THE GOLDEN MORSE KEY

 

Well, we all knew that HRH Princess Elizabeth was a dab hand with a dip stick while serving as an officer in the ATS during WW2 and that she could throw heavy  vehicles around [remember without power steering back then] like Dinkey toys, but I wonder just how many realise that on promotion to  Monarch status, she temporarily joined the navy as a telegraphist, a proverbial "key thumper"?

This story will set the record straight.

Hello

You will have heard about the shipbuilder whose final rivet in the ship was hidden and termed the "Golden Rivet" , but have you heard of the "Golden Morse Key"?

OK, and I thought not!

If you had then stick with it, for here comes that story again.

The story of the "Golden [or Gold] Morse key" figures in British naval folk law for a one off occasion, but just like the "Golden Rivet" it disappeared when the job in hand was completed and try as I might, I can't find it anywhere!

That occasion was very special, and like most events of that kind, unique.

It was the1953 Coronation Spithead Review hosted by two admirals, C-in-C Portsmouth and C-in-C Home Fleet, the latter flying his flag in the Review Flagship, the battleship HMS Vanguard.  The Royal Yacht had been built and her bottom was wet, but come June 1953, was still not commissioned.  Her name of course was Britannia.  So at the beginning of 1953, the  Admiralty brought home HMS Surprise which was  C-in-C Mediterranean's yacht/flagship based on Malta, incidentally Lord Mountbatten was this C-in-C and work was set in hand to  convert her into a Royal Yacht.  She fulfilled the role as the Royal Yacht for the Coronation Fleet Review, and when it was all over, Surprise went back to her cosy berth just below the ancient Fort St Angelo in Grand Harbour Valletta, back serving C-in-C Mediterranean and his fleet.

The Spithead assembly with over 300 vessels of all types sizes and functions whether naval mercantile or professional/amateur leisure sailors, took the form of a Royal Review by our new Queen: a fly-past by 300 aircraft of the UK forces and Commonwealth navies followed by a splendid dinner in the Flagship HMS Vanguard and during that period, a magnificent fireworks display and a stunning illumination of the fleet offering a breathtaking view from the shore lines.

I can hear you all saying well we know that already, so what's the point of this ditty?  The point is that you have the refresher course missed out of the original syllabus?  New stuff, well, at least, to many of you!

With over 300 vessels, many of whom were illuminated to conclude  the Spithead Review, have you ever wondered just how the 'switch on' was coordinated and with such panache?

Certainly a tall order especially when so many people on nearby land masses were watching with great anticipation and a dear wish that all would go well as scheduled for the Queen.

Well, the answer is all down to the TELEGRAPHIST Branch.  No synchronised watches in this naval story.

First comes the protagonist's responsible for this spectacular, followed by the artefacts used as their prop's.

 

Now for that actual order to 'illuminate ship' [where appropriate] as some switched on one or two
lights or strings of lights only!

Imagine the following.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are guests of the C-in-C Home Fleet at a resplendent dinner with many VIP fellow guests from all corners.

The venue is the wardroom of the battleship HMS Vanguard, which, as a young Princess she spent many weeks at sea travelling to and from South Africa with her parents and sister Princess Margaret.

As guests they will be invited during the time allocated for the dinner to initiate the fire workers display [led by the pyrotechnic experts in the Flag Ship] and also to send a signal to the assembled vessels, which once received, would simultaneously direct each participating ship to switch on via one switch command.

To achieve this, a gold Morse key was placed in the wardroom and Her Majesty would send the signal [of sorts] on it as a Morse symbol to the gathered fleet.