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Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society

CARS Meetings January to March 2009

Award for All
2nd May 2009 Added the IET Link to Jack Binns article.   Added the March Meeting.

"CQD", Jack Binns and the rescue at sea in 1909.
By John Bowen, G8DET

On the coldest night of the year a number of Members and visitors including Ex ROs came to the Marconi Club to hear John, G8DET tell the story of Jack Binns & the RMS Republic in 1909.   John said the story started with an E-Mail from Virginia, Grand-Daughter of Jack Binns.

Murray, G6JYB & John. G8DET
Murray, G6JYB & John. G8DET - notice the Digital Projector purchased with the "Awards for All" Lottery Grant.
Photographs taken by Dave Penny, G3PEN

R.M.S. Republic in Algiers
R.M.S. Republic in Algiers
Picture by courtesy of Capt Martin Bayerle, New York

On 22nd of January, 1909 the ship R.M.S Republic left New York and headed towards the Mediterranean with 410 passengers and a crew of 300.   Early the next morning (23rd Jan) in very thick fog it was rammed broadside by the Italian Liner S/S Florida.  

SS Florida in 1905.
SS Florida in 1905

The Marconi Wireless Operator, Jack Binns sent the code letters "CQD" created by Marconi for such an emergency in 1904 but not used before in need - this started a tremendous rescue at sea which caught the public's attention and saved in the end possibly 1,625 lives (with no further loss of live after the initial crash).   It is still the largest transfer of passengers at sea.

To give the evening a "wireless" flair, Terry Green, G3GLL, a ships Radio Operator for many years, send the messages using a copy of a 1905 Morse Key (which had been presented to the Mayor of Chelmsford) and a demonstration "Spark Coil" - many members in the audience were able to follow the buzzing code.

Copy of a 1905 Morse Key
Copy of a 1905 Morse Key

First message: -   "CQD (3 times) de MKC (3 times) WE MAY NEED HELP - STB BI K"

Jack Irvin had the Graveyard shift from midnight to 8am and had just woke up because his fire was low & he was feeling cold - he heard the "CQD" call from the other side of the room as there was no traffic at this time (good timing - later & the MKC CQD call would never have been heard).

MSC replied: -  "CQD SC K".

Siasconset's call-sign being initially SC, but an M had been added at the 1st of January that year.

Terrance Green, G3GLL sending the messages
Terrance Green, G3GLL sending the messages.

Captain Sealby of the Republic then sent a Steward to Jack Binns with the request to send the following message: -


Siasconset repeated this message using its high power but adding "DO UTMOST TO REACH HER".

This message was picked up by at least a dozen ships, of which about 6 were in a position to help - problem was finding the Republic in the fog!

The Republic initially transferred all passengers to the Italian ship as it was not so badly damaged.   This took 2½ hours.

After searching for 12 hours and travelling some 200 miles in a square of 10 miles in very thick fog, the RMS Baltic found the Republic.   Helped by over 100 messages from Jack Binns.   It took on most of the crew of the Republic including Jack Binns who managed to get something to eat and a little sleep.

Having completed that task the worry was then that the Florida was starting to settle in the water so the Republic's passengers (for the second time) were transferred by rowing boat to the Baltic along with the Florida's own passengers.   This took some 10 hours - 83 boats trips.

Most of the passengers on the Florida had escaped from Europe's largest Earthquake om 28th December 1908 in Messina, Sicily which had killed well over 100,000 and seriously wounded 200,000.   The Earthquake unfortunately killed both the British & American Consuls, Family and Staff.

R.M.S.Baltic in Liverpool, England.
R.M.S. Baltic in Liverpool, England
Picture by courtesy of Capt Martin Bayerle, New York

The Chief Marconi Wireless Operator on the saving ship, R.M.S. Baltic, Henry J Tattersall was a Chelmsford man. From 1935 until he died in July 1980 aged 94, he lived in First Avenue, Chelmsford.

Next morning (24th Jan) at 10am the Captain of the Republic considered that the ship could be saved and requested 38 named crew to rejoin the ship - including Jack Binns who took fresh storage batteries with him.

Tugs appeared and put a line on the Republic with the Furnessia acting as a rudder and very slowly towed it towards New York.   However at 5pm it was realised it would not make it so the steel ropes were replaced with Manilla ropes, laid over wooden blocks. All the crew except Captain Iman Sealby & Second Officer Williams took to the boats and rowed to the Gresham. At 8pm the ropes were cut with an axe and the Republic slid beneath the waves, bow first.   Both Sealby & Williams were luckily plucked from the sea.

Two passengers on the Republic initially died with a third a few days later in a Brooklyn Hospital. 3 Crew died in the front section of the Florida.

In all some 1,600 passengers and crew were saved because Jack Binns was able to get the "CQD" message to Jack Irwin, the Marconi shore operator at Siasconset on Nantucket Island, Mass who spread the word.

The French Liner "La Lorraine" also equipped with Marconi Wireless acted as a superb "wireless relay" ship and this ensured that many messages which may have been lost were heard.   This was acknowedged by the French Government who also issued Medals to commemorate the event.

For further reading look at   and

The Institution of Engineering & Technology (formerly the IEE) published a 2 page article on Jack Binns in the 25th April 2009 issue.
Click here: -

Note, all 3 links Open in a New Window.

As a result of researching the "Jack Binns rescue", another local hero was found.

In June 1914 the "Empress of Ireland" was leaving Montreal on the St Lawrence River, Canada when it was hit, again in thick fog, by the Collier, SS Stortland.

Ron Ferguson, G4VF, a past CARS President sent the emergency code "SOS" which was picked up and acted apon by the Marconi shore station at Father Point.   The assistant Operator was told to get in a boat which he did but Ron stayed for a few minutes until the power failed and his wireless room was awash.   Grabbing a deck chair as it floated by, Ron was washed into the sea but picked up by the Collier, transferred to a nearby tug and using their wireless co-ordinated the recue.

Unfortunatley, of the 1,425 persons on board, 1,025 died - most trapped in their cabins as the ship sank in only 14 minutes.   It is still Canada's worse sea disaster - the wreck is classified as a "Sea Grave".

CARS Newsletter for 1974
CARS Newsletter - photo showing CARS running GB2CCS in 1974, to celebrate 100 years after the birth of Marconi.
Barry Tew, G3WFF – John Greenwood, G3KRZ – still a CARS Member - Roy Martyr, G3PMX and Ron Ferguson, G4VF, OBE.

After a successful Raffle, Murray, G6JYB told the audience about changes the "Band Plans" following the recent IARU conference at Cavtat in Croatia that he had attended.

Murray, G6JYB
Murray, G6JYB

He showed a preview of the new 7MHz bandplan that comes into effect on 29-Mar-2009 - the date when the broadcasters vacate 7.1-7.2MHz and Amateurs become Primary.   Other changes in the VHF bands include allocations for Digital Voice (eg D-Star).

They will be in Radcom and are on the Web at: -     Note, this "Opens in a New Window".

Due to Global Warming and the state of Marconi Club Car Park the February Meeting has been RESCHEDULED from Tuesday, 3rd February to Tuesday, 10th.

February Meeting:-
"The Why's and Wherefores of Amateur Radio Antennas".
By Tony Gilbey, G4YTG

Martyn Metdcalf, G1EFL was Chairman to the night due to illness of John G8DET.

At the CARS AGM in October the Membership were asked what they would like to hear or get involved with during 2009 - a number asked for "Amateur Aerials" so tonight CARS own resident Aerial Expert, Tony, G4YTG will explain all.

Tony will include the G5RV and the Windom Antennas.

He will take questions as he goes and if he has time will invite the floor to an Open Forum. He is a brave man!

Aerials to the Webmaster are a Black Art.   From the top of Danbury Hill, G8DET can work most of Essex and parts of Kent & Suffolk with 5 by 9 reports on 145MHz FM and with good audio quality using 5 Watts and a 5/8th Whip.

Using a professional 30ft Vertical or 160 feet of pure copper braid, plastic covered wire at between 20 feet & over 12 feet up in the air, reports of 3 by 0 are typical when running 75 Watts, SSB from an Icom IC756 ProIII - WHY?

Tony, I hope you can throw some light on the subject.

G8DET's Aerials
G8DET's Aerials

He will also play a couple of excepts of the Chelmsford Amateur Aerial Designer, Louis Varney, G5RV talking about his famous design. If you have never heard Louis, come along and listen to a few words from the great man himself.

Thank you Tony for a superb presentation. 71 persons turned up on a lousy evening so you did well.

The high quality Raffle was organised by Tony, G4YTG.

Door duties were by Geoff, G7KLV & Colin, G0TRM provided the Audio System - Thanks to both.

March Meeting - "What has the RSGB done for me?"
By RSGB President, Colin Thomas, G3PSM

Hylands House
Colin Thomas, G3PSM. President of the RSGB.Hylands House

On one of the wettest and windiest evenings for a long time, Colin travelled to Chelmsford to talk about the RSGB.   It was thought that the appalling conditions kept a number of visitors away – many have travelled quite long distances to CARS meetings in the past, including the previous Aerial Meeting by Tony Gilbey, G4YTG.

The opportunity was taken by Martyn, G1EFL to ask Colin to present the last two Chelmsford Award Certificates to Colin, G0TRM

RSGB President's Visit
Colin Thomas (left) with Martyn, G1EFL (centre) presenting Colin, G0TRM with Chelmsford Award no 41
Trevor, M5AKA is seen taking a photograph.
Photos by John, G8DET

RSGB President's Visit
Another angle of the presentation.
Photos provided by Colin, G0TRM

Also the Certificate to Italian Station, IK3GER, Paolo Corsetti.

RSGB President's Visit
Colin Thomas (left) with Martyn, G1EFL holding the Certificate for Paolo, IK3GER

Colin then presented the Constructors Competition Winner Shield to Ron Keefe, G4SIS for a beautifully hand crafted Capacitor 50 -250pF.

RSGB President's Visit
Colin Thomas (left) with Ron, G4SIS holding the Constructor's Shield

RSGB President's Visit
Another view of the presentation
Photo provided by Colin, G0TRM

In starting his PowerPoint Presentation, Colin took a straw-pole which showed that most people in the room were Members of the RSGB and reinforced his statement that “I am preaching to the converted”!

RSGB President's Visit
Colin standing with his opening screen projected from CARS Lottery purchased Projector, Optimo 770.
Notice also the Lottery purchased Laptop open nearest the screen.

What services do the RSGB provide?
Top of the list must be RadCom followed by the use of the QSL Bureau.   The Bureau is now outsourced and hopefully previous problems are now overcome.

Help with Planning Applications, EMC & PLT problems PLT is heard as a warbling tone when listening using AM.   SW listeners suffer worse.
Colin said he hoped that new technology would overtake the problems.

TVI issues that are nominally attributed with Radio Amateur installations (but often due to wideband TV preamps) are at rather lower levels mainly due to the take-up of Satellite and Cable TV.

Problem users of Repeaters are identified by the 58 members of the Amateur Radio Observation Service and reported to Ofcom and dealt with by them, aided by the Police.

Intruder Watch – primary HF service that monitors the Bands for non Amateur intrusions, eg lower end of 40m.   There used to be broadcast stations transmitting in the 7mhz Band.   Intruders are identified to Ofcom who follow up and report to the Administration concerned.

Ofcom Liaison is an important aspect and it is apparent that the run down of Baldock is now realised as being a poor move and they are now recruiting.   MOD and European Liaison is also an important aspect of RSGB work.   Thanks to Murray, G6JYB for his work on this task. Through CEPT the RSGB has arranged Reciprocal Licenses – British Amateurs can now operate in many countries without having to apply for a special License.

Between 12 and 15 years is needed before a new band can be introduced.   5MHz NOV holders (one present in the audience) were allocated to a frequency band used mainly by the MOD and is now used by Radio Amateurs for propagation research and security.   The 100KHz at the top end of the 7MHz Band becomes operative at the end of March which most broadcasters have now left.

Colin compared the Membership fees favourably with that charged by radio magazines.

RSGB President's Visit
Colin dealing with questions from the floor.

Responding to a question with regard to Bletchley Park, Colin said that they proposed to remove an old hut and replace it with a transportable building.   This means that if in the future Bletchley Park wish to change their facilities around the RSGB could move their building accordingly.   GB3RS should be on the air soon from Bletchley Park.

Another question wondered whether the RSGB were pushing the usefulness of Amateurs in the case of emergencies.   Colin said that County Emergency Planning Officers are not all aware what Radio Amateurs can provide.

GB4FUN is the new RSGB Trailer – it is 27ft long fully equipped by many sources and can travel into London without requiring a Low Carbon Certificate.

Colin lamented that the status of the Radio Amateur has diminished since City & Guilds pulled out of administering the Licence Examinations.

RSGB President's Visit
David, G3SVI CARS Pubilicity Manager talking to Colin about the picture display made by his wife, Myra, M0MYR & himself.

RSGB President's Visit
Colin sharing an amusing incident with Peter Hale, G4OAD.   Peter used to be a Morse Examiner.

After the refreshment break a CARS Member stated that a signal on 433.500MHz from 3 tower cranes in the Thames Estuary are causing radiation problems - Ofcom are aware and have verified that certain systems like these use non-compliant power levels but progress to resolve matters is slow.
A discussion about Ofcom holding License details NOT Licensees details – “How many people here have more than one License?” was asked by Colin.   Some present had 3 and some 4!   This provoked several responses from the floor which indicated the Ofcom Database should account for this for existing licensees.

In conclusion Colin said that Ofcom do take the RSGB very seriously and this is rewarding.

RSGB President's Visit
Colin drawing the Raffle which is being anounced by Chairman John, G8DET.

The Chairman thanked Colin for coming and the audience showed their appreciation in the usual way.

John G8DET

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