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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, February 17, 2013

Focus on Africa: BBC East Mediterranean Relay Station Cyprus - Part 1

In our program today, we present the first episode in a mini-series regarding the fascinating history of the BBC Eastern Relay Station on the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. In this, another presentation under the title Focus on Africa, we begin at the beginning, which takes us back to the coastal areas of Palestine under the old British Mandate.

On the central Mediterranean coast lies the very ancient city of Jaffa, which is described as one of the oldest cities upon planet Earth. These days, Jaffa is quite modern and it is an integral part of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa metroplex.

Ancient Jaffa is noted with several interesting references in the Holy Bible, including for example: King David & his conquests, King Solomon receiving the Cedars of Lebanon for the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and Jonah and the whale with his epic voyage in the eastern Mediterranean.

Jaffa is also mentioned in an ancient Egyptian letter from the year 1440 BC, glorifying the conquest by Pharaoh Thutmose 3, who was the adoptive brother of the well known Biblical patriarch Moses. To obtain the conquest of the city, the pharaoh hid armed Egyptian soldiers in large baskets filled with gifts for the governor of Jaffa.

During the latter stages of the British Mandate over Palestine, an air force base was established on land near Jaffa that was leased from the local authorities. During the year 1941, a surreptitious radio broadcasting station was established in this air force base using RAF equipment and it was launched under the identification slogan, Freedom Broadcasting Station.

Initially, the programming from this new shortwave station was beamed to the Balkan countries in eastern Europe, though programming in the Arabic language was added soon afterwards, with the identification announcement in Arabic as Sharq al Adna, and in English as the Near East Broadcasting Station. At full strength, Sharq al Adna in Jaffa was on the air with 4 transmitters at 7.5 kW each.

During its 8 year history at this location in coastal Palestine, the shadowy Sharq al Adna was regularly on the air with the 4 transmitters in parallel under the general callsign ZJM. All of its international shortwave channels were heard far and wide, in Europe, North America & the South Pacific, and these channels were:

The local shortwave channel, shown as ZJM3 on 3320 kHz, was at times listed as in use, but there are no known loggings of this channel in the DX publications of the era.

The two mediumwave transmitters in Palestine during this era, with 20 kW each on 677 kHz & 574 kHz, were also allocated callsigns in the same ZJM sequence, as ZJM & ZJM2. However, these two broadcast transmitters were not part of the Sharq al Adna facility. The studios for the two mediumwave transmitters of this Palestine Broadcasting Service were in Jerusalem, and the transmitters were installed at Ramallah, on the downward slopes towards the Jordan River.

Most of the programming for Sharq al Adna in coastal Jaffa was in the Arabic language, though some was in English, and occasionally some was in Hindustani for the benefit of Indian soldiers on duty in the area. The identification signal was a short melody on a harp.

During the Palestine era, this station was always under the control of the British government, though it theoretically changed hands a few times. To the casual listener, Sharq al Adna was a mystery station with interesting programs; and to the dedicated international radio monitor, this Near East Broadcasting Station was a clandestine operation on behalf of the British government.

In 1945 after the end of World War 2, the legal status of Sharq al Adna was changed and it began to operate as a commercial radio broadcasting station, and it was noted on air with advertisements in the Arabic language.

The British Mandate over Palestine was scheduled to end at midnight on May 14, 1948. In preparation for the Palestine areas to declare their own independence amidst the turmoil and bitter fighting of that era, the British staged their withdrawal in what historians describe as their typical style, with "pomp and circumstance". In advance, the technical equipment and personnel associated with the shortwave radio station, Sharq al Adna, were readied and withdrawn from Jaffa on the Palestine coast and transferred to a new location on the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean, just 70 miles off shore.

During the Palestine era, a colorful QSL Certificate was issued by Sharq al Adna from its official address in Jerusalem. The 1st known edition of this QSL sheet contained a printing error, showing the spelling of Palestine without the first E, that is Palstine. A 2nd printing of this same QSL Certificate made a correction, as shown on page 72 of Jerome Berg's authoritative shortwave history "Broadcasting - 1945 to Today", and the word Palestine is spelled correctly.

When "Freedom at Midnight" occurred, not in India but rather in the Middle East, on May 14, 1948, radio station Sharq al Adna was no longer in Jaffa, it was already under installation on Cyprus. And that's our story next time in this sequence of topics on the BBC Eastern Relay Station.