23rd July 1927

Alderney to Guernsey radio connection established

The question of how to connect the various Channel Islands, both to each other and the mainland, has been answered in many ways over the years.

Being so much closer to France than Britain, they were long a target of French raids when the two countries were at war throughout the 1700s and 1800s. At the same time they represented important defensive positions. Rapid, effective communication was therefore key.

This was greatly simplified with the invention of radio, and the opening of the first radio-telephone link between Guernsey and Alderney on 23 July 1927.

This was particularly newsworthy as Alderney, with its large harbour, was acknowledged as one of the most important assets in the British defensive armoury. Indeed, Parliament has debated its importance just 60 years earlier and voted to spend more on the island to maintain its strong defences.

The restrictions of radio

Ultimately, radio telephones are of limited use. They transmit their signal through the air, so are open to interception. The equipment is also centrally located. It’s therefore not possible to roll out an island wide network for direct subscriber-to-subscriber communication.

Nonetheless, radio communication did the job – and continued to do so until what we would now consider to be more conventional communications routes were in place.

Guernsey and Sark had shared a telegraph cable since 1903, which was upgraded to a telephone cable 25 years later. Guernsey and the British mainland were later connected by submarine cable in 1931.

The story of Herm, as recorded in The History of Guernsey by James Marr, is interesting:

In 1909 Prince Blucher, tenant of Herm, enquired about the cost of establishing telephonic communication with Guernsey… in the event no cable was laid. During the tenancy of Mr AG Jeffries a pigeon postal service was provided between Herm and Guernsey for urgent messages, and finally in 1950 the States Telephone Department provided a radio-telephone link with Guernsey. As a result Herm now possesses the smallest automatic public telephone exchange in the world.


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Other events that occured in July