Spanning the globe

The start of global radio communication

October 2024 marks the centenary of a seismic event in radio communication - the first trans-global two-way radio communication. On these pages you can read about the event, how it happened, and who was involved.  You can also learn about the centenary celebrations taking place to recognise the event. Use the index to explore the pages and learn more about GB to NZ by radio

The early years

At the turn of the last century, radio communication was in its infancy. The properties of “Hertzian Waves” – what we now call radio waves – were only just beginning to be understood.

In that age of technical discovery, many every-day people experimented with radio. These “wireless experimenters” people were the early radio amateurs and their work was at first largely unregulated. When it became clear that these “amateurs” could cause interference to the emerging commercial radio circuits, the decision was made to restrict their experiments to wavelengths shorter than 200m – corresponding to a frequency of 1.5 MHz and above, as it was felt that such frequencies were worthless for long-distance communication.

So radio amateurs began to experiment at these “short waves” and it was not long before they began to realise that, far from being worthless frequencies, they in fact held the key to low power long distance communication.

Goyder with the Prince of Wales at Mill Hill School

In 1923, tests were conducted to span the Atlantic with radio. Then, in 1924, as both transmitter power and receiver sensitivity improved, the dream was to span the globe by radio. After some false starts, on 18th October 1924, two-way communication was finally established between Frank Bell, call sign Z4AA, a sheep farmer in South Island New Zealand, and Cecil Goyder, callsign G2SZ, a schoolboy operating from Mill Hill School, North London. You can hear the reminiscences of Frank’s sister, Brenda, here and read more of Shag Valley here.

The world had been shrunk and things would never be the same again.

For more infomation about the equipment used in 1924 and the people involved, see the two-page article by John Heys, G3BDQ  Extracts of Frank Bell's and Cecil Goyder's logs can be seen here    The Americal Radio Relay League published its assessment of the first trans-global contact in its journal "QST"

Goyder's own account of the event can be found here.

Celebrating 100 years

To commemorate the centenary of this historic contact made by Goyder and Bell, Mill Hill School will be hosting working amateur radio stations from 14th to 20th October 2024. On 18th October 2024 UK and New Zealand amateurs will recreate the first Goyder contact on a wavelength close to that used in 1924.  The stations at Mill Hill, using the original callsign G2SZ will be contacting many of the 3.5 million other radio amateurs around the globe during the week. New Zealand radio amateurs will also be taking part in the celebrations – using the call ZL4AA from the original sheep farm in Shag Valley from 12th to 18th October 2024.

In addition, two special event stations will operate around the UK and New Zealand, GB2NZ from 29 September  to 26 October and ZM100DX from 29 September to 26 December 2024.

At Mill Hill School, pupils will be able to visit the radio stations, speak to the operators, and even speak over the air. Displays will be situated around the school giving more of the history and technologies involved, so that the whole event can be turned into a real learning experience for the school’s pupils. Other events are planned at the school to coincide with the centenary, which will provide pupils with a broader understanding of the role radio communication plays in today’s world.

The Mill Hill School station will not be open to the public generally, in view of security and safeguarding restrictions at the School.

Radio Amateurs around the world are invited to join in the celebrations by contacting the various special event stations in the UK and New Zealand.   An award scheme will recognise those who make contact with these stations.

The Radio Society of Great Britain, which is the national society for amateur radio in the UK, will be providing the radio stations and much of the supporting documentation

Mill Hill School, one of the UK's leading public schools, will be using the centenary to support a pupil learning workbench.