Just A Radio Operator

Copyright © 2006 Robert Alexander Wallace W1MQV / W1HH

Oh, I’m winning the war with a telegraph key,
Thought I as I finished a “stack”.
I hope this is not all the action I see
Just wearing my pants out in back.
I idly shuffle the blanks in my hand
And glance at the five letter groups.
I think of my brother in far foreign land
Fighting up front with the troops.
I check with my watch – where the heck’s my R.J.?
I’m getting as hungry as sin.
An eight hour trick is enough for the day,
And I’m practically deaf from the din.
The “trick chief” gets up from the teletype chair
And says that he has one for me.
“Get your key oiled up, get that rig on the air,
Here’s a honey – a long one O.P.”
My relief gets a curse on his unknowing head
For his tardiness costs me my chow.
And this is a hell of a time for a sked,
The net’s QJZ about now.
But I slip on the cans and I rattle the key
And the rig is again on the air.
I give with the dits and the dahs just to see
If the station I’m calling is there.
A couple of calls and he sends “QRU?”
So I tell him I have an “O.P.”
He sends me a “K” and I start a tattoo –
Pounding brass on my telegraph key!
I pass the first fifty, then wait for an sec,
While he starts the next block on the sheet.
I’ve found if you don’t make an op break his neck
You get fewer requests to repeat.
A hundred, and fifty, and then fifty more.
She’s long, I’ve a thousand to go.
My head’s getting tired, my wrist’s getting sore.
Can’t use “bug” for this guy is too slow.
I’m passing a thousand, my fist is near beat,
Do I want an R.J. from T.C.?
Not a chance, Chief, you know once my sign’s on the sheet
No one’s sending that message but me.
We finally clear and I send him “AR”
And get one from him with his “ack”.
The look that I give my relief leaves a scar
As I grab for my hat on the rack.


I read how a shipment of arms saved a corps
Because it arrived there in time.
The corps that it saved was my brother’s. What’s more,
The message that sent it was mine!
Oh, I’m fighting the war with a telegraph key
But as long as they want me I’ll stay.
It may not be combat but now I can see
How a message can help save the day.

The above was written just after the “Battle of the Bulge” in 1944.

Glossary: Ack = acknowledgement
AR = End of transmission
Bug = semiautomatic telegraph key
O.P. = Operational Priority
K = Invitation to transmit
R.J. = relief operator
QJZ = on stand by
QRU = Have you traffic for me?
T.C. = trick chief

[From eHam: http://www.eham.net/articles/15064]