Category Archives: Radio History

Cold War Radio: The BBC’s plans in the event of nuclear war

BBC-AT-WAR

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, William Lee, who shares this item from the BBC:

(Source: BBC News)

For the first time, the BBC has given detailed access to the plans it drew up in the Cold War for a Wartime Broadcasting System to operate in the event of nuclear war. Paul Reynolds, a former BBC diplomatic and foreign correspondent, has been studying the secrets of what was known as the “War Book”.

The War Book reveals a world of meticulous BBC planning. The Wartime Broadcasting System (WTBS) – referred to in the book as “Deferred Facilities” – would have operated from 11 protected bunkers spread across the UK.

Known as “Regional Seats of Government”, these would also have sheltered government ministers and staff from government departments during what is termed a “nuclear exchange”. The BBC had a studio in each, usually with five staff drawn mostly from nearby local radio stations.

The BBC’s headquarters would have been a bunker at the Engineering Training Department at Wood Norton in Worcestershire, where 90 BBC staff would have been assembled, including engineers, announcers, 12 news editors and sub-editors and ominously “two nominations from Religious Broadcasting”. Output would have been controlled by the government.

To keep the public amused during Armageddon, a collection of cassette tapes of old radio programmes including the Goon Show, Just a Minute and Round the Horne, was kept in a grey locker at Wood Norton. It was eventually realised, however, that these were redundant. If there had been a nuclear attack, radios would probably have been dependent on batteries and these would have needed to be conserved for news and important announcements.[…]

[Continue reading…]

Oh how I would love to read a copy of the “War Book”–! I hope, at some point, the BBC adds it to their online archives. Last year, we published a post with the actual statement the BBC would have broadcast in the event of a nuclear exchange. Click here to read the post.

Update: Cold War Clandestine Radio from Greece

HalliDial

Saturday, I published a post referencing Cold War Clandestine Radio from Greece with links to Richard Cummings’ excellent website Cold War Radio Vignettes.

My post was written some time earlier and scheduled to publish Saturday while I was traveling. Unfortunately, the Cold War Radio Vignettes articles I had linked to were removed prior to Saturday.

I contacted Richard Cummings who has kindly assembled a small PDF booklet with the text from all of the posts I had referenced and is allowing me to share it here on the SWLing Post.

Richard asks that if any Post readers have information about these clandestine broadcasts and is willing to share it with him, he would me most thankful. His contact information is on the front page of the PDF.

Click here to download the PDF booklet.

Again, many thanks to Richard Cummings for making this free PDF booklet available to us!

Cold War Clandestine Radio from Greece

HalliDial

UPDATE: The links to Cold War Radio Radio Vignettes below became inactive just prior to publication. Richard Cummings has kindly assembled the texts I referenced and made a PDF booklet available for SWLing Post readers. Click here to download.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor Kim Elliott who (some time ago) shared a link to a series of posts by Richard Cummings from his website, Cold War Radio Vignettes.

Cold-War-RadioCummings is the author of Cold War Radio: The Dangerous History of American Broadcasting in Europe, 1950-1989 and Radio Free Europe’s “Crusade for Freedom” Rallying Americans Behind Cold War Broadcasting, 1950-1960.

Cumming’s blog is updated frequently and features many fascinating historical “vignettes” regarding Cold War radio broadcasting.

Kim specifically mentioned a series of posts with a focus on Cold War American broadcasting from Greece, suggesting SWLing Post readers might enjoy this bit of Cold War history. I completely agree!

Below, I’ve linked to a total of six posts Cummings published on the topic. Enjoy:

Cold War American Clandestine Radio Broadcasting over the Iron Curtain from Greece

Cold War American Clandestine Radio Broadcasting over the Iron Curtain from Greece, to Ukraine

Cold War American Clandestine Radio Broadcasting over the Iron Curtain from Greece: “Future of Romania — Voice of National Resistance”

Cold War American Clandestine Radio Broadcasting over the Iron Curtain from Greece: Nasha Rossiya (Our Russia)

Want more?

If you enjoy Cold War radio history, I strongly recommend that you bookmark Cold War Radio Vignettes. I’m placing a permanent link in our sidebar.

Thanks again for the tip, Kim!

UPDATE: It appears the posts have been removed from the Cold War Radio Vignettes site.  I will contact the owner and see if they can be re-posted.

Secret life of village that helped crack WWII code

WWii-radio(Source: Southgate ARC)

Whaddon: Secret life of village that helped crack WW2 code

On May 9, 2016, Milton Keynes Amateur Radio Society members operated GB1SOE to establish contact with French special event station TM75SOE using WWII equipment

This was to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the first transmission sent back to Whaddon Hall, Buckinghamshire, by Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent Georges Begue. They operated from Whaddon Hall during Monday using a replica MKIII transmitter and HRO receiver,  on the French side a WWII B2 spy set was used.

The BBC report: The Codebreakers at Bletchley Park are well known for their top secret work which helped to change the course of the World War Two.

But the Buckinghamshire village of Whaddon, just a few miles down the road, has long been forgotten, despite the vital role it played. It was codenamed Section 8 and was a satellite station for Bletchley Park.

It is hoped a new memorial will give it its rightful place in history.

Watch the BBC TV report on the commemoration at Whaddon
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36245666

A shorter version of the BBC report is at
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36248874

Further information in the QRZ.com entries for TM75SOE and GB1SOE

Milton Keynes Amateur Radio Society (MKARS)
http://www.mkars.org.uk/

Night of Nights XVI: July 12, 2016

Chief Operator Richard Dillman at Position 1 (Source: Maritime Radio Historical Society)

Chief Operator Richard Dillman at Position 1 (Source: Maritime Radio Historical Society)

Update: Please read Brian’s update regarding frequencies.

SWLing Post contributor, Brian D. Smith, writes:

“Thought I’d forward you this information on the annual “Night of Nights” event on July 12 (U.S. local time)/July 13 UTC, which provides an opportunity for shortwave QSLs – assuming the listener understands Morse code!

I’m sure you’re familiar with this one-night-a-year happening, in which maritime radio stations rise from the dead and transmit Morse code messages again for a few hours.

As a guy who honed his CW sending skills by listening to these stations’ constantly repeating messages, I have a sense of nostalgia and gratitude toward these stations, which helped me obtain my first Novice license, WN9ICB, at the age of 15 … less than 2 months after I taped the WWV recording that I submitted.”

Many thanks for the notice and sharing your nostalgia! Brian also forwarded an announcement from the Maritime Radio Historical Society of America. The MRHS describe the event:

It’s that time of year again. Time to honor all those ops who came before us by preserving their skills, traditions and culture through on the air operations.

Why 12 July? Long time True Believers know the story. But it may be worth repeating for new arrivals and to remind everyone of the traditions we hope to keep alive.

On 12 July 1999 some very tough looking grizzled old radio pioneers had tears in their eyes as the last commercial Morse code radiogram was sent. It was the end of an era. And as the last beeps faded away into the static they witnessed the end of the career to which they had devoted their lives.

These men – and some women – had stood watch over the airwaves on shore and at sea. Theirs was mostly the business of maritime commerce. But when their ship was in peril they were called upon to send the most electrifying three letters in radio, S O S, knowing that all their fellow radio operators would press their earphones close to get every scrap of information and bring aid to their stricken ship.

Once, our coasts were dotted with great Morse code radio stations, all communicating with ships at sea. They’re all gone now… all except one, the one they called the Wireless Giant of the Pacific, located at Point Reyes.

On that sad day in 1999 another event took place. The Maritime Radio Historical Society (MRHS) was formed. We made it our life’s work to honor the men and women of wireless by restoring that wireless giant. One year and one minute later the giant’s voice once again spanned the oceas as we picked up the thread and kept the faith with our colleagues of the air.

Every year since, in an event that became known as the Night of Nights, Morse code station KPH has returned to the air, joined by KFS and the station of the MRHS, KSM.

This year our friends and colleagues at USCG station NMC have labored mightily to bring that storied call sign back to life on Morse code for the evening along with NMQ in Cambria, CA..

And station NMW in Astoria, OR will be on the air as well.

Stations WLO and KLB will join us again as hey have in years past.

This is a global and local event. Hundreds of listeners around the world will be waiting with their earphones on, waiting for the signals of the great station to once again arc over the dome of the Earth to their receivers.

You can be with us in person!

The frequencies for this event are numerous! I have listed the USCG (NMC) frequencies below, but please check the MHRS newsletter for MRHS and other maritime station frequencies.

Again, Brian, thanks for the heads-up!

Happy listening, everyone!


NMC (Transmit Bolinas, Receive Pt. Reyes)

Frequency            Transmitter                         Antenna

472.0                    Nautel ND2500TT/6           173′ monopole tower
500.0                    Nautel ND2500TT/6           173′ monopole tower
6383.0                  Rockwell-Collins RT-2200  Omni-directional
8574.0                  Rockwell-Collins RT-2200  Omni-directional
17220.5                Rockwell-Collins RT-2200  Omni-directional