operated by the United Kingdom's
Coast Radio Station service

During November and December of 1997, United Kingdom Coast Radio Stations were broadcasting the following message:-

From 010000z January 1998 the Coastguard Agency no longer requires British Telecom maritime radio services to maintain 500Khz distress watch.

At the same time, British Telecom MF coast radio stations will cease all morse commercial services.

The morse services will continue as normal via Portisheadradio/GKA.

MF coast station staff send best wishes to all radio operators, past and present, who used Britain's MF morse services during the past 89 years


British Telecom Maritime Radio services 01 November 1997 +++


It's Hogmanay morning, 31st December 1997, and Radio Officer Bob Baker at Stonehaven Radio/GND (the control station for the United Kingdom Coast radio station service) is alerted by the sound of an automatic alarm signal on 500kHz. Of course the whole world knows that Morse is outdated and never used for distress purposes nowadays - which Coast Radio Station might this be, about to relay a distress broadcast? Bob waited for the DDD SOS signal, which would have indicated the relay of a distress message, only to hear dit-dit-dit dah-dah-dah-dit-dit-dit - this was no relay, this was no drill, this was the real thing.

Bob received the SOS call from MV OAK/C6MX8 on the Landsend Radio/GLD receiver, acknowledged receipt to the ship and then, with his colleagues at the radio station, set about the routine of alerting other shipping and the shore rescue authorities and coordinated the distress communications on 500kHz.

Since 1901 the callsign GLD had been heard on air and had carried on a 24-hour listening watch for shipping in distress since that year. Today, 31st December 1997, was the last day of that watch - but GLD was in action again!


At 312348z December 1997 Graham Mercer, Radio Officer at Portpatrick Radio/GPK, (Radio Amateur callsign GM4BES) set the ball rolling for the closure of the United Kingdom's 500kHz Morse Telegraphy service with a final broadcast on 500kHz. Graham tells us,

"I have to admit that my hand was shakier than it was during any SOS situations that I have handled over the last 29 years from GPK! .... A VERY SAD occasion indeed."

"My broadcast was brief, as there were other closure broadcasts from GKR, GCC and GLD to follow mine ( in that order ) ...The whole lot was scheduled to be concluded by midnight. In the event, the response to the first broadcast from GPK, almost occupied the entire time slot!.... Responses first from EJM ( specially resurrected on 500Khz for the occasion by RO Finbar {EI0CF} ) ... followed by EAC, OST, EAO, SAA, SPE, OXZ, IAR, VCM, GKR, GCC, GLD and others...."

Graham's closing broadcast had stated,

"in 1844 QTC nr1 fm Samuel Morse was what had God wrought?"
"all R/O's now ken the answer to this"

Wick Radio/GKR's closure message ( a long one! ) was aptly despatched by Tom McLennan (retired Radio Officer) with his very distinctive fist with the subsequent communications being shared by serving Radio Officer Tony Fell.

Cullercoats Radio/GCC's Final broadcast was a poetic Geordie dittie ... sent by Bob Baker at GND (the same man who had been receiving the SOS call earlier in the day) who was remotely controlling the GCC equipment.

Not to be outdone in the poetry stakes, Landsend Radio/GLD's final broadcast, sent by the steady fist of David Nancarrow, Radio Officer, (Amateur Radio callsign G3RID), included the text,

"but now the time has come,
ours is not to reason why,
the satellites are calling,
our morse transmissions die."

The broadcast ended with,
"Marconi, if you can hear us, we salute you"

Prior to the final broadcasts, at Landsend serving Radio Officer John Chappell (Amateur Radio calsign G3XRJ) had been busy dealing media coverage and interviews recording the end of a proud service. Many members of GLD's staff, past and present, were also on hand to witness the event and the same was true at Stonehaven/GND. At Portpatrick retired Radio Officer Peter Howe joined Graham for the occasion and, as already reported, at Wick Tom McLennan not only attended but put his fist "on air" for a final time.

Several faxes were later received by the closing stations, from ex-seagoing R/Os, who had taken the trouble to listen to the closure broadcasts, and expressed their thanks for the work of the service over the years.


The callsign GLD first came on air in 1901 from Lizard Radio, transferrng to Landsend Radio in 1913, and is probably one of the most famous Coast Radio Station callsigns in the world. The code LEFO in a radiotelegram (meaning Lands End for orders) may have been a simple instruction to a ship to head for the UK, but for Radio Officers worldwide it meant listening out for GLD's signals. Over the passing years GLD has been a link, in peacetime and at war, for countless mariners from all over the world. The station has a long history of being there to help seafarers.

Portpatrick Radio first came on air in 1905 as a part-time Admiralty station with the callsign BYS. In 1921, following a collision and sinking in which over 30 lives were lost at a time when the radio station was off watch, a rapid change of command took place and Portpatrick came under GPO control maintaining 24 hour watch and with a callsign change to GPK. It was GPK which received the first SOS of the 2nd World War, when the steamer Athenia/GFDM was sunk by a torpedo on the first day of hostilities. It was also GPK which carried out the distress communications with the railway steamer Princess Victoria/GZMN on the day it sank with large loss of life - listening to the ship's drowning Radio Officer apologizing for his poor Morse Code as he reported that the ship was "on beam end".

Wick Radio was another Admiralty station, opening around 1907 under the callsign BYG. The station transferred to the GPO in 1920 when the callsign GKR came into use. At the northern extremity of the UK mainland, GKR has been involved in many distress incidents involving ships voyaging some of the world's most inhospitable waters. The station was also a main link for the UK's deepsea trawler fleet, with a Morse Telegraphy service on HF keeping them in touch with the fleets at their fishing ground off Norway, Spitzbergen, the White Sea and Bear Island, Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland.

Cullercoats Radio/GCC commenced life in 1906, built by the Amalgamated Radio Telegraph Company. In 1909 ownership transferred to the Poulsen Company of Denmark and in 1912 the station came under GPO control.

Some historical information on the UK Coast Radio Station service is being constructed at:-

Today Cullercoats, Landsend, Portpatrick and Wick continue in operation as part of the UK's radiotelephony Coast Radio Station network, along with the stations at Stonehaven, Humber and Hebrides. Cullercoats, Niton and Portpatrick provide the UK's Navtex service. And the last bastion of Morse Code in the UK is Portishead Radio/GKA, operating on the maritime HF bands.


The UK's 500kHz Morse Telegraphy service finally closed in the early hours of 1st january 1998 with a last exchange between GLD and GPK:-

73 David, lets hope GMDSS is as gud
73 de GPK +

ok, gud luck Graham +