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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 12, 2013

BBC East Mediterranean Relay Station Cyprus, Pt. 3

It was during the year 1951, that consideration was given to the possibility of co-operation between the BBC in London and the Sharq al Adna radio station, which by this time was now nicely established on the island of Cyprus after its transfer from Jaffa in Palestine. The studios were located at Polemydia in the north west area of suburban Limassol, and the transmitter base was located at Zygi, on the south coast of Cyprus some twenty miles east of Limassol. However, it was another five years before this station actually began to carry a regular relay of BBC programming.

In another move on July 11, 1956, there was an official call for the establishment of a high powered mediumwave relay station for the BBC on the Sharq al Adna site at Zygi. However, with the sudden eruption of military conflict against Egypt over the Suez Canal three months later, on October 29, 1956, England moved rapidly.

At 11:30 am next day, October 30, the British Foreign Office notified the BBC that they would take over the Sharq al Adna station at 3:00 pm, and that the name would be changed to the Voice of Britain. Arab speaking announcers loaded with suitable music and programming information were flown in from England and listeners heard the new call from the old station, the Voice of Britain. Shortly afterwards, the station was carrying a regular relay from the BBC London with 4-3/4 hours of daily programming in the Arabic language.

After the brief Suez Crisis, attempts were made to sell the station, or to make it profitable with advertising as a commercial operation, but without success. Then, on February 6 of the next year, 1957, an announcement in the House of Lords, Parliament, London, informed the British public that the government had bought the Sharq al Adna radio station, though in reality the British government already owned the facility.

Thus it was that Sharq al Adna, the Voice of Britain, was turned over to the BBC as an official relay station on March 31, 1957 and the entire facility was renamed the BBC East Mediterranean Relay Station. At the time, this radio broadcasting station was on the air at the following two locations:

1. Zygi Transmitter Station Mediumwave 1 @ 7.5 kW on 635 kHz
20 miles east of Limassol Shortwave 4 @ 7.5 kW & 2 @ 20 kW
2. Lady's Mile Transmitter Station Mediumwave 1 @ 100 kW on 638 kHz
4 miles south west from Limassol

Under the BBC, this radio broadcasting station underwent tremendous development over a period of time until it became one of the world's largest international relay stations. Ownership was held by DWS, the Diplomatic Wireless Service.

Almost immediately after its acquisition, work began on enlarging the station at Zygi, and in 1961 a 100 kW Marconi BD253 was installed. Then two years later four more Marconi's of the same model at 100 kW were installed.

Twenty years later a remodeling program was undertaken with an extension to the main transmitter hall and four new Marconi transmitters were installed. These units were identified as model number B6124, rated at 300 kW. Two of these were originally intended for installation at the Orfordness mediumwave station in England, but they were modified for usage at 250 kW and taken to Cyprus instead.

Around this time, the BBC implemented satellite delivery as the program feed for the Cyprus transmitters; and by the end of the 1983 summer, all of the earlier low power transmitters were replaced by the high power units. At this stage, eight shortwave transmitters ranging in power from 100 kW to 250 kW & 300 kW were on the air, as well as two 100 kW mediumwave transmitters on 1323 kHz.

As time went by, an additional six high powered Marconi transmitters were installed at Zygi. Two were new units at 250 kW, and four at 300 kW were transferred from the BBC Daventry at the time of its closure. In 1991 for example, a total of seven shortwave transmitters were in use at Zygi, as well as a pair of 100 kW mediumwave transmitters.

At 6:00 am on July 11, 2011, there was a massive explosion at the adjoining navy base at Zygi when ninety eight containers of high explosives blew up. This massive explosion destroyed the nearby power station which provided electricity for half of the island of Cyprus. All of the windows in nearby hotels were blown out and there were several major fires nearby. The Cyprus government endeavored to obtain two floating power stations in order to restore power to half of their island.

Although the BBC facility sustained no major damage, yet they were able to operate only two transmitters with the usage of their own emergency power generators. The mediumwave service at Zygi was temporarily transferred to the BBC mediumwave facility at Lady's Mile.

In the 1990s, a pair of 500 kW Continental mediumwave transmitters were installed at Lady's Mile with separate antenna systems, each supported by a square of directional antennas. On the north side of the building, the programming was beamed to the Middle East on 720 kHz; on the south side of the building, the programming was beamed to Africa on 639 kHz.

A receiver station was in operation at Zakaki, one mile north of the mediumwave station at Lady's Mile, and shortwave programming from the BBC in England was distributed to the two transmitting sites, Zygi & Lady's Mile. However, with the increased usage of satellites for the distribution of program feeds, the receiver station at Zakaki became redundant and was sold off in the early 1990s.

Interestingly, a foreign visitor to the island in 1994 declared that the slogan for the earlier name of the station, Sharq al Adna, was still visible on the doorway to the transmitter building at Zygi.

Just two weeks back, at the end of April, the shortwave facility of the BBC East Mediterranean Relay Station at Zygi on the island of Cyprus was closed, though the mediumwave station at Lady's Mile will continue in operation with reduced programming in English and Arabic.

This station, Sharq al Adna, the Voice of Britain, and the BBC East Mediterranean Relay Station, served the world of international radio listeners from its consecutive locations in Palestine and Cyprus for a total period of 72 years. But it is now gone, and apparently, gone forever.

What will happen to all of those still usable high powered shortwave transmitters at Zygi, all ten of them? Only time will tell; but those of you who hold their QSL cards, depicting the map of Cyprus with an inset showing the antenna systems, now hold an important reminder of one of the world's most massive shortwave stations ever constructed.