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Beckfoot telephones

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Posted by John Wilson on February 26, 2021 at 21:16:35 user hugo.

The references to Captain Flint telephoning to Colonel Jolys when he “violently joggled the bracket” (PP33) indicate a manual exchange with the telephones powered down the line by the exchange battery i.e. common battery (CB phones; normally 24 volt for manual exchanges in New Zealand, though automatic exchanges are 50 volt). Here previously only smaller country manual exchanges with LB or Local Battery telephones and a hand crank magneto to call the exchange had two 1½ volt dry cells - the No 6 Dry cell or Ignition cell is pictured in the Wikipedia article “List of battery sizes” under obsolete batteries.

Re telephones in homes I read (in “Churchill’s Generals” I think) that the Prime Minister’s country home Chequers under Neville Chamberlain had one telephone – in the kitchen! But Churchill had a battery of several telephones for his use, and used them!

The BPO installed some automatic exchanges from the 1910s in smaller towns served by one exchange, but the first automatic exchange in London was HOLburn on12 November 1927, soon followed by several others, see Wikipedia article “Director telephone system”. The manufacturer ATE developed the Director system so the city could be served by a mixture of manual and automatic exchanges for some years (decades?). So you could ask the operator for Holburn 3456 or dial the number, with the HOL dialled using the letters by each digit on the dial. The director translated the letters HOL (i.e. digits 405) into routing digits (like the register in the Western Electric-designed Panel system used by the Bell system (“Ma Bell”) in New York and other large American cities).

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