Marconi -Is this true ?

Citystalbans
20th October 2007, 15:27
The old Radio Officer was entralling me with horendous stories of his days on the big passenger liners, like having to sit at the morse key for hours to get a stupid message through eg 'happy birthday to my niece' etc.
More unbelievable was the tale of attending the Marconi offices for a de brief. He said there were a few of them sitting in a waiting room. There was a little speaker over the interview door and when they wanted you to go in they beeped your call sign in morse. Is this true!
Clearly though all those years of listening to morse had affected him, many times when eating his dinner he would stop motionless with the spoon hallfway to his open mouth --- the radio was on and in the background interference he could hear faint morse signals.

K urgess
20th October 2007, 16:41
Basically, yes.

For the first few days at home any sort of bell including the alarm clock would have me out of bed and halfway down the stairs thinking it was the automatic alarm going off.

If a ship's cabin was particularly creaky I would lie in bed trying to decipher the morse. A lot better than counting sheep (LOL)

pat
20th October 2007, 16:56
yes this is true can remember attending the East Ham depot and sitting in the waiting room and being called in for the next job via badly sent morse over a speaker and everyone asking who the hell are they calling in now !! very
those were the days !!!

Gareth Jones
20th October 2007, 17:05
I used to work at Northforeland radio many years ago - we had our fair share of casualties which were mainly small ships fitted with R/T only - so the two tone R/T alarm signal was a very familiar sound.

After a days work I was fond of a snooze in a comfy armchair prior to going down the boozer !

You may recall the "Man from Uncle" TV series - the hero's communicated by talking into their pens ? (seems riduculous now!) and an incoming call was heralded by a two tone signal which was the same as the R/T alarm signal!

Guaranteed to get me leaping out if the armchair in a panic every time!

athinai
20th October 2007, 18:22
I remember the Morse On the Speaker., Somewhat of an insult to our older brethern I thought., it served no purpose. I also remember my first day at the East-Ham depot and not being familiar with London I had raised a very high Bill for Tube and Taxi. Mr Ash Greeted me and within the same sentence & breath said ''Welcome to Marconi but unfortunately we cannot pay you that amount ''etc., THAT WAS MY FIRST CLUE. (I didn't last long)

Ron Stringer
20th October 2007, 18:30
[QUOTE=Citystalbans;158389]There was a little speaker over the interview door and when they wanted you to go in they beeped your call sign in morse. Is this true!QUOTE]

Although I qualified to go to sea as a ship's Radio Officer in 1959, I had to wait for a vacancy to come up on a ship that could provide for my compulsory supervised 6 months sea time. Early in June 1960, I received a letter summoning me to attend for interview at the Liverpool office of "The Marconi International Marine Communication Company Limited". At that time the office was in a substantial building in Pall Mall, adjacent to Liverpool's Exchange railway station.

On arrival at the office, I followed signs directing visitors up the stairs, into a long corridor with offices on either side. The partitions were glazed with opaque glass and some of those on the right were pierced by hatches, through which could be seen several clerks sitting at desks. After enquiring at one of the hatches I was told to sit in the waiting room until called for interview.

The door of the waiting room was open and contained several chairs and a couple of tables littered with magazines. The only other occupant of the room was a man of about 30-35 years, slumped in an armchair and reading a copy of the Daily Telegraph. In response to my nervous "Good Morning" he lowered the paper slightly and appraised me at some length before offering only a cursory nod and resuming his reading.

Nearly half an hour passed by in silence until I was startled by the sound of Morse code signals from a loudspeaker above the waiting room door. As I had been working as a labourer in a factory for several months, my Morse had become a little rusty. The Morse was sent very well but it was fast and brief, and I struggled to read it. A few minutes passed by and nothing happened but then the Morse shrieked out again. I recognised it as four letters, beginning with 'G' so was relieved to know that it wasn't my name being sent. I relaxed.

After a further interval, the signals came again, this time sent about half a dozen times. Definitely a ship's callsign and therefore nothing to do with me.

Moments later the door of the waiting room burst open and an angry-faced man exploded into the room and glared at me. "Which of you is Smith?" (not the real name) he demanded. Speechlessly I shook my head.

He turned to my companion, who was still reading as if nothing had happened. "You must be Smith then!" he said accusingly to the Daily Telegraph. Slowly the paper was lowered and the reader looked over the top. "I am Mr. John Smith and I would be grateful if you would mind your manners and only address me as such."

The Staff Clerk (for it was he) turned a darker shade of pink and said, "We've been calling you, for the past ten minutes, why didn't you come when called? Are you deaf?"

The reader stared back at the Staff Clerk and said, "The only thing that I heard was the callsign of the SS Nonsuch. As I signed off her in Birkenhead at 4.30 pm yesterday, that callsign couldn't possibly have been anything to do with me."

"Now, if you had need to speak to me, I suggest that it would have been more suitable for you to walk across the corridor from your office to the waiting room and invite me to come with you. Now go away and try that." With that he raised the paper again and returned to his study of the runners and riders for the day.

At that point the Manager's secretary appeared and invited me into his office for my interview. Totally unnerved and wondering what I was getting myself into.

I never did find the outcome of the altercation in the waiting room. The practice of summoning people by Morse continued at Liverpool (and at some other offices) for several years after that, so the small rebellion that I witnessed was not immediately successful.

K urgess
20th October 2007, 18:48
'Fraid I was a naughty boy.

I never went to the depot after paying off. I always went straight home and either rang them up or popped into Hull depot to say I was back. So I've never been summoned by a callsign. I sailed out of Liverpool quite a few times and I can't remember going to that depot at all.

The only time I went into a depot was if I was on the scrounge for something, had to pick up tickets, summoned for a visit to the manager's carpet or when I was after a sub (mostly in foreign parts).

One of the advantages of being on the phone was that I didn't have to report before joining. Good 'cos you could argue a bit without being intimidated when they were trying to persuade you to go back before you were due because they were "short".

mikeg
20th October 2007, 19:19
Is it true that very early on in the East Ham depot they had a Mr Dyer working there with the nickname of Diarrhea, after the way he answered the phone.

Mike

Ron Stringer
20th October 2007, 19:55
Is it true that very early on in the East Ham depot they had a Mr Dyer working there with the nickname of Diarrhea, after the way he answered the phone.

Mike
Not sure about that Mike, I'll check it out on Friday at our monthly MIMCo get-together. From memory there was a Mr Dwyer there, but I normally tried to avoid East Ham - the pit from which emanated postings to many dodgy ships which never came back to Europe or the UK and resulted in 2-year trips.

In Chelmsford we did have a Commercial Manager called Doug Smee who used to answer the 'phone "Smee here." I always had to stop myself from laughing and saying, "It's me here too." Childish but almost irresistible - had to be resisted though, he was a very senior manager and it wouldn't do to be caught taking the ....

steve Coombs
20th October 2007, 23:26
I had experience of the Morse in the waiting room, it all seemed very odd at the time.

Troppo
21st February 2010, 12:41
I had the dubious 'pleasure' of working for Marconi's Australian arm - AWA.

Their attitude was just the same...Master-Slave....

Bastards.

James Clarke
21st February 2010, 14:55
From reading the earlier postings I guess I was more than wise to jump ship very early on and go foreign-flag including free-lance. I never came across the summoning by morse but then I never attended a MIMCo depot except to register my initial interest and availability to take the 6 months as Junior R/O.

I recall the prime reason for going foreign-flag was the fact that at 60/month from which I had to pay back a chunk each month for my multifarious uniforms (which I subsequently referred to as "braid and bullshit" as one was served poor food on silver plate while all togged-up to the 9s in whatever the Old Man deemed to be the outfit for the day) I was being paid less than a bus driver and on going as full R/O with Radar Cert I would get about 8/mth more. Having a significant bank debt (courtesy of my Dad who stood guarantor) to be getting on with reducing and paying back as quickly as possible as I planned to marry I realised that it was essential to get a job with a proper level of pay.

I went foreign-flag and never looked-back (except to make sure I wasn't being followed when travelling home with a large wodge of notes inside my duffel coat) and cleared all my owings within less than a year. I remember the surprise when on reporting to Haifa for my first ship as R/O I was told that I had an allowance for uniform, which nobody wore, but which I could use to have a suit made by the outfitters (finest Yorkshire wool) in Haifa - but I did take the underwear as by that time I was getting a little bare arsed due to the lack of funds during my 2 years(self-funded) at Nautical College. My observation was what a difference a flag makes as luckily the Israeli TUC - the Histradut - ensured that all seafarers were treated properly and fairly - and why should you have to pay for your workwear (uniform)?

On subsequent foreign flag ships the R/O was amongst the senior officers - and maybe that was why we were trusted to do the wages and victualling as a side-line for which we were paid.

Graham P Powell
22nd February 2010, 10:21
Ron, As an ex MIMCO man I understand you may be able to tell me something of what happened to R/O Bob Petch. He was I understand taken off the Akaroa
in SA because his wife had cancer and ended up working in the Accounts at
MIMCO. Nice chap who I got on very well with. Any info gratefully received!.

Ron Stringer
22nd February 2010, 14:32
Ron, As an ex MIMCO man I understand you may be able to tell me something of what happened to R/O Bob Petch. He was I understand taken off the Akaroa
in SA because his wife had cancer and ended up working in the Accounts at
MIMCO. Nice chap who I got on very well with. Any info gratefully received!.

Will ask around but I don't remember him (but then I don't remember so many people). Our next get-together is on Friday and several people come who worked in Accounts, plus the former Personnel Manager comes when his health permits, so may get a response then.

As long as I remember to ask.(Jester)

Graham P Powell
22nd February 2010, 15:06
Ron, Thanks for that. No problem. Nothing important just plain old curiosity!.

Alistair Macnab
22nd February 2010, 16:14
Seems I have heard a story that Marconi were on the short list to be the providers of TV equipment for the BBC in the 30s. A competition was held in which Marconi's TV system was compared and contrasted with that of the Baird company and the latter won. All this I heard when rummaging around in Lord Inverforth's past life (he of Bank Line). Apparently, Inverforth was an early supporter of Marconi and whilst the BBC exercise was above board, there was seemingly something underhand went on just after the First World War when Inverforth and Marconi together made somewhat of a dodgy bid for Cable and Wireless.
Do any of our R/O elder stastesmen have anything to tell us about early Marconi business deals?

7woodlane
22nd February 2010, 17:05
I had the dubious 'pleasure' of working for Marconi's Australian arm - AWA.

Their attitude was just the same...Master-Slave....

Bastards.

I did have something to say last year about that East Ham depot in the Fifties. None of it complimentary. The staff there from the Manager downwards - arrogant. They looked on us young ones as draft dodgers. So when He said " either you resign or we sack you " I resigned and went to Siemens. ( I didn't want to go on that tramp Bank Line ship and disappear for two years ). The only luck I ever had with Mci was the bad variety. Siemens and Mr Weatherhead, what a supereb difference
David Whitehead.

Billieboy
22nd February 2010, 20:23
It's slightly off the modern subject as detailed in the last two posts, but an old friend of mine, from schooldays and the latter part of our careers; happens to own Lavernock Point. His house is next to the field, from where G. Marconi transmitted the first radio signals, over water, to Flat Holm.