Tag Archives: Propaganda

Free online lecture: “Aspidistra and the Broadcast Group of the Diplomatic Wireless Service”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kris Partridge, who shares the following information about a free online lecture hosted by the The Institute of Engineering and Technology. This presentation will take place tomorrow (September 8, 2021 staring at 19:00 BST/18:00 UTC). You must register online to attend this lecture.

Here are the details from the IET website:


Aspidistra and the Broadcast Group of the Diplomatic Wireless Service including the wartime transmission of black propaganda.

The History of the Broadcast Group of the Diplomatic Wireless Service. The event starts at 19:00 BST on 8th September 2021

This is the story of Broadcast Group of the Diplomatic Wireless Service (DWS) which had its origins in the Political Warfare Executive (PWE) at the beginning of WW2. In 1972 it was amalgamated into the administrative structure of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and was renamed Communications Engineering Department (CED). The latter had two groups, Broadcast Group which was responsible for transmitters carrying many of the BBC’s World and Vernacular services, and Communications group which provided radio communications to embassies for diplomatic traffic. In 1986 CED’s Broadcast Group was taken over by the BBC.

In this illustrated talk we will learn first about the transmission of black propaganda and associated activities during WWII. Also such activities as trying to interfere with enemy rocket guidance systems. Then about the various Medium-Wave and Short-Wave transmitting stations of Broadcast Group with transmitter stations at Crowborough, Orfordness, Cyprus and the island of Masirah, a part of Oman. Transmitters ranged from 1?kW carrier power to 600 kW. Several of these were designed and manufactured in house. There will be many pictures and descriptions of the equipment and aerials used at these stations. Also covered will be an introduction to the progress of amplitude modulation techniques which enabled transmitters to become more compact.

So, what is Aspidistra? Please register to hear the story of Aspidistra and the Broadcast Group of the DWS with the engineering used to build and operate these stations.

About the Speaker

Roger Castle-Smith FIET

Mr Roger Castle-Smith FIET. Roger first became interested in radio when he joined the signals section of his school’s Combined Cadet force. This led to him gaining an amateur’s radio license at the age of 15, callsign G3IOT. Then on to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, where he started an amateur station for the academy. Graduated into Royal Signals. Achieved a BSc(Eng) degree as an external degree from the University of London whilst at the Royal Military College of Science. Many of his army postings were of a technical nature. On retirement at the age of 37 he was made a MBE. Joined the Diplomatic Wireless Service then worked his way up to becoming Head of Broadcast Group in 1979 leading to Chief Engineer and Head of Communications Engineering Department (CED) in 1981. During his service a CBE followed his MBE. Retired age 66.


Click here to read more and to register for this event.

Kris also suggested this article and this article as a little background and worth reading prior to the lecture.

Thank you for the tip, Kris!

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The Sullivans: Could WWII German broadcasts be easily received in Australia?

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ray Robinson, who writes:

Hi, Thomas. I have recently been re-watching the Australian soap serial ‘The Sullivans’, which ran on Channel 9 from 1976-1983. I used to watch it on ITV in England, and also for awhile on the Tempo cable & satellite channel here in the States in the late 80’s. It is set in Melbourne during the second World War and after, and begins in September 1939. In the episodes covering the early part of 1940, much is made of one of the character’s abilities to listen to Nazi German broadcasts via shortwave, in both English and German (and they play clips of actual audio in the episodes). My question is, how realistic is this?

Were German broadcasts at that time able to be heard with good quality in Australia? Does anyone have a transmission schedule from that era? I know that German broadcasts were well heard throughout Europe and in North America, but I don’t have any details of broadcasts targeting Australia. Might they have been relayed via some Axis transmitter in the Far East? If any of your SWLing Post readers can shed any light on this, I’d be very grateful. Thank you.

Ray Robinson

Great question, Ray. This is certainly an inquiry for radio enthusiasts and WWII buffs in Australia and New Zealand. I’m sure there are accounts out there that could verify how easily and frequently Axis broadcasts could be heard in Australia and NZ. My guess would be that propaganda would have certainly targeted Australia and New Zealand during WWII.

Please comment if you can provide some insight and/or evidence for Ray!

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BBC Witness History: “Britain’s secret propaganda war”

Check out this brilliant BBC Witness History piece regarding the British propaganda effort during WWII:

How sex, jazz and ‘fake news’ were used to undermine the Nazis in World War Two. In 1941, the UK created a top secret propaganda department, the Political Warfare Executive to wage psychological warfare on the German war machine. It was responsible for spreading rumours, generating fake news, leaflet drops and creating fake clandestine German radio stations to spread misinformation and erode enemy morale. We hear archive recordings of those involved and speak to professor Jo Fox of the Institute of Historical Research about the secret history of British “black propaganda”.

Click here to listen to this program via the BBC Witness History website.

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Hear My Voice: Radio’s role in Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland

In January, when I first heard about David Vaughan’s book Hear My Voice, I knew then and there I would have to read it. So I picked up a copy on Amazon with the intention of doing so…well, soon.

However, I’ve got quite a number of books in my to-be-read stack at the moment, so Hear My Voice lay in wait on my bookshelf until this past Sunday, when I decided to read the first chapter––just to get a taste of it.

Although I had a very busy day in store––working on a home renovation and making several trips into town––nevertheless I struggled to pull it from the stack, and having rapidly consumed the first chapters, had a hard time putting the book down. By the day’s end, I found I had read the entire book.

While those who know me know I’m a bit of a WWII history buff, I only knew that Hitler’s seizure of the Czech Sudetenland was but a hint of what was to come. The history I’d read previously had provided a bit of insight into this crucial lead-up to the war, but not as Vaughan’s book does: in what feels like a first hand account, through the eyes of an interpreter and broadcaster. I was hooked.

Hear My Voice clearly indicates how transformative the medium of radio was in this era, and how deliberate and insidious Nazi propaganda became in the Sudetenland years before Czechoslovakia ever took notice.

All in all, it’s a great read. I think you’ll find Hear My Voice as intriguing as I did.

You can purchase Hear My Voice via:

Read our previous post which includes a Radio Prague audio interview with the author.

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David Vaughan on Czech radio and the role of propaganda leading up to WWII

Czechoslovak Radio in the mid-1930s, photo: Czech Radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, John Palmer (KC8RZM), who writes:

Was listening to Radio Prague yesterday evening, there was a very interesting item where author, David Vaughan, was interviewed and talked about his most recent book “Hear My Voice” a novel which deals with the lead-up to WWII and in which Czech Radio plays a part:

Click here to view on Amazon (affiliate link).

The play, on which the novel is based, was commissioned by Czech Radio and was awarded the Czech Book readers’ award for 2015. In the interview the importance of this then new technology called radio was discussed and its influence, for good or bad, in the world at large, an interesting parallel to today’s discussion on the role of the internet and social media. From the capsule bio on the book cover his background is in languages and radio (BBC and Czech Radio).

I’m sure his other book, Battle of the Airwaves: Radio and the 1938 Munich Crisis, will be of interest to shortwave listeners:

Click here to view on Amazon (affiliate link).

From the Amazon description:

“1938 was a turning point in the histories of Europe and the media. When Hitler annexed Austria and then turned his attention to Czechoslovakia, radio was at the heart of events. Battle for the Airwaves looks at the Munich crisis as it was played out on the radio stations of Czechoslovakia, Germany, Britain and the United States, and reveals just how central a role radio played in the run-up to the Munich Agreement and beyond. It is a story of propaganda and counter-propaganda, censorship and self-censorship. It is also a story of courage and innovation. Munich was a fateful step in the road to World War Two; it also marked the beginning of the age of the electronic media. Published in English and Czech in a single, illustrated, hardback volume, Battle for the Airwaves is accompanied by a CD recording of key British, Czechoslovak, German and American radio broadcasts from 1938.”

Anyway, just thought the above might be of interest to others at the SWLing Post. I’d like to learn more from him on the role of radio in those early days on the events leading up to WWII. I’m probably going to check out his novel.

Thank you so much for sharing this John! I received an Amazon gift card and have already put Hear My Voice in the cart. I look forward to reading it!

I missed the live broadcast, but did find Pavla Horáková’s interview with David Vaughan on the Czech Radio website. Here’s the introduction and audio:

Earlier this year the Czech Republic marked the 80th anniversary of the Munich Agreement, signed in September 1938 by the leaders of Germany, France, Great Britain, and Italy, resulting in the annexation of the Sudetenland by Nazi Germany. Radio Prague’s David Vaughan recently published a book in the UK titled “Hear My Voice”, most of which is set in Czechoslovakia in the months preceding the Munich agreement. Its narrator is an interpreter for the international press corps in Prague and he watches the events of 1938 unfold in Central Europe as the atmosphere is getting tenser ahead of the outbreak of the Second World War. Pavla Horáková spoke to David Vaughan and their conversation begins with a few paragraphs from the book.

Click here to download the MP3 audio of this interview.

Check out the full story and listen to the interview via Czech Radio/Radio Praha.

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Inside Radio: “Sale of Border Station Raises Chinese Propaganda Worry”

(Source: Inside Radio via Dennis Dura)

The proposed sale of an AM station along the Mexico-U.S. border to a group of Chinese investors has stoked fears that the 50,000-watt station will be used to infiltrate the U.S. with Chinese propaganda. Spanish news-talk “W-Radio 690” XEWW (690), which blankets Southern California from Tijuana, is being sold by Mexican broadcaster GLR to Chinese investment group H&H Group USA, owned by Vivian Huo, a U.S. citizen who runs the investment firm H&H Capital Partners.[…]

Click here to read the full article.

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Propaganda Shift: The Panmunjom Summit and monitoring the Voice of Korea

Front page of the North Korean newspaper “Rodong” on April 28, 2018. (Source: Mark Fahey)

With North Korea in the global spotlight, I’ve been making every effort to listen to the Voice of Korea on shortwave.  Unfortunately, from here on the east coast of North America, conditions have simply not been in my favor.

Fortunately, a couple of SWLing Post and SRAA contributors have had my back.

Yesterday, Richard Langley, uploaded a great VOK recording made with the U Twente WebSDR on April 28 at 13:30 UTC on 13760 kHz. Thank you Richard!

This morning, North Korean propaganda specialist Mark Fahey uploaded the following VOK recording to the archive and included notes and insight:

[The recording is] off 9,730 kHz so a mint shortwave file.

Recorded at the “Behind The Curtain” remote satellite and HF receiving site near Taipei, Taiwan (the site is remotely operated from Freemans Reach in Australia and was specifically established to monitor North Korean radio & television 24×7).

Remote Module #1 prior to sealing.

[Note: Click here to read about Mark’s self-contained deployable remote SDR stations.]

Remote Module #2 fully weather sealed and ready to deploy.

[…]I must say getting a good recording off shortwave is quite a challenge, just going to their satellite circuits far easier!

[T]he reason for the almost hi-fi quality is that I used the real-time audio enhancement and noise reduction techniques I presented at the Winter SWL Fest. The signal in reality was much noisier:

Click here to download an MP3 copy of the off-air recording.

[I] also have long domestic recordings (which is what I have been focusing on rather than VOK).

[…]Of course domestic in Korean – but that has been my main interest/monitoring – what does the regime say to the domestic audience–?

They seem quite serious (I mean genuine) even acknowledging South Korea as a separate place and Moon being the president of this place. The domestic propaganda now not hiding the fact that South Korea is a separate sovereign nation, which is very un-North Korean propaganda!

The news is still kind of breaking in North Korea and the radio reflects that – the reports sound like Friday was yesterday. It takes a long time for North Korean media to report anything, so news from 3 days ago is presented as if it only happened 3 hours ago.

Also since it’s all topical I will include a YouTube link to a Voice Of Korea Documentary (propaganda to our ears of course–!) that has recently been posted to the Arabia Chapter of The Korean Friendship Association:

Click here to watch on YouTube.

Thank you, Mark! Certainly history in the making.

Mark Fahey is my go-to guy for what’s really happening in North Korea, especially with regards to the message the government shares with its people.

Though I haven’t asked him in advance, I’m sure Mark can follow the comments thread of this post and answer your North Korea questions.

Click here to leave a comment/question or follow the comments thread.

If you have a recording of VOK (or any other broadcaster) that you would like to share, consider contributing to the SRAA.

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