St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada was once again the site of a communications first when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II transmitted a brief message, via Amateur radio, to the people of the United Kingdom. This is the first time a reigning British Monarch has transmitted via the Amateur service.
On Wednesday, June 25th, 1997 the Society of Newfoundland Radio Amateurs (SONRA) arranged the transmission between stations VO500JC, at Cabot Tower in St. John's, to GB500JC, in Bristol UK in order for the Queen to make a brief transmission. Operators Paul J. Piercey VO1HE, President of SONRA, and Dan Goodwin VO1MX assisted Her Majesty on the Canadian side and Martyn Phillips G3RFX, assisted by Cyril Chapman G2HDR and Robin Thompson G3TKF, was on hand in Bristol to respond on behalf of the people of Great Britain. Band conditions before the event were quite poor on the 14 MHz radio band and it was not known if the contact would be made. To prevent potential interference, the exact frequency was not announced in advance. Fourty five minutes before Her Majesty arrived at the site, the Bristol station was quite low in signal strength and audio quality during testing. Once the Queen began her transmission, however, it was almost as if the path opened up and at 1801 GMT, the contact was made. Martyn's response was quite loud, despite the poor conditions. The Queen's message was as follows: "I am speaking to you from Signal Hill National Historic Site, where Guglielmo Marconi received the first trans-Atlantic radio message. I am happy to know that Newfoundland and Labrador are still in the forefront of the communications industry, and are working closely with other leaders in this field across the Atlantic." On the Canadian side, the equipment used was a Kenwood TS-850, a Heathkit SB-200 amplifier running approximately 400 Watts and a simple wire dipole cut for 14 MHz and hung about 20 feet above the Powder Magazine, an out-building which served as the shack. The UK group, operating from Martyn's home, used a Kenwood TS-950 transcaiver and a linear amplifier with 400 watts output to a three element beam antenna at 60 feet above ground. Signal Hill, in St. John's, is no stranger to communications or to historical firsts in communications. Used as a signalling post to announce approaching ships to St. John's merchants, it was also the site where Guglielmo Marconi received the first wireless transatlantic signal on December 12th, 1901. SONRA is planning to host a celebration to mark the 100th anniversary of that historic event in December 2001.