18th December 1979

Telex, phones and telegram cables go quiet

Telecoms were eerily quiet on Guernsey and the other Channel Islands on 18 December 1979. The previous day, something had broken through each of the telegraph cables connecting them to the mainland.

As a result, the islands had no direct phone, fax, telex or telegraph connections to the mainland. Fortunately, they did have one remaining connection to France in place, so emergency messages could still be sent.

The connections to the mainland were down for three and a half days all told, during and after which the States Telecommunications Board considered what could be done to improve the resilience of the link.

It wasn’t the first time Guernsey’s connection with mainland Britain had been severed. It happened as far back as 1877 when it took more than a month to repair the damage.

A problem with a history

It happened twice in 2016: once in January and again in November. The latter of those was caused by a ship dragging its anchor through the undersea cables, snapping all three. On that occasion, BT, Sure and JT warned it could take three weeks to repair and, again, all internet and voice communications had to be routed via France. Fortunately the “three week” repair was actually completed in seven days.

Guernsey, Jersey and the other islands are today connected by several cables so it is unlikely that they would ever be cut off entirely from the outside world by accident. In some places the cables are buried, but not along their full length. Unfortunately, even where they are under the sea bed, if a ship should drag its anchor across them there is still a chance they would be damaged. For this reason, the path of each cable is marked on maritime maps and there are restrictions on dropping anchor or fishing in their vicinity.


FREE Guernsey history newsletter

Don't miss our weekly update on Guernsey's fascinating history. We promise never to sell your data to anyone else, and there's a super-easy unsubscribe link on the bottom of each email so you can leave whenever you want. We'll also keep you up to date with our latest book releases and early-bird discounts.


Other events that occured in December

French fishing boats prepare to invade 1st
Two cargo ships collide on their way to Guernsey 2nd
Guernseyman Herbert Le Patourel wrongly thought killed 3rd
A Guernsey funeral takes place in Cornwall 4th
Guernsey steamship SS Rossgull is wrecked 5th
The Guernsey Tapestry is completed 6th
Air UK Fokker overshoots Guernsey runway 7th
Naftel’s paintings go on display 8th
Guernsey and Jersey newspapers agree to merge 9th
Sark holds its first election 10th
Beau Sejour opens for business 11th
Victor Hugo flees France and Napoleon 12th
Explorer Edmund Kennedy is speared to death 13th
Author Mary Ann Shaffer is born
Herm bribery case comes to court 14th
Alderney’s evacuees return to their island 15th
Guillaume de Beauvoir appointed dean of English Church in Geneva 16th
Castle Cornet surrenders to Guernsey 17th
Telex, phones and telegram cables go quiet 18th
Guernsey shipwreck results in starvation 19th
Channel Islands Securities Exchange founded 20th
G-COBO has a bumpy flight 21st
Guernsey struck by an earthquake 22nd
William Hedley Cliff buys Jethou 23rd
Wombles author Liza Beresford dies 24th
Asterix is discovered in St Peter Port harbour 25th
Guille and Alles lease the Assembly Rooms 26th
The Red Cross saves Guernsey from starvation 27th
Operation Hardtack targets the Channel Islands 28th
Ebenezer Le Page author GB Edwards dies 29th
Castle Cornet is struck by lightning 30th
Guernsey Police makes the world’s first underwater arrest 31st