British Wireless Systems

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The Royal Navy started using wireless telegraphy in a network of land- and ship-based installations starting around 1900. Their hardware evolved rapidly along a number of lines.

Tunes

The earliest sets in 1902 had a fixed single frequency. A second was introduced in 1903 which was dubbed "B" as the first was named "A".

By 1907, the following set of "tunes" was being supported variously by different hardware and doctrine of use:[1]

  • "A" (perhaps disused?)
  • "B" (perhaps disused?)
  • "D", 700 feet
  • "Q" (a commercial wave in less general use)
  • "R" 2,500 feet
  • "S", 3,300 feet
  • "T", 4,200 feet
  • "U", 5,000 feet

By 1908, the following changes were made:[2][3]

  • "P" 1,000 feet (a commercial wave in general use) was added
  • "V" (5,700 feet) and "W" (6,503 feet) waves added, as provided in the International Convention
  • "X" ~10,000 feet, "Y" ~13,000 feet and "Z" 14,000 feet for high power stations

Service Gear Mark I

Developed by Captain H. B. Jackson, these early systems were functional but generally regarded as inferior to contemporary systems crafted by Marconi. They were known as "Jackson" equipment before the advent of Service Gear Mark II.

Soon after 1907, improvements allowed these to transmit between 700 and 6,500 feet wavelength, though 1,000 was generally the bottom end used, as the "D" tune at 700 feet required switching in additional condensers by one of two methods. The sets could transmit "Q", "R", "S", "T" and "U" tunes.[4]

Service Gear Mark I*

By 1908, these sets could transmit to the following vessels over the given ranges in miles at day/night:[5]

Receiving Ship Types "D" tune "P" tune "Q" tune "S", "U", "W" tunes
T.B.D. parent ships,
Battleships, 1st class Cruisers
100/200 150/300 200/400 150/250
2nd class Cruisers 80/160 120/240 160/320 120/200
3rd class Cruisers 70/140 105/210 140/280 105/175
Scout Cruisers 60/120 90/180 120/240 90/150

Between 27 April and 8 May, 1909, Furious and Vernon tested and achived 300 miles by day and 500 by night on tunes "Q" to "W" at 2.4 Kw power. It was thought that small ships would do 200/400 miles.[6]

In mid-1913, this gear was redesignated as Type 2.[7]

Marconi Gear

Signor Marconi's equipment was developed in a collegial competition alongside the early Jackson gear. When the two systems did not prove identical, the Marconi systems almost always proved superior.

Service Gear Mark II

By 1901, the early Jackson gear was refined in Vernon into a "Wireless Telegraphy Apparatus, Mark II" thought to be more nearly equal to the Marconi design. Fifty-two such sets were ordered, and known by their serial numbers.[8]

By 1908, these sets could transmit to the following vessels over the given ranges in miles at day/night:[9]

Receiving Ship Types "P" tune "Q" tune "S", "U", "W" tunes
Battleships, 1st class Cruisers 200/400 400/800 500/800
2nd class Cruisers 160/320 320/640 400/640
3rd class Cruisers 140/280 280/560 350/560
Scout Cruisers 120/240 240/480 300/480

The great virtue of the system was thought to be how easily its musical note overcame atmospheric interference. Indomitable steamed to Quebec soon after completion and this provided a good opportunity to test her radio communication to the matching Mark II set in Vernon. The longest ranges at night were 1,400 miles on "Q", "R" and "S", while by day "S", "T" and "U" delivered 730 miles. "S", "T", "U", "V" and "W" gave consistently greater ranges than "Q" and "R" by day, but by night "Q" and "R" carried further than the longer wave lengths. No tuning did as well during the day as the worst tuning did at night. The general conclusion was that 100 miles by night and 500 by day was assured.[10]

In 1909, ideas were being bandied about to try to afford a reduced range mode of use for the transmitters. The best solution found was to employ a "Full"/"Reduced" switch to introduce an additional impedance coil.[11]

In mid-1913, this gear was redesignated as Type 1.[12]

"C" Tune Gear

The "C Tune Sets" are mentioned in the Wireless Appendix of Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1906. They shared some common traits with Service Mark II sets, but the name itself did not refer to a particular frequency.[13][14]

In 1906, these could transmit only on "S", "T" and "U" tunes. Ten ships and two shore stations were slated to receive these in 1906:[15]

By 1908, the sets were adapted so that "W" tune became feasible after its introduction, though "T" support may have been withdrawn to achieve this. It was demonstrated that these equipment could transmit to the following vessels over the given ranges in miles at day/night:[16]

Receiving Ship Types "S", "U", "W" tunes
Battleships, 1st class Cruisers 250/500
2nd class Cruisers 200/400
3rd class Cruisers 175/350
Scout Cruisers 150/300

By 1908, the equipment was still in most of the 10 ships listed in 1906, Albemarle seeming to have lost hers, perhaps by upgrade to Service Mark II kit:[17]

All nine were replaced by Service Mark II systems in 1909, or were to be when they next came in "for large refit".[18] They could transmit on "S", "U" and "W" tunes at least.[19]

Destroyer Set

These generally could transmit on "D" (700 feet) and monitor "D" and other wavelengths up to 6,500 feet (through "U", at least).

By 1908, these were judged capable of sending on "D" to any ship over 50 miles by day and 60 by night.[20]

By the end of 1909, all new destroyers were being fitted with these and 45 sets were at sea.[21]

By the end of 1909, forty-three destroyers were fitted. Those equipped in 1909 were Kale, Ghurka, Crusader, Colne, Amazon, Nubian, Cossack, Saracen, Mohawk, Tartar and Maori.[22]

During 1912, the following eighteen destroyers were fitted: Acheron, Archer, Ariel, Attack, Badger, Defender, Druid, Forester, Goshawk, Hind, Hornet, Hydra, Jackal, Lapwing, Lizard, Phoenix, Sandfly and Tigress. This brought the total number of destroyers equipped to 123. "C" Type receivers had greatly improved the range of destroyers though it is unclear in which ships this was being tried. On 13 August, it was decided that all destroyers should be able to transmit on any wave between 635 and 2,000 feet.[23]

In mid-1913, this gear was redesignated as Type 4.[24]

Short Distance Set

A low-power short distance set (also called the Battleship Auxiliary Set) was desired to supplant flag signalling. By the end of 1909, 11 sets had been purchased for installation and trial.[25]

They were to be allocated to Dreadnought, Bulwark, Africa, Bellerophon, King Edward VII, Vernon, Lord Nelson, Hibernia, Agamemnon, and Dominion with one set in reserve, to be installed behind armour and near the fore bridge when next the ships came in for refit.[26]

By December 1912, Bulwark had surrendered her set (if ever she'd taken it), while Hercules, Colossus and Thunderer had been equipped, giving twelve ships and Vernon these "five-mile" equipment. A policy had been formulated that battleships should receive a five-mile set and cruisers an as-yet undesigned twenty-mile set in future, the cruiser set having two wave-lengths, one being the same as that for the battleships. Immunity in these sets against interfering with other wireless equipment was to be their design priority.[27]

In 1913, Battleship Auxiliary sets previously allotted to battle cruisers who would soon receive Cruiser Auxiliary sets were to be given to Active, Bellona, Boadicea, Blanche, Diamond and Topaze. Also, the First Battle Squadron, Second Battle Squadron and Third Battle Squadron had all been equipped.[28]

In mid-1913, this gear was redesignated as Type 3.[29]

Airship Wireless Set

It was designed in 1909[30] to the design criteria of lightness, safety of operation near explosive gases and a range of 300 miles. It weighed in at 500 pounds.[31]

In April 1914, this gear was redesignated as Type 13.[32]

Telephony

A De Forest Wireless Telephone Set was purchased and tried in Vernon in 1909. Success did not come quickly or easily. Long waves of 20,000 feet were needed, and though 10 miles was achieved, reliability proved elusive even at short ranges. A Poulsen system was also abandoned. A Service set in Good Hope was adapted to employ some De Forest principles over the "S" tune. Atmospherics less than feeble easily overwhelmed its signal.[33][34]

An American system invented by a Francis Joseph McCarthy was reported on from the United States. It was observed to work clearly at 1,200 yards, and was covered by U.K. patents 8,324 of 1906 and 5,532 of 1907.It was noted as bearing some similarity to a system previously offered by Lieutenant Crauford.[35]

Royal Navy pursuit of wireless telephony by arc transmitters was abandoned in 1909.[36]

Portable Set

The portable (or Type P.) set was described in 1909 and nine were to be available for issue by May 1910. They were to be allocated two sets to the Senior Flagships of the Mediterranean Fleet and the First Division and Second Division, Home Fleet. A 1.5 H.P. engine drove a 0.5 Kw alternator to make 7 amps at 70 volts and 70 cycles, stepped up to 5,000 volts, transmitting on a wavelength of 1,000 feet, the same as the "P" tune.[37]

In 1913, deliveries were still continuing to meet a goal of giving 4 to Home Fleet, 2 each to the Mediterranean, to Gibraltar for the Fourth Battle Squadron, to the East Indies Station, to China Station, and to the Cape of Good Hope Station, 3 to the torpedo schools, and one each to Hermione and Suffolk.[38]

In mid-1913, this gear was redesignated as Type 5.[39]

Harbour Defence Set

The harbour defence (or Type H.D.) set was also described in 1909 and eleven were to be available for issue by May 1910, sharing much gear with the portable set. They were to be allocated three to Sheerness, four to Portsmouth, three to Devonport and one to Vernon. A 1.5 H.P. engine drove a 0.5 Kw alternator to make 7 amps at 70 volts and 70 cycles, stepped up to 10,000 volts, transmitting on a wavelength of 500 feet.[40]

In 1913, deliveries were still continuing to meet a goal of giving 9 to Portsmouth, 5 to Rosyth, 5 to Devonport, 5 to Sheerness, 6 to Downs for examination service, and 3 to torpedo schools.[41]

In mid-1913, this gear was redesignated as Type 6.[42]

Cruiser Auxiliary

In 1913, thirty were purchased for battle cruisers Tiger, Queen Mary, Princess Royal, Lion, New Zealand, Australia, Indefatigable, Inflexible and Indomitable; cruisers Defence, Shannon, Minotaur, Warrior, Natal, Achilles, Cochrane, Black Prince, Duke of Edinburgh, Argyll, Devonshire, Roxburgh, Hampshire, Antrim and Carnarvon as well as shore establishments Vernon, Actæon and Defiance. Finally, two were to go to Portsmouth Reserve.[43]

In mid-1913, these were redesignated as Type 9.[44][45]

Redesignation of Sets

In 1913, it was determined that radio equipment should be given distinguishing Type numbers in place of earlier appellations. The Type Numbers evolved from there to be:[46][47]

  1. Mark II sets
  2. Mark I* sets
  3. Battleship Auxiliary (late short distance)
  4. Destroyer
  5. Portable
  6. Harbour Defence
  7. Shore Stations
  8. High Power Stations
  9. Cruiser Auxiliary
  10. Submarine (Original Design)
  11. Submarine (New Design, added Apr 1914)
  12. Aeroplane Apparatus (added Apr 1914)
  13. Airship Apparatus (added Apr 1914)

See Also

Footnotes

  1. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1907. Wireless Appendix pp. 34-41, 44.
  2. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1908. Wireless Appendix, pp. 6, 13.
  3. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1907. p. 22.
  4. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1907. Wireless Appendix pp. 36-7, 57-8.
  5. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1908. Wireless Appendix, p. 13.
  6. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1909. Wireless Appendix, p. 21.
  7. Admiralty Weekly Order No. 306 of 20 June, 1913.
  8. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1901. pp. 105-6.
  9. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1908. Wireless Appendix, p. 13.
  10. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1908. Wireless Appendix p. 14.
  11. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1909. Wireless Appendix, p. 13.
  12. Admiralty Weekly Order No. 306 of 20 June, 1913.
  13. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1906. Wireless Appendix, p. 15.
  14. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1907. Wireless Appendix pp. 41-42.
  15. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1906. Wireless Appendix, p. 15.
  16. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1908. Wireless Appendix, p. 13.
  17. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1908. p. 13.
  18. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1909. Wireless Appendix, p. 13.
  19. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1908. Wireless Appendix, p. 13.
  20. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1908. Wireless Appendix, p. 13.
  21. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1909. Wireless Appendix, p. 2.
  22. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1909. Wireless Appendix, p. 25.
  23. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1912. W/T Appendix, p. 6.
  24. Admiralty Weekly Order No. 306 of 20 June, 1913.
  25. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1909. Wireless Appendix, p. 2.
  26. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1909. Wireless Appendix, p. 25.
  27. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1912. Wireless Appendix, p. 8.
  28. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1913. W/T Appendix, p. 13.
  29. Admiralty Weekly Order No. 306 of 20 June, 1913.
  30. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1909. Wireless Appendix, p. 3.
  31. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1909. Wireless Appendix, p. 27.
  32. Admiralty Weekly Order No. 1018 of 17 Apr, 1914.
  33. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1908. Wireless Appendix, p. 38.
  34. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1909. Wireless Appendix, pp. 39-40.
  35. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1909. Wireless Appendix, pp. 40-1.
  36. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1909. Wireless Appendix, p. 54.
  37. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1909. Wireless Appendix, p. 27.
  38. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1913. W/T Appendix, p. 18.
  39. Admiralty Weekly Order No. 306 of 20 June, 1913.
  40. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1909. Wireless Appendix, p. 27.
  41. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1913. W/T Appendix, p. 18.
  42. Admiralty Weekly Order No. 306 of 20 June, 1913.
  43. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1913. W/T Appendix, p. 13.
  44. Admiralty Weekly Order No. 306 of 20 June, 1913.
  45. Admiralty Weekly Order No. 1018 of 17 Apr, 1914.
  46. Admiralty Weekly Order No. 306 of 20 June, 1913.
  47. Admiralty Weekly Order No. 1018 of 17 Apr, 1914.

Bibliography