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I spent just over 31 years as a radio officer MN, & grew weary of continually being referred to as "radio operator." This was not a snobbish sort of thing. A radio operator operates radios, full stop. For radio officers, that was only part of the job, we also had to maintain & repair radio equipment (transmitting & receiving), public address systems, radar sets, satcoms, satnav, cinema equipment, sewing machines, typewriters, video equipment, computers, false teeth, passenger tape recorders & hearing aids, set up quartz watches etc etc, if it had electricity in it, we were usually expected to fix it! I didn't mind being referred to as "Sparks," at all, even when serving on some of the finest passenger liners afloat!

PS Read the posts on morse damaging hearing. I find that after all these years, my hearing is rather more acute than it once was. Have a lot of tinnitus, but it neither bothers me, nor intereferes with me hearing even the faintest of sounds.

Damage caused by morse - I got repetitive strain in the wrist when serving aboard the WINDSOR CASTLE in 1965, it was awful & refused to get better. In desparation, chief sent me ashore to Hamrad in Cape Town to get a bug key. Morse became a pleasure for the first time in my life (I had already been at sea for 4 years at that time). After getting the bug key, I could send for hours without any bother and never had any further trouble with wrist!

When films come on with a bit of morse in them, it is as clear to me as it was when I was using it daily, but always frustrating as it never last for long enough to hear the full story & everyone starts shouting "what's it saying?"
 

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The other day I watched a do***entary about the Battle of the River Plate. One segment had Graf Spee radio operator sending a morse transmission which read: GPK GPK de GZMN! Wish they wouldn't do that.

I didn't get too concerned about what folk called me, I knew they needed me, I didn't need them!

John T.
 

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I spent just over 31 years as a radio officer MN, & grew weary of continually being referred to as "radio operator." This was not a snobbish sort of thing. A radio operator operates radios, full stop. For radio officers, that was only part of the job, we also had to maintain & repair radio equipment (transmitting & receiving), public address systems, radar sets, satcoms, satnav, cinema equipment, sewing machines, typewriters, video equipment, computers, false teeth, passenger tape recorders & hearing aids, set up quartz watches etc etc, if it had electricity in it, we were usually expected to fix it! I didn't mind being referred to as "Sparks," at all, even when serving on some of the finest passenger liners afloat!
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I agree, a 'radio operator' did just that, operate radios. A radio officer's function was worlds away from that of an 'operator' and it would have been demeaning to refer to a radio officer in such a way. Apart from the usual nav and ER maintenance repairs etc I'd lost count of the cabin radio's, tape recorders and even vacuum cleaners I'd repaired.
If you'd achieved an electronics certificate then I felt R/O's 'respect' on board was immeasurably higher - perhaps because you spent a greater percentage of your time within the engine room or on cargo based instrumentation and control.
It's a long road from 'sparks' to radio/electronics officer but at the end of the day we were put there to save life..whatever folk cared to call us.
 

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Hundreds of lives were saved at sea during the war because the Radio Officers sent off distress signals - many under hazardous conditions and at the risk of their own lives..
Our gratitude to you all..
Stan.
 

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I often used to wonder how I would react under fire while trying to send the QQQQ or RRRR signal.
Or even just a plain distress with a tanker burning around me.
Too many thoughts like that would have had me talking to the lifeboats.
Put it to the back of your mind and don't think about it.
A very hard act to follow, Stan.

Attached is from Marconi Mariner Magazine Volume 1 Number 3
 

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many thanks for the thought stan...............and as marconi said..........the hardest of acts to follow.

in thinking about it, i reckon i spent well over 90% of my time outside the radio room when concerned with repairs.
im hard put to remember too many problems which were entirely within the "radio" domain.
radar......gyro (specially repeaters) .....auto pilot..... rudder indicator.........phone system(this was always a time consumer).......log (another one).........echo sounder and displays........and heavens knows how many other peripheral items......all requiring attention.

the worst time for me was when i was really deep into a serious problem with the auto pilot/gyro......an intermittant fault which suddenly cut the a/p off, leaving the ship to drift.
the fauly was eventually traced to a large multi pole switch,the auto/manual... which was part of a lousy manufacturers batch....or so it turned out to be.
once traced.......which took days to do.........i replaced it with another flown out from sperrys.
it took best part of a day to replace......bits of numbered and coloured tagging all over the deck.....and we sailed from antwerp for bridgeport about an hour after completion........2300hrs.
the rudder indicator followed our gyro movements ...... perfectly..........great.

a matter of hours later.........the bloody thing cut out again.

again, we were on manual wheel untill i could get it apart again. i knew it was the switch.....but obviously couldnt convince the capatain......who was a well known b*****rd at the very best of times.

even i found it hard to believe two switches had the same intermittant fault.
about two days later.....i received a qtc from h.q. that sperry had reviewed their suppply manufacturers process, and found fault with it.
the whole batch of switches were faulty....... liable to fail

whilst in the middle of this debacle, the 3/0 told me "the echo sounder roll need repalcing"............

you may guess the response.

the master backed him up.........quoting company departmental responsiblilty
regulations.

whenever i heard........ "wireless operator"........ i always thought back to this
incident.


funnily enough..........

the master was a complete a**e about this and everything else onboard that ship, but, the chief engineer, a gent of a man called peter eltringham, turned to with me, and helped me himself to pin the fault down.
the co operation between his lads and myself should have humbled the o.m.

but of course........

it didnt.
 

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Radio Officers and Multi-tasking

Just to show that there is nothing new when it comes to multi-tasking for Radio Officers. Nor anything new about nostalgia for 'the way things were done in my day'. Nor even is it novel for elderly gents to be critical of what the young are doing and how they are doing it!

The cartoon is from the September-October 1949 issue of the Marconi Marine house magazine, the 'Mariner'.
 

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Us Marconimen sometimes had other duties that the Old Man roped us in for. Usually on the promise of some cash in hand or cases of beer.
Stuff like checking over paying off slips (because we were neutral and could be relied upon not to discuss what we saw).
Being in charge of the duplicator (yes Gestetner type!) so doing menus, crew lists, slop chest lists, etc. Usually with Indian crew.
Being in charge of the bar (a very dangerous choice - "inmate in charge of the asylum" springs to mind).
I also used to do cargo watches when I needed a sub.
Maybe I was lucky in the ships I was assigned to but in my case "Sparkie" was just another member of the "Team". (Thumb)
 

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The theme tune for the TV series "Inspector Morse" composed by Barrington Phelong uses the orchestra string section to key the letters MORSE throughout the theme. I have tried to post the MP3 on this reply but it is rejected by the site.
 

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The theme tune of the sitcom "Some Mothers do 'ave 'em" is made up from the Morse code of the title.

I've tried to find this on 'Youtube', but can't - sorry :(
 

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To my way of thinking the 'Sparks' was one of the most important individuals on a ship. As Master I relied on their help enormously. A good 'Sparks' was worth his weight in gold. Look after him and he looked after (made life easy) for you. Conversely, being 'highly strung' they could be difficult if crossed (levity ...not good with the symbols)

Dave
 
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