Sunday, August 31, 2008



I wonder how many of you have pondered as to the beginning of this means of communication in this country. Its origin maybe traced back to the disastrous floods of 1926 in Pahang when many lives and much property was lost. In those days wireless communication only existed at the Coast Stations of Penang (at Penaga) and Singapore (at Paya Lebar) and those Coast Stations only provided communication with ships at sea, on the international marine frequency of 500 kcs (popularly knows as 600 metres). During the floods, all land line communication in the affected areas was interrrupted: Pahang being the worst State thus affected. It was decided to have a system of floods warning right from the upper reaches of the Pahang River to its mouth. A scheme of installing Wireless Stations suitably was driven up and equipment ordered. The places selected were:

1. Kuala Lipis - On top of Bukit Buis, where the present metrological station is.
2. Temerloh - Near the Temerloh Club, behind the A.D.O' s bungalow. Temerloh is right on the bank of the Pahang River and is roughly halfway down the river. It was the official residence of the Tengku Mahkota of Pahang.

3. Mentakab - Behind the Rest House, on top of the Hill near the railway Station. Mentakab is the Railway Station for Temerloh and during a flood, communicationwas cut off between these two towns due to the low-lying land between them.

4. Kuala Pahang - At the mouth of the Pahang River, behind the Rest House and facing the China Sea. Kuala Pahang is only 5 miles from Pekan, the seat of the ruler of the state.

5. Kuantan - Chief town on the East Coast.
The Post and Telegraph Department was given the old Police Ammunition Store in a remote part of the town on top of Petaling Hill (Present Petaling Hill Station) for use as an experimental wireless station. This building was just one four- walled room with two windows and one door. This was partitioned into two rooms by the Department making one half to be used for Radio Equipment and the other for batteries, Power Supply and charging equipment.
The first radio equipment odered was two Marconi type S250 Short Wave Transmitters with type RG24 Marconi Shortwave Receivers and two Marconi type XMDI Mediumwave Transmitters with Mediumwave Receivers. The shortwave equipment was for telegrapy and the Mediumwave for telephony operation. The Engineer in charge then (oficially called Engineer -operator) was Mr. S.R Drayton (later Senior Engineer Wireless). He had one Asst. Mr. W.G. Oakes who was later joined by Mr. P.H.F George and in 1931 by Mr. W.C Gee from Hong Kong.
Application from volunteers from Department staff for training Wireless operating were called for the and the first to be taken in were, among others Messrs. I. Bain (VS2CB) and S. Thirunvakarasu. These were followed early in 1929 by Messrs. Chan Pak Seng, Teja Singh, Harbak Singh (VS2AZ), E. Suppiah, G. Harikrishanan and C.S Arumainaygam.
After a few months of training the operators were sent out to man the various Stations and the first billeting in about January 1929 was as follows:

Kuala Pahang - Mr. S. Thirunavakarasu
Kuala Lipis - Mr. C.S. Arumunaiyagam
Temerloh - Mr. Arulsamy
Mentakab - Mr. I Bain (VS2CB)
Kuantan - Mr. O. A Filmer

At Petaling Hill and Kuantan in 1929 and Kuantan, in 1929 the equipment consisted of S250 Marconi Shortwave Transmitter, with R.G 24 type Receiver and associated power plant.
The S250 Transmitter alloted to Kuantan was installed in a lorry with the petrol driven generator and mast in another, and en route to Kuantan, test were carried out from many places to select possible sites for future station. On arrival at Kuantan the station was operated from this lorries for some time and then installed in an old dilapidated bungalow at Teluk Sisek near the A.D.O's bungalow. This station remained here until 1939 when a new permenant building (the present one) at Tanah Puteh was erected and new all-mains equipment installed therein.
At the flood Emergency Stations - Kuala Lipis, Temerloh, Mentakab and Kuala Pahang, the equipment consisted of one local made transmitter (a one valve -MT11 - Hartley oscillator job) and a shortwave receiver which varied with each station, being either Marconi, Igranicor Philips type. These transmitters were powered by rotary convertors running on 32 volt batteries, for charging Delco Petrol Generators were installed at each station. The receivers had their filament supplies tapped off the main battery and dry batteries were used for H.T Supply.
Starting off in 1929, these stations were installed hurriedly even in rooms adjoining kitchens of rest houses as at Mentakab and Kuala Pahang and later permenant building were erected.

You may wonder why Kuala Pahang was chosen and not Pekan where H.H the Sultan of Pahang has his Istana. It was originally intended to erect this station at Pekan but upon arrival these information was received that the whole town of Pekan used to be under water during heavy floods, hence the hurried switchcover to Kuala Pahang, about five miles away.
In those days the only overland approach to Pekan was by boat from Temerloh the Kuantan-Pekan road being non existant. The journey from Temerloh to Pekan a distance of about 129 miles took a little over a day and half with a night stop at Lubuk Paku (approximately half way down river). We had to sit on wooden benches of the motor boat for 8 hours at a stretch. There was an alternative route by sea from Singapore or Kuantan up to Kuala Pahang, where lighters or small motor boats would meet the Straits Steamships boats in the open sea, but this was only possible for a few months of the year when the sea was not rough. During the monsoon period it was often dificult to unload cargo or disembark passengers as the lighters or prahus could not go near the boats due to very rough sea and on many occasions I have seen the Straits Steamship boats of the LIPIS class being tossed about so much that their propellors could be seen from the shore when their sterns were showing above the water due to the severe rolling.
These station provided very good services for the purpose for which they were erected. Whenever rain fell in the upper reaches of the Pahang River , the water rose say ten feet at Kuala Lipis, this was at once communicated to all the other stations inthe network and at once teh authorities at Temerloh and Pekan knew, when and towhat height, to expect the flood water to reach their place, and immediate warning were given to the civil population to evacuate to safer ground where necessary. It took approximately two days for floods water from Kuala Lipis area to reach peak level at Temerloh and another two days for them to reach peak level at Pekan. During monsoon periods and whenever floods seemed imminent all stations had to keep up 24 hour watches and give hourly readings of the flood levels warnings, other urgent messages were also handled.
All these stations including the main stations at Kuala Lumpur and Kuantan started operating in the 40 meter Amateur band and also had Amateur Call-signs as under:

Kuala Lumpur - VS2AH
Kuala Lipis - VS2AK
Mentakab - VS2AM
Kuantan - VS2AG
Temerloh - VS2AL
Kuala Pahang - VS2AP
These callsigns continued until 1931 when our stations were registered at Berne and alloted Z callsigns.
At about the same time 1929 and at the request of the Police Dept. , a Radio-Telephone service was opened between Port Swettenham and Pulau Ketam, the Marconi type XMDI TRansmitters and associated receivers being installed at each Police Station. The frequency used was in the region of 1500 Kcs. Also a coastStation for Shipto Shore working was opened in Port Swettenham in 1930 with the call sign of ZCD and under the charge of Mr. O.A. Filmer. This station was to take over all traffic from shipping which were to call at this port. This only lasted for a short period as the number of messages handled were so few that it was found not economical to keep it going.
After closing down of the Port Swettenham coast station, the transmitter, a Marconi 1/2 KW, was brought to Kuala Lumpur and ued for test Broadcast transmission on about 220 meters.
A society called the Malayan Amateur Radio Society was formed by some enthusiasts among them being Messrs. W.J.A Mallon of Cumberbatch & Co. A.N. Farqharson of Hallam & Co. and Dr. Byron of the Institute for Medical Research, James Macintosh (VS2AA) and Mr Loke Yaik Foo. Programmers for these broadcast transmission were supplied by this Society and consisted of gramophone records loaned by the local music dealers Messrs. Moutrie & Co. and Robinson Piano Co. On some occasions live programmers were tried out from the Selangor Club. Later, a garage at Petaling Hill was converted into a Studio and news and live items were broadcast.
For a start, this broadcasting was done on three days a week from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. For about a year these broadcasts remained on medium wave and after the installation of a new Shortwave Radio-Telephone Transmitter at Petaling Hill, these broadcast were changed to Shortwave 48.92 meters. This Radio society closed down after some time but the Post and Telegraph Dept. carried on these broadcasts which eventually became a daily affair. From the outbreak of the second world war in 1939 a half hour in the early morning was added for relaying the BBC news bulletin. The last official news bulletin bradcast from this station was at 8.30 am on the 7th January 1942 just before the station was militarily evacuated.
In 1930, normal telegraph traffic was started between Kuala Lumpur and Kuantan replacing the landlines used, and to enable duplex working to be carried out Receiving Stationwas built at Kenny Road in the Lake Gardens area of Kuala Lumpur in 1931. A shortwave Radio -Telephone Transmitter -Marcony Type S3A was installed at Petaling Hill in 1931 and Radio-Telephone test carried out with Bandung and Bangkok and after the successfull completion of this test Radio Telephone Services were opened with these countries. These Radio Telephone services were extended later to Saigon and Manila. A Radio Telephone service to the U.K was made available via Bandung and Amsterdam. Due to these expanding Radio-Telephone services, a Marconi Radio Terminal equipment complete with echo-suppressors and secrecy device was ordered and installed in Kuala Lumpur Telephone Exchangein 1938. Before this installation, we only had hybrid terminations at our end.
When this type S3A transmitter was installed, it was used for Radio-telephone in the day time and for broadcasting in the evenings on 48.92 meters. Local and BBC news were relayed in addition to other programmes as mentioned above.
When the Receiving Station at Kenny Road was ready in 1931 a W/T service was made available on request to the RAF and Civil Air Lines operating those days-the Imperial Airways and the KLM (Dutch).
Due to success of the Radio Telephone services, a large programme of expansion was plotted out and a new Transmitting Station built at Cochcrane Road and completed in 1941. The first equipment to be installed at the station was new Marconi SWB8 R/T Transmitter but before the installation was completed war came to this country and this equipment was dismantled and taken to Singapore.
Experiment in V.H.F were carried out in the late thirties by W.C Gee who was an ardent advocate of V.H.F communication in this country. All V.H.F transmitters and receivers were locally built at Petaling Hill. At one time (1940) round the clock VHF test were carried out between Petaling Hull and Kuantan (Bukit Ubi) on about 60 Megacycles using a turntile array Petaling Hill and an ordanary dipole at Kuantan end. Result were very variable ranging from strength to complete fadeouts.
A system of Air Raid warning was in use in Kuala Lumpur during the Japanese attack on Malaya using this VHF system. A number of VHF receivers on a fixed frequency, built at Petaling Hill, were installed at the main Siren Control stations in Kuala Lumpur and in addition at all the Civil Defence A.R.P sector post all over the town, including the main operations room below the P.W.D building. At Petaling Hill on receipt of an Air Raid alarm from the observation posts we would play a recordingof an "alert" on hearing which the siren post would switch on their sirens for warning the public, and the A.R.P Wardens would muster for appropriate action. The same thing applied for the "all clear." There were occasions when we would not receive any warning from the observation posts and the first notice we would get, was bombs falling on the K.L airfield, on seeing and hearing which we would put onthe "alert" record and run the shelter nearby expecting bombs to fall on the station at any moment, for the enemy planes would always pass over the wireless station after releasing bombs on the airfield, due to its close proximity.

After the war in 1947 for the first time, wireless stations were installed at Kuala Trengganu using RCA type 4332 Transmitters at Kota Bharu using BC 610 Transmitters.

Further for supplementing the land lines and also to act as a standby in case of land line failures for variuos causes, ex -Army AN/TRC type VHF Frequency Modulated equipment was used to provide three-channel services from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Lipis , Trengganu, Kuantan and Penang using Frasers Hill as a relay Station, for the East Coast side, and adding Maxwells Hill for the circuit to Penang. Later in 1952 due to the emergency one link was opened to Singapore with repeaters in Malacca, Kluang and Mount Faber. These circuits were replaced with 48 channel Marconi HM 100VHF equipment in 1954 and these in turn have been superseded by 600 channel and 960 channel microwave equipment carrying circuits from Kuala Lumpur to Penang and Singapore.


A few month before the Japanese occupation of Kuala Lumpur their Broadcasting section arrived, and was alloted the top of Bluff Road Hill (Old Police Depot) for the transmitting equipment. For a start they brought along a 50 watts medium wave trans mitter operating about 250 meters. After installing this up in the old Police canteen building (beside the barracks and on top of the Railway tunnel which run under this hill) regular programmers were started with recorded music and newscast. Meanwhile the whole building of Messrs. Guthrie & Co in Java Street (Mountbatten Road) was taken over for the administration and studios of this Broadcast section.

A few month later a 10 KW Medium wave Broadcast Transmitter was received from Japan and this was installed in the long barracks situated at the centre of this hill top. This transmitter incidentally was of standard telephones and cable (British) manufacture with Japanese power supply equipment. All this equipment occupied most of the two floors of this barracks. Two self supporting towers ex Cochrane Road (Telecoms Station) were erected here after necessary repairs, these having been blown down with guncotton charges during the military evacuation.

A large cooling well was dug by the side of this barracks for the circulation of water for cooling the large watercooled valves used for this transmitter, and suitable pumping machinery installed for this.

The call-sign alloted to Kuala Lumpur was JMBK (Japanese Callsign)
A large and very comprehensive counterpoise earth was buried all over the place.
Although considerable power was rediated reception in Malaya was not as expected, for this station could hardly be heard in Penang or Singapore by curiously enough good reports were received from Bangkok and Sumatra. the aerial was a T type running broadside to North and South which should normally have given better results to Penang and Singapore. It is therefore suspected that there are some heavy mineral deposits North and South of Bluff Road to account for this great absorption in this directions.

Towards the end of 1942, it was proclaimed by the Occupation authorities that all Radio sets should be brought in to stipulated depots and have their shortwave portion sealed so that no one would be able to receive any station except the local medium wave official broadcast. At these depots, the wave hand switches were locked in the medium wave positions and sealed with lead seal's and wire and in addition to this the oscillator coils of the other shortwave bands were shorted out and in some states these oscillator coils were altogether taken out of the sets. Anyone found listening in on unsealed Radios were liable to have their heads chopped off.

On the arrival of the liberation forces a broadcast was made from this Guthrie Building Studios by General Roberts and thereafter the broadcasting was carried on during the British Military Administration from then until the present studios of Radio Malaya in Young Road (ex wards of the old Tanglin Hospital) were ready. A new Transmitting station was built at Kajang and a completion of this the transmitter at Bluff Road closed down and the buildings handed back to Police Dept.

Harbak Singh 9M2AZ (EX VS2AZ)

P/S Will try to get some photos of the Petaling Hill and also the previous Jabatan Telekom
Cochrane Road....I remember most of the old timers used to apply AP from this office.
De 9M2AU


  1. Thank you ,this is a good article .
    Any chance of getting some pics of Petaling Hill ? My family used to live at the telecom station there, and cochrane road also ..

    Thanks again.

  2. Jagmit..I am very sorry at present i am abroad...maybe year end i will take some photos of Petaling Hill....

  3. Thanks, Much Appreciated .
    Jagmit Singh