Sir Edward Grey, the Telegraph and July 1914
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October 14, 2018.
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  • British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey and His Telegraph:

British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey had no desire whatsoever to visit Europe. Not at any time. Moreover, Secretary Grey not only physically disliked Europe and its capitols, he freely admits a rather intense dislike of London:

"...and you pass through the streets feeling like an unknown alien, who has no part in the bustle and life of London, and cannot in the place of his exile share what seem to others to be pleasures."

"... the brutal hardness of the pavement, the smell of the streets festering in the sun...it is impossible to live in London without great sacrifice...bedroom windows seem to open into ovens"(1)

In other words, if the British gov't at Whitehall had a post for an anti-foreign secretary, all European govt's knew a truly unbeatable candidate. Considering Edward Grey's unlimited appreciation of the British countryside and fly-fishing, he would have been less unsuited as England's Parks & Recreation Director. Casting Edward Grey as a Foreign Secretary seems analogous to resurrecting Jean-Jacques Rousseau to run NATO.

Yet this same Mr Grey, who in school specialized in tennis, becoming school tennis champ, was inexplicably chosen to be the British Foreign Secretary in London in 1905, and was at the helm during the single most destructive political month in European/British history, July 1914.

Varying reasons are offered for such an off-beat choice: As a liberal, Mr. Grey was the only hope the liberals had in the foreign office. Another was the alleged powers-that-be did not need anyone with experience or brains running the Foreign Office. The argument was that Imperial Britain was doing just fine, and the last thing it needed was somebody, say, somebody with foreign language prowess, very detailed foreign policy experience and brains of a von Bismarck.

Also, Mr. Grey could often inspire confidence because he could appear as though he had all the answers, even if he was absolutely blank.

Because Mr Grey hated visiting Europe, he was more or less forced to rely solely upon converations with foreign ministers stationed in London and the telegraph for communications with the Great Powers of Europe.

In periods of peacetime that might work, but in intense European political crises, it's easy to see how the British Isles' Foreign Secretary might find himself out of the loop simply because he chose not to make the effort to show up on the Continent.

The reality is that everyone knows face-to-face conference negotations are much more effective than sitting around a table and reading off a telegram from somebody who "couldn't make it" to the conference.

It's not a personal slight to the British Foreign Secretary. No matter who choses not to show up, it's simply that face-to-face meetings are vastly more effective at working out compromises than every diplomat sending their telegrams into a board room where they are read out.

After the regicide in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, Paris, Berlin, Vienna and St. Peterburg may have intuited that the intense Austria-Serbian Crisis may have to be resolved without the British Foreign Secretary. From June 28th, the day of the regicide in Sarajevo, through to nearly the end of July, Mr. Grey never seemed to show any willingness to physically rise from his desk and go to Europe and help the politically unstable governments in Paris, Berlin, Vienna and St. Peterburg come to the table and try to settle their diference. Not once.

It defies imagination that the British gov't did not realize how unstable Europe was in 1914. In 1908 Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany gave a slightly alarming interview in the British Daily Telegraph. And what was 1,000x worse, the Kaiser had previously fired Bismarck, the European architect of the all-important balance-of-power between Germany and Russia.

An event such as the firing of Bismarck should have gone off like an air-raid siren in Whitehall, signaling that in European intense political crises, that in the interests of preserving the peace of Europe, British diplomats might have to make a prompt appearance with an offer to help bring everyone to the table.

Nevertheless, starting June 28th, the non-verbal message the British Foreign Secretary was sending to Europe was more or less the following: you are on your own. You have to solve this intense Austrian-Serbian Crisis without any help from Britain. The most stable imperial government on earth will not lift a finger to help you.

And for the next 4 straight weeks, a politically very unstable Europe flailed away, thrashing in political waters up to its neck, struggling to stay afloat, unable to even agree to meet, much less begin to settle the crisis.

Meanwhile, Whitehall was content to sit it out behind the Channel in "Splendid Isolation," the assumption being that no matter how unstable the European Crisis became, it couldn't spill over and drag Britain into it. That very quickly turned out not to be the correct assumption.

The Foreign Secretary Grey risked the future of the British Empire on his telegraph skills to see to it that no matter what else happens, that Britain will come out of it intact. Every official in Whitehall seemed to go along with the Foreign Secretary on it.

By July 1914, Whitehall's faith in Foreign Secretary Grey, and by extension, the overseas telegraph operations the Foreign Secretary communicated through, was ≈unlimited. Perhaps not since King John (who in 1215AD was forced at sword-point to sign the Magna Charta) was a British official given virtually unlimited and unquestioned authority to decide British foreign policy.

  • British Cornwall Porthcurno Undersea Cable Station: Delayed Telegrams in July 1914:

Above-right are several jpgs of London' telegraph connection to the outide world, Porthcurno Cable station, Cornwall. In 1900 reportedly "Porthcurno was the largest cable station in the world." Telegrams from St Petersburg, Vienna, Berlin and Paris came through Porthcurno. In the 19th century the British were forerunners in the laying of oceanic telegraph cable worldwide, responsible for perhaps some 50% of all undersea cable. This was a tremendous, brilliant accomplishment.

Yet during July 1914, the single most destructive political month in the history of Europe/Britain, when one would suppose that to avoid unintentional political misunderstandings that communications between the capitols of Europe would long ago have been engineered to be virtually instantaneous, there are troubling reports of telegrams subject to puzzling delays.

For example, regarding telegrams sent to London, the time elapsed between sending and receiving an electric telegram sometimes had to be measured not in seconds, minutes or even in hours but in days.

To those with long experience in electric telegraph and radio transmissions, one obvious possibility is that telegraphers in Paris, Vienna, Berlin and St. Peterburg, cooped up for long hours in tiny station rooms, were simply bored out of their minds.

To relieve the tedium, some telegraphers may have mixed it up by occasionally routing telegrams EAST, across Russia and under the Pacific Ocean, across the United States, under the Atlantic Ocean, through Porthcurno Cable Station at Cornwall, then to the London Central Telegram Office (CTO).

London's indifference to the delays may have encouraged bored telegraphers to make a game of seeing who could send a telegram via the most convoluted global route imaginable without London catching on. The spread between send/receive on some telegrams might have been long enough for the telegram to circumnavigate the globe more than once before arriving. The telegraphers would have soon figured out that a credulous Whitehall would accept all telegrams, no matter how long it took for them to show up, no questions asked.

It could be argued that in periods of relative peacetime the delay in telegram transmission might not matter as much, but even that is debatable.

The problem is with those heavily-armed countries, within close proximity to each other, practically in each others' laps, all sharing alliances/ententes, ready to mobilize millions of soldiers@Maxim machine guns/artillery to the Front at the drop of a hat, no one can say with any authority when peace has actually arrived.

According to a telegram sent from the British Chargé d'Affaires in Belgrade to British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey, the Russian Minister to Serbia held a bridge party on the evening of the Archduke's murder. The Roumanian and Greek Ministers were invited.

The telegram appears to be sent July 13th, but according to British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898-1914: List of Documents: Vol. XI - Items 1 - 299, Grey did not receive it until the 20th.(2)

Now Belgrade to London by land is about 1,700 kilometers. In 1200AD a week to deliver a message 1,700Km was something mail riders pre-wrapped in mummy tape (for sleeping while riding overnight) for the Mongol Empire. Yet in 1914AD those are the same telegraph wires a British Foreign Secretary had apparently staked an entire 1,000-year-Imperial Maritime Empire upon to resolve intense local political crises that might threaten to drag all the Great Powers into World War.

The telegram was sent from Belgrade, Serbia, the epicenter of the crisis. For the love of God, how could this telegram have taken nearly 2% of a year to travel 1,700 Km?

World War I's massacre of 9,000,000 is evidence that July 1914 was the most destructive political crisis in the history of Europe/Britain. For it to take 1/4 month to receive a telegram from the epicenter of the Crisis should have been an impossible event, something that had to have been permanently rectified what, half-a-century earlier?

Logistically, the delay makes absolutely no sense. Foreign Secretary Grey, himself a school tennis champion and an avid bicycle rider, could have bicycled to President Poincaire's office in Paris, or been carried from Downing St. to Poincaire's office by stretcher in 2% of a year's time. It's just an telegram. It's not the International Space Station.

Even assuming the worst possible case, that the telegram had to be hand-carried all the way from Belgrade by courier, the 1910 a Brooklands-modified Vauxhall Prince Henry easily went 100mph. The very sporty 1914 Vuxhall 30-98: 100mph. The 1909 German Mercedes "Lightning Benz": an alarmingly fast 142mph, literally faster than any train or airplane then on Earth.

To further scale the July 1914 late-telegram problem, starting in 1888, what became the most famous train of all time, the notorious Orient Express routinely did not just 1700Km but 2258Km in 82 hours flat, departing Paris on its luxury tour through "Strasbourg, Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, Budapest, and Bucharest to... Varna (a port on the Black Sea coast). From there, a steamer took the passengers on an 18-hour sea voyage to Constantinople."(3)

"In 1913, the rail and boat journey from London to Paris was 6 and a half hours."(At 8:10)

So the most expensive luxury train in all Europe routinely transports many of the world's most famous, wealthy holiday-makers @ all their luggage 2258Km from Constantinople to London in 90 hours flat, and a 40-gram slip of paper from Belgrade to London takes 168 hours.

HM Queen Victoria's favorite vacation transport Wagons-Lits'- the Queen had her own rail car - had teak first-class luxury service round-the-clock from Nice, France and the French Riviera straight to Cockspur Street, Charing Cross in 28 hours flat. That's an average speed of ≈ 50Km/hr for the 1400Km from Nice to Charing Cross. Considering stops and the tedious channel crossing, Wagons-Lits average actual track-speed was probably closer to ≈ 70-80Km/hr.

The Belgian King Leopold II and the Russian Tsars Nicholas II and Alexander II all boarded Wagons-Lits regularly for vacations in Nice. It defies logistics that a courier traveling by car or train from Belgrade to London would take nearly 2% of a year.

For Wagons-Lits to take 1/4 month from Belgrade to London (1700Km) gives it a top speed of ≈ 10.5Km/hour, 6.5mph. That's the same as a moderately athletic girl riding a bicycle. No European/Britisher in 1914 would tolerate "express trains" moving 6.5 miles-an-hour, that's like driving with the emergency brakes slammed on.

To scale the the July 1914 late-telegram problem again, from Poincaire's gov't in Paris to the seat of government in London (Whitehall) was ≈ 456Km (283 miles). From Paris, the NASA Crawler-Transporter [right], weight: 6.3 million pounds, size: Major League Baseball stadium infield, and with a fuel consumption of 1 gallon every 32 feet, could transport a 40gram telegram the distance to London/Downing St. in less than 6 days.

NASA's Crawler-Transporter could also bring 18 million pounds, equal to the weight of 20 fully-loaded Boeing 777 jetliners, but an extra 18,000,000 pounds would reduce its maximum crusing speed from 2mph to 1mph.

American pilot Walter Brock took off from Hendon Aerodrome at 7:45am, flew to Paris & sped back again across the channel to London in 7hrs 3 minutes on July 11, 1914, winning the London-to-Paris Great Air Race, 2 days before the telegram was sent.

"Great Air Race to Paris and Back.... No element of luck entered into Walter Brock's magnificent victory on Saturday... When Brock reached Hendon on Saturday afternoon and regained the Aerodrome, which he had left only that morning, he had earned for himself the proud distinction of being the first pilot to fly from London to Paris and back in a single day...His third successive victory, scored within the space of two months, in the three great aeroplane races of the year, stamps Walter Brock as one of the greatest cross-country pilots of the day."

Meanwhile the Foreign Office was apparently content to lay back behind the channel, possibly distracting itself with "entertainment-oriented activities" waiting virtually an extra whole week to receive a telegram from the epicenter of the July 1914 crisis. Meanwhile, coming as anything but a surprise, the political systems of France, Austria-Hungary, Germany and Russia found themselves in a desperate struggle to stay afloat.

If the above is accurate, it certainly leaves almost no doubt about who was in charge of European/British 1914 telegraph operations.

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  • 1792 French Semaphore Telescopic Telegraph Line, Precursor to the Telegraph:

In July 1914, London-based British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey seemed willing to accept all telegrams, no matter how long it took for them to show up, no questions asked. It took an entire week for the Belgrade British Chargé d'Affaires telegram to arrive from 1700Km away. But in 1839, messages routinely traveled 1200Km (between St. Petersburg and Warsaw) in 15 minute flat via the longest semaphore telegraph line ever built.

The Foreign Secretary's telegram moving 1,700Km in a week is 25 Kilometers an hour. The 1839 Semaphore Line moved telegrams 80 kilometers a minute. At 80Km/minute a telegram sent via a Semaphore Line from Belgrade would have taken ≈ 22 minutes to arrive in London.

Yet the Foreign Secretary was apparently willing to wait - no matter how long it took - for telegrams to arrive from British diplomats stationed at the exact center of the Crisis. From a miltary point-of-view, this is not easy to explain away. As former Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Strategic Air Command, General Thomas S. Power bluntly put it: "Without communications, all I can command is my desk."

The Foreign Secretary clearly did not realize quickly the Austria-Serbia crisis was expanding. The delayed-telegram problem, could only make his situation worse. The Foreign Secretary seemed completely unaware he was caught in a situation that went from zero to World War in 5 weeks. And that neatly explains why, when telegrams sent by British diplomats stationed in European capitols arrived so late, he did not care a jot.

(Also, it was easy to be nonchalant about Europe. If Britain was unwittingly dragged into a World War, he could always retreat to his country estate in Hampshire for the remainder of the War, staying as uninvolved as possible. Mr. Grey could engage in his all-time favorite hobby, fly-fishing, as well as bicycling in the British countryside, reading books, playing tennis (he was a school champion), chasing skirts, and occasionally dropping into Brooks for a pint and a game of billards. Above all, he could virtually eliminate London as a place to spend any time.)

Napoleon Bonaparte was so concerned to stay in contant communications he reportedly carried a portable Semaphore Line. The British BBC, probably not the biggest fans of the French Emperor, nevertheless hailed his determination to have immediate communications as: "How Napoleon's semaphore telegraph changed the world."

The predecessor to British Foreign Secretary Grey's telegraph wire, the French Semaphore Telegraph Line (aka Napoleonic telegraph), was invented by French engineer Claude Chappe in the late 1700's:

" The Chappe brothers in the summer of 1790 set about devising a system of communication that would allow the central government to receive intelligence and to transmit orders in the shortest possible time."(4) [italics added]

In 1790 the gov't of France wanted in place "...a system of communication that would allow the central government to receive intelligence...in the shortest possible time." And almost one hundred and twenty-five years later - the British gov't and the Foreign Office over and over declared prompt reception of British intelligence arriving from the epicenter of an intense European Crisis to be of minimal or no strategic value whatsoever.

"Semaphore towers were usually about 20 miles (32 km) apart. On a clear day, a short message could travel from Paris to the German border (about 210 miles or 350 km) in about ten minutes."(5)

"There was a desperate need for swift and reliable communications in France during the period of 1790–1795. It was the height of the French revolution, and France was surrounded by the enemy forces of Britain, the Netherlands, Prussia, Austria, and Spain."(5a) [italics added]

"He [Chappe] equipped towers with mechanical arms whose positions indicated numbers that stood for words. The signals could be seen by telescope and relayed from tower to tower."(6) [italics added]

To this end, Chappe was successful in covering certain parts of France with a network that was 556 stations strong and stretched for a distance totaling some 4800 kilometers. This system of optical telegraphs was used until 1850 for both national as well as military communications."(7)

"The two arms each rotate into seven separate positions, creating 49 combinations, while the central beam can be vertical or horizontal - making 98 in all. Six of these positions represented service messages - 'ready to transmit', 'taking a break and so on.

"...The remaining 92 corresponded to 92 pages in a code-book or vocabulaire, each of which contained 92 different words. That made a total vocabulary of nearly 8,500 words. The word army, for example, might be the 24th word on page 19. So the operator would send the signal for 19 to indicate the page, then 24 for the word on that page."(8)

"Even the famous dictator himself, Napoleon Bonaparte, clued into the benefit of sending communications between locations, and he carried a portable semaphore line with him."(9)

"Data-compression was used in the form of omitting the vowels in common words. The preparatory signal could be sent from London to Deal or Portsmouth, and be acknowledged in two minutes; an early version of the 'ping'.(11)

"Messages sent from Paris could reach the outer fringes of the country in a matter of three or four hours. Before, it had taken despatch riders on horseback a similar number of days."(12)

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  • The Americans try to Introduce the telephone in Europe/Britain:

Quizzically, when American promoters of Bostonian Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison's newly-invented telephone sought to convince Britain of it's practicability, the country was initially against it, British scientists were quite derisive and strongly asserted it was a toy or a novelty.

"The telephone is scarcely used at all in London,
and is unknown in the other English cities."
Herbert Spencer, 1882

London's vast bureaucratic Central Telegraph Office (CTO) was certainly against the American telephone, seeing it as a threat to it's monopoly on British communications.

The situation was perhaps similar to Britain's idiot-scale "Red Flag Laws" which prohibited motorcars without someone walking ahead with a red flag warning everyone of it's approach. The Red-Flag laws had all but destroyed the British motorcar industry until French, American (Ford) and German imports (Mercedes) breached the channel, overthrowing the Lddite "Red Flag" laws, and flooding the Isles with much-desired motor transport.

The foreign auto invasion of Britain also helped London take care of its atrocious horse manure then piling up in the British capitol, as 50,000 horses/day used for transport had created such a stinking mess it was called the Great London Manure Crisis, the daily headlines screaming if it was not solved downtown London would be "nine feet" high in horse manure and urine.

Cosmopolitan HM Queen Victoria helped the British upper-class reverse their attitudes about the American invention:

"And one wintry morning in 1878 Queen Victoria drove to the house of Sir Thomas Biddulph, in London, and for an hour talked and listened by telephone to Kate Field, who sat in a Downing Street office.

"Miss Field sang 'Kathleen Mavourneen,' and the Queen thanked her by telephone, saying she was 'immensely pleased.' She congratulated Bell himself, who was present, and asked if she might be permitted to buy the two telephones; whereupon Bell presented her with a pair done in ivory.

"A wire was at once strung to Windsor Castle."(13) [italics added]

So in 1878 HM Queen Victoria tried out and was so enthusiastic about the American invention she asked if she could purchase 2 of them, instead she was given two, and a ".. wire was at once strung to Windsor Castle." According to one report, it was William Thompson who in 1876 finally broke the back of colonial British scientific resistance to importing the telephone.

"Sir William Thompson (later Lord Kelvin) exhibited Bell's telephone to the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Glasgow in September. He described it as 'the greatest by far of all the marvels of the electric telegraph'."(14)

So up until July 1914, Foreign Secretary Grey had 38 years - 38 years - to stop flyfishing & chasing women long enough to teach himself that the newly-invented telephone might be a superior, in fact a vastly superior technology the British Foreign Office could deploy for organizing crisis arbitrations compared to European telegraph operations, that without warning can run at the speed of the Greenland Ice Sheet on a good day.

One year after W. Thompson had announced the marvels of the American invention to the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Glasgow, in Germany the reaction of the architect of the German State Otto von Bismarck was as fast as HM Queen Victoria:

"But the first friend of the telephone in Germany was Bismarck. The old Unifier saw instantly its value in holding a nation together, and ordered a line between his palace in Berlin and his farm at Varzin, which lay two hundred and thirty miles apart. This was as early as the Fall of 1877, and was thus the first long-distance line in Europe."(15)

That might be an indicator of the difference in the ability to grasp the obvious between a resolute gentleman fly-fisherman and HM Queen Victoria & Bismarck.

In 1902, twelve years before the Foreign Secretary's 1914 showdown, the Queen of Italy, Queen Margherita, had begun oversight of the 6 years of laying a telephone wire, at her expense, to her favorite astronomer at an observatory in the remote Italian Alps, at an altitude of almost 15,000 feet, so some 400 miles away in Rome she could keep herself informed of any sudden discoveries:

" A TELEPHONE line has been installed to provide means of communication between the Queen Margherita Observatory on the Gniffet Peak, on Monte Rosa, and the observatory lower down the mountain. The carrying out of this line entailed many difficulties; the higher observatory is 14,960 feet above the sea..."(16)[emphasis in original]

Meanwhile the British Foreign Office, to preserve the life of the British Empire, could not figure out how even make the telegraph work, much less any of the under-paid staff consider trying out an American telephone and immediately laying wires to the European capitols.

So the question presents itself, namely, if by 1877 Bismarck had a 230-mile telephone line put in, in 1878 HM Queen Victoria had a wire quickly strung to Windsor, and in 1902 Italian Queen Margherita spent 6 years in laying a wire to the uppermost obervatory in the Italian Alps so from Rome so her astronomer could call anytime with a new discovery, what in the name of God did British Foreign Secretary Grey think he was doing almost 40 years later, in the midst of the Britain's worst political crisis in recorded history, armed with just a telegraph key in his hand?

And one answer, although an answer with terrible consequences, is that Secretay Grey did not really want to be involved, not in European politics. Whitehall may have never understood that just because the gentleman Edward Grey was chosen to be the Foreign Secretary, that does not by any stretch of the imagination imply he actually had to school himself to be one.

To take an obvious example: HM Queen Victoria corresponded with French and German heads of state in the French and German languages, on diplomatic visits constantly to both countries. Here's the schooling in foreign affairs for who later because the architect of the German state:

"In 1859 Bismarck was sent to Russia as Prussian ambassador, and not long thereafter (May 1862) he moved to Paris as ambassador to the court of Napoleon III. Thus he had 11 years of experience in foreign affairs before he became prime minister and foreign minster of Prussia in September 1862. He had come to know personally the architects of French, Russian, and Austrian foreign policy."(23)

HM Queen Victoria's grasp of French and German, her constant visits and Bismarck's 11 years experience on foreign soil as ambassador to Russia and then to France BEFORE becoming Prussia's Foreign Minister make it crushingly obvious Mr. Grey's schooling for the post of Foreign Secretary never began.

It is true that Foreign Secretary Grey did successfully resolve previous crises on the continent. But at no time did those successes motivate him to school himself on the foreign languages of the continental Great Powers. His over-riding passion and refuge throughout July 1914 was the British countryside and flyfishing. Grey might have considered mediating continental crises a sport, just like tennis (he was school tennis champion). The moment it was resolved he wanted nothing whatsoever to do with Europe.

Mr. Grey seemed quite uneducated in contrast to Europe. The supra-militaristic Austrian Army Chief of Staff von Hotzendorf (ignoring school sports) reportedly polished off native German, French, English, Russian, Italian, Polish, Czech, & Serbo-Croatian. The future Austri-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph "...studied not only French, Latin and Greek , but also Hungarian, Czech, Italian, and Polish."(16a)

Mr. Grey did not volunteer for the post. Mr. Grey freely admitted he had absolutely no special education or training for the post. So because of his almost-phobic dislike of Europe, one could argue he logically chose the most impractical, most distant, impersonal and lowest-bandwidth communication technology short of American-Indian smoke signals - the telegraph.

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  • Paris-to-London Live One-way Electrophone Opera Transmission, 1908:

"Paris Opera by Telephone.
Science has achieved another victory. On Friday night, upon the invitation of Lord George Loftus and the directors of the Electrophone Company, a large number of people assembled at Pelican House to hear for the first time in the history of mankind an opera which was being performed in Paris."


Right, Electrophone reception room, Pelican House, 36 Gerrard Street, London, 1908)
(from britishtelephones.com)

"By means of the electrophone every note of 'Helle,' which was being given at the Grand Opera House in Paris, was heard at Pelican House in London, the voice of each singer being distinguished with ease!

"This curious entertainment was rendered possible through the courtesy of the English and French governments."(18)

Departing the British Foreign Office (Downing Street) it's what, some 4 kilometers to Peckham Street's Pelican House? The Foreign Secretary could have stepped in a Unic taxicab, made in (surprise) Paris, France, and been at the Pelican House in 10 minutes to hear the Paris Opera live on the telephone.

"The Electrophone system was a distributed audio system which operated in the UK between 1895 and 1926. This system relayed live theatre and music hall shows and, on Sundays, live sermons from churches. Even 10 Downing Street had a service."(19) [italics added]

So the gov't of Britain, Whitehall, used live-audio for entertainment, but for the love of God could not imagine a 2-way Electrophone system - not to mention a goddamn telephone - might come in handy in an intense political/military crisis on the continent threatening to drag in all the Great Powers?

There was almost 20 years to let the penny drop down the slot before the Foreign Secretary ran straight into a Category-5 Hurricane-sized July 1914 political crisis armed with nothing but a fishing rod and a telegraph key.

Everybody at Whitehall could taxi 4-kilometers to the Pelican House and ejoy live audio entertainment broadcasts from the opera in Paris, but none of those under-paid mandarins thought to install a 2-way Electrophone from the Foreign Office to, say, the British Ambassador's residence in Paris, or between British PM HH Asquith's office and French President Poincaire's Office, or the French Foreign Minister's Paris Office in case of a crisis, to say nothing about wires to Berlin, Vienna and St. Petersburg, is that right?

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References:
(1) Edward Grey: Flyfishing 1899

(2) (32784) No. 62. Mr. Crackanthorpe to Sir Edward Grey. (Received July 20.) (No. 129.) Very Confidential. Belgrade, July 13, 1914: British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898-1914: List of Documents: Vol. XI - Items 1 - 299

(3) Orient Express

(4) Semaphore Line

(5) The Chappe Semaphore

(6) Semaphore Line.

(6) The Chappe Semaphore

(7) European semaphore lines in 1792

(8) How Napoleon's semaphore telegraph changed the world: BBC News, Modane, France, 17 June 2013

(9) Ibid.

(10)

(11) Optical Telegraphs: an early Internet.

(12) How Napoleon's semaphore telegraph changed the world: BBC News, Modane, France, 17 June 2013

(13) Casson: History of the Telephone: 1910, CH VII: The Telephone in Foreign Countries


(14) UK Telephone History (Taken from the British Telecom Archives web site - with some additions).


(15) Casson.


(16) Schaeberle and Geological Climates: Joseph Barrell: Science, September 18, 1908, at 371.

(17) Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria

(18) Washington Post: June 21, 1896, at 24

(19) Electrophone System

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2018