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British Industrial History

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Eastern Telegraph Co

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of Electra House, Moorgate, London, EC2

1872 The company was created by John Pender through the amalgamation and reorganisatiion of several companies: the Mediterranean Extension Telegraph Co; Malta and Alexandria Telegraph Co; the Anglo-Mediterranean Telegraph Co; the Falmouth, Gibraltar and Malta Telegraph Co; the British-Indian Submarine Telegraph Co; and the Marseilles, Algiers and Malta Telegraph Co; the new campany became known as the Eastern Telegraph Co (ETC) and it was to become the largest cable operating company in the world.

At its peak it operated 160,000 nautical miles (nm) of cables. John Pender bacame Chairman of the company on its formation and remained as such until he died in 1896. The General Manager of the company was Sir James Anderson, who had captained the Great Eastern on its Atlantic cable voyages. The company then began to increase its links by duplicating cables over the busiest routes such as the Porthcurno-Carcavelos-Gibraltar.

Almost all its cables were manufactured and laid by the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Co (Telcon).

1873 A second cable was laid across the Bay of Biscay, from Porthcurno to Vigo and Carcavelos. These two cables carried traffic from the Eastern Extension and Brazilian Submarine Telegraph Companies and lasted many years. It also laid a number of cables between the Greek islands, some operated by the company itself, others for the Greek Government.

1874 ETC set up the Black Sea Telegraph Co to link Constantinople to Odessa. W. T. Henley were subcontracted to make and lay the cable. At Odessa it was possible to link up with the Siemens Brothers' Indo-European Telegraph Co and the Russian national telegraph system, which provided a link to the Great Northern Telegraph Co in Moscow.

1876-7 Telcon laid a new cable between Suez and Bombay.

1877 A new cable was laid along the route of the Marseilles, Algiers and Malta Telegraph Co.

1878 A cable was laid from Cyprus to Alexandria.

1882 Port Said and Alexandria were linked.

1884 A cable was laid between Suez and Aden.

1885 ETC took over the Direct Spanish Telegraph Co which operated two cables from the Lizard in Cornwall, to Bilbao in Spain; and one from Barcelona to Marseilles. This enabled traffic to be routed to Malta without passing through Gibraltar and promoted the Europe and Azores Telegraph Company, for which Telcon laid a cable from Porthcurno, Cornwall to Fayal, Azores in 1906. ETC promoted the African Direct Telegraph Company to provide links between the UK and her West African colonies. A cable from Bathurst, Gambia, to St. Vincent, Cape Verde Islands, was laid by the India Rubber, Gutta Percha and Telegraph Works Co (IRGP).

Telcon laid cables between Bathurst, Gambia-Freetown, Sierra Leone-Accra, Gold Coast-Lagos-Brass-Bonny all in Nigeria.

1890 A cable was laid with a landing at Port Sudan.

1891 A third Aden-Bombay cable was laid.

1893 Cables were extended to Calabar and Duala in the German Cameroons. IRGP promoted the West African Telegraph Co to link French and Portuguese colonies to the Spanish National system, which had a cable terminating at St. Louis, Senegal. Within four years the ETC had taken control of this company and it was merged with the Africa Direct.

1899 The outbreak of the Boer War meant that direct communication between the UK and South Africa was essential. ETC contracted Telcon to manufacture and lay the cables and this was completed in December.

1900 Cable was laid from Ascension to St Vincent, Cape Verde Islands. At St Vincent the cable connected with the Western Telegraph Company's cables to Carcavelos, Portugal, then via Eastern's cable to Porthcurno, Cornwall.

1901 ETC contracted the manufacture and laying of cables from St Vincent to Madeira and from there to Porthcurno. As an alternative route in case of cable failure a cable was laid from Ascension to Freetown, Sierra Leone. An alternative route to Australia, via South Africa, a cable from Durban to Mauritius was also laid that year. The remaining cables were laid for the Eastern Extension.

1913 A cable was laid from Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to Aden.

1914 Another cable was a direct link between Suez and Aden. This was part of a cable running from Gibraltar to Hong Kong. Also promoted by ETC was the Société Anonyme Belge des Câbles Télégraphiques, to connect Belgium and the Belgian Congo. To do this a cable was laid from Dumpton Gap, England to Middlekerke, Belgium with a T piece being inserted in the cable running from St Thomas to Luanda, belonging to the West African Telegraph Company. This T piece terminated at Banana at the mouth of the Congo river.

1920 The 1890 Suez-Aden cable was diverted into Port Sudan and Perim. A fourth Aden-Bombay cable was laid.

1922 A major cable from the Seychelles to Colombo, Ceylon, was laid.

1923 a further cable ship for the Eastern Telegraph Company, the Mirror, was launched from the yard of John Brown and Co at Clydebank. A sister ship, the Norseman was launched shortly after. [1]

1927/8 Two further cables were laid between Port Said and Alexandria, and a cable from Larnaca to Haifa was also laid.

1928 Decision to merge the communications methods of the British Empire into one operating company because of increasing competition for cable telegraph companies from companies using radio communications. The British Government formed the Imperial and International Communications Ltd to carry out these operations. The operations merged included those of Eastern Telegraph Co, Western Telegraph Co, Eastern Extension Co, the Pacific and European Co, and Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Co, and 8 others, as well as interests in 18 other companies in various parts of the world[2].

1929 Listed Exhibitor. A joint exhibit with Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Co in connection with the world-wide telegraph services "Via Eastern" and "Via Marconi". "Telegrams may be handed in for transmission to all parts." (Stand No. HD.) [3]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1923/05/18
  2. The Times, 2 July 1930
  3. 1929 British Industries Fair Page 54
  • [1] History of the Atlantic Cable and Submarine Telegraphy