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                                 This is the first Valentine's telegram form, design by Whistler and issued in Britain on 14th Feb 1936.






Captain Rostron of Carpathia informs AP NewYork of Titanic disaster.

The text of the first telegraphic message transmitted using an *electrical telegraph system by Samuel Morse in 1844 was:- "What hath God wrought"

*There were much earlier telegraph systems using methods such as:
Acoustic telegraph Lines of shouting men. (4th century BC)
Hydraulic telegraph Glass vases filled with water and a floating stick strategically placed in hills (more water in vase raises the stick - empty out some water lowers the stick).
Optical telegraph Fires at night. Smoke signals and mirrors during day. Semaphore.

The first use in England of the word "Telegram" was described in the Albany Evening Journal on 6th April 1852.
Bartlett: "A friend asked leave to use the word Telegram in place of telegraph dispatch or communication."
Originally, there was much opposition from scholars because following Greek analogies, the word should have been "Telegrapheme".

With the completion of the famed Australian Overland Telegraph Line in 1872 between Adelaide and Darwin, the honour to send the first telegram naturally fell to Charles Todd (later Sir Charles) who conceived the idea, planned it and supervised the mammoth task. He telegraphed:

"We have this day, within two years, completed a line of communication two thousand miles long through the very centre of Australia, until a few years ago a terra incognita believed to be a desert."

A one word message sent to London by Sir Charles Napier, a British general in India in the 1840's, upon capturing the Indian province (now Pakistan) of Sindh, was written in latin to preclude the Rajah's interpreting it, consisted of only one word: " peccavi" - literally translated: " I have sinned".

In 1895 21 year-old Guglielmo Marconi started conducting wireless experiments in his bedroom to ultimately change the world of science. Towards the end of his life, he philosophized:

"Have I done the world good, or have I added a menace?"

Albert Einstein (1879-1955), when asked to describe radio, replied:

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates in exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

The early telegraph helped to catch a murderer.

In 1845, a John Tawell was spotted getting on a train at Slough, Bucks for London after killing his mistress. The railway telegraph was used to send a telegram to London to inform the authorities of his evil deed. He was stalked by plain-clothed policemen until he reached his lodging-house then they pounced on him. One can easily imagine his astonishment.

In 1910, a telegram was transmitted by the master of the Atlantic liner Montrose which led to the hanging of Dr. Hawley Crippen after trying to flee to Canada for the murder of his wife by poisoning, dismembering and burying her in their Holloway, London cellar.

On 22nd July 1910, 130 miles west of Lizard Point Cornwall, Kendall telegraphed:
"Have strong suspicions that Crippen London cellar murderer and accomplice are amongst saloon passengers moustache taken off growing beard accomplice dressed as boy voice manner and build undoubtedly a girl both travelling as Mr and Master Robinson = Kendall +"

Telegram sent to the Colonial Secretary of New South Wales:
"Am happy to inform you the outlaw Ned Kelly has been taken - the others are surrounded in a house at Glenrowan and will it is hoped be captured today = Chief Secretary Victoria +"

Before the telephone became an almost indispensable part of our lives, the ubiquitous telegram was the most popular method that the community could despatch a written message faster than the postal service.

In 1855, 745,880 telegrams a year were dispatched by telegraph within Great Britain, and by 1889, using International morse code, total transmitted telegrams reached 60 million.
In 1913, British telegraph traffic peaked in volume with 82 million telegrams transmitted, but in the relatively short interval of the next 21 years, patronage declined and had dropped to 35 million telegrams per annum.
Before the second world war, Australia held the distinction of sending more telegrams per head of population than in any other country of the world. However, following the war there was a drop in usage, despite a big increase in population and spectacular business and industrial development. From a peak of more than 35 million telegrams annually during 1950, the annual rate fell in Australia and stayed around the 18 million mark by 1975. This trend, however, had been fairly common in all advanced countries during the past two decades.

Apart from being utilised to rush important news, the telegram was also used as an instrument to convey a greetings message, it is on record that Denmark introduced the first greetings telegraph service with an ornamental telegram form in 1907. It wasn't until 1935 that Great Britain offered such a service.
This policy was so successful that when the service was suspended in 1943, the greetings service at 9d for 9 words, had an annual traffic flow of 9 million messages with no less than 23 new issues of forms in the space of 8 years.

Greetings telegram forms and colourful envelopes were designed to catch the eye of the addressee; it was well known for the recipient of such a greetings telegram to be more likely to preserve that telegram for a keepsake - but less inclined to do likewise with a greetings card after the occasion.

The British Royal Family have been sending greetings telegrams since about 1915.

Congratulatory messages are now sent from The Queen to people celebrating various anniversaries or birthdays. To receive a Telemessage you should request one from the Anniversaries office at Buckingham Palace.
Download the application form for a 60th, 65th, 70th wedding anniversary and every year after: weddmess.pdf
Download the application form for a 100th, 105th birthday and every year after:- birthdaymessages.pdf

Applicants who are British citizens residing abroad, you must be in possession of a current British passport.
Ring the Anniversaries office first on 020 7930 4832.



With a Tap, Tap, Tap and a Click, Click, Click,
All day long they sing and laugh,
With a click, Click, Click and a Tap, Tap, Tap,
As they work at the Telegraph.

St Valentines Day was always a busy time in the telegram office, even during the early war years.

"Rationed though may be the fare
A Valentine lunch with you I will share."

Typical later risqué text wedding greeting:

"Weather forecast for the honeymoon night
is a ridge of high pressure over central area
and two warm fronts meeting turbulence tonight.
A little sun later."

One telegraphist recalled with embarrassment that a farmer received his telegram reading:

"Twenty black-faced Youths despatched by rail 9.30am+"
The farmer may well have thought to expect a contingent of African trainees rather than the Ewes which he had ordered.

A telegram sent by Dorothy Parker (1893-1967), U.S. writer, to a friend on the successful outcome of her much-publicized pregnancy :

"Dear Mary. We all knew you had it in you +"

British Troops and their families (and later American troops) were offered an E.F.M (expeditionary forces message) service. A study of typical social phrases was made and 240 of the most popular ones were drawn up. Each message was allotted a number:
Loving birthday greetings #01
All my love dearest #02 ..etc

A father received a decoded EFM telegram from his son in the Middle East:
" Delighted to hear your voice on the radio.
Love and kisses.
Baby and I are both doing well +".

Following an investigation, the sender was found to have won a sweepstake in the officers mess, the prize - a free EFM message, to which he had to consent to be blindfolded and told to choose his code groups by using a pin!

During World War II, telegrams still had to be delivered.
The telegram messenger boys were replaced by 200 venerable elderly gentlemen re-titled couriers whose major worry was not the bombs dropping all around them but the state of their feet.
A special chiropody department was formed in 1942 and almost 1,600 examinations and treatments were logged until the end of the war.

Boys below call-up age were also engaged for telegram delivery. One 14 year old lad, Douglas Radley was badly injured by a bomb dropping in Great Portland Street London whilst delivering a telegram but just like a ship captain, he refused medical aid until he had persuaded a passing policeman to deliver the telegram whilst he patiently waited until the telegram had been safely delivered before he agreed to be taken to hospital.

A Major in the Middle East sent a telegram to his bank manager asking for details of his account. The reply was:- Pounds135.14s.10d +
The message seemed to have slipped through the tight censorship and it was handed to the telegraph company minus the Pound sign. It was then considered an EFM message.
The puzzled Major received his decoded telegram from his bank manager as follows:
           Very happy to hear from you dearest.
          Am fit and well.
          Many thanks for your telegram.
          Parcels sent.+"

Contact: oseagram  iinet  net  au

References included
British Greetings Telegrams. Wilkinson - 1991
General Order Book. Eastern Telegraph Co. - 1924
McNeills Telegraph Code. Bedford McNeill. - 1899
A Century of Service. Cable and Wireless. - 1969
The Thin Red Lines. Charles Graves. -
Cable and Wireless Handbook. C and W. - 1949
Cable and Wireless Tariff. C and W. - 1941
Cable and Wireless Comms of the World. Brown - 1930
A Farewell to Morse. Max Lovelock.
Ninety Years of Telegraph Progress - (1854-1844) J.C. Harrison.
Codes and Abbreviations for the use of the International Telecommunications Services - ITU Geneva 1982.

Revised: 15th March 2005