|the radio room of the Titanic (1912)|
Marconi began his wireless experiments on the Isle of Wight in 1897. His first base for the experiment equipment was the Royal Needles Hotel, Alum Bay and the venture succeeded when Marconi was able to communicate with two ferries and then eventually with Madeira House in Bournemouth. In 1897 Marconi registered his company as the Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company and in 1900, it was formalised as Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company. By 1998, it was known as Marconi Electronic Systems Limited. In 1898 Marconi set up his first factory in Hall St, Chelmsford.
Marconi's aim at the outset was to assist vessels at sea with a life saving aid. This breakthrough came in 1899 when a wireless message was received by the East Goodwin lightship which was equipped with the Marconi set. The lightship had been struck by the steamship R.F. Matthews in fog and the message sent requested a lifeboat. In a previous post I mentioned the S.S. Republic which in 1909 sent a mayday message via wireless prompting the rescue of 1700 passengers. The wireless operator, Binns, received a medal and gold watch presented by Marconi himself.
One of the most significant factors in the disappearance without a trace of the Waratah was the absence of a Marconi wireless. Apart from light signal exchanges, flags by day, there was no means for Captain Ilbery to communicate his position and the nature of the Waratah's distress to Port authorities, lighthouse stations or other ships in the shipping lane. The loss of the Waratah caused a seismic shock throughout Australian society. Australia was not equipped for this form of maritime communication. Without delay, the Commonwealth made available 10 000 pounds in the establishment of pioneer radio stations at Penannt Hills, Sydney and Applecross, Perth. These initiatives allowed ships to communicate with one another and ships to communicate with shore. As a direct result of the loss of the Waratah, the Australian Navigation Act legislated that all vessels in Australian waters carrying 50 passengers or more had to have the Marconi wireless.
Technology in wireless communication improved over coming years and the Australian Amalgamated Wireless of Australia Ltd (AWA) played a pivotal role in this research and development, and on behalf of the Commonwealth extended this influence well into the Pacific by the advent of the Second World War.
The Waratah was due for fitting of the Marconi set on return to England after calling at Cape Town.
But this was not to be.
|The Marconi factory in Hall St, Chelmsford|