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CHRISTENSEN CANADIAN AFRICAN LINES (C.C.A.L.).
C.C.A.L. GALLERY
TRAMP STEAMERS & LIBERTY GALLERY PLUS CANADIAN BUILT "FORTS"
FREEDOM FREIGHTERS
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CANADIAN NATIONAL S.S. GALLERY.
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THE THREE "DELS" & DELTA CRUISE LINES
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WEATHER SHIPS (BRITISH & NORTH AMERICAN)
RADIO OFFICER NOSTALGIA
R/O GALLERY
FOUR YEARS OF FUN WITH ANCHOR LINE by Ian Walker
"A SEAGOING SAGA" - Trevor Inman
ALAN SHARD - WARTIME MN REMINISCENCES
CAPT'N PETER ASHCROFT, EXPLOITS OF
SEA STORIES & OTHERS
AIME'S STORY & PICTORIALS
MEMOIRS OF A RADIO OFFICER
RELATED SITES

THE R/O’s LAMENT
 
 In a cold and lonely radio shack, where the last receiver stands,
 A museum set of manuals held idly in my hands,
 With my jargon half forgotten, of my stock-in-trade bereft,
 I wonder what's ahead of me - the only RO left.
 With the office sprouting gadgets like a nightmare Christmas tree.
 There are keyboards for computers, where my Morse key used to be.
 And I couldn't read steam morse 'midst this lunatic array,
 For at every height and angle there's a visual display.
 The proud, efficient Sparkie has been rendered obsolete
 By electronic equipment fitted in the Merchant Fleet,
 And tho' a signal's through the system in the blinking of an eye,
 No-one's got the time, to even make a cup of kye.
 To delete the human error, to erase a noble breed,
 We rely upon a microchip, we put our faith in speed.
 We press a key, and make a switch, and spin a little disc,
 it's one ton per cent efficient - and never mind the risk.
 But again I may be needed, for the time will surely come
 When there's a fault within the system and the modern stuff is dumb,
 When the satellites are useless but morse is there for free -
 T’was good enough for old Marconi, and it's good enough for me.
 
Contributed by David Tunnicliffe ex I.M.R.C.
 
David has also supplied the picture of the radio staff aboard RMS QUEEN ELIZABETH at the bottom of this page.



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Credit to Heinrich Busch and others.

FORT PERCH ROCK at New Brighton, Wirral has a new website and will be of interest to ship lovers, ex R/O's and MN people in general.
Go to 
http://www.fortperchrockmarineradiomuseum.co.uk
John Hudson, M0CMW ex MN R/O.

Click here to go to an excellent site by Rolf Marschner/DL9CM depicting the history  along with useful facts & information surrounding the German Merchant Marine.  Point to INTERNATIONAL for the language of your choice.  "Relive your 500 kc/s watch by hearing coast station calls of the past..............."

Tony Cooper/G3SWW  manages a site which may be of interest to ex R/Os especially if they graduated from the North Eastern School of Wireless telegraphy.
Please go to www.neswt.co.uk.

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Some days that ol' MF antenna coupling had trouble coping with the 'standard' inefficient aerial system aboard ship, often further aggravated by leakage over main aerial insulators, especially on the ore carriers!
Fond memories reawoken here of trying for ages to be heard in Burnham with output varying between 30 to 80 watts on H.F. "Oh well, time to turn in. Will give GK another go in the morning!"

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Courtesy Don Chapman, Heinrich Busch & Others.

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Radio Office P & O's DEVANHA/GFBR 1957 7,367 GRT Courtesy Don Chapman

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JAMES WATT SCHOOL BLAZER BADGE - Courtesy Bob Murdoch.

The picture below shows 1st Class PMG students in the 'cabin' of the James Watt School in Greenock.  Picture taken December 1949 (10 years before my time!).  The only change from the scene in 1959 is the CR100 in the background,  replaced later with the Atlanta.

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Courtesy Radio Officer's Association & John Hastie VE3WF

Should any of the following ex James Watt Memorial School students read this site it would be wonderfull to hear from them after all these years!
Thomas L. Connelly, Jim Lyons, Johnny Laird, Rob Marshall, George Cunningham (GAZ), Colin Howard (Marconi), Jim Graham, Andy Leven, Frank Dunn, George MacDonald.
Teachers: Henry Bolton, Matt Rogers, Ron Carney, Al Murray.

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The James Watt Memorial College for R/Os, mates and engineers on Dalrymple Street in Greenock. The Marconi B/T D.F. loop is still in evidence but the receiving aerial and BTH radar scanner on the tower is long gone....

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The ad. above for the Glasgow Wireless College at Charing Cross appeared in the Hillhead High School magazine in 1953.  At age 11 it didn't attract my attention at the time !

A rather delapidated Yorkhill Quay below. A favourite 'hang-out' of mine plus bike and camera in the fifties.
The once proud domain of Anchor Line. The house flag may still be seen in the circular indent on the warehouse wall. Picture taken in the 70s.  In 2008 this shed has been totally removed..............apart for a pathetic so-called Maritime Museum close by (for such a once busy and industrious port for both cargo handling and shipbulding the City Fathers could surely have settled for a more fitting monument) all evidence of the busy port has gone.  The excellent Transport Museum is, however, not far away !  Many of the ships built on the Clyde are there.  These models once graced the board rooms of the many British shipping companies.

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The picture below is of an HF operating position at Burnham Radio GKL in the early sixties. Terry Gardner and the author worked there together between '67 and '69 and spent many happy, albeit frustrating times. Any readers familiar with the working conditions about this time will appreciate the 'frustrating' aspect! The somewhat sub-standard inland communication facilities then meant that it often took longer to forward a message to a ships head office in London than it took to receive the message from the other side of the world. That being said Portisheadradio was a very efficient station and a major boon to shipowners who got away with very inexpensive service when compared with today.

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Radio Officer Doug Howick aboard PORT FAIRY 1957

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Radio Officer Don Chapman aboard CHUSAN 1960

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Terry Gardner transmits from somewhere in the Persian Gulf while aboard Shell's ZAPHON/GWCD. Obviously in the 'rig of the day', akin to our current 'dress down Fridays' in civvy street! Ex Marconi men will recognise the equipment and what's that - a typewriter!?

The GPO coast station at Portpatrick is shown below (GPK/472 kc/s). Picture supplied by John Hastie who also worked at Wickradio/GKR. Picture taken 1951.

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An interesting comparison below.   The 'communications office' aboard P & O's CANBERRA,  provided by ex R/O Don Chapman,  has itself passed into the history books while the picture below this group is of the W/T office aboard the EMPRESS OF BRITAIN circa 1930s.   Nowadays, with satellite communications the norm and the 'extinction' of the radio officer the last century was,  indeed, revolutionary with respect to communications.

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CANBERRA-R/T ROOM Courtesy Don Chapman

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CANBERRA R/T ROOM Courtesy Don Chapman

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CANBERRA SRE ROOM Courtesy Don Chapman

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CANBERRA W/T OFFICE Courtesy Don Chapman

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Author's File

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The radio receiving and control room aboard QUEEN ELIZABETH/GBSS.

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The author aboard SUNWALKER/5LQO on 'port bridge wing lookout' somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle between Port Alfred, Quebec and Port of Spain. No B.S. on this ship. Just one pleasant day after another. 8 hours of watchkeeping, no fussy chief R/O, reasonable food, cheap ciggies and gin along with good company and a reasonable skipper.

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The main receiver and two emergency receivers are shown here aboard CARINTHIA. These beautiful receivers were manufactured by Eddystone and were extremely rugged units. One problem with the older tube type sets, of course, was frequency drift. Once operating temperatures had been reached, however, they were very stable. Sensitivity, signal to noise ratios and bandspread were equivalent to the Marconi Atlanta of the same period. The fact that the Eddystone would require two hands to change bands was immaterial!

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'Happy hour' above, aboard CARINTHIA. Pursers get 'oiled up' in preparation for another evening of smiling faces and passenger entertainment. The author's cabin (3rd R/O) barely provided seating for 'the gang'. The mates, 'ginger beers' and 'leckies' were located at some distance from the purser's and R/O's accommodation. Phil, with stein in the air was the resident 'lady killer'. 'Romeo' was offered a job at one point as a manager of a plantation outside New Orleans by one of his 'conquests'.

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Two fine gentlemen aboard Anchor Line's EUCADIA. On the left, Steve Bryant, 3rd mate. This was Steve's last trip before joining Burmah Shell. We visited Steve aboard the BURMAH SAPHIRE in Karachi a while later. He was happy making an attractive salary above BOT rates but bored with the run between the Persian Gulf and Karachi.
Angus McPhail (right) chief R/O from Dunoon had opted to stay with Anchor Line and specifically EUCADIA for some time.

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Angus (Gus) McPhail aboard EUCADIA 1959

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The author aboard STIRLING CASTLE/GYPX at the CW position working GKL or ZSL. If Portisheadradio then probably on one of our QTC 12 days when told QRY15 or some such number especially if around Christmas with Interflora a major recipient. In the background is the Oceanspan coupled to the Worldspan along with the Mercury & Electra receivers. HF SSB 'phone traffic was handled in a separate 'cubicle' in the office. This was my last trip before returning to school for the MOT Radar 'ticket' thence to Canada and, for a while, Saguenay Terminals SUNWALKER/5LQO.

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The world map illustrates the convenience available to ships at sea throughout the world for communicating on H.F. particularly when propagation was problematic.
DETAILS ON THE APPLICATION OF THIS LONG DISTANCE AREA SCHEME AND THE TYPICAL WORKINGS OF A SHIP RADIO STATION ARE SHOWN IN A LINK AT THE END OF THIS PAGE.

Towards the end, as the radio officer approached 'extinction' this facility was abandoned and operators were compelled to communicate directly with the country of destination. This was not always an easy proposition when faced with fluctuations in the 11 year sun spot cycle and 'dips' in propagation.

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Left, the author aboard EUCADIA/GJZL. The IMRC main receiver is seen on the left. The antiquated HF transmitter is also seen in the background. Tuning this unit for HF transmission was a long drawn out affair involving the successive tuning of each stage from oscillator to PA. The emergency receiver over my right shoulder was fixed tuned to 500 kc/s and may have predated Titanic!

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The MF transmitter is seen of forties vintage. The front panel was opened in the manner of a car door. It was relatively easy to recognize an IMRC 'station' aboard other ships from a unique 'rising' CW tone on medium frequencies. Even the 'QUEENS' had a distinctive note that never seemed 'becoming' of such majestic liners! Typical IMR transmitters of the time were the IMR51/53 and IMR 81/83.

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Here the steward puts me 'on the shake' on CARINTHIA. My turn to buy the beer (you thought it was ALL mine?)
Time to 'turn to' and prepare for the invasion of the pursers. Then an amazing dinner followed by the 8 to 12.

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Courtesy Malcolm McLeman

What great fun it was clearing faults on the old "Span" at college! Our instructor, Bobby Corcoran, rest his soul, was hell bent on getting one over on us. His favourite was a wee piece of Scotch tape across a couple of Z contacts at the rear. This picture provided by Malcolm McLeman of Blue Funnel taken aboard ADRASTUS. (See Blue Funnel).

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A typical discharge certificate from the Liberian registered SUNWALKER/5LQO. Saguenay Terminals vessels were registered in a variety of countries, a selection of their ships is given on the page SAGUENAY TERMINALS along with a history of this fine company, now extinct.

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These two lists above should bring back some memories for operators. With your current high tech digitally synthesized receivers don't expect to hear any of these call signs today!

ABOARD P & O's CANBERRA

The pictures below are courtesy of William Potter, an ex. Electronics Officer with P & O.

The W/T room was fairly standard for the time with a window through to the R/T room next door. The radio office aboard CANBERRA was actually designed by the radio staff. Tape recorders could pick off any incoming signals from any Rx. and the area was wired such that 'phones could be plugged in at many of the jacks in the room. The output from any particular receiver would be selected by rotary switch. The main receiver was the Marconi Atlanta. A selection of directional aerials was also available.

The R/T room contained Racal synthesised receivers. R/T could also be used for SSB. Adjacent this room were two 'phone booths although signals could be connected to state rooms via the manual/automatic telephone exchanges aboard.

The CINEMA is also shown, the operation of which was carried out by other crew members although the Electronics Dept. was responsable for this on-board facility.

The PROJECTION RADAR is also shown here. The 1st. R/O, Jim Meaney, is shown examining the 1 inch. CRT with true motion beamed onto a 16mm. film camera which took pictures at 1 second intervals. The film was chemically processed in 'real time' then projected with a Xenon light source onto a ground glass screen over which was drawn a sheet of paper from a roll on the side. This meant that the navigators could draw plots using standard drawing instruments either to keep for the record 'if they hit something' or to tear up and discard.
There were also a couple of  Kelvin Hugh's radar units on either side of the bridge, as well as the echo sounder.

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Courtesy William Potter

For an explanation of the LONG DISTANCE AREA SCHEME and the day to day workings of a typical ship station please click here and select RADIOGRAMS.

The following two pictures were kindly provided by Captain George A Grekos. George was Radio Officer from 1966 until 1975, bridge mate from 1975 until 1989 and finally Captain and Senior Port Captain from 1989 until 1995.

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AEGIS ATHENIC/SXPT - Courtesy Captain George A. Grekos.

Above, the radio room of the AEGIS ATHENIC, built 1973 and demolished in Alang, India in 1995. Equipment seen is the SAIT MB 1600B consul H.F. transmitter 1500W, M.F. 400W.
Main receiver the British Eddystone and emergency receiver a Drake SP44 (the famous ham model!).

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AEGIS STORM/SVKR - Courtesy Captain George A. Grekos

The radio office of the AEGIS STORM built in 1962 and demolished in Pakistan in 1987.
Equipment comprised the ITT Mackay H.F. transmitter 1500W and M.F. 500W. Both main & emergency receivers were Redifon.

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Radio Office, RMS Queen Elizabeth, 1964

Brian Staton, Dave Nester, Jat Wooldridge, Dave Tunnicliffe

Brian Jeffreys, Adrian (Bing) Crosby, Tony Johnston, Willie Powell

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RADIO OFFICE S.S. 'UNITED STATES'/KJEH - Courtesy Richard Rabbett

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