THE Chippenham and District Amateur Radio Club is using the month of August to celebrate 50 years since the group was founded.

The club was formed in March 1966 by Bernard Wilson, Alan Hargreaves, Jim Sparrow and Philip Strand and used to meet in the laboratory of Chippenham Boys’ School, now Sheldon School.

Tim Ballinger, who has been a member of the group since it was formed, said: “Members built the first transmitter in a large grey rack cabinet as a club project and used a long wire aerial, supported by a pole sourced from the local blacksmith, at one end and an oak tree in the school field at the other.”

The club was given its callsign, G3VRE, in October 1966 before it moved to its permanent home at Chippenham Sea Cadets HQ in Long Close, in May 1981, and a 60ft antenna was built in 1990.

“For a radio club, Chippenham is unusual and lucky to have these facilities which are open for members to use – very useful to those with limited facilities at home,” added Mr Ballinger. “The Gazette and Herald reported on the club and its 25th anniversary celebrations in 1991 when Richard Frost organised a very successful 25-hour On the Air weekend.

“Since then, radio amateurs have continued to pioneer and use new technology to enhance their hobby.

“The Chippenham club now operates digital equipment, including a small low power transmitter which can be heard around the globe – a far cry from the large rack of 1966 containing thermionic valves.”

The club has been marking its 50th anniversary by using the callsign GB5CRC, as well as G3VRE, and will hold a radio rally on September 25 at Kington Langley Village Hall.