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Well written and engaging, in a relaxed style, this book felt like a story being told to the reader over a cold (or warm if you are English). As it was invdays gone by when folks had time to listen to an entertaining story. It was of great interest to me as I had dreamed of serving as a Slarks myself, as did my dad. He made in WW2, on the Halfax to Murmansk run for a couple voyages, but he was an Army CW. high speed op and Signal officer teaching new ops in our merchant fleet. His code was around 50 wpm, pre-WW2 Pacific champ. Years later he got his 1st class Modse ticket and a job at Houston's shore station, just days before cw ended. I got radiophone 1st class and an Amateur Extra Class and worked as operator and lab asst on a research ship. Once filled in for injured op on an Italian ship in a hurricaine. Sent the Urgent signaal by morse as we were in danger. So this book let me vicariously live a life as a ship sparks that I never had. My heritage was 3 generations of Norwegian ship captains, master ratings steam and sail. My year on a research boat was the last of that tradition. I was also a Signal Officer (CW4 , Chief Warrant 4th level) and my sons went USAF and Regular Army (sr MSG and LTC). So if you ever wanted this life, this is a fine way to live it or get a flavor of it. Study electronics, radio, radar, computers and such, ships medicine chest and maybe pass the FCC General Class Radiotelephone lucense plus the AB seaman test of the US Coast Guard. That gets you qualified as the new electronics officer or at least as an AB seamen. But places on HS ships are rare. Ore carriers and Chevron still sails. If the author should read this, thank you so much for the great stories John. Hope you get a ham license and we can chat on the air (morse/CW mostly, 7and 14 Mc . 73 AR de WA2KBZ CL
A very interesting informative book where the author, a former Radio Officer, describes his working and social life experiences while at sea in the 1970s. We learn about what the work entails and how he deals with the challenges encountered on the voyages, be they technical, crew related or weather related. Interesting to read about the various ship types and equipment and of course the personnel, some of whom had some what flawed personalities. There is sense of job satisfaction experienced by the R.O. while at the same time visiting the next port is looked forwarded to. The narrative seems a fair minded account of events experienced and there is plenty of humour through out. Once you start reading this book you won’t put it down until you’ve finished it. Great read. Pat Reynolds
This is essentially a professional biography of the author who was a Radio Officer in the Merchant Marine. It covers the state of the art in shipboard radio technology from morse code message traffic thru GPS and Marine Telex to the abolishment of the Radio Officer position on board merchant ships.
Despite the title, this is not a murder mystery. In fact, there's no mystery at all about the demise of a radio officer's job on modern ships. John Brew does a superb job of describing the education and work of the "sparks" onboard a merchant ship. And he does a great job of reporting its end. I enjoyed the story. You will, too.
Reviewed in the United States on February 27, 2021
Thanks John for a well written book on the life and times of the long gone R/O. It certainly brought back a lot of memories of my time at sea. I was on a parallel path to yourself. I want to Tivoli in cork in 1968 and my first ship was with Marconi in 1970. However Marconi promised me paid study Which never materialized. So I went freelance in 1973 until I quit the sea in 1984. I am amazed you can remember so much of your Sea going career. I did a podcast of my career as ro last year on web site. Ditdit.fm. It’s a website dedicated to cw. Im on Episode 28 Ships Radio Officer. Thanks for a great book. Denis Obrien n2jjf
Reviewed in the United States on February 24, 2021
'The Radio Officer is dead' immerses you in the day-to-day life aboard a merchant navy ship in the 1970s. The author's knowledge and enjoyment of the job of Radio Officer really comes through to the reader. I found it full of clear descriptions and explanations of aspects of the life and work which I otherwise would never have encountered.
I guess I had a slight head-start on the author. Did my training at Brooks' Bar in Manchester and joined MIMCo at Liverpool. Those were the days when both shipping and radio companies were after newly qualified R/Os as soon as the results were out. I wasn't the Welshman featured in the author's story though although I did sail with a member from the purser's off who like me was Welsh speaking and yes we did communicate in our mother tongue from time to time - why wouldn't you. Thoroughly enjoyed each and every chapter although my tenure in the Merchant Navy was not as long as John Brew's - I came ashore and worked in London for a few years before "swallowing the anchor" in 1976 and came to work at Portishead Radio/GKA. Had one last throw of the dice for a year between 1979/80, and remained here ever since even though GKA is no more. Thank-you John Brew for reminding me of those Halcyon days in the "merch".
I nearly ended up as a RO in the late 80's - but never took my final MRGC exams. Mainly due to me being unable to get beyond 12 words a minute in morse and looking into a Marconi Oceanspan, being asked to identify the fault and realising I had not a clue what all the wires and bits and bobs were supposed to do. And I suppose "nearly" is a bit of stretch at that. But it is fascinating to see what life could have been as an RO and Mr Brew paints a very entertaining and informative picture of the life, the characters, the ships and the other aspects of the job not often discussed. This is well worth reading for anyone interested in what is now an extinct profession and even if you have no interest in radio or radio officers, it is still worth a look. My only gripe is that I would have liked to have seen more photo's of the radio room equipment.
As a graduate of MRR in Limerick in 1983, I came to the RO business too late and jobs at sea were few and far between. I enjoyed the book and the author’s stories from his life at sea. I remember the hours spent trying to increase my morse speed to the level required for the MRGC. It’s interesting reading about the authors experience of the on-board technology in the 70s, all of which is now obsolete. An interesting read, full of interesting facts and observations. Well worth a read if you were one of those who passed through RO training in Limerick, Dublin,or any of the UK schools.