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Radio in the Boer War.

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Radio in the Boer War.

Post by daxi on Mon Apr 07, 2014 9:11 pm

Looking at Southgate ARC's news site, I saw that this week marked the first military use of radio, this was during the Boer War...


Buried in the footnotes of military history one often finds interesting stories of technology and technological innovations, the implications of which are only understood years later in retrospect. Unfortunately this material is not always well documented. While the history of the development of wireless telegraphy more than 100 years ago has received considerable attention over the last few years it is not generally known that as far as can be established, the first operational use of this new technology was in fact in South Africa during the Anglo Boer War of 1899-1902. The story of how this invention found its way to South Africa so soon after it was first demonstrated makes fascinating reading.

The Jameson Raid of December 1895 raised the spectre of war with Great Britain. In preparation for this possibility, the ZAR (Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek,) looked to its defences. As part of this activity, the forts Klapperkop, Wonderboom, Schanskop and Daspoortrand were built around Pretoria, and another at Johannesburg, all intended for the defence of Pretoria, The cost of laying some 4,5 miles (7 km) of underground telephone cable between Fort Wonderboom and the artillery camp in Potgieter Street, is given as 9 000. (21) The original intention had been to link all the forts to the camp in this way. The report by van Trotsenburg to the ZAR Cabinet, dated 2 March 1898, refers to the difficulties and risk of interception to be expected with such telephone cables. He continues:(22)

'On account of the aforementioned and in view of high costs, I would not recommend the laying of an underground connection between the Artillery camp and Daspoortrand, but would suggest the erection of an overhead line, to be worked with an ordinary telegraph or telephone instrument or perhaps with both.

For distances of about 6 miles [9,6 km] telegraphic communications can be exchanged without wire. At present, experiments are being conducted in Furope on a large scale by Military Powers, and it appears to me that lately such improvements have been made to those instruments used therefore, that the system would probably answer well for the forts.

I would suggest that I communicate with manufacturers and in case of satisfactory information being received tu order one set of instruments for trial.

The costs connected therewith are comparatively low.'

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