AMATEUR RADIO IN MAURITIUS
Amateur Radio has existed in Mauritius and the Dependencies, especially the Chagos, well before World War II. In those days control, licensing and supervision were administered by the Post Master General.
Due to the ignorance of the authorities about Amateur Radio, the callsign VQ8AA and VQ8AB were issued to the lighthouse of Pointe aux Caves (Belle Vue Phare) and flat Island respectively. However, after protests from the international amateur radio community, those callsigns were no longer used by the lighthouses.
After considering the international events which were taking place at that time, the local authorities knew that war was imminent. All transmitters belonging to radio amateurs were seized on the 1st and 2nd of September, 1939. On September 3, 1939, war was declared. A total of 17 transmitters were seized and some of the radio amateurs were prosecuted for possession of radio transmitting equipment during war times. The defense lawyer pointed out that the equipment was seized before the war was officially declared. Resultingly, the case was dismissed. But not without the levelling of a nominal fine of Five Rupees on these unfortunate early Mauritian amateurs.
A few weeks later, authorities found themselves in an awkward situation. They badly needed qualified radio operators but could not find any. After having treated the amateurs in such an unfair manner, the authorities were nevertheless compelled to make a special appeal to radio amateurs, asking them to monitor, copy and send official messages in Morse code. The radio amateurs, being true patriots and harboring no hard feelings, agreed to help the authorities and used their knowledge and expertise to the serve the country.
One amateur, VQ8AD, was asked by the Admiralty to go to the Chagos to install and operate a radio station there. That young man enrolled himself in the Royal Navy and sailed for Diego Garcia where he installed, maintained and operated his radio station to signal to Mauritius of any abnormal shipping movements in the Chagos. Messages were passed to another amateur in Beau Bassin and he would communicate those messages to the Admiralty radio station in Vacoas by the landline via the Beau Bassin Police Station. So this proves, once again that the Amateur Radio community is a source of technical expertise, knowledge and competence which can be counted upon in times of need by the country. Some names associated with the above operations are Paul Caboche 3B8AD, Henri DíAgnels VQ8AE, Volcy de Robillard VQ8AS, Raoul Thomas VQ8AD, Lenny Mazery VQ8AB and Jean Regnaud VQ8AA to name just a few.
The Mauritius Amateur Radio Society (MARS) was founded in 1968. The founding members were native Mauritians and British expatriates. Some names of that period are Steve Gibbs (VQ8CC), Ray Mills (VQ8??), John Stratful (VQ8??) just to name a few.
MARS was registered with the Registrar of associations in Mauritius and was very dynamic. However after independence in 1968, many of the expatriates left Mauritius and there was a lull in the activities of MARS. After a period of reduced activity, the society was deregistered from the Registrar of associations and existed only as a non-registered body. There were yearly meetings and get together but no dynamism. On the 1st December 1994, a new constitution was drafted and MARS was registered again with the Registrar. Since that time MARS is back on the rails again and there are Annual General Meetings and other activities to help the younger generation to get a licence. However it is becoming harder and harder to get new blood to the hobby because many youngsters prefer the internet chat and surfing, and they also do not have time to study technical subject and sit for exams. But we do try to expose ham radio every time we get a chance and get new comers to the hobby.
Paul Caboche 3B8AD became silent Key on 24 July 2012 at the age of 94 years.
Biography of Paul Caboche 3B8AD, VQ8AS, VQ8AD, 3B1AD
1918 – July 24, 2012
Postmaster of the General Post Office Juste Duthil radio amateur and others during World War 2. Extract from Weekend Mauritius newspaper (French). Click on the below to enlarge.