In August 2014 David Barlow organised and ran a Special Event Station from Poldhu Radio Club in Mullion Cornwall with the NoV call sign GB100ZZ – to mark the sending of a message to Merchant ships advising them that the outbreak of WWI, and not to go to German ports. David realised the sinking of the RMS Lusitania was a most significant event in history of SOS and in maritime history. As Liverpool was the home port of the Lusitania and that David lived in Cornwall he suggested that the ROA organsie a special event in Liverpool to mark the sinking of the Lusitania and of the role palyed by wireless in saving lives at sea.
In order to obtain the coveted call sign GB100MFA from Ofcom – the ROA had to have sponsorship from various companies or organisations. The secretary of ROARS wrote to various, Cunard, The Imperial War Museum and the owners of Seaforth Docks, as well as the National Trust. The National Trust were the only ones to respond to the request and they agreed to sponsor the event in name. ROARS also contacted the Mayor of Liverpool, Mr Joe Anderson via e-mail, who was also willing to sponsor the event after the benefits to Liverpool were explained from the world wide coverage which the event would generate by the use of amateaur radio. With these written sponsorships Ofcom were approached for the NoV licence GB100MFA, this was accepted and the licence issued early December 2014. The licence is usually only valid for 28 days, after a request for the full 31 days was put forward this was also granted.
The race was now on to find an operating QTH in Liverpool for the event to go ahead.
In writing to the various organsiations, we also asked them if they could provide the ROA with space to operate from – with no replies desperation set in. Several of the ROA members are also members of the Marine Radio Museum Society Wallasay (MRMSW) and they suggested that we visit the Planet Light Vessel in Canning Dock Liverpool to see if this was a suitable location. Mike Carter, who had a personal interest in the Lusitania, (his Grandfather was the cello player in the ships band, he survived the sinking but members of the band perished that fateful day), and Geoff Valentine met up with the MRMSW members onboard the Planet and were shown around the facilities available. Unfortunately the owner Alan Roberts had to go to a meeting and left early but was willing to allow the event to go ahead, as it would benefit all concerned with the publicity that would be generated. It was decided that the MRMSW, led by Bill Cross would look after all the organisational requirements that would be needed to ensure that we had two working radio stations at all times. It was also arranged that for a nominal daily rate there would be four cabins available for B&B purposes for those operating.
The Southern section would organise the duty rostering and all other necessary requirements that were needed to ensure that the event ran smoothly. Peter Gavin producing an excellent and easy flowing roster. Robin Powell, liaising with all radio magazines and having the event details published in various publications. Chairman Tony Selman via his many contacts having 5000 leaflets printed which were handed out onboard the Planet to the many visitors which the event drew in.
The GB100MFA Amateur Radio event started on the 1st May, and conditions for HF communications were noted as very poor and few long range contacts were made. On Saturday the 2nd May the Lord Mayor Erica Kemp CBE accompanied by her sister attended the planet Light Vessel to be met by Life President Brian Cotton and WWII Radio Officer Albert Owings, a long standing member of the ROA. Brian had organsied the opening event over a period of several weeks with a constant flow of e-mails and telephone calls to the Lord Mayors office. A buffet lunch was put on and by all accounts those that attended had a great time. Albert was introduced to the Lord Mayor after she was presented with an ROA plaque.
HF conditions improved slowly, however on the 5th May the vertical aerial associated with the aft Radio Room was found to be defective and causing high SWR readings. The aerial was taken down and dismantled, it was found that the Balun at the bottom of the aerial was found to be full of water and also several solder joints had become open circuit. A spare horizontal wire was installed as a temporary replacement and both stations were back on air. Alan Waddington took charge of the failed unit and managed to dry it out and re-solder the defective joints. The aerial was put back into service and low SWR readings were observed on all bands. The only other notable failure was the PC associated with the aft radio room used for logging purposes, the vessels diesel generator failed and this caused the PC’s hard-drive to crash, unfortunately to date we have not been able to retrieve the QSO data which had been entered onto that machines hard drive!!
The MRMSW members usually left the vessel by 16:00 and the top radio room was taken over by ROA members, the W3DZZ aerial working well with the 600 ton vessel floating in salt water, propagation on 14 and 21 MHz was found to be excellent in the late evening and early mornings. QSO’s into Australia and New Zealand along with Hawaii and Chad were but a few of the contacts which were made. Entries in the log were now increasing and after all the advertising which had been done prior to the beginning of May was paying off – on several occasions all of the operators reported as having pile-ups. QSO’ing was not helped by all the other Special Event Stations which were going on at the same time as GB100MFA for that month which made life awkward. Also the multitude of competitions on the CW segments over the weekend periods. At one stage Mike joined in one competition in order to increase the QSO’s in the log!!
The main radio operating position had also been wired with a remote camera which panned across all the working area, this was then fed down to a large TV set in the corner of the bar area so that visitors to the Planet, could have a drink, and see the operators in action. A fair proportion of these visitors on observing the event happening before them actually requested to be shown around the radio rooms whilst they were being manned.
Most ROA members stayed on-board overnight, and were well fed with Gary’s full English Breakfast in the morning. To all this brought back fond memories of being on-board a merchant ship again. The Planets generators were run from about 11am in the morning until about 10pm at night and on some occasions they were left on until the early hours – especially if they had a function onboard, usually on a saturday night such as a birthday party, and on one occasion a HEN night! if you had turned into your bunk early you were lulled to sleep with the gentle throbbing of the plant below. When change over day arrived, and after packing and a final fry up, waiting for your relief brought back the feeling of the ‘Channels’ and all those years ago.
The following comment is from Peter Gavin :-
Just to add how much I enjoyed the unique experience of serving on the Good Ship Planet! I took over from Geoff on the Monday and was made most welcome by the MRMS team and Gary/Alan Roberts during my stay. We had a number of visitors including 2 Americans 1 Australian and a German couple who operate a heritage steam ship in Hamburg. On the Tuesday the local Bay Television came on board and interviewed a number of us about Morse Code, the Lusitania and the relevance of Radio today for young people. The programme was shown locally and apparently was well received. Luckily you all appeared to have escaped the 35 strong Hen Party which was scheduled for the Saturday evening after I left. I handed over to Mike on the Thursday with some great banter and humour from all the Crew. The weather remained fine during my stay but Radio Conditions were poor during the day and the bands only got lively during the late afternoons and evenings. Still – a great experience not to be missed!
Following comment from Robin Powell:-
I would like to echo the sentiments already expressed. I had an excellent few days on the Planet and enjoyed the “banter”, and as for Mike’s toy, enough said! Great crowd of guys and great cooperation.
The Planet had its best day ever on Saturday, so much so that they ran out of beer ( not due to the R/Os I hasten to add.) We had plenty of visitors to the radio room including a couple of Yanks off the Queen Mary2 so as you said we ticked all the boxes. We also had a visit from an ex R/O who showed interest in joining so I gave him a copy of an old QSO for the details.
Conditions were not very good particularly to North America as I would have expected to work more stations from there but Mike did manage to work a couple of Australians in the early morning.
Thanks Jim for your comments and dinner, I thought the glass of white wine set off the picture of your equipment beautifully.
May I personally thank Geoff, Bill and the guys at the Planet for all the hard work that went into organising the event which certainly paid off.
In all 3500 plus QSO’s were made and although not as many as we predicted this was down to the poor HF conditions which were encountered during most of the month of May. There were some failings in the organising of on-board meet and greet, whereby the volunteers were not able to access the vessel, hopefully this has not put them off attending other ROA events.
Finally – without the help of Gary the event would not have been possible at all. Although he was not involved in the operations side, his enthusiasm and help he gave to all operators on-board could not be measured. Nothing was to much trouble for him and he was always there when needed. A fantastic crew member and his Full English Breakfasts were first rate.
L-R Clive Evans, Mike Carter (M6MPC) , ? , Alan Roberts (Planet Owner) Stan McNally, Brian Cotton and Lord Mayor Erica Kemp CBE.
WWII Radio Officer Albert Owings being introduced to the Lord Mayor Erica Kemp CBE.
A mention must be made of the Planets crew member Gary, he lived onboard, and nothing was to much trouble, you only had to ask and he was on to it. For those that stayed onboard during their rostered stint those Full English Breakfasts were a welcome treat every morning.
Alan logging and John on the key!
Bill Cross – with the rest of the MRMSW crew you left the vessel with your ribs aching after all the jokes and leg pulling going on – a fantastic bunch.
Mike was christened Mr Tint-Whistle by the MRMSW crew.
Finally a big thank you to the following ROA & MRMSW members for the work put in to the GB100MFA event.
Tony Selman Brian Cotton Geoff Valentine Stan Mcnally Bill Cross Bob Bunker Alan Waddington Dennis Cooper Clive Evans Dennis Pacey John Hudson Graham Mitchell Mike Carter Dave Wiggins Les Mellor Gary Anderton John Lawson Jimmy Lawson Graham Mathews Bill Newman Peter Gavin Jim Loughlin Robin Powell
Julia Greenwood Allen Core
All Planet Volunteers & MRMSW Members