Endurance tests for some branches

specifically for  TELEGRAPHISTS this case!

Over the years, the navy has devised many tests, with a good sprinkling of endurance tests within that portfolio.

By implication, virtually all of the endurance testings have involved the medical world who by and large have set the criteria, observed the results in-situ there ready to stop the tests if necessary, and subsequently analysed the results in various test houses/laboratories. Some of those criteria were conducted by the naval departments directly responsible for the operational event being tested, e.g., by all instructors involved in naval training whether branch training or general training; in survival training; in leadership training; in fire fighting, damage control and NBCD training. Many of the training modules mentioned are an integral part of basic and branch career training, namely Part 1 and Part 2. Part 3 training, is undertaken after Part 1 and 2, by deep specialists, submarine, aviation, RN-Commando, clearance divers [CD] and some medical sub-branches.

In addition, some tests were carried out by medical specialists only, the best example being Porton Down: however, those who undertook this type of training were paid volunteers. The famous [yes, internationally famous] Institute of Naval Medicine at Alverstoke, Gosport, has had a big hand in just about everything from sea-sickness right through to the nuclear age, and quite recently has given the thumbs-up for women to serve in Astute-Class SSN-submarines, this in addition to their serving in Trident Boats SSBN-submarines.  The boats these women will crew are nuclear propelled, and the Institute has long been involved in radiation [of all kinds] since the late 1950's when HMS Dreadnought was first mooted even before the drawing-board stage. For surface ships of all kinds/types, you will see deck-markings and notices on and around the bases of wireless telegraphy aerials, there displayed to avoid personnel being radiated by dangerous levels of electromagnetic radiations.  The Institute has a definitive library taking over those hitherto housed in Haslar and in Stonehouse, and it liaises direct with a wealth of data maintained by the Barber-Surgeons of yore, which tells of grisly and gory operations performed on sailors in centuries past.

In addition to the many tests and routine endurance performance experiments [e.g., length of time on watch versus total awareness and functionality] there were special tests arranged to measure the reactions of men to a known event or what was perceived to be a possibility of a future event.

In 1950, war remained a continuous threat in the Pacific Ocean areas! Men who worked below in offices, engine-rooms, enclosed- spaces, needed assistance to maintain their operational skills, and to assess their ability to perform well or otherwise, resulted in the purpose-build of several types of laboratories.  The one I am going to show you was used by three branches of the navy which were the electronic ears and eyes of the fleet, and were their skills to under-perform, the ship could easily be on the sea-bed below. The three branches were asdic [sonar], radar and wireless telegraphy. The test were time-measured, with the tester having ascertained the sleep pattern of each individual the night before. Each member was assumed to be acclimatised before attempting the test. The tests were conducted wearing different uniforms concentrating on the uniform most likely to be worn for the forthcoming event/perceived event. These were 1. normal working rig for the point of test; 2. action working dress [AWD]; 3. AWD with anti flash gear and 4. AWD with anti gas respirator AGR - gas mask. They were defined as follows:-

1. Blue shorts, service rayon belt and sandals.
2. Light-blue shirts with sleeves rolled down and buttoned at the cuffs and up the front including the neck button - dark blue trousers with rayon belt, boots or shoes [depending] with blue socks/stockings.
3. As for 2 above, but with trouser bottoms tucked into socks, special anti-flash [to stop burns from gun blasts etc] long-arm-gloves with shirt sleeve cuffs tucked into top of gloves, and a full head-dress [also anti flash] which covered all parts of the head and neck/ears except for small opening for the eyes and the nose, with an attached 360° flap designed to cover the neck and shoulders.
4. As for 3 above with the addition of donning and wearing a full anti-gas respirator.

It is obvious that the extremes, 1 and 4, would result in the most comfortable rig through to the worst possible condition imaginable, given that in 1950 very few ships had air conditioning and when rig No4 was ordered, commensurate with it would be the stopping of fans, which although hot air, brought forced air into the enclosed areas of the ship down below. I can not give a correct assumption, but I'll wager that when operating wearing NO4 rig, the operators performance could have halved in comparison to No 1 rig: 105° in No1 rig being roughly equivalent to 115° in rig No4 [remember no forced air].

In this instance, taken from the Sunday Times of Singapore, date-line 6th August 1950, the story concentrates on Telegraphists, the other two branches either done or waiting to be done. Before looking at telegraphists, a word about radar and sonar operators. Apart from their essential skills for the well being of the ship and its fighting ability, their jobs are only required/done infrequently and not on a continuous basis. When a ship is underway from point A to B especially at some speed zig-zaging to frustrate a submarine CO in the applying of target settings to his torpedoes,  it doesn't normally use sonar unless there is unmistakable intelligence that their 'track' will pass through known hostile waters. In such a case, the sonar operator[s] revert to their seaman branch duties in the overall watchbill of the ship. All warships have two types of radar both various, one dedicated towards navigation, rule-of-the-road safety at sea via-a-vis other ships coming and going, and the other naval, targeting and directing against surface and air hostile targets, tracking and acquiring distance [course, speed and bearing] and height of target of enemy. Radar works by sending a signal [which all in the vicinity can hear and monitor] and, if and when it hits a metallic object,  it bounces back to the transmitting ship and paints the echo on the transmitting ships screen. The returned echo can be used to work out the course and speed of the enemy. However, the enemy upon hearing the transmission pulse, is made aware of it being stalked and therefore it can make its get-away by using a few simple sums. It is not always wise therefore to use ones radar, except for just sending out one transmission as a just-in-case chance of locating something as yet unseen by visual lookouts. When transiting from point A to B it is the normal for the bridge staff to keep navigational-radar watch on the bridge-plot, putting the normal radar operator below on stand-by, and for the operations-room from which all the naval radar sets are controlled, it is reduced to a skeleton crew until the next high state of alert is ordered.

On the other hand, the telegraphist department never stops operating usually from four hours before leaving port to an hour or so after having arrived back in harbour. On foreign trips it never ceases to function with signals coming into the ship and many going out from the ship unless radio silence has been ordered. Even when it is, the incoming side [which is never affected by radio silence] keeps on the go twenty four hours a day. Although no more important than any other branch in the ship, the duties of the wireless telegraphy branch, particularly of the 1950 period, never get a break, whereas, all other branches and functions of the ship get a rest in a harbour. Mark you, what a difference here - not only excused watchkeeping duties, but like Porton Down experiments, they got paid for it!

Unlike at Porton Down which was a scientific/medical driven exercise for which ratings were paid if they were to volunteer, here in Singapore, the equipment used in the test was supplied, installed and operated by the staff of the Stations Communications Centre which was established as Krangi W/T.  I wonder if the scientist mentioned paid the navy for the equipment and expertise, as well as paying the sailors?

Here is that Singapore newspaper article, however, the associated picture is non too good. If you recognise your name and face after 65 years than good on you.

6.8.1950 Telegraphists under stress.pdf


I have a  gut feeling that this, just five short years after the end of WW2 [VJ DAY], was an effort to make sure that if another war came, especially one involving the USN, this time we will have gone some way down the line [plus teaching Morse typing] to making sure our W/T operators could operate as well as those from the USN. Our use of Morse Code was much frowned upon by the USN as well as by the admirals running the BPF [British Pacific Fleet]. At a post-war wash-up, we Brits were much criticised for our inability to meet and match the standards of the combined fleets marshaled for the final push and destruction of the Japanese.

See this file scroll to RNSS SHOTLEY [HMS GANGES]and read from the second paragraph, namely from "Contrary to the myth....