Marconi Operators

  • Thread starter Laurel E. Oberdorfer (Laureleo)
  • Start date


Laurel E. Oberdorfer (Laureleo)

I'm new in my studies of the Titanic. I've been wondering about the Marconi operators. It seems to me that they should have been held partially responsible for not getting ice warnings to the bridge. Were they not required to do this? Did they work only to send and receive messages for the passengers? Seems that the entire collision could have been avoided had all of the ice warnings gotten to the bridge. Did requirements for Marconi operators change after the disaster?


Tracey McIntire

Dear Laurel,
The Marconi operators were not employed by the White Star Line but by the Marconi Company. You are correct when you say they worked only to send and receive messages for the passengers--this was their number one job as it made money for Marconi. They did send and receive other types of messages such as iceberg warnings but this was as a courtesy to White Star, and they were not required to deliver any messsages to the bridge. This policy was changed after the Titanic disaster.

Laurel E. Oberdorfer (Laureleo)


Thanks for clearing that up for me. I thought that the operators worked for Marconi, but wasn't sure.

G'day Laurel!

I'm afraid you have been misled somewhat by Tracey. The Marconi operators were employed by Marconi but were under Captain Smith's authority and signed ship's articles. They worked according to set priorities and the order was distress calls, government calls, master to master messages and passenger messages.

They were responsible for taking all messages addressed to the captain to the bridge, which they had to do in person, there being no telephone to the bridge. Messages for the captain were prefixed MSG for Masters' Service Gram.

The trouble was that the operators followed the rules to the letter. All messages marked MSG reached the bridge but others, most seriously the one from Mesaba, did not. The Mesaba message was merely marked Ice Report. The last warning from Californian was cut off because it was not in the correct form, thanks to sloppy work by Cyril Evans.

My own opinion is that in the end it made little difference what the operators did. Smith received enough messages to warn him but he was confident ice could be seen in time to avoid it. I don't think the radio operators should be harshly judged.

Laurel E. Oberdorfer (Laureleo)

Thanks Dave!

I certainly don't put all, or even a lot of blame on the Marconi operators. I was just unclear as to what occurred with regards to prioritizing messages.

I think the disaster happened because of overconfidence on the part of Captain Smith and the Officers. I think the pressure put on them by J. Bruce Ismay to beat the time of maiden voyage of the Olympic didn't help either. But that is just my opinion!

Thanks again!



Can anyone tell me what type of Radio Equipment was used on Titanic.

What receiver was it AR 88 RCA VICTOR ?
What Transceiver ?

"Titanic was equipped with two 1.5 kW spark-gap wireless telegraphs located in the radio room on the Bridge Deck. One set was used for transmitting messages and the other, located in a soundproofed booth, for receiving them. The signals were transmitted through two parallel wires strung between the ship's masts, 50 feet (15 m) above the funnels to avoid the corrosive smoke." (RMS Titanic - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

So says Wikipedia.
Concerning the working hours: I once read they needed to work together, one to receive the messages from the passengers and write them down/ to write down the incoming messages for the passengers and the other one to send/ receive them. On the other hand Bride was sleeping during the collision.

Senator SMITH. Who was on duty at the wireless station from 6 o'clock Sunday evening until the collision or impact?

Mr. BRIDE. I was on duty for half an hour, sir, while Mr. Phillips went and had his dinner.

Senator SMITH. At what hour?

Mr. BRIDE. From 7 o'clock until half-past.

Senator SMITH. Where were you after that, up to the time of the collision?

Mr. BRIDE. At the time of the collision?

Senator SMITH. Up to the time of the collision.

Mr. BRIDE. I was in bed.

Senator SMITH. You had retired?

Mr. BRIDE. Yes, sir.
Senator SMITH. Then you must have been aroused somewhat by this impact?

Mr. BRIDE. No; I had promised to relieve Mr. Phillips earlier than usual, you see.

Senator SMITH. Earlier than usual, that night?

Mr. BRIDE. Yes.

Concluding from this I would say they worked together during the day (except for situations like breakfast, lunch or dinner) and worked in shifts during the nights. I don't know for sure, if anyone knows more about it please correct me, I haven't read that much until now.

The Silent room is the room where the generators for the wireless apparatus were located. The room was isolated, because the generators were pretty loud and there were some first class cabins and the officers' quarters near this room. And therefore it was called Silent room.
Phillips generally worked from 8pm-2am and Bride from 2am-8am (covering for each other where needed eg for meal breaks as stated above). For the other 12 hours they were free to devise whatever working pattern suited them, a level of flexibility enjoyed by few others working on the ship. They were required, of course, to make sure that at all times at least one of them was on watch. But the 24-hr watch wasn't a legal requirement. Ships were not obliged to employ two operators, or indeed to carry wireless equipment at all.
Don't rely heavily on Wikipedia.

Actually, Titanic had a 5kw Marconi installation. There was an emergency set with an 80 mile range as well.

There were 4 aerials. They could be connected for the various wavelengths used.

The silent room is where the transmitter was located. It was VERY noisy. The operators worked in the "Marconi Room" basically there office.

Phillips generally worked from 8pm-2am and Bride from 2am-8am (covering for each other where needed eg for meal breaks as stated above). For the other 12 hours they were free to devise whatever working pattern suited them

Wikipedia is also wrong about this too. The Bridge Deck was actually B-Deck. Be careful with what is written there!
They put together Boat Deck + Bridge and came out with Bridge Deck! It's kind of confusing that the Bridge isn't on the Bridge Deck, but oh well...
Ana: Nautical tradition. The first Bridge Decks were just raised platforms for the helm or wheelhouse. As time went by ships were designed with multi-level superstructures so the actual navigation Bridge was raised higher and higher above what had once been (and was still called) the 'Bridge Deck'.

Caroline Mendes Ferreira

Not only the passengers they had to take any notice of icebergs to bridge. It was his job