The Aldeburgh Telephone Repeater Station
The small seaside town of Aldeburgh, which is located on the east coast of Suffolk, UK, has played a significant role in international telephony since 1922.
This web site provides a brief history of the Aldeburgh Telephone Repeater Station and the submarine cables laid between Aldeburgh (UK) and Domburg (NL) during the period 1922 to 1989.
The first submarine telephone cable between Aldeburgh and Domburg, which is situated on the island of Walcheren in the Netherlands, was laid in 1922. At the time of laying the Aldeburgh - Domburg No.1 cable was the worlds longest coil-loaded submarine cable having a length of 82.329 Nautical Miles (1 Nautical Mile = 1.85200 kilometres). The cable was terminated in a temporary hut on land partly occupied by the former Aldeburgh Drill Hall.
At the time the land was owned by Captain F C U Vernon-Wentworth CB of Blackheath and rented by the Territorial Army Association of the County of Suffolk. In 1923 His Majesty's Postmaster General purchased the land from Captain Vernon-Wentworth for the purpose of building a Telephone Repeater Station (TRS) on the site. The conveyance shows that the land changed hands for the princely sum of 50 GB Pounds.
The present TRS building (minus the residential flat at second floor level) was completed in 1924. Also in that year, the Aldeburgh - Domburg No. 2 cable was laid. The Telephone Repeater Station was brought into service in 1925.
The purpose of the TRS was to repeat, or amplify, the international telephone circuits at the junction of the submarine and land cables.
The TRS building at that time consisted of a basement which housed the central heating boiler and the cable chamber; a ground floor that accommodated the power plant and batteries and a first floor that housed the repeater room and staff accommodation.
The TRS building is situated within 50 metres of the sea so the submarine cables were brought in direct from the beach and led into the building through an underground cable chamber opening out from the basement and thence up to the repeater room.
On the land side, the repeater station was served by 2 pairs of 600 lb per mile overhead copper wires and the Aldeburgh - Ipswich No.1 underground cable.
Together the Aldeburgh - Domburg No.1 and Aldeburgh - Domburg No.2 cables provided a total of 15 circuits. This was greater than the total number of pairs in the cables and was achieved by using phantom working.
The construction of the TRS pre-dates the establishment of the National Grid for electricity distribution and at that time the town of Aldeburgh had its own electricity generating station (the building now houses the Aldeburgh Community Centre). In order to be fully independent of the town's electricity supply, the TRS had its own power plant.
In 1926 the Aldeburgh - Domburg No.3 cable was laid and together with the existing Aldeburgh - Domburg cables this increased the number of circuits to 27.
In 1927, the TRS building was extended to provide a residential flat at second floor level.
In 1929, increasing demand for telephone service to Europe was met by an intensive system of phantom working on the Aldeburgh - Domburg No.2 and Aldeburgh - Domburg No.3 cables which brought the number of circuits up to 35. In 1932, six 1 + 1 carrier systems were installed to work over the side circuits of these cables.
The inevitable deterioration in the degree of balance of the cables, which occurred when repairs were carried out, necessitated the subsequent withdrawal from service of the super-phantom circuits. This together with the demand for new circuits, made the laying of further cables essential. It had also become uneconomic to retain the Aldeburgh - Domburg No.1 cable in service and this was recovered in 1937, thus allowing the Aldeburgh - Domburg No. 4 and Aldeburgh - Domburg No. 5 cables to be laid over the same route.
Following the enemy occupation of the Netherlands in 1940, the TRS was closed and the submarine cables were cut in May of that year on the beach and out at sea.
In December 1942, Aldeburgh Telephone Exchange was destroyed by enemy action. In January 1943, a temporary Telephone Exchange was opened in what later became the welfare room of the TRS. It remained there until 1965 when an automatic exchange opened in Alde Lane.
Following the invasion of Europe by allied forces in 1944, the station was reopened for military purposes and the submarine cables were repaired.
On Monday 16th April 1945 at 7.00pm HMTS Monarch (3) was struck by a mine whilst on passage from the completion of the repair to the Aldeburgh-Domburg No. 2 cable, to Hollesley Bay, where it was the intention to anchor for the night. The vessel sank about one and a half hours later. Three of the crew of seventy-two were lost.
In 1947, the Aldeburgh - Domburg No.6 cable was laid.
In 1950, four submerged repeaters were installed in the Aldeburgh - Domburg No.4 cable. Together with new terminal equipment this provided 60 circuits on the cable.
In 1951, four submerged repeaters were installed in the Aldeburgh - Domburg No.5 cable. Together with new terminal equipment this provided 60 circuits on the cable.
In 1958, a single uni-directional repeater was installed in the Aldeburgh - Domburg No.6 cable. This increased the cable capacity from 84 to 180 circuits. At the time, this was the largest capacity submarine system in the world. The system could revert to 84 circuit operation in the event of repeater failure.
Further information to be added soon.
Page last updated 23 August 2010