Thursday, October 22, 2009

NATO Naval Communications Competition

Well, 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.

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 & 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. Murphy ( i/c)
CRS, Mick Puttick (G3LIK) team trainer
Me! (MTX = Morse Transmission)
Belgian senior rate i/c the Belgian team and a radio ham too.
Front, RO2 Taff Welstead (TTX) (Teleprinter)

And here is where we practiced.  (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.  The competition was run over 5 days.  The key I'm using is a standard issue key made by P Edwards Ltd &  Marconi Ltd - more info here:-  As you can see there's no 'standard' way of sending morse, no 'European' method or American method.
Much more about the NATO  Naval Communications Competition (NAVCOMCOMP), can be found on this website > then   Communicator magazine > look in the Sprin 1970 edition and you can scroll down the magazine until you find more details of the team for that year.  Plus lots of information regarding Royal Naval communications.


sa morris 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

sa morris 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)

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.