Telephone ‘C’ Mark 1, designed by Ericsson’s of Stockholm, was the first portable military telephone. It was used in large numbers in the South African War of 1899-1902 by the Telegraph Battalion RE and became the standard field telephone of the British Army.
Alexander Graham Bell is credited with inventing the telephone in 1876. Within two years the U.S Army began using telephones. Lieutenant A.H Bagnold, RE, produced a drawing for a telephone in October 1877, and the Indian Army used field telephones, designed and manufactured by Lieutenant G.R.R Savage, RE, in regimental workshops, for operations in Peshawar in December 1877.
Later telephones were installed in Royal Garrison Artillery fortresses in Britain. It took some time for British officers to accept this new instrument because the early telephones were unreliable and there was no written copy of the message sent. The extensive use of telephones in the latter stages of the Boer war, however, proved their military worth. During the Boer War much use was made of the existing civilian telephones and telephone exchanges, but for field use specially designed telephones and exchanges had to be produced. The ‘C Mark 1’ and the ‘D Mark 1’ were the first of a whole family of field telephones to be developed for the British Army.
The Telegraph Battalion’s sections laid 18,000 miles of telegraph and telephone cable during this war. A total of 13,500,000 messages were handled in 4 years and the Battalion grew in strength from 600 to 2,500 men. General French used telegraph and the telephone to direct his flank formations and they were also used on the battlefield to control artillery fire. This was the first time that the Telegraph Battalion had provided tactical as well as strategic communications for the Army. This was also the first war in which telephones were used in any number and an attempt was made by the British Army to operate wireless for the first time in a campaign, but atmospheric conditions proved unsuitable.
During the last phase of the was the country was divided by a chain of blockhouses linked by telephones operated by the Telegraph Battalion.
– Royal Signals Museum, Blandford Camp, Dorset, England
L.M Ericsson & Co was founded in 1876, becoming a limited company in 1896. The first foreign factory was established a year later in St Petersburg, and the first foreign office in London in 1898. The British L.M Ericsson Mfg Co Ltd head office was at International Buidlings, 67/73 Kingsway, London WC2, with a factory subsequently set up at Beeston, Notts.
As you can see from the information engraved on the receiver, below, the set that was to become known as the Field Telephone ‘C’ Mark 1 was patented on 29th October, 1895.
1898 Ericsson Field Telephone ‘C’ Mark 1
Serial No 1252111
This set is an original Swedish ‘C’ Mark 1, as revealed by the phonetic alphabet displayed on the front of the box. British versions used an English phonetic code.
TELEPHONE ‘C’ MARK 1 at ROYAL SIGNALS MUSEUM
TELEPHONE ‘D’ MARK 1
History of The Telegraph Battalion and early field telephones with thanks to The Royal Signals Museum, Blandford Camp, Dorset, England.
I thoroughly recommend a visit to this superb museum