NO HF SOTA operation unless you learn CW! (Part 1)

You are right -. I can’t hear/make out the callsign on a U-Tube video - I think it is G3AXF. Perhaps you can listen and verify the callsign? Its 12’ minutes into the video.

I belive it was a call for medical assistance, which isn’t likely to be sent as an SOS - more like an ‘Emergency’ or XXX if it was done of 500khz. But perhaps I’m splitting hairs.

Now that brings back memories! My Aunt and Uncle moved to a house in Pontllanfraith, just up the road to the mill at Gelligroes, and I visited them for the first time around 1951 when I was about ten. I remember walking down to the mill and there was a strange wire contraption behind it, which I now know was a cage dipole. It was gone the following year. I was told that the owner had heard the distress call from the Titanic, but it didn’t mean much to me at that age. I often walked up Mynnydd Islwyn, which we now know as GW/SW-024 Mynnydd y Lan - so if you activate that summit you are close to radio history!


If I’d have needed Morse to get onto HF then I’d have never progressed beyond 2M FM SOTA and probably dropped out altogether.

Morse will be learned… It’ll be something I do when I decide to prioritise it. Right now it’s just not a priority.


Thanks David,

A wonderful piece of history…


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Few people have answered the question. Answering is fraught with unconscious (and conscious) bias based on our own personal thoughts.

The answer is easy: when there was a 12wpm Morse requirement it was a massively effective barrier at keeping people off HF. When a UK only 5wpm Morse requirement was introduced with special licence level that allowed 100W HF access in the UK alone and was a equivalent to a CEPT Class 2 elsewhere, very few people took the test. Even when the speed requirement was reduced to what is a trivial level. (TBH I find copying such slow Morse almost impossible but I am no speed demon.)

So based on experience from 20+ years back, few people would do what Phil asks. However, it should be considered that had there been a CW requirement for the last 20+ years SOTA would not have grown to the size it is.

In my case I passed a Morse test before they were abolished in the UK and at the time wasn’t interested really in any HF operation. I wasn’t going to appear on HF in the future “sans Morse pass” to allow the back-biters to snipe at me. It was SOTA that encouraged me to actually use HF with some real vigour. 5W SSB was a challenge but the UK’s good 60m allocations made 5W SSB reasonably easy. I only re-learnt my Morse because I realised I was missing out on lots of SOTA fun. I decided I wanted to have SOTA Morse QSOs and so that was what motivated me. Along the way I’ve gone from 0 to 10 HF transceivers and I feel like a KX2 and a IC705 are justified as retirement treats :slight_smile:


You meant “or” didn’t you? :rofl:

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No. I’m having a L’Oreal moment because I’m worth it :slight_smile:


I think that sums up the real issue very well. In particular, I can’t see many young folk taking up SOTA if they had to pass some sort of CW test - which would be a challenge to administer if there were no national test people could take.

Let us encourage people to join in. I was sceptical about 2m FM until I visited the Lake District and discovered the fun you can have with it. I’ve since done my best to use 2m where I live which is a bit of a VHF desert but the point is 2m FM is a very easy way in many places for people to first take up SOTA. They may then want to try CW later but there should be no compulsion. :slight_smile:


I thought long and hard about that choice. Plumped for the KX2 as my ft-857 does the rest (apart from the digi and computer stuff). However, the correct answer is “both”.


What is this obsession with CW!? It is becoming like a religious cult, with anyone that does not ‘believe’ being looked down on!

It is one mode, of Radio operation, amongst many. Yes it is a great skill and I take my hat off to people that have learnt it, but it is just ONE aspect of this amazing hobby. As the world of Radio communication moves on, there are more and more opportunities to explore. Satellite communication and digital modes to name two.

If CW is your thing, enjoy it, promote it, but understand that it is not for everyone. Listening to local nets, I wish I had a pound for every time I have heard someone say, ‘digital modes are not real radio’! Radio communication is at the forefront of modern life, but there seems to be a body of hams that want to freeze it in the past. (take a look at RadCom :slight_smile: )

To answer the question: If CW skills where reintroduced as a prerequisite to being able to take part in SOTA, it would kill the hobby dead, over night… just as it would, if we could only use valve radios.

I know I am opening myself up to criticism here, but come on… This is a hobby not a religion.



Agreed… just as mandating any other specific mode would also kill it.

Let’s take a liberal view of the proposal and consider it to be a tongue-in-cheek (ironic) suggestion. then we can all calm down.

I like CW myself but generally use CW and voice modes if I have the gear. But I’ll defend the rights of others not to use it if they so choose.

73 Andrew VK1DA/2DA


Calm down everyone! There was no proposal in Phil’s original message. It was just a question for discussion.


Doing CW on HF was always my long-term radio goal anyway and SOTA seemed a good way of actually using my newfound radio skills, so I’m perhaps not representative of your average radio amateur, but I realy do think most SOTA activators/chasers who didn’t already have that ability would be put off by such a requirement. Hopefully “only” from using HF for SOTA, but very likely from SOTA all-together. You look at some of the ham schemes out there and the rules are so uptight and borderline ridiculous that you feel most unwelcome and put off from even thinking about joining in. After all, this is a hobby and it should be enjoyable.

Many of the people learning CW are doing so because they’ve taken up something like POTA or SOTA and after a few failed activations, they view getting into CW as a way of reaching further with the same power and hopefully not have that same experience again. Then they discover that a lot of CW operators are really supportive and welcoming and they get spurred on by that. flies and honey and all that…

I am currently learning CW, with an aim of being comfortable with 18-22 wpm QSOs. As such, on a good day I might already be able to pass such a test, but I would still need a bit more practice to be certain that I could pass.
However, I have been through a lot of education and a lot of extra curricular activities that required exams to be studies for and passed and as a result I am really reluctant to do anything remotely exam-like unless I really, really have to. (I am keen on getting my Intermediate and Full Amateur licences eventually, but that falls into the “I guess I actually have to put myself through this” category).
So for me, having to sit a test to be allowed to do HF SOTA, I would probably just settle for VHF/UHF and hope that even more people would be active on those bands as result of the ban.

Out of interest, why 12 WPM? Most people doing CW SOTA seem to be going faster than that and surely if you are setting a bar it should be at a sufficiently high level to make sure newcommers are up to scratch? :wink:


Probably because that was the test speed to get a Class A licence.

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“No one ever regretted learning CW.”

-Kent K9EZ 1975

You may quote me :rofl:


I get that, but my point was that if we were to bar people from doing HF SOTA because they couldn’t operate CW, then surely you’d want them to do it properly when they are allowed on. And pile ups full of people “only” doing 12 wpm would probably really annoy and, even worse, slow down those poor activators/chasers who can do it “right” and already cruise a long at 25-30 wpm. (all tongue in cheek, of course)

Anytime you, (or anyone else), would like to try the RSGB morse test, (at your speed), please do not hesitate to contact me either by PM on here, or email (see and I will arrange it for you.

73 Victor GI4ONL, RSGB Morse Assessor


Hi all,
This subject has developed more column inches than most that I have seen on here!

Perhaps we need to remember that it was initiated by Phil (OBK) after of glass of wine.
The bottom line as I see it is that passing the Amateur Radio Licence is an enabler to significant privileges, namely being allowed to radiate RF and communicate by radio. We all do different things with those privileges and applying unnecessary constraints is outwith the principles of Amateur Radio.

In some countries the Licence incorporates the IARU Band Plan, in others it does not. Hence in the UK I would not be contravening my UK **licence to use SSB or FM on 30M. But if I did, I would be subject to the wrath of many.

35 years ago I stumbled through the Post Office 12WPM sending and receiving test which demanded a Straight Key. I immediately learnt the Iambic Curtis B mode and purchase a Bencher double paddle key. Some years later, when I ventured onto HF on Sota, it was a small transition to sending CW at 21WPM. 30 years ago I designed and buit a rig to send and Receive CW on the 40M band. It has several unique features and is fully QSK at 100W. This year I decided to go one step further and make a key based on the American J38 Straight Key. I am now completing the loop, sending on a Home Brew straight key that has 2022 embellishments.

So what!
I hope I have evolved and learnt new skills as I have progressed. The 12WPM test was a major hurdle for me, 6 months of daily learning. Thank goodness this requirement has been eradicated, it could have blocked my progress onto HF and Sota. I believe there is no justification to make any artificial constraints on operators, remember it is just a hobby. But we should encourage people to learn this mode and use it in a valuable way. But the bottom line is, do what you want to do, within the Sota rules and your licence conditions and above all, have fun.



I think that is unduly pessimistic. Firstly, the question as posed was about HF operation. I assume that Phil was thinking in terms of returning to the A and B licence scenario, so in that case we should look at the just over a year of SOTA operation under that scenario. There was plenty of participation by the B licensees, 2m SSB was thriving, and the "B"s were able to practice their CW on the air. Its my belief that the only disadvantage of removing the Morse requirement was that it fueled the retreat from VHF. Those with a good location, a good take-off for DX, were slow to leave VHF, those with rubbish locations in valleys with no take-off were only too happy to decamp to bands where they had no inherent disadvantage. The effect on SOTA was a reduction in V/UHF operation and an expansion in HF operation. There is no clear correlation between the removal of the Morse requirement and the expansion of SOTA, the correlation is between the number of Associations and SOTA activity.

Anyway, all this is hypothetical, we are unlikely to go back to how things were, and the MT is very, very VERY unlikely to impose a CW requirement! As for the rabid CW devotees, after 58 years of Morse “deprivation” I let their ravings slide off me like water off a duck’s back!

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Now THAT’s nonsense :wink: