Specialising in the radio aspects of the Titanic disaster

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The Titanic radio department - a brief background


The Titanic's "wireless" equipment was the most powerful in use at the time. The main transmitter was a rotary spark design, powered by a 5 kW motor generator, fed from the ship's lighting circuit. The equipment operated into a 4 wire antenna suspended between the ship's 2 masts, some 250 feet above the sea. There was also a battery powered emergency transmitter and a separate motor generator in the room next door. The equipment's guaranteed working range was 250 miles, but communications could be maintained for up to 400 miles during daylight and up to 2000 miles at night.


Titanic carried 2 Radio Officers (or, as they were known in those days, Marconi wireless operators or telegraphists). In charge was 25 year old John (Jack) G. Phillips, with 21 year old Harold Bride as the deputy or second R/O.

The R/O's remained at their posts until about 3 minutes before the vessel foundered... even after being released from their duties by the Captain.

Harold Bride remarked that water could be heard flooding into the wheelhouse as he and Jack Phillips abandoned the radio room. Jack Phillips was still sending as the power supply to the radio room failed...

The Titanic Radio Officers did great honor to their profession.

Jack Phillips died of hypothermia on or near Collapsible lifeboat B - his body was never recovered......

Harold Bride left the sea after WW1, and faded into obscurity. He died in Scotland in 1956.

In the right hand picture Phillips (L) and Bride (R) pause for a smoke on the boat deck outside the radio room during testing of the equipment

More information on Jack Phillips

Titanic's radio callsign

Titanic was assigned the callsign MUC in January 1912. Some time after January, Titanic's callsign was changed to MGY - this was previously assigned to the US vessel Yale. As the dominant marine radio company of the time, Marconi allocated their own callsigns, most of which began with the letter M - these basically identified a Marconi installation, regardless of its location or the country of registration of the vessel in which it was installed.

Callsign allocation was eventually standardised at the London radio conference of 1912 (post Titanic), with prefixes being allocated on an international basis. UK coast stations and ships thenceforth used the letters G or M as the first letter of their callsigns. US ships and stations used K, N and W, German stations and ships used D, Italians I, French F, etc.

Trials and commissioning

The Marconi equipment was delivered to the vessel in time for sea trials on April 2. Phillips and Bride spent the day completing the installation and adjusting the equipment. They exchanged test calls with coast stations at Malin Head (Nth coast of Ireland), callsign MH and Liverpool (actually known as "Seaforth"), callsign LV.

By this stage the "wireless" was in almost constant use, with sea trial reports flowing from Captain Smith to Bruce Ismay (Managing Director) at the company offices in Liverpool.

By April 3, the equipment was adjusted and working correctly - Phillips and Bride exchanged messages with coast stations at Teneriffe (2000 miles away) and even Port Said (more than 3000 miles distant).

Both Radio Officers left the ship at Southampton for a short period. Phillips signed back on articles on April 6 when he returned briefly to check the spare parts. Bride returned on board at 2330 on April 9.

Watch hours

Both men were up early on sailing day, April 10, conducting final testing of the equipment. They arranged watches by personal agreement: Phillips, the chief, took the 2000 - 0200 watch, whilst Bride was on duty between 0200 - 0800. There were no fixed watch hours during the day: the men relieved each other to suit mutual convenience, however a continuous watch was maintained.

Location of the radio room

The "Marconi room" was situated on the boat deck (ie: the same deck as the bridge), at the after end of the officer's accommodation house - it was about 40 feet aft from the bridge, connected via the corridor on the port side of the officer's quarters.

The room was in the centre of the accommodation - it did not have an outside facing porthole. Natural light was provided via a skylight in the deckhead (ceiling).

The R/O's sleeping accommodation was in a separate room to starboard of the operating room - connected to the operating room by an interconnecting door. The R/O's shared the officer's toilet/washroom facilities across the corridor.

The Marconi room was connected to the ship's 50 line telephone exchange. However, it appears that there was no direct telephone connection to the bridge.

This problem was rectified on Titanic's sister ships Olympic and Britanic after the Titanic disaster - a speaking tube was installed which connected the radio room to the bridge..

Passenger traffic

As the liner's departure preparations were completed,