The Marconi Story

Surprisingly, Guglielmo Marconi counts as half-British, being born of an Italian father and a Scottish-Irish mother in 1874. His experiments with wireless transmission, like those of other workers, did not meet with enthusiasm at military and political level in his own country. Marconi reasoned that Britain, being a pre-eminent naval power, should be more interested, and made his way here.He was given a letter of introduction to William Preece, a Welshman who was himself a major figure in the field, and Post office Chief Engineer.

In March 1897, Marconi demonstrated his spark wireless telegraphy sytem on Salisbury Plain. and by May the same year, assisted by George Kemp, he had set up his system on Flat Holm and Lavernock Point, separated by three very tidal miles of water.  Flat Holm, if you like, was to play the part of a ship for a few days. From Flat Holm, one can visually see the reason for transmitting to Lavernock - it's the closest part of the mainland. The area where Marconi set up his spark transmitting equipment, and morse (invented half a century earlier) printer has been identified: the island's West beach.

Flat Holm - West Beach
Lavernock is approximately beyond the group on the right, and once signals had been successfully received - which didn't happen immediately - a telegraphic message was sent to Queen Victoria, at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Those who witnessed the demonstration of signals coming out of the air with no wires were awestruck. Further transmissions were then exchanged with Brean Down, using kite-flown aerials. Marconi and Kemp signed a signal from their printer (in a Cardiff museum) - "ARE YOU READY".

By the end of the year, Marconi's first station, at the Needles, I.O.W., communicated with a ship eighteen miles out to sea. The apprehension of the infamous murderer Crippen using radio, happened in 1910, and Marconi operators were centre stage in 1912, with the tragic loss of the "Titanic".

Reboarding the Lewis Alexander Leaving Flat Holm, you can just make out the West Beach, between a white spot in the centre, which is the farmhouse, and the lighthouse.
Looking back at Flat Holm
-Marconi received a well-deserved Nobel prize for his work.

Further information on the Holm Islands.

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