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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, April 25, 2010

The BBC on Shortwave: The Temporary Shortwave Station at Lisnagarvey in Northern Ireland

As a safety factor during the raging events in Europe in the middle of last century, the BBC London established three temporary shortwave stations at widely separated locations in the British Isles. As we have mentioned previously here in Wavescan, these stations were located at Start Point on the south coast of England, and at Clevedon across the Bristol Channel from Wales, and at Lisnagarvey in Northern Ireland. On this occasion, we look at the interesting story about the temporary BBC shortwave station located on the island of Ireland.

The first radio broadcasting station in Northern Ireland was located in the regional capital city Belfast and it was inaugurated in October 1924 under the callsign 2BE. This mediumwave station was launched by the British Broadcasting Company, as it was at the time, with 1-1/2 kW on 682 kHz. The studios were installed in an old linen mill with a glass roof and the transmitter was installed at the East Bridge electrical power generating station.

In order to provide wider coverage, a new mediumwave station was constructed at Lisnagarvey out in the country, nine miles south west of the city of Belfast in Northern Ireland. The single 100 kW mediumwave transmitter was inaugurated on March 20, 1936, and the twelve year old in-town station 2BE was silenced forever. This large new mediumwave station, with its diamond shaped Blaw-Knox antenna tower, was allocated the channel 977 kHz.

A new 100 kW shortwave transmitter was installed at this same country location and it was inaugurated on November 20, 1941. This unit was manufactured by the Marconi Company at Chelmsford and the model number was SWB18. In the records of the British Broadcasting Corporation, as the controlling body was now known, the transmitter site was identified as OSE5 and the new shortwave transmitter was identified as Sender 51.

In BBC terminology at the time, all transmitters were identified as a Sender, and the acronym OSE stood for Overseas Station Extension. Thus the Lisnagarvey shortwave transmitter was Sender 51 at OSE5. Network programming for the two 100 kW transmitters, mediumwave and shortwave, came from the BBC studios in London via the wire network out of Glasgow in Scotland.

This temporary BBC shortwave station in Ireland was on the air for a total of only four and a half years. When this emergency service was no longer needed, the usage of this transmitter was terminated on May 26, 1946 and it was placed, as the BBC states, "under care and maintenance."

In view of the fact that this 100 kW Marconi shortwave transmitter was less than five years old, it is probable that it was removed and re-installed at another location. We could guess that the most logical place for the re-usage of the two shortwave transmitters at both Lisnagarvey and Start Point was in the new BBC shortwave relay station near Tebrau in Malaysia. It is known that two Marconi SWB18 100 kW transmitters were installed in Tebrau, and initial planning for the new Tebrau station began in 1946, around the time of the closure of the two temporary stations at Start Point and Lisnagarvey.

Available records indicate that the BBC shortwave transmitter in Northern Ireland was ever on the air on only one shortwave channel, 6140 kHz in the 49 metre band. When the shortwave facility was inaugurated, programming was initially a daily relay of the Forces Program for a full long day, 6:30 am - 11:00 pm. Just one year later, the relay programming was changed to the Overseas and European Services.

Interestingly, available monitoring records show the usage of 6145 kHz in the 49 metre band with a relay of the Forces Program under the channel callsign GRW in June 1941. This was just before the inauguration of the temporary shortwave station at Lisnagarvey in Northern Ireland. We would suggest that this service was on the air initially from the large shortwave station located at Daventry.

Then, a while later, the GRW channel as monitored in Australia was shown on the frequency 6140 kHz, with no explanation given as to the reason for the 5 kHz downward shift. We would suggest that the channel and the programming at this time would indicate that this shortwave service had been transferred and was now on the air from the Lisnagarvey station.

As is usual with BBC broadcasts, there are no known QSLs from the shortwave station at Lisnagarvey in Northern Ireland.

New Zealand Leads the Way - Early Wireless before Marconi!

Strange as it may seem, way back at the beginning of the wireless era, little New Zealand way down south was actually ahead of the experimental era in Europe, with more people on the inventive scene than any other country in the world at the time. We go back to the year 1888, seven years before Marconi came onto the scene in northern Italy.

That was the year in which George Kemp began his wireless experiments in the areas around Gisborne, in the middle of the east coast of the north island. At the time, Kemp was working for the Post & Telegraph Department.

Mr. Kemp was familiar with the workings of the telegraph and telephone, with its usage of electricity to convey a message along a long connecting wire. He attempted to communicate with distant places by using long wires for both the transmitter and the receiver, and by submerging them in the waters of the nearby river. In another experiment, he dipped the ends of the transmitting and receiving wires into the waters at two different wells.

On a subsequent occasion, George Kemp succeeded in contacting a passing ship, the Ophir, with his electrical equipment. The ship's wireless officer observed the incoming signal on his equipment, but he was unaware that someone was sending him a message.

During the year 1894, at the time when the young Marconi was beginning to tinker with the idea of sending wireless messages through space, Ernest Rutherford at the Canterbury University in Dunedin, South New Zealand, had already accomplished this procedure. Rutherford was successful in transmitting a signal at a distance of 25 feet through several intervening walls.

Subsequently, Rutherford successfully transmitted a wireless signal over a distance of half a mile at Cambridge University in England. This was a world distance record at the time. Rutherford went on into a distinguished career in nuclear physics, for which he was ultimately knighted with the title Sir, and he was also awarded a Nobel Prize.

Down in Dunedin, on the eastern edge of the south island of New Zealand, several university students entered the experimental wireless scene. In the year 1899, and by this time, Marconi was on the scene over in England, John Cooper successfully demonstrated wireless transmissions at the local university. During the following year, three more students successfully transmitted a wireless signal from one room to another; and as a sequel, they hooked up their equipment in such a way that the receiver rang a bell at a distance of two hundred yards.

After these events, several more New Zealanders got into the act, with further successes in wireless transmissions. James Logan sent a Morse Code message across Wellington Harbour; and seventeen year old Mr. J. L. Passmore built his own set of wireless equipment, and subsequently transmitted a Morse Code signal over a distance of six miles. Passmore Crescent, in the Dunedin suburb of Maori Hill, is named in honor of the Passmore family.

By this time, wireless events were under development in several countries of Europe as well as in Australia and New Zealand. The Marconi Company at Chelmsford in England, sent out a batch of electrical equipment for installation in New Zealand. For the first time in the history of the Dominion, wireless was given a public demonstration, and the event occurred at the Christchurch International Exhibition.

The Marconi Company successfully transmitted signals from the Exhibition in Hagly Park to the Islington Freezing Works, a distance of seven miles. This exhibition was opened on November 1, 1906, and it was open to the public continuously well into the new year 1907.

During the year 1908, three young men constructed their own wireless equipment, and they sent a goodwill message to the New Zealand Parliament in session, and also to the Postmaster General. These three young men linked themselves together as the SHB Wireless Company of Dunedin.

By this time, attempts at overseas communications began, and the first successful attempt was made on February 3, 1908, and this was when three Royal Navy vessels, Pioneer, Powerful and Psyche, successfully relayed a message of goodwill between the Prime Ministers of New Zealand and Australia. One year later, a return message was made between the two countries, this time direct from Sydney to New Zealand without an intervening relay ship in the middle of the Tasman Sea.

Those of you who have good memories, will remember that the Trans-Tasman messages conveyed by the three ships in the Royal Navy was the topic in a special feature here in Wavescan back in the latter part of last year.