Sea Life. 1951. The Modasa. A Day in the Radio Room 1.
One of the most common questions people used to ask when I told them I was a sea-going radio officer was "what exactly do you do"? These jobs make sense. Cooks cook, engineers run the engines, deck officers run the ship, and the stewards’ feed and look after people. So we will have my first watch in the radio room.
A few minutes before 1800 hours and my first watch I entered the radio room by the starboard door as Jock had shown me and I switched on the communications receiver and turned off the auto alarm, then I signed in on the logbook. I knew what I had to do and I tuned into 500 kilohertz on the dial, the general calling frequency and distress frequency combined. We were still in communicating distance with Lands end Radio, GLD and my ear was tuned in case he called me with traffic to pass. I could hear him calling various other ships and he was still quite loud as we entered the Bay of Biscay. At fixed times he would send out a traffic list to which I listened, ' no, our call sign GFDZ was not listed'.
I continued monitoring 500 kilohertz. During every hour at 15 minutes past and 45 minutes past the hour was the silence period lasting 3 minutes. Every ship and radio station stopped sending and silence reigned. The purpose of this was to listen for any distress calls, possibly weak. 3 minutes later the frequency was buzzing once more from ships calling with messages and the coast stations of the many European countries calling too. Just like the buzz of conversation in a large crowded room except here the conversation was in Morse code.
Sometime after I had come on watch Jock stuck his head round the sliding door from his adjoining cabin and asked if everything was all right and I answered yes. "Good" said Jock “ don’t forget to call me, just before 0200 for the news report. Make a written note in the log, it’s easy to forget". I did just that. Jock indicated he was going down to the ships bar for happy hour and then dinner.
All activity had to be entered in the log in duplicate. Every call made or traffic taken, silence periods observed and if there should be a lull, a note of the call signs of any surrounding ships in the vicinity. An entry had to go into the log at least every 10 minutes.
This what basically occurred every watch with extra duties interspersed as needed. I will fill these duties in as they occur.
At the end of the watch and if no one was taking over the watch the Auto Alarm was set. The purpose of this was to monitor the channel when off watch for any distress... SOS calls. I set the alarm as I was taught and pressed the test button. All was well. I then signed the log off watch.
It was 2000 hours and I was due on watch again at midnight. I had only time for 4 hours sleep. If I remember correctly, I was too exited and didn’t sleep at all.