The text will follow has been edited from original translation and some comments were added to fill the background on the interview to OM Jan Kupski . We were in the Soviet block for decades and not so many information about Polish maritime communication was available outside of the block. The Soviets (and some Poles too) considered all long-range radio communication as risky business for them so it was tightly controlled. I will provide the translation but I think this version with background comments will be easier to read.
Radio Officer Jan Kupski is a nice chap that knows how to talk about all the things he used to do before retirement. As a gift to all the R/O list I’m sending you a text that I’ve made from the recordings and my knowledge about SPH/SPE/SPW/SPS coast stations in Poland. It’s not a direct translation of the interview but I think it’s close enough. So here it goes:
CQ DE SPH
There were three important coast stations in Poland. One of them still exists – it’s Witowo Radio with former CW call sign SPS. This coast station does not send QTC nor arrange QRJ anymore. It just sends WX and NX on 2182 and VHF. For a short period of time there was fourth station – Warszawa Radio/SPW located in a former government communication center near Warsaw but this station was used to send press info and some SITOR traffic. Warszawa Radio used to have really powerful transmitters with full size rhombics directed to many places on Earth. Most of the QTCs and QRJs were handled by two stations Gdynia Radio (SPH c/s on CW), Szczecin Radio (SPE on CW). They got a lot of traffic during their golden time.
Jan Kupski, who worked as a shift manager at Gdynia Radio remembers: „Very nice people used to work there. To be frank, Szczecin served more vessels than we had at Gdynia Radio. Szczecin took care of PŻM ships, we served Dalmor ships, for example trawlers, and PLO ships. Especially true in 70s and 80s when I used to work there. I was working at SPH for 40 years. Right now I’m retired”.
History of Gdynia Radio started before WW II. As we achieved our independency the only port available for Poland was Puck. No matter how small it was all vessels came to Puck because there was simply no alternative. There was a small radio station of Polish Navy near this port. It used military PCK call sign but also exchanged information with merchant navy vessels. Even some larger foreign ships visited Puck – only if they could pass through the shallow waters of the Puck Bay, enter the port and moor here. Later the Puck Radio used different callsign and frequency for communication with all military units. At this time an official radio prefix for Poland was TP, later changed to SP.
A few years later Polish government decided to build larger port in Gdynia, that eventually would become a competitor to non-Polish Gdańsk (Danzig at this time). Still before WW II a new, better radio station was needed. Long wave transatlantic station using two Alexanderson generators already has been built in Babice near Warsaw, it was up and running 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week. This station provided worldwide coverage on two frequencies 16,4 kHz and 14,29 kHz with callsigns AXL and AXO. Similar station was built at Grimeton, Sweden.
Jan Kupski says: „Everything was difficult these times. Polish government decided to deploy as new technology as possible. Emil Jurkiewicz, ham radio enthusiast and transmitter chief engineer has found a good place to build the station at. New transmitter centre was built in Oksywie near Gdynia. Nothing was there, just a forest, no buildings at all. Right now it’s very busy part of the city, full of houses and the people. But before WW II there was only one bad, sandy, unpaved road. It was the place. All antennas were built there, covering medium waves and 500 kc, two RCA transmitters were bought, transported on board a vessel and finally installed. There were also shortwave transmitters but I don’t know anything about them. I have myself seen the RCA transmitters – the same that have been bought before 2nd WW. They worked all the time until the end of Gdynia Radio/SPH. I’ve seen the original plate of RCA with serial number „6” or „7”. The government decided to buy the newest transmitters available. They worked for years with only minor changes. I heyed this transmitter myself when I worked on 500kHz station in Gdynia Radio”.
Szczecin Radio in 1964
Receiving part of Gdynia Radio was in Witomino, also near Gdynia. Original installation was used up to 1965. Then a disaster struck.
Jan Kupski said: „Receivers and transmitters were good enough for Baltic, we had the coverage, everything was going well. In the 1965 Polish fishermen started their work in rough waters of the North Sea. They were sailing on small trawlers of B17 series – we called them „birdies” because of their names. Three of them went under. First, then second then third – such a tragedy. They were bad unlucky ships. There was no radio connection to them from Gdynia, fishermen died, nobody could help”.
The communist party decided that a newer, better radio station would be built. This station should hear Polish vessels at greater distances, especially from the North Sea. The „birdies” were scrapped. Many new ships were built, new radio sets were produced. One of them was „Wieloryb” (a whale in Polish). It was a licensed copy of Elektromekano S series main transmitter, later modified to use 2 tubes QB3/300 in the final stage delivering 600W on CW and a some less on AM. All Polish vessels were voice capable at this time but only on AM. We needed just a better coast station.
Jan Kupski remembers: „A special department of Ministry of Communication was established. They had to find a good place for the receiving station. Zbyszko Kupczyk, a well known ham radio operator SP5ZK used to work there, he travelled and checked all possible places. I even had a QSO with him. He told me that several places were considered and eventually Rekowo Górne won. Nobody knew why. I was told that it was a political thing. Eventually our receiving station was built there. All equipment such as switches and antennas were built by Polish companies. Antennas were a copy of Soviet ABRH and ABRW receiving aerials. They were excellent. I personally think that ABRH and ABRW are one of the best stationary receiving antennas that have ever been built”.
ABRH receiving aerials /typical short waves antennas used in the Countries of SOVIET block
After 2nd WW there was a breakup in construction of receiving antennas – Americans learned about Yagi and logperiodics antennas in Japan but Russians used traditional multielement travelling wave antennas. They were used in a set of 2×3 and even more. Such sets of ABRH (horizontal) and ABRW (vertical) multi element travelling wave receiving antennas were built in Rekowo Górne near Gdynia. It took a few years to build such a complicated setup. Right now there is a department of Office of Digital Communication, in the same building.
Transmitting center in Oksywie was also refitted with new transmitters and antennas, Gdynia Radio started its new era in Rekowo Górne. We as a country from Eastern block got a special permission from the Western countries to buy a high power Marconi transmitters and new Marconi and Racal receivers. They were state of the art of the time. At this time IMO implemented single sideband voice communication – Gdynia Radio upgraded the equipment just in time. In the 1971 everything was pure SSB. At the same time all Polish vessels had their radio upgraded to the new Polish Mewa (mewa – a seagull in Polish) transmitters and EKV receivers. Even some foreign ships used this main transmitter, the performance was similar to Marconi Conqueror at two third of its size.
Jak Kupski says: „Mewa was really good transmitter, reliable and powerful. Vessels had their former radio equipment scrapped and new integrated station was fitted in. It was state of the art, rugged, solid, worked all the time, later versions had digital frequency synthesizer. Four 4CX250 tubes delivered full kilowatt of output power so all the Polish vessels could be easily heard. Some problems were caused by a faulty transistor in the synthesizer unit but it was enough to change the transistor to a Western one. Worked like charm”.
Last SSB message sent by GDYNIA RADIO
Marcin Marciniak, SP5XMI