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Charlie Carthew

29 Jul 14
Peter Bull
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Some of the old MOR staff will have memories of Charlie Carthew who ran the Telegraphists school. Some tended to deride Charlie but he really had at heart the interests of his students and also was very loyal to OTC. When you talk about mentors, I class Charlie as one of those. Everyone in his school worked hard and all had a good word to say about him.

At the time I was about half way through my Wireless Operator’s Cert. with the Marconi School which operated adjacent to the Telegraphists School. As a result I often passed Charlie and had a bit of a yarn. That was my mistake. The next thing I know Charlie says “Look, while you are doing your Certificate why not join us at OTC. and I will help you with your morse code and I’m sure I’ll be able to get you in as a telegraphist as well”. I didn’t bite the first few times but Charlie persisted and eventually I applied to join OTC and they started me filing “flimsies”.

Sure enough Charlie kept on pushing OTC and they let me join his school and in due course I went back to the Operating Room as a Telegraphist. Charlie continued taking an interest in my progress and when a position as Senior Technician came up at Fiskville I was offered the job (I think I was the only one locally available at the time who had the necessary technical qualifications). I was a bit hesitant to take it up as I had some idea of going to sea as a Wireless Op. but Charlie encouraged me and that was where I went – Best move I could have made.

Had a great time at Fiskville, terrific staff, all “spit and polish” – but we took great pride in our work and the older men always encouraged (sometimes with fairly strong language) the younger ones.

– From Denis Pickwell

1 Comment

  1. Peter Bull September 17, 2014 at 9:01 am

    From John Lilley:

    I read Denis Pickwell’s article about Charlie Carthew with
    fond memories. Charlie was on long service leave when I
    started with OTC in January 1955, and his place was most competently filled by Ted Turner, who eased my entry to OTC very capably. Paul Borg started on the same day as me, and we underwent our familiarisation program together. Having been a telegraphist in Malta, Paul already had the skills that I had to develop: the speed with which he addressed the keyboard stunned me. At 10 o’clock in the morning Paul was typing at about 50 wpm and I was still trying to find F and J! Why was I so slow? I hurried to try and catch up.

    When Charlie came back from LSL, I was working as a Traffic Assistant in MOR, and spending the odd spare hour in the College of Knowledge – Charlie’s kingdom on the 3rd Floor, shared with the Marconi School – bringing my typing, Morse and other skills up to the level which would permit me to undertake some full-time training which would lead me to becoming a telegraphist (Typing at 50wpm, Morse at 15 wpm, read 5-unit tape at about 5wpm). Charlie spoke for the abilities of those wishing to become telegraphists, and our morse was sent to and received by Roy Mancer, the Traffic Superintendent. Roy, a New Zealander, used to make us shudder when he sent ‘Poipokariki’ at over 30wpm.

    Nor was Charlie any slouch when it came to Morse: I remember watching him receiving at over 40wpm on one occasion. Norm Lawes was the only other person I ever saw equal and maintain this speed.

    The spare time learning we undertook was, I think, one of Charlie’s initiatives to encourage us to advance ourselves. He kept a notice on the board in the Training School of who, how many hours, and speeds, to maintain the competitive spirit.

    Murray Lovatt and I spent some happy weeks in the training school before graduating in time for the Melbourne Olympics, and Blue Kennedy was assigned to be my mentor. During the Games, we were rostered on for about 54 hours per week, with optional overtime on top of that.

    Charlie was well-known for his interest in the young people under his tutelage. He was always even-tempered – except for the occasion on which he berated Jim Hocking and me for not responding to an advertisement in the ‘Blue Book’ offering scholarships to RMIT to study to become a Radio Technician. Despite our doubts about our abilities, we both applied and were successful. RMIT had a ‘sports afternoon’ every Wednesday, so Jim and I would spend the time in the Training School, studying under Charlie’s eye.

    After gaining my Technician’s certificate I went to Rockbank for a few years, moving on to Bringelly in 1964. I met Jim by chance in 1972, just after I’d left OTC. Jim was about to go to Bougainville as a Communications Officer with Bougainville Copper.

    I was very surprised at a Smoke Night (I hope such a thing doesn’t still exist) at which Charlie gave a great performance as a stage magician, something about which he had never spoken, but for which, I heard later, he was well-known in the community.

    I don’t remember when he retired – I know I wasn’t in Melbourne at the time. Was he followed by Dick Lovett?

    I’m grateful to Charlie for the direction he gave my life.


    John Lilley.

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