Australia’s Historic VK6ME

This article was originally material for a broadcast of “Wavescan” via Adventist World Radio and now forms part of the Radio Heritage Collection ©. All rights reserved to Ragusa Media Group, PO Box 14339, Wellington, New Zealand. This material is licenced on a non-exclusive basis to South Pacific DX Resource hosted on radiodx.com for a period of five years from January 1 2003. Author: Adrian Peterson

This weekend is a very important weekend in Australia. Today, Sunday January 26, is “Australia Day”, which honors the founding of the first European settlement in Australia. On this date, January 26, in the far away year 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip officially established a British settlement at Botany Bay, near Sydney on the east coast of the continent. That was 215 years ago.

Another important anniversary in Australia takes place tomorrow, Monday January 27. Available radio records would suggest that the first program broadcast from a new shortwave station in Western Australia took place on this date, January 27, in the year 1937. That was 66 years ago.

This is how it all happened. Back in April 1936, unannounced test broadcasts were heard from a shortwave station with the callsign VK2MD. These test broadcasts on 34 metres consisted of informal readings from a technical radio manual. The transmitter location was the AWA radio factory located at Ashfield on the outer edge of Sydney.

At the time, it was conjectured that this new transmitter was intended for installation at Suva, capital of the South Pacific islands of Fiji. All enquiries made to AWA remained ignored and un-answered.

As it happened, two broadcast transmitters were under construction at the AWA radio factory around the same time. Subsequent events confirm that these two transmitters were a 200 watt unit that was installed as VK6ME at Perth in Western Australia and a 500 watt unit that was installed as VPD2 at Suva in Fiji.

Although it is not stated anywhere, it is quite possible that both transmitters were tested on-air at the factory around the same time under the callsign VK2MD. There are no known QSLs confirming the reception of these test broadcasts from VK2MD.

The 500 watt transmitter that was installed in Suva Fiji supplemented the coverage of an earlier unit at the same location and it was officially inaugurated on August 19, 1936. Many QSL cards were issued to verify the transmissions from VPD2 and these were posted in both Sydney and Fiji.

The AWA shortwave unit that became VK6ME was installed in a small transmitter building at the Applecross Transmitting Station that was in use as a communication facility. Transmitter VIP was on the air with trans-continental traffic to Sydney; transmitter VJP was in use for traffic with coastal and regional locations in Western Australia; and transmitter VKK was in use for overseas traffic.

The earliest known test transmissions from VK6ME were noted in the United States towards the end of 1936. However, available evidence would suggest that some form of program broadcasting began on January 27, 1937, using studios in a nearby residence on the same estate at Applecross, in suburban Perth half way to the port city, Freemantle. Perhaps this date was chosen in honor of “Australia Day”.

The official inauguration of the new VK6ME was conducted with speeches and messages on the evening of March 22, 1937. This station was on the air just one evening a week, Sundays, on 9590 kHz, the same channel as used on other days of the week by the sister station VK2ME in Sydney.

At the onset of the European emergency at the beginning of September 1939, program broadcasting from VK6ME was terminated and the transmitter was taken into service for high speed telegraphy. In 1942, the transmitter was re-installed into the main transmitter building at Applecross, along with the mediumwave station 6PR. In 1944, the VK6ME transmitter was removed and sold.

Thus ended the story of Australia’s exotic little shortwave station, VK6ME, which would have been celebrating an important anniversary this weekend, if it were still on the air. The transmitter was on the air shortwave for a period of ten years, though it was heard with program broadcasting on Sunday evenings only for just two and a half years. Exotic QSL cards were issued by VK6ME, though these days they seem to be quite rare.


Australia on Shortwave – Radio Station VK6ME

Time Lines

——————————————————————————————————————
Station Location Year Date Event
——————————————————————————————————————
VK2MD Sydney 1936 April Test broadcasts at AWA factory

VPD2 Suva 1935 Nov 1st AWA SW transmitter, Suva Fiji
1936 Aug 19 2nd AWA SW transmitter 500 w
1938 3rd AWA SW unit 10 kW inaugurated
1939 Sep Taken into wartime usage

VK6ME Applecross 1936 Late Test broadcasts commenced
1937 Mar 22 Inauguration ceremonies
1939 Sep Taken into wartime service
1942 Transferred into 6PR transmitter hall
1944 VK6ME transmitter removed

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