NZ’s Mobile Middle East Transmitter

This article was originally material for a broadcast of “Wavescan” via Adventist World Radio in May 2001, 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 May 1 2001. Author: Adrian Peterson

During the North African phase of the European War, New Zealand also operated a mobile broadcasting service in the Middle East. The information regarding this venture is found in the book, “Voices in the Air” by Peter Downes and Peter Harcourt. This is the story of the New Zealand mobile radio service.

It was early in the year 1940 that a mobile radio studio was built in New Zealand. The van itself was constructed by the New Zealand Railways and the electronic equipment was installed by the New Zealand Broadcasting Service. This equipment included a radio receiver, disc recorders, microphones and amplifiers.

The completed mobile recording studio was shipped to the Middle East in 1940 together with supporting technical staff. The unit was fitted onto the chassis of an English made Leyland bus and installed at the New Zealand army camp at Maadi, near Cairo in Egypt.

This mobile radio studio was entrusted with two purposes in the Middle East:

  1. Produce recordings of New Zealand soldiers for re-broadcast back home in New Zealand; and
  2. Re-broadcast radio programs from New Zealand on local radio stations in the Middle East.

The small staff of the mobile studio recorded numerous greetings from soldiers on large discs and these were sent air mail back to New Zealand where they were edited and re-broadcast throughout the Dominion on the ZB network of mediumwave stations. In poignant cases of loss, when a soldier was killed in warfare after his voice was recorded, the relatives were invited into the radio studios in New Zealand for a private hearing of the message.

In exchange for the recorded discs from the Middle East, the NZBS sent recorded discs of local radio programming for re-broadcast on local radio stations in the Middle East. This programming was at first placed on the air over a radio station in Cairo.

At the time, there were just two mediumwave radio stations on the air in Cairo. These were a 20 kW unit on 620 kHz and a 500 watt unit on 1348 kHz. It is probable that radio programming for the benefit of New Zealand soldiers was heard on both stations, though at different time periods.

This radio broadcasting service in Egypt, as a delayed relay from New Zealand, was in reality the first radio broadcasting service operated by New Zealand for the benefit of its servicemen on active duty overseas. This army broadcasting service from New Zealand pre-dated by a couple of years the introduction of the now famous AFRS, the American Forces Broadcasting Service.

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