"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 280, May 7, 2000
Australian Army Radio
In recent times, many DXers and international radio monitors worldwide have reported hearing the unique shortwave service for Australian troops serving in the peacekeeping forces in Timor and elsewhere. Over a period of time, these broadcasts have been radiated over transmitters located at three different radio bases in Australia, and they form an interesting update to the entire story of radio broadcasting by the Australian Army Amenities Service (AAAS). This is the story, which begins way back during World War II.
The first radio broadcasting unit for Australian Forces was a mobile studio which was commissioned in Australia in June 1942 and shipped to the Middle East. Originally it was intended that this mobile radio studio would broadcast back to Australia with war news and information from North Africa and the Middle East. However, because the shortwave transmitter had an output of only 1 kw, these intended broadcasts became impractical. Consequently, the mobile studio was used mainly for producing programs in the battle areas and for broadcasting them over local radio transmitters.
During the Pacific theater of World War II, a series of some 21 mobile radio stations were constructed in Australia, tested late at night from locations in Melbourne and Sydney, and then shipped to forward areas. These stations were rated with a power output ranging from 10 to 200 watts.
On one occasion, and quite by chance, I heard one of these stations at a distance of some 500 miles. It was 9AF, with 200 watts on 1440 kHz, broadcasting a test program from Melbourne late at night.
These AAAS stations were based in the main areas of Australian troop deployment in the Pacific islands, and were supplementary to the larger number of American Armed Forces Radio Stations in the same areas. The whole series of callsigns for the AAAS stations at the time ranged from 9AA to 9AP.
Many of these stations were transported from place to place according to the movement of the armed forces in the various stages of the Pacific war. One of the stations, 9AG with 200 watts on 1340 kHz, was established at Balikpapan in Borneo. When the Australian troops moved forward, this station was handed over to the Dutch authorities, and it became the local station in the NIROM network.
In addition, several other stations were constructed locally in forward battle areas, or were taken over from a retreating enemy. Such stations as "Radio RAAF Milne Bay" and "RAAF Radio Madang" were well known in the area at the time.
At Port Moresby, New Guinea, a 500 watt station on 1250 kHz was officially opened by General Douglas MacArthur on February 26, 1944. The first allotted callsign was 9PA, but this was soon changed to 9AA, signifying its status as the parent station for all of the forward stations with callsigns in the 9A series. The QSL letter that I received from this station lists the call as 9PA, when, in reality, as an army station at the time, it was really 9AA.
In addition to the testing of the mobile MW stations in the two cities, Melbourne and Sydney, additional army stations have been established in other areas of mainland Australia. These have operated generally on the medium wave band, though one in particular was a shortwave broadcaster.
At Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory, a MW station was established in 1944. This was 5DR, standing for Darwin Radio. It was in use as an army station for two years, and then it was taken over by the government broadcasting service, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, as the Northern Territory relay station for the ABC home service network. This station was later designated as 8DR, and its callsign has since been changed to 8RN.
Soon after the war was over, an experimental broadcasting service was launched from an air force base at Higgensfield in North Queensland. This station announced as "Radio RAAF No. 2," identifying the air force unit that was operating it. The 100 watt transmitter on 1470 kHz was on the air in August 1945 with the intent of launching an entertainment/information radio service, but the project was abandoned.
Then, in 1955, the first army shortwave station came onto the air unannounced, from Puckapunyal in Victoria. This station radiated 25 watts on 7850 kHz, and it was on the air just two hours per week in November 1955.
Towards the end of the Pacific war, a 50 year old wooden ship, the "Apache," was fitted out in Sydney Harbour as a radio station and sent up to the Philippines. This station, announcing as WVLC, took over some of the Australian shortwave broadcasts from VLC, Shepparton, and it also relayed American AFRTS and VOA programs over a channel in the 7 MHz band.
In addition, several warships in the PacificBritish, Australian and Americanbegan to relay programs from Australian MW stations to surrounding areas on shortwave. One of these, for example, was the HMS Grenville, which was heard relaying the commercial programs from 2KY Sydney in January 1946.
More recently, some of the larger Australian navy vessels have incorporated a radio station as part of their onboard entertainment facilities. In some cases these stations have radiated programs over a MW transmitter, and in other cases programs are available on board the ship via closed circuit cable. One of the ships, HMAS Canberra, for example, was stationed off the coast of Vietnam during the South East Asian conflict.
During the era of occupation in Japan, at least four of the mobile 9A stations were taken to Japan. These were incorporated into existing Japanese stations and were allocated callsigns in the American W series. For example, the 10 watt station 9AQ was located near Kure in Japan. It was first identified as WVTX, and later as WLKU. All of these stations were broadcasting on MW, but one of them, 9ALWVTV/WLKSwas also broadcasting for a while on shortwave.
When the Korean offensive began, Australian troops also moved into the peninsula, and so too did some of their radio stations, as many as four of them.
Along with the American "Good Morning Vietnam" series of AFRTS stations, there were a couple of Australian stations located in Vietnam as well. One of these was a 500 watt station broadcasting from Vung Tau on 1040 kHz. Another station was located for a while at Hue, nearby the larger VOA and AFRTS stations.
Back in 1960, on July 1 to be exact, a rather substantive radio station was established by the Royal Australian Air Force at Butterworth on the Malay Peninsula, just across from the island of Penang. This AAAS station broadcast from two 500 watt transmitters, using each on alternate days, both at 50 percent power. They also had a choice of two simple antennas, an inverted L and a folded dipole. This station was occasionally heard further afield, and on several occasions, I heard it in India and Sri Lanka. Radio RAAF Butterworth served some 5,000 Australian personnel at the air base, and it left the air when Butterworth was closed in the late 1980's.
The latest endeavor in AAAS broadcasting made its appearance unheralded, unannounced and unexpected. A few years back, a new shortwave service for Australian forces serving in Somalia came onto the air. At first, the half hour programs were broadcast from one of the 250 kw shortwave transmitters of Radio Australia located on Cox Peninsula near Darwin in the Northern Territory. A while afterwards, DXers in Europe and elsewhere reported hearing similar programming on other channels not listed for Radio Australia.
Subsequent information revealed that these transmissions were coming from two different locations. One is VHP, the large Navy radio station located at Belconnen near Canberra, Australia's capital city. The other is NMCVLF, the America radio facility located near Exmouth at North West Cape in a Western Australian coastal area. These transmissions were on the air several times a day from both locations. Studio facilities are housed in one of the government offices in Canberra, and the first broadcast each day was presented live.
The broadcasts from Exmouth were directed towards Somalia, and the broadcasts from Belconnen were directed towards Kampuchea. Programming consisted of contemporary music interspersed with calls from relatives in Australia to servicemen on ships and in Somalia and Kampuchea.