Big brother is watching you – Thank goodness

The rescue, deep in the Antarctic seas, of yachtsman Tony Bullimore. graphically illustrated the present day sophistication of warning and distress beacons, and the related Search and Rescue Procedures ability to function over great distances, all by the use of satellites.

It also recalled an incident, over fifty years ago, when ships and airmen in distress situations were also monitored, when recourse had to be made to the calls Pan, Mayday, and SOS, with more care and efficiency than they realised.

In mid-1945, I was flying as a Navigator/Wireless Operator in Anson aircraft on the daily return diplomatic mail service between Croydon, London and Le Bourget, Paris. There never was a satisfactory technical explanation for the remarkable high incidence of mag drops at Le-Bourget, necessitating an overnight stay, but not unconnected was the extremely artistic displays which were on show at the fabulous Moulin Rouge

The radio equipment in use was the M.FJRF. Marconi 1154/1155, which was situated behind my seat, with a rather humble bakelite morse key on a ledge by my right hand.

On the trip in question a spare pilot, who wore, (note well!) a uniform of deeper blue than that of the RAF, was perched on the top of the bags of mail, leaning over my shoulder, and seemed, for a pilot, more than usually interested in my navigation and radio activities.

Nothing untoward occurred on the flight, but there was a summons to report to the office of the Adjutant shortly after landing. My pilot and I were closely questioned as to whether, in mid- English Channel, and in the vicinity or our track, we had seen or heard any sign of any aircraft or vessel in distress, as the monitoring service had picked up an SOS call at the time and area of our flight.

We had not, and were puzzled and concerned that perhaps we should have been more diligent and observant, but were fortified by the obvious dedication of the operators of the monitoring equipment, probably housed in a darkened room, and hunched, with poised and delicate fingers over their goniometers, with an aura of Guardian Angels of us, wild and reckless airmen. So what had really happened.??

The English Channel holds The secrets–and the debris–of conflict way back beyond the Spanish Armada, and the more recent addition of ships and aircraft reflects, no doubt, so many desperate SOS calls for assistance, with fate holding sway over the outcome. That superb band leader, Glen Miller, and his Orchestra, for instance, were lost without trace in mid-channel in December 1944, but his voice is still with us. We who are of that generation; who can forget the magic of ‘In The Mood’. So what of our experience of positive monitoring, which had no easy or apparent explanation?? Was it a Ghostly echo from a desperate crew of an earlier day, when disaster was upon them.??

Like a persistent toothache, the matter niggled on, and although we were adjudged to be in the clear by the powers that be, it was only much later, during a moment of insight, or even from a kind of suppressed guilt, that a rather mundane explanation offered itself.

The 1154 had a Pine position, providing low power radiation, and at some time on the. flight, I must have left the switch in this position, possibly when taking a drift. Pilots are prone to fiddle, like the rest of us, and our spare bod in the back, bored or vaguely dreaming of becoming a Radio Ham after demobilisation, undoubtedly could not resist getting his hand on my Morse key.

I can only conclude that his knowledge of the Morse code was limited to two letters, being those of three dots arid of three dashes, sent, perhaps with a heavy and inexperienced hand, but strong enough to tickle the sensitive goniometers of those Guardian Angels doing what conscientious Guardian Angels do in their lairs hidden away from our mortal eyes- It really was a most comforting incident.

Stan VKN. Published in the Vital Spark 1998.

Return to the index of Vital Spark articles.

G3MGQ’s Month on the Air

Prepared by the clubs RSGB trainer, G3MGQ, you will find the latest DX contests including the ones to shoot for as well as ones to give a wide berth. Why not download the latest edition of Month on the Air and enjoy your DX just that little bit more.

Become a member of HERC

Join the Hastings Electronics and Radio Club.

Why not join one of the largest and most established Radio clubs in the South East of England? Very low joining cost, and free for a year to new licencees.

Vital Spark Archive

Vital Spark newsletter articles

Take a look through a large selection of articles written by club members over the years which have been published in the monthly Vital Spark newsletter .

Used Ham Radio Equipment

View HERC's Used Ham Radio Equipment for sale list..

Every four weeks, HERC's Used Ham Radio Equipment for sale list is updated on the site. Bookmark the gear for sale page to re-visit easily and take advantage of the used equipment on sale through the club.

Club Photographs

HERC Image Galleries.

Here is the official HERC photograph archive which contains multiple image galleries spanning several decades since the club was formed many years ago. Enjoy the images!

UK Amateur Radio Repeaters

UK repeaters

Click button above for full list, or a local repeater callsign below for info.

GB3EB 2m in Uckfield- Active
MB6EB 2m DStar Node in Eastbourne - Active
MB6RY Wires-X DigiGate in Broad Oak - Active
GB3HE 70cm in Hastings - Active
GB7HE 70cm DStar in Hastings - Coming soon
GB3ZX 70cm in Eastbourne - Low Power
GB3JT 23cm ATV in Hastings - NoV cleared
GB7RY 70cm X-Wires Repeater Rye - Active
GB7ES Eastbourne - DSTAR Rpt. - Active
GB3ES 2m in Hastings - Active

For a complete list of repeaters, head over to
the UK Amateur Radio repeaters list.

Popular pages

Get your amateur radio licence - Find out more about amateur radio licence training.
Month on the Air - G3MGQ's popular monthly DX contest/expedition list.
Wilf Gaye Memorial Cup - The clubs annual operating event in the memory of Wilf Gaye M0GYE.
St. Richard's College Buildathon/STEM/ARISS - HERC attends St. Richard's Catholic College for their various events surrounding the Tim Peake ARISS contact.
G3BDQ - John Hey's Rare QSL Cards.
Sussex Electronics Radio Fair - SERF Sussex Electronics Radio Fair 2016.
Vital Spark - A selection of articles re-published from the Vital Spark.
RSGB News - Find out how to get RSGB news on your mobile or PC.
Experimenters Corner - A selection of Proteus projects by Bob Gornal (G7DME)
BBADL - Bath Based Distance Learning Course.
Conquest Hospital Radio - Presented by HERC member Antony (G4CUS).
Radio Rallies 2016 - An up to date list of radio rallies scheduled for 2016.
Club QSL Cards - A selection of QSL cards the club has received over the years.
Other Newsletters - Excellent newsletters and magazines from other clubs.
TX Factor episodes - Take a look at the TX Factors YouTube videos.
John Taplin - A bio of the late John Taplin.

Amateur Radio Resources

Other Radio Clubs & RAYNET

BSARS - Brede Steam Amateur Radio Society

RAYNET - The Hastings and Rother RAYNET Group.

HERC members sites

Sigord - Gordon Sweet
Hastings Radio Comms - Andrew Haas-Campbell
Hoofbags - Liz Costa

Categories