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 361, November 25, 2001

World War II - Japanese Stations in Southeast Asia

Back in the European era of exploration and the colonial era of expansion, England and Holland divided the Malay countries into two major segments. England assumed control over the northern areas and Holland over the southern. These days these two areas are designated as Malaysia and Indonesia, with Singapore sandwiched in between and independent in its own right.

During the Pacific war, Japanese forces moved progressively through the countries in Southeast Asia, and they added Thailand, Burma and Malaysia into their growing empire. What then, is the story of the international shortwave stations in these three countries during these dramatic years? Letís look at these stations, country by country.


In prewar days, the Malay peninsula and Singapore were administered by the British as the Straits Settlements. On Singapore island, four small radio transmitters were installed, two on mediumwave and two on shortwave, under the callsigns ZHL and ZHI. These two transmitters were rated at around half a kilowatt, and they issued a colorful QSL card depicting the Singapore skyline.

In the year 1940, with stormy war clouds beginning to loom over Asia and the Pacific, the BBC in London announced plans to buy BMBC, the radio station in Singapore, and install a 100 kw shortwave transmitter. The electronic equipment was sent out by boat from England, but most of it was lost when the ship carrying the transmitter was torpedoed and sunk.

The Singapore government began work at Jurong on a new transmitter base, and they began to install two shortwave transmitters of 10 kw with the callsigns ZHP and ZHN. In 1942, the Japanese completed the construction work at Jurong and they installed two additional transmitters of 7.5 kw, one of which was transferred from the radio station on Penang island.

During the war, Singapore was on the air as Shonan Radio and it carried many broadcasts of interest to listeners in Australia and New Zealand, including prisoner of war news. Radio Tokyo announced on March 28, 1942 that Radio Shonan was back on the air. However, because of the low power of the two shortwave transmitters, this station was not noted until mid-year by the DX community in Australia, and it was November before the official government listening post near Melbourne heard this station.

Singapore was on the air as Shonan Radio for a period of three years, and the last broadcast with the Japanese identification was noted on February 3, 1945. However, this station was not reactivated under the British for another six months. The first reactivated units were on mediumwave for the benefit of the local population, and the shortwave units were reactivated early in the New Year 1946.

The shortwave station on the island of Penang was inaugurated in 1934 with a single low power unit on shortwave. The 10 kw unit was installed just before the war, and it was removed by the Japanese and taken to Singapore, leaving just the lower powered unit on shortwave in Penang. Arthur Cushen in New Zealand occasionally listened to this station on 6097 kHz for POW information, but the signal was seldom heard well.

There was also a low power shortwave unit at Kuala Lumpur, though this played no major role during the Pacific War.


When it became apparent that a major conflict was brewing in Asia and the Pacific, many of the international shortwave stations suddenly began to upgrade their equipment and to issue attractive QSL cards. This also happened in Thailand, which was known as Siam before the war.

Although the original shortwave transmitters near Bangkok were quite low powered, just 2.5 kw, a new international shortwave service in English was launched on October 20, 1938. This new programming from HSP5 and HS6PJ was beamed towards the United States, though there is no evidence that it was ever heard on the American mainland.

Work began on the construction of a 100 kw shortwave station at a new location, Nonthaburi, in 1941, and test broadcasts were noted early in the following year. Soon afterwards the Japanese took over the operation of Radio Siam and a very strong signal was noted in Australia. However, it would seem that usage of the 100 kw unit ended quite soon, and the Japanese were then on the air from the two lower powered units.

On one occasion Radio Bangkok was noted calling Osaka in Japan and Berlin in Germany with a programming relay. They were heard quite frequently in both Australia and New Zealand. This station was reactivated under Thai control at the end of 1945 with two new callsigns, HSP2 and HS8PD.


The original radio station in the city of Rangoon was allocated the unlikely callsign XYZ. It was a low powered shortwave unit. In 1941 an additional shortwave transmitter of 1.2 kw was installed, and during the war this was in use with Japanese programming beamed to Australia and New Zealand on 11875 kHz.

The Japanese occupation forces were on the air from the shortwave stations in Malaya, Thailand and Burma for a period of approximately three years, running from 1942 into 1945. Although they were heard often in Australia, New Zealand and the United States, yet again there is no record of any QSLs from these operations.

This Week in Radio History - Radio New Zealand International

The South Pacific country of New Zealand also featured prominently in the very early experimentation with wireless. Just one year after the famous KDKA was launched in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the first wireless broadcast was made in New Zealand.

The now historic figure, Dr. Robert Jack, was Professor of Physics at the Otago University in Dunedin at the time. He assembled his own wireless transmitter and played music recordings during the evening of Monday, November 17, 1921.

The music was on gramophone records on loan from a local music shop. The only known item of content in this historic first programming was a recording of the popular song, "Hello My Dearie".

The first broadcast from this first radio station in New Zealand was heard as far away as Wellington, 500 miles to the north. Programming from this new station was on the air for two hours, twice a week, on Wednesday and Saturday evenings.

This radio station received the first transmitting license in New Zealand and the original callsign was 4XO. Subsequent callsigns have been 4ZB and 4ZD, and their current callsign is 4XD. Today they are on the air with 2 kW on 1305 kHz.

The shortwave service of Radio New Zealand utilizes a single 100 kW transmitter in the center of the North Island, and it can frequently be heard in distant countries. Today, down there in New Zealand, they are remembering the 80th anniversary of the first wireless station in their island country.