the era when Canberra city was still under its early development, the navy recommended that a large communication station
should be established in the capital territory near Canberra.
Construction work for this new station at
Belconnen, near Canberra, began without publicity. As the station was nearing completion during the following year, and on
subsequent occasions also, rumors suggested incorrectly that this station might also be used as the transmitter base for the
planned shortwave service of Radio Australia.
April 22 1939
The Belconnen station was officially
opened and the first operational transmission as a navy communication station was made six months later.
The original transmitter was a high powered longwave unit, radiating from a very tall
antenna system suspended from three towers 200 metres high and a 1.5 km apart, using 44 kHz. As time went by, a cluster of
shortwave transmitters was installed, and a bevy of curtain and rhombic antennas was erected.
The station was equipped with 40 kW
and 10 kW HF transmitters that used a variety of antennas including rhombic, vertical monopole, and log-periodic antennas.
The station was initially built with small cottages flanking the eastern side of the site, housing the electrical engineer-in-charge
and the sailors who maintained the transmitters and antennas.
These were removed in the late 1980s, although the mess
building remained, with personnel moving into housing in the growing suburbs that gradually encroached on the site. The station
ended transmissions on 1 June 2005, and the remaining structures on the site were demolished in December 2006 to allow for
residential development on the site, forming the new suburb of Lawson.
At the height of its operation, the transmitter station at Belconnen contained
38 shortwave transmitters ranging in power from 10 kW to 40 kW, with 50 antenna systems, though most dominant in the skyline
were the three tall longwave towers. Three receiver stations associated with the transmitter station were located progressively
at three different sites nearby to Canberra; Red Hill, Fyshwick and Bonshaw.
During its more than 66 years of service as a major communication radio station,
Belconnen was on the air under at least seven different callsigns, and these were:
Communication with commercial
Weather and shipping information
Time signals after the
closing of the chronohertz station VNG at Lyndhurst in Victoria
Navy broadcasting service
Navy broadcasting service
Navy broadcasting service
The first known usage of the Belconnen radio
station for the broadcast of radio programming occurred in the year 1956, and this was on the occasion of the 1956 Olympic
Games in Melbourne, Victoria. All available shortwave transmitter space in Australia was pressed into service to ensure that
adequate radio coverage could be provided for all foreign radio media covering the sporting events in Melbourne. It is reported
that the navy communication station at Belconnen in the Australian Capital Territory also was in use for the relay of radio
news and commentaries to other overseas countries during the Olympic Games.
Soon after the VNG chronohertz transmitters
at Lyndhurst in Victoria were closed in 1987, the Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne provided a radio time service via the
Belconnen transmitter station. This familiar ticking sound was on the air for a period of twelve years and it was heard on
three shortwave channels; 5100 kHz at 5 kW, and 6488 kHz and 12982 kHz, both at 10 kW.
A small temporary studio was installed in
Canberra by the navy for the production of radio programming for broadcast to Australian service personnel on duty in the
Middle East, Asia, Africa and at sea. Initially, this programming was on the air as the Gulf Link Service and it was relayed
by Radio Australia, Darwin to the Arabian Gulf area in May 1991. Five months later, the Belconnen transmitters began to carry
this service, and the Darwin relay was subsequently discontinued, in May 1993.
In the meantime, a new and more substantial production studio was installed in
Canberra, and programming was produced for broadcast under the callsign, 2AAFR, Australian Armed Forces Radio, which was in
reality a New South Wales callsign, not an Australian Capital Territory callsign.
Way back, the first radio broadcasting station launched in Canberra was a commercial
station and it was inaugurated in 1931 under the callsign 2CA. Even though the initial digit 2 was allocated to the state
of New South Wales, yet all of the early radio stations in Canberra were also allocated callsigns with the initial digit 2.
However, in more recent time, amateur callsigns in the federal territory have been allocated a VK1 callsign, and several of
the subsequent AM and FM broadcasting stations were also allocated callsigns beginning with the initial number 1.
As far as the radio broadcasting service from Belconnen was concerned, the callsign
2AAFR soon gave way to the initials, AAFR, and also ADFR, Australian Defence Forces Radio. This radio broadcasting service
was on the air from Belconnen for a period of eight years and it was beamed to Rwanda, Malaysia, Cambodia and Timor.
For a short period of time during the year 1999, the Belconnen station was heard
on air with a relay of the ABC programming service known as 2 Triple J, that is 2JJJ.
It should also be noted that programming from the Canberra studio was relayed
by the navy transmitting station located at North West Cape in Western Australia. On some occasions, the programming was separate,
and sometimes it was in parallel with the Belconnen broadcasts.
The broadcast of radio programming from Belconnen ended in 1999, but shortly
afterwards their Canberra studio produced another series of programs beamed to Timor, and this was relayed by Radio Australia
in Shepparton, Victoria.
The large and powerful navy communication station at Belconnen in Australia's
Capital Territory is now gone, and it has been replaced by suburban housing. However, many international radio monitors in
many countries throughout the world hold historic memories of this station in their collection of QSL cards and letters.
have been issued over the years for the several callsigns in use at Belconnen, including
VHP, VIX, VIS, AXM, and the navy broadcasting service itself. In addition, Radio Australia also honoured the broadcast of
the navy programming over their Darwin and Shepparton transmitters with their large and colourful QSL cards.