Suva Radio (Fiji)

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Suva Radio SVA, later VPD, later 3DP

1909

On 15 Dec 1909, representatives of New Zealand, Australia, and the UK Admiralty met in Melbourne to discuss radio communications in the South Pacific. The conference recommended the creation of high-power (15kW) wireless stations at Sydney, Doubtless Bay in New Zealand, and Suva (Fiji). Medium-power stations were to be set up at Tulagi (Solomon Islands), Ocean Island (Gilbert Islands, now Kiribati) and Port Vila (New Hebrides, now Vanuatu). New Zealand agreed to contribute £2000 to the cost of the Suva station.

1913

Three wireless communication stations, using spark-gap transmnitters, were established in Fiji:
SVA in Suva later became VPD
LBA in Labasa later became VPE
TVA in Tavenui VPF

1920

A fourth wireless station was established: VQL in Savusavu.

Valve transmitters were installed at all four stations.

1938
QSL card from Suva Radio VPD, 1938
QSL card from Suva Radio VPD, 1938
1940

Soon after the outbreak of World War 2, the Fiji government sent their radio engineer to New Zealand to obtain assistance in designing an improved radio station at Suva. Assistance was given in designing a comprehensive radio centre to be located on Suva Point. The new station was intended to supplement the existing station operated under long-term contract by AWA of Australia. The main purpose was to support the proposed Pan American Airways Pacific service as well as providing services for the governments of Fiji and New Zealand.

In October 1940 the New Zealand Air Force stated that it urgently required improved radio services at Suva and this was rapidly followed by similar demands from both the Royal New Zealand Navy and the New Zealand Army. It was decided the station should go ahead with urgency, even if that meant removing operational equipment from New Zealand. It was agreed that the New Zealand Post Office and the New Zealand Ministry of Works would jointly establish the new station, which would be constructed to meet the requirements of the three services and Government traffic. The station was to be maintained and operated by NZPO staff.

A technical working party left Wellington on 24 October 1940. Within two months a site was chosen and the station made operational.

1942

In response to the entry of Japan into the Second World War in December 1941, the Aeradio Station at Suva was rapidly expanded with new buildings concealed underground. The station reached a peak of 12 operating positions at the receiving station and 21 transmitters ranging in power from 100W up to 2.5kW. Total staff, mostly from the New Zealand Post Office Radio Section at this time, numbered 50, comprising both technical and operating staff.

Daily traffic was in the order of 40,000 groups for the three New Zealand Services, the US Army and Fijian Government. The station was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A large radio store was established near the station, stocking more than 850 classes of equipment to supply the armed services, Coast Watchers and the Fijian administration.

Two radio direction finding stations, one MF and one HF, were also established at the site.

Staff of Suva Aeradio in 1944
Staff of Suva Aeradio in 1944
Back row (L-R): Des Whitton, ? , Ray Stark, Eric Clark, Lyn Holloway, ? .
3rd row: George King, ?, ?, ?, ?, George Topliss, Bob Hutchison.
2nd row: Des Lafferty, Mike Lee, Rudolf Hayman, ?, ? Ernie Martin, Ken Walford.
Front row: ?, Jack Lynoh, Jeff Sandford (Lt), Bill Perry (Capt.), Claude Burley (Lt), Laurie Budd (Lt.), Jack Paton.
Photo does not show Navy operators or staff on duty (6).
1946

In early 1946, New Zealand Post Office Radio Section staff at Suva Radio were “demobbed” and sent home, although one or two may have remained to ensure continuity of operations.

Demobbed Radio Section staff, Suva Radio c1946
Demobbed Radio Section staff, Suva Radio c1946. Back row L-R: Ray Stark, Des Whitton, Lin Holloway, ?, ?, Jack Houlihan, ?, ?, Bob Hutchison, ?. Front row: Dick McKenzie, Jack Paton, Tinny Hogan, Ernie Martin, ?
Suva Radio 3DP
Suva Radio 3DP. Date unknown. Photo: Raj Singh, courtesy 3D2AG
Suva Radio 3DP Raj Singh operator
Nothing is known for sure about this photo, but it may be radio operator Raj Singh at Suva Radio in the 1960s. Photo: Raj Singh collection, courtesy 3D2AG
References

Early radio in Fiji