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    Visual Signalling Retired (forward)
    From: Tony S
    Date: 1997 Jul 17, 12:30 AM

    The following is forwarded from another mail list.
    Note: Boatanchors in this case refers to "old time
    radios with tubes"
    Visual Signalling Retired
            Wed, 16 Jul 1997 22:54:26 -0400 (EDT)
            Jerry Proc 
    Hello Dear BA'ers,
    Although not directly related to Boatanchors, some of you may be
    in knowning that that Royal Navy has retired light signalling by Morse
    Here is a copy of the article that I'm submitting to a few local
    newsletters. Can anyone tell me if the USN still uses visual CW or has
    too been retired?
                             Edited by Jerry Proc
    (From an article by Andrew Gilligan of The Daily Telegraph, London,
    July 13/97)
         After 130 years, the Royal Navy is turning out the lights on
    visual Morse code. Masthead signalling lanterns - used by warships
    to communicate with each other through some of the most famous
    naval battles in history - have been declared redundant by
    Admiralty chiefs in an era of secure communications. Recruits will
    no longer be trained to operate the Morse buttons by which messages
    could be flashed to other ships, and the lights themselves will be
    gradually decommissioned.
         The idea of flashing dots and dashes from a lantern was first
    put in to practice by Captain, later Vice Admiral, Philip Colomb in
    1867. His original code, which the Navy used for seven years, was
    not identical with Morse, but Morse was eventually adopted with the
    addition of several special signals. Flashing lights were the
    second generation of signalling in the Royal Navy, after the flag
    signals most famously used to spread Nelson's rallying-cry before
    the Battle of Trafalgar.
         Ships will still retain Aldis lamps either side of the bridge,
    however, but signalling with these is complicated, involving
    transmitting signals in relays. Paul Elmer, of Naval Support
    Command, said: "Morse is just not used operationally any more. We
    have got much better, cleverer and more sexy stuff."
         The move, announced in a Defence Council Instruction,
    recognises that the lights have not been widely used at sea "for
    some considerable time". But a combination of inertia and respect
    for tradition means that nearly all large Naval ships are still
    equipped with them. Mr Elmer said: "Their heyday was the two world
    wars when they were used a lot for close convoy work. They were
    quite small and you could flash to other ships in the group without
    the enemy seeing."
         The lamps, which were omni-directional, were used to give
    commands to every ship in the group at once. The lamps' advantage
    - and one of the reasons why they have survived so long - was that,
    unlike radio communications, they could not be intercepted by enemy
    vessels. "They were at their best during radio silence. You had to
    be quite close to see them," said Mr Elmer.
         Now, however, the Navy has several secure communications
    systems that can send vast quantities of information between ships
    without risk of interception - and at infinitely higher speed than
    a man flicking a light on and off in dots and dashes.
    New-generation warships are increasingly equipped with computers
    that continuously share information with others nearby, and with
    shore bases, along invisible data highways.
    Jerry Proc  VE3FAB
    HMCS HAIDA Naval Museum, Toronto
    Web: www3.sympatico.ca/hrc/haida
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