Home | Back to Wavescan Index

"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 N463, January 7, 2018

The Radio Scene on a Small Island with a Large Volcano - 2

During the past year 2017 here in Wavescan, we have presented many topics associated with the radio scene in the Middle Americas, that is, in Central America and the Caribbean. However, due to the fact that we still have many unpresented topics from these areas, we plan to continue with Focus on the Middle Americas during this entire coming year 2018. We trust that you will appreciate and enjoy the information that we will present in all of these coming topics regarding the radio scene in these very colorful countries and islands.

Our opening topic for our first presentation in the New Year 2018 takes us into the Caribbean, an area that was devastated during last year's hurricane season.

In this, our program today, we return to the radio scene on the small island with the large volcano; it is the story of Radio Antilles, the shortwave station that relayed the programming of both Deutsche Welle in Cologne, Germany and the BBC in London, England.

On April 20, 1963, the Radio Antilles Corporation on Montserrat Island on the Atlantic edge of the Caribbean was formed, and soon afterwards work commenced on the construction of the new mediumwave/shortwave station at the oceanside at O'Garro's Beach, a little south of Morris in St. Patrick's Parish. The large 200 kW transmitter was dubbed Transmitter Anita in their Radio Antilles terminology, and the twin 15 kW shortwave transmitters were dubbed Transmitter Dora.

The studios for Radio Antilles were installed on the second floor of the isolated transmitter building. The original box number allocated to Radio Antilles by the post office in New Plymouth was 35, but soon afterwards through negotiation, this was changed to 930, reflecting the operating frequency of their huge 200 kW mediumwave station.

The original owner of Radio Antilles was Jacques Tremoulet who had previously invested his endeavors and his funding in Radio Andorra, a small micro-country sandwiched in between France and Spain. Several of the Radio Andorra staff assisted in the original development of Radio Antilles on Montserrat.

In 1970, DW Deutsche Welle invested significant funding in Radio Antilles, and they took over the management of the station with their own manager from Germany. When the German engineers arrived at the station, they reported that the two 15 kW transmitters were already installed; and that they looked as though both units were either new, or recently renovated.

Subsequently, DW installed a 50 kW Continental shortwave transmitter and a 200 kW mediumwave transmitter that they had obtained previously for their projected station in El Salvador. Maybe the huge new mediumwave transmitter replaced the older unit that was brought in from Africa. Some ten years after DW took over, the twin 15 kW units were withdrawn from service.

A small shortwave receiver station was installed towards the summit of St. Georges Hill, almost in the very center of the island, with twin rhombic antennas that were beamed for reception from Germany and England. This hill top location on Montserrat was some four miles distant from the transmitter station, which was located on the lower southwest coast of the island.

In March 1977, both Deutsche Welle in Cologne, Germany and the BBC in London, England began a relay for their programming from Radio Antilles on Montserrat on the edge of the Caribbean. Both European shortwave stations shared time over the two 15 kW and the single 50 kW transmitters.

However, four years later (1981), the BBC withdrew its involvement with the Deutsche Welle/Radio Antilles shortwave station, choosing rather to expand its usage of the larger and more substantial shortwave relay station on the nearby island of Antigua.

International radio monitors in North America learned to distinguish which Deutsche Welle station was on the air, by listening carefully to the station announcements. The on-air announcement from DW Antigua tended to have a German accent, with the emphasis on the first syllable of the word RE-lay; whereas the on air announcement from DW Montserrat word tended to have more of a French accent, with the emphasis on the second syllable of the word re-LAY.

Eight years later again (in 1989), due to a massive financial scandal associated with Radio Antilles, Deutsche Welle closed out its operation of the station, and the government of Montserrat took over control of the station and its operation. It was at this stage that the massive Hurricane Hugo hit Montserrat with sustained winds as high as 185 miles per hour, and 90% of the structures on Montserrat were badly damaged or destroyed.

This devastating hurricane literally destroyed the tourism industry on Montserrat. The main building for Radio Antilles was also badly damaged, though it was subsequently repaired.

Then give six more years, July 18, 1995, and the dormant Mt. Soufriere exploded into volcanic activity; and over a period of time, the large bottom half of the island has been abandoned, including the capital town, New Plymouth. An early lava flow came to within 200 yards of Radio Antilles. On three separate occasions, Radio Antilles moved its studio operation from the transmitter facility into temporary accommodations in New Plymouth.

Ultimately, all of the salvageable electronic equipment was removed from the transmitter building and taken to the northern part of the island for safe storage. The building itself was ultimately completely inundated with an overflow of untold millions of tons of molten lava, ash mud, and volcanic debris. The actual original site of Radio Antilles can no longer be distinguished.

Passed by the Censor

During the stressful days of World War 2 in the middle of the last century, there was still a flow of postal mail across the wide oceans, though at times there were lengthy delays before delivery was finally made to the addressee. Sometimes the method of transportation of the mail was by plane, and sometimes it was by boat, though as we know, there were losses due to enemy action.

For the security of the armed forces in the war zones, censors were appointed to check outgoing mail to ensure that the items of postal mail contained no sensitive information that would be helpful to enemy personnel if by chance they happened to obtain access. Items of half a century old postal mail that are identified in some way as passed by a censor are these days valuable collector's items.

It is true that listener reception reports, QSL cards and QSL letters were subject back then to inspection by an appointed censor, and a sticker or a rubber stamping on the envelope or the card testifies to this intrusion by the censor. In this, our radio feature here in Wavescan today, we examine a handful of QSLs and reception reports from that era that were examined by a censor.

We begin with Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, and back at that time, there were Japanese, American and Australian armed forces stationed on the island of New Guinea. Any outward postal mail had to pass over ocean waters, regardless of the intended delivery country.

The mediumwave station 9PA with 250 watts on 1250 kHz was operated by both Australian and American personnel, and it broadcast syndicated programming for the benefit of both nationalities. A QSL letter on a blank sheet of paper verifies the reception in Australia of 9PA dated March 23, 1945. Even though the correct callsign would have been 9AA, yet the station identification is shown as 9PA. The envelope carries a sticker stating, Opened by Censor, and a circular rubber stamping identifies the censor as No. 463.

A subsequent QSL letter from the same mediumwave station 9PA was typed onto a small ABC letterhead dated June 11 (1945), though it was inserted into an army envelope. The oblong rubber stamping indicates army censor No. 682.

Much of the postal mail across the Pacific back then was examined by a censor, and many of the QSL cards from VOA, the Voice of America, in California and addressed to Australia and New Zealand carry a rubber stamping from an official censor. Station KWV with 20 kW at AT&T Dixon in California was logged in 1943 by both Jack Fox in Dunedin, New Zealand and by Max Mudie at Victor Harbor in South Australia. In both cases, the Red White & Blue QSL card from KWV was rubber stamped with a large circular stamp stating U. S. Censorship, and in both case it was the same censor, number 10177.

Interestingly, Max Mudie received another 1943 QSL card from AT&T Dixon, this time under another 20 kW callsign KWY, and it was rubber stamped by the very same censor No. 10177. However Jack Fox received a similar 1943 Red White & Blue QSL card from the 50 kW KRCA at Bolinas in California and it was passed by a different censor, No. 10392.

During that same back-then era, shortwave station WRUL at Scituate with its studios in Boston received a voluminous flow of listener mail from all over the world. Many of those reception reports and letters were examined by homeland censors before they began their journey across the intervening ocean.

For example, a 1942 envelope addressed to WRUL was examined by a censor in Greenland. The envelope was posted by an American serviceman on duty in Greenland, and a sticker sealing the end of the envelope bears the censor No. 6433.

A 1943 envelope from Brazil was examined by censor No. 6822; a 1943 envelope from Turkey was examined by censor No. 457; and another 1943 envelope from Martinique in the Caribbean was examined by censor No. 6915. This envelope was addressed simply to Radio Boston in the United States, but nevertheless it was delivered to the well-known Boston shortwave station WRUL.

An equally vague address on an envelope from French Africa was examined by censor No. 6915. The address again stated quite simply Radio Boston, but the postal authorities nevertheless delivered the missive to shortwave WRUL.

Then there was a postal card that was delivered to a shortwave station in California and it was written in the most difficult handwriting you could ever wish to see. The 1944 postal card was addressed by Private Lawrence E. Hutchinson, who was on recovery in Army Hospital 79, which we would suggest was somewhere in the Pacific.

The card was addressed to Melody Roundup in Los Angeles. Now that was not a girl's name, but rather it was the name of a radio program that was presented by the well-known music group from that era, the Sons of the Pioneers. Their programming was heard on AFRTS local stations throughout the world, and on shortwave from California.

In order to provide accurate delivery, someone had added a note in pencil, with two letters, SW, standing for shortwave. This card was passed by army base censor No. 1561.

The message side of the card stated that the writer was representing all of the patients in Ward A, who would like to hear the song, Just Like Old Times. We can only presume that nostalgia was creeping over these wounded army personnel, and we would hope that AFRS Radio Shortwave did indeed honor their music request.