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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, May 13, 2012

The Story of Radio Broadcasting in Ceylon - 4: Radio SEAC Delhi

Next in our continuing series of topics on radio broadcasting in Ceylon, we trace the events associated with SEAC, South East Asia Command, during World War 2, and we go back to the very beginnings in England.

It was in August 1943 that plans were laid in London to establish SEAC, South East Asia Command, with Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten as the Supreme Allied Commander. Less than two months later, the British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill appointed Mountbatten to the new post; and soon afterwards, Mountbatten, who was an equal second cousin to King George 6, left for India to take up his new appointment.

Mountbatten arrived in Delhi by air on October 5, 1943, and he established his headquarters in Faridkot House, the palace of the Maharajah of Faridkot. His extensive baggage, which was transported from England to India by the Royal Navy Ship HMS "Ceylon," arrived a few weeks later.

In the summer of the same year 1943, the BBC General Overseas Service GOS commenced a daily shortwave service beamed to India under the generic title, "Forces Hour." This programming was intended to cater to the interests and the needs of British and American service personnel on duty throughout the widespread territories of British India. A few months later, the BBC was on the air shortwave to India with four hours of programming daily.

However, at the same time, there were several ex-BBC personnel on duty with the British armed forces throughout India, and these experienced radio men from England were already on the air with locally produced forces programming over AIR radio stations in various cities, including Lucknow, Calcutta, Bombay, Madras and Lahore.

Several of these radio personnel were drawn together in New Delhi for the purpose of introducing a BBC style of programming for broadcast locally in India. Among these men was Geoffrey Haggett who later served in radio management in New Zealand and other Pacific Islands.

The first broadcast of the new "All Forces Program" went on the air from AIR Delhi, both mediumwave and shortwave, in December 1943. This programming was noted in the United States, and the station identification stated: Allied Radio Station, Delhi. The frequencies in use at VUD at the time were 886 kHz mediumwave with 20 kW, and 7210 kHz shortwave with 10 kW. This shortwave channel, 7210 kHz, was also in use at other times of the day by VUC2 Calcutta.

In 1944, the Broadcasting Section moved into its own accommodations in nearby thatch roofed army huts; and a year later, the total staff in this radio broadcasting unit was around 100 personnel. Their programming was recorded in studios 11 and 12 in the new AIR HQ building in Parliament St., New Delhi. In February 1945, the Armed Forces Radio was noted again in the United States with their broadcasts from VUD2 on 6190 kHz, probably now with 100 kW.

Now, at the same time as these radio developments took place under the British, the Americans were also involved in similar activity. However, in addition to occasional programming over the already established network of mediumwave and shortwave stations throughout India, the Americans installed their own mediumwave stations, at least one of which was heard also on shortwave.

Gaining approval from government authorities to establish small local stations was very slow, so initially the American General Joseph Stilwell ordered his forces to go ahead with the installation of local AFRS stations, Armed Forces Radio Service, without obtaining government approval.

The second of these unlicensed AFRS stations in India was inaugurated in New Delhi on March 21, 1944, with 50 watts on 1305 kHz. Government approval was obtained shortly afterwards, and the allocated callsign was VU2ZY. This station was installed into prefabricated buildings quite nearby to the AIR headquarters building and the BBC Radio Unit, in Parliament Street, New Delhi.

Within two weeks of the inauguration of this small AFRS radio broadcasting station, all radio receivers were sold out over a radius of 50 miles. Interestingly, on many occasions, aircraft flying into Delhi would use the 1305 kHz signal from VU2ZY as a homing beacon.

As time moved on, both the BBC Broadcasting unit and the AFRS mediumwave station in New Delhi were closed, and the SEAC headquarters were transferred to Kandy in neighboring Ceylon.

In April of 1944, Mountbatten transferred his SEAC headquarters from New Delhi to Kandy, and he took with him many radio personnel, and four train loads of equipment.

The low powered AFRS mediumwave station VU2ZY made its last broadcast on March 31, 1946; it lay silent next day, Monday April 1.

Also in 1946, the British Broadcasting Unit in New Delhi was closed, and its personnel dispersed.

That was the end of the SEAC story in New Delhi. However, in two week's time, we will present the story of radio broadcasting in Kandy, Ceylon. You will find the Radio SEAC story in Kandy quite intriguing, with an outcome you have never heard before.