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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 27, 2012

The Story of Radio Broadcasting in Ceylon: Kandy on Mediumwave

The regional city of Kandy is located almost right in the center of the island of Sri Lanka. It is described in the encyclopedia as the most scenic city in the island, and it was the capital city for the era of the last kings of Sri Lanka.

The city was first established back in the 1300s, and its original name was Senkadagala. The present name Kandy is derived from the name in the Sinhala language, Kanda Uda Rata, meaning the "land on the mountain." Under the Portuguese, the name was shortened to Candea, and under the British it became Kandy.

The picturesque city of Kandy, the second largest in Sri Lanka, is nestled in between the mountain ranges, and at the edge of a large and scenic lake. Because of its higher elevation at 1600 feet, the climate is milder in the hot seasons. It is a tourist destination for Sri Lankan citizens, as well as for foreigners also. The total resident population is around 100,000.

The radio scene in Kandy is very interesting, in view of the fact that four, or perhaps just three, different radio organizations have been on the air at this exotic location.

During the latter years of World War 2 in Asia, Lord Louis Mountbatten, a member of the British royal family and subsequently the last Viceroy in India, came to Kandy in July 1944. He transferred the headquarters of SEAC, South East Asia Command from New Delhi in India to this country locality in Ceylon. In Kandy, Mountbatten took over the Perideniya Botanical Gardens and established his elaborate SEAC headquarters in the Royal Palace in Kandy.

It took four train loads to transfer people and equipment from Delhi to Kandy, and at the height of the British presence, there were more than 5,000 military personnel from the United Kingdom on location in Kandy. Mountbatten commuted between Kandy and Colombo in his own private train, running on the line between these two cities.

One month after Mountbatten's arrival, the American General Joseph Stilwell arrived in Kandy and established the American headquarters in the same city. This regional city was chosen as the location for regional army headquarters because of its more equitable climate in tropical Ceylon.

During their temporary stay in Kandy, both the British and the Americans established local radio broadcasting stations. The two local mediumwave stations, BFBS and AFRS, were both established around the same time, and they were both closed around the same time, though very little is known about either of these two entertainment radio broadcasting stations.

The American AFRS Armed Forces Radio Service radio station was inaugurated with 50 watts on 1355 kHz in August 1944. A little earlier, over there in the sub-continent, the government had given approval for the Americans to establish AFRS local entertainment stations throughout India, but it was stipulated that the power output should not exceed 50 watts. It would seem that the Ceylon government had taken the same attitude.

The American radio station carried shortwave relays from the United States, though much of the programming was produced locally, with the usage also of AFRS discs flown in from California. After the American forces moved away, the station was finally closed, on November 28, 1945.

The British counterpart was probably also a low power job at we would suggest 50 watts or lower. However, almost nothing is known about this station, except the fact that it was on the air, and it was located in Kandy, and its brief lifespan was approximately the same as the AFRS station. There are no known QSLs verifying the reception of AFRS nor BFBS Kandy.

Work on the more recent 3rd radio broadcasting station in Kandy began in the year 1960, when the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation announced plans for their first regional facility. The original planning called for local production and on air studios, and a mediumwave transmitter on 660 kHz.

Progress on this project at Senkadagala (Kandy) was quite slow, and the first reference to this station in the World Radio TV Handbook as actually being on the air is in 1969, with .25 kW on 570 kHz. In 1971, the WRTVHB shows Senkadagala now with 1 kW on that same channel 570 kHz, and the lower powered .25 kW unit on 822 kHz.

Six years later, in 1977, the original channel 570 kHz is now shown with 10 kW; and in 1983, the second channel, now on 819 kHz, went to 10 kW. The last showing for mediumwave in Kandy in the WRTVHB is for the year 1999. Since that time, only FM is listed for Kandy. It is known that there are several QSL cards verifying mediumwave SLBC Kandy.

More on Kandy Radio here in Wavescan next week, including the enigmatic Kandy Radio on shortwave.