[CQ-Contest] QRQ?

W0UN -- John Brosnahan shr at swtexas.net
Mon Nov 14 22:53:13 EST 2005

>The Day I Learned Some Humility
>                     or "Don't Ever Send QRQ To SUQ"

I enjoyed K0HB's story about QRQ and have my own little experience
to share.  I was always a sucker for techie gadgets and when the
AEA CK1 keyer first came out I had to have one.  This was the one
that looked like a little calculator but had no speed pot.  Speed was
set by typing in * and two digits -- so 35 WPM was *35.  I don't recall
the actual date but it had to have been almost 30 years ago.

I took my new toy out to K0RF's M/M operation to play with it and was
sitting in the kitchen learning how to program the CK1 and put a call sign
into memory.  Not long after, George, W0UA, happened to come up the
stairs from the radio room after operating all night and, as he walked by,
I said nothing to him but just hit *99 and "PLAY".   Out came a 99 WPM
machine gun burst that was so fast that I could not even tell it was CW.

George continued on to the refrigerator, as if he had heard nothing, and
poured a glass of orange juice.  As he walked back past me he casually
said, "W0YK".   Which of course was the call sign that I had programmed
into the keyer.  No words were exchanged at the time, either before or after
the blast of CW, but I have been in awe of George's CW prowess ever since.
And I learned my own lesson in CW humility that day.  The details of 
this incident
have stuck in my mind just like the JFK assassination and Neil Armstrong's
lunar landing.

--John  W0UN


>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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