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Portishead Radio operations building at Burnham on Sea / Highbridge Somerset 1972
Closedown of Portishead Radio / GKA

PORTISHEAD RADIO/GKA,
the United Kingdom's long range radio station
and one of the world's most famous names
in the maritime communications field,
closed at 1200z on Sunday 30th April 2000
ending 81 years of service.

Amateur Radio Special Event

On Saturday 29th April 2000 from 0700z to 1900z a special once-only and CW-only Amateur Radio event took place with cross-band communications between the Amateur stations and Portishead.

With Portishead Radio using it's multi-kilowatt transmitters at Rugby and it's remote receiving array at Somerton, the station's Radio Officers at Burnham gave Radio Amateurs,  sitting in the comfort of their own radio shacks, the chance to communicate directly with GKA before the station's transmitters fell silent for the final time.

The frequency arrangements for this events were as follows:-

Portishead Radio Callsign Frequency     Amateur Frequency
+or- 5 kHz
GKB2 4274 3525
GKB4 8559.5 7025
GKB5 12835.4 14050
GKB6 17113 18075
GKB7 22448.7 21050
Three stations operated at any one time, subject to the commercial requirements of the station, and special efforts were made to beam towards Commonwealth countries at appropriate times.
 
BT appointed the Radio Officers Association to handle the amateur side of this operation and the liaison officer was David Barlow G3PLE. All QSO's received a QSL card via the RSGB bureau.
 
Portishead Radio Amateur Radio closedown event QSL card side 1
Portishead Radio Amateur Radio closedown event QSL card side 2

The Final Day of Portishead Radio / GKA

On the 30th April 2000 hourly broadcast announcements gave details of the station's final broadcast times.  

In the final hour a "private" message was heard being broadcast by one of the station's "old timers".   The message read:-

CQ de GKB =

This message is from an R/O who has been working into and from GKB since 1963

=   krs and 73s

 = John Hocking +

RadioTelephony Closedown - 1200 GMT

In the run-up to the station's final RadioTelephony broadcast the station's frequencies were once again being marked by an elderly Post Office "circuit adjustment" recording specially resurrected to mark the occasion, something which brought back memories of yesteryear to many Radio Officers and Post Office Radio Engineers:-

"This is a transmission from the Portishead Terminal of the Ship's Radio Telephone Service of the British Post Office.

This transmission is for circuit adjustment purposes.   No acknowledgement of this transmission is required, except by users of the service, at this time."

The final radiotelephony broadcast was made at 1200 GMT, first on 4383, 8764 and 12346kHz and then on 17245, 19755 and 22711khz.

RTT - Radioteleprinter

The final RTT broadcast transmitted automatically as 1201z and carried a message identical to that read on radiotelephony and sent on CW.

The Final GKB CW Broadcast

Finally, the sequence of close-down events finished with a hand-keyed message broadcast on CW on the stations GKB range of transmitters.

The message read:-

"CQ CQ CQ de GKB2/4/5/6 =

This is the last broadcast from Portishead Radio.   For 81 years we have served the maritime community.   We say thankyou to all those who have supported and used our station.

We pay tribute to Marconi who made it all possible.   His first transmissions across water were made from nearby here and so started the radio era.   We are proud to have been part of that era.

As this historic time in the commercial messaging world comes to a close the manager and radio officers wish you farewell from Portishead Radio/GKB + SK

The signal SK indicates end of sending - in the Amateur Radio world it also stands for Silent Key., used when a Radio Amateur dies, never to be heard on air again.