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I'm sure it was 4 x 4 second dashes, separated by 1 sec.
Had occasion to use it once near Santos, Brazil, but I sent 6 by hand, as 1st mate was getting anxious!
..from website ....http://alt.g4gbp.co.uk/kit.html
The Auto-Alarm was always on watch during the times that the Radio Officer was not.
It was tuned to one frequency - 500kHz to listen for Auto-Alarm distress signals. The Auto-Alarm distress signal was transmitted as twelve, four second dashes spaced by one second. The Auto Alarm would listen and when a signal was received would start to time. If it received a 4 second dash it would then go on to look for the next and so on. Any time it received four, four second dashes it would ring the bells to alert the Radio Office that there was a distress in progress. If the second, or subsequent signals proved not to be the correct sequence of four second dashes, the unit reset itself.
 

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I need to go back 60 years - but I recall it was 4x4 second dashes at 1 sec spacing. Here's what I wrote in a memoir of the time:
From: 'You'll See Wonders" . . . "At the end of the watch I'll set up the Auto-Alarm, a safety device carried by all ship's stations. Unattended, that grey box filled with relays will listen on the Distress Frequency for a series of four-second dashes, each dash followed by a one-second space. If the magic box detects a sequence of four dashes of correct spacing, it will ring a bell in my cabin and another on the bridge. It's a loud bell, sited on the bulkhead just a couple of feet from my ear when I'm in my bunk. The clapper is sometimes bent back by some irritated chap to render it less fierce. An old sock would subdue the beast — but that would be illegal. When the bell sounds, I'll roll out of bed and stagger up to the wireless room in pyjamas. Not so bad on calm nights, but no fun when she is pitching in the teeth of a soaking monsoon. The trouble is, occasional bursts of static can mimic that alarm signal. There are far more false alarms than real distress calls; static-prone tropical waters can leave a radio man short of sleep."

The memoir has just appeared. The title comes from advice given when I went to sea: brother-in-law, an engineer with Elder Dempster, cautioned me to never be cynical - 'You'll see wonders', he said. 'You'll See Wonders' is the sequel to my first memoir, 'The Best of Days'. It has been a pleasurable two years in the writing, and I've enjoyed trying to write with the spirit and atmosphere of the time. It is not autobiography, but memoir - which allows for scenes and character to be built where memory gives only snatches and fragments of conversation and visual recall of sixty years ago. I'm now cogitating around a possible book 3, whilst Pieris rapae is out there, in the sunshine, laying her little lime-green eggs on my cabbages. The cover of "You'll See Wonders" is from one of the last paintings by my old friend and venerable man of the sea, Bill Wedgwood of Robin Hood's Bay - he did it for the book. Though he did not see it finished, I passed him chapters as they emerged.

I do hope I've got it right. It's a pain to make changes once the bird has fledged.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks, I seem to have pretty firm memories of only three being needed to set it off, but probably false memories. That is why I didn't mention any number when asking the question - Didn't want to plant seeds of doubt when answering the question. I also used it once at 2230 gmt off the trade routes, and it got loads of responses, and the nearest ship was standing by us within three hours, but we didn't need to abandon (fire) - Three days drifting with Overseas Argonaut standing by, and then towed to Dakar with salvage tug for one month of repairs in Dakar -
 

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Thanks, I seem to have pretty firm memories of only three being needed to set it off, but probably false memories. That is why I didn't mention any number when asking the question - Didn't want to plant seeds of doubt when answering the question. I also used it once at 2230 gmt off the trade routes, and it got loads of responses, and the nearest ship was standing by us within three hours, but we didn't need to abandon (fire) - Three days drifting with Overseas Argonaut standing by, and then towed to Dakar with salvage tug for one month of repairs in Dakar -
Pretty sure four four second dashes were required to activate most auto alarms, Shipbuilder, but you've got me wondering now. I sailed on Overseas Argonaut in '79 - glad to hear they looked after you. A month in Dakar would have been a laugh!

John T
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks John,
For me, Dakar was pretty awful. All the repair radio traffic had to go via our satellite, as they didn't want to use the agent. So I was at it from 0800 in the morning to about 2200 at night, enormous repair lists etc. I was allowed out for 20 minutes per meal at first, but when things calmed down, I wasn't confined to the radio room as much. Also, all the crew got freebie satellite calls home once a week that was easy enough, but still time consuming. Just keeping up with the radio accounts was a mammoth task. At weekends, I could usually have half a day off on Sunday, and go to a local hotel for the afternoon. I could have flown home with the rest of them, but not paticularly keen on flying, so remained there so my opposite number could have Christmas at home. On completion of repairs, instead of going back the to UK, our original destination, we returned to the Cape, so in effect, when we got back, I had done two trips in a row (4 months), so consequently got four months off at the end of it, which was great, and worth all the discomfort of Dakar.
A very intersting experience -
 

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Back in the 1950s a common PMG question required you to draw an auto alarm and describe how it registered an Alarm signal and actuated the alerting bells. Hatches, pawls and cams featured strongly.
 

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I also originally thought that the Auto-Alarm Eqpt only required 3 * 4 sec dashes. Perhaps there were different 'models' floating about!
 

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Discussion Starter #10
The Siemens SB2182 selector was a mass of relays, and describing the action was very complicated, I dreaded it coming up in the exam, but they just asked about what happened in the event of power failure, that was quite easy! . The auto alarms I sailed with were AEI, Marconi, Redifon, Kelvin Hughes, and ITT, but I always thought they only required three dashes!
 

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Thanks John,
For me, Dakar was pretty awful. All the repair radio traffic had to go via our satellite, as they didn't want to use the agent. So I was at it from 0800 in the morning to about 2200 at night, enormous repair lists etc. I was allowed out for 20 minutes per meal at first, but when things calmed down, I wasn't confined to the radio room as much. Also, all the crew got freebie satellite calls home once a week that was easy enough, but still time consuming. Just keeping up with the radio accounts was a mammoth task. At weekends, I could usually have half a day off on Sunday, and go to a local hotel for the afternoon. I could have flown home with the rest of them, but not paticularly keen on flying, so remained there so my opposite number could have Christmas at home. On completion of repairs, instead of going back the to UK, our original destination, we returned to the Cape, so in effect, when we got back, I had done two trips in a row (4 months), so consequently got four months off at the end of it, which was great, and worth all the discomfort of Dakar.
A very intersting experience -
Sounds like murder and then listening to everyone telling you that you did nowt!
I recall meeting quite a few nice French folk and also getting chased round Dakar by a gang of shoe shine boys. They won!

John T
 

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Discussion Starter #12
They were OK in Dakar Marine. We never had anything locked up and nothing was stolen. It was very hot and the AC was off all the time. When we went to the hotel swimming pool on Sunday afternoons, there was usually a group of us, so no trouble there, but I was glad to leave -
 

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The Mimco Type M Auto Alarm and am sure its Seaguard successor had the same selector unit which required four x four second dashes spaced by one second intervals to be properly activated...
Draw the circuit and explain the action of said same AA selector unit was a favourite PMG theory paper quedstiom of the day.
 

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I sailed with the Marconi Seaguard on one ship, it was a magnificent piece of machinery, it had a spinning weight, which was started by hand when turning on and plenty of cams. Not too sure how it worked. But down in West Africa with heavy static it would merrily register the what was static as a 4 second dash, and every so often like some demented poker machine it would pluck the magic four 4 second dash from the static set off the auto alarm and poor old sparky would struggle up to the radio room listen in 500 kc/s to listen to heavy static for a while, I don't believe it would have registered a genuine 4 second dash in such heavy static. The Lifeguard was a mass of valves but much better. Never really had breakdown problems with either.
 

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I had to draw a block diagram of a lifeguard N for my theory exam.

After having done it hundreds and hundreds of times coming on and going off watch - it was 4 dashes...mind you, I had to think about it for a bit.

:)

I always used the AKD to test the AA.
 

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#15. "I always used the AKD to test the AA. "

Me too. the boogie woogie clicking and ticking on the Marconi one got my foot tapping.

That Seaguard auto alarm had to be started by spinning a little doo dah metal thingy at the top of the panel. I always thought, this won't work but it always did. The electronic ones were just as bad with static, I always thought.

John T
 

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The selector unit of Mimco Type M and Seaguard AA indeed was an electro-mechanical work of art.
The action depended on a synchronous motor whose frequency was provided in Type M by a vibrating reed and Seaguard I believe valve oscillatory wizardry.
The spindle started the centrifugal action of the selector motor and if it should stopp when "en garde" the centrifugal weight dropped closing the "motor stopped" contacts thence activating the alarm bells..
Only sailed with Type M and never encountered heavier QRN than Singapore/Surabaya/Sydney run particularly during the North Australian "wet" and the AA selector whizzed and whirred continuously yet I don't recall many if any false alarms.

 

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Sailed with the Type-M (Vigilant) auto alarm on several ships. It always managed to raise eyebrows on fellow crew members if they saw me setting it to work when I was going off watch. The vibrating reed had to be set in motion by means of giving a sharp blow to the side of the cabinet, while at the same time it was necessary to depress and spin the spring-loaded knob on the front panel (so as to engage its spindle with a gear on the motor shaft). Hopefully the combined stimulus was sufficient to spin the motor and supply it with the right frequency and level of pulses of energy required to keep it running. Often required several attempts to co-ordinate the movements and apply enough force to set things running. When I explained that it was absolutely necessary to bang on the equipment cabinet to make the thing work, the disbelieving looks on the faces of the onlookers were always a source of amusement. You could see their minds associating my actions with their Dads' treatment of the early unco-operative TV receivers.
 
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Three consecutive correctly timed dashes would trigger the alarm. Still have a mental image of the Marconi autoalarm and the three latches in series to trigger it.

Happy days
gwzm
 

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All the ships i sailed on were fitted with marconi auto alarm equipment. Even the Union Steamship Co of NZ had them and the qrn at times in the South Pacific around NZ and the islands at times was an absolute pest. I would be in and out of my bunk every few minutes then tearing up to the radio room to listen to an earful of static.
 
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