Monday, March 21, 2011

Rhodesia, Harold Wilson, and the BBC

More from the sound archives, as I clear out a collection of cassette tapes in the loft. 

I met the late Harold Robin a couple of times at his home in Tunbridge Wells, UK. He was a brilliant Foreign Office engineer who built the wartime Aspidistra transmitter famous for its clandestine work out of Crowborough. Have a listen to the 30 minute radio programmes Wartime Deception Part One and Part Two and you'll see what I mean.

Although his work during the war is well documented in books like "The Black Game"by Ellic Howe, I think we managed to capture the other stories from later in his life. For instance, how he invented the "Picolo" modulation system as used by the diplomatic service to communicate text over shortwave between embassies. He also built the BBC Overseas relay station in Oman, and the external service of UAE Radio from Dubai. This edition, recorded after Christmas in 1995, looked at the story of the British response to the declaration of independence by Ian Smith in, what was then, Rhodesia. Harold talks about setting up a mediumwave transmitter in a matter of weeks in the town of Francistown, in the Bechuanaland Protectorate, now called Botswana. Thanks also to Colin Miller for some of the recordings of the RBC. It seems that one of the two transmitters was sent to Cyprus after the World and Rhodesia operation ended, the other ended up in Ordfordness for some experiments on 648 kHz. You might also want to check out the video of Margaret Howard, who refers to a special programme transmitted over this MW sender. It was called the World and Rhodesia and was more of a UK government editorial than any programme the BBC would make. The programme concept didn't work although it seemed to have taken the British government a couple of years to find out. The transmitters were eventually packed up, one sent to Cyprus, the other ended up in Orfordness. Harold refers to staying in the Tati Hotel River Lodge, about 8 kms outside of Francistown. Sure enough, it's still there. At the same time I am sad to note that the site that Sefton Delmer's son Felix put on line seems to have gone away. 

Where's the audio? It's sitting here
Post a Comment

ShareThis