The Rhyme of the ancient Decca Man

Somehow I’ll Find My Way Home – John and Vangellis

For many years I worked for the exploratory survey company, Decca Survey Worldwide Ltd, a division of Decca Navigator. This was an extraordinary job, involving travelling to some of the remotest parts of the world, often at a moments notice, and very often living in a tent up some jungle creek, or all alone  in the empty quarter of some desert.

As part of a small team of three or five, we were engaged on all kinds of projects, including;

  • Mass spraying of rice with insecticide throughout the length and breadth of Java, using converted Pilatus Porter aircraft.
  • Mapping the Antartic Continent in association with the British Royal Navy. Along with my friend Roger, we slept in a tent  on the ice for a month and nearly had to be rescued by a dog team.
  • Calibrating the inertial navigation systems of Nuclear Submarines.
  • Searching for a live atomic bomb “Lost” by the Americans off the coast of Spain. We found it!
  • Cleaning up the oil from a Gas Blowout threatening the coast line of Sarawak
  • Charting the Seychelle Islands prior to its tourism debut. Nobody knew where they were! Including us. We had to charter a five seater Piper Navajo aircraft in Mombassa and go and look for them… Luckily we found them just before we were about to ditch in the sea… LOL
  • Original Siesmic Oil Exploration in the Irish sea, and the English North Sea. Everyone thought we were slightly mad at the time, looking for oil off the coast of Gt Yarmouth… LOL

Along with projects in Africa, Singapore, Australia, Argentina, the Borneo jungle, Nigeria during the civil war, France, Italy, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and The United Arab Emirates empty quarter, to name but a few

The advent of Sat Nav technology however, meant that all of our complex and heavy equipment which had to be transported, usually by helicopter, could now be replaced by a mobile phone, and demand for our services not surprisedly dropped.

The people I met and worked with in those days (known as Decca Men, or that guy with a briefcase), were amazing. This is by way of a memorial poem to them.

You can view a few  photo’s of my adventures via my Facebook Page which I am still building. Sadly many have been lost over the years

If you are an ancient Decca Man reading this, you will understand the words in this Rhyme.

The Rhyme of the ancient Decca Man
– in the style of Samuel Taylor Coleridge –

There’s an ancient hi-fix station
to the north of kathmandu,
with a ghostly chain commander
the last of a long lost crew.

In his forgotten mad existence
the words he speaks are few
as he sits in his hut, and taps his foot
to the beat of his MDU

his earth mat’s long since rusted
and his gonios have gone
his relays stick as the counters click
and the lanes keep rolling on

His batteries have all dried up
and his matching unit’s doomed
his ATU has lost it’s Q
and his arial can’t be tuned

slave two, slave two, where the f*ck are you,
he calls from time to time
but there’s ne’re a reply, on his ancient Pye
for the microphone’s well f*cked too.

such lonely dedication, is the way of the decca man
with bottle of gin,
and a friendly grin,
and a shag when’er he can

Through the waste lands of Antarctic
or through the jungle he will go
with his caravan, his dessert tan
and a thirty quid TMO

Ah would that we were able,
to have one final fling
and live once more, in the days before
the satellites came in

But sad those days are over,
and now from near or far.
never again will we hear the refrain
de dah.. de dah dah dah

So let us take a minute
to remember this dying star
and raise a glass, to this gypsy class
not gone…..

just in the bar


2 thoughts on “The Rhyme of the ancient Decca Man

  1. A heartstring tugging rhyme – brilliant, and only those lonely Deccamen stuck on a windy headland in all weathers waiting for someone to call from the ship they assumed was somewhere out there could fully appreciate the poetry. And, what’s more, it all scans too! I recall some lucky Deccamen, camping on some Godforesaken island in the Gulf, manning a Hi-Fix station for the Royal Navy, had a surprise visit from HRH the Duke of Edinburgh and his entourage who ‘dropped in’ from HMY Britannia. There is a very select team of older, distinguished Deccamen who will remember 2-RD and its successor Lambda, with its 60 foot mast, the ‘centre of measurement halfway between the shoreside receiver and transmitter masts, the morning ‘notch’ routine and the dodgy lane-ident which the notch was supposed to convince those on the ship that they were where they thought they were.

  2. Hi Carl and thanks for your comments, It’s always good to hear from people involved in that era. Yep, we did a lot of work for the RN, with HMS Bulldog, HMS Beagle, Polaris Submarines and HMS Endurance to name just a few. They were a great bunch of people.


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