Wednesday, June 17, 2015

BBC Far Eastern Relay Station: The Return to Singapore

BBC Far Eastern Relay Station (

The story of the BBC Far Eastern Relay Station at its four different locations spans a total of ¾ century, beginning before the beginning of World War 2, right up to the present time.  This important shortwave relay station has been located at Jurong out from Singapore city on the island of Singapore; Ekala out from Colombo on the island of Ceylon, as it was in those days, or Sri Lanka as it is identified these days; Tebrau near the southern tip of the the Malay peninsula; and Kranji, back again on the island of Singapore. 
            That is our story here in Wavescan today, the return of the BBC Far Eastern Relay station, back to Singapore, though across the island from the previous location that was on the air in the middle of last century.  Jurong, the original BBC location, is situated a dozen miles west of Singapore city, and Kranji is located a dozen miles north of Jurong.
            The comparatively new BBC transmitter site at Kranji is also only a dozen miles distant from its immediately previous location at Tebrau in Malaysia.  The Kranji station is located in a swampy abandoned area, close to the saltwater Johor strait that separates the island from the Malay peninsula.  The geographic address states off Turut Track, and this  seems to be beyond the knowledge and experience of the regular taxi services.
            The 4 acre BBC property at Kranji is very compact, with 10 transmitters and 22 antenna systems; and some of the towers are actually standing in shallow seawater.  The first necessity at this property back in 1975 was to raise the level of the entire property by 3 feet, and in order to accomplish this, 800 truck loads of land fill were brought in every day. 
            However, the main 2 storey transmitter building itself was built on piles as a safeguard against any possibility of a rise in local water level.  The Transmitter Hall is in the same design as the BBC shortwave station located at Woofferton in England. 
            The first transmitter for Kranji, a 250 kW Marconi model BD272 was removed from Tebrau in January 1977 and it was re-installed in the new transmitter building where it was activated a little over a year later during the month of February (1978).  The target date for the activation at Kranji of the second transmitter from Tebrau was a few weeks later, March 5.  At this stage, all of the construction work on the buildings had been completed, and half of the towers were now standing.
            The final broadcast from BBC Tebrau ended on May 18 of the next year (1979).  Initially, the Malay government gave consideration to taking over the BBC shortwave station for use in its own international communications.  However instead, the entire facility has been absorbed into the expanding local suburban area of Jahore Bahru.
            The final completion date for all of the facilities at BBC Kranji was in the Spring of the year 1979 and at this stage there were 4 main transmitters at 100 kW and 4 at 250 kW, together with 3 at just 50 kW as stand by units.  There were also 22 antenna systems supported on 17 towers, mainly reversible curtains.  Electricity for the entire station was mains power provided from the Singapore government electrical system.  
            Programming for the BBC Kranji was originally a shortwave feed from Daventry in England, usually with two transmitters on the same channel, 17790 kHz.  In addition, a local FM channel in Singapore carried the BBC World Service via a transmitter co-sited with the Singapore domestic transmitters at Bukit Temah in the center of the island.  Program relay from London via satellite was introduced at the end of August 1983.
            In 1987, a 250 kW Marconi was transferred from Daventry in England to Kranji, and just two years ago, another 250 kW transmitter was transferred from Skelton, also in England, to Kranji.  These days, there are officially 10 transmitters located in the BBC shortwave station at Kranji, 5 at 100 kW and 5 at 250 kW. 
            We should also mention that a dozen years ago, Merlin Communications took over the operation of the BBC Far Eastern Relay Station in Singapore.  Merlin subsequently became VT Merlin, and then VT Communications, and then this organization was taken over as Babcock.  However, in all of these transmigrations, the BBC has still retained ownership of the station itself.
            Beginning around 15 years ago, this BBC station in Singapore has also carried relay programming on behalf of other international shortwave stations, including NHK Tokyo, Radio Canada International, Radio Netherlands, Deutsche Welle in Germany, Radio Australia, and several other stations as well, over varying periods of time.
            During the past ¼ century, regular full data QSL cards have been available from the BBC at its Kranji address, and additionally, some QSL cards have been posted out from the BBC in London.  Three different Singapore cards are known, each with a photograph in color of the station itself.
            Thus far in this series of topics on the BBC Far Eastern Relay Station, we have presented information regarding their consecutive facilities at Jurong Singapore, Ekala Sri Lanka, Tebrau Malaysia and now Kranji Singapore.  However, in  performing all of this very interesting research, we have uncovered another location, albeit apparently a very temporary location.  That is the story on another coming occasion here in Wavescan. 

 (AWR Wavescan/NWS 329)