Australian WWII Pacific Radio – Diggers on Air

Australian forces in the SW Pacific and Japan were served by a number of stations during and immediately after WWII.

9AE Jacquinot Bay, New Guinea, November 20 1945.
© Australian War Memorial.

The little known Australian Army Amenities Service [created April 9 1943] operated most of them, the first being a joint operation [9AA] with the AFRS in Port Moresby.

Listener confirmation [QSL] card issued for test broadcasts from 9AF.
© Adrian Peterson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation.

Unlike the AFRS which had the resources of Hollywood and the giant American radio industry to draw upon for music programs such as ‘Command Performance, the 1st Australian Broadcasting Control Unit was part of a wider morale boosting service and had no such resources available.

Lt Tom Miller plans the weekly broadcast schedule, 9AD Morotai. December 1, 1945.
© Australian War Memorial.

The AAAS relied heavily on AFRS recordings [sometimes inheriting complete libraries from the AFRS stations they replaced] for their programs. They also received programs from commercial Australian stations, the ABC, and often relayed sports commentaries and results [horse racing, cricket and football being the most popular] from short wave transmitters in Australia.

During 1944 and 1945, popular Australian radio personalities were drafted into the AAAS, and some found themselves broadcasting from The Voice of the Islands [an RAAF station] in Milne Bay, or hastily established stations using captured Japanese equipment.

In 1945, the AAAS began test broadcasts from Melbourne for a group of 21 mobile radio stations that it planned to send to the SW Pacific. By the time the tests were completed, Allied forces were in the Philippines and looking towards Japan and most of the mobile stations went on the air in the last few months of the Pacific war, and immediately afterwards.

Letter to a New Zealand listener from Lt Tom Miller, 9AD Morotai [Borneo].
© Merv Branks Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation.

Call-signs were allocated in the 9A series [such as 9AD Morotai], and when the units arrived in Japan, they were first allocated AFRS call-signs in the WVT series, quickly followed by a further change to the WLK series.

Many of the stations broadcast from New Guinea, the Dutch East Indies and Borneo, whilst several were permanently in Australia, such as 5DR Darwin. By the end of 1946, most stations had closed down and the mobile units returned to Australia.

Letter to an Australian listener from Brian Wright, 5DR Darwin.
© Adrian Peterson Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation.
Brian Wright, OC 5DR Darwin.
© Broadcast Yearbook © Radio Listeners Annual 1946-47. Ray Crawford Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation.

We’ve managed to track down just under 50 separate stations broadcasting during the 1944-46 period, but we’re sure to have missed some. Many changed frequencies and locations, and make it difficult to form a complete picture.

If you or any of your family or friends were involved with any of these stations, or have photos, memorabilia, station programs or other ephemera, or even recordings from any station, please contact us. If you know of any magazine or newspaper articles about them, or the personalities who worked at them, please let us know so we can begin filling in the many gaps.

Arthur St George, OC 9AC Torokina, Bougainville.
© Broadcast Yearbook © Radio Listeners Annual 1946-47, Ray Crawford Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation.
RefLocationCall SignFrequency
1 Australia unspecified 9AB 1070
2 9AM
3 9AN
4 9AO 980
5 9AQ 930
6 9AR
7 9AS
8 9AT
9 9AV 690/930
10 Adelaide River, NT 5DR 1500
11 Aitape 9AD 1140/1180
12 Balikpapan Army 6980
13 7ER 7205
14 7KM 7880
15 9AG 960/1240/1340/1360
16 Cemetary Plain, NT 5DR 1500
17 Darwin, NT 5DR 1500
18 Faro Island 9AL 1030
19 Higginsfield, Queensland RAAF-2 1470
20 Jacquinot Bay 9AE 1370/1425
21 Jesselton 9AO 980
22 Kure WLKS 1470/6085/6105
23 9AM [1]
24 WVTW [1]
25 WLKT [1]
26 9AQ [2]
27 WVTX [2]
28 WLKU [2]
29 9AR [3]
30 WVTZ [3]
31 WLKW [3]
32 9AT 1470
33 9AV [4]
34 WVTY [4]
35 WLKV [4]
36 9DC 1400
37 Labuan JL2 7145
38 Radio Labuan 7260
39 9AF 960/1340
40 Lae AIF 1000/1070/1340/1400
41 9AB 1070/1340
42 Madang AIF 1130
43 RAAF Radio 1130
44 9AA 1250
45 Melbourne and suburbs, Vic 9AF 1440/1460
46 9AH 1440
47 9AI 980/1450
48 9AJ 1030
49 9AK 1030
50 9AL 1030
51 Milne Bay RAAF Radio 1150
52 Voice of the Islands 1250
53 Morotai 9AD 1180/1440
54 9AO 980
55 New Guinea unspecified JS8 1300
56 Radio Guinea 15075
57 9AH 940/960
58 Port Moresby VIG 3500
59 9AA 1250
60 9PA 1250
61 9PM 1010
62 Rabaul 9AE 1310/1370/1375/1425
63 9AL 1030
64 9AO 980
65 Rose Bay, NSW 9AP 980
66 Solomon Islands unspecified 9AJ 960
67 Torokina 9AC 1280
68 Wewak 9AJ 960/980
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