Monday, July 09, 2018

Ancient DX Report - 1914

Earlier this year, we presented Part 1 in our Ancient DX Report for the year 1914.  On that occasion, we presented the story of how World War 1 began, with the assassination of His Royal Highness the 50 year old Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Heir Presumptive to the throne of the ailing Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife, Her Highness Sophie, the 46 year old Duchess of Hohenberg.

The royal couple were shot during a state visit to Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia, on Sunday morning June 28, 1914.  Exactly one month later, on July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war against Serbia, and Germany invaded France.  One week later again, England declared war against Germany.  World War 1 had begun, and the major wireless stations of the world were buzzing in Morse Code with the progressive stories of what was taking place as armies clashed against each other in continental Europe.

Germany was operating its own powerful wireless,station at Nauen, near Berlin.  This station had been established six years earlier as the “first wireless station in the world”, and it was rebuilt with a huge new antenna system just  few months before war was declared in Europe.  A major secondary station as a back up was established at Eilvese, near Hanover. 

France operated its own wireless station from the top of the famed Eiffel Tower, and they communicated with their armed forces and distant locations throughout the country in Morse Code from this station.  In April (1914), a commercial wireless receiver, the Ondophone, was placed on sale in France.  This commercially made early wireless receiver was developed so that people could receive accurate time signals from station FL on the Eiffel Tower. 

Over in Belgium, Robert Goldschmidt established a large wireless station at Laeken for the purpose of communication within the country, and also with their colony in Africa, the Belgian Congo.  On March 13 1914. he conducted a radio broadcast from this station as a test transmission.  Two weeks later on March 28, he began a series of Saturday music concerts over his new wireless station, and that event is claimed in Belgium as the second wireless station in the world, preceded only by the program broadcasts by Charles Herrold in California.  Nearly six months later, the large wireless station at Laeken was deliberately destroyed just prior to the German invasion of their country.

Over in the British Isles, the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company constructed a 400 KW wireless transmitting station under the callsign MUU in Caernarvon in Wales in 1914 for transatlantic communication with the United States.  This station employed ten masts each 400 feet tall atop the Cefndu Mountain in Snowdonia.

By the year 1914, wireless equipment had been installed on a huge number of ships throughout the world; naval, passenger, and cargo.  The Cunard liner Acquitania had installed wireless equipment, even in two of its lifeboats. 

In May, a wireless message was heard in Asia stating that the Japanese passenger/cargo ship, the SS Siberia Maru, was aground and sinking off the coast of Formosa (Taiwan).  Next day, this ship arrived in Manila in the Philippines, unaware of the fake wireless message.     

Also during the month of May, the wireless executive David Sarnoff was aboard the American passenger/cargo ship SS Antilles on its run from New York to New Orleans and he tuned a radio receiver to hear a music program coming from the Wanamaker Store in New York.  In November, Mr W. C. Handy in Memphis Tennessee broadcast a radio program that featured Victor H. Laughter.

When the British declared war against Germany on August 4, the German wireless stations at Nauen and Eilvese sent out a general message in Morse Code to all German shipping to hasten to the nearest neutral port.  Two large German passenger ships, the Kronprinzessin Cecilie and the Koenig Wilhelm 2, entered American harbors in order to avoid capture by the British navy.  In addition, the German navy stationed several of its ships in a chain across the Atlantic for the purpose of establishing a cascade relay of messages in Morse Code to German colonies in Africa and Asia.

The United States commissioned a 100 kW spark transmitter at Colon in the Panama Canal Zone; and they also established a wireless circuit between California and the new station at Kahuku on Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands, the “largest wireless station in the world”.

In Australia, two new wireless stations were taken into service during the year 1914, both on the west coast; VIZ was commissioned at Roebourne on January 26, and VIW was commissioned at Wyndham on May 18.  The Wyndham station was constructed out of town against a 1500 ft hill, with the antenna on top.   

With the threatened exigencies of war, the Royal Australian Navy suddenly required a wireless communication station.  They contracted with AWA in Sydney, and in just four days a brand new 11 kW Morse Code wireless station was installed on Sydney Harbour’s Garden Island, under the callsign VKQ.

The first military action for the Australian army at the beginning of World War 1 in 1914 was the successful capture of German wireless stations that were located in Rabaul on the island of New Britain, on the island of Yap in the Caroline Islands, and on the Pacific island of Nauru.  The first military action for the New Zealand army at the beginning of World War 1 was the successful capture of the German wireless station near Apia in Samoa.

Just before the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914, German personnel were finalizing the construction and initial operation of two major wireless stations in New Zealand, VLA at Awanui on the North Island and Awarua on the South Island.  These wireless specialists were working with the Telefunken company in Germany and they were under contract with the Australasian Wireless Company for the project in New Zealand.  Work on these two wireless stations was sped up so that the German personnel could return to Germany before war broke out.
(AWR/Wavescan/NWS 488)