Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Andy (G0FTD), who writes:
Back in the 1970’s, there was a rather strange medium wave transmitter on
1296Khz. Originally I think it was in Sussex, and then changed to Orfordness
in Suffolk UK.
It was a weird thing.
I think it was “owned” by the UK’s Diplomatic Wireless Service, not the BBC.
It seemed to be fairly random in its transmissions, and often sent the letter
V in a strange bong-bong-bong-BONG! loops for hours.
Programmes were English by Radio, and a seemingly random mix the BBC World
Service, and BBC Radio 1 (I think).
It slso had a creepy signature tune for the English by Radio programme,
and the modulation had an odd tinge to to it, like it was slightly over modulated.
At some time (the 80’s), I think it’s QTH changed, and the pause between the
letter V being sent was shortened from about 3 seconds to 1 second.
I understand that it had a sharp antenna beam, towards easter Europe, and
was not widely heard in the UK. Those of us that lived in the south east
of the UK could of course hear it off the back of it’s beam.
I’ve never ever seen it mentioned on any radio forums, no archive recordings
seem to exist of these creepy English by Radio them tunes or programmes,
or any off air recordings.
Saying that, I did come across a studio copy of the interval signal, but no
details about it. (But I knew what it was).
Sometime about 1995 I think it might have been mothballed, and lays ready
for possible future use should there be a need to by the DWS.
If you can help Andy identify, or at least provide more information about this station, please comment! I would love to know about this broadcast service myself.
The Crowborough transmitter site was originally used during World War Two for black propaganda and other pyschological warfare operations as well as some BBC European Service broadcasts. One of the transmitters at the site, Aspidistra, was a 600kw mediumwave transmitter originally built by RCA for WJZ Newark, New Jersey. Much more with accompanying links here.
The site was run by the Political Warfare Executive, then after the war by the Diplomatic Wireless Service, a section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, there were some other overseas sites that broadcast BBC External Service broadcasts that were DWS owned.
Jonathan Marks interviewed Harold Robin, who installed the 600kw mediumwave transmitter at Crowborough for Media Network.
Aha, so it was called BBC for Europe then.
I wonder if anyone has any recordings of the programmes ?
Yeah they were pretty boring but…
The 1296KHz service from Orfordness was broadcast using 2 x 250Kw doherty modulation FCO-built transmitters. These had seen service at Crowborough as well as around the world. I was an engineer at Orfordness between 2003 and 2012, and can confirm the 1296KHz frequency broadcast serveral hours in the evening – English by Radio, and at times it simulcasted the 648KHz service!! The analogue service was supplimented by a daytime DRM broadcast from 2003, and in 2005 the analogue BBC service was dropped for a digital only service. At about 2008, RNW in analogue was carried on this frequency along with the BBC DRM transmissions. Eventually the DRM broadcast hours shortened and then stopped. The Dutch service remained until the Summer of 2012 when this ceased as well. The DRM and Dutch transmissions used a new Nautel NA200 transmitter – the BBC analogue transmissions remained on the old FCO transmitters.
Having now remembered properly. BBC WS interval signals were Lilliburlero or Bow Bells. BBC Europe was V for Victory or the Trumpet Voluntary The Europe transmitter transferred from Crowborough to Orford Ness in the 1970s. Carried world Service on 648KHz and BBC Europe on 1296. The station closed in 2012.
There’s no great mystery here. In the 1970’s, the BBC ran a BBC European Service as well as the BBC World Service, the latter being mainly for listeners outside Europe. Various shortwave frequencies were used for the European Service, mainly in the 75, 49, 41 and 31 meter bands. However, for broadcasts in some languages, medium wave frequencies were used as well. One of those was 1295 kHz (later adjusted to 1296 kHz), which came from a 600 kW transmitter in Crowborough, East Sussex. ‘English by Radio’ was a 15 minute programme that could be heard on 1295 at 6:45 and 7:30am, and 4:45 and 5:45pm daily. Sometimes it could also be heard on 647, 809 and 1088 kHz.
It carried the BBC European Services and maybe st night also the “General Overseas Service” (now World Sevice).
To my recollection The William Tell Overture “V” for victory was specific to the WWII and post war period for BBC European Services and was originally played on Tipani (kettle) drums, later changed (70s?) to a more modern electronic version as in the recording!
oops……..make that Beethoven’s Fifth!
The Interval signal is V for Victory in CW as used by BBC Europe during the Second World War
It was BBC World Service though I don’t know what the target area was . There should be details on websites devoted to BBCWS
I remember this tune but not the station, think it’s something like Radio free Europe or do beaming to the east sending V for victory …-
I remember this interval signal well, too, but wasn´t 1296 a normal BBC World Service QRG? 🙂
Maybe Orfordness Transmitter?
The Orfordness transmitting station is a major radio broadcasting facility at Orford Ness on the Suffolk coast in the UK. It is designed to transmit powerful medium-wave signals to much of Europe on two frequencies (648 and 1296 kHz). Built in the 1970s and early 1980s by the British government, it is now owned by a large engineering and defence services company, the Babcock International Group.