The ships callsign was GRKB
It's 1899 and time for Fleet Manoeuvres for the reserve fleet and everybody is morse mad!

A FASCINATING STORY ABOUT THE VERY BEGINNINGS AND TABOO'S OF WIRELESS TELEGRAPHY. WHEN WE LOOK BACK TO THESE DAYS, WE ARE JUST DYING TO TELL THEM THE ANSWERS TO THEIR IGNORANCE OF RADIO WAVES, AND [METAPHORICALLY], HOISTING RADIO RECEIVERS TO THE CLOUDS FOR BETTER RECEPTION, GIVES VENT TO A GOOD GIGGLE TODAY. IT WAS SAID THAT £120 WOULD BE ALL THAT WAS REQUIRED TO FIT OUT A WARSHIP WITH WIRELESS TELEGRAPHY, AND BECAUSE IT WAS THEY WHO SAID " ONLY £120..." IT MAKES ONE WONDER WHY THE PROCESS WASN'T CONDUCTED AT A QUICKER PACE.  THIS STORY TELLS OF THE RADIO EQUIVALENT TO THE SEAMEN OF YORE, WHO BELIEVED THAT THE EARTH WAS FLAT, AND THEREFORE A DISTANCE FROM PORT OF JUST A FEW MILES WAS A PRUDENT NAVIGATION. IN RADIO TERMS, 60 MILES WAS THE BEST ONE COULD HOPE FOR UNLESS MANY SHIPS WERE USED TO EXTEND THE RANGE, EACH ONE FILLING THE 60 MILE KNOWN COMMUNICATION GAP.

ommander E.P. STATHAM R.N., was a little bit of a signal communication officer [SCO] and a little bit of a Weapons Electrical Officer [WEO], so I am going to call him a SEWOCO {Senior Wireless Officer Come[ or cum] Observer} - after all, in modern times the South Africans called a brand new town SOWETO [and a terribly sad place at that, meaning South West Township].  Anyway Commander Statham was in EUROPA when some of the original trials into the use and feasibility of Wireless Telegraphy were carried out and this is his story.

During the recent Fleet Manoeuvres, as my readers are doubtless aware, Marconi's apparatus for sending messages without the aid of a continuous wire was fitted up on board three vessels in the Reserve Fleet, in order to test the efficiency of this method for the purposes of Naval Warfare. The vessels so fitted were the "Alexandra" battleship, carrying the admiral's flag, the "Europa", first-class cruiser, and the "Juno" second class cruiser.

The experiments proved to be of the greatest interest; but before describing the manner in which they are carried out, and the practical results arrived at, it may be well to give a brief account of the principles of the invention, and the apparatus required to work it.

In ordinary telegraphy the current of electricity - to use the popular term - is conducted from one place to another by means of a wire; and, without this channel to hold it, there is no possibility of communications.  Cut the wire, and you are done.  The current is confined to this conductor, and can only reach the spot aimed at by its means.

Wireless telegraphy , on the other hand, depends entirely upon the communication of a series of waves to that mysterious and impalpable medium which is known as "ether," these waves spreading on all sides like the little ripples caused by dropping a pebble in a pond.  It sounds very impracticable, for how, in the first place, are we to get the waves in motion?  And how is the receiver of the message to catch them in any particular place? 

The manner in which the "splash" is caused is simple enough.  The apparatus required consists of a battery and an induction coil, the primary wire of the latter being connected to the battery with the intervention of an ordinary key, which leaves a gap in the circuit.  On pressing the key, the circuit is completed through the primary wire, and this induces a powerful current in the secondary wire, or, rather, an extremely rapid series of currents, caused by a "make and break" arrangement which works with tremendous speed, producing the well-known buzzing sound of the  induction coil. One end of the secondary wire goes to earth, the other to a brass knob, and thence the current  jumps across a space- greater or less, according to the power of the battery employed - to another brass knob, causing what is,  in fact,  a little flash of lightning.  The second brass knob is in connection with a wire receiver, hung up aloft as high as possible; and the tension of the electricity being very high, it spurts off this receiver in little discharges at inconceivably small intervals.  And here is our "splash" ; we have dropped in our pebble and set the ripples going.

The higher the receiver, the further the waves will extend, becoming weaker as they near the outer limit; and in order to utilise this current in wave form, there must be somewhere within the effective radius a receiver, suspended aloft, precisely similar to the one which gives out the waves.  This condition being fulfilled, we may imagine a succession of these almost infinitely rapid discharges reaching our friend's receiver, and traversing the wire  attached to it.  The rapidity of these disruptive discharges is so great that, if we write down the figures at which they are approximately calculated, they convey but little meaning to the mind - 800,000 per second!  No wonder they should appear to us in the form of a continuous current, and the spark between the brass knobs of the induction coil as a thin line of fire.

Now we have got our electricity into our friend's receiver and down the connecting wire attached to the little instrument which really forms the most important link in the whole chain.  This is the "coherer."  It consists of a little glass tube, containing two silver  plates very nearly touching, and having between them some exceedingly minute filings of nickel and silver.  The wire from aloft comes to one plate, the other is connected with earth, passing on its way through the primary wires of an induction coil.  So we are shaping for a complete circuit, only interrupted by that little space between the silver plates.

Now the tiny filings come in and do their part.  The tremendously rapid but feeble waves cause the filings to cohere and decohere with corresponding rapidity, thus producing a sort of sympathetic wave-action among them, resulting in the passing of a particularly continuous current between the silver plates and so on through the primary wire of the induction coil, inducing a stronger current in the secondary wiring.  This current, however, is still far too feeble to work a telegraphic recorder, and is, moreover, unsuitable for the purpose, consisting as it does in reality of a series of disruptive discharges; so a well-known expedient in electrical apparatus is introduced.  The weak current, by the interposition of delicate electro-magnets, puts on a stronger battery, which, in its turn, works the recorder.

Such, very briefly stated, is the general principle of the Marconi apparatus.  There are some obvious drawbacks as regards its practical employment.  In the first place, its sphere of action extends on all sides; anyone situated on or within the circle reached by the widest ripples, and being possessed of an apparatus with a receiver in sympathy with that of the sender, will take in the message as readily as the person for whom it was intended.   This defect is certainly being tackled, and it is said that in some instances the effective arc has been reduced to a mere segment of a circle; but as yet it must be taken, as a rule, to be nearly360 degrees. Again, the height of the receiver is a very important factor; and, so far as can be seen at present, in order to communicate over any great distance - say hundreds of miles - the receiver must be carried at a height which would be quite impracticable afloat.  Another drawback is the comparatively slow speed at which it can be worked, making a long message a tedious process.  This is said to be due to the coherer, which cannot convey the wave-currents quite as fast as they reach it.  The first mentioned is obviously the most serious defect.  It is true that, in order to take in a message, the receiver must be precisely similar , and there may be a vast variety of receivers.  Still there is always something more than a possibility of the enemy possessing a similar one; and even a cypher is not always a safeguard.

However, the apparatus as applied for practical purposes, in peace and war, is in its infancy, and there is but little doubt that vast progress will be made in the next year or two.  Meanwhile, the outcome of the practical test at sea is encouraging in the extreme.

When the Reserve Fleet first assembled at Torbay, the "Juno" was sent out day by day to communicate at various distances with the flag-ship; and the range was speedily increased to over 30 miles, ultimately reaching something like 50 miles.  At Milford Have the "Europa" was fitted out, the first step being the securing to the main topmast head  of a hastily-prepared spar, carrying a small gaff or sprit, to which was attached the receiver, the wire from it being brought down to the starboard side of the quarter deck through an insulator, and into a roomy deck-house on the lower after bridge which contained the various instruments.

When hostilities commenced, the "Europa" was the leading ship of a squadron of seven cruisers despatched to look for the convoy at the rendezvous.  The "Juno" was detached to act as a link when necessary, and to scout for the enemy, and the flag-ship, of course, remained with the slower battle squadron.

The "Europa" was in direct communication with the flag-ship long after leaving Milford Haven, the gap between reaching 30 or 40 miles before she lost touch, steaming ahead  at fast speed.  Reaching the convoy at four o'clock one afternoon, and leaving it and the other cruisers in charge of the senior captain, the "Europa" hastened back towards another rendezvous, where the admiral had intended remaining until he should hear whether the enemy had found and captured the convoy.  But scarcely had she got well ahead of the slow ships when "Juno" called her up, and announced the admiral coming on to meet the convoy.  Now the "Juno" was at this time fully 60 miles distant from the "Europa" and the news could consequently be communicated in a minute or two over 120 miles of sea.  A cruiser steaming 18 knots would take over six hours to get within signalling distance, in the clearest possible weather.

Now, imagine a chain of vessels, 60 miles apart; only five would be necessary to communicate some vital piece of intelligence from a distance of 300 miles, receive in return their instructions, and act immediately, all in the course of half-an-hour or less.

This is possible already.  Doubtless a vast deal more will be done in a year or two, or less; and meanwhile the authorities should be making all necessary arrangements for the universal application of wireless telegraphy in the Navy.  The outfit is not expensive; £120 would probably fit up any ship, and it is sure to become cheaper in time.  It might be imagined, from the manner in which the current, so to speak, is conveyed, that any solid substance directly interposed between sender and receiver would seriously interfere with, if not altogether destroy, the practical efficiency of the apparatus; it would not be surprising.  In fact, considering the curiously intangible nature of the link connecting the two stations, if a gale of wind or a thick fog were to constitute a formidable obstacle.

As a matter of fact, these curious waves are not in any way affected by such trifles as fogs or gales of wind; indeed they appear to revel in a fog, and give remarkably good results.  

It has further been ascertained recently that four or five miles of solid cliff make no sort of difference to these waves. Like their first cousins, the X-rays, they decline to recognise the existence of solids, and so long as the height of the receivers is duly proportioned to the distance, they ripple merrily in all directions, and "call up" anyone within range. It is not a matter for surprise, among those who have worked  at this science, that this should be the case, as the more deeply the characteristics of electricity are investigated, the more clearly does its marvellous adaptability and universal presence come out.

Some humorous faddist has been trying to prove that the earth is flat, from the fact that two ships 60 miles apart can communicate by this means; it is rather an old joke, but this apparently incongruous communication by wave-forms through a considerable slice of ocean affords a good peg whereon to hang a revival of the theory.  A curious illustration of the great tension of the current, as carried from the induction coil to the masthead, was noticeable in the induced current in the wire backstays.  When the operator was at work sending a message , on looking closely at the backstays a little spark could plainly be seen  playing between the wire and the small tarred rope which protects it from chafe.

In   WW2 there was a shore station called HMS Europa.  Although not of course related, have a peep at this link http://www.rnpsa.co.uk/history.htm