Saturday, August 25, 2018

Morse Code used at sea.

Morse code sent by  light was widely used at sea by both the merchant navy and naval ships.  It is little used now and its use has been replaced by VHF.  

A requirement by most merchant ships' deck officers was that they were able to operate signal lamps (normally a hand held light), to communicate at a speed of around 10wpm. Naval ships normally had dedicated signalmen  capable of using CW at at anything between 12wpm - 15 wpm - about the maximum possible speed by which can be read by light.     

Like all radio operators in the Royal Navy we were however required to be able to operate light signalling equipment and I did so occasionally. This normally happened when we were short staffed or I'd gone on the bridge for a break when there happened to be no dedicated signalman present.

Naval ships used the most powerful carbon arc lights (20") and you could signal to the horizon even in strong sunlight. It was also possible to signal well beyond the horizon by flashing the lamp onto a cloud base if it was overcast, or when it was dark.  Other signalling lamps were 10”, like the 20” both mounted on a swivel, and hand held Aldis lights.  Also fitted were mast head signalling lights operated from a morse key from within the bridge or bridge wings. Once switched on to use the source of the light was not then switched on and off but various types of shutters were used being opened and shut by the action of the operating ‘morse’ lever or trigger.

There were  other visual method of using Morse code apart from lights. Using a flag held in the hand and waved 180 degrees to signify a 'dash' and 90 degrees to signify the 'dit'. The ships bell could also be used and in this case two rapid rings were a dash, and one ring was a dit. Both these methods needed good spacing between letters and rhythm. Neither these two methods of signalling were used when I was at sea in the 1960’s and 70’s.  (Semaphore is not the same as cw as it is the position of the arms which directly indicate the individual letters.)

It was quite common to signal merchant ships to ask them; "Where bound and from?", if you were in some big lonely ocean. (A report of the ship and it's signalling ability were sometimes sent to Lloyds of London) Rarely would a merchant ship initiate communications. Light signalling was used in the Royal Navy for communicating manoeuvres such as turns/directions and so on. It was also used when ships were at anchor, approaching or within harbours, or  shore parties etc.  It was a quick & simple method of communications directly between ship's bridges and also had the advantage of being more secure, in that it was difficult to intercept.

Like the different procedures used by the military, commercial and amateur users of radio communications there were also some procedural differences between merchant ships and naval ships. 

I'm not aware that there were any discernible differences in operator ability to slip between using visual or sound CW to read/understand what was being sent other than the limitations imposed by the maximum speed achievable by light over morse sent by radio. 
I never met a wireless/radio operator or who couldn’t read CW sent by light and all the dedicated signalmen could read CW sent at  14wpm or less by sound!!  As a test, the few members of my radio club who can and do CW, could also read my CW sent by torch - the first time most of them had ever done so. The few merchant ship deck officers I knew could also read CW sent by sound, provided it was sent slow enough. 

Practical differences in use? You can't blink much or look away using lights so either a good memory or someone to write for you was a good requirement, or you'd read out what was being sent so the Officer Of the Watch could hear it as sent.  Bad weather also made light signalling difficult for obvious reasons.



As an aside I was once in a three car journey with a group of radio operators, long before mobile/cell phones were invented and we could and did signal, using ordinary torches, driving directions to the other cars we were with whilst the car was being driven. (it was on quiet country roads in Hampshire England!!!).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signal_lamp

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Wrong way waterfall 2018

Filmed on the 19th March 2018.  Pretty uncommon.  Last time I saw this was earlier this year during the 'beast from the east', but not as spectacular as this which was the result of heavier earlier rainfall, then a return to strong northerly winds and below freezing conditions.  The last year this happened was 2010.  Location is below Bottom House Farm, between  Robin Hood's Bay and Hawsker Bottoms.


Sunday, March 4, 2018

Ice Climbing on the North Yorkshire Moors 2018

The Beast From The East has brought winds of 50mph or more, stripping the snow off the fields and moors into large drifts.  It also brought the temperatures down to around -4c...

Time to head up to Great Fryup Head.   There are extensive ice falls at the head of the dale on the west, but there are also a small number of routes right at the head of the dale between Yew Grain Scar and the George Gap Causeway.  NZ 715018.  If snow permits it is possible to access these from the Cut Road path at Trough House to the west, or where it joins the Lealhom to Rosedale road at 729028.  Alternately park at opposite the outdoor centre in Great Fryup Dale and walk up.   

Just to the east of the George Gap Causeway are three or four routes.  The one on the left is probably around 15 to 20 ft in height.  Ice axes are on the ice.  Probably grade III.  There's an excellent belay at the top - a large wooden stake securing a game keepers trap.
The largest of the waterfalls is this longish slide which is probably around the 50ft mark, with an easy angled extension continuing out of view below.  There's also a little bit of mixed climbing to the immediate left in the picture..  If you are walking in from the dale this is a pretty obvious feature.
A mixed route probably grade ii/iii 
The Smear.  This feature was the result of a change in stream drainage a few years ago.  The brown stain is the result of it flowing off ironstone strata.  I've often wondered if it would freeze up, but it obviously needs slightly colder temperatures than the -4c we've been having.  However there's still enough for a little sport.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Captain Walter Masterman Carter

Walter Masterman Carter was born in Robin Hood's Bay, North Yorkshire in 1892.
He joined the merchant navy around 1911, and by the following year was serving as a 3rd mate.  By the time the 1st world war broke out he was serving as a 2nd mate.

Captain Walter Masterman Carter

He lived in Brook Cottage, Thorpe.

By 1915 he was serving as a temporary Sub Lt. in the Royal Naval Reserve.

On the  9th August 1916, he was appointed to  commence duty as the Navigating Officer on board HMS Moth.

An account of the action he took part in on board HMS Moth can be found here:-
WW1Battle1408Mesopotamia.htm.  Suffice to say that  whilst his ship and some others were proceeding up the river that they were fired on by the Turkish army.  During this action the ship, a small gunboat, was hit 9 times and was badly damaged.  3 crew were killed.

Following this action he lost all his possessions and only had the binoculars he carried around his neck.  I have these.

His binoculars from HMS Moth.  According to my grandmother these were his only possessions from the ship. The rest were destroyed in the action.


I have a letter from the Admiralty dated 8th May 1918 expressing their appreciation , "be conveyed to Lt. Walter M Carter of HMS Mistletoe, who was in charge of Lighter 171 for the good seamanship he displayed in bring his vessel safely into Peterhead".

I have his Continuous Certificate of Discharge (Discharge Book), from the merchant navy, several original admiralty documents and his Master Mariner Certificate, issued  12th May 1919 after he left the RNR where he returned to the merchant navy.

He died in 1929 on board his ship at Hartlepool after swallowing laudanum  to help him sleep.  His wife, my grandmother, Winifred (nee, Wedgwood) was with him at the time.

Read the .press cutting published following his death.

He and one of his brothers, Ernest Carter are buried at St Stephen's Church Robin Hood's Bay, Yorkshire.

He had three children.  My mother Jeanne Carter, (Later Perry) and  Freda Carter b 19.03.1922 & William (Bill) George Carter b 17 April 1919..

W E Wedgwood Chief Officer of the SS Copeswood

On the 22 December 1916 the brother of Capt. JR Wedgwood;  my Great Grandfather, W E Wedgwood, also a master mariner, was the Chief Officer on board the SS Copeswood in the North Sea when they sighted a Barque, dismasted and flying distress flags in horrendous seas. Unable to rescue the crew, they stood by during the night and eventually the next morning rescued the crew with exceptional difficulty. Both the captain (Albert Perrin) and WE Wedgwood received silver medals from His Majesty King Haakon of Norway. Bill Wedgwood has the medal and for some reason I have the citation. 


Captain William Edward Wedgwood  b. 1873 sept 23rd- died 1954 Hare & Hounds Inn, Hawsker.  Brother of Captain John Robert Wedgwood

The citation given to Captain W E Wedgwood for his part in the rescue of the barque, Lovspring of Sandefjord
The wording is similar to that given to Captain A H  Perrin.

The Captain of the SS Copeswood was Captain Albert Hawkins Perrin and he was awarded this silver cup by King Haakon of Norway.  My grandfather was awarded a medal and certificate which I have.  He died in 1954 and lived at the Hare & Hounds Inn, Hawsker.

My maternal great-grandfather Albert Hawkins Perrin was born on 17 May 1884 at Frant, Sussex. He married Frances Lucy Jones on 19th August 1908 at which time he was employed in the Mercantile Mar...EUROPEANA1914-1918.EU




Captain John R. Wedgwood & the Prinz Eitel Friedrich



On the 20 Feb 1915,  My great, great uncle, Capt. John Robert Wedgwood  of Whitby, was master of the SS Willerby  off the coast of Brazil when his ship was approached by the Prinz Eitel Friedrich, a German auxillary cruiser which ordered the SS Willerby to stop. Capt Wedgwood ignored the order and tried to escape but eventually stopped when he realised the German ship was in a position to ram him. As the German passed astern of the  SS Willerby, Capt Wedgwood realised he had to chance to ram the German!, Ordering the engines reversed at full speed he shouted to the engineer, "Giver her hell", "Give her hell as hard as we can go it!" 

To find out what happened next , here is the link to the New York "Times, March 12th 1915:-

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Water Mills

Over the years I must have passed hundreds, and hundreds of buildings like this and never thought about their origins. Just buildings with few, if any clues as to their original purpose.  Then I bought " Eight Centuries of Milling in North East Yorkshire by John K. Harrison. There are over 150 recorded water mills in North East Yorkshire, and some were working until the 1970,s.  Many have been demolished or turned into homes.  But there are mills which still have all their machinery and are kept hidden and closed to the public.  There is only one working mill open to the public in North East Yorkshire -  Tockett's mill near Guisborough.

 Unlike the windmills in North Yorkshire which are in exposed places and pretty obvious what they are, or were, water mills can be extremely well hidden, small and with no obvious signs of their purpose when viewed from outside.  A few miles west of Northallerton this is Crayke Mill, and it still works and is sometimes open to the public.  (crakehallwatermill.co.uk) There are no working windmills in North Yorkshire.  But there are just over ten  watermills which still have all their original equipment.  


Inside, the machinery still turns, mill stones serve their real purpose and not used to fix village signs or farm house names.  Alas for many they have no future.  Too small to operate commercially, or their source of power - water - has been diverted or they are too small to be kept open as a tourist attraction.