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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 404, September 22, 2002

Another Radio Anniversary in Australia - Victoria's VK3ME

Two weeks ago here in Wavescan, we honored the 75th anniversary of the launching of Australiaís first international broadcasting service.  The experimental shortwave station was VK2ME, the location was Sydney in New South Wales, and the date was September 5,1927.

Just two days later, another famous "first" was achieved in Australia, and this was the launching of another shortwave broadcasting service with a similar callsign, VK3ME.  The location was Braybrook, on the edge of Melbourne in Victoria, and the date was September 7, 1927.

Let's go back now to the beginning of this historic radio venture in Australia's second largest city.

Sydney Newman was an engineer with AWA and in 1921 he established an amateur wireless station at his home in Mont Albert Road, a long suburban street running east from downtown Melbourne.  It is the same street where the well known Bob Padula lives today, though Sydney Newman's suburb was Canterbury and Bob Padula's suburb is Surrey Hills.  From this suburban home, Sydney Newman ran many broadcasts over his wireless station VK3ME, sometimes under his own initiative and sometimes as part of his work with AWA.

In 1927, Sydney Newman built a shortwave transmitter which was installed with the mediumwave station 3LO in Braybrook and the callsign was transferred from Newman's home to the new location.  Extensive Morse Code tests were conducted over this new transmitter in preparation for launching a new shortwave broadcasting service.

After the mediumwave station 3LO signed off at the end of the broadcast day on September 7, 1927, the shortwave transmitter was fired up for the inaugural live broadcast from the 3LO studios in downtown Melbourne.  This programming was also picked up by the BBC station 2LO in London and relayed on mediumwave thoughout the British Isles.  A regular schedule of weekly broadcasts was inaugurated just two months later.

On several occasions, the shortwave programming under the auspices of station VK3ME was transmitted by a higher powered 20 kW unit, the communication transmitter VIY which was located at Ballan, further out along the highway running towards Ballarat.  On several important occasions, both VK3LR at Lyndhurst and VK3ME at Ballan were heard with parallel programming, usually the broadcast of an international test cricket match.

The AWA communication station at Ballan contained two shortwave transmitters, VIZ and VIY, for wireless communication with England and North America.  This station was officially opened also in the year 1927, just five months ahead of the broadcast unit VK3ME.

Shortwave broadcasting from 3LO ended in 1929 when the two mediumwave stations in Melbourne, 3LO and 3AR, were amalgamated and ultimately taken over by the government for incorporation into the nationwide network of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.  From that time onwards, all shortwave programming was independently produced in the AWA studios, even though the VK3ME shortwave transmitter was still co-located in the same building as the 3LO mediumwave transmitter.

Early in its broadcasting history, station VK3ME introduced several important "firsts" in Australian shortwave programming, such as the call of the Kookaburra which was later taken over by VK2ME in Sydney, and later again by Radio Australia.  The Melbourne station also introduced station announcements in several different languages, and the call of the famous Victorian bird, the Lyre Bird.  Interestingly, the wavelength at VK3ME was described at one stage as "35 yards" rather than the metric 32 metres.

These days, all of these radio facilities are now gone.  Earlier this year, Bob Padula, together with his radio colleague Mike Ogrizek, made a historic visit to the area and this is what Bob states.

The AWA communication station at Ballan, or Fiskville as it was sometimes termed, is now a training facility for the Country Fire Authority, CFA, in Victoria.  The transmitter hall that housed the three shortwave transmitters is still standing and is part of the visitor centre for the CFA.

The receiver station at Rockbank was later in use by the Australian Army, but that is also now closed.  These days the property is in an extensive farmland area with nearby housing estates slowly moving out that way.  The ABC-AWA transmitter base at Braybrook is now absorbed into a a suburban industrial comeplex.

All that remains of the historic twelve year era of AWA-3LO-VK3ME on the air shortwave are references in old radio magazines and modern historical journals, and old QSL cards that sometimes surface on ebay, the internet auction site.  The VK3ME QSL cards are somewhat similar to the cards that were issued by the sister station, VK2ME.  The Melbourne card shows a map of Australia with sparks emanating from a radio antenna.

This Week in Radio History - The First Wireless Communication from England to Australia

This must be the era for important radio anniversaries in Australia. Two weeks back we noted the 75th anniversary of the experimental shortwave station VK2ME; earlier in this edition of Wavescan we noted the 75th anniversary of the Melbourne counterpart, experimental station VK3ME; and now we have the story of the 84th anniversary of the first wireless message transmitted from England to Australia.

Back in the days of the colonization of Australia by convicts and soldiers, it could take three months or more to make the long sea journey from England to Sydney around the bottom of Africa. There was an urgent need throughout all of these years to provide a much quicker form of communication between the Mother country and her most distant colonies. Thus when Marconi’s method of wireless communication by Morse Code became available, it provided just the answer that Australia needed.

After extensive testing and the exchanging of messages between England and Australia by undersea cablegrams, everything was ready for the first direct wireless contact with Australia. The date was September 22, 1918, just before the end of the Great War.

A Morse Code message of goodwill was tapped out at the Marconi station located near Carnarvon in Wales. This station was licensed at the time with the callsign MUU, the 200 kW transmitter was tuned to the longwave channel 14,300 metres, or 21 kHz, and the high antenna in use for this occasion was beamed towards North America.

The famous wireless pioneer in Australia was Sir Ernest Fisk, an Englishman who had served under Marconi in England and who had established in Australia, AWA, the Amalgamated Wireless of Australasia. He lived in his home, "Lucania" in Wahroonga, an outer suburb of Sydney, and in long walking distance from the well-known Adventist Hospital.

Sir Ernest tuned in the longwave signal from the Marconi station MUU in Wales using a ten-valve receiving set with an antenna 60 ft. high and 100 ft. long. He copied down the historic message that arrived from the other side of the globe in just one twentieth of a second. The message of goodwill from England was published next day on the front pages of the morning newspapers.

The Fisk home in Wahroonga is an unpretentious dwelling, and a historic marker reminds passersby that this was where the first wireless message from England was received back in 1918, now a long 82 years ago.

World War II Memorabilia: Japanese Monitoring of Foreign Radio Stations

The latest edition of the American radio magazine, "Popular Communications", contains a four-page article on the story of the monitoring of American radio stations by the Japanese during the Pacific War. This very revealing article was written by the Japanese radio author, Hideharu Torii.

During the Pacific War, the Japanese monitoring station was located in an underground facility as part of the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo. Some 50 staff members tuned in to foreign radio broadcasts, mostly in English, using American-made and Japanese-made radio receivers.

On shortwave, the Japanese monitors listened to the English language programming from many stations including the following:

Another station that they monitored regularly was station KGEI with its relay of VOA programming in Japanese.

In the autumn of 1943, some of the monitoring staff travelled to the northern coast of Japan in the Chiba prefecture in an attempt to tune in the broadcasts from mediumwave stations in the continental United States. At this new location they installed a beverage antenna 600 metres long, and they discovered that they could listen to many American mediumwave stations for three hours after local sunset, but only for the darker season of the year, running from September to April.

Among the mediumwave stations they heard regularly were the following:

Strangely, the strongest signal came from a 50 kW mediumwave station well inland from the Pacific coast, and this was station KSL in Salt Lake City, Utah.