History of CRA

Colchester Radio Amateurs club was formed in 1963 by a group of tutors and students at the Colchester Technical College (now the Colchester Institute). Meetings were held in the Radio laboratory and concentrated on practical work and measurement, taking advantage of the wide range of equipment available and some expert help.  


One key person in those early days, who dominated the organisation of the club as Honorary Secretary for more than four decades that followed, was Frank Howe, G3FIJ.  In 1997 Frank was awarded an MBE in recognition of services to disabled people and to the community in Colchester, Essex, having been founder member and first chairman of North-east Essex ReMap organisation.  He held the reigns of Colchester Radio Amateurs until he became silent key on 27th May 2009 aged 81.  Many amateurs will have been helped in some way by Frank whether it be by their studying for the then City & Guilds Radio Amateurs Exam (RAE) or the Morse Code tests at 12 and then latterly 5wpm.  For many years, Frank, together with Ted G4LFD from Clacton, also provided slow morse practice on 2m every evening. 


In the early days, the club meetings were held in the Boardroom of the Colchester Institute in Sheepen Road.  This was fine when the membership was large particularly during the heyday of radio in the mid-80s, but later this became ridiculously expensive for a club whose membership by then was declining around the turn of the millennium   At first some and then eventually all meetings were moved across the road to St Helena school opposite where for 42 years until 2010, the club also held its annual radio rally each July.  Other regular activities included a presence at the annual Aldham Old Tyme Rally.  


After Frank’s death, there was somewhat of a vacuum and some turbulance followed which almost destroyed the club.  However, a temporary committee rescued it from the embers and through a new constitution, a re-organised schedule of meetings and newly designed programme of training, began to rebuild it and once again grew the membership numbers.  


Past events have included: 

  • multiple year support for Thinking Day on The Air (TDOTA) with local Guide and Brownie groups (often at Prettygate school), 
  • Jamboree on the Air (JoTA) with many different scout and cub groups often facilitated by Richard G7BIV at Stanway scout hut using GB2CDS (Colchester District Scouts),
  • a G100RSGB station at Colchester Zoo in July 2013 to commemorate the RSGB centenary,
  • special event stations at the Five Parishes Show,
  • other special event stations in the locality including Boxted Airfield, Colchester Toy Museum etc.


Nowadays, CRA is very much a thriving club, and one of the biggest in the area, with a strong programme of activities for its members. It moved to the Wilson Marriage Centre in 2016 which was a great improvement on the old school venue.  The club has pioneered a set of fast-track format training courses and many new radio amateurs have been successful in entering and progressing through the hobby.  In fact this format has drawn in candidates from much further afield. The club is competitive in contest activities (both RSGB 80m Club Championship and VHF championship events through its affiliated VHF contest group) and organises other weekend field events where members can try out stations which wouldn’t be possible from home.