A bit of history

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A bit of history

Postby alec » Wed Nov 16, 2011 11:22 pm

Ian Gorrie hat das Dokument erstellt: „Orfordness transmitter“
Now here's an interesting story.


It's late 1965. Caroline South is struggling against Radio London, whose lower frequency and more powerful transmitter is giving much better coverage and taking a large share of Caroline's audience. Plans are hatched for a revamp in format and new frequency, and a new fifty kilowatt transmitter is ordered from Continental Electronics in Dallas. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, Prime Minister Ian Smith of Rhodesia makes a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) on 11th November 1965, withdraws from the Commonwealth and breaks diplomatic relations with London. In the House of Commons, responding to MP's questions, Prime Minister Harold Wilson (who within 2 years introduced the Marine Broadcasting act) states on Friday the 13th November that methods of improving BBC World Service coverage to Rhodesia are being given the highest priority, and that if necessary, the Government will not hesitate in seeking advice from an organisation known as Radio Caroline. Extra transmission facilities for the BBC are desperately required, but as Marconi in the UK have no suitable transmitters immediately available, the government, under the direct orders of Mr Wilson, went abroad to see what could be bought. On the production line in Dallas was CE 317C, serial number 12, as ordered by "Project Atlanta", at that time the company which still operated Radio Caroline South. Number 13 was also in an advanced state of construction, and by whatever means, the London government persuaded both Caroline and the other customer to delay their purchase. These two transmitters were immediately shipped off to Bechuanaland (now Botswana) to broadcast the World Service into Rhodesia, number 12 going into service on 30th December 1965. Caroline was then allocated transmitter number 14, and presumably the other customer received number 15. Within two months of all this happening, the Mi Amigo is washed up on the beach at Frinton, and taken to Holland for repairs. She sets sail as soon as the new transmitter arrives from the USA, which is installed as the ship crosses the North Sea back to her East Coast anchorage.

Several years later, the two transmitters are no longer required for Rhodesian coverage, and are taken out of service. Number 13 is shipped to Cyprus where it forms part of a relay for the World Service and will operate until c.1987 when it is sold. Number 12 (the one which should have gone onboard the Mi Amigo) is crated up and returned to the UK where it is installed at Crowborough, the then Foreign Office site in Sussex responsible for BBC World Service broadcasts into Europe on Medium Wave where it acts as a standby for "Aspidistra." A co-located 10kW Marconi Short-wave TX remains in Bechuanaland and is donated to the local government there.

It's now spring 1970. Radio North Sea is broadcasting from the Mebo 2 from the East Coast, much to the dislike of Harold Wilson's government, who for the first time in history, decide to jam broadcasts of a station to prevent British listeners hearing its output. Initially a low power jammer from a naval station at Rochester is used but this is soon replaced by a 10kW transmitter, borrowed from the BBC at Brookmans Park under the agreement that in no way are the BBC to be linked with its use. However, in the run up to the June general election the decision is made to use an even more powerful jamming transmitter. RNI now starts identifying on-air as "Radio Caroline International" and adopting a pro-Conservative campaign and reminding the newly registered to vote 18-21 year olds that it was Harold Wilson's Labour government which closed the offshore stations three years earlier. Quietly and mysteriously, one Continental Electronics type 317C fifty kilowatt transmitter, serial number 12 is removed one night from Crowborough for top secret purposes. All the evidence suggests that this was quickly installed at an old "Chain Home" radar site at Canewdon in Essex, allegedly causing much local TV and radio interference and this transmitter is used to jam RNI during the election week. Following the election, with no immediate sign of the jamming ceasing, the MEBO 2 ups anchor and heads for Scheveningen in Holland, and the jamming stops. Equally mysteriously after the cessation of the jamming, the missing transmitter magically returns to Crowborough and resumes it's former duties.

In the late 70's it is once again packed up and shipped, this time to the recently vacated US Over-the-Horizon (OTH) military radar site at Orfordness on the Suffolk coast, which was codenamed "Cobra Mist". Test transmissions carried out from here on 648kHz prove this site is much more effective at mainland European coverage than the existing site at Crowborough and accordingly, plans are made to install new high powered transmitters at Orfordness and the 1930's vintage 600KW RCA transmitter, codenamed "Aspidistra", originally used for propaganda broadcasts to Germany, makes it's last broadcast from Crowborough in 1982 and is dismantled. The 317C remains as standby for much of the 1980's, until in the aftermath of the October 1987 "hurricane" when much of the East Coast is without electricity, the 317 makes a triumphant return to the air. It runs from a generator set for 4 or 5 days whilst national grid power is restored to Orfordness - the generator being incapable of powering the main 500kw sets.

As of 2003 the well travelled "with history" Continental Electronics 317C, serial number 12, once destined for use on the Mi Amigo, but diverted to Africa and later used to jam RNI, resides at Orfordness, a mere short nautical distance from the resting place of the Mi Amigo, and is up for sale at a seemingly bargain price.
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Postby Cookie » Thu Nov 17, 2011 10:35 am

A fascinating piece of history, thanks for posting that Alec.
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Postby paulvos » Thu Nov 17, 2011 10:43 am

Wow Alec, you're well informed.

Should the FOBLers put money together to buy the 312 and donate it to the Birmingham two? :wink: :wink:
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Postby alec » Thu Nov 17, 2011 11:28 am

paulvos wrote:Wow Alec, you're well informed.

Should the FOBLers put money together to buy the 312 and donate it to the Birmingham two? :wink: :wink:


Paul, I only found the article on FB - its written by Ian Gorrie - so the credit goes to him !! -
- I think the problem is the license and the Tx site - but in eric's - for sure it would be in good hands..
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Postby #6 » Thu Nov 17, 2011 2:28 pm

paulvos wrote:Wow Alec, you're well informed.

Should the FOBLers put money together to buy the 312 and donate it to the Birmingham two? :wink: :wink:


As long as someone can also supply enough diesel to power it!
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Radio Ship on Fire

Postby alec » Thu Dec 08, 2011 11:30 pm

ship on fire !!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl ... 1A2D-gvhBc

Radio Ship On Fire! - the FULL dramatic broadcast of RNI - '71 - Alan West
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