[CQ-Contest] QRQ?

Patrick Hoppe phoppe at wi.rr.com
Sun Nov 13 08:55:59 EST 2005

An excellent story, but an even better point was made...  I work very hard
to help get new ops interested in cw.  When they complain that their speed
is very slow and that no one will talk with them, I always say that no
matter how fast you are - there is always someone that can smoke you.  Just
send at the speed you are comfortable at, and the returning op will match

This story is great.  I am going to bounce it over to the beginning cw


-----Original Message-----
From: cq-contest-bounces at contesting.com
[mailto:cq-contest-bounces at contesting.com] On Behalf Of K0HB
Sent: Sunday, November 13, 2005 1:15 AM
To: MWA Reflector; CQ-Contest
Subject: [CQ-Contest] QRQ?

The Day I Learned Some Humility

                    or "Don't Ever Send QRQ To SUQ"

Uncle Sam kept me busy in my youth as a Navy radioman, sending me on many
expense-paid cruises to all manner of exciting places, including several
cruises to the Mediterranean Sea as part of the 6th Fleet.

After a few years at sea I fancied myself a pretty hotshot Morse operator.

If any of you out there sailed in the 6th Fleet during the late 50's/early
60's, you may remember the famous "Task Group Commanders Circuit", commonly
called "SIXES-ALFA".  This was a high speed Morse net which routinely
clipped along at 40WPM with busy spurts somewhat faster.  It was a matter
of some pride that only holders of an official "Speed Key Certificate" were
allowed on the circuit, and only the best of those were qualified as NCS. 
(Yes, before you could use a Vibroplex on a Navy circuit, you had to pass a
speed key examination and obtain a certificate.)

Anyhow, as a qualified NCS on SIXES-ALFA, there was no doubt in my inflated
ego that I was one of the hottest seagoing ops to ever key up a TBL.  (TBL
was a big black 100W MF/HF CW transmitter fitted in WW-II/Cold War era
destroyers.) Certainly there was no mere civilian radioman out there to
challenge my skills.

In those days the US Navy maintained a small presence in the Red
Sea/Persian Gulf called the "Mid East Force".  The Commander of this force
was a Rear Admiral who maintained his flag not on a warship, but on a
seaplane tender USS Duxbury Bay AVP-38 (mother ship for seaplanes, which
the Navy no longer even flew) docked at the Brit base on Bahrain. (As an
aside, and to make sure this message is on topic to "contesting", at one
time ---later than this story --- that command was held by a contester of
some note, Admiral Scott Redd, K0DQ)

Contrasting to today, "the Gulf" was a pretty low-key military backwater
when this story unfolds.  The "force" usually consisted of a couple of
destroyers on loan from the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean.  These
destroyers rotated to this duty for about 2 months by a transit of the Suez

Vessels transited the canal in convoys, northbound and southbound, which
were coordinated to meet and pass at a "wide spot in the road" at the Great
Bitter Lake.  If there were any warships in the convoy, they were the lead
ship, and the lead ship carried a UAR canal pilot.

Communications between the pilot and the Suez Canal Authority was via an MF
420 Kc/s (this was before KHz had been invented) Morse circuit between the
lead ship and the UAR station SUQ at Ismailia.

In early October of 1961, my ship, USS Henley DD762, drew the short straw
and was sent off on Red Sea patrol.

After a last liberty port at Piraeus, Greece (remember "Fix" beer) we
transited to Port Said and embarked our pilot for the trip through the

The pilot had me file a departure report to SUQ and promptly at 0700 we
started our transit.  Periodically (at passing El Ferdan and Deversoir, if
I recall correctly) he issued short progress reports which I sent to SUQ.

In due time the convoy entered Great Bitter Lake and anchored to allow
passage of the north-bound convoy coming up from Port Suez.  Prior to
weighing anchor for the remainder of the passage, the pilot was required to
obtain updated instructions from the Canal Authority.  Turned out this
happened just as I was due to be relieved on watch for noon chow.

Wanting to turn over a "clean" log to my relief, I was somewhat impatient
that the operator at SUQ was operating at a rather leisurely pace (perhaps
"only" 25WPM).  Surely this lowly civilian operator could send just a bit

So I slid the weights back to the reaR stop on my Vibroplex and sent...


What happened next still causes me shame and regret every time I
contemplate that short cocky transmission.  Oh that I could have called
those electrons back!  An image comes to mind of a swarthy-complexioned
mustachioed Egyptian with a wicked gleam in his eye, chomping an unlit
cigar, pulling the weights completely off his key, and muttering "I'll show
this gob some real QRQ!"

The crisp Morse transmission which came back to me was utterly off the
chart in terms of speed.  No operator on the vaunted SIXES-ALFA had ever
even caused me to eve really concentrate, but here I was missing nearly
every other character this fellow sent. In embarrassment, I sheepishly
unplugged my speed key, broke in, and on the pump handle, and sent..


... and turned the circuit over to my relief.

Never again, and I mean NEVER again, has the opsig QRQ ever passed my

73, de Hans, K0HB
Master Chief Radioman, US Navy


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