Thursday, October 22, 2009

NATO Naval Communications Competition


At the invitation of the Italian Navy, the first NATO Naval Communication Competition was held in Rome from 2-6 July, 1963, and the following nations were represented: Belgium; Canada; Germany' Italy; Netherlands; Norway; United Kingdom' USA.  Apart from improving efficiency the aim was to give an opportunity for personnel of different NATO countries to meet and discuss the various communications systems and training methods  in their particular countries.  It was also a reward for  outstanding operators.  The competition ran each year until  1974 when it was discontinued.

However Canada continued with a more varied  national competition until 1993, when morse code was finally dropped from their training needs.
(ref;  "morse in the 1980s (Royal Canadian Navy) 
1) David Blazenko 
2) Bob Canning 


Each nation was invited to send three operators with less than six years service to enter the competition of their choice.  The UK sent LRO(G)  J A Burgoine, LRO(G) I M Crozier and LRO(G)  J C Robertson.  The competition was divided up into four categories.  Morse Transmission, using only a straight key (MTX)    morse reception, (MRX)  teletypewriter transmission (TTX)and Flashing light reception. (FRX)

To give some idea of the standard achieved in that first competition the operators competing  morse reception had to achieve  a 30 minute test of receiving random groups of 5 letters plus groups of numbers and groups of  special signs at over 30  wpm and with over 98.5% accuracy, or you were eliminated from the competition.

The Dutch winner read his exercise at 32 wpm and was capable of transmitting (by straight key) at 30wpm which roughly corresponds to sending 3750 characters!!  

The winner of the teleprinter transmission averaged  60 wpm.   The operator who competed in the flashing light competition had to read 75 groups of letters including groups of figures and a special signs such as,  . : - / ( )  : at 12wpm and the winner of that competition, from Belgium made only 3 errors in  375 characters received!  
(Ref, Communicator Magazine Xmas 1963)

The rules and format changed slightly over the coming years.

The competition venues were:-

1963 - Rome
1964 - HMS Mercury (RN Signal school) Hampshire, England
1965 - Amsterdam, Holland
1966 - Flensburg, Germany
1967 - Halifax, Canada
1968 - Bergen Norway
1969- Amsterdam, Holand
1970 - Brugge Belgium
1971 -  Taranto, Italy
1972 -  Flensburg, Germany
1973  - HMS Mercury (Royal Naval Signal School) in Hampshire, England
1974 -  Bergen, Norway  = the final competition.

The following are some accounts from the various competitions.  Others will be added over time:-

1963  Rome - Italy
The United Kingdom team was composed of LRO(G) M. J. Bee, LRO(G) M. C. Duane, RO2(w) R. W. Southall and RO2(T) R. Palmer. They came fourth in teletypewriting, third in morse reception, sixth in morse transmission and eighth in flashing reception respectively, resulting in an overall fifth placing tbr the Good Communications trophy. LRO Duane put up a most creditable performance. Throughout the five days of the competition he scored one lst place, two 2nd places and two 3rd places, his average score producing the final third overall placing. His greatest opponents was CTI Young of the USA team who, for a little mental exercise, reads morse at 46 wpm.
RO2 Southall's sixth position in morse transmilting does not reflect the credit it deserves. He put up a very good performance against some exceedingly strong comlretitjon. To win this event a competitor has to make morse like a GNT1 15 auto transmitter at 24/25 wpm.  AB Brooks of Canada, who incidentally made his last and best exercise on an AP580-8558 morse key borrowed from Southall, made almost perfect morse. After evaluating the Canadian competitor's last exercise, CPO Toth of the USA was overheard to remark, "Not a single mistake. He only scratched a U".  One scratch in twenty minutes high speed morse transmitting is no mean feat.

Another feat was performed by Radioman 2nd class Olscn of the United States Navy. He took second place in the teletypewriting event. A very good effort particularly as he has only seven fingers. 

1969 - Amsterdam in Holland

"In the 7th annual NATO Communications Training Competition  (Contribution by Steve Morris, W5BIB)

I was team captain of the 3rd place U.S. NAVY NATO communications team at Amsterdam in April 1969, finishing 4th individually (straight key sending) in the "CW" portion of the (then) 10 country NATO competition. The competition was for 5 consecutive days with a 30 minute 'test' each day. The test consisted of 5 letter/number mixed groups. On three of the 5 test days I managed to average just over 30 wpm for 30 consecutive minutes with the "straight key"


I was stationed in Turkey (TA2ZZ) at the time & went to Rota, Spain for preliminary competition against other U.S. Navy CW operators. Upon winning the preliminaries, I was selected as Team Captain of the U.S. Navy team.


The team was comprised of 4 communications operators as follows; (all doing five 30 minute tests)

CW reception: RMSN M.W. ALLEN - NAVCOMSTA SPAIN - (finished 4th)
CW sending: CTR1 S.A. MORRIS - TUSLOG Det-28 - Karamursel, Turkey - (Team Captain) - (finished 4th)
Flashing Light reception: SM2 E.A. GRUBB - USS O'HARE - (finished 3rd)
RTTY sending: CYN3 D.R. FARRINGTON - NAVCOMSTA GREECE - (finished 4th)

U.S. Evaluation Group: (from NAVCOMSTA SPAIN)

LT. W.F. WHITEMORE - USN
RMC J.L. TOTH - USN

The final competition was held in Amsterdam that year (1969).

We were all young swabbies (I was the oldest at 22 years old) and more interested in the nite-life that Amsterdam provided than the competition. !! ;) We managed to salvage a third place overall finish out of the 10 countries. I was in third place for the first 3 days & then the nights we all spent "WINDOW SHOPPING" caught up with us !!:rolleyes:

I can still pound out 'round 25wpm or so for a few minutes & then jump over to the BUG. :D

I'm comfortable for extended periods right around 18-20 wpm with the straight key.

BTW; The finishing order of the competition was...

1) Italy
2) Netherlands
3) U.S.A. :)
4) Canada
5) Germany
6) Norway
7) Denmark
8) Belgium
9) U.K.
10) France

What a great experience."


1970 - Brugge, Belgium




I took part in the competition!.   Here I am receiving a little prize from the Captain of HMS Mercury for taking part in the Nato Naval Communications Competition at the Naval Station of St. Kruis, in Brugge, Belgium. Just in case you are wondering why I look so young - this picture was taken in 1970.

This competition consisted of four operators from each of the NATO countries' navies, competing in morse transmission, reception, tele printing, & reading flashing lights. Those doing morse transmission also had to do morse reception at 36wpm which was the competition standard.  The test consisted 20 minutes of receiving 5 letter random groups.   The winner in Brugge was the Italian whose best score had only two or three errors.  There was, at least the year I took part a team relay - which was passing a coded message via, light, teleprinter and morse, the winning team being the one with the least mistakes and there was also a target pistol competition.

To have any chance in the morse sending you needed to send on a straight key more than 25wpm with 99% accuracy and points were deducted if your morse code was not sent perfectly.

Eight of us were recruited volunteers from across the navy we spent six weeks improving our skills in HMS Mercury before four of us were selected to go to Brugge, one of many venues used throughout the competition's history. I ended up doing morse transmission (MTX) for the competition which was scored using a combination of speed and accuracy of transmission.

Our Chief was CRS Mick Puttick (G3LIK) a keen radio amateur - and still is!

Here we are at the Belgian naval base, St.Kruis.
Left to Right:-

LRO Happy Sadd - MRX (Morse Reception)
RO2(G) Buster Brown (FRX) (Flashing Light)
Sub Lt. COLLINS ( i/c)
CRS, Mick Puttick our team trainer and a long time amateur radio operator (G3LIK)
Me! (MTX = Morse Transmission)
Belgian senior rate i/c the Belgian team and was also a  radio ham too. (Now deceased).
Front, RO2 Taff Welstead (TTX) (Teleprinter)

And here is where we practiced in the belgium training school.  (from left to right) One of the Italians, Myself at the front,  the German operator immediately behind me at the rear.  An American and the Dutch operator far right (or was he Danish?).  The competition was run over 5 days.  The key I'm using is a standard issue key made by P Edwards Ltd and Marconi Ltd - more info here:-
http://www.morsemad.com/nato.htm.  .


I didn't do too well - I guess I suffered from nerves during the competition and perhaps a bit too much of the Belgian beers on an evening.  But I did come 2nd or 3rd in the pistol shooting competition which was included as it was a 'military' skill.

Here's the certificste I got from the Royal Navy.  We also got an engraved propelling pencil each.  We were told the RN budget didn't run to engraved pens!






Much more about the NATO  Naval Communications Competition (NAVCOMCOMP), can be found in communicator.htmwhich is the Royal Naval Communications Museum's website which has copies of the  the  Communicator magazine and click on the Spring 1970 edition.  You can scroll through  the magazine until you find more details of the team for that year.  Plus lots of information regarding Royal Naval communications.
I'm now an amateur radio operator myself  =  M6GYU



5 comments:

STEVE SCOTT said...

Hi Dave, It's nice to meet another CW operator that participated in the NATO COMPETITION.


I was the team captain of the 3rd place U.S. NAVY NATO communications team in Amsterdam in April 1969, finishing 4th individually (straight key sending) in the "CW" portion of the then, 10 country NATO competition. I have remained a CW only operator for over 56 years now & like you, enjoy QRP.
I concluded my NAVY career as a 'Advanced Morse' intercept instructor at Naval Communications Training Center in Pensacola, Fla. in Sept. 1972.

Nice article.

77, 72/73 for now
Steve / W5BIB

STEVE SCOTT said...

Hi Dave,... I've found some more information about the 7th Annual Navy NATO Communications Competition held in Amsterdam in April of 1969.


In the 7th annual NATO Communications Training Competition
I was team captain of the 3rd place U.S. NAVY NATO communications team at Amsterdam in April 1969, finishing 4th individually (straight key sending) in the "CW" portion of the (then) 10 country NATO competition. The competition was for 5 consecutive days with a 30 minute 'test' each day. The test consisted of 5 letter/number mixed groups. On three of the 5 test days I managed to average just over 30 wpm for 30 consecutive minutes with the "straight key"

I was stationed in Turkey (TA2ZZ) at the time & went to Rota, Spain for preliminary competition against other U.S. Navy CW operators. Upon winning the preliminaries, I was selected as Team Captain of the U.S. Navy team.

The team was comprised of 4 communications operators as follows; (all doing five 30 minute tests)
CW reception: RMSN M.W. ALLEN - NAVCOMSTA SPAIN - (finished 4th)
CW sending: CTR1 S.A. MORRIS - TUSLOG Det-28 - Karamursel, Turkey - (Team Captain) - (finished 4th)
Flashing Light reception: SM2 E.A. GRUBB - USS O'HARE - (finished 3rd)
RTTY sending: CYN3 D.R. FARRINGTON - NAVCOMSTA GREECE - (finished 4th)

U.S. Evaluation Group: (from NAVCOMSTA SPAIN)
LT. W.F. WHITEMORE - USN
RMC J.L. TOTH - USN

The final competition was held in Amsterdam that year (1969).
We were all young swabbies (I was the oldest at 22 years old) & more interested in the nite-life that Amsterdam provided than the competition. !! ;) We managed to salvage a third place overall finish out of the 10 countries. I was in third place for the first 3 days & then the nights we all spent "WINDOW SHOPPING" caught up with us !!:rolleyes:

I can still pound out 'round 25wpm or so for a few minutes & then jump over to the BUG. :D
I'm comfortable for extended periods right around 18-20 wpm with the straight key.

BTW; The finishing order of the competition was...
1) Italy
2) Netherlands
3) U.S.A. :)
4) Canada
5) Germany
6) Norway
7) Denmark
8) Belgium
9) U.K.
10) France

What a great experience.
I wonder what ever happened to the "Annual NATO competition" -
It would be interesting to hear from other participants.

73 de Steve / W5BIB (ex TA2ZZ)

David Perry said...

Thanks for your comments Steve. I have come across someone else from another european Nato country who was in one of the competitions but I didn't follow it - can't remember the circumstances though.

Toorenaar Ton said...

Hi Dave,
I took part on NCC in 1972 (Flensburg) and 1973 (HMS Mercury) en trained de competitors from de Dutch Navy for de competition in 1974 in Bergen.

At the time I'm busy with an item about NCC for the website of retired Duch signal operators.

I would like tot receive a photograph from you. The photograph I mean is from 1970, Brugge and represents practiced in the Belgium training school.

greets, Ton

David Perry said...

Toorenaar

I'd gladly send the photograph from Brugge - but I'd appreciate your e-mail. You have no contact information on Blogger!!

I would also appreciate you write something for my blogg or give a link to what you you have done for the 'retired Dutch Signal Operators

David