26th March 1931
Guernsey to UK telephone connection inaugurated
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.
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.
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.
What else happened in Guernsey in March?
A body on a beach, an impossible alibi and an unstoppable race against time!
Check out the first book in The Sarnian series, set on the Channel Island of Guernsey.