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GB7RN D-STAR Digital Repeater Now on Air at HMS Collingwood

GB7RN D-STAR Digital Repeater Now on Air at HMS Collingwood

A radio society steeped in maritime history is one of the latest organisations to move into the digital arena of Amateur Radio. The Royal Naval Amateur Radio Society, formed in 1960 with over 700 members worldwide has installed a digital D-STAR Amateur radio repeater at the HMS Collingwood Naval Base. The new GB7RN repeater provides D-STAR coverage for the Hampshire, West and some of East Sussex, Dorset and the Isle of Wight area, allowing users in the catchment area to connect to other users worldwide on the D-STAR network.

The Royal Naval Amateur Radio Society (RNARS) was founded in 1960 and the Inaugural Meeting was held on 22nd August in the Cinema of HMS Mercury, East Meon, Hampshire. The Society promotes and fosters Amateur Radio activity within the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. It liaises with the Radio Societies of the other UK Services and of other navies throughout the world. Although the original members were all RN or related services membership in the past few years has widened. Unlike the Royal Signals ARS and the RAFARS, the society does not receive any grants or subsidies from the MOD with the exception of the HQ Shack which is in HMS Collingwood.

The Society has members from all over the world many of whom meet regularly on the air. There is also an active Yahoo group as well as a closed Facebook group. There are other Royal Navy linked groups who are affiliated to the RNARS and who meet regularly in their own location, HMS Belfast (London) Group, HMS Cavalier (Chatham) for example as well as sister groups in Australia and the USA. The Society welcomes new members who have an interest in maritime amateur radio.

Joe Kirk G3ZDF secretary of RNARS said, ‘Some members of the Society meet in the HQ Shack on a Tuesday. We have a mixture of members from all over the world including serving and ex-serving members of the navy as well as those from the other armed forces. Essentially the society is positioning itself as an Amateur radio society for those who have an interest in the maritime world so they can be from the Merchant Navy, Royal Navy, Royal Australian Navy etc. We have lots of affiliate members from other clubs as well.’ ‘Part of the appeal of the society is in the name and its heritage. Originally the society was for serving and ex Royal Naval personnel but gradually it’s spread out and we have widened the joining criteria. We now have around 700 members spread across the whole world. The majority are in the UK but we have a number in New Zealand, Australia, USA and across Europe. The most distant member is in Nauru which is in the middle of the Pacific ocean.’

‘The HQ Shack provides a focus for all the members throughout the world and many do come and visit and operate from our facilities. The most recent visit we had was from a couple from Germany who were both licensed Amateurs.’

‘The society has fantastic permanent facilities, it is warm and welcoming and with power, toilets, kitchen and two masts outside (one for HF aerials and one for VHF/ATV aerials). Other clubs tend to have temporary facilities, often meeting in community centres.’

‘We hold special events such as the recent HMS Collingwood Open Day where the base was opened up to the local community. Our special event station (GB6COD) used Amateur television(ATV). We had four cameras during the event which were connected back to base with a microwave link. The material was transmitted from the ATV repeater and streamed live over the Web throughout the event.’

The HQ Shack now has the GB7RN 2m D-Star repeater on its base in addition to the GB3IV ATV repeater which it hosts.

Joe said, 'we took on the ATV repeater when it had to close down on the Isle of Wight. Then one of our members persuaded the Committee that a D-STAR repeater would offer a good service to local amateurs. It became operational on the 14th April 2015 and covers Hampshire, West Sussex and some of East Sussex, Dorset and the Isle of Wight.

Although the RNARS provided the filters, PC, aerials and mast space the D-STAR repeater and controller were donated by Icom UK for which the Society is very grateful. We were lucky to have help from an former Icom employee, Dave Williams, with the IT nature of the installation. His assistance was invaluable and much appreciated’.

If you have an interest in maritime amateur radio and are interested in joining the RNARS, the cost is very modest. For more details visit the RNARS website at

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