A look back at the history of six metres, starting from day
one. Compiled by Neil, G0JHC, from Harry
School's KA3B Six Metre Digest 1987.
The 6 metre band (50 - 54MHz) first came available in the USA on
March 1, 1946. Although there were many operators giving the band
a try in the Northeast and Great Lakes areas, other parts of the
US had very few, if any, active stations. The turn pioneers
utilized CW, AM, and even NBFM. Antennas included rhombics,
corner reflectors, folded dipoles, to name a few.
The first 2-way QSO involving "skip" was reported to
have taken place on April 23, 19:46 at 10.43 PM EST when W1LSN of
Exeter, NH worked W9DWU of Minneapolis, MN. This and many other
contacts were made on that night via a combination of aurora and
sporadic-E. The distance of this contact was 1100 miles.
Although the distance record for 56MHz (the old 5 Metre band) was
held by W1EYM and W6DNS for a 2500 mile contact on July 22,1938,
G5BY in England began running a series of test transmissions on
high gain antennas beamed at the US. Each Sunday through June and
July of 1946, G5BY made automatic CW transmissions on 58.632MHz
beginning at 1300 GMT. While transmitting 10 minutes on the hour
and half hour for 8 minutes, he listened for 10 minutes following
each session for replies from American amateurs on 50MHz. G5BY's
QTH was on a 400 foot cliff overlooking the sea. For transmitting
to the US he utilised an 8 element array consisting of (2) 4
element W6QLZ arrays stacked one above the other and fed in
For receiving he used a rhombic. 240 feet on a leg. Prior to
World War II, G5BY was the first European to span the Atlantic on
56MHz when his signals were heard by W2HXD. The historic event
took place on December 27, 1936.
The first 50MHz transcontinental QSO, the second in VHF history,
was made on the evening of June 14, when W6OVK, Redwood City, CA.
raised W2BYM. Lakehurst, NJ, on a CQ at 7.00 PM PST. This was a
distance of 2590 miles and a new 6 metre record. The same
afternoon, W1LLL in Hartford, CT worked W6NAW in Los Angeles, CA
for the second 6 metre transcontinental QSO.
By August of 1946, 6 metre operators were popping up in many
areas of the US. Six metre activity in other areas was growing as
well. By September 1946, about 30 Canadians were on the band. In
the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand had their share of
"experimenters" also. Some of the early Australians on
6 metres included : VK2WJ, VK2ABZ, VK2LS, VK2LZ and VK2NO.
Prospects for international work by means of F2 skip began to
appear in September of 1946 and during a 27 day recurrence cycle
in late October, American FM stations near 45MHz were heard in
England. Anticipating a peak in the F2 season to take place in
November, G6DH, Dennis Heightman, of Clacton-on-sea, Essex,
England, suggested a series of daily scheds with W1HDQ on 28MHz.
These schedules started on November 13th and took place each
morning at 8.15 AM EST.
On several days signals were heard on both ends of the path on
frequencies as high as 48MHz. Test after test were made on
50.002MHz with no results, On Sunday morning. November 24th
signals in the 47 to 48MHz range were heard on both sides of the
Atlantic. Many of them S9 and higher. Arrangements were made
whereby W1HDQ would transmit for 5 minute periods each 15
minutes, listening on 28MHz for replies from G6DH.
The first transmission was made at 11.15 AM in the form of a QST
on voice to all 50MHz stations, to the effect that an opening
across the Atlantic was imminent and urging all stations to get
on and transmit. The QST was continued for 4 minutes, followed by
a one minute call to G6DH. G6DH heard W1HDQ and the first VHF QSO
was on. (A VHF 2-way was attempted 5 metres to 6 metres but the MUF didn't go quite high enough to permit G5BY to make it on
58.632MHz with W1BEQ in Connecticut) W1HDQ's signal faded out at
12.00 PM (43 minutes later) at G6DH and at 12.25 PM with G5BY,
Hilton O'Hefferman. Although G5BY intercepted W1HDQ's signal
first it was G6DH who made the first contact.
1947: A YEAR OF FIRSTS
With a combination of flourishing activity and the peak of
Solar Cycle 18, the year 1947 proved to be a winner in almost
every respect. South of the border XE1KE put Mexico on the air by
operating on 50.024MHz with 100 watts to an 829B feeding a
4-element beam at 90 feet. CE3CV in Chile was attempting to get
permission for 6 metre operation. In Europe PA0UN of Eindhoven,
Holland was active by special permission with 100 watts with a
4-element beam. Later PA0LTM and PA0WJ followed suit. The big
news was that G's were given permission for 50 - 54MHz operation
for experimentation lasting until January 1, 1948. This special
authorisation was later extended to April 30, 1948 and was
available to anyone paying the 10 shillings tax. Maximum power
was 25 watts input.
By late 1947 there were large amounts of activity taking place in
VK-ZL and in South America, with nearly 50 active stations in
Argentina alone. The first major event of 1947 took place on
January 25th when Major W.O. Brewer (J9AAK) at Okinawa worked
Captain Bob Mitchell (KH6DD) at Ewa, Oahu for a new distance
record of 4600 miles. The QSO began at 3.13 PM Hawaiian time and
lasted 27 minutes with signals as high as S-7. A second QSO took
piece at 4.33 PM with signals over S-9. At 4.48 PM, W7ACS/ KH6 at
Pearl Harbor took over, until 5.07 PM when signals faded out.
THE RECORDS CONTINUE
Although the South Africans were not allowed 6 metre
operation. ZS1T. ZS1P, ZS1AX and ZS1DJ were actively listening on
50MHz for hopes of possible cross-band contacts. On March 26,
1947 the automatic transmissions of PA0UN were heard S9+ by ZS1P
and others. On March 29th, ZS1P worked PA0UN cross-band with S9
signals both ways during an hour long QSO.
Seven months after the famed KH6DD - J9AAK QSO, a new distance
record was set once again. This time, W7ACS/KH6 worked VK5KL in
Perth, Australia on August 25th at a distance of 5350 miles,
breaking the old mark by 750 miles. DX in the form of F2
propagation returned with a vengeance during October 1947 placing
the 6 metre band in a frenzy. The South Africans finally obtained
operating privileges and put them to immediate use. On October
11th, ZS1T worked PA0UN for the first European 2-way on 50MHz
with South Africa. This contact broke the short lived world
record set two months before. The record now stood at 6000 miles.
Six days later, CE1AH Chile and J9AAK Okinawa and smashed the
record for the third time in less thin a year, with their QSO
covering 10500 miles.
The latter part of October saw many days with cross-band activity
between England and the eastern portions of North America. On
October 29th, PA0UN worked 2-way 50MHz into the US for the first
time. W2AMJ made the contact first at 8.14 AM EST followed
shortly thereafter by W3OR. W3OR's luck continued. November lst
saw a major opening between the East Coast and the Western areas
of North America. In addition to many W6's and W7's, W3OR landed
Alaska, in the form of KL7DY. On November 3rd an opening across
the Atlantic took place, lasting for over 2 hours. The band
opened at 8.10 AM EST. G5BM, G5ZT and G4NT worked a record number
of US 6 metre stations via cross-band.
THE ENGLISH RECEIVE PERMISSION FOR 50MHz
Special temporary licenses for 6 metre work were issued by
English authorities in early November of 1947. As mentioned
earlier, licenses for "experimental" purposes such as
these, were to expire on January 1, 1948. They were later
extended to April 30. 1948. The licenses were subject to certain
time and frequency limitations with 25 watts of maximum input.
Stations located within London were not to operate after 15.00 UTC. Hilton O'Heffernan (G5BY) received his temporary license on
November 5th, 1947.
The January 1948 CQ Magazine reported the following: "Having
no rig on 50Mc, Hilton grabbed a few eats and worked until 4.30
AM to get a rig on. He then went to bed for 2 hours sleep and got
up to have his first 50Mc 2-way QSO with ZS1P, a distance of 6000
miles. Forty-five minutes later he had a QSO with W1HDQ and in
another 30 minutes with a local. Within 1 hour and 15 minutes 3
contacts and 3 continents had been worked"!
Between November 6th and December 1st, G5BY completed 175 QSOs
with 93 different stations in North America, South America. Egypt
and Suez. Actually, Dennis Heightman (G6DH) was the first
"G" to work the US on 50MHz. Dennis contacted W1HDQ on
November 5th, 1947 at 13:02 GMT. A QSO with W2AMJ took place at
13:45 GMT. Later at 16:20 GMT. G5BD worked VE1QZ for the first G
to VE QSO. The month of November 1947 continued to be an
excellent one for the British operators. In additions to the
numerous trans-Atlantic openings which took place, rare DX in the
form of MD5KW (Suez) and SU1HF (Egypt) graced a few logs. G6DH
was the first "G" to work MD5KW which was being
operated by Major Ken Ellis (now G5KW). This QSO took place on
November 10th with MD5KW running 35 watts to an HK54, and a S27
receiver, and a 4 element beam at 35 feet.
TRANS-EQUATORIAL PROPAGATION IS "DISCOVERED"
By the fail of 1948, Mexico had as many as 15 active operators
on 6 metres. Most of them ran high power levels to Yagi antennas.
In Argentina, as many as 50 stations, some running as much as 300
watts. were looking towards the north for contacts. As fate would
have it, the operators of both countries soon realised that a
path between them existed quite often on 6 metres. On many
occasions openings were intense with very solid signals. Although
the mystery of "why" was unanswered at the time,
amateurs took full advantage of this propagation medium. On
January 24th, 25th and 26th, 1949, a very severe ionospheric
storm took place. The storm began at 1400 EST on the 24th and
continued to 0700 EST on the 26th.
The 6 metre band was full of Sporadic-E and Aurora. On the 25th,
HC2OT in Ecuador worked W5NXM at 1800 EST followed by other W5's.
HC2OTs signal was heard as far north as W0. This was the
first prime evidence of TE propagation during an ionospheric
disturbance. Less than a month later during another aurora
session, Bill Colburn W1ELP in Massachusetts worked HC2OT via TE
for the first WI contact into South America.
THE EARLY 1950's.
As Solar Cycle 18 drew to a close activity continued to grow,
especially in the Western Hemisphere. Active stations included
C02EV, C02QY, C02WL, C02FN, C06WW, CX1AQ, CX1AY, CX3AA, HC1CA,
HC10T, HC1JW, HK1DW, HK1DX, PZ1A, PY1DS, PY1LQ, PY2AC, PY2PK,
PY4CL, TG5CH, TG9UA, TI2AFC, KZ5NB, KZ5AY, XE1FE. XE1A, XE1GE,
XE1QE and XE2C. About the same time, a new mode called Single
Side Band (SSB) was making inroads and SSB articles began
appearing in amateur publications. Although many jumped on the
SSB bandwagon realising its full potential, most 6 metre
operators stayed with AM operation. As a matter of fact, it would
be another 15 years before SSB would reign as the dominant mode
on the band.
In late 1955, the Swiss Federal Observatory announced that the
new sunspot cycle 19 began in April of 1954 and would be one of
outstanding intensity, with a maximum likely to surpass all
1956: THINGS HOT UP ON SIX
Spring of 1956 saw a few openings between North America and
Argentina but it wasnt until the winter that things began
looking up for the first time in 7 years. By late October,
European signals well up to 53MHz with facsimile, RTTY and
ship-to-shore were heard in the US. BBC Channel 2 video on
51.75MHz was heard clearly and the BBC TV audio on 53.50MHz was
broadcast quality at times. The big news of 1956 was the new
world record which was set by LU9MA and JA6FR on March 24th at
04:20 GMT. This historical QSO took place on a frequency of
50.350MHz and stretched the distance record to 12,000 miles.
1957: THE BAND IS ON FIRE
International Geophysical Year began during 1957 - an
international cooperative research programme concerning the
geophysics of the earth. This research program included major
studies of the ionosphere as well as other areas as climatology,
meteorology, and geomagnetism. To further enhance these efforts,
many countries not normally operational on 6 metres were granted
privileges. The first of these countries was Portugal, who
authorised amateurs to utilise 50 - 54MHz until December 1958,
the official end of the IGY. This authorisation included CT2
(Azores) and CM (Madeira). Operators who took advantage of these
privileges included CT1CO, CT1ST, CT3AN and CT3AE. Other
countries allowing operation on 6 metres included Norway and
Sweden. Norway authorised 50 - 54MHz with daytime operation up to
The original authorisation was to expire on July lst 1958 but was
later extended until the end of 1959. The Swedish amateurs were
allocated 50.0 - 50.5MHz on an individual basis to class A
licensees. With 150 watts maximum allowed on CW or voice, their
privileges were valid from June 1, 1957 until December 31, 1958.
Active Swedish stations included SM5SI, SM6ANR. SM6BT7, SM5CHH,
and SM7ZN, By March of 1958, SM7ZN had worked 29 states and
SM6BTT had worked 27.
In addition to Poland who allowed full 6 metre privileges with
stations such as SP2DX, SP5AR and SP5BR active, Russian amateurs
operating on their 38 - 40MHz VHF band were looking for
cross-band contacts. Authorities in Switzerland gave temporary
permission to amateurs allowing them full use of the 6 metre
band. However, the Swiss stations were restricted to a maximum
power of 50 watts and could only operate when TV was off the air.
RB9BZ was quite active and on April 5th he worked ZS6UR. Probably
one of the most well-known European amateurs to be granted
special 6 metre privileges during the IGY was Harry Wilson, EI2W.
Harry's station was located at Foxrock. Co. Dublin, Ireland at a
height of 240 ft ASL. Harry used a homebrew AM transmitter, with
in input of 40 watts, crystal controlled on 50.016MHz. He was
only able to operate until January 28, 1958 due to business
commitments, however his extensive research with various antennas
in a very short period of time brought about some interesting
questions concerning propagation Even today his findings are
With the extra added activity on 6 metres and a high sunspot
count, the stage was set. A record amount of DX was worked by all
during 1957 - 1958. By early 1957 the African continent was
jumping with 6 metre activity. In addition to the approximately
50 ZSs that were active on the band, other countries represented
were Kenya, Uganda, Nyasaland, Belgium Congo, Mozambique and
Northern and Southern Rhodesia. On February 18, 1957 W8LPD in
Cincinnati, Ohio worked VQ2PL and ZE2JE for the first W to Africa
6 metre contacts. The late 1950's were definitely exiting times.
In brief, active European cross-banders not previously mentioned
at this time included: EA1EY. F9BG, G2BVN, G2CDI, G3BTA, G3BA,
G3COJ, G3FXB, G3IUD, G3XC, G4LX, G5BD, GM3EGW, PA0FM and OH5NW.
Even though Cycle 19 was winding down and DX was scarce, 6 metres
experienced a tremendous growth in the US and Canada. The early
1960s saw many new equipment manufacturers arrive on the scene
with 6 metre gear being available in large quantities. The gear
of the early 60's was primarily AM. However, by the end of the
decade, multi-mode and SSB only rigs were being produced. Six
metre nets and round-tables popped-up in many areas. By the early
1979s, many groups, nets etc. moved to 2 metres leaving a very
small number of operators on the band. The DX exploits of cycle
20 were very disappointing as compared to Cycle 19. The first
evidence of F2 propagation due to the now cycle in the winter of
1967 with southern areas of the US working South America.
Probably the biggest DX news of cycle 20 was on December 1st,
1969 at 1515 GMT when Hank W2UTH nabbed ZD8NK on Ascension
Another event occurred during 1969 when Mel Wilson W2BOC made the
first recorded aurora reception across Atlantic by making a strip
chart recording of the BBC TV signal on 41.5MHz.
FIRST VHF CONTACT BETWEEN RUSSIA AND AUSTRALIA
The early 1970's were somewhat uneventful in terms of DX. By
1976, things started to get interesting. During that year,
sporadic-E was very intense and consistent. The most bizarre
event of the year was reported by Bill Tynan W3XO in his
"World above 50MHz Column" in March 1977 QST. It was
reported that VK3BIZ in Australia worked two Russians on the 6
metre band. The following is from QST Magazine, March 1977, page
83: "The VHF column in the December issue of Amateur Radio,
the Journal of the Wireless Institute of Australia, contains a
fascinating story. It relates that after working a number of JA's
and UA0's on 10 metres; VK3BIZ of Melbourne went to 6 and worked
a raft of JA's. At about 0505 UTC followed by a CQ, VK3BIZ was
called by a station thought to be a JA0. A QRZ brought a request
to QSY down. After some frequency gyrations, he identified the
calling station as UA0CCY. Reports of 569 both ways were
exchanged but QSB set in before final "rogers" could be
received. At that point a second station was heard signing
RA0CCM. A full CW contact including exchange of names was
completed with this station. The frequency for VK3BEZ was
50.001MHz and for the Russians, 51.990MHz. The VK band extends
from 52 to 54MHz while the allocation in Eastern Russia must be
only to 52MHz. Thus it was that piece of VHF history was written
as a result of alertness and good operating on the part of one
Australia and two Russian hams.
Thanks to Ray Clark K5ZMS for passing along this interesting
story of 6m.
UKSMG Six News