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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, December 8, 2013

75th Anniversary: The Early Shortwave Scene in Albania

The modern nation of Albania is a small mountainous country on the western edge of the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. This country is a little over two hundred miles long and a little less than one hundred miles wide with a frontage on the Adriatic Sea 275 miles long. The largest city in Albania is Tirana which is also their national capital, located in the center of the country.

The total population in Albania is around three million, and the national language is Albanian which is spoken with two major dialects, Gheg in the north and Tosk in the south. Over a period of time, their language has been written in several different scripts, including Italian, Greek, Arabic, Turkish and Russian. Beginning in 1908, attempts were made to standardize the script nationwide, and these days they use the Latin script with the insertion of two additional letters.

The earliest settlers in Albania were the Illyrians, an Indo-European people who moved in from the east around 1,000 BC. In 167 BC, the Roman army overtook Albania and spread their culture throughout the country for more than half a century; and they were followed by an invasion of the Germanic (Gothic) tribe in the 300s.

Throughout the centuries since that time, many different ethnic peoples have swept through the area, leaving their mark on the historical development of the country and culture. In more modern times, Albania obtained independence on November 28, 1912. These days, half a million tourists visit Albania every year.

Radio broadcasting came to Albania in the year 1937 when a small mediumwave station was installed in the Town Hall Municipality Building in Tirana. The locally made transmitter was rated at 10 watts, and the allocated frequency was 1384 kHz. Three years later, a new 1 kW transmitter was installed for Radio Tirana.

An imported shortwave transmitter, a 3 kW Tesla unit assembled in nearby Prague, Czechoslovakia, was installed in a specially constructed transmitter building on the edge of Tirana and this station was inaugurated on November 28, 1938 under the callsign ZAA. The shortwave program service was on the air from the same mediumwave studios in the Town Hall Municipality Building.

The new shortwave transmitter was in use for radio program broadcasting three hours daily, and also for international radio communication. During this era, station ZAA was noted with Morse Code transmissions in contact with station IAC in Italy.

The new ZAA was first logged in Australia on February 1 of the following year, 1939 when the station was radiating test broadcasts on 6090 kHz. The programming was made up with recorded music and announcements in five languages; Albanian, English, French, German and Italian. In English, the station identified as Radio Experimental, Tirana, Albania.

The editor of the Shortwave Pages in an Australian radio magazine, Ray Simpson at Radio & Hobbies, reported that he sent off a reception report to shortwave ZAA at the Post & Telegraph office in Tirana, Albania. In due course, he received a QSL letter and this had been posted out just a few days before the Italian invasion of Albania, which began on April 7, 1939. Subsequent QSLs, presumably letters, were also received by international radio monitors in the United States.

Back in this era, four channels were in use, 6090, 7850, and 9970 kHz, with 15765 kHz specifically beamed to the United States. The identification signal during this early era was a series of 10 note chimes, ascending and descending. During the Italian occupation of Albania, station ZAA ended the broadcast day with the Italian national anthem.

The last known logging of shortwave station ZAA during the war years is found in the same Australian radio magazine, Radio & Hobbies, and the report came from the renowned New Zealander Arthur Cushen. He heard the station during August 1940, with a program relay on 7850 kHz.

Currently, Radio Tirana Albania is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the inauguration of their shortwave station ZAA on November 28, 1938.

72nd Anniversary: International Encounter on the High Seas-2, HSK "Kormoran" & HMAS "Sydney"--Radio Repercussions in Australia

In our program three weeks back, we presented the story of the chance encounter between the disguised German raider "Kormoran" and the Australian navy cruiser "Sydney" off the coast of Western Australia during the tragic events of World War 2. These two ships began battle 72 years ago at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, November 19, 1941, and after a fierce bombardment between them lasting just one hour, both ships sank.

After the battle was over, some 300 men from the "Kormoran" ultimately survived the ordeal and ended up in Australia for the next half a dozen years. Sadly, not one man aboard the "Sydney" lived to tell the tale.

News about the sharp clash between the two navy vessels was slow in reaching Australia, and when the "Sydney" failed to reach Fremantle port in Western Australia on schedule, rumours began to circulate throughout the country that the ship was lost at sea. The battle took place on November 19; the "Sydney" was due back in port next day; and on the following day, November 21, the navy base at Fremantle alerted navy headquarters in Melbourne that the ship was overdue.

In the process of time, two days later again, that is on November 23, navy headquarters sent out radio messages ordering the "Sydney" to break radio silence and to report in with details of recent events. But alas, it was already too late; the "Sydney" was lying silently 1-1/2 miles deep in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Western Australia.

During the next day, Monday, November 24, two events alerted the authorities in Australia with news about the sinking of both ships. The first lifeboat load of survivors from the "Kormoran" made landfall on the Australian coast north of Carnarvon, and they gave the first real information about the intense naval skirmish. Then the passing British tanker "Trocus" plucked another boatload of survivors from their lifeboat and radioed Applecross Radio VIP about the event. The navy authorities in Australia immediately ordered an embargo on the news for reasons of national security and so that next of kin could be notified.

Prime Minister John Curtin finally issued a news release to all newspapers and radio stations throughout Australia late Sunday, November 30, giving a brief report of the battle and the sinking of the two vessels. However, this news could be printed in the newspapers next day, the Prime Minister ordered, but it was not to be broadcast on radio nor cabled overseas for two more days.

Next day, three radio stations in Australia broadcast information, rather inadvertently, about the battle and the sinking of both the "Sydney" and the "Kormoran", and all three were ordered off air with a suspension of their broadcasting license. These three stations were:

2UW Sydney Commercial station .75 kW 1110 kHz
3KZ Melbourne Commercial station .6 1180
3AR Melbourne Government ABC 10 620

At the two commercial stations, 2UW Sydney and 3KZ Melbourne, the morning announcers simply read the information on air, as it appeared in the morning newspapers. At the ABC station 3AR in Melbourne, a brass band from the suburban Footscray school was presenting a live morning concert and the band leader unwittingly stated: "We will now let the band play Lead Kindly Light in honor of the men of the Sydney." All three stations were permitted to return to the air at 6:00 pm next day, December 1.

Now, the ABC shortwave relay station VLR was on the air each morning during that era with an uninterrupted relay from the mediumwave station 3AR. At the time, this shortwave station was operating with 2 kW on 11760 kHz under the specific callsign VLR8. There is no indication that VLR was put off the air over the embargoed news item. It would be presumed then that the program relay via VLR must have been switched over from the other ABC mediumwave station in Melbourne, 3LO.

In the meantime, the son of an army intelligence officer in Sydney happened to tune the family radio to a news bulletin from a shortwave station located in California at 6:30 pm on Friday evening, November 28, and he heard the news about the battle between the two ships and that both had sunk. In more recent time, it was thought that this news bulletin was broadcast by station KGEI in San Francisco which was the only shortwave broadcasting station on the air in California during that era.

However, subsequent information has revealed that the news bulletin was broadcast by the RCA communication station KPH at Bolinas, California. During that era of international stress, it is known that KPH did at times broadcast news bulletins, usually as some form of relay to distant radio stations across the Pacific.

Investigation has been made as to how the RCA KPH obtained this classified information three days before the news was released in Australia. At first it was thought that the information was carried by a plane passenger from Australia to California, but it was afterwards realized that the information was probably passed on in some way through official channels.

On Tuesday, December 2, the BBC London broadcast news on shortwave about the sinking of the "Kormoran" in its news bulletins; then on the Wednesday, all radio stations in Australia were permitted to broadcast news about the loss of the "Sydney"; and then on the Thursday and Friday, Berlin Radio broadcast news in English on shortwave about the conflict between the "Kormoran" and the "Sydney", and the loss of both.

Next week here in Wavescan, we present the final episode in the story of the "Kormoran" and the "Sydney", and the supposed radio transmissions from each.