Long Range
in th UK

Early History

Portishead Radio
- 1927 to war

in the 70's
in the 80's
GKA today
- Transmitter Sites



Content researched by
Terry Slack

HISTORY of Portishead Radio
1927 through war-time

The name of Portishead Radio was born when the GPO opened a new transmitter station at Portishead in Somerset in 1927. The operational station, where the Radio Officers were based, had been located at Highbridge/Burnham-on-Sea since 1924.

Throughout the 1930s Portishead Radio's short-wave long-range service expanded greatly, with a gradual decline in the use of the long-wave service. New markets were being discovered, including the use of Portishead by the Morse Code operators on the flying boats, passing traffic from as far away as South America and India. The great liners were also making heavy use of this new service, and by 1936 Portishead Radio, now with 4 short-wave transmitters, was handling over 3 million words of radio traffic with a staff of 60 radio officers.

The war years between 1939 and 1945 saw great changes in the role of Portishead Radio, two-way communication with ships changed to a broadcast of traffic without any acknowledgement of receipt. For obvious reason, transmissions from ships were kept to a minimum so as not to release their positions and destinations . However, distress calls, enemy sighting reports, news of the North Africa landings and clandestine signals from Europe ensured the station was kept busy.

Early in 1943, the workload had increased to such levels that Portishead's civilian staff were augmented by naval operators from HMS Flowerdown. Many of the civilian staff were seconded to Government services at home and abroad, not only to man radio stations but to train the many new radio officers needed for convoy work. A special aircraft section was constructed to maintain communications with patrol aircraft in the North Atlantic.