To The Rescue

Reef.Runner
1st February 2009, 02:36
Just thought that a member or two might be interested in the handling of distress messages and procedures in H.M. warships, and one in particular, prior to the days of the Internet/GMDSS etc.

Monitoring of distress frequencies 5-ton and 2182 had a low priority for warships. The job was usually assigned to the junior member of the watch and in some (most) cases was simply not done at all. Auto alarms were not fitted.

The only person who had authority to decide whether or not to respond to a distress call was the commanding officer who had to consider the operational requirements of his ship in coming to his decision. It could mean that operational requirements would be more important than assisting with a rescue operation.

Scenario: The light fleet aircraft carrier H.M.S. Bulwark/GKYD (Capt. P.D. Gick, O.B.E., D.S.C.) operating in the Gulf of Oman in company with the frigate H.M.S. Loch Killisport/GGSX. The preferred ship/shore station was Ceylon West Radio/GZP whose broadcast was monitored 24/7. Prior to dawn with the carrier at Flying Stations, several fixed-wing aircraft have been launched. This is a quiet time for the radio watch, hectic for the bridge watchmen.

The junior operator reports that he can hear Ceylon West broadcasting on 5-ton and when he's told that GZP does not operate on 5-ton he's adamant that he heard GZP6 reporting a collision and asking for emergency medical assistance. By this time the broadcast has ended but the sender soon repeated his call for assistance - Anglian Diligence/GZPB (ex British Diligence/GZPB) was reporting the collision whilst recovering survivors. No responses were heard.

The report to the bridge went as follows:
"Bridge - Office"
"Bridge"
"Officer of the watch please"
"Wait"

(Waiting, waiting, maybe you can imagine the annoyance(?) of the O.O.W. in being dragged away from seamanlike duties while the ship was at flying stations)

"Office - Bridge, Officer of the watch"
"Office - We have received a report of a collision at sea and request for urgent medical assistance. Reported position is 21.45 N 59.40 E. Request permission to respond"
"Bridge - Wait"

So we waited and waited again. The system took over and an extra radio watch was called out. Words cannot describe the atmosphere in the wireless office while we waited for a decision. Transmitter rooms, which were remote from the bridge wireless office, were manned and other networks set up in case approval was given to respond.

GZPB again repeated his broadcast then advised that he was going "up" to contact Aden Radio. Transmitters were tuned to the Aden Radio hf shore/ship answering frequencies and operators began scanning the calling bands. GZPB was heard calling Aden (memory tells me it was on 8megs) but his first call fell on deaf ears. During his second call the bridge/office intercom woke up and:

"Office - Bridge"
"Office"
"Bridge - Captain speaking - you may respond to the call for assistance."
"Office - Roger"

A transmitter was immediately plugged up to the operator's position and he began go call GZPB, just repeating the call until the "de" response was heard. Then the request to go "dwn" to 2182 was sent but GZPB wanted our QRA and info on whether or not we carried medical personnel. As soon as this was passed down we both went, a link was established and control passed to the bridge so that Captain and Master could exchange information.

During this period GZP broadcast a collision report from the Ceres (call unknown).

We were off to the rescue but first aircraft had to be recovered, then it was pedal to the metal and no more quiet, boring radio watches for seven days..

The official report of the incident states "The signal traffic in connection with the rescue and salvage was enormous, the Communication Department working watch and watch, four hours on, four hours off, throughout the operation. Many people in Bulwark worked hard, but few as long as the captain who is credited with only twelve hours' sleep in seven days".

The rest of the story is well documented on the WWW.

hawkey01
1st February 2009, 13:19
Reef.runner,

interesting post. I will have to go and search for the whole story now. Thanks.

Hawkey01

R651400
2nd February 2009, 11:23
Monitoring of distress frequencies 5-ton and 2182 had a low priority for warships. The job was usually assigned to the junior member of the watch and in some (most) cases was simply not done at all. R.R assuming you were involved in the action, I don't think many GBXZ RO's will agree with above.
I was looking for a date because I was in the PG circa March 60 when Bulwark was on patrol. The particular tanker I was on had only a single main aerial and no emergency. To conform to solas regs I rigged an emergency aerial and having spotted what I thought was Bulwark earlier that morning called him for a test on 5 ton. The response was immediate. I recall Bulwark had a M call sign.

King Ratt
2nd February 2009, 11:53
HMS Bulwark was GKYD. Check out Godfrey Dyke's List of Warships and their Callsigns from the 1970s.

http://www.godfreydykes.info/WARSHIP%20RADIO%20CALLSIGNS%20OF%20THE%201970's.ht m

R651400
2nd February 2009, 12:01
HMS Bulwark was GKYD Will await a second opinion on that KR. No doubt you're right although your url is ten years after my input. I'm testing my RAM to the limits trying to keep the dreaded ally zee at bay!

King Ratt
2nd February 2009, 12:07
Hi R651400
The URL I have posted keeps putting a space between the ht and m. Have tried to correct it but it wont play. I used to work Bulwark on CW and I am also sure that was her c/s. Eagle was GKYV used to also work her on CW.

Roger Bentley
2nd February 2009, 12:35
Will await a second opinion on that KR. No doubt you're right although your url is ten years after my input. I'm testing my RAM to the limits trying to keep the dreaded ally zee at bay!

Just checked 1955 list and she is definitely GKYD there, Cheers, Roger

trotterdotpom
2nd February 2009, 13:46
Wasn't it a legal requirement for any ship, including naval, to monitor distress frequencies?

John T.

R651400
2nd February 2009, 17:24
Just checked 1955 list and she is definitely GKYD thereThanks Roger. There's every chance I have the aircraft carrier wrong. Bulwark, Hermes, Eagle, Ark Royal or Albion?
Any M's amongst that lot or is it QSB5 on the ionisphere of memory?
My point was I got an immediate response to my test call on 500 kc/s.
To answer t.p's #8 above.
I had the pleasure to visit HMS Naiad in the early 80s and given a conducted tour around her impressive communications centre.
When I asked about the 500 kc/s point I was shown a corner of the operating room which looked like some unnecessary appendage or possible after-thought!

Dave Woods
2nd February 2009, 17:53
Slightly off topic and sometime after the event.(==D)

I had the pleasure in 84 of being on the Oil Endeavour when she came home in convoy with 5 Ton Class minesweepers and on board we had a large number of naval communication personnel. I was there in order to monitor 500Kc/s and do all the shipboard communications, while the naval people had their own shack on the back end, which was full of everything, bar a radio receiver. One night coming up from Gibraltar I was called out of my pit to try and hear a “Subsmash” signal buoy, which I was told should be emitting a morse signal. I did not find the signal and subsequently found out it was a false alarm. It would appear that at that time the Naval ratings were no longer being taught morse code.(A)

Roger Bentley
3rd February 2009, 17:50
Thanks Roger. There's every chance I have the aircraft carrier wrong. Bulwark, Hermes, Eagle, Ark Royal or Albion?


M, They are all G calls ( Except did not find Ark Royal's) but I did find one with an M call and that was HMS OCEAN who was MVNZ. Just found the AR's it was GKXS. Cheers Roger

R651400
4th February 2009, 08:42
Tks agn for above Roger the RAM certainly isn't what it used to be!
73

Roger Bentley
4th February 2009, 14:36
Tks agn for above Roger the RAM certainly isn't what it used to be!
73

M, There are some others that had M calls. They are Pioneer MVPG, Theseus MVQW and Triumph MVRB, some of them would still have been around in your days! Cheers, Roger