Ships, Radio Rooms and Radio Officers

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Notes from former QSO Editor Roger Bentley.  The DERBYSHIRE – GYMX was originally a traditional four mast BibbyLine ship but after a distinguished period of service in WW2 where she was first of all an armed merchant cruiser and then a troopship she had a massive overhaul after the war, getting a twenty knot funnel and losing two masts.

When built in 1935 her communications equipment was manufactured by a firm called Gambrells Rowse and Snowden who were starting to make their way in the marine communications field and they also fitted two Brocklebank ships the Malancha and Marcharda in 1938.  The firm did not survive but Gambrell was taken over by Redifon and the receiver type R50 which was fitted to the Brocklebanks and Bibby ships gave good service and the later model well known to radio officers as the Redifon R50M carried on the link with Gambrell.

The Derbyshire was a two man ship and when I was 2R/O in 1952 we had a Marconi set of equipment but one of the old transmitters of the Grambrell era was still working. This was a MF transmitter and I used it occasionally just to hear its unique note which was reminiscent of the more famous GLD sound.

The above photos are of my 1st trip as a Junior R/O, age 16 in 1957 aboard the Clan Campbell. I joined her in Tilbury Dec.1957 and left in April 1958 at Glasgow.This vessel and her Chief R/O were used regularly by Siemens Bros for 1st trip R/O’s who received excellent training from the Chief R/O Reggie Cole. R.F.Cole had gone through the whole of the 2nd World War and I believe he was torpedoed twice before joining the Clan Campbell when she was built on the Clyde in 1943. He told me he had 3 female R/O’s assigned to him on the Clan Campbell and they could rattle out morse in excess of 30 wpm!!.. I think the ship became an armed menchant-man used to carry war material to North Africa.. Someone did tell me she picked up survivors of an air attack on convoys in the Western Med. The 1st photo attached is one I commissioned from a local Glasgow artist who specialised in Clyde Built ships. I gave him the original black and white photo of her in Capetown in 1957 and asked him to paint her alongside the Clyde’s well known “Finnieston Crane” which still stands today. This giant crane was commissioned in 1926 at a cost of £52,000 and was designed for lifting steam locomotives built in Springburn, North Glasgow and loaded onto ships for export all over the world. Its lifting capacity was 175 tonnes.The small boat in the foreground is the famous Scottish coal “Puffer” “Para-Handy” made famous by the local STV studio in the 1960’s. If you look closely in the back-ground you can see the funnel colours of the various cargo ships of the period. How many can you identify?.The 3rd pic is of yours truly recovering from 3-4 days of sea sickness after sailing across the Bay of Biscay in December 1957. I do remember leaving Tilbury and sending my 1st TR to North Foreland Radio but the rest is blank, until we reached Algiers about 7 days later. After that I enjoyed the rest of the trip through the Suez Canal, East and South Africa, Ceylon and India.

11 Replies to “Ships, Radio Rooms and Radio Officers

  1. Regarding the Signing On Document pictured above concerning the mv Dunstan. I served on the Dunstan from 3rd September 1955 to 15th August 1956. I believe that the call sign may have been GYFK. My disappointment was that during the period that I served on the Dunstan it did not go up the Amazon, but it did a lot of pleasant coastal hopping along the Brazil coast and nice visits to New York.

  2. David, Thanks for that QSL about ”Signing On” dreams. Relieved to note that I’m not alone in this!. Probably a profound Jungian explanation. Mine go: eventually manage to suss the equipment and the Pilot’s departed etc, done the 1st visit to the saloon, cautious intro’s and back up on watch to realise with horror that no entries at all at all have been made in the Radiotelegraph Log…. Like for hours!.
    However, the buzz of being back in front of the Atalanta again is nice and then I awake to post 2000 AD ”normality”. Bugger!!.
    Still we got the ROA. so, 73’s OM. Bruce.

  3. Yes, I do have dreams of signing on again. That part goes ok. Then I find myself in the radio room, trying to remember how to run up all the gear, put together a QSO for QTC etc. This part always makes me anxious, because although I’m dreaming I know it’s been yonks since I was signed on articles and I’ve forgotten everything! They were happy days – we could do all that while still hung over from that run ashore last night …

    Dave.

  4. Guys, Fantastic photos, more please. Pure nostalgia for our ”Glory Days” [ despite our complaints at the time!] I suppose and how looking at these shots of familiar equipment how marvellous it would be to be sitting at those desks again….. Hey, does anyone else have recurring dreams of ”signing on” to a new ship again?. 73’s.

  5. Great work done on the website….attaboys to all involved…….motivated me to search out old pics and stuff…..stay tuned for what I find…………Dave Clemson, California

    • Hello David,

      I just saw your note on the ROA site. I was your #2 on the Tantalus round the world voyage which was my first deep sea and I think you got to know my sister Margaret who came down to New York to meet me.

      I like in a small seaside town in Victoria, Australia after 26 years in Canada and I see you are in California.

      Hopefully you will get this and maybe we could share some photographs.

      Cheers

      John (Jack) Walker [email protected]

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