolonaki than the well-educated, well-bred, charming and conscientious Father Dimitri."
(David Balfour died aged 86 on the 11th of October 1989.)
"Anyway, let me continue my story of the 'Corinthia trip", Eliascos went on. "We celebrated Easter on board and when we arrived at Alexandria some of us were sent on to Cairo and others went to India. My brother and I presented ourselves at the offices of the Press Department of the British Embassy in the Garden City. We were received by the well-known Byzantine scholar Stephen Runciman who was in charge of all foreign language broadcasts directed to Europe, that is, the Balkans, Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Poland and several others. One of our colleagues was Lawrence Durrell who later became the famous author of many successful books like the banned 'Black Book', 'Bitter Lemons', 'The Alexandria Quartet', 'Prospero's Cell' and others. But at that time, he used to entertain us daily with a fresh episode about his Aunt Agatha with the wooden leg."
Eliascos continued: "My brother Patroclos and I were told that we would be attached to the section producing the broadcasts in Greek directed towards occupied Greece, acting as translators, editors and newsreaders. The Head of this section was George Haniotis the sports editor of the Athens newspaper 'Elefthero Vima' who used to sign his sporting articles 'geo'. Under him was the well-known literary figure of Dimitri Fotiadis, who died in October 1988.
"When the broadcasts began early in May 1941 I was the principal newsreader. Later when Haniotis was posted to the Greek Embassy in Washington D.C. as Press Attache, my brother was appointed Section Head. At that time the Prime Minister of the Greek government in exile was Emmanouil Tsouderos, a former Director of the Bank of Greece. The foreign language broadcasts from Radio Cairo were under the over-all control of the Political Warfare Executive (P.W.E.) of the British Ministry of Information. Later, in conjunction with the Americans, the title of the unit was changed to Psychological Warfare Branch (P.W.B.)
"Every evening we had two broadcasts, at 7.30 and 10.30 pm, which went out on the medium wave transmitter of Radio Cairo at Abu Zabal, run by the E.S.B. (Egyptian State Broadcasting). The transmissions in eleven foreign languages were also relayed by three short wave transmitters, two belonging to the telegraph company Cable & Wireless (callsigns SUV & SUW), and an experimental transmitter of 7.5 kilowatts belonging to a British army signals unit, with the odd callsign JCJC, operated by young corporal Rowley Shears G8KW, a radio amateur friend of Norman Joly.
"The Greek broadcasts began in May 1941 and went on to the end of January 1945.
"During this period many important personalities broadcast from Studio 3, which was also used by well-known war correspondents of the B.B.C., the N.B.C. and many other news organisations. The people of occupied Greece were addressed by Mr Tsouderos, Crown Prince Paul of Greece, Sofoclis Venizelos, son of the famous Cretan politician Eleftherios Venizelos who had played a leading role in the political fortunes of modern Greece, and Panayiotis Kanellopoulos Minister for War. After the naval mutiny in the port of Alexandria Admiral Voulgaris spoke to the officers and naval ratings of the Greek Royal Navy."
Eliascos described in detail the negotiations of the Lebanon Conference which resulted in the appointment of George Papandreou (father of Andreas Papandreou who was recently Prime Minister), as the new Prime Minister of the Coalition government in exile. He can be seen at the famous R.C.A velocity microphone type 44BX which was used throughout World War II and many years after. This ribbon type microphone had a very large and heavy permanent magnet embodied in the design and must have weighed about 1,000 times more than a modern electret lapel microphone.
"I must explain that these war-time broadcasts were carried out in the presence of a Switch Censor who sat on the other side of the news reader's desk and was able to turn off the microphone in a split second if it ever became necessary. During the three and a half years of the broadcasts this was done only on one special occasion and certainly not because the newsreader had gone berserk or something like that. The Chief Censor was Professor Eric Sloman who had been the first Director of the Police Academy in Kerkyra (Corfu). Then there were censors for the eleven languages used in these broadcasts. The censor for the Polish broadcasts was the Countess Walevska, grand-daughter of Napoleon's lady friend. The Countess was a rather large lumbering woman who always came into the studio carrying lots of parcels. One evening she came in and sat in an armchair on the other side of the studio to wait her turn for the Polish broadcast which followed the Greek. As I was reading the news bulletin I suddenly became conscious of a regular ticking noise in the headphones I was wearing. I made a sign to Mr Joly who was acting as switch censor at the time, and he got up and walked over to the Countess. He whispered in her ear and asked her what was in her hand bag. The Countess blushed and replied that she had just collected her alarm clock from the watchmaker. I don't know if any sharp-eared listener had heard the ticking and thought that we had a time bomb in the studio.
"Having mentioned my good friend Mr Norman Joly I must record that he was the technical supervisor for the foreign language broadcasts, handling such things as wavelengths for the short wave relays, training the newsreaders (of whom there must have been over 30) and acting as studio manager and switch censor for some of the languages which he knew.
"A regular broadcaster in our studio was Francis Noel-Baker who later became a Labour member of Parliament in the British House of Commons, like his father. The Noel-Baker family are well-known in Greece because for several generations they have owned a large property on the island of Euboea (Evia in Greek). Francis speaks fluent Greek, and his mother was related to Lord Byron. In recent years he has switched his allegiance to the Conservative Party led by his personal friend Margaret Thatcher.
"Major Patrick Leigh-Fermor the writer who had kidnapped Major-General Heinrich Kreipe in Crete and spirited him away to Allied headquarters in Cairo, came to our studio and described how this audacious operation had been carried out by him and Captain William Stanley Moss, ex-Coldstream Guards, with the considerable assistance of the Cretan resistance movement partisans.
"Purely by coincidence, it was the Greek news bulletin from Cairo which first announced to the world General Montgomery's victory over General Rommel at Alamein. I must explain that during a broadcast the two doors leading into the studio were kept closed and an armed officer of the Military Police sat outside (in civilian clothes) to prevent anyone from entering for any reason whatsoever. I was in the middle of reading the news when suddenly, without warning, the inner door opened and a young despatch-rider, still wearing his crash helmet, walked in waving a piece of paper. Mr Joly immediately switched off the microphone and asked the young man what he thought he was doing. 'Most Immediate sir', he said. (This is the army's highest priority classification.) 'To be broadcast at once.'
"Mr Joly handed the document to me and I saw it was written in English. Taking a deep breath I began translating the text into Greek, with some excitement and trepidation owing to the difference in syntax between the two languages. Forty-six years later Mr Joly gave me the identical sheet of paper, which he had kept as a souvenir. It is printed here in full. At the Editorial offices, where they were monitoring the newscast, they thought I had gone out of my mind, because the communique had not reached them yet. When they tuned in to the short wave service of the B.B.C. they heard the communique read out more than an hour after our Greek broadcast. A world scoop, if ever there was one. Years later when I returned to Athens, many of my friends told me they had heard the first broadcast of the thrilling bulletin and they could still remember the excitement in my voice.
"The Greek section was the first to inaugurate the transmission of personal messages. Many people were escaping from occupied Greece in sailing boats across to the shores of Asia Minor, ending up in the Middle East, mostly in Cairo. They had no means of advising their relatives and friends in Greece that they had survived the perilous journey. We used to broadcast pre-arranged messages like 'John informs Mary that he has arrived at the village'.
"As I mentioned above, George Papandreou came to our studio and spoke to the people in Greece about the formation of the government of National Unity, which had been agreed by all parties meeting in the Lebanon, including the representatives of the Partisans operating in the mountains of Greece. Papandreou and the government in exile moved to Naples in Italy for a short period and then returned to Athens on October 12th 1944 for the Liberation.
"Finally, I would like to say that in the dark days before Montgomery's breakthrough at Alamein, when it was quite on the cards that General Rommel might take Cairo, Mr Joly and I were sent to Jerusalem to make arrangements for the foreign language broadcasts to be continued from there. Fortunately the situation changed and we were recalled to Cairo, where we arrived just in time for me to broadcast the historic communique announcing the victory at Alamein, which marked the turning point of the war in the Middle East.