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Niton Radio GNI

Early History of Niton Radio GNI

Niton Radio GNI stood alongside names like Lizard and Landsend GLD in it's historical link with the development of Wireless by Marconi.

Niton was one of the first stations built by Marconi and in January 1901 exchanged signals with Lizard Radio, at that time a record distance at 196 miles.

On 29th September 1909 Marconi's existing station was taken over by the British General Post Office. Four years later the GPO took on the rent of land at Niton Undercliff where there was already a Lloyd's Signal Station and Coastguard Houses together with a building in which the new Niton Radio was installed. This site was subsequently purchased by the GPO in 1951.

In 1921 tests were carried out of a direction finding system which led to the introduction of DF at other UK coast stations.

Wartime at Niton Radio GNI

In wartime Niton Radio served an area critical to the UK's maritime defences.

During WW2 the area around Niton suffered a bombing attack with deaths resulting at St Catherine's Lighthouse and the Undercliff Hotel. The bombing raid was carefully calculated by the German forces to take place when the radar system on the Isle of Wight was down for it's weekly maintenance period. One story suggests that GNI may have suffered damage during this raid but, so far, this cannot be confirmed.

In preparations for the D-Day landings, RT tranmitters were installed at Niton, controlled by the Navy at Portsmouth. A mobile coast station was also set up near Chichester with landlines being provded between this and GNI. Following Operation Overlord the Inspector of Wireless Telegraphy received a message from the Admiralty thanking the GNI staff for their work.

Post WW2

Maritime radiotelephony facilities were installed at GNI in 1947, introducing a communications revolution for smaller commercial and pleasure vessels.

In the 1950's the equipment at Niton, in line with other UK coast stations, was upgraded.

In 1959 GNI was one of the first UK coast stations to be fitted with VHF. The radio equipment for this was located at St Boniface Down, a site 800 feet above sea level with antennas mounted on a 180 foot high mast.


Details of Niton Radio GNI in 1975

Transmitter Location
50deg 34' 48"N
01deg 17' 40"W

Address
PO Radio Station, Dean, Whitwell Road, Ventnor, Isle of Wight PO38 2AB

Telephone - Niton 730405

Telex - 86167

Selective Calling Number - 3203

Frequencies

MF Radiotelegraphy    
Distress and Calling 500kHz H24
Broadcasts and main working 464kHz See below for broadcast times
Working and alternative calling when 500kHz occupied by distress working 512kHz  
Direction finding 410kHz  
MF Radiotelephony    
Monitored distress and international calling frequency 2182kHz H24
Monitored UK calling frequency 2381kHz 0900-1700 UK local time Monday to Saturday
Answering frequency
UK Ships
1792kHz H24
Answering frequency
non-UK ships and all Distress traffic
2182kHz H24
GNI Transmitter Working frequencies

1834kHz

2628kHz
2831kHz
1925kHz
2810kHz

Broadcast and main working frequency
SSFC Transmit Frequency 2170.5kHz 3203
GNI Receiving frequencies 2009kHz
2111kHz
2527kHz
2562kHz
2049kHz
2056kHz
channel 1
channel 4
channel 5
channel 17
international working
international working
VHF Radiotelephony    
Distress and calling Channel 16 H24
Broadcast and working channels 4
5
25
28
 

Broadcast Schedule

Radiotelegraphy

Traffic Lists
0018 0218 0418 0618 0818 1018 1218 1418 1618 1818 2018 2218

Navigation Warnings
0830 1230 1630 2030

Weather Forecasts
0830 2030

Gale Warnings
On receipt and at 0818 1218 1618 2018

Decca Warnings
On receipt and at 0818 1218 1618 2018

Radiotelephony

Traffic Lists on 1834kHz and Channel 28 VHF
0133 0533 0933 1133 1333 1533 1733 1933 2133 2333

Navigation Warnings
0233 0633 1033 1433 1833 2233

Weather Forecasts
0833 2033

Gale Warnings
On receipt and at 0303 0903 1503 2103

Decca Warnings
On receipt, then at three minutes past the next hour and one hour later


from "Maritime News" 2nd February 1977

Point-to-Point Duty for Niton

Niton Radio began a less familiar emergency role in the early hours of Wednesday, January 26th. A submarine cable breakdown had cut off the Channel Islands from direct communication with the English mainland. Niton was asked to help.

Some 19 telegrams - all of "life and death" category - were passed by radiotelephone between Niton and one of its opposite number in the Channel Islands, Jersey Radio, which is opersted by the Jersey Harbours and Airport Department.

"The process of passing traffic to the Island was rather laborious", explained Sid Abram, Niton Officer-in-Charge. "Each message had to be dictated to the Island Radio Station and then to the inland office."

By 0600 hours on Thursday, January 27th, severe weather in the Channel had moderated sufficiently to allow HMTS "Iris" to make temporary repairs to one of the broken cables. These she completed by the early hours of Friday and returned to Dover Strait. "Iris" was replaced by "Monarch", which began work to repair all the cables permanently.


Close Down

During the month of May 1997, United Kingdom coast radio stations broadcast the following information at their weather broadcast times:-

The following MF and VHF channels will close at midnight on 31st May 1997

  • NITON RADIO - MF Channel Uniform
  • SHETLAND RADIO - VHF Ch.27
  • NITON RADIO - VHF Ch.85
  • CLYDE RADIO - VHF Ch.26
  • At the same time, NITON RADIO/GNI will cease all WT services.

    HASTINGS RADIO - VHF Ch.66 will cease on 16th June 1997.

    = Maritime Radio Service 071200z May '97 +

    And so, after 97 years, there ceased to be a manned ship-to-shore communications stations on the Isle of Wight.

    The name of Niton Radio was still heard, but a shadow of it's former self. The staff had gone and the old transmitter site had closed. MF RT broadcasting operations continued, now coming via a small remotely-controlled transmitter installed in the old receiving/operations building. VHF operations also continued, again remotely controlled.

    In common with other UK coast stations, even these services eventually closed, with the exception of the Navtex service which remained in service but controlled entirely by HM Coastguard.

    Niton Radio Navtex antenna

     

    Ship's Nostalgia - The Radio Room

    Niton Radio GNI

    Niton Radio/GNI - 1997