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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 407, October 13, 2002

The Mystery of Irish Radio History - Early Wireless Era & The Story of the Little Radio Ship, the FP47


The Mystery of Irish Radio History - Early Wireless Era

We could ask the question that has often been asked in radio circles over the years:  "Did Ireland every establish its own shortwave station?"  Let''s answer this question over a period of time by tracing the long and fascinating history of wireless and radio in Ireland right from the very beginning.

The island of Ireland is indeed beautiful with its rolling green pastures and its rugged mountains and scenic lakes.  Whether seen from the air as you are flying between Europe and North America, or whether you are visiting the island personally, Ireland has its charms and fascination.

The history of Ireland can be traced back through the misty eras of the past to the dawn of human settlement in Europe.  Many different peoples with many different ethnic backgrounds have migrated over the years from the continent to this distant and rugged island.

In the year 1801, the whole of the island of Ireland officially became a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain when the British and Irish Parliaments passed a joint declaration known as the Act of Union.  Then, in the year 1921, Ireland, that is, the southern state known as Eire, became a self-governing dominion of Great Britain.  Finally, in 1949, the southern state declared itself independent as the Irish Free State.  During World War II, the Irish Free State remained officially neutral.

The story of radio broadcasting in Ireland goes way back to the very beginning of early wireless experimentation, and this is how it all happened:

The famous wireless experimenter Marconi travelled from Italy to England early in the year 1896, where he conducted several demonstrations for the benefit of government officials.  Two years later, Marconi went over to Dublin for the annual Kingstown Regatta in Dublin Harbour where he demonstrated the practical value of wireless communication.

Marconi installed a wireless transmitter on board a tug boat, the "Flying Huntress." and he transmitted the progress of the boat race in Morse Code for the benefit of the "Daily Express" newspaper which printed the results in a special edition.  The Kingstown Regatta was a two day sporting event that was held on July 20 and 22, way back at the end of the old century in the year 1898.

Three years later, at the beginning of the new century in the year 1901, two coastal wireless stations were established in Ireland, one at Crookhaven in County Cork, and the other at Rosslare in County Wexford.  These two stations were located on the southern edge of Ireland, as the first and last stations for ships travelling the Irish coastline.  The station at Crookhaven was on the air with spark gap transmissions in Morse Code under the callsign GCK.

Three years later again, Marconi established his famous station at Cliffden in county Galway at the center of the west coast of Ireland.  This station was constructed for transatlantic communication in Morse Code.  Originally the callsign was simply CDN, an abbreviation for the location name, Cliffden, though later the station was officialized with an English callsign, MFT.
A terrible shipping tragedy involving a large passenger liner with an Irish name and an English callsign occurred on May 29, 1914.  The "Empress of Ireland," MPL, was departing from Canada in the St. Lawrence estuary during a heavy fog, and at the same time, a Norwegian collier, the "Storstad," was steaming at full speed into the estuary. 

A recent report on TV states that the Norwegian ship was using the wireless signal from the Irish ship for direction finding in the fog, and it steamed straight into the passenger liner side on, effectively sinking it in just 14 minutes.  Although wireless messages to the shore brought rescue for 500 people, yet more than 1,000 perished in this needless accident.

Ireland is one of the many countries that claims a world first for wireless broadcasting.  During the famous Easter Rebellion in Ireland in the year 1916, the undersea cable linking Ireland and England was deliberately cut by the British, thus making it impossible for immediate news to get out of Ireland.

During the rebellion, republican leaders occupied the Irish School of Wireless telegraphy and they repaired a wireless transmitter from a ship that was damaged during the fighting.  Beginning at 5:30 pm, the republicans transmitted messages in Morse Code for a period of 20 hours, giving news reports on the progress of the rebellion.

This wireless broadcast on April 25 and 26 1916, is claimed by the Irish as the first wireless broadcast in the world.

Next week, in the "Mystery of Irish Radio History," we will look at the mediumwave scene in Ireland.

The Story of the Little Radio Ship, the FP47

Two weeks ago, we presented the story here in Wavescan of the now famous radio broadcasting ship, the "Apache," with its role as a relay station for AFRS radio and the "Voice of America" during the latter part of the Pacific War.

At the time, we mentioned that the "Apache" had a co-traveller, a little vessel known as the FP47.  Let's look now at the story of this lesser known sea traveller which was in reality another radio broadcasting ship.

The FP47 was a much smaller ship than the "Apache," at just 125 ft. long, and it was built originally for the Alaska freight and passenger traffic.  This ship was also taken to Sydney in Australia at the same time as the "Apache," where it also was completely rebuilt and re-outfitted.  Two diesel generators were installed in the FP47 as power units for all of the electronic equipment, which included two American army Morse Code transmitters at 500 watts each. 

In rebuilding the ship, the original masts were re-positioned in an attempt to counteract the weight of the heavy electrical equipment.  However, the calculations were incorrect and the masts leaned forward, giving the appearance that the ship was moving backwards.  The official radio code for the FP47 was "Bedpan."

The original delivery date for both the "Apache" and the FP47 was planned for late November 1944.  However, the events of the war speeded up, and the FP47 hurriedly sailed from Sydney Harbour with the "Apache" right at the end of September.  Both ships, with their electronic equipment still untested, arrived at General MacArthurís forward headquarters in Hollandia, New Guinea, on October 10, just two days before sailing time for the return invasion of the Philippines.

Two days later, the whole invasion fleet left Hollandia for the Philippines, with the "Apache" trailing behind, and the smaller FP47 trailing behind the "Apache." The entire flotilla arrived in Manila Harbor exactly one week later.

The purpose for the radio ship, the FP47, was to be a subordinate radio ship to the "Apache." The Morse Code transmitters sent war news and despatches to the "Apache" for onward transmission to the United States.  The FP47 was a communication vessel for use by newspaper and radio  correspondents, whereas the "Apache" was a radio broadcast station and a navy communication facility.

The FP47 saw duty in the coastal areas of the Philippines and other islands in the western Pacific, usually in conjunction with the "Apache," but not always.  After the conclusion of hostilities, the FP47 was sent back to the Philippines, where it carried radio traffic in Morse Code, apparently in conjunction with land based stations that had been re-established.

That's the last that is known about the little radio ship, known by number and not by name.