Friday, October 11, 2019

Armed forces Essay

This section provides information on the soldiers, sailors and airman who gained, maintained and then lost an empire. It must be remembered that the vast majority of the empire’s military manpower was recruited from outside the mother country. It is interesting to note that some of the fiercest resistors to the British went on to become the staunchest allies and defenders of her empire; Highlanders, Sikhs and Gurkhas are perhaps the best examples of this phenomena. The military history of the empire is rich in colour and variety but is also inevitably linked to the darker and more sinister side of the empire through conquest, pacification and destruction. The tentacles of the military spread throughout the empire and beyond, the armed forces were not only the conquerors and defenders of the empire but also provided the garrisons that policed the vast expanses of territory and enabled communication over the vast distances involved. The military was very much the most important institution of the empire. Land forces Infantry The years around 1783 were tumultuous ones for the army and things were about to become even more difficult in the near future. The Army was coming to the end of its actions in the 13 colonies. Political and military defeat hung heavily over Britain at the time. The army had borne the brunt of the unsuccessful campaign and so were associated with the failure. Life was to become even more dangerous and precarious for the British army as it become embroiled in the highly difficult task of containing the expansion of Revolutionary and then Napoleonic France. The army would therefore be forced to expand to an unusually large size and would be strained to its limits. The prominent role played by the British army in ultimately defeating Napoleon would restore its pride and prestige both at home and overseas. In the period following victory in 1815, the British army was regarded as the fire brigade of the Empire – being sent to wherever there were disturbances or problems. It would become involved in countless small wars in far flung corners of the globe, most of which would be successful endeavours. However, the army would be sorely tested by the events of the Crimean war and the Indian mutiny. The problems encountered in these actions provided the rationale for the Cardwell army reforms which were implemented progressively from the late 1860’s to the early 1880’s. The numbering system used by the British army in order to determine precedence was first used in 1751. The year 1782 is interesting because it is the first time that many of these regiments were associated with a specific local area. Theoretically, this was to be where their depot was to be based and their recruiting to take place. However, constant strategical and manpower needs meant that these regiments could be posted anywhere and were keen to take recruits from wherever they could find them. In this period of history, the numbers were the more important of the designations and would be used on a day to day basis. However, the territorial titles would later form the basis of the next major overhaul of the regimental system almost exactly 100 years later: the Cardwell Army reforms. Foot guards Number Title 1st The First Regiment of Foot Guards 2nd The Second (Cold stream) Regiment of Foot Guards 3rd His Majesties Third Regiment of Foot Guards Cavalry First troop of life guards Badge Nicknames The Bangers Lumpers The Cheesemongers The Fly-slicers The Piccadilly Butchers The Roast and Boiled The Ticky Tins The Tin Bellies The Patent Safeties Motto Honi soit qui mal y pense Evil be to him who evil thinks Regimental Marches Millanollo (Quick) Val Hamm The Life Guards Slow March (Slow) Regimental Anniversary Waterloo Day 18th June Colonels 1660 – 1788 Soldiers 1660 – 1788 Successor Units 1st Life Guards (1660 – 1788) The Life Guards (1922 – ) Suggested Reading History of the Household Cavalry by Sir George Arthur (Constable: 1909, 1926: 3 vols) The Story of the First Life Guards (Harrap: 1922) Historical Record of the Life Guards (London: Clowes: 1836) Regimental Museum Household Cavalry Museum Combermere Barracks Windsor More go to Artillery Horse artillery Battery Sergeant-Major The other picture of the Battery Sergeant-major is a coloured engraving from a photo. He has gold braiding. The back end of a 12-pounder is accurately shown. Officer 1890 The Officer is in full dress on his charger. Sergeants with 12 Pounder The Sergeants are in various forms of dress. The one in the forground is in full dress or parade dress, the others are in different combinations of working dress. Mounted SergeantThe gold cord braiding on his jacket indicates that he is a Sergeant. F Battery in Second Afghan War Science and technology Transport Railways The nineteenth century saw many technological changes, but none of them were to have as wide repurcussions as the invention of the train. The power of steam had been known for some time but applying this power to moving heavy goods and people over long distances was one application that would have profound consequences and serve the British and their Empire for well over a hundred years. It was George Stephenson who realised the full power and potential of the steam engine when he designed a machine that could take advantage of narrow copper tubes which could be heated to create the all important steam power. The Rocket was the first such steam engine to take advantage of this new technology as it operated between Liverpool and Manchester from 1830. However, technical change was to become rapid and the train was to change its appearance and technical specifications again and again. Inevitably, it was the mother country that first saw her landscape transformed by this new invention. Navvies from Ireland, Scotland and the North of England scarred the landscape with viaducts, bridges and tunnels in the pursuit of the smooth gradients that trains required to travel at their most efficient level. They were paid a pittance for excruciating and dangerous work. In many ways, these navvies represented one of the largest migrations of Imperial settlers as they moved over from Ireland or as they followed the train tracks around the country and ended up settling in the last place they found work. In 1847 there were a quarter of a million navvies digging and blasting their way over the British landscape, their travels are one of the lesser documented migrations of history. However, the job they did is still plain to see in the British landscape some 150 years later and will be for many more years to come. The amount of track laid in Britain increased from only 500 miles in 1838 to over 8,000 by 1855. This expansion of track also brought down the cost of travel so that all but the poorest could afford to travel by train. In the stagecoach days, a ticket from London to Manchester and back would have cost à ¯Ã‚ ¿Ã‚ ½3 10s but by 1851 the train fare for this same journey was only 5s (a seventh of the stagecoach fare) for a far quicker and more comfortable journey. Of course, the expansion of the railways didn’t just rest on the invention of the steam train. Iron was needed for the rails and its mass production helped to reduce the costs to the railway industry. In addition, iron girders and glass were used to construct magnificent looking railway stations. Even older industries, like stonemasonry were given a new lease of life as vast quantities of stone and rock were needed for sleepers, bridges and stations. The railway age was an enormous boost to the economy of Britain, and would provide the country with one of the most efficient infrastructures for the remainder of the century. It wouldn’t take colonial administrators long to see the benefits that such an infrastructure could bring to the colonies they were in charge of. Particularly, as some of these colonies could be immense in size and with little existing infrastructure. Horses and ships had provided the most efficient means of transport to date, but ships obviously couldn’t reach the interior and horses could not match the speed and power of this latest invention. The old established colonies like India, leapt at the railway opportunities and built a railway structure that would even rival the mother country’s in scope and scale. They were often financed by British industrialists keen to move the primary and secondary products of India to the ports ready to be exported to Britain and her factories. Cotton, spices and teas would all provide the economic model for railway building that would later be copied in other colonies by other crops and industries; rubber in Malaysia, coffee i n South America, grains in Canada and livestock in Australia and New Zealand. In some colonies, railways were used more as the initial spur to encourage colonisation of an area. In Africa, railways were built to provide an infrastructure that would lure white colonists into an area in order to farm the area and turn it into a profitable colony. South Africa, Rhodesia and Kenya all wanted to increase their white population and increase the economic activity of their lands and all spent copious amounts of money and effort into building railways in what were very often inhospitable areas to European settlers. They all had varying degrees of success, but were built nonetheless. Indeed, one of the burning issues of late nineteenth century was Cecil Rhodes’ burning ambition to build a Cape to Cairo railway line that passed through British territory all the way. And this dream, although not realised by a train network, certainly influenced a great deal of Central African colonisation during the period. Another spur to the railway building in the nineteenth century was the British army. They too, quickly identified the advantages in being able to move troops and supplies around in a quick and efficient manner. The army would often try to influence local colonial administrators and get them to build railway lines to places which had little business or economic rationale. Alternatively, the army would build its own railway lines in areas they felt were necessary. In the case of Kitchener’s Sudan campaign in the late 1890’s, the army travelled down the Nile slowly but surely, not just out of tactical considerations, but because they were building a railway line as they travelled. In fact, this railway line is still in use as Sudan’s major railway line over a hundred years after it was built by the British army. Likewise in the Boer war, the British army came to depend on the strategic advantages of the railway network, but would also be exposed to the vulnerability of this network as the Boers transformed themselves into a guerilla army and destroyed bridges and lines at will. Despite this costly lesson, the British army maintained its respect and use of trains for many more years to come. Railways transformed the Empire in many ways, it increased business activity and allowed businesses to flourish in areas that previously would have been impossible to make a living in. It allowed officials to move rapidly over the areas that they governed. It allowed troops to be dispatched over great distances in short periods of time, indeed this speed of response removed much of the burden of having to station so many troops in a colony in the first place. Populations could benefit from access to cheaper goods as the factories of Europe could unleash their products to the far flung corners of the empire: tinned goods, newspapers, boot polish and toys could all be moved at a fraction of the cost from previous days. The people themselves could move around the empire whether for business or for pleasure; families could be reunited more regularly, farmers could travel longer distances to get their products to market, businessmen could entertain clients from further afield. Even within relatively short distances and in crowded areas people wanted to enjoy the benefits of the train system. Therefore, in London, one of the more interesting railway innovations was devised in the 1860’s; the underground system, or the tube. Using Victorian ingenuity and technical engineering expertise an elaborate underground system of trains was built that would be envied and copied by Metropolises the world over. And again, it reinvigorated the economic life of the City of London and allowed for yet another relocation of businesses and housing for the masses of that city. The advantages of the railways were apparent to virtually everyone. These were the days when progress was seen as a universal good and the railways were a prime example of this beneficent progress. Ships England was a small island nation off the coast of the very powerful and dynamic continent of Europe proper. There were three options open to the English ruling classes. First of all, she could immerse herself into European politics and economics. However, the competition on this front was particularly fierce; French, Italians, Austrians and a myriad of other powerful nations would ensure that England would only be one player in a field of many. Besides, wars and religion made dabbling in this arena a very expensive one. Second, she could turn in on herself and try to stay aloof from the goings on of the world. This strategy suited the Japanese in their dealings with their continental rivals. However the English were already keen traders and had acquired tastes and business practices that made this option an unpalatble one. Her third choice was to turn to the opportunities offered by the rest of the world. And it is because she chose this path that first England, and then Britain, tu rned herself into the preeminent maritime nation of Europe and indeed the world. England’s rise as a maritime nation started with the reign of King Henry VIII. His ambitions were guided more to Europe, but he did manage to lay down financial and military foundations that would be taken advantage of by his successors. The Mary Rose is testimony to the size and power that the King sought to develop. He wanted a navy to project his power and influence onto the European political scene. Unfortunately, his plans and schemes were not fully realized during his reign. However, his treasury was full, the ports were protected by new castles and coastal defences and he had started a naval tradition that would bequeath valuable skills and experience to later generations of sea goers. By the time Queen Elizabeth came to the throne, the most powerful maritime nations were Spain and Portugal. These nations had encouraged explorers to find new, exciting and highly profitable trade routes. However, there were deep religious and philosophical divisions between these Catholic nations and the Protestant English. Queen Elizabeth had no love for these religious and economic rivals and basically sanctioned piracy on the high seas as a means of prosecuting war against the Catholic monarchies. Chief amongst her officially sanctioned privateers were Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Hawkins. These, and other sailors, wreaked havoc with Spanish and Portugese trade routes to the East Indies and particularly to the New World. The Caribbean became particularly notorious for rampant piracy. This rivalry turned into something of a naval arms race as the Spanish and English tried to outdo each other in terms of offensive power or in terms of speed to escape potential privateers. Military and commercial ships of both nations would benefit from new technologies, techniques and skills. The naval rivalry between these two nations would reach a head in 1588 with the Spanish Armada. This Spanish attempt to stamp out her English rivals was a gamble that did not pay off. Bad weather and English seamanship saw that the Armada failed in its bid to land an army on English soil. More importantly, the destruction of much of the Armada left the English mariners in a very powerful position and particularly in the Caribbean and in the New World. In the East Indies with its spice trade, the English still had to deal with the Portugese and the Dutch as serious competitors. But with the removal of the Spanish, the English were free to develop an unprecedentedly successful economic venture. There were two main commercial activities that allowed the English to maximise there maritime advantage: Sugar and Slavery. In fact, these were two complemantary activities that would work very closely together. Slaves were needed to tend and harvest the sugar crops of the New World. The same ships that transported these slaves could then be loaded up with sugar and brought back to Europe. With the advent of industrialisation in Britain, the third leg of this trip could also be made profitable. Cheap manufactured goods were taken from Liverpool and Bristol to West Africa and exchanged their for slaves, the slaves were exchanged for sugar in the Caribbean, and the sugar would finally be sold in Europe at a huge profit. The profits involved meant that few people overly concerned by any humanitarian or ethical issues. Indeed, the economic success of this trade would mean that even more time, money and skills were ploughed into the British commercial and Royal Navies. The more and better the British ships became the more she took the world’s trade and the faster she developed into the world’s preeminent naval power. By the mid to end of the eighteenth century, the British could claim to have the largest and most successful naval forces in the world: Both militarily and commercially. By this time, naval traditions, experience and expertise had been fully augmented by advances in science and the latest industrial products and techniques. British ships were familiar sites to ports and coastal regions the world over. However, two events would test this faith and confidence in the maritime forces of the nation. Soon, the British would realise that although they were a match for any nation on even terms, a combination of forces might lead to her undoing. The first test of this theory was the American War of Independence. French and Spanish involvement in supplying and maintaining the insurrection. Combine this with Royal Naval ships and sailors fighting on the side of the colonists and the British could see that they were not as invincible as they would have liked to have believed. However, the real test of the strength and importance of the Naval forces of Britain was to come with the rise of Napoleon on the European continent. A brilliant tactician and strategist, Napoleon swept most of Europe before him. As he took effective control over these powers he also took control of their navies. The British tried their best to thwart these plans with some success in Holland and especially Denmark. However, the Spanish and French fleets combined again to form a most formidable force. Unlike the days of the American War of Independence, it was clear that the only way the British could dispense with the threat of Napoleon was to confront and defeat this Navy in an open battle. The stakes for the island nation had not been higher since the days of Drake and the Spanish Armada. Fortunately for the British, a new hero rose to the hour. Admiral Nelson successfully defeated the combined fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar. He paid for this victory with his life, but he laid down a sense of security for the island nation that would remain intact for another century. Although disappointments and setbacks did occur, most notab ly in the War of 1812-14, essentially the Royal Navy returned to being the preeminent maritime nation. Indeed, the only serious threat to the Royal and Merchant Navies were the sailors, captains and admirals themselves. Complacency and a lack of serious rivals meant that the British maritime forces lay essentially unchanged for most of the nineteenth century. Half a century after the death of Nelson and the Royal Navy had barely changed at all; even the ships were the same. The only serious innovation that made serious inroads into these traditions was the advent of steam. Even then, the Admiralty were reluctant converts to this latest technology and pined for the days of sail. It would be left to commercial forces and entrepreneurs to explore and develop this means of power. The most important name associated with these developments is that of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. This man built the first steamship to cross the Atlantic: the Great Western. The first ocean screw steamer: the Great Britain. And what for 40 years would be the largest ship ever built: the Great Eastern. And although these ships were not the greatest of commercial triumphs the combination of ingenuity, expertise and industrial technology would mean that Britain would remain at the forefront of maritime power for some time to come. Steam power would open up other avenues for exploration that had previously been difficult if not impossible for mariners to pursue. The ability to power a vessel upstream would mean that many of the world’s rivers could be opened up to European explorers and traders. This would allow for new parts of the world to be explored and new commerical and political relationships to be established. Africa would see this technology employed along its many rivers. Indeed, steamships would even be taken overland to operate on the great lakes of the African interior. One side effect of the introduction of steampower was that coaling stations would become a strategic necessity to the Royal and Merchant Navies. All of a sudden, the Royal Navy became concerned at the placement of Naval bases particularly with regards to how far a ship could steam before it needed refuelling. This new strategic thinking would be augmented and amended by the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. The world was becoming a smaller place at a rapid rate and maritime necessities would be prime in consideration for much of the Imperial expansion of the day. Cash crops would be the new cash cows that provided the financial impetus for maritime ventures at the Imperial level. Tea, cotton, rubber, even opium would all take their turn in providing the imperatives and returns in investing in Britain’s maritime fleets. Combine these financial considerations with regular British trade patterns with Europe, Latin America and the United states and the fact that populations were willing and able to move about the planet in unprecedented numbers and the importance of ships and maritime policy to the British Empire is easy to comprehend. The next challenge to British supremacy of the waves was to be by the Germans. By the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries European and imperial rivalries combined to form ominous and powerful blocks of nations. On one side lay the French and Russians, on the other the Germans, Italians and Austrians. Britain tried to remain aloof for as long as possible, but when the Germans declared that they wanted a Navy that was the equal of the Royal Navy, the gauntlet had been laid and the British joined with the French and Russians. A naval arms race between the British and Germans was proving costly to both countries, it didn’t help matters when one of Britain’s own innovations nearly bankrupted the nation. The development of the Battleship Dreadnought in 1906 kept the British at the front of Naval technology but at the cost of making their entire existing fleet obsolescent. The Germans would easily be able to catch up to the British with this new technology and, if it hadn’t been for competing claims on the German military budget, might have succeeded in doing so. As it was, during The Great War, the British were just able to keep ahead of the Germans and successfully bottled them up in their Baltic ports for most of the war. However, another military development would provide fresh worries and portents enough for the British. The submarine did not effect the war as much as their German commanders had hoped, but their potential for disrupting existing Naval balances of power were clear to all. These concerns would be played out at a much more lethal level during the next war. Meanwhile, the interwar period saw cutbacks to both the Royal and Merchant Navies. With little appetite left for armed forces, British politicians cut back defence expenditure on all of the services. The Royal Navy was no exception. These cutbacks came just as new maritime rivals could be seen on the horizon. During The Great War, the Americans had turned their massive industrial might to outfitting her armed forces in a very short period of time. At the same time, the Japanese had been left unchallenged to develop in the Pacific Ocean. When the war ended they quickly sought to establish some kind of parity with the Royal Navy; the result was the Washington conference. This conference established the so called 5:5:3 ratios for capital ships. America and Britain were to be equal in size and number of ships whilst the Japan maintained 60% of these numbers. The effect of the conference was that Britain, for the first time since Drake, admitted that she would only be the equal of another power. No longer would she aim to be the preeminent naval power. In reality, she had also given the Japanese a local superiority in the Pacific region. A superiority the Japanese would use to dismember much of the British Asian Empire. The Second World War was to put Britain in as much, if not more, peril than in the first. Her naval commanders rightly identified submarine warfare as being the biggest threat the island nation. The Royal and Merchant Navies took horrendous losses as these commanders developed ways of dealing with this silent menace. Convoys and ASDIC did most to redress this balance. But it was a long, hard fight and one that left Britain militarily and economically exhausted by the end of the war. Britain would never reclaim its former maritime glory. The United States and Soviet Navies would eclipse the Royal Navy in size, technology and power. Aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and the rise of Air Power in general would mean that the strategic balance had been tipped forever. Withdrawal from Empire speeded up this process even more, bases in the Far East, South East Asia, the Middle East and even the Mediterranean seemed like expensive anachronisms that no longer served any purpose. At a commercial level, the rise of air transport killed off much of the passenger business of the shipping lines. Also, new trade patterns were established as Imperial trade was replaced by much shorter European destinations. The fall from grace of the British naval heritage is only so precipitate when you realise how long and how deep that tradition has been the lifeblood of the nation. Generations of citizens grew up with the unquestioning belief that Britannia Ruled the Waves. Now that she is a middle ranking European nation, it is not hard to see why so many people lament the passing of an era and why it inspires so many more to be fascinated and interested in this area of British history. Communications The telegraph system was one of the technological wonders of the nineteenth century. It transformed communications in a profound way and helped to give the British Army a technological superiority over most of her competitors. Its invention was a product of the enthusiasm and skill of industrial revolutionary Britain. William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone, a scientist and an entrepreneur, teamed up to forge a devastatingly effective alliance that combined the savvy of both individuals to produce the ‘needle telegraph’. Wheatstone came up with the technological aspect whilst the Cooke had the foresight to approach the railway companies in order to run their lines along side the railway tracks. On 25 July 1837 the first experimental line with the new telegraph was started. The Great Western Railway Company connected the stations Euston Square and Camden Town over a distance of 2.4 kilometres. It was an outstanding success that not only amazed Victorians but displayed obvious applications for its use. When it was used to broadcast such news as the birth of Queen Victoria’s second son, or to catch a murderer who had attempted an escape by train, its acceptance and usefulness was plain for all to see. In fact, the only problem with this initial invention was that it the code to transmit messages was rather cumbersome – and in fact only twenty letters were used of the alphabet. Credit for the simplification of the both the hardware and code was to cross the Atlantic to a certain Samuel Morse. Samuel Morse had a mission in life. A devout Christian, his world had turned upside down when he missed the funeral of his wife due to a message being delivered late. He never wanted anyone to go through the pain that he had endured and so set about perfecting an easy to use message system. His revolution centred around the idea of sending pulses of electricity of two fixed lengths – dots and dashes. The subsequent morse code was so much easier to for all to master. He too saw the logic in following the railroad lines and telegraph poles continued their close relationships to the railway lines that were gradually spreading out over the continents of the world. Of course, there were larger scale boundaries that also needed crossing. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean with a submarine telegraph line was one of the holy grails of Victorian technological advances. So much so that Sirus Field, a very rich American businessman, personally financed the hiring of two warships, one American and one British (USS Buchanan and HMS Victoria), to simply start in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and pull the wire to the opposing sides of the Atlantic. After a couple of attempts, they did indeed manage to succeed in their endeavour. The President of the United States and Queen Victoria managed to exchange pleasantries across all those thousands of miles. Unfortunately, the line only worked for just over two weeks. The Victorian scientists had not anticipated the high voltages that were required to send messages across those thousands of miles. The cable simply burnt out. It would be seven years before the line was reconnected. The problem being that the new, low voltage, well insulated wires were just too thick for any ship to be able to carry. Until, that was, the SS Great Eastern was launched. This was a behemoth of a ship that dwarfed all other ships by its size and speed. In 1866 she easily connected the two continents together. Submarine telegraph lines were now spreading across the world as the British government realised the full potential for governing and communicating with its far flung empire. By 1890, of the inhabited British territories, only Fiji, British Honduras, Tobago, the Falkland Islands, Turks Islands and New Guinea had no cable at all. The importance that Britain personally invested in this world wide infrastructure is borne out by the statistic that by 1914, 75% of all the world’s submarine lines were held by the British. Indeed, within hours of the outbreak of the First World War, the first action taken by any of the British and Imperial Forces around the world was actually taken in Melbourne in Australia. A German merchant ship was fired on by coastal batteries as she attempted to leave port. The fact that this took place on the exact opposite side of the world illustrates how much smaller the empire had become with the advent of telegraphy. Before the advent of this technology, the British government had had to entrust a great deal of local powers to its representatives across the world. When it took three months for a message to travel from a colony back to the capital, waiting for a reply was a luxury that frequently could not be tolerated. The man on the spot was a very powerful figure indeed. With the advent of the telegraph, London could have virtually instantaneous contact with the capitals of her colonies and dominions and conduct business from afar. Cables Being Laid in Canada The value of Britain’s world wide telegraphic system actually contributed to Britain’s strategic worries. The cables were kept in British colonies or under British controlled seas as much as possible, but this was not always avoidable. Whenever this occurred the British worried about interceptions of messages or of cutting the link altogether. For example, the link to Australia passed over Dutch Java, the South American cable ran through Portugese Madeira, but probably the biggest headache of all to Britain’s strategic thinkers was the cable that ran from London to Calcutta. In fact, there were three such cables. One ran from Lowestoft to Germany, through Russia, Persia and in to India. Apart from the strategic nightmares of this essential line of communication was the fact that the Germans and Russians were in a position to keep the costs of using this cable artificially high. The second cable was not much better. It ran across Europe to Constantinople, across Turkey to the Persian Gulf and then by cable to Karachi. Little reliance could be placed on the Ottoman empire. The third cable ran from London to Gibraltar to Malta, Egypt to Aden and then on to Bombay. This looked secure enough, but still relied on using Spanish relay stations to boost the signals. Besides, it was generally more economic to send the messages up over France from Malta. To add to the strategic difficulties the vagaries of the currents and weather caused yet further headaches. Storms, winds, silt, even fishermen could all accidentally disrupt the sending of messages. Combined with the distances involved, it is little wonder the tariffs could be so high. 4 shillings per word to India, and 6s. 9d. to Australia. And yet, the British were convinced that the value of the system was worth the price. All over the world, Englishmen were employed laying or maintaining cables or operating booster stations along the line. The cable manager often became a key member of society for the further flung outposts of imperial society. In Australia, Alice Springs actually came to life as the central station for the overland 2000 mile Telegraph line stretching from Adelaide to the North. These 36,000 telegraph poles were built years before any road or railway line crossed the continent. And it could be dangerous too. In 1874, two cable men were speared to death by Aborig ines. The laying and maintaining of this enormous network must rank as one of the most important achievements of the British Empire. It’s scope and utility is hard to imagine in a world where instantaneous communications are taken for granted. Before the invention of the Telegraph the speed of communication had changed little since the time of the Romans. Within thirty years of the first twitchings of Cook’s and Wheatstone’s needle telegraph, the world had been made substantially smaller.

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