Five teams assembled at Maidenhead Thicket for the 1930 start. David Ryan was the operator. A weak signal was heard by all teams at the start and everybody was happy that they had got a reasonable bearing. I plotted 180 degrees whereas the true bearing was 170. At least everybody headed roughly south. We decided to head south via the M4 and A329(M) and then through Bracknell. We stopped just south of Bracknell on the A322 for the 2000 signal but this turned out to be a poor bearing. Main roads invariably seem to distort the signal or the compass - I should have learnt this by now.
At 2015 we decided to go to the Lightwater Country Park where there was parking and no main roads or electricity cables. This turned out to be a good bearing and indicated somewhere near Deepcut. By 2040 we had reached the Basingstoke Canal near Deepcut, thinking he might be on the towpath but the signal pointed back towards a wooded area between Frimley and Deepcut.
The way in we opted for turned out to be a private road but we soldiered on, past an entrance to a barracks, and eventually came across Steve Stone also on the private road. The signal at 2050 was strong, so both Steve and I decided that we would start walking - or in Steve's case, running. It took us quite a time to locate the operator hidden in some nasty Rhododendrons but at least we had made it.
It turned out that Alan was worried about entering an army danger area so he sensibly headed for the pub. Geoffrey seemed to prove this right as he was temporarily detained by the military. Perhaps he will post an e-mail relating his experience of being mistaken for a terrorist!
At 19:30 the signal at the Maidenhead Thicket start was weak with a wandering null due to night effect on the signal so I set off southwards towards Bracknell. The 20:00 signal still had a wandering null so I set the satnav for Camberley and continued southwards to Frimley where another bearing suggested that the hidden station was to the east.
I take the B311 out of Frimley and stop in a side road to wait for the next transmission, up it comes, a strong signal with a good null to the south east. A look at the map showed a wood to the south east with a yellow road running southwards alongside it. Due to the roads around the wood it could not be more than two kilometres away and, if in the middle of the wood (which is where I would place it) only one kilometre.
I stop at a high spot next to the wood where I can park my car amongst others on the estate (I am always worried about theft and vandalism) and wait at the entrance to the wood. Up comes a very strong signal, IF gain to minimum and lots of attenuator. It is an easy run (downhill) through a small wooded area - I am making good time and should be on top of the Tx for the next transmission.
My powerful LED torch picks out a camouflage net, two helmeted, startled faces look up at me - not the transmitter crew! The signal comes on and I run to the right of them, slightly uphill now, switch in another 20 dB of attenuation, must be in the next two hundred metres or less.
Just before I crest a rise my torch picks up a wire stretched out in front of me about a metre off the ground. It is not an aerial wire! Is it marking an area or to trigger a booby trap? Jump it or drop and roll underneath?
Two soldiers rise up in front of me, their rifles pointed at my chest. They have been waiting for me, no doubt alerted by the two I passed earlier. Slowly I move my torch arm down and to my right, and the DF set to my left side, both well away from my body. This is not the time to blind anyone with the powerful beam.
Take the initiative and speak first: “I do hope those aren’t loaded”. “They are – move to your left” comes the reply. We have established dialogue, keep the initiative. “May I use my torch, I am standing on the edge of a depression”. “ All right”, another reply. I slowly sweep the torch to my left pausing so that they can see my yellow and black trainers on the way and then move carefully to the left - this is not the time to slip or fall over. Hopefully when they can see my beard and white hair they will decide that the team opposing them would not have someone old enough to be their grandfather amongst them.
As we close to a couple of metres one of them asks “What are you doing here?” I explain that I am looking for an amateur radio transmitter concealed in the wood and probably two hundred metres or less to our right. They decide to call their sergeant, who arrives few minutes later and I start the explanation again “Keep you voice down” he says, the enemy must be near so I continue in a whisper. The sergeant decides to pass me up the chain of command to their officer who is at the bottom of the hill and to our left. We move slowly downwards and a voice whispers “Can you use your torch?” I keep it low to pick out the track in front of us and we arrive at the rest of the troops who are asleep, presumably waiting for the next change of watch, the sergeant wakes the officer and appraises him of the situation, I give my explanation again.
The officer replies that it is a military area and there are signs up. I reply that I did not see any signs on the my route in from the housing estate. I offer to show him my route on his ordnance survey map. He has only a small part of a map, presumably the area they are to defend, but the top left hand corner abuts the housing estate that I entered from. “Can you take another route?” he says, to which I reply “Well, the event finishes in eight minutes so what route should I take out of the wood?” We part amicably and I take the indicated path which brings me out much, much lower down the yellow road and on the way I pass several warning signs saying “military area” and “do not pick things up” There are also more dog waste bins than I have ever seen before in such a small area. I turn right and start an uphill walk back to my car which I find after a couple of wrong turns in the estate. A drink of water and ring the Tx operator - his only thought is how am I going to get the clock card back to him! I walk up to the entrance that I took into the wood and the only sign there threatens a £ 50 fine for riding a motorbike in the wood. So that just leaves the one hundred and ten mile drive home.
|Competitor||Time||Adj. Time||Time Diff.||Score||Bill North|