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GB0RSR - ICOM’s Special Event Station On The Red Sands Offshore Fort

GB0RSR - ICOM’s Special Event Station On The Red Sands Offshore Fort

ICOM UK recently launched GB0RSR; the special event station based on the Thames Estuary Maunsell Army Sea Forts, 7 nautical miles off the North Kent coast. On air over the weekend commencing Friday the 11th of July, the station was operated by ICOM UK Managing Director Phil Hadler, G4CZU; ICOM UK Amateur Radio Product Specialist John Turner G0KFO and ICOM UK Radio Technician Chris Ridley, G8GKC. This was the first special event station that they had operated, and they were soon riveted by the response of Amateur Radio operators globally.

The team were not alone on the forts when operating - Red Sands had been home to broadcaster Bob Le-Roi and other radio DJs who were on the forts as part of "Red Sands Radio" on 1278 AM, transmitting across the county and online. Phil Hadler comments, “Although it was nice to have their company on board, there was unwanted interference from their radio equipment which made for an interesting weekend's transmissions.”

Getting the equipment on board the forts was no mean feat, as the only way up to the forts was up a high, narrow vertical ladder. Any large equipment was hoisted up the side of the tower via a pulley system. The equipment chosen for GB0RSR was an ICOM IC-756 ProIII for HF, which fed a 5-Band vertical antenna, kindly donated by Waters and Stanton. On VHF/UHF/D-Star they used an ICOM IC-2820 and vertical dual-band antenna.

Setting up the station wasn't easy. The operating team soon discovered after they arrived that their help was needed with bringing fuel and water onto the fort from the boat. When they finally got to setting up the station equipment there were a number of issues to contend with, such as S9 noise created by the on-board generators and crossmod from the AM station. Before the trip, the operators had built and tested a filter to get rid of 1278kHz from the receiver, resulting in about 30 db of reduction which helped dramatically. However, on the lower bands 7/3.5 & 1.9MHz, the AM break-through was a problem. This was mainly due to the vertical antenna being adjacent to the main tranceiver antenna. The team were planning to try out the MF bands by flying a helikite, even though there was an excessively strong wind off the sea.

Unfortunately, the first one escaped and when they tried again, they had run out of gas! Despite all these problems, the team managed to get the station up and running by the proposed time of 11am.

With a total time on air of over 16 hours, the team worked flat out to respond to all contacts, swapping regularly as logger and operator. Unfortunately, John Turner, G0KFO could only partially operate over the weekend, and so the work was hard going for Phil and Chris. They were listening to D-Star for the majority of the time, and so they took the mic as often as they could. Most of the time was spent on 28/18MHz and 14MHzs. However, once it started to pile up, they were stuck on 14MHz for 3 hours non-stop! Other times were spent on 2m and 70cm with closer stations.

They received a brilliant response from contacts, with well over 200 logged. The data on represents this with a massive 1305 hits to the site and call sign GB0RSR! Chris Ridley G8GKC commented, "Many local contacts were also listening to the broadcast transmission on 1278kHz. Like us, they were pleased to hear Amateur radio presented in a positive way to the general public - the two stations worked well together. The station brought back a lot of fond memories to operators who remembered the days when the forts were the home of the 'pirates'."

Contacts were made all over the world in Europe, Russia, the USA, Japan and Brazil, with the furthest being Melbourne, Australia. One of the Red Sands Radio DJs Bob Le-Roi was really keen to try out the D-Star side of things as he found it fascinating. Slowly, all the DJs started to get involved to attempt to de-code the SSB!

When asked what lessons they learned from operating their first special event station from this unique location, Phil Hadler G4CZU replied,"We learnt a lot from doing GB0RSR and next time we will implement a better logging system with more key operators, and will plan our time and use of bands better. We will also check if any other events are operational, as a contest gave us a problem with space on the band. All in all, GB0RSR was a really great event which left us very tired, yet very happy.

He added, "What can I say about the location? No showers, strange toilets, the sound of seagulls at 4am and fresh air in bucketfuls....rocking the night away, and not musically either! The radio signals were just incredible. It proved to us the power of the sea for Radio reception. I would do it over again and again!"

Icom UK Marketing -


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