Doing the Morse – Stan Simpson (G4ITM)

My first encounter with the brainchild of Samuel Morse was in 1935 at the scout hut at the bottom of School Road, Sandown when, resplendent in short trousers and woggle, I presented myself far training for ray second class Signallers test. I could have chosen either semaphore or Morse but as the former requires the ability to tell your left from your right (a skill I have still not mastered) I opted for the Morse. Morse at this level was sent with a blue and white flag on a stick. The stick was held aloft. A small movement of about six inches represented a dot and a big sweep down to the right was a dash.

The combination of a twelve year old boy and a four foot stick is full of exciting possibilities, and as we thrashed about trying to stop the flag wrapping itself round the stick we came very close to impaling the portrait of our founder, who was regarding us with apprehension from his nail halfway up the wall. Anyway, after a period of about three weeks we all passed out at 12 letters per minute. This may have been because we were skilful it may have been because our instructor wanted to get home to his loved ones while he was still in one piece.

I have never been able to decide. There was then a lengthy lull in my Morse activities until the outbreak of war and the formation of the Home Guard. I joined the signal section mainly because it was preferable to standing in the cold under the bridge at The Harrow three nights a week. We did frequent practice sessions with a buzzer and key although we all knew there was no possibility that we would ever he issued with radio. On Sunday mornings we used to send messages with a lamp between Rocklands on the East Hill and a field just below the church at Fairlight.

I could never see the military logic of this. With the rest of your platoon hiding in the long grass, it is not a good idea to stand on a piece of high ground flashing a light. It would make sense to use a flag. That way you would have a fighting chance that the enemy would think you were surrendering. Then, in 1943, it was the Royal Corps of Signals and the training centre at Catterick. While the rest of the squad were learning the code parrot fashion, I was able to sit back with the indulgent smile of one who could do 12 wpm. Then suddenly, almost overnight, my colleagues were reading 18 wpm and I was still doing 12. Thus are the mighty fallen! I received my last army message in 1947 and after demob I fully intended going for the amateur licence but trivial things like earning a living always seemed to get in the way and it was 32 years later in 1979 when I finally got round to it.

Strangely enough the Morse was still there after all that time. Like the man said, “You never forget how to fall off a bicycle.” For the past twelve years or so I have been torturing my friends with Morse so that they can get their “A” licences. I am full of praise for their dedication to the cause. They have endured with fortitude “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, “The Song of Hiawatha”, the works of William McGonagall (the world’s worst poet) and the complete history of the Battle of Hastings.

For me, the high spot was provided by Mike G0JEX who read back the Immortal sentence, “The Norman knight lunged with their MOSFETS.” Mind you, strict discipline does prevail during these sessions. I have a list of Norman knights who were at the Battle of Hastings and taking a few of these down soon brings the troublemakers back into line.I have always enjoyed Morse without really being very good at It. I hear stories of those legendary operators who can send at 60 wpm while peeling a banana but this sort of thing is not for me.

Stan (G4ITM) April 1993

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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