[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next] - [Date Index][Thread Index][Author Index]

FW: GM4IHJ Silent Key

Dear All,

  I received this ad new yesterday. Many of us will remember John's SatGens!



Jim Heck G3WGM
visit www.uk.amsat.org

-----Original Message-----
From: David Anderson GM4JJJ [mailto:gm4jjj@amsat.org]
Sent: 09 February 2003 11:36
To: g3wgm@amsat.org
Subject: GM4IHJ Silent Key

It is with great sadness that I have to report that John GM4IHJ died this
morning 9th Feb.

After a two and a half year battle against skin cancer, John had a stroke
last weekend and was admitted into hospital where he died peacefully this
Commander John Branegan R.N. GM4IHJ died 9 Feb 2003 aged 76 years.

He never used the 'Commander' title once he took early retirement from the

He had a fascinating and distinguished career in the Royal Navy on Aircraft
Carriers and Nuclear Submarines. An expert on radio communications, Radar,
Guidance and Navigation systems. He was also in the Icelandic "Cod War" in
charge of the difficult Arctic Radio Communications.

A very fit man who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

He was latterly based in Rosyth Scotland and he used to cycle all the way to
and from work from Saline in Fife each day, a very steep road. John
preferred cycling to driving his car and was riding up the <steep> hill to
his friend Hamish every day until very recently.

He considers it likely his skin cancer was caused by his service in the
tropics, where he would have been exposed to the Sun's high UV radiation.

I met John on the OSCAR 7 satellite when he was GM8OXQ (and I was GM8HEY) in
the late 70's and was delighted to find that he was a near neighbour, living
only a mile away over the hill from me.

Over the next 25 years he taught me everything from how to work out an orbit
for an unknown satellite, how doppler shift worked, how to write a satellite
tracking program from very simple ones that used EQX up to complex
elliptical orbits  with footprints shown on a graphical map. He was ahead of
his time in the use of home computers to track satellites and produced some
amazing programs for the ZX81 ,ZX Spectrum and Sinclair QL.

Knowledgeable and strongly opinionated on almost any subject and extremely
well read, with interests from ancient history and geology to Space and

A very unselfish and generous person who supplied amateur radio equipment
freely to others in countries who had no way of obtaining it so that they
could operate on the new satellites. A lot of Russian satellite operators
have benefited from John's generosity.

A bachelor, surely no wife would allow a 6 foot dish in the livingroom for
satellite experiments! His house was crammed full of radio gear and books.
There were antennas in the loft, on the chimneys and in the back garden.
Nothing very ambitious, because his small bungalow and garden would not
allow them, but sufficient for him to study all the bands that interested
him, from 15m up to 12GHz. He had a full size 3 ele 10m beam and 50MHz beam
in the back garden. He worked some good DX on 6m and also had the first GM
to Balearic Islands QSO on 144MHz via Sporadic E.

John spent a huge amount of time monitoring the bands, with several radio
and TV receivers running on many channels looking for signs of anything
unusual and was always the first to know that the band was going to open up
on SpE, FAI or Aurora. He would use many novel radio sources for examining
the Ionosphere, including 'pulse stealing' from the 153MHz Wick Auroral
Radar and the Fylingdales BMEWS.  Many times he would kindly phone me to say
that Norwegian Telly has just gone Auroral or getting a bit of SpE on Band 1
from the south east possibly Arabic!

He has the most complete daily record of his observations from the time I
met him until the present day, all the events, meteor showers and times that
he observed a satellite sub horizon or found a short opening to South Africa
are logged in his shorthand style. At various times he would become
interested in studying some particular aspect of radio and would dedicate
his time to watching every pass of that satellite or whatever so that he
would know what was normal and what was abnormal. He was a true experimenter
and discovered many new things about the ionosphere in both the
Arctic/Antarctic and the Equatorial regions from his observations in a small
Scottish village.

He always embraced the new technological tools that became available with
the home computer. He used software such as AF9Ys FFTDSP to examine doppler
shift on HF satellite beacons at the antipodes. Weather satellite picture
receiving software to look for signs of break up due to Es or Aurora.
Usually at least 3 computers were running in his shack monitoring different

Although he much preferred the original analog VHF satellites to the
digisats, he was never the less keen to gain all the knowledge on how to put
a digital satellite station together. He built PSK and FSK modems and wrote
helpful booklets on how to get everything configured and working.

>From 1989 to 2001 John wrote a weekly Satgen bulletin a grand total of 682
Satgens! This was distributed worldwide by packet radio and then also on the
Internet. There was always something in these Satgens that was topical and
practical and they are a mine of information as well as historical value.
Every one can be found online at

In the past year John had a heart pacemaker fitted and this curtailed his
transmitting but that was didn't stop him from continuing the receiving

Always keen to talk to the youngsters in the village who all loved to come
round to his house to find out things about fossils or volcanoes or Mars or
the War or... He had many watercolours that the kids had produced for him
stuck up on his livingroom/shack wall beside a couple of large black and
white photos he had taken on one of his Aircraft Carriers showing some
dramatic pilot errors.

John loved to educate others and would travel to Scottish amateur radio club
meetings and conventions to give guest talks on subjects from Satellites to
how the Ionosphere works. He produced booklets on his own printer, bound
them and supplied them to whoever requested them.

He had a deep interest in space and astronomy and was delighted to have
witnessed those magnificent comets Hyakutake and then Hale-Bopp.

As well as publishing numerous papers in AMSAT-NA Journal, John authored the
Space Radio Handbook published by the RSGB. This book highlights John's
experimental approach and is essential reading to anyone interested in space
and radio communications.

We will miss him dearly.
David Anderson GM4JJJ     gm4jjj@amsat.org          http://www.gm4jjj.co.uk

Sent via amsat-bb@amsat.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Not an AMSAT member? Join now to support the amateur satellite program!
To unsubscribe, send "unsubscribe amsat-bb" to Majordomo@amsat.org