'What Ship"

Jacktar1
3rd February 2011, 02:15
How many members around who sailed in the late 1940's - 1960's
and familiar with the old 'aldis lamps' ?
Heading down channel and passing St Catherine's, I.O.W........you would be flashed (for a better term ! )...'What Ship' ?
You would give ship's name, where from and where to !...(Hippy)
Cheers....Glan

E.Martin
3rd February 2011, 09:00
What Ship?
SS Vauxall
Where Bound?
Rockall
What is your captains name?
Captain Dowdall
What is your cargo?
Nothing,We are in ballast.

R798780
3rd February 2011, 10:45
The same happened as vessels passed Southend Pier when entering and, possibly, leaving the Thames

bobw
3rd February 2011, 10:58
From our little FOC vessel in 1967 to Orient Lines Orcades....
"What ship, where bound?"
Reply "F@%K Off" !

Sabastapol
3rd February 2011, 15:21
'What ship?'.
'What for?'.
That had me stumped one night! :sweat:

woodend
4th February 2011, 07:45
Nigerian Navy HMNS 'NIGERIA' called up with 'who ship'!

George.GM
4th February 2011, 08:45
I believe this is true:

Gibraltar signal station : "What ship?"
Queen Mary : "Queen Mary, What Rock ?"

Cisco
4th February 2011, 08:55
U-C passo boats were known to reply with 'Cape Mail'... pompous prats...

Whereas greek tankers often just replied 'VHF'....

Chris Isaac
4th February 2011, 10:00
Dear Cisco

Better things to do old boy!

Regards
Pompous Prat

PS Even our discharge books were stamped "Cape Mail"
PPS 120 years of continuous mail service broken only by war.
PPPS Very proud to have been part of it.
PPPS You can keep the inverse snobbery!!

purserjuk
4th February 2011, 10:25
During the Suez crisis we were heading to West Africa when I large, brilliantly lit liner approached. "What ship" we asked. Instead of replying the name "Chusan" appeared in huge green letters. Our 2nd Mate turned on the cargo clusters in the crosstrees and sent "Sorry, best we can do!"

Binnacle
4th February 2011, 11:25
On passage from Geelong to Cork a British cruiser called us up in the Red Sea, so I responded with the Aldis lamp and gave him the ship's name, as he was flashing "where bound ?" the old man appeared and immediately instructed me to get sparks. I got hold of sparks, who muttered some sort of Irish blessing as he following me out to the bridge wing. After much flashing the cruiser hoisted a two flag signal " where bound" as I started digging out the appropriate flags to reply, the old man stopped me saying "no we started with the lamp we'll finish wish the lamp". By this the cruiser was miles away, still flashing, sparks had suddenly remembered he had to get a traffic list ??? and the old had disappeared. I knew the RN would not have had a very high opinion of our signalling skills, both lamp and flag. I thought there's a lot to be said for watchkeeping in the second mate's watch when the old man is sleeping.

McCloggie
4th February 2011, 12:15
There was a book called (I think) "Make a Signal Jack" that recounted some of the best RN signals.

Best one I remember from the book involved a fishing trawler in WWII taken up by the RN.

Flag Officer sees said trawler flying an a hoist of signal flags that make no sense and sends by light:

"What is the meaning of the signal you are flying"?

Reply:

"Regret do not know. Flags smell of fish".

McC

Klaatu83
4th February 2011, 17:19
I often found the 'aldis lamp' useful long after ships ceased signaling each other by flashing light. There were many occasions in busy traffic situations (English Channel, Straits of Gibraltar, etc.) when one would hear some ship frantically calling "Ship on my port bow" over the VHF radio. Since just about every ship in the area was on some other ship's port bow, it was often difficult to know for whom the call was meant. Consequently, I used to say something such as, "ship on my port bow, this is the ship on your starboard bow flashing the light at you", and then give him a few quick flashes on the old 'aldis lamp'. That method generally produced quick results and avoided confusion. Needless to say, however, even that became unnecessary after the introduction of AIS, which positively identifies the name of every ship to every other ship.

Davie M
4th February 2011, 17:28
I seem to remember that RN used to print a report somewhere about the identity of MN ships they had spoken to by aldis and the standard of morse sent back to them.
Mind you it was fascinating watching the RN signalling to each other using clouds in the sky.
Davie M

Cisco
4th February 2011, 20:25
Dear Cisco
PS Even our discharge books were stamped "Cape Mail"


Indeed they were....

I'm off to put fresh bait on the hook....... (Jester)

sparkie2182
4th February 2011, 20:45
R.N. destroyer in the Med calls up a "Bluie" with the usual "What ship-Where bound" routine and followed with...........

"We have four "Old Conways" onboard........Can you better that?"

The bluie flashed back...............

"Yes, we can better that.............We've got none."

:)

Chris Isaac
4th February 2011, 23:20
Indeed they were....

I'm off to put fresh bait on the hook....... (Jester)

Poor effort

sparkie2182
4th February 2011, 23:35
Just out of interest Chris.................

I always assumed U.C. maintained the mail run to S.A. right through the wars.

Disrupted certainly, but i assumed the service was maintained in the traditional manner.

Regards....

S2182.

Cisco
5th February 2011, 01:18
All 8 mailboats requisitioned by the Admiralty for the duration....
I think a semblance of a service was maintained as one v old U-C passo boat Gloucester Castle which was still in civilian service was sunk when south bound by a raider ( Michel ) and the survivors ended up in Japan

Clanline
5th February 2011, 08:33
I was a cadet on the training ship HMS Worcester 59-61 just up from Gravesend and to practice our signalling we called up just about every ship going up and down the Thames (as if they didn't have enought to do navigating!) and ask them What Ship, where bound, what cargo etc etc and at night we often would get replies from the London Sludge carriers on their way to dump sewage and of course the reply to the cargo question was always Sh1t!!!

billyboy
5th February 2011, 09:06
Passing dover once when the light started flashing. skipper grabbed the aldis and pulled that trigger as fast as he could. He did not know any morse at all. the shore gave a single flash as acknowledgement. ha ha probably still trying to decipher the coded message sent to him by a mysterious naval ship. Not bad for a TID tug that!!

Keith Pengelly
5th February 2011, 09:56
Late at night in Med we got flashed and did all the usual, finishing with What Ship? Reply was "American man of war". The Old Man grabbed the Aldiss off 3/o and flashed back "what war ?" seemed to put him in his place as he didn't reply!
Keith

sparkie2182
5th February 2011, 12:29
Thanks Cisco...........

Tony Shaw
5th February 2011, 13:59
Other stations which 'flashed up' were Aden port and Portsmouth (before VHF)
As a cadet I'm afraid I pestered the hell out of the third mate in the very early sixties asking whether I could call up a passing ship on the 8-12. Of course, when I was third mate I was in my element (whatever turns you on I hear you say). When I returned to sea in the mid seventies, as some of you say, the answer to my initial request was always "VHF" !!! The worst scenario would be a royal naval vessel crossing your bow, fast and close, flashing you up, usually in the middle of the Dover Straits (before traffic separation !) And here was little old me alone on the bridge compared with a dozen or so of them !!!!!

barney b
8th February 2011, 15:31
While on the Gillian Everard one of the Yellow Perils, no Radar!!, on one trip to Sweden in dense fog we ended up in the middle of a naval excerise. When flashed by nearby destroyer, What ship?, our skipper flashed back F!! off, and continued on our journey very slowly, all hands on deck keeping lookout!!!

Long gone
9th February 2011, 20:38
There was a book called (I think) "Make a Signal Jack" that recounted some of the best RN signals.

Best one I remember from the book involved a fishing trawler in WWII taken up by the RN.

Flag Officer sees said trawler flying an a hoist of signal flags that make no sense and sends by light:

"What is the meaning of the signal you are flying"?

Reply:

"Regret do not know. Flags smell of fish".


McC

The book was 'Make a Signal' by Captain Jack Broome (of PQ17 fame)

millwall dock
10th February 2011, 00:47
Two signals from that book always spring to mind.
We aim to please,You aim too please. A signal from a target towing vessel. A Master Isailed with once told me he had been on the towing vessel when the original signal was made,apparently they were in more danger than the supposed target

"If you touch me there again I'll scream" sent when two RN ships narrowly avoided a rear end shunt. Something similiar happened to me on watch when nearing Port Said. A large and much faster BT tanker overtaking passed exceedingly close under our stern(distance measured in fathoms rather than cables!) As our sparks was on watch I managed to get him to send the same signal. Later we had a reply..."You should be so lucky-seen better bums in Grant Road.

Windsor
10th February 2011, 18:54
Flashed by the signal station around 0200 passing the Lizard, heading upchannel early 1968. Plenty of traffic so quickly dashed off "Tuscany" Montreal to Newcastle and resumed my watch. Sometime later I glanced abaft the beam and noticed the signal station flashing "What ship, where bound" again. Obviously lost track of us in the general melee. So I answered "No change, still the Tuscany Montreal to Newcastle!" Maybe this will ring a bell with a retired Coastguard.

John Lyne
6th March 2011, 08:01
I seem to remember that RN used to print a report somewhere about the identity of MN ships they had spoken to by aldis and the standard of morse sent back to them.
Mind you it was fascinating watching the RN signalling to each other using clouds in the sky.
Davie M

Seeing as an exchange with an RN ship would be logged I would often finish the exchange with 'What have you got in your sandwiches'? or 'Have you seen my Teddy Bear'? there was never a reply!

capkelly
6th March 2011, 21:20
Hardest receiving in Red Sea was tanker "Saud el Rawal el Awal" (can be corrected on name) but most pleasure sending to naval ships was "Irish Ash" quickly so many dots got most of them

vasco
7th March 2011, 01:53
I often found the 'aldis lamp' useful long after ships ceased signaling each other by flashing light. There were many occasions in busy traffic situations (English Channel, Straits of Gibraltar, etc.) when one would hear some ship frantically calling "Ship on my port bow" over the VHF radio. Since just about every ship in the area was on some other ship's port bow, it was often difficult to know for whom the call was meant. Consequently, I used to say something such as, "ship on my port bow, this is the ship on your starboard bow flashing the light at you", and then give him a few quick flashes on the old 'aldis lamp'. That method generally produced quick results and avoided confusion. Needless to say, however, even that became unnecessary after the introduction of AIS, which positively identifies the name of every ship to every other ship.

How life has changed. this M notice http://www.mcga.gov.uk/c4mca/mgn_277.pdf
gives warnings regarding AIS and ship dodging, such as the folllowing:

a.) Collision avoidance must be carried
out in strict compliance with the
COLREGs. There is no provision in the
COLREGs for use of AIS information
t h e re f o re decisions should be taken
based primarily on visual and/or radar
information.
b.) The use of VHF to discuss action to take
between approaching ships is fraught
with danger and still discouraged. (See
MGN 167 – Dangers in the use of VHF
in collision avoidance) The MCA’s view
is that identification of a target by AIS
does not remove the danger. Decisions
on collision avoidance should be made
strictly according to the COLREGs

and yet I still get asked to go against the col regs by usually box boats in a hurry or red line followers.

ernhelenbarrett
7th March 2011, 04:58
Best reply to "What ship" we once got was from the JVO, he just switched on his name light which took up the whole bridge deck space, think it was johan van den oldenbrand, dutch passenger ship, excuse my spelling.
Another was when sailing on Shaw Savills "Alaric", after giving our name destination etc and asking "What Ship" got back the answer "SNAP". It was the UK submarine HMS "Alaric"
Ern Barrett

LANCE BALL
7th May 2011, 12:04
I used to practice signalling with the aldis but lost my enthusiasm after calling up a ship named, " Ascencion de Papa Christidios Vassiolios"

Julian Calvin
8th May 2011, 19:39
Not easy when Mate thrusts light at me as junior cadet to answer vessel. It was HMS "Llandaff". Always mixed up the 'fs' and 'ls'.
jac

james killen
11th July 2011, 20:48
Then there was the flag signal made by the Dutch salvage tug 'Clyde' while towing to a British man-o'war who had closed to have a look at the casualty.

"CEL TIC 1" in one hoist
and "AJAX 2" on another.

It probably took the matelots some time
to decode that message - there was no reply.


J. Killen - ex Smitugman

xrm
12th July 2011, 09:07
Usually got signalled approaching Panama Canal on the Pacific side with the "what ship Where bound" Waited for it on approach, but when the signal started I couldn't make out a word - asked for a repeat - message: good morning what ship etc. Memo to me - don't assume things will always be the same!

johnvvc
23rd May 2015, 11:30
Always used to like working ships on the Aldis lamp.

After the last watch (I was R/O) I'd go next door to have a cuppa and go out onto the wing of the bridge and if I saw a ship I'd call her on the lamp and have a chat.

On one occasion I was called to the bridge to see if I could make any sense out of some flashing from a small ship a distance away. The weather in mid-Atlantic was atrocious, it was broad daylight and she was disappearing almost completely into toughs. After flashing 'VHF' many times I eventually got her on Channel 16. Long long time ago but I seem to remember she was the Hanne Tholstrup. She was looking for a weather report which we supplied. We kept in touch for a while and we relayed regular weather reports to her until we eventually lost touch and she became just a memory...

I just found a picture of the Hanne Tholstrup on Photoship - now I wonder if that's the one...

Happy days.

Pat Kennedy
23rd May 2015, 12:59
Check this out for a revealing glimpse of ship communications;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brNX4xqlXJE

Split
23rd May 2015, 16:31
From our little FOC vessel in 1967 to Orient Lines Orcades....
"What ship, where bound?"
Reply "F@%K Off" !

I heard a story about one of those messages . On being asked who was the master, the answer was "Captain and Mr. X."

michael santer
23rd May 2015, 18:45
during the 60 early 70's I was a signalman based at Fort Gilkicker Gosport. We being, besides a Pompey Dockyard station, was also Lloyds Sig Station,We worked mainly with Merchant shipping passing through the Solent (between the Forts + So'ton and Fawley). Our main means of communicating those days was by Signal Lamp and Aldis. Had many a vessel thank us for giving their bridge younger staff, the opportunity to try their hand at using the light. I joined the RFA later part 1974 as signalman //yours aye mike

Varley
23rd May 2015, 18:48
Michael, as a matter of interest could you read by ear (I mean without being separately trained to do so). Not good by ear myself - useless by eye.

Very useful Q code that I remember QRS!

TOM ALEXANDER
24th May 2015, 07:46
I was a cadet on the training ship HMS Worcester 59-61 just up from Gravesend and to practice our signalling we called up just about every ship going up and down the Thames (as if they didn't have enought to do navigating!) and ask them What Ship, where bound, what cargo etc etc and at night we often would get replies from the London Sludge carriers on their way to dump sewage and of course the reply to the cargo question was always Sh1t!!!

When I was on the "Worcester", 54-56, they were affectionally known as "Bovril" boats. (Jester)

Malcolm S
24th May 2015, 08:33
during the 60 early 70's I was a signalman based at Fort Gilkicker Gosport. We being, besides a Pompey Dockyard station, was also Lloyds Sig Station,We worked mainly with Merchant shipping passing through the Solent (between the Forts + So'ton and Fawley). Our main means of communicating those days was by Signal Lamp and Aldis. Had many a vessel thank us for giving their bridge younger staff, the opportunity to try their hand at using the light. I joined the RFA later part 1974 as signalman //yours aye mike

I knew Gilkicker well as a kid. During my cadet training my Morse code was not brilliant so my Dad put me in touch with a relative of his who was a signalman at Gilkicker. When I met up with him I found he was an absolute double of Sidney James.

At sea I found the US Navy the worst for signal manners. One carrier tried to call me after it has passed my beam, using a red light aldis and expected me to reply while in a very busy traffic zone. Also on the VHF they would never refer to a ship as a ship - it was a "Unit" and a navigation light was (I forget the actual terminology she used) but the poor Filipino had no idea what the heck she was trying to tell him, something like "Your units electronic directional indicator is extinguished"

Malcolm

Charley George
24th May 2015, 16:55
At the old HMCG station (in the old lighthouse building) at St Anne's Head we had a 10" and an aldis lamps. What ship and where bound for Lloyds and pilot messages for Milford pilots. With the height and a set of German Doppler binocs we could speak to ships well offshore

ThomasJohn
25th May 2015, 07:42
I can advise that Aldis signal lamps (also known in warships as 5 inch signal lamps) are still used in the Royal Australian Navy,

MikeK
25th May 2015, 08:15
Standing on the bridge wing on a beautiful calm night off the Viet Nam coast, lost in reverie. Then the darkness was suddenly torn apart by a blinding light ! A US seaplane had sneaked upwind on me and switched on his special daylight floodlight so I was totally blinded. Then he switched it off and proceeded to bombard me with a stream of aldis morse whilst circling around the ship. This meant that to try and read what he was saying I had either to run from side to side of the bridge - not really feasible especially with the Old Man blissfully asleep beneath the wheelhouse - or pass the lamp up to the Monkey Island, which I did and spent an entertaining few minutes on the compass platform spinning like a winking lighthouse !

The sneaking up procedure with the light happened a few more times on subsequent trips so it must have been an operational procedure.


Mike

Waighty
31st May 2015, 12:44
An earlier post talked about Southend Pier calling up ships by lamp; as a cadet I remember it well at night, first making the reply and then having to go for'd and hang a cargo cluster over the bow so the ship's name was illuminated, presumably for the pilot boat 'cos they wouldn't be able to see it from Southend Pier!

I sailed with a fellow cadet whose morse was awful. Much later, I was told he was uncert 3rd mate on the MacAndrews ship Pacheco (circa late 1960s) who had to reply to Southend Pier. He just sent a load of dots and dashes and returned to the wheelhouse. Shortly afterward they were called up again, so the master sent him out to repeat the exercise. Eventually they gave up but did submit a report to some higher authority which eventually reached the ship. By that time he was uncert 3rd mate on the Willowbank!!

Stephen J. Card
31st May 2015, 13:19
On a few large tankers and an OBO the Aldis was used every night. Hard to tell what the weather was happening at the forward end.... to see if any seas was coming over the bow. Master's night orders. This was before 'Derbyshire' but the master had experience of weather damage on an OBO.