Radio Operator 2nd Class | Radio Operator 1st Class

Marine-School: Radio Operator 2nd Class

My development as radio operator unfolded at the Marine School Leer at Ostfriesland, on Bergmannstraße, and was for 2'nd Class from October 19, 1964 to October 5, 1965, and for 1'st Class from March 15, 1971 to November 30, 1971.
At that time there were many seafaring schools in West Germany; Flensburg, Lübeck, Hamburg, Bremen, Elsfleth, and Leer.  My choice of Leer was predicated upon timely course entry at the end of my apprenticeship.  I have no regret in choosing Leer, and can speak of no other city with more pleasure.

Left, that's me. Center radio instructor Janssen.
Notice all the ties in  the room.

I lived with Frau Margarete Plack at Mühlenstraße 96, a resolute, 60'ish lady, with many other boarders from the Maritime school.  Shortly after starting school, I seriously ran out of money, and my father stepped in and paid all the room and board.  I am today very thankful because it was my financial salvation...
At school, we must at once our priorities set:
1.  Visiting taverns
2. Visiting discos.
3. Meeting young ladies.
4. Visiting auto repair shops, in case we have an old wreck to drive.

A typical episode at the end of the month was the following dialog between my landlady and a colleague named "Hektor."  He visited me shortly before lunchtime, and out of the kitchen wafted wonderful cooking smells...
Landlady:  Well, Herr. O.  what would you like to eat today?
Herr. O.:  "Stampfkartoffeln." (mashed potatoes)
Landlady:  Hm, and what did you eat yesterday?
Landlady:  Hm, and the day before?
Herr. O.:  "Pellkartoffeln." (potatoes in their jackets)
Landlady:  And what do you think you will eat for breakfast?
Herr. O.:  "Salzkartoffeln." (seasoned potatoes)
That was the breakthrough!  My landlady spontaneously invited him for lunch. Hektor was a very lucky man.  

The author practicing on the ink-well tape printer. The use of the typewriter
 is unknown.

At school there were experienced seamen at the height of their careers, and were, naturally, qualified as Radio Officers.  We had, actually, a good understanding of our colleagues, but often saw ourselves as unqualified Landlubbers. They had a minimum of three years of sea-time under their belts. Our instructors were "Joke" Janssen, and Harm Hasbargen, and later came Hanswerner Grums.
The test speed for Radio Officer 2'nd Class was 90 characters per minute (18 wpm) for character groups, and 120 characters per minute (24 wpm) for text, for five minutes, naturally without error.  Transmitting, three errors were permitted.

In the beginning, when we could copy 40-50 characters per minute, (8-10 wpm) and only then could we transmit.
Learning to copy was from tapes with various texts and speeds, and sending practice was with the ink-well tape printer - naturally without any sidetone. When our instructor, "Joke" Janssen, "let us have it," he sent clear text by hand faster and faster 'till our failure rate was 100%, and we gave up.  




Radio instructor Janssen at the lesson "Telegram Format".


On English instruction, I can remember very well the much beloved English handbook, "Handbook for Radio Operators,"  which in time I nearly completely translated.
On the semester holiday, I worked as Assistant Electrician on a small freighter.  More on that in "Sea-Time." For training, after six months we visited the coastal radio station Norddeich Radio.  The receiving installation was in Utlandshörn, and the transmitting installation in Norddeich.  The Discone, Prism, and Beverage antennas were very impressive.  The culmination of the trip was listening in on communications with a ship, and I must say , I could hardly copy anything.  The speed was much too fast for us.  The radio operator saw us as men from another star.  I never even dreamed that I would later work as radio operator at Norddeich Radio. In October 1965 we took our test with Postoberamtmann (Supervisor) Schultz from the Oberpostdirection Bremen.  Then we celebrated in the "Kleine Möve", (Little Seagull) a tavern near the school that all the students naturally gravitated to. Now began "Serious Life."  I hired with the shipping firm Heinrich C. Horn, a subsidiary of "Hamburg-Süd".  More under "Sea-Time."