Oostende Radio Callsigns "OST & OSU"
September 2006
Text & Pictures by Michel Bougard, Pre retired Radio Officer, GMDSS GOC, Aircraft ROC
The text below is a free translation made by Michel Bougard.
In an untouched natural reserve dunes area of 3, 6 ha, along the Dr Hector Verhaeghelaan, is located the sending radio station of Middelkerke.

The 65m high sending masts are like a beacon visible kilometres around.
Those noticeable antennas are part of the "RCS", the “Radio Communications Services” of the Ministry of Defence.
The installation were first property of the "RTT", the “Regie van Telegraaf en Telefoon”, then later of “Belgacom”, the historic telecommunication operator of Belgium, but in April 1997 * it was fully transferred to the “BIPT”, the “Belgian Institute of Postal Services and Telecommunications”, then in 2001 ** to the Ministry of Defence.

The sending station of Middelkerke, together with the sending station in Ruiselede (Wingene) and receiving station of Oudenburg are part of the former RMD, the “Radio Maritiem Diensten”, the “Radio Maritime Services”, with the main building in the “Perronstraat” in Ostend, better known as “Oostende radio”.

 After the First World War, the coast station Oostende radio, with call letters OST, was located in wood barracks near the Ostend water tower, which was used for antenna mast.

When the building became too small, the radio telephone services moved to a small building of the aeronautical services on the “Torhoutsesteenweg”, near the airport.

In 1930, Oostende radio started tests of telephony in duplex. With the increasing radio traffic, the coast station soon became again too small.

In 1932 the exploitation services (operators, administration) and the receiving station of the water tower were moved to Stene. At the same time the sending station was moved to a new building in Middelkerke. Around 1938, Middelkerke was equipped with an own build RTT telegraph transmitter.

The following year, the equipment was extended to a telephone transmitter and a telegraph transmitter.

The two 65 m high masts for the transmitter antennas and the first remote control facility from Stene are of that period.

After the Second World War, the remains of the Middelkerke en Stene stations were no more useable. The 1st September 1945, Oostende radio was able to resume the radio telephony service for the fishing boats with a “Philips” transmitter.

The two 65 m high masts of Middelkerke were rebuilt in 1946.

The original by the RTT developed remote control system between Stene and Middelkerke, made possible to command the transmitters with one circuit.
In the year 1949, Middelkerke was equipped with two additional medium wave telephony transmitters build in Brussels and a third transmitter mast.

 The 1950 inventory of the Middelkerke Sending Station shows the following:
- 3 medium wave telegraphy transmitters of 2 KW;
- 2 short wave Collins telegraphy transmitters of 5 KW;
- 2 medium wave telephony transmitters.

 In the following years, with the already increased radio traffic, the VHF channels were putted into service in Middelkerke.

In a later period, various services to the shipping navigation were created, Teleprinting Over Radio (TOR), NAVTEX (Navigational warnings), Autolink RT-System (Automatic radio telephone connection ship – shore) and DSC (Digital Selective Calling).

Till 1970, the Football Club “Goldstar” of Middelkerke had their soccer field on the location but was moved in order to make free spaces for three additional sending masts.

The remains are the former cloakroom that is now used as chicken room for the caretaker.

 Actually, Middelkerke have:

- 4 MARCONI transmitters for medium and short wave radio communication with ships;
- 2 SAIT transmitters for Belgian and English south and southeast coasts maritime areas NAVTEX messages transmissions;
- 5 MOTOROLA VHF transmitters for short distance DSC and radiotelephone communications.

 Each transmitter has their own antennas which are placed between the eight transmitter masts, 4 of 65 m, 3 of 55 m and 1 of 35 m high.

All transmitters are remotely controlled from the coast station “Oostende Radio”.

In order to cope with an electrical energy breakdown, Middelkerke is equipped with an emergency generator of 300 KW.

End 1976, with the new caretaker home putted into service, the total surface of the sending station buildings are now 510 m².

 Oostende radio has two objectives.

The most important is at first a safety function.

From the operator room in Ostend, it is the continuous listening of the emergency calls from the ships at sea.

If a ship sends an emergency call, is position is fixed and the contacts are made with the salvage services.

The task of Oostende radio is limited to the coordination and the communications.

The second function is the establishment of commercial radio communication between ship and shore but it is decreasing with the development of the GSM and the satellite telephones.

Since 2001 Oostende radio belongs to the Ministry of Defence who don’t want to use exclusively satellite communication for communication with the troops in the foreign.

The military authorities need their own world wide reliable radio sending station.

Oostende radio remains a needed link, with the stopping of the like coast stations in the Netherlands, France and United Kingdom, for our close countries that are using it with thanks.

The transmitter mast will remains for many year in the skyline of Middelkerke and for many on road to beach, sun and sea.

 Middelkerke, the 24th of September 2006.

  The postal address of the “Oostende radio” sending station is:

Dr Hector Verhaeghelaan, 3
B-8430 Middelkerke.

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