ANYTHING FOR ME?

          The Missile Boats, of the type that took part in our daring attack on Karachi in 1971, had a deadly punch of missiles. However, due to their low height of eye, they were many times poor in inter-ship communications, especially in comparison to larger Fleet ships. This often produced frustrating results. One of these is described here.

          For CinC’s farewell at sea, the Fleet Commander had got the combined strength of the Fleet and Flotilla (to which smaller boats like Missile Boats and Durgs belonged) with him. Whilst the Fleet ships had to do the traditional steam-past the mighty Vikrant with CinC embarked, the Flotilla ships were to approach Vikrant from ahead and fan out abreast of Vikrant in pairs on obtaining the crucial signal.

          This complex manoeuvre required coordination of extremely high order. To ensure proper command and control, the Fleet Communication Officer had tried to get all ships, big or small, on a common communication circuit. At this stage, a small Missile Boat (Let us call it MB One) was trying to establish communication with the Fleet Commander (Let us call it Flag), for example:

          “Flag, this is MB One, how do you hear me, over”
          And again: “Flag, this is MB One, Radio Check, over” with increasing urgency since the serial was about to start.

I was on a newly commissioned Fleet ship and we could hear the repeated wails of MB One. Even though Flag had many times acknowledged the calls of MB One, the latter could not hear it. In the meantime the grand manoeuvre commenced and the communication operator on MB One must have been panicky that he had not established two-way communications.

Before the Fleet ships’ planned steam-past, came the first of the Flotilla ships, the Durgs who were to fan out abreast of Vikrant, their ship’s companies calling out ‘Teen Jais’ to the CinC. One of the Durgs (Let us call it Durg Two) fanned out earlier than called for and that part of the grand manoeuvre looked shabby. The Fleet Commander could have waited to return to harbour to convey his displeasure; but, there is nothing like on-the-spot-dressing-down. So a signal was made on the common net, “Durg Two this is Flag, your stupidity has spoiled the whole show, over”.

          Meanwhile MB One was still trying, in vain, to net in, “Flag, this is MB One, how do you hear me? Over”.

          The ‘stupidity’ signal, not being in the proper signalese, completely flummoxed the operator on Durg Two, who asked for a repetition by the most commonly used words on the circuit during those days, “Flag, this is Durg Two, say again your last, over”.

          I am sure, Commanding Officer of Durg Two, if he had heard this on the speaker on his ship, as the rest of the Fleet did, would never have wanted such a signal to be repeated. But, now, the Flag operator had no choice. Hence, he tried again, “Durg Two, this is Flag, your STOO PEE DITTY has spoiled the whole show, over”.

          Meanwhile, MB One, getting a lot of crackling sound on the headset must have been in total panic, more so as his turn to perform similar manoeuvre was fast approaching. Hence, his “Flag, this is MB One, how do you hear me, over” had become agonisingly more desperate. At this stage, Durg One, to our amused horror, requested Flag to spell word after ‘your’.

          After this, the entire sequence, heard on my ship was:
          “Flag, this is MB One, how do you hear me, over”
          “Flag, this is Durg Two, say again all after ‘your’ and spell word after ‘your’”.
          “Flag, this is MB One, anything for me, over”
          “Durg Two, this is Flag, I say again my last: your STOO PEE DITTY, I spell, Sierra Tango Uniform Papa India Tango Yankee, STOO PEE DITTY, has spoiled the whole show, over”
          “Flag this is MB One” with alarm now since a long message had been made and he had missed it totally, “Anything for ME over”!

They also serve who only stand and wait!

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