This website was originally inspired by the discovery of a number of QSL (radio reception report) cards dating from the 1920's and is intended to make images of the cards available to as many people as possible. However, research into the origin of the cards turned up an interesting story of the life of one Radio Amateur.
How it all began
The sequence of events that contrived towards me becoming involved with the search and investigation of a number of old radio reception (QSL) cards was quite serendipitous. In the Spring of 2001 my father, a keen antique collector, had come across a large number of short wave radio reception report cards as part of a lot in a house clearance in a saleroom in Grimsby. Knowing of my long-standing interest in amateur radio my father bid for the cards in the face of strong dealer interest. I distinctly remember my excitement during the telephone conversation I had with him as he described what he had acquired, which included over 250 cards from around the world covering the years 1926-1928. When I showed these to Colin, G4DDI, a local amateur who shared a similar passion for the history of radio, our interests were fired. These cards had once belonged to an amateur, sadly now deceased, who was obviously local and as my interest in amateur radio had started in the late ‘60’s at one of the Grimsby Comprehensive Schools, I was determined to find out more. I had served as Secretary to the Grimsby and District Amateur Radio Society in the early ‘70’s and I thought that I remembered hearing of the amateur whose callsign, G6LI appeared on many of the cards. Although he lived in Ludborough, some 12 miles south near the town of Louth, I do not remember him ever attending club meetings. However, in one of those interesting twists of fate, it appeared that my father had known him in his professional capacity in the 1950’s but had not been aware of the amateur radio connection. I shall elaborate more on this later. (A.E. Livesey G6LI - The Full Story)
The Importance of the QSL Card
The likelihood of individual cards of this date to survive is rare, so to find an entire collection intact was remarkable. As is evident from the stamps, many have been posted and have had to endure the rigours of the world’s postal services. The combined information detailed on the cards gives a wonderful insight into the developments that were taking place at the time and more particularly in the interest fostered by a 16-year-old boy to whom they were addressed. Amyatt Edmund Livesey, (known as "Will") pursued his interest with passion and determination throughout most of his life. As a young boy, he built his first short wave receiver with the assistance of a local amateur and spent night after night listening to signals (mostly in Morse code) from around the world. Components such as valves were not easy to find as surplus items and were relatively expensive to purchase as new. Other components such as coils, resistors and condensers (capacitors) were often homemade from raw materials, their values being calculated using mathematical formulae. You can imagine his excitement when he tuned across an amateur in a new country or when he heard signals on a different wave band. This would have prompted him to make contact by letter giving details to the other station of how well signals had been received, together with information on the date, time, wave band and the aerial and receiver used at the receiving end. In return, hopefully, he would eventually receive a reply confirming the reception report, in the form of a QSL card. These reception reports were of enormous benefit to amateurs whose ranks had not yet swelled to the numbers we have today. "Will" would have proudly displayed these confirmations of reports (later of actual contacts he had made) on the walls of his radio "shack". Indeed, we know this to be the case because many of the cards have the marks of old drawing pins in their corners. Some also show the affects of exposure to sunlight. These simple cards, many of which were homemade, were never intended to be treated with reverence or accorded the care given to archive material or as documents with future historical significance. Remember too, as this was the 1920’s with no easy world wide telephone access, no television or Internet, most of the places contacted like Australia, New Zealand, South America and the Countries constituting the British Empire would have sounded wonderfully exotic and beyond the immediate communication means of most of the general population. For this reason amateur radio in those days was, perhaps, even more magical than it is today as enthusiasts truly had the world at their fingertips. This was even more fulfilling as they had achieved this by their own hard work by building and coaxing their homemade equipment to work. Improvements to these amateur radio stations took time, patience and a great deal of skill. It is no wonder that so many friendship bonds were formed and that the sense of camaraderie among amateurs worldwide was so strong.
The Radio Society of Great Britain
Knowledge of these early developments was propagated by the few specialist publications of the period, including Wireless World, but the main journal was undoubtedly the T & R Bulletin, the members’ periodical of the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB). This organisation, with the stated aim of promoting and protecting the interests of amateur radio enthusiasts had evolved from the London Wireless Club, founded in 1913. In those early days Government control was particularly rigorous due the reliance on short wave communication at both a national and international level. Radio amateurs worldwide were acknowledged as having made a significant contribution towards the development of radio communication techniques and in understanding more fully just how radio waves travelled around the world. In recognition of these achievements numerous international agreements throughout the last century had allocated radio enthusiasts several specific frequency slots were they could continue their experiments. But these had to be fought for and continually justified. It is thanks to the skill and diplomacy of the many RSGB officers that during these delicate negotiations the interests of the radio amateurs were recognised. In these days of mounting commercial pressure for increased frequency allocations the importance of these continuing negotiations are still as relevant as ever. G6LI, like the vast majority of amateurs of the period, joined the Society in the early 1920’s when he was a short wave listener (SWL), still then at school and remained an active member throughout his life.
Can You Help?
The information that is presented in these pages is by no means extensively researched or complete. It is the result to date of two radio amateur enthusiasts who have been inspired by the information contained on a number of old QSL cards. Sadly, a great deal of information has been lost as it was some ten-year’s after G6LI’s death that the house clearance took place. The family could have no idea of the significance or history that was contained in the station logs (now sadly lost) or the specific details of G6LI’s station as it evolved over the years. Should you have any information, anecdotes or facts which could shed further light on G6LI specifically or on the history of amateur radio during this period, we would pleased to hear from you via e-mail or by any comments which you care to make in the site’s Guest book. The information will be used to up-date or possibly extend this site. But surely there is a moral here too, and that is that amateurs should actively seek to record for prosperity the activities of it’s older members while there is still time. This has certainly been the case with a few, but there must still be a great deal of information still in circulation waiting to be recorded.
This on-going investigation could not be have been achieved without the assistance of a number of people. In particular, I would like to thank the following individuals for their help, advice and support during the research of this fascinating amateur.
David Johnson, G4DHF
Layout of this website.
Each individual QSL Card has its own page, which includes full resolution images of both sides of the card (in a few cases the reverse of the card is totally blank, in such cases it is not shown.). The callsign and country of the station are shown, together with the date of the card where this can be ascertained, either from the information on the card, or the postmark if no other information is given. Also the text of any comments written on the card is given, as it is not always very legible, together with any comments.
The index page lists the cards in both callsign, date and name order (the latter is alphabetically by surname), in each case clicking on the relevant entry will take you directly to the individual card page. Each page has links to return you to the home page, index page, or to the previous or next card in the numbered list. There is also a full listing of the ‘Q – code’, and some information on the types of equipment that may have been used at this time.[link]
If you have any comments, or further information to add, the authors of the website would be pleased to hear from you, see contacts information below.
collection of QSL cards is owned by David Johnson G4DHF. Because
of the fragile nature of the cards it is not practicable to display them
regularly, for this reason this website has been created to share images
of the cards with anyone interested.
This website created and managed as a labour of love in appreciation of the historical significance of the cards, and of Amateur Radio in general by Colin Guy, G4DDI. If you have any comments, suggestions or additional information, please email Colin at the following address: qsl[at]freeola.com
Please note: The server hosting this site suffered a technical failure on 1/9/2009. We think all is back in order again, but if you experience problems, broken links etc, please contact Colin, G4DDI, as above.