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Wireless Wonders - Brian Austin's Electric History


Brian Austin

Dr Brian Austin is a retired engineering academic from the University of Liverpool's Department of Electrical Engineering and Electronics. Before that he spent some years on the academic staff of his alma mater, the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He also had a spell, a decade in fact, in industry where he led the team that developed an underground radio system for use in South Africa’s very deep gold mines.


He also has a great interest in the history of his subject and especially the military applications of radio and electronics. This has seen him publish a number of articles on topics from the first use of wireless in warfare during the Boer War (1899 – 1902) and South Africa’s wartime radar in WW2, to others dealing with the communications problems during the Battle of Arnhem and, most recently, on wireless in the trenches in WW1. He is also the author of the biography of Sir Basil Schonland, the South African pioneer in the study of lightning, scientific adviser to Field Marshall Mongomery’s 21 Army Group and director of the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell.


Brian lives on the Wirral in North West England




Historical Papers

Wireless goes to War Acknowledgement is made to the Victorian Military Society (www.victorianmilitary.org) for permission to republish this article which first appeared in its journal "Soldiers of the Queen" 179, Winter 2020/21.


Wireless in the Boer War The Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902) was the first occasion in which wireless communications were used in a military conflict. This article traces the history from the point of view of both the British and the Boer forces.


Wireless in the Trenches Before the First World War, mankind was stunned by the invention of wireless, as radio was called then, which enabled communicating through space without wires. But it was more than a novelty. In 1912 it undoubtedly saved many lives after the Titanic disaster and later in the war supposedly to end all wars it was put to good use again. This is the story of pioneering radio apparatus and how it was used in battle.


One Man, Two Wars and Wireless The Signals and Intelligence Work of E.W.B.Gill


Exercise Feeler - A Precursor to D-Day The exercise planned to investigate and then solve the radio interference problems likely to be caused on the beaches of Normandy by the huge array of communications and radar systems used during the D Day landings in June 1944>


Precursors to Radar The paper describes R. A. Watson-Watt's 1935 unpublished memorandum in which he proposed the principles of Radar.


The Birth of British Radar The remarkable story of the work done by Robert Watson-Watt and his colleagues in demonstrating the feasibility of detecting aircraft by means of RDF that was subsequently known as radar.


South African Radar in WW2 Just three months after being informed by Britain about RDF, as British radar was known in those days, South African engineers and scientist designed and built their own elementary radar set.


The Beginnings of Radio Astronomy An account of the origins of radio astronomy and its post-war development in England.


Wadley's Ionosonde - and the Receiver to Come The triple-loop mixing system invented by Dr Trevor Wadley first appeared in an ionosonde of revolutionary design. It soon became the heart of the famous RA17 HF receiver made by Racal in England.


Louis Varney's G5RV Antenna System The story of the legendary "multiband" antenna.


The ZS6BKW version of the G5RV Antenna Analysis and design using both special-purpose software and the Smith chart yield the optimized multiband antenna.


Arboreal Aerials Using Trees as Aerials


Redifon and the Third Method of SSB A technical description of the least-known of the three methods of generating and detecting SSB. As technology changes so the 'third method' could well still come into its own.


Radio Underground South African experience of radio communications in mines.


Radio Communications in Mines The challenge of introducing wireless communications to the mines of South Africa.


Signalling to Submarines At the height of the Cold War the US Navy used a remarkable extremely low frequency (ELF) radio communications system to signal, one-way, to its submerged nuclear submarine fleet anywhere around the world.


Loss Mechanisms in the Electrically Small Loop Antenna The crucial sources of loss that determine the performance of 'magnetic loops' have been identified with good agreement existing between theoretical and experimental results.


Transistors for the Home Constructor A remarkable book responsible for launching many a career in electronics.


John Daniel Kraus J. D. Kraus was a designer of antennas, a pioneering radio astronomer and an engineering educator of note.


Ground Wave Propagation The history of ground wave propagation research and the mechanisms by which radio waves follow the surface of the land and sea.


"Near Vertical Incidence Skywave" Who first used the term?


NVIS and the Battle of Arnhem How the use of NVIS propagation with suitable antennas might just have turned the tables at the "Bridge Too Far" in September 1944.


Horace Dainty The story of the man who started the radio manufacturing industry in Africa.


Low-Angle Radio And High-Frequency Radar: The Ionosphere At Work


Multiband Inverted V Antennas - The Downsides


Science at War: Chaos, Confusion and Countermeasures Scientists and engineers in the Army Operational Research Group (AORG) certainly played their part in WWII. This article describes just some of their contributions.


HF Propagation and Clandestine Radio in WW2 This article discusses the effects of the ionosphere on clandestine radio communications during WW2.


A Compact Multiband Dipole A novel compact multiband dipole, covering five of the HF amateur bands, is described. It follows from the ZS6BKW with similar multiband performance but with the added advantage of producing low-angle radiation on all the bands above 7 MHz and NVIS performance on that band.


FELIX's Transmitter The story of the Nazi spy in South Africa.


Wireless on the "White Train" The remarkable telecommunications system on the White Train for the 1947 Royal Visit to South Africa.


Real Ground and its Effect on Low Horizontal HF Antennas From an electrical point of view real ground is affected by both the geology and by its moisture content, particularly of the surface layers. All of that affects the behaviour of antennas, especially at HF.



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Sir Basil Schonland

Sir Basil Schonland

Schonland: Scientist and Soldier From lightning on the African veld to nuclear power at Harwell: the life of Field Marshal Montgomery's scientific adviser.

Schonland was a major contributor to twentieth-century British and Commonwealth science, both in peace and war.

639 pages long, the book draws upan a wealth of primary and secondary sources to produce a fine biography which is both intersting and readable.














See also Electropaedia - Electromagnetic Radiation, Satellite Communications and Satellite Technologies






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