Radio technician training at Trentham

By Chris Underwood

A new school for the Post & Telegraph Department was established in 1949 at Trentham in what is now Upper Hutt City within Wellington Region.

From the Report of the NZ Post & Telegraph Department for the year 1949-1950:

Recruits to the Post Office receive their main training on the job, but this is supplemented by a fairly complete scheme of training at established schools. For many years, school training was restricted to instruction in Morse operating, but during recent years the schools have been extended and now provide complete courses in:

  • Morse operating and sub-office work
  • Machine-printing operating
  • Radio operating
  • Radio mechanicians’ work
  • Electrical and general mechanical work
  • Telephone-exchange mechanicians’ work
  • Telegraph mechanics’ work
  • Line construction and cable-jointing work
  • Typing

The schools are fitted with up-to-date apparatus conforming to that in actual use. The courses vary from eight to twenty weeks of full-time intensive training under competent instructors. Refresher courses are also provided as required.1

The same report also noted that the department was operating seven staff hostels, the largest of which was at Trentham, accommodating 350 staff.2

The instructor in the photos below is Keith Surridge. I knew him quite well but never worked with him. A very clever guy, he helped install the first microwave systems around the country and later was responsible for setting up the TV standards converter at Warkworth Earth Station so that we could watch American-sourced TV. He was a keen player of indoor and lawn bowls.

Keith Surridge (standing) with students at the Trentham radio training school in 1961

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

In the photo above, Keith Surridge is talking with Allan Edginton, who taught me solid state theory years later when I was at the school in Rugby Street. The guy in the bottom right hand corner is Allan Fletcher (I worked with him in the late 1960s and he taught me a lot about Land Mobile Radio). I don’t recognise anyone else, although the guy on the left, second row back, might be Denis Moore.

L-R: Trainees KA Blackett (Wellington), AL Edginton (Awarua), DA King (Christchurch) and DJ Wards (New Plymouth) with instructor KO Surridge, 1961.

L-R: Trainees KA Blackett (Wellington), AL Edginton (Awarua), DA King (Christchurch) and DJ Wards (New Plymouth) with instructor KO Surridge, 1961. Courtesy Chris Underwood

In the photo above, Keith Surridge is showing the application of vectors to alternating current circuits. I worked with Keith Blackett, a clever guy who, sadly, drowned in a yachting accident, on Lake Taupo I believe.

In this 1961 photo, trainees DC Moore (left) and AE Fletcher, both from Wellington, align a communications receiver using a signal generator and a multimeter. In the background is a 100 watt transmitter with its associated equipment, also used for training purposes.

In this 1961 photo, trainees DC Moore (left) and AE Fletcher, both from Wellington, align a communications receiver using a signal generator and a multimeter. In the background is a 100 watt transmitter with its associated equipment, also used for training purposes. Courtesy Chris Underwood

I worked with Dennis Moore (pictured above) while still a trainee at the Wellington Radio Depot.

Instructor Peter Munro (standing) with a trainee at the Trentham radio school. Date unknown.

Instructor Peter Munro (standing) with a trainee at the Trentham radio school. Date unknown. Courtesy Chris Underwood

I knew Peter Munro and worked in the same section as him for a while. He went on to became the Chief Tech at Invercargill Radio Depot about the time that the technicians working at Awarua Radio came under the control of the Chief Tech at the Radio Depot.

The last radio training class held at Trentham, before the move to Rugby St, 1962

The last radio training class held at Trentham, before the move to Rugby St, 1962. Courtesy Chris Underwood

In the early 1960s, the radio technicians school moved again, to Rugby Street in Wellington.

  • If you can identify any of the unknown people in these photos, or have other information about New Zealand Post Office radio training schools, please contact the editor.

Notes

1. Post & Telegraph Department (1950). Report for the year 1949-1950, p. 4
2. ibid, p. 5