Todays MN morse requirements

29th August 2008, 15:26
Canada MN mates ticket still requires lamp morse at 4 wpm and international flag signals.
I was a RO in the British MN and never had to learn visual morse or flags Anyone other RO's had to learn visual morse or flags?

29th August 2008, 15:58
Never had to learn lamp morse, semaphore or flags, but I did use lamp morse in 1972 at Tuticorin (SE India) in the open roadstead to communicate with the shore about 4-5 miles away about cargo working; they didn't even have VHF then (or it wasn't working). All the cargo info was passed over the lamp, how many sailing dhows were being sent out, and how much they had for us. That way they knew if any missed us and sailed past into the far blue yonder !

K urgess
29th August 2008, 16:41
Didn't have to learn lamp morse but usually got lumbered when the overkeen third mate called someone on the lamp and then couldn't read the reply.
Usually had to teach it to the apprentices and used to call up passing ships whenever possible.
That is until everybody got VHF and the normal reply was just "VHF" on the lamp. [=P]
Never knew or needed flags.

Ivor Lloyd
29th August 2008, 18:12
When I first went to sea in 1942 when the ship was in convoy the radio officers kept a deck watch with the navigating officers. I had never handled an Aldis lamp nor even seen one until I joined my first ship and our duties were to handle all lamp morse messages and read flags. If memory served me right whenever a ship in the convoy was torpedoed we had to get to the Radio room to see if a message was being transmitted. The purpose of this puzzled me.
Post war I was usually called by the navigating officer on watch to read the lamp morse


29th August 2008, 19:04
I never found that morse by lamp had to be learned at all. Often in the evenings, I would assist 3/0 with lamp communications with passing ships. All that I required was for other "observers" to "keep quiet." As the lamp flashed, I converted it to an oscillation in my head & remembered it as I did with normal sound morse. But if anyone was talking, it wiped it all out.
During weeks & weeks of anchor at Vitoria (Brazil) in the early 1960s aboard iron ore carrier SAGAMORE, I often chatted with other R/Os by light. As well as the Aldis, we had a light on a pole operated by a normal morse key on the bridge. I particularly remember talking for over an hour on the light with the R/O of the Liberty ship ST. JOHN, anchored close by.

In 1982 when my ship rendezvoused with the Battle Group in the TEZ off the Falklands, I was called to read the morse from a high speed light. On the wing of the bridge, I found the captain, senior naval officer, various MN & RN officers & ratings all watching the light & chanting out the individual letters as they were sent. They were chanting correctly, but they were not remembering anything. When it stopped, they all turned on me with "what did it say?"

I replied that I had no idea & when & if it repeated, would they kindly keep silent. Presently, it did repeat & my shipmates stood dutifully silently as it went into my brain & was retained. It was not a long message, but gave us the welcome orders to proceed to Port Stanley anchorage at first light.

I suppose the mental blockage was rather like trying to count something with someone else counting out aloud alongside you!

Even now, if some morse starts either coming out normally, or flashing from a ship on TV, everyone starts saying "what is it saying," thus causing my brain to "switch off!"


29th August 2008, 19:12
I was often called to the bridge to read a lamp, and like you, I converted the dot-dashes to rhythmic sound in my head. Not the way I'm sure those naval lads read that high speed lamp.

Downside of this of course is that sometimes in my local, I start reading morse off the fruit machine. (When they play them nowadays every bloody sound under the Sun comes out of them .....(EEK) ).

It never makes much sense...... but then, I am in a pub. (Pint)

30th August 2008, 18:27
When I was on my Navigation Cadet Course at FNC, part of the course was to learn to read and send Morse via light. This was also a required part of the 'O' Level Seamanship exam.

This gave me a good foundation for when I went on my RO's Course - I was ahead of the game by already knowing Morse code.

Pity I never had a chance to use for real :(

31st August 2008, 18:11
I was the RO on the Algerian in the spring of 1954. We were homeward bound and just rounded Cape St Vincent in the evening when I was called to the bridge to 'assist' the 3O read morse from a southward bound ship. He had signaled the usual 'what ship, where bound' but the reply was too quick for him to read. The other ship signaled 'HMY Britannia with HRH Prince Charles and Princess Anne aboard bound for Tobruk to meet Her Majesty The Queen and Prince Philip' This took a while and caused great consternation. The Captain was called and soon all the officers were debating the proper protocol. (Being a young Canadian I found this quite amusing) Suggestions including dipping the ensign, which was dropped as we didn't fly an ensign at night, and rigging flood lights was deemed to be too long to do. It was decided to send a reply which, as best as I can remember was "HM's Loyal Ship Algerian sends Loyal greeting to HRH Prince Charles and Princess Anne and HM The Queen and Prince Philip and wishes you a safe and speedy journey.' Needless to say the Britannia's light were almost over the horizon when I finally got the last word sent.
Next day at lunch we were listening to the BBC News, as was our routine and the last item was ' The Royal Yacht Britannia, presently docked in Glasgow, will be departing to meet HM The Queen at Tobruk etc etc

1st September 2008, 05:47
never had the skills of you good gentlemen.
I know a naval vessel drew level with us once and started flashing a signal lamp
at a hell of a speed. no one aboard could read it. we had a signal lamp up the mast and flashed RT at him but he did not reply by RT as requested. instead he flashed something and sped of ahead of at a great rate. Next thing we knew a submarine shot up out of the water very close to us, he dived again straight away. Somehow i think the navy were telling us we were interrupting there anti submarine exercise.
When I (3rd engineer) looked at the chart we were in a designated submarine exercise area.

marco nista
1st September 2008, 08:15
I used to 'help out' on the bridge when asked, particularly when we were on the Vietnam coast when the USN tried to keep radio silence.

Going past the Lizard [?] & Europa Point [Gibraltar] there used to be LLoyds Reporting Stations & of course the signalmen there were 'red hot' & the R/O often used to get called out there to assist.

A particularly hard type of Aldis lamp to 'read' was the type where instead of the lamp being 'turned off' by a sleeve coming forward & obscuring the lamp & giving clean 'lamp shining' & 'lamp not shining' was the type that had the reflector pivoted so that the beam was deflected downward for the 'off' periods of the symbols & upward toward to the other ship for the 'on' periods [are you following me ?] - this meant that instead of darkness & light you saw a dim light & then a bright light.

Back in the 60s when not everyone had VHF the Mates [or more usually the Apprentices] often to used to call up passing ships when they had nothing else to do & it was quite common to see the lamp flickering away.

I recall one time sitting in the shack when I noticed rythmic flickering light thru the chink round the Radioroom hatch to the wheelhouse.
After a few moments I realised that they were morse signals.
On going onto the bridge to investigate I found the Third Mate sitting in the Pilot's chair, 'chatting' to a passing ship by flicking the wheelhouse lights on & off.

Happy days . . . . .



31st October 2008, 22:03
Is morse code still in use anywhere?

1st November 2008, 01:13
Could be expensive morse, first trip 3rd mate 1961 on ss Carlton Chapman and Willan passing Gib, what ship where bound etc answered but omitted to say "please do not report" Result 7/6d reporting fee deducted from pay off at end of trip.
Chatty Chapmans indeed

1st November 2008, 12:09
When with shell Tankers we had just sailed from Danang in Vietnam march 1969 when we noticed a ship ahead to about 1.5 nm to port. It started an aldis message which the mate could not read. So I answered and asked for a repeat. It was in international code. We had to drag out the International Code book. It was a message to the effect we where sailing into danger and should alter course. The captain and I moved onto the port wing to reply. All of a sudden everything lit up orange. Flames where running across the sea and something flew through between the mast's with one hell of a noise, similar to end of the world. Then another and another and another. We had just encountered the USS New Jersey WW11 battleship in all its glory shelling
targets in the South of Vietnam. What an honour to experience the sight of a battleship in action. We crept away into the night with our tail betwen our legs.