Awanui Radio 1913-1919

1913:

Operator working at Awanui Radio. Date unknown. Note the shiny boots!

Operator working at Awanui Radio. Date unknown. Note the shiny boots!

Operating desk at Awanui Radio c1913. Switchboard at left,  window to high-tension room at right

Operating desk at Awanui Radio c1913. Switchboard at left, window to high-tension room at right. The lever on the wall operates the aerial switch visible through the window.

The North Auckland high-power wireless station completed: The 400ft mast and main buildings of the Awanui Station.

“The North Auckland high-power wireless station completed: The 400ft mast and main buildings of the Awanui Station.” Auckland Weekly News, 23 Jan 1913. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19130123-14-3

The Awanui Wireless Station was activated on 27 March 1913. The Post & Telegraph Department sent John L Davies to Sydney (presumably the Pennant Hills station which was very similar to Awanui) to participate in the Awanui tests during March and April.

Awanui Radio VLA, circa 1919

Awanui Radio VLA, circa 1919. Photo: Northwood Brothers

Staff were housed in three buildings: the superintendent’s house, the operators’ quarters and the engineer’s house.

Regular service began on 18 December (the same day as Awarua Radio). The Officer in Charge was LW (Pat) Bourke, previously Officer in Charge at New Zealand’s first wireless station in Wellington.

Bill Walker was the Assistant Engineer.

Service was provided to ships as well as point-to-point communication with Apia.

Transmitter room at Awanui c1913. Earth switch on the wall at left, with keying relays on bench below (the blower looks like an after-thought). To the right are spark gaps and Leyden jars.

Transmitter room at Awanui c1913. Earth switch on the wall at left, with keying relays on bench below (the blower looks like an after-thought). To the right are spark gaps and Leyden jars. Photo: Awanui Scrapbook, Te Ahu Museum

During the First World War, a military guard of 65 men under Captain Proctor of Whangarei was posted at the station, and a high barbed wire fence was erected around it.

Guards at Awanui Radio VLA in 1914

Guards at Awanui Radio VLA in 1914. Photo: Northwood Brothers

1915: Auckland wireless station suspended operation, as the much higher-power Awanui station offered superior performance.

From Bill Walker’s audio interview recorded in 1962:

  • Surrounding the tower was a counterpoise ring, connected by 60 wires
  • The tower faces were 8 feet wide
  • The tower height was 400 feet “near enough”
  • 24 aerials led from “practically” the top of the tower about 1/4 mile to posts in the field surrounding the tower
  • The main working, on 2000 metre wavelength, was to Samoa
  • There were smaller aerials for other wavelengths: 600 metres (ships), 1200 metres (navy – not used much), 300 metres (“never used”)
  • The aerial wires were phosphor-bronze, about the size of Number 8 fencing wire
  • The high-tension room included helixes, repeaters (keying relays
  • At full power, the transmitter used 30-35kW, which was necessary to reach Sydney during daytime (only half as much power was needed at night)
  • For ships service, the transmitter typically used 10-12kW

1916: Assistant Engineer Bill Walker left for military service. His replacement was Mr B Winstanley from the Auckland Post & Telegraph workshop.

Awanui Radio staff in 1917

Awanui Radio staff in 1917. Standing L-R: F O’Grady, S Harris, B Winstanley (Asst Engineer), W Howie. Sitting L-R: CR Renner, LW Bourke (Superintendent), V Earnshaw (Engineer)

1917: In December, John L Davies, previously Officer in Charge at Awarua Wireless Station, became Officer in Charge at Awanui, replacing LW (Pat) Bourke, who became Superintendent of Telegraphs at Napier.

1918: John L Davies left in August to return to Apia with the Samoa Reinforcements. Assistant Engineer Bill Walker returned from war.

1919: John L Davies returned as Officer in Charge.

The engine house and tower base, possibly 1919

The engine house and tower base, possibly 1919. Courtesy: Te Ahu Museum

Awanui Radio VLA in 1919. The Officer-in-Charge's house (left) and Officers' Quarters, with the station visible in the distance. A woman with a boy on horseback stand in Wireless Road in the foreground.

Awanui Radio VLA in 1919. The Officer-in-Charge’s house (left) and Officers’ Quarters, with the station visible in the distance. A woman with a boy on horseback stand in Wireless Road in the foreground. Photo: Northwood Brothers

Awanui Radio 1919

Detail from the photo above

» 1920-1930