Training

Keith Surridge (instructor) with students at the Trentham radio training school in 1961.
Keith Surridge (instructor) with students at Trentham radio training school in 1961. Courtesy Chris Underwood

By Chris Underwood

The first New Zealand Post Office radio training school was set up during the Second World War. The first school was held in a room at Radio Section in the old Wellington East Post Office, before moving at the end of 1939 to old Army Buildings at Trentham, where trainees lived in old Army huts while on the course.

Stories abound about what they got up to after the school day finished. Probably the most innocent that’s repeatable was the practice to sneak into someone’s hut, remove the lightbulb, then place a small coin inside the socket before reinserting the bulb. Later when it was dark and the occupant returned and turned the light on there was a mighty flash from the socket and the fuse would blow. The result was the occupant floundering around in the dark trying to find the fuse box, then trying to find replacement fusewire which had also usually been removed.

At the time the trainees were studying for the First Class Certificate of Radio Technology (CRT 1st and 2nd Class). Internationally the CRT 1st Class was considered to be the equivalent of the UK’s PMG certificate or the USA’s 1st Class FCC.

The course was very very full, covering a wide range of theoretical and practical topics. The instructors were all NZPO Radio Techs seconded for training.

Later, when training was moved to the Techs, a new Radio Technicians Certificate (RTC) was introduced and the CRT qualification was phased out but still reccognised. The RTC was of a lower standard and no practical topics were covered and it was not accepted by the FCC or the UK.

Now there is no recognised training for radio techs in New Zealand and no officially recognised qualification. Just recently the trade has been working with a training organisation in Auckland to run basic courses but this is still in development, as is official recognition for any courses taken.

Training at Wellington East Post Office
Training at Trentham radio school
Training at Rugby Street radio school
Training at polytechs
Training at radio stations


Other examples of training at the NZ Post Office

Morse School at the Post Office training centre within the Trentham military camp, May 1948.
Morse School at the Post Office training centre within the Trentham military camp, May 1948. The people with an asterisk after their name went on to work in the radio sector. Standing at the back: Assistant instructor Jack Douglas (ex ZLW/ZLC/ZLB). Back row from left: Don George, Ken Eustace, Stan Allen* (ZLW), Bernie Harding, Ian Hudson, Tom Scott* (ZLD/ZLW/ZME). Front row from left: Des Dufty, Clyde Williams* (ZLW/ZME/ZMV/ZLC/ZKR-briefly 3 weeks 1955), Doug Pellow* (ZLB), Eric Bissett, Jack Gardner* (ZLW/Radio Section/RI NA), Lloyd Nelson. In front: Merve Walsh. Photo courtesy Clyde Williams. Click to enlarge.
Telegraph Training Auckland 1965
“February is not only back-to-school month for boys and girls. Many of our young officers, recent college and high-school leavers themselves, are also going back to school – the Post Office First Division Training Schools. The main group of schools is at Trentham, but there are some schools at Auckland and Christchurch. Young officers are seen here at work at the Telegraph Training School’s new premises at the Auckland Chief Post Office.”
Post Office News, Vol 5, No 3, 1965
Graham Horwarth, from the Christchurch Drawing Office, checks a point with instructor Roy Hughes
“Graham Horwarth, from the Christchurch Drawing Office, checks a point with instructor Roy Hughes…
Courses run from three weeks for the Postal School to 11 months for the Radio School. Most of the courses, however, last four weeks.”
Post Office News, Vol 5, No 3, 1965