If Marconi had been on board........


Arun Vajpey

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Reportedly Guglielmo Marconi and his wife were supposed to be passengers on the maiden voyage of the Titanic but pulled out due to his business schedule. But if they had been there, would Marconi's presence made the crucial difference?

If Marconi was on the trip, he might have spent at least some time in the wireless room as an observer. That might have resulted in a greater liaison between the wireless room and the bridge.

One way or another Marconi would have been aware of at least some of the ice warnings. Would he have tried to persuade Captain Smith to slow down or something? Could his presence have averted the disaster?
 

Julian Atkins

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Perhaps more pertinently, if Marconi Chief Inspector Balfour had been on Titanic instead of the Baltic!

Then those 2 lads Phillips and Bride might have behaved better. Balfour was a stickler for the rules.

Though one of these rules was that the wireless operators should not carry out their own repairs to the wireless set!

I would like to believe Balfour was sufficiently pragmatic that he would have allowed Phillips and Bride to repair the fault, especially as Titanic would otherwise be 'dead' wireless-wise.

Cheers,

Julian
 
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Nov 14, 2005
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I stated in another post I thought that was the case. Thanks for confirming it. I have wondered about them fixing the equipment. I think they were probably just dedicated to their jobs but I also considered that the way things were in 1912 that it could also have been...no sending messages = docked pay for the down time. Do you or anyone else know if that was the case? Also was it customary to tip the telegraph guys or at least just round up the bill for them? Just curious.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Also was it customary to tip the telegraph guys? Just curious.
Apparently not. I asked the same thing because I wondered if Phillips and Bride had additional incentives to be 'busy' sending and receiving private messages. Since passengers were normally not allowed near the Wireless Room, tipping would not have been possible, unless it was done en masse before the voyage began. At sea, the messages were sent into the wireless room by pneumatic tube.
 

Mike Spooner

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Jack Phillips spent six months in Liverpool at the Marconi training school in Liverpool. The courses included:
Elementary electricity and magnetism.
Rules and regulations for commercial wireless telegraphy at sea.
Clerical work for accounts and returns.
Ship routine and discipline.
Connecting up a wireless
How to trace faults and repair breakdowns
Had to pass exams too!
So one can see faults and repairs were all part and parcel of the job.
 
May 3, 2005
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Jack Phillips spent six months in Liverpool at the Marconi training school in Liverpool. The courses included:
Elementary electricity and magnetism.
Rules and regulations for commercial wireless telegraphy at sea.
Clerical work for accounts and returns.
Ship routine and discipline.
Connecting up a wireless
How to trace faults and repair breakdowns
Had to pass exams too!
So one can see faults and repairs were all part and parcel of the job.
It would be interesting if it is known how much time was spent on learning how to send and receive Morse Code as compared to the time spent on the Marconi Equipment itself......starting with the elementary electricity ; then on to connecting up a wireless, how to trace faults and repair breakdowns, etc.

If Marconi had been aboard, I think that possibly Phillips and Bride might asked Marconi for some help and advice in locating the problem and how to repair it.
Marconi might have been sort of a middle man between the Marconi Operators and the Captain and the Officers on the Bridge in advising them of the problem, trouble shooting and repair that Phillips and Bride were involved.
But I don't think Marconi would have gone any farther than that in "Advising the Captain".

At least during my service in the USN, the duties of operation of the equipment and maintenance and repair of the equipment were separate.

RM's (RadioMan Rating) Were required to know correct procedure in radiotelephone and radiotelegraphy (sending and receiving Morse Code),etc. But not required to know how to repair the equipment , although some might be very family in this regard. There were also some licensed Amateur Radio Operators who were
RM's.

ET's (Electronic Technician Rating) Were required to know the theory, troubleshooting, repair, maintenance , etc. of the radio, radar, sonar and other electronic equipment aboard the ship. But there was no requirement for knowing the Morse Code for example, although some might be very familiar in this regard. There were also some licensed Amateur Radio Operator who were ET's.

The basic course for ET's at that time was 36 weeks in length.
(1) Basic math, electricity and electronics theory, etc. Building and testing simple electronic circuits. ,trouble shooting , etc.
- 20 weeks.
(2) Experience on operating and maintaining actual shipboard radio, radar and sonar and other related shipboard equipment. Troubles were simulated in the equipments with practice in trouble shooting .
-16 weeks

There was also a course at the Junior College that I attended ,(and graduated from) that offered a course in "Electricity 133 - Amateur Radio" to prepare the student for "passing the exam" to get an Amateur Radio License.
Student desks were equipped with earphones for listening and keys for sending
In learning the Morse Code.
The Amateur Radio License Manual was used as the textbook.
The instructor would send (in Morse Code) sample questions from the book and the students would send the answer (in Morse Code) to the instructor for practice in sending and receiving Morse Code.
At that time sending and receiving Morse Code at 13 Words Per Minute was also a requirement .
The instructor was a Licensed Amateur Radio Operator as well as being a Veteran who had served as an ETC (Rating - Electronic Technician ; Rank - Chief Petty Officer) in the United States Navy.
That's how some of us got our "ham radio tickets" !

That's how it was for as much as Ancient History is concerned. LOL

if you were to put it in modern terms , the Marconi Operator was both an RM as well as an ET. ?
 
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May 3, 2005
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I'm sure he would have been in the radio room at times but I doubt he would try and influence the bridge in any way. From what I've read of Marconi he was more of a buissness man than an engineer of scientist. In the early days getting things going he was more hands on but by 1912...?
http://www.marconicalling.co.uk/museum/objects/images/large/photographs/1006.015.jpg
Any information on the ship or identification of persons in the group in the photograph ?
 
Nov 14, 2005
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Apparently not. I asked the same thing because I wondered if Phillips and Bride had additional incentives to be 'busy' sending and receiving private messages. Since passengers were normally not allowed near the Wireless Room, tipping would not have been possible, unless it was done en masse before the voyage began. At sea, the messages were sent into the wireless room by pneumatic tube.
Ok thanks. I know things were different in 1912 but that kind of sucks because they weren't really paid all that well for the job they did. I've read that Bride recieved $500 to $1000 (depending on the source) from the New York Times for his story. If I did my math right that equaled out to 2-4 years of pay. $1000 in 1912 is worth around $25,000 today. That would be less than a minimum wage job today.
 
Nov 14, 2005
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Any information on the ship or identification of persons in the group in the photograph ?

Marconi and the crew on board the Cunard ship, SS Lucania. 1903

Background notes on the Luciana:

The SS Lucania, was the first Cunard vessel to be fitted with Marconi wireless equipment. The SS Lucania's installation was an advance on the equipment supplied to the S.S. Kaiser Willhelm der Grosse and SS Lake Champlain, in that it employed the new syntonic (tuned) circuit of the type called `Tune A' which operated on a wavelength of about 100 metres.
 

N. D. Risener

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That's how it was for as much as Ancient History is concerned. LOL

I'm going to have to ask the board's pardon for going off topic but this gives me an opportunity that I've never had before with an issue that has been weighing with me for a number of years.

Robert, you're as close as I'll ever come to putting this question to the right person. No, you weren't a US Navy Radioman at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, but as an ET in the early 1950's who knows about radio operations you're closer to the subject than anyone else I'll ever encounter.

I once had a discussion on a board dedicated to movies. The movie in question was titled The Final Countdown. In the story a modern (1980) aircraft carrier was thrown back in time and found itself a couple of hundred miles west of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 6, 1941. Without getting bogged down in detail, a character on the carrier attempted to make radio contact with the naval station at Pearl. He was able to speak with the navy radio operator on duty but what he was saying about who and where he was made no sense to the 1941 navy man.

This elicited the following response from the Radioman who was on duty and handling official communications. "All right, whoever the h*ll you are, use of military frequencies by unauthorized personnel is a felony. As we have no aircraft carrier Nimitz and no Captain Yelland I suggest, a**hole, that you stop impersonating some other a**hole and get off the air. You're wasting out time."

I took the position on the board that no navy radio operator in 1941 would have spoken and used language like that while handling official communications. Wouldn't have dared or even thought about doing it because the standards of conduct were so different back then and regulations were strictly enforced with swift and immediate punishment for all transgression. It simply wasn't done.

However the other people on the board ignored the point I was making and concluded I was ignorantly saying that navy men back then didn't know profanity. An absurd misrepresentation of what I actually said.

So Robert, I'd like to get your take. Am I correct in claiming that people back in that historical period knew the words but did not employ them with the openness and freedom that people later, like in 1980, did? That it was automatic for them to use considerable restraint in their vocabulary when in public. And that furthermore a navy radio operator would be under strict rules about what he could say on the air and would have been in severe trouble if he had ever spoken like that? And that this scene in the movie was therefore written in a 1980's style of conduct and in no way depicted what would have happened in 1941.

Given your background and experience what do you think?
 

Julian Atkins

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Hi N. D. Risener,

There is plenty of evidence of Phillips having lost his temper with other radio operators on the night of 14th and 15th April. He told The Californian (Evans) to shut up around 11pm on the 14th (ie 'DDD'), and later did the same to the Frankfurt when Titanic was sinking.

So, it is not inconceivable that more forthright messages were used in wartime.

Cheers,

Julian
 

N. D. Risener

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Thanks Julian,

But I don't think that really answers the question. My understanding is that DDD was a routine part of wireless communication. Given the technical nature of the equipment there had to be a way to deal with interruptions and establish priorities. Evans himself said at one of the inquiries that you don't take offense when you get it.

What I asked deals with a completely different situation. And as far as the US Navy being rigid about the rules I've been told by one who actually was a navy man in 1941 that a sailor could get in real trouble if his white hat was not positioned on his head in precisely the right way. I maintain that the navy wouldn't have tolerated such conduct with official communications as was depicted in the movie.
 
May 3, 2005
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I'm going to have to ask the board's pardon for going off topic but this gives me an opportunity that I've never had before with an issue that has been weighing with me for a number of years.

Robert, you're as close as I'll ever come to putting this question to the right person. No, you weren't a US Navy Radioman at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, but as an ET in the early 1950's who knows about radio operations you're closer to the subject than anyone else I'll ever encounter.

I once had a discussion on a board dedicated to movies. The movie in question was titled The Final Countdown. In the story a modern (1980) aircraft carrier was thrown back in time and found p on the carrier attempted to make radio contact with the naval station at Pearl. He was able to speak with the navy radio operator on duty but what he was saying about who and where he was made no sense to the 1941 navy man.

This elicited the following response from the Radioman who was on duty and handling official communications. "All right, whoever the h*ll you are, use of military frequencies by unauthorized personnel is a felony. As we have no aircraft carrier Nimitz and no Captain Yelland I suggest, a**hole, that you stop impersonating some other a**hole and get off the air. You're wasting out time."

I took the position on the board that no navy radio operator in 1941 would have spoken and used language like that while handling official communications. Wouldn't have dared or even thought about doing it because the standards of conduct were so different back then and regulations were strictly enforced with swift and immediate punishment for all transgression. It simply wasn't done.

However the other people on the board ignored the point I was making and concluded I was ignorantly saying that navy men back then didn't know profanity. An absurd misrepresentation of what I actually said.

So Robert, I'd like to get your take. Am I correct in claiming that people back in that historical period knew the words but did not employ them with the openness and freedom that people later, like in 1980, did? That it was automatic for them to use considerable restraint in their vocabulary when in public. And that furthermore a navy radio operator would be under strict rules about what he could say on the air and would have been in severe trouble if he had ever spoken like that? And that this scene in the movie was therefore written in a 1980's style of conduct and in no way depicted what would have happened in 1941.

Given your background and experience what do you think?

N.D.Risener -
I'm afraid I wouldn't be much help on your question.
I would have to go back on my old quote from the "The Caine Mutiny"".......Ensign Willie Keith: "But you weren't there !"
I'm not much on proper procedure, but I think whoever was doing the communications would at least have gotten a reprimand from his Officer for using such language. I think the RM's in any time would have been trained as to what to say or not to say. My "Specialty Rating" as an "ET" was more in the line of the operation of the equipment than in the proper procedure of using the equipment. But I don't think that kind of language would have been satisfactory .......even in 1941. Just my guess. Don't believe every thing you see in the movies about the USN is true ! LOL

I know my Grand Father or Great Grand Father would have used words like that in his daily conversations in 1941 ...........From what I have heard from "the older generation". LOL

What if Pearl Harbor got a call in 2019......"SOS Pearl Harbor.....Help.....This is the interplanetary and sea craft USS Donald L Trump......We seem to be in some kind of time warp....Help."
How would they handle this ?
 
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N. D. Risener

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Thanks Robert,

I think we agree about the proprieties of the matter. Sailors have been famous since long before the 20th Century for their ability to use profanity. In one musical Rex Harrison sings "All at once you're using language that would make a sailor blush."

Yes, the people back then, and not just sailors, knew the words and then some. But there were situations when they would use them and situations when they wouldn't. And there were a lot more situations where they wouldn't back then than there are now.

As for Pearl Harbor getting a message from the USS Trump. Only way we will ever know how they handle it is if someone puts it in a movie.
 

Mike Spooner

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Sep 21, 2017
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If I was Mr Marconi on board I be thinking business. Get those dam messages sent out for the profits of the company!
Weren't the operators on a commission rate to?
 

Julian Atkins

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Hi N. D. Risener,

My brother served in the Royal Navy for 26 years. He had a very low opinion of the US Navy in the second Iraq War, his ship being fired upon by a US Navy vessel, and many other encounters. He told me all, but we will probably have to wait 30 years from the events for the relevant files to be de-classified.

One has only to consider Pearl Harbour to consider the US Navy to have been considerably lax, and if my brother's recollections are anything to go by they were pretty lax 60 or so years later.

I am afraid your great country does not attain to the same standards of the Royal Navy, and it does not surprise me that US Navy wireless operators resulted to bad language and breaching of all accepted rules for such communications.

Cheers,

Julian
 

N. D. Risener

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Apr 8, 2018
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Hello again Julian,

Opinions are one thing but evidence is something else. A scene in a modern movie designed to entertain the audience and unsupported by any historical records is not credible evidence that the scene depicts something that actually occurred.
 

Julian Atkins

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Sep 23, 2017
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???

What did my above post have to do with a modern movie?

It is what my brother told me.

I could probably persuade him to post his own recollections on here, if it would make any difference, if you are accusing me of lying. I think my brother's medals that he wears each Remembrance Sunday speak for themself. I am very proud of what my brother did serving His Queen and Country for all those years.

I don't understand your reply at all.

Cheers,

Julian
 

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