I have never held
an amateur radio licence but I did operate the call sign VS9MB
(please see the two attachments) while I served on
Gan Island in the Maldives
between Nov 1968 and Nov 1969.
The operating speed of 10 wpm for Amateur radio is correct. The
words as you rightly state were split into groups of five
My final exams at RAF Cosford required a speed of 18 wpm (the
minimum) 20 wpm or 22 wpm again no uncorrected errors. The test
duration was 2 minutes. Teleprinter typing speed was 45 wpm with
no errors. My best typing speed was at RAF Stanbridge (also
mentioned under Radio 219 on your website) where I surprise
myself with 65wpm on one occasion.
The operating speeds used at Salalah varied. The general rule
was that you operated at the speed of the slowest operator to
prevent the slower operator missing characters and having to
request a repeat.
The operating speeds used were usually between 16 and 20 wpm.
However after using Morse code as the main method of
communication for two months, my speed had increased up to 22
wpm and a bit more probably if in a good rhythm up to 24 wpm (I
never actually measured the speed).
Yes the standard stainless steel mess knife could be used on a
standard Morse key to increase the speed. The method was to
unscrew the Morse key tapper and put the knife blade between it
and the metal bar, tighten up the tapper to trap the knife blade
and away you would go. The more of the blade pushed into towards
the contacts on the key the faster the speed. The knife was in a
way actually used as a spring, it took a bit of training but I
only ever used this method on Gan.
When I arrived at Masirah en route back to Cyprus as I stated, I
went into the Commcen and worked the link back to Mick Williams
in Salalah. One of the Masirah ops was using a bug key and
offered me the use of it but I could not get the hang of the
automatic dits to the left and then a manual dah to the right. I
sent some long messages back that evening and Mick actually sent
me a GM for good Morse at the end of the shift and he received
the same from me.
On some occasions the frequencies were not good and words twice
procedure came into play. Every word or letter group had to be
transmitted twice. A Further procedure was that for long
grouped messages you would send the GR group count let us say
GR850. You would send the groups in blocks of 50 followed by
long break (BT) the number of groups sent 50 followed by B
(meaning more to follow) then K the invitation for a receipt.
so BT 50 B K you hoped you would get the response R 50 K
next BT 51 XXXXX and so on and so forth.
To be prepared for receiving messages that were long, I would
fill 20 or more message pads with carbons and stack them on top
of the Racal RA17 transceiver so after writing 50 groups on the
page you could send the receipt pull the next pad onto the table
ready to go. When the final QSL was received for the message I
would fill in the Wireless Operators log (B/Sigs./1) with the
It was imperative to keep the Comms links open as you will
appreciate. On one night shift the CW frequencies were very poor
so I actually got the Masirah op to plug in the key to the R/T
link and it worked a treat.
I last used a Morse key when I was attached to Tactical
Communications Wing (TCW) at Brize Norton 1985 to 1989. Morse
was mainly used on joint comms exercises for the initial contact
before establishing comms on Teleprinter links.