Amidst the Rubber Plantation in Malaysia: The BBC Tebrau
the past three-fourths century,
the BBC Far Eastern Relay Station has been on the air shortwave from four
consecutive locations; Jurong Singapore, Ekala Ceylon, Tebrau Malaysia and back
again to Singapore this time at Kranji.
In our program today, we relate the very interesting story about their
30 year venture amidst the rubber plantations and jungles at the southern edge
of the Malay Peninsula.
Quite soon after the end of World
War II in Asia, the BBC in London sent Mr. F. C. McLean on a preliminary search
for a suitable location for a relay station in the Malay Peninsula. At the time, the BBC was on the air from the
new shortwave station that had been constructed at Jurong on Singapore island
during the Japanese occupation.
Initially, the BBC was interested in
enlarging the Jurong station with the installation of high powered transmitters
and tall antenna towers. However the
Malay government, with Singapore as the capital city at the time, was planning
a huge international airport nearby and tall towers could not be
Thus the BBC needed to look
elsewhere for their big new shortwave station and they chose the nearby Malay
Peninsula. In the meantime, they took
out a temporary relay via the new shortwave station that had recently been
opened at Ekala in Ceylon.
In July 1947, a team of three from
the BBC in London finally chose the Tebrau site as the most suitable of the various
possible venues they had visited. Their
new estate of 450 acres of jungle and rubber tree plantations had no access
road, nor any ambient infrastructure; and there were still some leftover
Japanese ammunition dumps in the area.
The design for this new shortwave
station was quite similar to the recently constructed Ekala station in Ceylon,
and the original complement of electronic equipment at Tebrau would include 6
transmitters and 20 antenna systems. In
addition, it was necessary to build up a self-contained set of housing and
amenities, including recreational facilities, for all of the staff who would be
employed at the station. Work on this
massive new radio station and all of its additional accessories began quite
quickly, and the installation of the electronic equipment in the transmitter
building began in mid 1950.
At this stage, two transmitters at
100 kW each were installed, and they had both served the BBC at two different
locations in the United Kingdom during the conflict in Europe; Start Point in
England and Lisnagarvey in Northern Ireland.
In order to safeguard the BBC’s capability of international radio
coverage during the war, two widely dispersed shortwave stations had been
constructed as additional alternatives to the huge well known station at
Daventry, just in case that one should be damaged in an aerial attack.
A 100 kW Marconi transmitter model
no. SWB18 was co-sited with the mediumwave station located at Start Point on
the south coast of England. This
transmitter had been under construction at the time for an unstated foreign
government, but when war breakout in the middle of last century, it was taken
over for use by the BBC at Start Point.
This shortwave transmitter was on
the air on only one frequency 6075 kHz under the channel callsign GRR. The informative book BBC Engineering tells us
that usage of this transmitter was terminated at the end of the year 1945, and
it was “placed
under dust sheets”.
Over at Lisnagarvey near Belfast,
another Marconi transmitter at 100 kW, same model SWB18, was co-sited with a
mediumwave transmitter and inaugurated on November 20, 1941 under the channel
callsign GRW. This unit was also on the
air on only one channel, variously listed as 6140 or 6145 kHz.
Interestingly, an international
radio monitor in Australia noted that both units, GRR & GRW, were “heard
that is, they carried parallel programming.
This station in Northern Ireland was silenced on May 26, 1946, and the
same book, BBC Engineering, states that it was “put
under care and maintenance”.
The events of radio history suggest
to us that it was these two transmitters that were duly re-installed in the new
BBC station at Tebrau in Malaya. The
first was re-activated in December 1950, and the second was re-activated a
month later, in January of the following year, 1951.
In addition, four new Marconi
transmitters at 7½kW model SWB11E were installed at
Tebrau and at least some of these units were placed in service on May 13,
1951. A program relay for various
language areas of Asia was transferred from BBC Ekala Ceylon to BBC Tebrau
Power for the Tebrau station was
generated locally with three huge diesel engines. The feeder lines from the transmitters to the
antenna systems were clustered more than a mile long, and they gave the
appearance of a huge highway running through the dense forest of jungle trees.
BBC programming was phased out via
Ekala and transferred in stages to Tebrau beginning at the end of the year
1950. The final BBC broadcasts from
Ekala ended on May 12, 1951.
Some 20 years later, a modernization
plan was implemented at Tebrau, in the early 1970s, and the 4 low powered
transmitters at 7½kW were removed and replaced by 4 @
100 kW and 4 @ 250 kW. However, the 2
older units at 100 kW were still retained, though they were not included in
However, when the time
approached for the expiry of the license for the station, it became clear that
it would be necessary for the BBC Far Eastern Relay Station to move once
again. All 8 of the new transmitters
were moved consecutively to a new station at Kranji on the island of Singapore,
and the Tebrau station was finally closed on Sunday March 18, 1979.
The BBC Far Eastern Relay Station at
Tebrau was heard far and wide during its 30 years of service; and yes, in its
earlier years of on air activity, special QSL cards verifying the reception of
this station were issued from the BBC headquarters in London. In addition, for those who were official BBC
monitors, the BBC would type in the brief QSL details, using one of their
standard acknowledgment cards.
Next in this story on the BBC Far
Eastern Relay Station, we will pick up the events once again, as they occurred
on the island of Singapore some 35 years ago.
You will hear this information here in Wavescan on another occasion,
some time soon. (AWR-Wavescan/NWS 322)