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Discussion Starter #1
I am starting a new thread for the remarks made by Ron Stringer on "The writing on the wall" thread. I think the comments deserve their own thread.

From Ron Stringer
.....On visits made to the QE2 radio room and the transmitter room on the upper deck, I was amazed that the ship ever passed radio survey. Remote controls to the emergency transmitter were home-made and would not have seemed out of place in a Heath-Robinson drawing....
You make a very interesting comment about your amazement that the ship ever passed survey. You are not the only one. I remember very clearly a number of radio surveyors coming on board and going away scratching there heads and saying "this does not seem right" !

As you know the QE2 had a remote transmitter room ( locker !) with 4 main transmitters. 3 of these were STC ST1430 HF 1kw self tuning transmitters. As I understand they as used by the Swedish military and possibly never certified for marine use. That said, they were good transmitters and never caused problems - except when used on the wire aerials. The self tuning of one would effect the tune of another already working and there was no provision for it to automatically retune, it would just drop right back in power ! The fault was the wire aerials too close together. As you know the ship was not supposed to have wire aerials but rely on notch aerials, so the wires had to be mounted close together so as not to be seen !

The other main transmitter was an IMR 1kw normal marine MF/HF transmitter that had been modified for remote MF tuning with servos mounted externally. Tuning the transmitter remotely was dreadful and took a while for a simple MF frequency change !

What is not so well know is that the remote transmitter room was actually the "official" radio room. To operate from the official radio room you had to go along to the transmiter room - a 5 minute walk along half the length of the ship and up about 3 decks. You then removed all the servos from the IMR transmitter and operated it normally. I am not even certain there was a main receiver in the transmitter room but were supposed to remove one from a rack in the normal radio room and carry it to the transmitter room !

I do think parts of the IMR design of the radio room left a lot to be desired !
I do know that planning for remote transmitters does cause many problems - I have had similar problems planning new radio rooms for stations in Antarctica. It would have been so easy to use marine equipment locally if you only operate one transmitter/receiver at a time. If you want to operate multiple 1kw transmitters as I did in Antarctica many years later - and as the QE2 needed in 1968 then you have problems finding suitable equipment. QE2 had the additional problem of having to have remote controlled MF equipment capable of operation from 410 to 512 khz. Coast stations remote MF equipment did not have to do this.

I wonder how MIMCO would have solved the problem of a QE2 fitout in 1968. I suspect they would also have gone for self tuning remote 1kw HF transmitters also. However what would they have used for a main remotely controlled marine approved MF transmitter ? It could not be located in the radio office as the receivers were there - remember this is 1968 and remotely tuned synthesised receivers were not common like they are now ! Maybe Marconi made a suitable MF remote transmitter at the time for the Royal Navy - although I suspect the RN would have used local MF transmitters located in the radio office.
In retrospect I think IMR were not proud of their MF solution, it was heath-robinsonish and would have used another marine approved transmitter had it been available.

All the best

Roger
 

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Surely the arrangements on the QE2 were the wrong answer to a question that need not have been asked. Why was there any need for remote operation of the equipment at all? Other passenger ships seemed to manage with the operating positions at the transmitter site, why not the QE2?

There was no shortage of remotely-controlled transmitters, both MF and HF (even LF, if you include Grey Funnel installations) but the market for such on Merchant ships is what today might be referred to as 'extremely niche'. As a consequence nobody was prepared to spend the money to put them forward for type approval (a very time-consuming and expensive exercise indeed) since the costs could never be recovered. Cunard could have purchased Naval equipment from a number of suppliers (MWT was only one of those with suitable equipment available) and this was suggested to Cunard. In fact we were approached by their consultants at an early stage and, at their request, planned out a radio installation using ICS equipment such as was being supplied to the MoD. However the cost was about 10 times that of standard GPO-approved commercial marine products and the lead consultant (a gentleman with a military title) was much taken aback by this. He suggested that as the new Cunarder was such a prestige vessel, we should be prepared to provide the equipment free of charge. His proposal was politely declined, he was wished every success in his search for radio suppliers willing to sponsor Cunard, the company chauffeur was summoned and the consultant was delivered to Chelmsford railway station.

MIMCo's only involvement with the QE2 as-built, was in providing TV and entertainments distribution systems, all supplied at full commercial rates. Even there, I think we lost money on the installations side since there were so many delays and changes to build schedules that the work overran. At this distance in time I don't remember whether the delays and changes originated with John Browns or Cunard but I recall engineers from the TV & Audio department being rushed to Southampton prior to the maiden voyage to sort problems, run missing cables and connect up cabins that had been overlooked on the Clyde. People were working for several days (and nights) to clear things up. We asked for (and got) a purchase order for this panic request for help at the 11th-hour, and only undertook it at all because of the risk of negative fall-out from passenger complaints about MIMCo (acually Elettra) products not working on the maiden voyage.

As a young technician not long ashore, encountering Cunard's attitude to that ship was a great training experience for me and stood me in good stead later when involved in contract negotiations. Our lead commercial man impressed on me that, while we must always be ready to do anything for which the customer was prepared to pay, customer requests that were not to be paid for must always be declined

It was at least 15 years before I went aboard the ship and saw the radio arrangements but nothing that I saw then persuaded me that we had been anything but lucky not to have been involved.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Why the QE2 had remote transmitters.

Surely the arrangements on the QE2 were the wrong answer to a question that need not have been asked. Why was there any need for remote operation of the equipment at all? Other passenger ships seemed to manage with the operating positions at the transmitter site, why not the QE2?
Hi Ron. This forum is really great ! 40 years after an event we can get the view of people the other side of the world who were involved and/or knew about what was happening. I find it very interesting hearing your views.

I disagree with your statement about the wrong answer for the QE2. With the technology available at the time remote transmitters were the only solution with the volume of traffic to the QE2 - this was not just a normal passenger ship ! There were radphone calls happening all the time on the short North Atlantic route. The circuits were given to telephone operator located elsewhere on the ship who arranged all the calls talking to their counterparts on shore.

Nowadays with satellite telephones you tend to forget how important HF radio was for passenger ships like QE2. The QE2 needed HF radphones. The HF radphones transmitter operated continually to the UK sometimes carrying Lincompex or scrambling. In addition you had an HF RTTY transmitter operating long periods of time to the UK - on a different frequency so it could not be carried on the other sideband of the Radphones transmitter. There was therefore at least 2 transmitters operating "key-down".

That was just to the UK traffic. You now needed to have a CW transmitter operating to get morse traffic from many stations such as WSL or WCC in the USA or FFY in France.

One of the complaints directed against operations on the old QE was that they were not flexible. If passengers wanted a radphone call to the USA they had to pay the much higher rate to have it via the UK. There were large numbers of USA passengers on board so you had to set up a radphone circuit to the USA for periods - yet another transmitter.

At times the UK radphone traffic was banking up so bring up another UK radphone circuit - yet another transmitter.

At night there would be a transmitter required for the Plessey ARQ to take the Daily Telegraph Newspaper. This could take hours - yet another transmitter.

You will see that at times you easily have 4 transmitters in operation simultaneously.

These circuits also needed receivers - they could not be operated locally due to the high RF levels and intermodulation products - particularly if they had open feed lines. Therefore you had to have remote receivers. Remote controlled frequency synthesised receivers were not readily available - perhaps high price items for the military. In fact the frequency synthesised local GEC receivers fitted were state of the art. The only suitable remote receivers would have been remote crystal controlled with a limited number of frequencies. This would probably be suitable for radphones or RTTY if the QE2 was simply going across the Atlantic as per the old QE but the QE2 was designed for world cruising as well and needed to be flexible.

Technically it would not have been possible to operate 4 HF/MF radio circuits from the same location as the transmitters without severe interference. Therefore the concept of local receivers in the radio office and remote transmitters makes a lot of sense. Its the normal coast radio solution and the one used at the 3 Australian Antarctic stations I have been involved when there was a need for simultaneous HF RTTY circuits and other HF traffic.

The problem with the QE2 was the need to provide additional type approved equipment to meet its international requirement for HF and MF. Thus the compromise solution which was the most economic but not even liked by IMR!

Looking back I do not believe the QE2 really fully complied with the spirit of the radio regulations and I believe the radio surveyors were right to doubt.
In a real emergency it would have taken time to set up the transmitter room as a radio room and it would not have had the easy access of the normal radio room which was quite close to the bridge.
After hearing your views, I think she should have had a full set of normal type marine approved equipment including emergency equipment properly installed in the radio office but not normally used. For normal MF use she could have had a remotely controlled MF transmitter as supplied to the RN (you say they were available), even if it were not type approved - after all the HF transmitters were not ! This would have been a better solution, easier to operate and more in compliance of the sprit of the radio regulations. Expensive but nothing compared to the overall cost of the ship.


All the best

Roger
 

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Hi Roger

My! you do have a good memory. Do you still have the Hillman Imp ?
I have been retired from QE2 since 1992 but I still remember the various hassles regarding remote tx's and the emergency station in the transmitter room, not to mention the battery banks!. It was a busy little room.

I log on here occasionally (between holidays) and we are off to Italy on Aug 30th so I look forward to a chat when we get back. Last time we met was in Australia somewhere... can't remember just where.
You'll have to remind me.

Quite a few R/O's passed through during my period on her, Gordon Fry, Clive Russell, Brian Martin (He is still there on the ET side) Jim Neary Peter Hughes, Chris Connerty, Alan Burbage, Phil Marriott, etc etc. Don Butterworth sadly became diabetic in 1980. He retired in 82 but the problem worsened and he lost a leg. Eventually he was forced to go into hospital to have the other one removed but MRSA got him first. That was about seven years ago.

Anyway I'm still breathing, the kids have grown up and we have 4 grandchildren to keep us busy.

Welcome to the site and may you enjoy it just as much as I do

Best 73s Allan Holmes ex C.R.O. of the old black pig.
 

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Hello Allan

Do you have any news of what became of Phil Marriott? He was my chief for two trips on Mawana/GWWZ before he left to got to GBTT. Is he still around do you know?

Cheers
Alan Marsden (ex Cunard Princess)
 

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Hi Alan . Sorry for delay but just had some welcome sunshine in Como. Phil Marriott left QE2 in 1988 for Cunard Countess. He retired in 1992 (I think) just about the time I did. We still correspond at Christmas. He and Jean live in Penrhyn Bay, LLandudno.

Hope ur keeping well, long time no see.

Cheers.

A.W.H.
 

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Thanks for that Allan. Do you have contact details for Phil? Wouldn't mind sending my salaams after all these years.

Long time - no sea!

Cheers and best regards
Alan
 

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All I remember of the QE2 radio room, apart from the location on Boat Deck, was the miles of telex paper sent in triplicate to the Bridge and then split between the "Contols Office" Captain and whoever was interested!
Nice to see some familiar names - my regards to all who remember me on the Bridge
Malcolm
 

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Hi All

My first post to this site.

I'm going to tax your memory now, Allan, I sailed with you in 1990. Back then I was a fresh faced, straight out of College, general pain in the bum. Back then the Operator at W.O.O. would refer to you as "Sir Allan of Holmes". Eighteen years on and I still consider my time, as short as it was, aboard the QE2 as the happiest time of my life, even if Mr Burbage would not talk to me :)

As for the equipment, during my time onboard the STC's performed without any flaws. The only casualty I remember was the failure of a Marconi Seahorse. Marconi sent some techies to repair it when we landed in Southampton. Once onboard they checked their paperwork and found that Cunard hadn't paid for it and promptly took it away leaving us without a Telex Machine. A few panic phonecalls and STC delivered a very modern, for the day, looking terminal.

I still have a piece of nostalga from the radio room, namely an Eddystone EC958 Receiver. There were two of these lying in the Gyro Room in differing stages of disrepair. During quiet evenings on watch I would tinker away with the best of the two trying to bring life back into the quiet chassis. I refused to give up and Allan most graciously allowed me to take the receiver with me when I left in November of 1990. The good news is the receiver is now fully functional again. The problem was in the PSU assembly, which was a common fault for these radios. Once the regulator and capacitors were replaced it screamed back to life. It still takes pride of place in my study and gets used on a near daily basis.

As well as Allan, I remember Chris and Sandy. I still have traumatic flashbacks of seeing Gary Seal in a powder wig and satin pantoloons playing the Piano in the midships square. And I still think fondly of Mr. Burbage, even though after making him thousands of cups of tea, he wouldn't talk to me.
Gary and I, both of us being Radiohams, would find any excuse to use a Morse Key, much to Allans annoyance. We devised a small contest, the Worked all UK Coaststations contest (based on the Worked All Britain amateur award), and would find the smallest of excuses to call out on
500KHz.

Overall I would count my time in the Radio Room as the greatest time. Being able to travel the world, advise the passengers that the crew do not go home at night, but are towed behind the ship in small barges, and get paid for it.

Regards

Nidge

(Nigel Smith - G0NIG)
 

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The only casualty I remember was the failure of a Marconi Seahorse. Marconi sent some techies to repair it when we landed in Southampton. Once onboard they checked their paperwork and found that Cunard hadn't paid for it and promptly took it away leaving us without a Telex Machine.
Nigel.

Seahorse was an echo sounder. The Marconi ARQ/telex system was Spector (and you are right, Angus never paid for it. He never paid for anything if he could avoid it, or delay the day of reckoning).
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Hi to you Allan ( Holmes)

Great to hear from you again. We last met in Hobart when you invited me on board.

Sorry for the delay in replying. I have been busy the last few days with visits from my wife's family. No not the same wife Joan as I had when on the QE2 - with whom I had 4 children ! Only 3 grandchildren so far !

Sorry to hear about Don - a sad end. You mentioned some of the ROs who sailed on QE2. What happened to other original RO - Dave Wayne? I still have the photos of us taken during training at GEC and IMR with Dave showing off his Seiko watch !

I still live in Tasmania. I worked for the Australian Antarctic Division for 17 years and retired at 55 years. This month I reach the magic 65 when I become an OAP! Like you I travel a lot- this year was my 5th year in a row to holiday in Europe ! This year I went on the June 15 cruise on the QE2 to Canary Islands. Remember that was her first foreign port ! Strangely I was the only person on board who had been on the original maiden voyages ! For a touch of nostalgia I wore my original uniform mess jacket for the nautical ball ! ( It almost fitted - with a slight extension of the link buttons !) I would have like to have gone on the last voyage to Dubai. When I first saw it advertised I thought it expensive, when I looked again it was full. The Canary Islands cruise was a compromise. The last cruise would be fantastic and very nostalgic. Do you know if any of the ROs are going on it ?

Must get to bed now its well after midnight here !

73s to you and your family.

Roger
 

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Hi Nigel, nice to hear from u. I remember the eddystones (just) I wonder if someone somewhere still makes them.. Sadly the old radio office is now a passenger suite... When I think of all the sweat i lost over the years it just doesn't seem right. Yes, the guys at WOO were great, we got them down to the ship whenever we could. After being retired for 16 years it's nice to be reminded of what went on. I joined in 1968 in the shipyard and, apart from 3 years off on the Countess for good behavior, I was there till 1992. Should have got a medal.....

OK look forward to hearing from u again

Cheers

AWH.
 

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Hi Roger. I'm just trying to think whether I have anything left to wear from the Maiden Voyages. If I have then I probably won't fit into it... I remember the first cruise prior to the Maiden Voyage to NY was to the Canaries. I think it was named "The Preview Cruise" and we got back on the 30th of April. Queen E came down on May 1st and we sailed for NY on the 2nd. I still have about 100 feet of cine film (silent of course) pity camcorders hadn't been invented. I don't know if any ex R/O's are on the last voyage. I think I would hate to be on her for nostalgic reasons. Nice to remember her in her heyday I think.

OK Rog time for bed. Look forward to another chat.

Cheers

AWH
 

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Roger, Sorry for lateness in reply re David Wayne. He left us very shortly after you did. The parting was not amicable.

Cheers = ._ ._.. ._.. ._ _.
 

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Getting back to the subject of remotely controlled transmitters:
At the relevant time JRC made a pair of nice 3kW HF and MF transmitters which, once set up, would auto-tune whatever the condition of the insulators. These were not compact pieces of equipment with each cabinet being approx. 6ft cube. Each Tx had one very large o/p valve, and I seem to remember it was water-cooled. I don't suppose either Tx would meet UK type-approval, but that doesn't seem to have been a problem in any case!
 

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I visited a London museum, for the life of me cannot remember which one, that had a ship's radio room fitted with the JRC equipment similar to what you mentioned. I wonder if it could have been the Science Museum?
At one time the Science Museum had several radio rooms, representing different decades of the 20th Century. One was fitted with the prototype of one of the MIMCo range of radio consoles.
 
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