LIFE ON THE OTC COTTESLOE TELEGRAPH CABLE STATION 1952 -1954
After joining OTC in January 1952, after several years with Cable & Wireless having served at their Karachi Cable Station and their Bahrain Radio Station, I started as a telegraphist in SOR.
I enjoyed SOR but was only fated to spend a few months there before being transferred to Cottesloe as a numerical relief for Bart Fletcher, a Canadian who wanted to return to Canada. Bart was one of the last remaining staff from the days when Australian, New Zealand and Canadian staff were able to transfer to any of the Australian, New Zealand, Canadian or Pacific stations.
The Cottesloe Cable Station was a two story building ideally located about 20 meters from the beach. The Upper floor consisted of the Manager’s Office, Operating Room, Workshop and D/E’s Office, with the Emergency Generator and Amenities at the rear of the Upper Floor.
In the early 1950’s the road terminated at the Cable Station and across the road was a large concrete block house and the beach.
This block house was an Air Raid Shelter built during the war and was fully equipped with duplicated cable equipment, so that the cables could be reterminated in this shelter, if the Cable Station was attacked and damaged. Luckily this never happened and the air raid shelter is still there today. The Cottesloe City Council tried to have it removed but found it was going to be too expensive so they built a memorial to the Dutch explorer Vlaming on top of it.
On the technical side, Cottesloe had 3 cables, one to Adelaide which was abandoned in 1947 and two cables to Cocos Island. One of the Cocos cables was a slow speed Duplex cable which continued onto Rodriguez Island, Mauritius, Seychells and terminated at Durban. The other Cocos cable was a Simplex loaded cable which continued onto Jakarta and Singapore. The direction of working on the faster cable was changed every 12 hours to suit the traffic peaks, by means of a ‘Y Switch’ at Cocos. A repeater was installed in the slow speed cable some 60 nm from Cottesloe around 1956 which enabled faster speeds to be worked and eliminated the need to change the direction of working on the Faster Simplex cable.
As Cottesloe was essentially a relay station with all traffic received destined for Sydney and Melbourne. This onward traffic was sent to Sydney by landline using High speed Morse (80 wpm). Melbourne traffic was sent on a Cottesloe-Melbourne radio circuit.
Additionally during periods when the direct London-Sydney and London-Melbourne radio circuits were performing poorly due to adverse propogation conditions. Cottesloe operated radio circuits to London either direct or using relay links at Colombo or Nairobi. The Perth Receiving Station was at Bassendean and the transmitting station was at Applecross. This traffic was tape stored at Cottelsoe and onsent to Sydney and Melbourne.
Catering for the adverse radio propogation conditions affected our rosters, as for 6 months of the year, we had a prepondence of night shifts (2 days, 2 evenings and 6 night shifts). For the other six months it was 6 evening shifts, 2 day shifts and 2 night shifts.
The staff at Cottesloe during my two years there were:
Malcolm Tregenza (Trigger) Manager, Len Michell, Herc Clark, Stewart McDonald, Norm Sampson, Vern Gibson, Ces Pegler, Charlie Swinney, Charlie Watt, Reg Shepherd, Dick Hickinbotham, Dick Christoffersen, Ron Cocker, Brian Morrell, Tom O’Donnell, Jack Thomas, Des Else, Harold Burdett, Cyril Swinburne, Bernie ?? (he went to SOR from Cottesloe), Lou Sherburne. ( I apologise for the incorrect spelling of some of the names)
Some of the interesting features associated with the Cottesloe Cable Station were :
- The Concrete Air Raid Shelter mentioned earlier was put to good use in the early 1950 by courting couples who would park their cars on the beach adjoining the Shelter and when they attempted to leave would find their car bogged in the sand. As we always had staff on night duty and all the lights on, it was not uncommon to hear a furtive tap on the window asking if one of us could help extricate their car. Which had become bogged in the beach sand.
- At the western side of the Station was a Council Rubbish Tip which boasted the largest rats I have ever seen. However it had a saving grace as the Ford Motor Factory was situated just across Stirling Highway and they disposed of all of their rejected car parts in the Council Tip. As a few of the staff had Ford vehicles, quite a few serviceable spare parts were obtained.
- Buckland Hill situated just across the Stirling Highway and fairly close to the Cable Station was an Australian Army installation which had several large calibre guns for defence purposes during the war. The guns were still being used in the early fifties and every time the guns were fired all our glass windows used to shatter. This problem was fixed by the Army warning us when they were about to fire the guns and we would open all the large sash windows. Problem solved.
Cottesloe Cable Station Today
- The road has been extended past the Cable Station to Leighton Beach and Fremantle by a scenic coastal road.
- The Council Rubbish dump disappeared some 40 years ago and was replaced by Railway shunting yards and they in turn were demolished and replaced by a very upmarket housing estate boasting many luxurious homes and apartments.
The Cable Station building was taken over in the late 1960s by the WA State Government and is now called the ‘McCall Centre’ which operates a Fostering & Adoption Service for the Foster Care Association of WA. The Photograph below shows the old Cable Station Building in the foreground. The buildings on the left rear of the photograph were additions by the WA Government to cater for their new usages.