Wick Radio

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Wick Radio GKR
in wartime

The Coast Radio Station service played a special role during wartime, providing a means of relaying urgent traffic to both ships and land stations.

Little evidence of this important role remains - although the end of the cold war and the internet may bring more information to light.

from German U-Boat Records

U-Boat records from 1940, published at, contain the following records of traffic from GKR:-

Enemy Situation on 14th April 1940

1358 - Radio intelligence report 1340: Wick radio sent urgent W/T message to Alesund for Admiral Smart in Lillhammer at 1232. At 1240 extremely urgent W/T message for Reid at Grand Hotel Andalsnes.

Enemy Situation on 14th April 1940

0645 - W/T traffic Aalesund to Wick: The Germans are coming (GKR)

1750 - Radio intelligence report (special) 1715: Wick to unknown unit directions to proceed via grid 4964 AF, 3715 AF to prearranged position. (added by Intelligence Office: presumably convoy).

U802 Message to Wick Radio GKR

World War Two: wireless message sent at 18.55 hours on 10 May 1945
by the Kommandant of the German U-Boat, U-802, to Wick Radio Station.

Text in rather garbled German, accompanied by an attempted translation into English, which reads:
"(Request?) you will burn all lights (Repeat) lights (?last word). i.e. Lighthouses."

It would appear that the Kommandant was having navigation difficulties and needed more light as he was approaching the port of Wick, en route to his destination at Loch Eriball, even though there was and still is a lighthouse on the tip of Wick harbour breakwater. He was able however, to complete his journey, as it is recorded that U-802 arrived at Loch Eriball on the northern coast of Sutherland, some 80 miles away by sea, on the following day, 11 May 1945, where his U-Boat surrendered.
The boat was then transferred to Lisahally, Northern Ireland for Operation Deadlight
and was sunk on 31st Dececmber 1945 in position 55.30N, 08.25W.

During WWII, Wick radio station played an important role and had the capacity to monitor radio signals to and from vessels within a minimum 600 mile radius, a capacity which became of even greater importance after the German invasion of Norway in April 1940 and the commencement of Arctic convoys in August 1941.

Loss of HMS Exmouth

Extracts from the report on the loss of HMS Exmouth off of Wick

The entire crew of 189 were lost when the 1475 ton 1934-built E-Class destroyer HMS Exmouth  (Captain R.S.Benson), was torpedoed 20 miles off Wick by the U-22 (KL Karl-Heinrich Jenisch), at 04.44 hrs on 21 January 1940. The German Grid reference was given as AN1684, which equates to about 582100N, 022400W.  Warship Losses of WW2 gives the position of torpedoing as 581800N, 022500W.

Chief Officer Albert Clark was on watch in Cyprian Prince, which was following at a safe distance of four cables astern of Exmouth on a course of 330° at 10 knots. Both vessels continued to steam northwards as night fell. The sea was calm, and visibility good. The Exmouth’s stern light was still in sight of the Cyprian Prince at 04.44hrs when Clark heard one explosion, and thinking Exmouth was dropping depth charges, called Captain Wilson, who was in his bunk, to the bridge. Wilson had arrived on the bridge when, at 04.48hrs there was a second detonation, which Clark described as “a terrific explosion, much louder than the first”, and Exmouth’s stern light disappeared.

Cyprian Prince’s radio operator William Costello, logged at 05.07hrs “Called GKR (Wick Radio), giving secret callsign, “SOS. Sinking in 5818N, 0225W””. Costello then looked out to see two well lit neutral ships which had been following Cyprian Prince all night. (These were thought to be the Danish Tekla, and the Norwegian Miranda).

The Admiralty claim the first news of the sinking of the Exmouth was when Cyprian Prince reached Kirkwall at 13.00hrs. This was despite the fact that Captain Wilson had attempted to send a visual signal by Aldis lamp to Noss Head, Duncansby Head and Muckle Skerry, as he passed each in turn, but had been unable to elicit any response. We also know from U-22’s Ktb that they heard either the destroyer or the steamship sending at a very rapid speed “SOS. Sinking in lat 58°18’N, long 02°25’W”, and Wick Radio (GKR) on the 600 metre waveband repeating “SOS unknown vessel sinking in position 5818N, 0225W”.


Arctic Convoys

The Arctic Convoys which supplied the Russian Allies in Murmansk left from Loch Ewe in north-west Scotland. Communications in wartime would be very limited although the signal to sail could come from a very brief coded message sent by a coast radio station.

Following are some links which provide further information on the Arctic Convoys-