It’s difficult to overstate the impact of the First World War on people across the globe; from the significant political consequences, to the military and medical legacies, the effect of the First World War on the development of society can still be seen today. Among the various technological developments to medical and military equipment is the impression the war had on British telecommunications and the technological strides that were made as a result.
The Engineering Department of the General Post Office, a government body that eventually spawned British Telecom (or BT), played a particularly significant role in the war that has survived in numerous documents and vivid images held by The National Archives and BT Archives themselves.
In order to acknowledge this rich, detailed, yet under-discussed history, The National Archives’ Discovery platform and BT Archives initially joined together last year. Their mission: to create an online project offering a glimpse into the role of the Engineering Department of the General Post Office – and the wider role of telecomms in the First World War – drawing together archival highlights from both the collections at Kew and BT Archives in High Holborn.
Indeed, as lead researcher on the project, I was given the opportunity to dive head-first into vast amounts of material in both archives. What struck me particularly was the volume of documentation relating to the topic that was available at both institutions – and ready to be explored!
Here, I will briefly address some aspects of our research that we felt stood out and helped contribute to the creation of our collaborative project Fighting Talk: First World War Telecommunications. Continue reading »