First trip - first QSO .....

Moulder
1st April 2008, 12:12
I wonder if many RO members recall their first QSO on their first trip.
It was probably common practice on most ships for the Chief to have the Junior RO double bank for a while, until he got an idea of how he or she was adapting to the real world at sea before he would let him/her loose on 500 kHz or HF.
I remember my first trip on mv Benhope in July 1971 - my Chief - George Dickson - intended to have me double banking for the outward bound voyage then I could go solo and we would keep H16 on the homward bound leg. I could see that I wasn't going to get a shot on the key for at least a couple of days.
Well - I was having none of that - so 12 hours into the channel I worded an SLT to a mate at home and told my boss I wanted to send it myself. He agreed and my first live WT QSO was with GNI.
Must have impressed the Chief 'cos we went on H16 after Capetown outward bound.

Cheers,

Steve.
(Thumb)

Tai Pan
2nd April 2008, 15:28
1st trip. southampton-Jersey BR Mail boats. Chief R/O tommy stubbs, said , we sail at 11pm, you are on till we get to jersey, dont forget the TR to GNI, report to GUG (Guernsey Radio) when passing casquetts, the went to his bunk. that was that.

Trevorw
2nd April 2008, 16:45
First trip, Avonmouth to West Indies on a banana boat, "Ariguani/GMBL". 1st R/O, Ivor Sydney Humphreys, stood over me and watched me send the TR to GRL. After that he handled all the traffic and taught me to type so I could take down the GTZZ Press at 1am.
2nd trip, I was allowed to send Tr's and OBS messages and again, take down the Press.
3rd trip, let me work VPO (Barbados) with real traffic! After that I did most of it!

mikeg
2nd April 2008, 16:58
My first trip made me wonder just what I'd got into - the Ch R/O was truly a miserable s*d, he didn't want or ask for a junior R/O so because of that wouldn't let me do anything in the radio room!! Luckily he paid off after 6 weeks and the next R/O couldn't have been more different. He let me take tfc lists, navs and send/recv traffic as soon as we sailed - he stayed around to see if I got on okay then spent much of his time on the Monkey Island getting a bronzy with instruction to call him if I had any problems - life was then really good. On later trips I was fortunate enough to have a total of six trainees and from my experience I was determined to treat them well.

Mike

Bill Greig
7th April 2008, 16:01
First trip - M.V. Sussex/MAEF, sent TR to Anglesey Radio whilst leaving Liverpool bound for Panama Canal,January 1975. Remember thinking how fast it all happened compared to college. My chief Mike Hill from I.O.W. first class bloke, wonder where he is now?

K urgess
7th April 2008, 16:18
Although I kept a diary at the time I've got nothing that tells me about my first QSO on Baron Wemyss/GCQE.
I think it was pretty soon after sailing because the first radio station on my list of QSOs is GKL then GNF and since we sailed from Tilbury it must've been within the first 48 hours.
I seem to remember being allowed to send TRs straight away and then the odd message by the time we reached Tampa.
We went on to 16 hour watches after about two and a half months.
Like Bill I wish I knew what became of my boss who was Ian Low from Montrose. A great guy and not much older than me.
I met him once a year or so later when passing through Montrose on holiday but haven't seen him since.

Gordon L Smeaton
7th April 2008, 16:51
Sailing Isle of Grain TR to Northforeland followed by first msg to Britankol LondonEC2 text three five letter codes, basically to say we had sailed and ETA Port Said, November 1966, must have been OK as was granted dispensation after 2 months and 23 days to go solo on the ss British Hussar/GHVX the start of my long career, leaving my last vessel the Acergy Eagle/ELUB4 today in approximately 3 hours time, going to try retirement for the second time.

What the Fug
7th April 2008, 16:55
Ignorant person type question

What is a QSO?

trotterdotpom
7th April 2008, 17:01
Sailing Isle of Grain TR to Northforeland followed by first msg to Britankol LondonEC2 text three five letter codes, basically to say we had sailed and ETA Port Said, November 1966, must have been OK as was granted dispensation after 2 months and 23 days to go solo on the ss British Hussar/GHVX the start of my long career, leaving my last vessel the Acergy Eagle/ELUB4 today in approximately 3 hours time, going to try retirement for the second time.

Wow, Gordon - you must have done something right! Congratulations and all the best for the future.

John T.

trotterdotpom
7th April 2008, 17:04
Ignorant person type question

What is a QSO?

Sorry, What the..., QSO is one of the Q codes used in radio telegraphy to shorten communications. QSO? means "Can you communicate with.....?" The term became a general name for a radio communication via telegraphy.

John T.

gwzm
7th April 2008, 17:30
There were many such Q codes.
QSO xxx? Means "Are you able to communicate with?"
QSO xxx (without the question mark) means "I am able to communicate with"
The idea was that you could communicate in Morse code using a kind of shorthand that was universally understood by R/Os, e.g.

QRA? What is the name of your station?
QRB? Approximately how far away are you from my station?
QRC? Who settles the accounts for your station?

and so on.

The one I'd love to have had the chance to use was QUQ? Shall I train my searchlight nearly vertical on a cloud, occulting if possible and, if your aircraft is seen, deflect the beam upwind and on the water (or land) to facilitate your landing?

You can see how a lot could be said using three letter codes, particularly if the person on the other end of the radio contact couldn't use English. The codes were international although their meaning might be expressed in a language other than English.

I can well remember my first QSO (radio contact) on a live key. We left London late at night and the Burrah Marconi Sahib (Chief R/O) set me up to send the opening TR (Transit Report) to GNF (Northforeland Radio) to let them know that we had left London and were outward bound for Port Said. I had made contact with GNF on 500 kc/s (the distress and calling frequency) and arranged to move off to our respective working frequencies. When I tried to call GNF on the working frequency there was nothing - the main transmitter had broken down and GNF was calling us but getting no reply. The Chief R/O quickly fired up the emergency transmitter and I managed to send the TR although my hand was shaking. Fortunately the fault wasn't serious and we were able to quickly fix it before turning in for the night.
The following morning, the Chief R/O got me started on the first watch and left me to my own devices, listening to the bedlam that was 500kc/s in the English Channel. I'd only been on my own for a few minutes when there was an SOS. Fortunately, the casualty was in the Baltic and we didn't need to get involved.
Things settled down quickly after that. I learned a lot from that Chief R/O, Harry Jefferson, who was well known to the ex-Brocklebank (GWZM) R/Os on this site.
Happy days,

John/gwzm

jaydeeare
7th April 2008, 23:05
List of Q codes HERE (http://www.kloth.net/radio/qcodes.php)

I remember trying to lean these at college for my PMG! What a nightmare - especially for someone with a memory like a sieve!

sparkie2182
7th April 2008, 23:27
"Harry Jefferson, who was well known to the ex-Brocklebank (GWZM) R/Os on this site."

Harry was the best.............

What the Fug
8th April 2008, 10:44
Sorry, What the..., QSO is one of the Q codes used in radio telegraphy to shorten communications. QSO? means "Can you communicate with.....?" The term became a general name for a radio communication via telegraphy.

John T.


Thanks for the info, the only morse I know is G & T for some reason

Ron Stringer
8th April 2008, 11:21
[QUOTE=R651400;206539]Simple TR GPK de GPVP TR Laomedon QTO Glasgow bnd Liverpool QSX area 1A AR K[QUOTE]

As far as I can remember (and that is probably not too far these days) when we were coasting we never watched GKA or any of the Area stations, just the UK and continental MF coast stations. The GPO shore/ship service (I think under the auspices of Burnham) routed traffic to you in accordance with the TRs that you had sent as you moved from the coverage of one MF station to another. On the coast, I only remember sending TRs to Portisheadradio when we left the UK to go foreign or arrived back from deep sea.

freddythefrog
8th April 2008, 12:13
1st qso with gka to send TR bound PGulf----shaking like a leaf i was.
not quite the same as in college sending to your mate across the room.
Then 5ton, the din, oh!my god i thought what have i let myself in for,
after a few days and a bit of sending on 5ton was settling down ok.
nerves then gone and was ok.ftf

aselador
8th April 2008, 12:39
My first time on the key was a TR to GNF leaving Tilbury bound for Hamburg, around December 1980, very nerve racking. I seem to remember 500 khz being extremely busy at the time, I was petrified of making a mistake.

gwzm
8th April 2008, 22:00
Hi Sparkie 2182,

I agree that Harry Jefferson was the best. Tommy Williams came a close second. I sailed with one other Burrah Marconi Sahib in GWZM who was an also ran in comparison. That said, I'm sure he was an exception.

With the gift of hindsight, I learned so much with GWZM that has stood me in good stead in the things that I've done after my (short) sea-going career.

Happy days indeed and an experience that I wouldn't have missed.

John/gwzm

sparkie2182
8th April 2008, 22:45
hello john......

i sailed with two other s/r/o........

one saw life through the bottle of a whisky bottle.........

the other wasnt a drinker, but may as well have been, to be honest.

neither were fit to adjust Harrys morse key.

73's

sparkie2182

Ron Stringer
9th April 2008, 08:38
neither were fit to adjust Harrys morse key. sparkie2182

Sorry to go off-thread a little but Sparkie's comment reminded me of an occasion when sent to an RFA tanker refitting on the Tyne. She carried (I think) four R/Os and the Chief R/O had submitted a very long list of jobs that were to be carried out on the commercial radio station (rented from Marconi) under the maintenance contract. Marconi's Newcastle office sent me down to do the work. As I worked through the list I came to one item

"Replace the contacts on the 365 Morse Key."

Couldn't believe my eyes. The contacts were screw-in items, carried in the spares kit and would have taken less than a minute to replace at any time during the previous voyage. The sparks on the least tramp or collier would have done it without a thought. But with 4 R/Os and all the facilities on board, this RFA ship still needed a shore technician to do the work! One of them subsequently rose to a high position in the RFA.

King Ratt
9th April 2008, 10:25
It wasnae me!!!!

King Ratt
9th April 2008, 10:30
For Ron Stringer.
Did you work with the famous "Percy" from Marconi Newcastle? I did a load of RFA ship refits Tyneside with both Percy and another younger Geordie tech who's name evades me at the moment.

athinai
9th April 2008, 11:06
With the Drunk still in His bunk, I crept into the Radio Room, switched on the Oceanspan VI and called GNF., QTO Thames etc etc.,

Some hours later when he did a Lazarus, he said ''Dont forget the TR'' etc.,
And that was the beginning of the longest 2months 21 days in my life. Hope he still has the DT's (The F****R)

Ron Stringer
9th April 2008, 13:09
It wasnae me!!!!

No, I regret to say that, like me, he was a Lancastrian but that didn't stop him rising to the top in RFA radio/electronics affairs.

BA204259
9th April 2008, 13:18
It isn't always what you know Ron, its who you know..:)

Ron Stringer
9th April 2008, 13:19
For Ron Stringer.
Did you work with the famous "Percy" from Marconi Newcastle? I did a load of RFA ship refits Tyneside with both Percy and another younger Geordie tech who's name evades me at the moment.

No, Rattie, I was there (and left) before Percy Oyston arrived. My mentor on things RFA was the late, much lamented, Tommy Ross. Apart from refits, Tommy did the installations on the Hawthorn-Leslie logistics ships at Hebburn. Other than that he was he mainstay of Marconi's Sunderland base.

Tai Pan
9th April 2008, 15:36
Ref my original, here I was on a mail boat (thats before they called them cross channel ferries) leaving southampton for Guernsey/Jersey, regular as clockwork. The op at GNI must have thought, here we go again, new lad, my TR was pukka, GNI GNI GNI de gggg gggg gggg QSW and QSY etc, then the full monty, considering we could nearly see GNI , his groans must have be quite loud. Later on it was just one quick GNI de gggg QTO, all on 500

King Ratt
9th April 2008, 21:02
For Ron Stringer: VMT for your reply, Ron, Tommy Ross I don't remember though.. different refits.different times.

Mimcoman
25th May 2008, 05:26
1966: Sailed from Hull on the trawler Ross Orion, into a force 8, bound for the White Sea. (Trawlers didn't have juniors as such, you got one 21-day trip to learn and then next trip, you were on your own.) After I had stopped shouting on Hughie (4 days), I was given the honour of sending an OBS (what else) to Tromso/LGT on MF W/T. I still have the original, which I purloined from the message pile and substituted with a copy.

When a trawler started fishing, the Sparks was busy helping the skipper on the bridge when hauling, monitoring the intership RT channels for info as to what the other trawlers were doing, keeping skeds and monitoring 2182 and GKR (never used GKA much), so occasionally he was too busy for actual hand-on training - and anyway it took a long time to read into the intership chat as to what was actually going on. But occasionally, Sparkie could get his head down and let his learner have hands-on experience. So one day, "my" Sparkie was below when GKR's tfc list had our callsign (GHZH) on it. I woke up the Sparkie and told him, whereupon I received a short and pithy instruction followed by "you get it - it's what you went to school for!" I still remember that day. First time I'd gone above IF channels, first HF morse QSO, and I was a real radio operator at last.

DickGraham
3rd October 2017, 10:33
I know this is a really old thread but I picked up on "Percy Oyston". The young Geordie tech you refer to was probably Billy Quinn who until very recently was listed as the Newcastle contact for Selex Marine. I worked with both these guys '80 to '82 and I remember doing a refit on the Pearleaf in Walker drydock.

Ron Stringer
3rd October 2017, 10:44
I know this is a really old thread but I picked up on "Percy Oyston". The young Geordie tech you refer to was probably Billy Quinn who until very recently was listed as the Newcastle contact for Selex Marine. I worked with both these guys '80 to '82 and I remember doing a refit on the Pearleaf in Walker drydock.

Billy Quinn is is still alive and kicking, I have his email address if you need it. He and Mark Allinson went to Ron Wilson's funeral a few weeks ago.

BobClay
3rd October 2017, 11:40
Probably a bit off thread but I did my first trip as a junior on the Bendearg in 1970 which went right round the world in three months. London/Panama/Pusan/Kaohsiung/Hong Kong/London (via the Cape as Suez was shut.)

What I do remember was that the Apollo 13 event was on at the time and Coast Stations were transmitting lists of frequencies which we weren't allowed to transmit on while the spacecraft was trying to get home.

They were all 'witchcraft' frequencies with lots of numbers, and as I looked at my Oceanspan/Atalanta set up I thought 'there aint much chance of me interfering with NASA.'

J. Davies
3rd October 2017, 14:09
My first QSO was from a coastal tanker "Buffalo" / ZSUH to Durban Radio ZSD on 500 KHz telling him I had a QTC.

Senior R/O was standing behind me. Although very nervous I did everything right, or so I thought.

ZSD came back Z....S....U....H d....e.....Z....S....D ( so Slooooooowwww...)

I asked my boss why he is doing that. He said well, you're even slower !

IAN M
3rd October 2017, 17:39
Extracted from my book, LIFE ABOARD A WARTIME LIBERTY SHIP. The date was August 1945.

The radio silence which had prevailed throughout the war, when only the neutral coast stations could be heard working on the calling and distress frequency of 500 kcs, had already been relegated to the past and peacetime working was in operation as we neared the UK. I was on afternoon watch when Landsendradio (GLD) called the Samforth (MYQN) and I took a telegram from the Office telling us that the charts to show us the way through the minefield across the North Sea to Norway would be awaiting our arrival at Kirkwall. And it was with some trepidation that, for the first time and after being at sea for over two years, I started up the transmitter and communicated with Landsend.

Troppo
3rd October 2017, 22:11
1980. Ariake/GWED to VIM: TR QTO VIM bnd VIB.

Straight in the deep end, no mucking about.

I had been a ham for about 2 years by then and had also QSX 500 a lot, so it wasn't too hard.

That was with the straight key, managed to convince my first chief to let me use my electronic keyer from then on.

We were on the Australia/Japan run...remember hearing my first katakana (Japanese morse) from JCS....it was like my brain had melted....ha! The Chief thought it was a great joke. (Jester).

trotterdotpom
4th October 2017, 04:46
#37 (https://www.shipsnostalgia.com/usertag.php?do=list&action=hash&hash=37) . Just curious, Troppo, who was your Chief? Maybe I knew him.

John T

Tony Selman
4th October 2017, 08:59
Like several others my first 'live' QSO on the key was to send a TR to GNF. Brocklebank's Matra/GZYJ left Tilbury bnd for Rotterdam in the early evening and the usual noise on 500 was even worse because more distant stations were being received. My CR/O, whom I will not name, stood by me whilst I did it and that was pretty much the end of any tuition I got. A little bit more whilst we were in the Channel and then I did not see an awful lot of him other than in the bar for the rest of the trip. He was supposed to do the first watch of the day, which he very rarely did, and for the first week or so I used to leave a relevant amount of space in the log for him to concoct some fictional call signs, Liberian to Panamanian etc. After a while I checked back and there was a big empty space so I gave up and just signed on for my first watch of the day after my last watch of the previous day. This guy was absolutely useless and taught me next to nothing and how he was retained in a company like Brock's which had very high standards is beyond me. I wonder if anyone ever read through your logs at the end of the voyage because if they did this chaps career would have been over. Thank God my second voyage as a 2R/O was was with an absolutely outstanding man who in effect taught me everything I know and turned me into a proper R/O. Very much the luck of the draw.

DickGraham
4th October 2017, 20:51
Billy Quinn is is still alive and kicking, I have his email address if you need it. He and Mark Allinson went to Ron Wilson's funeral a few weeks ago.
Thanks Ron but I'll not bother him. I did try to phone him at Selex once when passing through but he didn't pick up - that's when I found that Marconi House is now a block of flats with the same name :-(. I remember Mark the Middlesborough man and Ron was "old Ron" even when I worked with him so he must have been a good age when he QTO'd for the last time. Gawd I'm sure that Nostalgia is actually an illness!

ernhelenbarrett
5th October 2017, 05:50
Was lucky enough to have a great Chief R/O on the Avistone/GBSV who let me
send my first TR on leaving Middlesbro but cant remember his name at all. Also
sent a TR to GLD at midnight while on the way to Algiers and can remember him asking if we were a 2 man ship so replied we were a 1 and half man as I was only a Trainee, we did 16 hour watches nearly all the time till my 6 months
were up then got sent to British Gratitude/MAGQ for a year and her Emergency
TX was a SPARK set and the Emergency RX was a lidded box with coils inside
which was calibrated in metres, that TX was very very handy when calling on 500 when in UK waters with a QRN of 50 plus!!!!!
Ern Barrett

Troppo
5th October 2017, 05:57
#37 (https://www.shipsnostalgia.com/usertag.php?do=list&action=hash&hash=37) . Just curious, Troppo, who was your Chief? Maybe I knew him.

John T

Max Hayter then Tom Brady.

trotterdotpom
5th October 2017, 09:40
Thanks, Troppo. Think I heard the names but never met them. We were all ships that pass in the night really, weren't we?

John T

Riccarton
5th October 2017, 12:14
I wonder if anyone ever read through your logs at the end of the voyage because if they did this chaps career would have been over. T

Log Books were read through as I received "a wrap on the knukles" after a voyage on the Elizabeth Holt. If memory serves me right it was to do with the statement written at the end of each day.

My experiences of 1st R/Os with MMRC and Brocklebank were actually good.

Harry Nicholson
5th October 2017, 16:31
Your pieces of recall are priceless.
Here's a scrap of my first trip memoir:
HMT Dunera - Southampton to Japan.

Day 2.
I'm seventeen and a half, and junior radio officer in a compliment of four, and overawed by everything. I recognise nothing in my new workplace apart from the Morse key -- the equipment is not what I'd trained on. The two senior men seem grumpy and stern. The 'Chief' is a squat man, close to retirement, who tries to be kind in a gruff sort of way; the 'Second' is about fifty, superior and aloof. The young 'third sparks' is an extrovert -- a confident and irreverent Clydesider; this being his second trip to sea he now has disrespect for the seniors -- when they are out of earshot. It's apparent that he will be 'showing me the ropes' -- all sorts of 'ropes'.
****The next day a complete lifeboat drill is arranged; the boats will be launched into Southampton harbour. I'm told that, as an officer, I'm in charge of one of two lifeboats that have wireless cabins in their bows. We will take the boats around the harbour, from where I'll make contact with the ship’s wireless room and properly test the lifeboat transmitter and receiver. The crews line the decks on stand-by for the 'abandon ship' order. I stand at the head of the crew; shrinking into my uniform. I fight off waves of anxiety and cobble together an air of confidence, but my palms are sweaty and my throat is closed. This is only the second day I've been on a working ship, so what on earth do they expect of me? But, as the only officer in the boat crew, I'm technically 'in command'. Am I supposed to organise the launch? What do I do? I've not been told. The crew is entirely Indian Lascar sailors, some with years of experience at sea and a couple with medal ribbons. Most are from West Bengal and few speak English. Fortunately we have one British deck officer cadet, about my age but with a couple of voyages to his credit and the benefit of lots of boat training at navigation school. Also, he speaks some Lascar. This young chap understands my predicament and, with quiet discretion, takes over. He organises the launch of the lifeboat from its davits and has the rope ladders run over the bulwarks. He indicates how to use these ladders and we descend in pairs, down the sides of the ladders. There are about twenty Lascars, plus the cadet and me, swaying around and trying not to crash into the oil-slicked hull of this huge ship.
****Once in the boat I face the cadet, 'Look after things for me this time and I'll see you all right for a few beers.' (I don't know that cadets are forbidden a supply of alcohol and must rely on friends.) He grins and immediately sets about giving orders to the crew, and we set off. I dive straight into the tiny wireless cabin to be confronted by equipment I've never seen before. I switch on the transmitter and receiver and begin frantic calculations about what to do next. The cadet pops his head through the door, with a stout woven wire in his hand saying, 'Hey, Sparks. I’ve got the mast up and the aerial rigged, what shall I do with this end of it?'**I think quickly: 'It must be the earth wire; chuck it into the sea -- that’s the best earth.' Then follows a pointless circling round the harbour as I hammer away at the Morse key, pouring Morse code straight into Southampton Water, via the 'earth wire', whilst feverishly tuning and adjusting the ‘quench’ control to get some reply from the squealing TRF receiver. This 'Straight' receiver is a simple design, but needs skilled hands. I haven’t much idea what I'm doing; although I know the theory, I've never handled a TRF before. I fail to locate the ship on the receiver dial; only warbles and squeals fill my headphones. We eventually notice that the other boats are making their way back. As I climb over the bulwarks, dejected and demoralised, my new uniform daubed with oil and rust, the 'Chief Sparks' greets me with, 'I didn't get anything from your boat, Fourth!'
** The entire business is unfair. I'm humiliated. The two senior radio officers will be having a huge laugh at my expense. They should at least have demonstrated the equipment and offered a morsel of advice before the exercise began. After all, I've been aboard my first ship less than twenty-four hours. I feel aggrieved, and don't warm to either of them after that day. I'm overawed by their authority but still think them pompous, cold, and disinterested in the well-being of their young charges. Will things get worse? The Glaswegian ‘third sparks’ takes me around the Southampton pubs that night and 'puts me right' on a few points.

Troppo
5th October 2017, 23:54
Thanks, Troppo. Think I heard the names but never met them. We were all ships that pass in the night really, weren't we?

John T

Indeed....

Troppo
5th October 2017, 23:58
** The entire business is unfair. I'm humiliated. The two senior radio officers will be having a huge laugh at my expense. They should at least have demonstrated the equipment and offered a morsel of advice before the exercise began. After all, I've been aboard my first ship less than twenty-four hours. I feel aggrieved, and don't warm to either of them after that day. I'm overawed by their authority but still think them pompous, cold, and disinterested in the well-being of their young charges. Will things get worse? The Glaswegian ‘third sparks’ takes me around the Southampton pubs that night and 'puts me right' on a few points.

You were right. They were a pair of pricks.

Keith Adkins
6th October 2017, 13:05
9th August 1958 The start of my sea-going career! MV Somali left KG5 bound for the Far East via Southampton. The CR/O,Colin Kirk, decided to see what I was like and told me to send the TR to GNF
Went through the motions in the correct order, and was told by Colin at the end of the exercise that it was fine and that GNF had acknowledged my TR. The only problem I had was that I had not received or understood any of the morse that I heard during the exercise.
Happily things did improve, and yes I was fortunate to have a very good instructor in Colin Kirk

Riccarton
6th October 2017, 15:12
The one thing I remember about my first trip was not being able to make sense of the numbers that followed the plain text message weather forecast from Portishead the first time I had to receive it. The numbers I later learned allowed a simple weather map for the North Atlantic to be plotted.
Did eventually get the hang of it as the voyage from Glasgow to St Johns, NB took 11 day in February due fairly extreme weather.

Harry Nicholson
6th October 2017, 20:39
I've already added my first TR to this thread but it's nice to note I'm not unique in having a total "Richard Cranium" for a a chief R/O on my first GTZB trip deep-sea and sadly he was not to be the last..
Maybe that's why to this day I still long for that fresh air feeling of free-lance.
#45 (https://www.shipsnostalgia.com/usertag.php?do=list&action=hash&hash=45) HN...Are there any further (eloquent) R/O reminiscences in your blog?

There's just a short tale of how I joined the 'Hughli'. It's under 'True Tales From The Rabbit Shed.'

BobClay
7th October 2017, 01:35
On leaving London in 1970 on the Bendearg as a junior my Chief sent the TR to GNF and looked at me asking what did I think. To say I was baffled is an understatement, because somewhere in that mish-mash of constant signalling (as Five Ton was then) he'd sent and received an acknowledgement which I sure as hell didn't pick up. :eek:

I have to say my Chief, although I can't for the life of me remember his name, was excellent. Which was just as well, because I only got that one three month trip as a Junior.

The second three months of my junior time was on a Stephenson Clarke Flattie on my own, which while being a cracking trip up and down the coast from the northeast to the southeast (no HF gear on the ship) taught me nothing.

Marconi worked a flanker. (Cloud)

Troppo
7th October 2017, 09:24
My second chief - who I still keep in touch with - insisted I learn to take the wx on the typewriter.

A skill I used every day at sea for the following 11 years.

Thanks Tom. A top bloke.

oca999
7th October 2017, 22:20
How not to treat a junior...our call sign is Gplc..send a tr to gnf I am off for a drink..and by the way even though your a junior we shoukd be an 8 hour ship but we will do 16 hours between us..I will do the 0800 to 1000 watch you do the rest and dont forget to type the news, stock prices and football results, also make sure the batteries are in good working order...bye..well thanks for that!!!

Troppo
7th October 2017, 22:41
They should have had some kind of course for those who were to take a 1st tripper.

Mind you, there were an awful lot of crazy sparkies out there....present company excepted, of course....

Paul Braxton
7th October 2017, 23:12
As I think I've probably mentioned somewhere else on this site, my first trip, "Serenia"/GHLE out of Thameshaven, bound Forcardos, Nigeria. Grey morning in the Dover Straits, up there at 0800, all on my tod, 'boss' R/O absent, sitting there in a kind of daze, I watched the blinking blue lamp of the crystal oven on the front panel of the 'Crusader' TX. Usual 500 kc/s traffic, et al. All brand new to me. Never seen or heard of a 'Crusader', (had to get the manual out to find out how to tune it. Tune for max, not dip, like the 'Oceanspan' I knew and loved).

At least I had my good old 'Atalanta' to hand. Wondering what I was going to do, sitting there hypnotised by the hubbub on 500, when a guy wearing a boiler suit and a frown came in, looked me up and down, probably wondering who the hell I was: "Want to send a telegram...?"

I passed the pad to him, not knowing how the hell I was going to deal with it. I needed time to think!

He looked at the blank pad as though it had somehow offended him: "Sparks usually writes it out for me..." And he frowned a bit more.

So I wrote it out. (Found out later he was the C/E. If I'd known that at the time I think I'd have freaked out even more, thinking he must have been as near to God as damn it).

My first QSO. Don't remember if a TR went off to GNF, somehow think it probably didn't, but not being able to raise that station, the chief's message went through my all-time favourite UK station: GNI, one of the very best in my opinion. Only other one which comes to mind, on the US west coast: KMI/Point Reyes, that and the Kiwi stations, of course. Come to think on it, 9VG/Singapore was pretty good, especially on VHF from the interminable anchorages.

As a starter for a life of almost 13 years at sea it wasn't the best. Or at least I sure as hell didn't think so at the time. At 18, fresh out of radio college, well, what can you say?

My 'boss' never did come near the radio room (as he'd promised he wouldn't when we shook hands on my joining). But he did come in every night just before turning in, read what I'd been doing in the log and then went through several sheets of paper on the blue Mimco message pads with a biro, giving me a thorough bol$ocking for some imagined error I'd been guilty of. Oh, and to be fair to him, he did come and help out when I had to do one of those damned H/F R/T calls through Baldock in the UK, a process which terrified the life out of me for some reason. But even that was grudgingly, the shack was obviously the last place he wanted to be in.

So 6 months went by. I got better and better, loved the job right from the start and never looked back. So grateful to that SOB ever since, for throwing me in at the deepest end I've ever been in to date.

But that poor guy (I won't mention his name, but he was well known to the Marconi men at East Ham, having sailed out of there for nigh on 21 years by 1969 - more years at sea than I'd been alive) had severe booze problems, and was so large as a result that he couldn't even fit behind the lifttop in the officers' bar to get a drink for himself. Had to have somebody do that for him. There was a phone on the radio room bulkhead, from which I would sometimes get a call from the bar down in the after accommodation: had I done this, or that? Why hadn't I done this or that? The rantings went on and on.

And I came to accept them as just a part of life, like a head cold, or persistent cough, maybe. I was becoming more and more aware of a certain 'growing up' going on within myself, a new level of confidence appearing most days. Amazing how much you can learn when there's no way out, no alternative but to get on with it, and suddenly realise that not only was it a great job, but that I seemed to fit it exactly, almost as though I had somehow been destined to do it. And not just the task of manning a ship's radio station, but all the wonderful intricacies of life onboard a ship.

So there was no gentle easing in for me. Again, to be fair, he did, that first morning, listen momentarily at the door when I first sent something, standing there sweating in a large towel, the stale odour wafting all the way in to the operating position, grey skies and leaden seas outside the large, square shack window almost enough of a combination to make me feel like throwing. just to see if my morse was any good. It was. Fortunately. Morse was something which always just tripped off the key for me. I quickly discovered that I could send endlessly, it seemed, with hardly an error. All so effortless. So glad of that skill. (Still practising with a morse key, ex "Rakaia" - a Marconi 365B - just sending on an oscillator, endless screeds from books, magazines or whatever. Don't ask me why. It's still a pleasure, like strumming a guitar.)

I remember Stan Padfield's and Cliff Finter's (East Ham personnel) faces, sudden expressions of extreme interest when I sat facing them after paying off and reporting for the first time, answering a seemingly throw-away query from them about 'how I'd got on with my boss R/O', watched them stop writing on pads for a moment, staring hard at me, waiting to hear what I had to say about that great man. And so help me, I nearly spilled the beans, let them know what a pr1k he had been, but I didn't, and I don't really know why. Maybe it was because he had unknowingly done me such a massive good turn, letting me just get on with the whole thing on my own, so that I learned very quickly and became a better operator and general sparky as a result. Or maybe I just felt sorry for him. Who knows?

I often wonder about all that, think about what might have become of him. Why, I don't know. Perverse. He even let me get on with dealing with a full-blown distress, off the coast near Dakar. "Marpessa" on fire a few miles away and sunk three days later. A giant 200,000 tonner on its first trip and just poor scared me to take charge on 500 and VHF, plus all the H/F R/T calls to and from GKA/PCH... What a circus! Oh what an amazing circus that was. No time to do anything but get on with it all. I could easily write a decent length book about it all. Maybe, God willing, I will. There'll never be another time like that one.


Great days, those.

Ron Stringer
7th October 2017, 23:25
... we should be an 8 hour ship but we will do 16 hours between us..I will do the 0800 to 1000 watch you do the rest and dont forget to type the news, stock prices and football results, also make sure the batteries are in good working order...bye..well thanks for that!!!

E&F's Golfito (also H8) carried A Chief R/O and 2 recently-qualified R/Os gaining their 6 months supervised sea-time. Initially, with P.J Kelly as the Chief R/O, we kept H8 watches plus the additional time required to copy the two daily GTZZ press broadcasts (at 0100Z and 2245Z if I remember correctly) and other out-of-hours traffic that arose from time to time. An example would be the extra broadcasts from NSS when there was a hurricane in the area. Initially as 3rd R/O I sat alongside the Chief and watched/listened to what was involved in keeping a watch and clearing traffic to and from the ship. As I gained experience I (and the 2nd R/O) also kept certain watches unaccompanied.

Before I had 3 months time in, Kelly had a trip off and we had a temporary replacement, whose name for some reason I cannot recall. He had very grandiose ideas and decided that we would become an H24 ship and keep watches accordingly. He had me send a SVC message to GKL to that effect and though I was queried by the operator there as to what I was about, nothing was done. We still appeared in the normal Area 1 etc blind transmissions.

However the new bloke said he would take the 4-8 watches, the 2nd R/O would take the 12-4 and, as the most junior, I would get the 8-12. Luckily I had already been given the experience needed to take the GTZZ press and prepare the 'skins' used by the Purser's dept to produce the daily newspaper, since of course that came in my watch. And I got to look after the batteries and fix the radar (and anything else that went wrong) since neither of the other two had any idea about such things.

At the end of that trip, Kelly returned and things got back to normal, the 2nd R/O had finished his 6 months and left to take charge of his first radio room, a new 3rd R/O arrived and I was promoted to 2nd R/O. Soon I too completed my sea-time and went off to pastures new.

Kelly could be a very difficult man to deal with but he took the training part of his duties very seriously and I believe all that passed through his hands got a thorough preparation for the job ahead. They may not have enjoyed it at the time but would certainly have appreciated it later in their career.

Troppo
7th October 2017, 23:38
Grey morning in the Dover Straits, up there at 0800, all on my tod, 'boss' R/O absent, .

He should have been sacked. His job was to teach you.

And the irony was that his alcoholism was known by Marconi (I assume) and yet they did nothing....serious fail in duty of care.

Paul Braxton
8th October 2017, 04:52
Yeah, Troppo, I wondered just what may have been going on behind the scenes at Mimco East Ham. I've always wondered: how had 'my bloke' managed to get away with what seemed seriously worrying procedure for God alone knows how long? I know that he had had other juniors. So it must have become painfully obvious by the time I got on there. We shall never know, of course. But through the years I've always believed that I got a good deal out of it, learning on the job like that.

Troppo
8th October 2017, 09:41
Case in point while in Hamburg a senior 1st R/O from another ship with a first trip junior visited us in a complete state of panic as neither had a clue how to tune the Redifon transmitter and therefore no TR had been sent since leaving London! Just as well there was no fog or other delays warranting QTCs to the Hamburg agent and not only that my own chief (just on the point of retiral) admitted he hadn't a clue on the Redifon equipment either and passed them over to me.


....it just gets better and better....(Jester)

That is base incompetence! The Juniour should have had a clue at least....how T-F did he get his ticket? Marine main tx'ers are all pretty similar.....

trotterdotpom
8th October 2017, 10:49
#61 (https://www.shipsnostalgia.com/usertag.php?do=list&action=hash&hash=61) . Dunno about them all being the same but I sailed with quite a few different transmitters, often with no handover. I just got the book out and read it.

John T.

Troppo
8th October 2017, 12:33
Think I can forgive the junior but not the chief where GTZB ships were all H8 and his maximum radio watch-keeping effort since promotion would have been chow reliefs and nothing else..

That GTZB system was weird, frankly. Why have a technically trained man doing something completely different?

Troppo
8th October 2017, 12:35
Yeah, Troppo, I wondered just what may have been going on behind the scenes at Mimco East Ham. I've always wondered: how had 'my bloke' managed to get away with what seemed seriously worrying procedure for God alone knows how long? I know that he had had other juniors. So it must have become painfully obvious by the time I got on there. We shall never know, of course. But through the years I've always believed that I got a good deal out of it, learning on the job like that.

You did, because you obviously had the strength of character to overcome the problem...but how many other poor bastards did he screw over?

Amazing.

IAN M
8th October 2017, 20:00
I didn't want the No.1's job either, but managed to revert to No.2 for two trips before Calverley forced re-promotion on me. Dick Molland, my No.2 on the Glengarry, also left Holts to escape promotion. He and I subsequently corresponded, and my book, LETTERS FROM A RADIO OFFICER, tells of his experiences with various employers. I have often thought that 'disgruntled' should have been in the title, as he was never happy with any of them.

Paul Braxton
9th October 2017, 06:18
Yes, I do wonder, Troppo. How many indeed?

To be scrupulously fair to my 'boss', he did do meal reliefs during the three days and nights that 'Marpessa' distress was ongoing. And... wait for it... he insisted, yes, insisted on doing all the accounts, the radio traffic accounts that is. As a result of the latter, I found, on going solo for the first time (a year to the day on 'Port Lyttlelton' plying the NZ/Aust/W. Indies route), that I had absolutely no idea at all about how to complete the various bookwork, accounts type things, and had, in the end, to have several QSO's with another Port Line ship, the 'Port Caroline' to get my head round it. R/O on there was, if I remember rightly, one George Cracknell, a thorough gentleman and a decent bloke to help me out like that. We passed in the night, and were in contact only for a day or so on M/F, but his valuable help was, well, invaluable.

At least the 3 day distress thing with the Dutch tanker seemed to boost my percieved position on the ship, earning me lots of kudos with the rest of the crew, some of whom had been up to then mercilessly taking the p1ss out of me as a green youngster! How I loathed always being the youngest onboard, the butt of all jokes, practical and otherwise, that is until I figured out that I'd have to stand up for myself, and did so.

On reaching the grand old age of 19, not long after that birthday, I remember the mate going too far one afternoon. He stuck his head and shoulders through the serving hatch from the wheelhouse and delivered the usual cheek and so forth , whereupon I stood up and told him exactly what his future would be if it happened again. (And I really meant it). Never forget the look of horror on his face, but he never did do it again. Poor old Ralph Bridgewood. He was a good bloke otherwise, but had been a little intimidating to a greenhorn like me with his row of stitched on colours at his breast pocket. Campaign colours of some sort, I suppose.

And at least I knew my way around the Hermes/Argus radars on the bridge, having just got my BOT cert. on them. Felt like a hero, taking one of those to bits and identifying the fault in front of the Old Man!

What amazing days they were. I remember getting the 'channels' the first time back from Africa. Radio One came into range on leaving Biscay, and I heard the dulcet tones of Terry Wogan. Everything was fine at that stage, that comforting voice enough to soothe any worries away.

Troppo
9th October 2017, 08:26
And... wait for it... he insisted, yes, insisted on doing all the accounts, the radio traffic accounts that is.

I just shake my head.....I was very, very spoiled with my second chief....not only was he a great bloke, he taught me all I needed to know to run a station solo...and then some.

trotterdotpom
9th October 2017, 09:39
I had a junior with me once - hope I did the right thing by him. It wasn't all about klystrons and traffic lists, by the time we'd done a month on the Japanese coast he thought SLT was an abbreviation for "****".

John T

PS looks like the nanny doesn't like the word "5lut".

BobClay
9th October 2017, 09:58
I never had a junior. And reading these threads I'm glad because I would have turned into an alcoholic and bone idle [email protected]@ard. :eek:

Errrrr ... wait a minute ... that can't be right ... something else must have caused it .. !!!

(Pint)(*))

trotterdotpom
9th October 2017, 13:17
Armed with only a Special Certificate begs the question how a first trip trawler RO made out with nobody for guidance or moral support.

They normally did a "learner trip".

John T

oca999
9th October 2017, 13:42
If only my mentor thought more of teaching and giving a 17 year old confidence rather than drink his way to south africa, and if only he had obeyed the rules thatwe were an 8 hour ship and if only marconi then dumped me on a Russian radio room ...Al Shamiah. I would have stayed longer, so the cost of boarding at Fleetwood financed by my grandparents for 2 years was money wasted..well done bob kerr and marconi...you broke my heart as well as my grandparents

trotterdotpom
9th October 2017, 13:54
#75 (https://www.shipsnostalgia.com/usertag.php?do=list&action=hash&hash=75) . The trawlers didn't normally use MF - they were compulsorily fitted with 2mc/s RT and kept watch on 2182 kc/s. The w/t skeds were on around 1600 kc/s I think. There were also HF frequencies for working Wick - can't remember if they were trawler specific or not.
Trawler operating was pretty different to that on cargo ships.

John T

Worldspan
10th October 2017, 17:37
My first QSO was a TR to GNF shortly after we'd sailed from Tilbury. Even though I say it myself, my Morse was good and I was familiar with the abbreviations and manner of working. I'd listened to lots of MF and HF via an R1155 and CR300 at home. I was probably a smart Alec and got into trouble a few days later because I sent a telegram to Switzerland, not via DAN as suggested, but direct to HEZ. The 2nd R/O didn't know who HEZ was!
W

Dave McGouldrick
13th October 2017, 10:03
Used to work Bern/HEB quite a bit on an East Coast to Algeria grain run. The charterers were in Lausanne. Never an issue with them, and they still did blind tx of traffic - this would be around 1975ish.

P.Arnold
13th October 2017, 13:04
My first Qso was a TR to GLV. After that it was a round trip of 3 months to East Africa (1 month in port included). Traffic was light with mainly internship qso’s. My senior stayed with me most of the time, and it was he that introduced me to Pittman’s, Teach yourself Typing.
I couldn’t fault John, he was what I would have expected as an R/O .
I was to achieve my final 3 months coasting on my own.

Several years later as ECO/1st R/O, with Denholms GTV’s, and being on 1 month round trips, we were assigned junior R/O’s with a month or two to go for their 6 month sea time.
As ECO we did day work, so it was generally a run through the gear and get a ‘feeling’ for my new colleagues. I had probably 8 or 9 juniors. This was 76-77. This was about the time when satcom was appearing. I saw the writing on the wall. Many of my juniors didn’t. It was, to be fair, early days, but I do remember long discussions.
I would like to think I did a good job, but who knows.?

Robert M Hughes
2nd November 2017, 11:39
3rd R/O first trip on Highland Monarch Chief R/O asked me to take the Press going down river from KG5 to the English channel - the winter static etc was horrific seems more than a bit off when I failed to get all of it - what a bastard!! Know where he is now!

endure
28th November 2017, 20:39
First QSO was a set of cargo figures to Bahrain/A9M from the British Progress/GRUU

Wismajorvik
28th November 2017, 23:57
3rd R/O first trip on Highland Monarch Chief R/O asked me to take the Press going down river from KG5 to the English channel - the winter static etc was horrific seems more than a bit off when I failed to get all of it - what a bastard!! Know where he is now!

Worst place for receiving the press , (GKK?} was the approaches to Rio, horrendous static. This was on the Amazon, probably the same chief you had, Frank G...

Worldspan
29th November 2017, 10:30
Interesting post from 'Endure' ... so was your first QSO on HF?
W

Steven Lamb
1st December 2017, 23:40
Scratching me head ? Leaving Redcar GCC with a TR then southbound to sunny Mauretania was GKB once we were well out the channel and right across the bay. Can still remember that Oceanspan / Atalanta rig quite vividly and the callsign GHQQ. Oh yes and the Snr R/O sitting in the background keeping a beedy eye - happy days !
Rgds / 73's
Lamby

Worldspan
1st December 2017, 23:56
A bitter tone to the posting by oca999 ... sorry to hear that.

But what about the Russian radio room? Can you tell us more? I knew that Marconi had a worldwide reach but didn't know about a Russian connection.
W

eigyro
4th December 2017, 22:18
[/QUOTE=Worldspan;2712378]A bitter tone to the posting by oca999 ... sorry to hear that.

But what about the Russian radio room? Can you tell us more? I knew that Marconi had a worldwide reach but didn't know about a Russian connection.
W[/QUOTE]

Kuwait Shipping/United Arab Shipping Company, had a fleet of Ukrainian-built general cargo ships. KSC was run from Looperville,
and Marconi supplied the R/Os.

I did my first trip on GTV Asiafreighter for four months, then four weeks vac and was offered MV Al Mansouriah for my first trip solo.
As it happened, one of my Seniors on Asiafreighter had told me about
KSC and the Russian gear, cos Marconi didn't.
They promised me a thorough handover, which lasted about ten minutes.
Anyhow, I got to grips with it OK, and enjoyed about five years, on six
ships, four small Russians, one large Russian, and one Govan-built SD18. The Russian gear was, in my experience, excellent.
Not as fancy as the Marconi setup, but way better for long-distance CW.

If OCA remembers the name of the Main Tx on Al Shamiah, I would like to know, as Al Ahmadiah had the same. A synthesised setup, where you dialled your frequency on a dial telephone and hit the tit.
Automagic SSB.

The small Russkies had separate TXs for MF and HF, Volkhov,and Ilmen, with two Volna-K main receivers.

A curiosity was the fully solid-state Emergency Tx. Instant operation.
And, joy of joys, a sideswiper key.

P.Arnold
5th December 2017, 17:20
In July 1980 I was to commission Marconi gear that should have been installed on the 3 Russian ships, being containerised in Cadiz. Primarily it was for the 2nd Radar, with a small Marconi Console, comprising of the Salvor 4 (I think, solid state anyway) with Sentinel receiver and an Autokey. The commissioning should have taken 1 week for all three. Due to shipyard “problems” I spent 6weeks in Cadiz, 4 of which I actually signed on the Ahmadia as R/O.
Cannot remember the main Tx. If memory serves me well the Russian AKD, had a feature where you could ‘thumbwheel’ the Long and Lat position that would be TXd in the event!
Don’t remember the side key though.
I was ECO on Asiafreighter 76-77 (on/off) used to relieve the 2 month regulars when they were on leave.

Peter Eccleson
7th December 2017, 23:16
First QSO with Lisbon radio on s.s. Mitra/GYYW of Shell Tankers. 1st R/O was John Ellis, an IMRC R/O who spent most of his voyages on Shell 'M' class ships. Good guy, good ship.
Will always remember that trip as first trip Junior R/O. Watched Mitra sailing past Holyhead outward bound from Tranmere while I was waiting for my first ship. Little did I know that two days later I would be flying (for the first time) to Lisbon to join her.
Paid off 3 months later in Methil, Scotland after a trip to Gulf, Singapore, Oman and back home. That was 1971 - happy days.