At the meeting of the Lothians Radio Society on 11th April 2012 Andre Saunders GM3VLB talked about "Radioactivating East Africa in the 1960s/70s". Andre was accompanied by his wife, Veronica, who acted as projectionist.

Andre says: "The alternative title to my talk might be "From Scottish Crystals to Tanzanian Gemstones" - the 'Scottish Crystals' were the lumps of galena which allowed an 11-year old lad on the shores of Loch Lomond to detect the then Scottish Home Service 18 miles away, and eventually to become an active radio ham in Kenya, which had then just recently gained independence from its colonial masters. With my first licence - 5Z4KL - I became instantly 'rare DX', but when not looking for a "new one", there were unlimited opportunities  to operate /P and /M. To understand the reference to 'Tanzanian Gemstones', you'll just have to come to the talk! Veronica and I look forward to meeting up with old friends again on the 11th...Vy 73 de André, GM3VLB."

Among many stories Andre recalled: He made forays into Uganda to get QSL card contacts. Various firsts: Africa/S America; Africa/NZ/Aus. His friend's light plane got chased down the runway by the nice Mr Amin's people (on bicycles)!

On one radio DXpedition a scary local came up and asked for a shilling. He thought Andre's gear was a camera and wanted a shilling to be photographed. Andre had only an emergency 100 shilling note (a fortune) - change unlikely. Andre was pretty scared. Local proffered rag said Ruby Shilling. Wanted shilling for what Andre thought was lump of glass. Andre managed to convey he's been left there with no money. Tribesman believed him (Phew!) and left. Back home telling tale, Andre was interrupted and told he was right beside the largest ruby mine. Glass was probably more expensive there. Hence the 'Tanzanian Gemstones' mentioned above.
Andre was involved in getting King Hussain of Jordan JY1 interested an amateur radio.
See also Andre's extensive information on (insert his callsign GM3VLB).


Most photographs courtesy of David Stockton GM4ZNX; the last two by Andre GM3VLB.


Andre started by describing his earliest days in radio at the age of 11, building his first crystal set to listen to the BBC Scottish Home Service from Westerglen on 809 kHz.



Andre has been collecting vintage radios all his radio career. Here are a crystal set and 1-valve receiver.


Very nice example of a Gecophone crystal receiver. 


"Swinging coil" 1-valve receiver.


Army carbon hand microphone.


Throat mike / headphone assembly.


Nice integral cats-whisker diode detector.


Home-made variometer.


Mark 123 spy set transceiver which Andre bought several years ago, after the one he was issued with had to be returned. He was recruited as back-up radio comms for the British High Commission in Kenya by MI6 and put on a training course when on home leave.


Andre proudly holding a Masai spear (to defend his frequency?!)


Andre's first QSL card as 5Z5KL in Kenya.


Andre's comfortable shack today in Kelso.