Deja Vous? -  certainly and on this this web site too,  but this time around for a different reason - so treat as new!


 

 

It was designed throughout to demonstrate all the electrics in that class, ergo, HMS Iron Duke. Each and every deck could be removed revealing the wiring, dynamo's, alternators, condensers, inductors, motors, battery-packs etc throughout the ship, everything an engineering student would require for a good understanding of how the ship worked and functioned. The whole gunnery systems was laid bare for a good understanding. Regrettably, over the years, parts have been taken out and lost, but for all that, it is still a priceless piece of history, and as such, is in the hands of the nation and not in the hands of a collector.

 

However, since we have a good picture of the ship, as good perhaps as we will get, now is the time to comment upon her suitability to act as a flagship with regard to her wireless telegraphy aerial rig. Although the Iron Duke had the W/T equipment fit commensurate with being able to generously communicate by wireless [i.e. of a battleship] she would have been frustrated by not being able to transfer radiated energy from her transmitters to her aerials with any great efficiency. W/T equipment come 1914 was at a high level of sophistication and aerial theory was exceedingly well understood, and was well applied to all shore W/T stations but only to a few ships of that time.

 

Now without in anyway getting technical, read on seeing only ordinary every day English words, the finest aerial is a straight long taut vertical piece of wire, excellent for one frequency. In WW1, this was called a "Marconi Aerial" simply because Marconi used such a piece of wire in his first wonderful successful experiments. A warship, particularly a large and important ship has to talk on different frequencies and all with near equal efficiency. To make that happen we add a horizontal piece or pieces of wire to the end of the long straight wire making a suitable join or connection. As the vertical piece is long, then so too should be the horizontal piece. We can  now call the vertical piece the FEED and the horizontal piece the ROOF. The higher the roof and the length of the roof, the better the communications achieved. Just as a by and by, the FEED should meet the ROOF in its middle, and moving the connection forward or aft takes away some of the efficiency of the communication. In this picture [a] of a WW1 cruiser, the aerial rig is ideal, rigged that way to minimise smoke/soot pollution with the W/T office just forward of the mainmast.

 

  

In pictures [b] to [e] of various types of WW1 warships, the exercise in rigging is to make the ROOF as long as possible.  I promised no technical talk. The FEED points reflect where the W/T office is sited in the ship, and the end of the extension pieces are tethered and do not willy nilly fly around in the breeze.

 

 

NOW...END OF NON-TECHNICAL SPEAK!

 

From my picture above  of the model of the Iron Duke Class, you can readily see that from the after funnel to the stern there is absolutely no room for any form of an upright structure however low or thin in girth

 it might have been, with the deck space monopolised by 'Q' turret [in the ships waist] and 'X' and 'Y' turrets aft. This means that her main aerial rig is in the direct vicinity of the single mast, itself stubby, not much higher if at all from the tripod top with a stub mast going on from the spotters position. So as not to impede either 'A' or 'B' turrets [forad] firing on even modest elevations to achieve range, no attempt was made to fit other than a receiving wire from the bow to the top of the stub mast, meaning that all the aerials were rigged in a very small area in the immediate vicinity of the tripod and forward funnel. Apart from there being no obvious feed or roof, the smoke/soot affect of the forward funnel would have severely reduced the efficiency of the radiating elements, not to mention rendered the ceramic or glass insulators ineffective, unless washed with soapy water on a regular basis. By today's standards, it must have been an MI [Mutual Interference] nightmare. Given their lack of knowledge on the actions of the ionosphere and their "noisy"

radio transmitters, things must have been fraught to say the least. 

 

 So, on this subject, to finish with a pictorial image

of aerials and their potential uses.

 

Just before WW1, there was a major fleet manoeuvre involving the 'goodies' and the 'baddies' in those days known as RED and BLUE forces. A referee ship was appointed to carry a deciding flag - and staff - [visibly, for all to see] on the outcomes, deciding which side won and which didn't. She was the cruiser HMS Euryalus and she monitored each side over the radio waves using her aerials as follows

:-

 

 

Finally, let's change from N=Naval to M= Merchant/Maritime/Mercantile [your choice] and look at the most famous ship of all as she was in 1911. Yes, that is the White Star Liner 'Titanic'. The same rules for W/T aerials applied here and the feeder and roof are very obvious.

 

 

 

In summary, as designed, there was no room for aerial diversity necessary for a flag ship. Even knowing that ships could not listen through their own transmission, when a Morse key was pressed all receiver aerial paths were blocked not only in the transmitting ship but also in ships in close company. It can therefore be readily seen that any W/T inadequacies were not the fault of telegraphists or W/T equipment  within the vessel, but with the lack of suitable aerial arrays caused by inappropriate masts and mast configurations. .