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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan, December 6, 2009

American Radio Stations in Australia

Some time ago, we presented the story of the American shortwave station in Australia that was established under General Douglas McArthur for communication with American units in the Pacific and in the continental United States. This shortwave transmitter facility was established at Hemmant, which is an outer suburb of Brisbane in Queensland, and it was on the air for a period of three or more years with the usage of several units, including a 10 kW Federal transmitter and a 40 kW Press Wireless transmitter. The shortwave receiver station was located half a dozen miles distant, in another outer suburb, Capalaba.

It is true that this double station was established primarily for armed forces communication purposes during the latter half of World War II. However, there were many occasions when it was in use for the forwarding of news information to the United States, and even voice reports for re-broadcast by the mediumwave networks in the United States.

Since the researching and writing of this topic, we have discovered that there was a whole network of at least ten of these American communication stations in Australia, beginning in the year 1942. These stations were used mainly for teletype transmissions, as well as for communications in high speed Morse Code.

The very first of these American radio stations in Australia was installed in a suburb of Melbourne, the capital of the south eastern state of Victoria. This unit became operational on March 10, 1942, just two weeks before General MacArthur arrived in the city by train. The Melbourne station was a joint operation between American and Australian personnel, and under MacArthur, it was in service under the American callsign WTJJ.

This Melbourne station, WTJJ, received messages from the Philippines and elsewhere via WVJK in Darwin and forwarded them on to the United States via the army station WTJ in Hawaii. In view of the long range transmission from WTJJ Melbourne, we would presume that this transmitter was rated at least at 10 kW, and probably more likely at 40 kW.

It was around this time that another temporary station was installed, this time in a railway train, for use in various areas of eastern Australia. The train facility was made up of teletype transmitters, probably three of them, rated at 3 kW and manufactured by Hallicrafters for use in airplanes.

Another one of these stations was installed in Sydney, New South Wales and this was on the air under the American army callsign WVJM. This station communicated with American army communication stations located in Melbourne, Brisbane and Townsville.

In the north eastern state of Queensland, three more of these American radio stations were established for communications within Australia and beyond. These stations were located in Brisbane and Townsville.

Initially, the first Brisbane station was installed temporarily in a tent on the Redlands Bay Golf Course, some distance north of Brisbane itself. A substantial building was quickly erected and it housed a 10 kW Federal transmitter with 5 rhombic antennas nearly one hundred feet tall.

Another temporary station with a 1 kW Federal transmitter was installed in the girl's high school at Somerville House, Brisbane for communication with Sydney and Townsville. The two temporary stations in Brisbane, Redlands Golf Course and Somerville House, were closed in February 1943 when the more substantial facilities at Hemmant and Capalaba were inaugurated.

The American communication station WVJL in Townsville in northern Queensland was located adjacent to the Coastal Radio Station, which housed the transmitters for the AWA maritime station VIT and the local mediumwave broadcast station 4TO. During this era, VIT-4TO communicated with VIG Port Moresby as part of the wartime Coast Watch service. The Port Moresby transmitter was the old mediumwave unit, 4PM, which had been converted for shortwave telegraphy usage.

In the Northern Territory there were two American shortwave communication stations, one near Darwin itself right on the north coast, and the other at Adelaide River, 75 miles inland. The Darwin station was identified as WVJK, and the inland station as KAZ. The inland station initially handled all American traffic from the Philippines, and in 1944 it was transferred to Hollandia in Dutch New Guinea; but that's another story for another time.

Suffice it to say that each of these ten known American communication radio stations handled communication traffic, as well as, at times, media messages for broadcast and publication. The stronger stations, and in particular the 40 kW unit on the edge of suburban Brisbane, also carried voice messages for relay on mediumwave throughout the United States.

Usage of Callsigns - Mixed Numbers and Letters

What is the origin for the system of radio station callsigns that are in use throughout the world to this day? How come some stations are identified with just alphabetic letters only? And other stations are identified with both numbers and letters?

Way back 150 years ago, in the early days of telegraphy by Morse Code, the operators at each station that was connected by telegraph wire used a simple abbreviation to identify the sending station, rather than laboriously spelling out the location name. The usage of many abbreviations enabled the operators to send their messages more quickly.

Some 50 years later, when wireless stations were erected for the transmission of messages by Morse Code, the same procedures were followed; that is, the usage of as many abbreviations as possible, including an abbreviation for the sending location. Some abbreviations for the locations of very early wireless stations were quite logical, such as for example:

CC Cape Cod Massachusetts USA
FL Eiffel Tower Paris France
SF San Francisco California USA
GB Glace Bay Nova Scotia Canada

However, due to the number of wireless stations proliferating throughout the world, most of the abbreviations in use for the locations of wireless stations bore no resemblance to the actual location. For example:

EX Los Angeles California USA
SN Cordova Alaska
UA Nantes France
DF Santa Barbara California USA
Another DF Vancouver Columbia Canada

In an endeavor to regulate this confusing system of random choices, an international wireless convention was held in Berlin in 1906. This was the second international convention in Berlin that addressed the need for the regularization of the newly developing wireless scene that began with the work of the famous Italian, Guglielmo Marconi.

At this 1906 wireless convention, a system of alphabetic designations was allocated for all countries throughout the world. For example, transmitter callsigns beginning with:

G allocated to England
V allocated to British countries
F allocated to France & French colonies
I allocated to Italy
J allocated to Japan
K, N, W allocated to USA

There was a third international wireless convention held in London, England on April 23, 1913. Even though this event was staged mainly to address the wireless scene in Europe, yet delegates from the United States also attended and participated.

One of the important matters looked at on this occasion was the identification of amateur and experimental wireless stations which were beginning to proliferate in many countries. However, because the coverage area from these lower powered operations was considered to be quite local, it was decided to implement a different system of identification.

Their decision was to introduce a system of numbers and letters, with the initial number indicating the geographic location. Single numbers were chosen for each of the participating countries in Europe, as follows:

Luxembourg 1
United Kingdom 2, 5 & 6
Germany 4
Denmark 7
France 8
Holland 0

The major determining factor at the 1913 convention was that the initial digit number in a callsign indicated a specific geographic area. At this stage in Europe, the initial number indicated a specific country.

Likewise, when the American delegates returned home, the government authorities decided to implement a similar system in the United States using the numbers 1 through 9, with each number indicating a specific cluster of states. North of the border, up there in Canada, they soon implemented a similar system, with the initial digit number indicating usually an individual province.

This same numeric scheme was also implemented in the South Pacific. Australia chose the numbers 2 through 9, indicating each separate state, as well as nearby Papua & New Guinea. New Zealand chose the numbers 1 through 4, indicating major geographic areas in the twin island country, beginning with 1 at the top of the North Island and ending with 4 at the bottom of the South Island.

When radio broadcasting was introduced into England, this same numeric system was implemented according to the action taken at the Third International Convention in London in 1913. Their first radio broadcasting station was 2MT Writtle, a Marconi experimental station launched out north east from London in February 1922; and next on the list came 2LO London, three months later.

However, in the list of the 22 introductory radio broadcasting stations in England from 1922 to 1925, there seems to be little apparent logic in the choice of the initial digit number, whether it was 2 or 5 or 6. Likewise, there was little apparent logic in the two letters of the alphabet that made up the remainder of the callsign.

Obvious callsigns in Great Britain during this era were 2BE Belfast in Northern Ireland; 5WA in Wales, at Cardiff; and 6ST in Stoke-on-Trent. However, in view of the fact that so many of the other callsigns in England during this early era seem to be almost a random selection, it would seem therefore that calls were chosen that were not already taken up by amateur radio operators.

Even to this day, all amateur radio stations throughout the world are identified according to a mixture of letters and numbers. The initial alphabetic digits indicate the country, and the following numeric digits usually indicate regions within that country.

Likewise with the countries that have retained a similar system for the callsigns of radio broadcasting stations. In Australia, the initial number indicates the state, and the following two letters identify the station, and quite often, also the location. For example:

2BH Broken Hill New South Wales
4TI Thursday Island Queensland
6XM Exmouth Western Australia
8AL Alice Springs Northern Territory

Next week here in Wavescan, we will take a further look at the interesting story regarding the usage of radio callsigns throughout the world; and on this next occasion, it will be the interesting story of shortwave callsigns.