Monday, December 17, 2018

BBC Rampisham Property in England for Sale

BBC Rampisham (wikipedia)
It was back in the decisive year 1939, right after the beginning of World War 2, that the BBC procured a large property of 189 acres that was located near the small village of Rampisham in the south of England.   The small village of Rampisham in County Dorset, with its one hundred local citizens, is located just eight miles inland from the English Channel.
A huge new shortwave station was built up on the Rampisham property and initially it contained two transmitter halls separated by heavy blast proof walls, and a bevy of 15 towers supporting a total of 29 antenna arrays.  A newly designed set of transmission lines was installed, each made up of two concentric feeders running from each transmitter out to a switching matrix.
The original shortwave transmitters at this new BBC shortwave station were 100 kW units Model   SWB18 made by the Marconi company at Chelmsford.  Two were installed in each of the two transmitter halls. 
In BBC parlance, these four transmitters were identified as Senders 31 to 34, and the station itself was identified as OSE3, Overseas Extension Service number 3.  The early shortwave station at Daventry was identified as OSE1, and the new addition at Daventry was identified as OSE2.
Initially electric power for the Rampisham station was derived from two 750 bhp diesel generators that were originally designed and constructed for railway locomotives in an overseas country.  However, an electrical connection with the national grid was subsequently achieved.
The new Rampisham station was built as a shadow station for Daventry, in case Daventry was damaged or disabled through an act of war.  During the war, there were indeed several attempts to damage and destroy the BBC shortwave station at Rampisham by aerial bombardment, though very little damage was actually inflicted.
Rampisham OSE3 was taken into service on February 16, 1941, and propagation tests were conducted in May with the use of a receiver attached to a captive ballon.
After the war was over, the electrical generation and distribution system in England was ailing and electricity rationing was introduced on February 10, 1947.  In accordance with that requirement, the four 100 kW transmitters were powered down and operated at half power each, at 50 kW.  Two years later, on March 21, 1949, all four transmitters were returned to full power operation.
Beginning in May 1961, two of the original transmitters were removed and replaced with two additional units at the same power rating, 100 kW.   Again, these new units were manufactured by the Marconi company, though they were now an updated design, Model BD253D.
The winter of 1963 proved to be severe with heavy snowfalls and there were occasions when BBC Rampisham was off the air during the months of January and February.  Another severe winter occurred in 1979, and relief crews found it necessary to wade through heavy snow for four miles in order to reach the station. 
Later in that same year 1963, a modernization project was implemented and the older transmitters were removed and replaced by four Marconi transmitters at 250 kW each, Model BD272, and two 100 kW transmitters with twin channel operation.  Additionally, two SSB single sideband transmitters at 60 kW each were installed for use as feeder transmitters carrying a programming relay for BBC shortwave transmitters in overseas locations; and in particular, Ascension Island.
Then beginning in 1982, the BBC Rampisham was closed and gutted, with all electronic equipment removed and all antenna systems demolished.  All four of the 250 kW Marconi transmitters were removed and reinstalled at the BBC sister station located at Skelton.
In this massive rebuilding project at Rampisham, a new transmitter hall was built up inside the shell of the existing building.  Inside this massive hall covering 177 acres, a total of ten transmitters at 500 kW were installed; six Marconi Model B6127 and four AEG from Germany, Model S4005.
As time went by, the BBC privatized its shortwave stations and the Rampisham facility was sold off to Merlin Communications, which later became VT (Communications) and subsequently Babcock International.  However, the end was near, and in 2011, the station was closed due mainly to budget cuts at the BBC.
The final broadcast from the BBC via Rampisham was their Arabic Service which ended on Saturday October 29 (2011) with two outlets at 2100 UTC on 5790 kHz and 11680 kHz.  The very final broadcast from the Rampisham shortwave station was actually a relay from Deutsche Welle in German to Europe on Sender 48 and this transmission on 6075 kHz ended at 2159 UTC. 
That was it!  The huge Rampisham shortwave station was now off the air; closed, and gone forever.
Several attempts have been made to sell the station, or its property, and currently the disemboweled facility is available as a property for £2½ million.  There was earlier a concept to install a huge solar power plant on the property, but that project was transferred to another location nearby. Some of the ground upon the current property is protected for specific forms of vegetation.
Very few QSL cards were issued by the BBC for their broadcasts from Rampisham, and the fortunate listeners who did receive a BBC card with QSL endorsements were generally BBC monitors in different parts of the world.  However, Rampisham was also in use as a relay station for other international shortwave broadcasters who did indeed issue valid QSL cards for their broadcasts.  Among these other stations for whom relay transmissions were on the air from Rampisham, were Deutsche Welle in Germany, Radio Australia in Melbourne Victoria, NHK Tokyo Japan, KBS in Seoul Korea, RAI Rome Italy, RFI in Paris France, and FEBA that previously operated their own station in the Seychelles Islands.  In addition, there were occasions when various clandestine stations were on the air via Rampisham, and also RNZI in Wellington New Zealand.
(AWR Wavescan/NWS 506)