26th March 1931

Guernsey to UK telephone connection inaugurated

Guernsey’s phone system was up and running by 1898. However, it took until 1931 for Guernsey to be connected to the mainland by telephone.

Until then, there were two ways to send or receive a message. Brief notes could be sent by telegram, but that was charged by the character. Longer missives would go by sea. Guernsey Post Office was established in 1794, but even before that it had been possible to send letters around the island. Anything sent further afield would be put onto one of the regular steamships that sailed between the island and the mainland.

So, when the telephone line back to England was inaugurated on 26 March 1931, it simplified matters greatly. For the first time, it directly connected both Guernsey and Jersey to South Devon. From there, calls could be routed throughout the mainland trunk line system.

Telephone

Establishing a voice-enabled link over such a distance was quite an achievement, which deserved to be marked in some manner.

The inaugural call was made by the British home secretary, John Robert Clynes to the Lieutenant-Governors of Guernsey and Jersey; who were Lord Ruthven and Major-General Edward Willis, respectively.

Smart marketing

Although they have gone down in history as the first men to speak on the line, that’s not quite the whole story. It had actually hosted its first calls two weeks earlier, on Thursday 12 March, so this was merely ceremonial – or marketing.

What that “official” first call more accurately marked was the moment the line was opened for public, rather than merely official use.

The line itself wasn’t newly-laid, either: it had really just been converted. The hardware linking the islands to the mainland had previously been a telegraph cable, which had been used to send military signals during the first world war.

 

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Other events that occured in March

Debut of Guernsey-set comedy This is Jinsy 1st
Channel 4 broadcasts Sark-based Mr Pye 2nd
First ever broadcast of Puffin’s Pla(i)ce 3rd
Dead man appointed to run Guernsey Airport 4th
Guernsey’s entire police force is arrested 5th
Isle of Guernsey delivered to its new owners 6th
Guernsey players set darts record
Guernsey heads call for an end to the Eleven-plus 7th
Guernsey’s first governor, Edmund Weston, is appointed 8th
Occupying forces mount a desperate raid on Granville 9th
Guernsey emergency services prepare for a disaster 10th
Birth of Baron James de Saumarez 11th
First publication of Victor Hugo’s Toilers of the Sea 12th
Building work starts on Guernsey Airport 13th
Guernsey’s island-wide police force is established 14th
Guernsey exchange student goes missing in Virginia 15th
The Book of Ebenezer Le Page is published 16th
BBC Radio Guernsey takes to the air
Guernsey clears up after heaviest snow in years 17th
Torrey Canyon spills oil on Guernsey’s beaches 18th
Guernsey issues banknotes featuring famous locals 19th
Guernsey guidebook pioneer Henry Inglis dies 20th
Soldiers staged a mutiny at Fort George 21st
Alderney arrest sparks a “riot” 22nd
Guernsey nurse Elizabeth Lincoln elected to the States 23rd
Famed printer Thomas de la Rue born 24th
Guernsey votes for equal age of consent 25th
Guernsey to UK telephone connection inaugurated 26th
Condor Liberation enters service 27th
Guernsey Post Office is established 28th
Enemy at the Door comes to the end of its run 29th
Guernsey adopts Sterling currency 30th
Guernsey and France tackle the Amoco Cadiz oil spill 31st