RMS Titanic

The Club hit the international radio headlines in a big way over the weekend of 14-16 April with the launch and subsequent 44 hour operation of our "Special Special Event" station GB95MGY at Godalming College.

This was, of course, to commemorate the 95th anniversary of the loss of the Titanic and the efforts of local hero Jack Phillips, whose distress messages in CW as Chief Telegraphist of the fated vessel led to the saving of more than 700 lives by the liner Carpathia during the early hours of 15 April, 1912.

The designation "Special Special" is Ofcom's terminology for a British station that participates in an event of international significance and therefore deserves a callsign that is even more special than a simple GB0XXX. MGY was the callsign of Titanic and five years ago GB90MGY, operated by the Titanic Wireless Commemorative Group in Godalming, paved the way for a series of special amateur radio events.

OFCOM lays down a number of stipulations before issuing a "Special Special" callsign, including the condition that the event would be part of a much larger international activity and members of the public would be admitted to the station during at least part of the permitted period of operation. This meant that we were obliged to advertise the event and to welcome anyone who cared to visit the station over the weekend. Mike, G0EFO, took on the task of publicizing the event in the local media and some 40 newspapers, local radio and TV stations, journals and freebies were sent details in the 4-6 weeks preceding the weekend.

Waverley's Mayor
Waverley's Mayor gets full
treatment (note headset)

As far as can be ascertained, the Surrey Advertiser Group was the main press vehicle to alert the public alongside BBC Southern Counties Radio, which carried a live interview with G0EFO on the morning of Saturday 14 April. We sent out personal invitations to the Mayor and Town Clerk of Godalming, the Mayor of Waverley and officials of Godalming Museum. All of the invitees put in an appearance over the weekend, which says a lot for the local interest in anything that commemorates Jack Phillips and his birthplace and, one has to say, the reputation of the Wey Valley ARG.

Most Club members will be familiar with the station set-up. In brief, we operated an Icom 756 Pro Mk III with an Icom IC1 amplifier, very kindly supplied by Mike, G3IAF. Logging software (SDX) and PC were provided by Andrew, together with a very effective audio break out box for multiple headphone listeners. A multiplicity of wire antennas made up and erected by Olof, G0CKV, got us radiating in the appropriate directions on the chosen bands (80, 40, 30 and 20 metres, mainly). Antennas included a 40 metre loop hung from the front of the main college building (this antenna was destroyed by a visiting garbage lorry and rebuilt only at the last minute), parallel dipoles for 40, 30 and 20 metres, plus an inverted L with remote switcher and tuner for 160, 80 and 40 metres.

Ken's keys, galvos and sounders
Ken's keys, galvos and sounders

Ken Tythercott provided an excellent exhibition of vintage telegraphic equipment. Terry, G4GIX created a colourful display of QSLs, commissioned special commemoration coffee mugs (which were made by Shiela, G4PSA) and provided the signage inside and outside the main College building. Mike, G3IAF provided the regulation tee shirt colourfully emblazoned with the GB95MGY logo.

The main problem encountered over the weekend was QRN: S9 most of the time on 40m. Almost as bad on all the other bands. Only the inverted L (which was remote from the college buildings) offered lower levels of QRN and reliable contacts on 40 metres were only possible with that antenna. In spite of that, it became obvious that many DX stations were calling us on 40 and 20 metres which we just could not hear. Reception on 30 metres was not bad and this band became the event workhorse, with 40 and 20 metres following behind in order of decreasing popularity. Ideally we needed a good, low noise antenna for each band, located far away from any source of QRN.

G3IAF running the pile-up!

In all, some 2200 QSOs were made with 60+ DX entities worldwide, including VK, ZL, VP8, VQ9, most parts of the USA and Canada and, of course virtually the whole of Europe. Of special interest to us was a QSO with VO1MCE at the Cape Race lighthouse, Newfoundland, operated by Dave Myrick, President of the Irish Loop Amateur Radio Group. Walter Grey, the telegraphist at Cape Race at the time received messages from the Titanic as the vessel crossed the Atlantic. Dave’s great uncle, Jimmy Myrick, who was then 14 years old, was visiting the Station and was alone for a few minutes during which time he heard the Titanic’s first CQD/SOS message. He was instrumental in alerting Walter Grey to the disaster. Conditions for the QSO were poor, but Dave confirmed later by email that he had sent us the following message during the QSO:

Stan, G3XON makes the first call
Stan, G3XON makes the first call

"To Michael Shortland and The Wey Valley Amateur Radio Group, congratulations on a job well done. I am sure the spirits of John Phillips and Walter Gray are smiling upon us today". He went on to say: "I sure wanted to make it to Cape Race for the GB95MGY event. I had to convince our Coast Guard officials to open the road to Cape Race on April 13th and I arrived there on the morning of the 14th with a North Easter complete with snow squalls and gusts to 124 km/h, only to find all our antennae on the ground.
Undaunted, I assembled a Cushcraft 7000 vertical antenna and a B&W 80/40/15 trap dipole and attached them to the front and rear of my motorhome. Having survived that experience, I hooked up my Kenwood TS570G and lo and behold, there was GB95MGY loud and clear on 14014 kHz. I hope we are all still alive 5 years from now to do it all again. 73 David Myrick VO1MCE".

Dave had written to Mike G0EFO a letter of support for our special station which we used in our application to OFCOM as evidence of a genuine international interest in the Titanic commemoration, so the QSO with him (made by Roger G3SXW) was of particular interest.

QSLs were printed by our Ukrainian friend, Gennady, UX5UO and we were delighted to make a QSO with Gennady himself during the event!

Congratulations go to George G2DBH for devising, creating and managing the whole event extremely successfully. Congratulations also to our tireless operators G3IAF, G3SXW, G4HZV, M3OSP, G0CKV, G0KDL, G2DBH, G4GIX, G0EFO and especially to Stan, G3XON, who had the distinction of putting out our very first CQ at 11.00am local time on Sat. 14 April.

Thanks to our energetic helpers G4BHQ, G0JRE, G3IAZ (who designed the GB95MGY QSL), G4PSA, M0IAM and M0GJH, who organised a very enjoyable QSL labelling party, and anyone else who I may have omitted to mention.

Mike Shortland

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