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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

CS Mirror (2)
by Bill Glover

CS MIRROR (2)

Built in 1923 by John Brown & Co., Clydebank. Length 259.2 ft Breadth 37.2 ft Depth 22.9 ft Gross tonnage 1850.

Image courtesy of Cameron Coxon Smith

CS Mirror (2) was built for the Eastern Telegraph Company as a cable repair vessel, transferred to Imperial and International Communications Ltd in 1929, and then to Cable & Wireless.

The photograph above was probably taken in the Mediterranean during World War II, and, for once, shows a cable ship with an escort vessel. Most of the time cable ships worked without any protection during the war.

CS Mirror (2) during her last stay at Gibraltar.
Image courtesy of Miriam Brittenden

The ship spent most of her working life based at Gibraltar, and was scrapped in 1964.

CS Mirror (2) in Vigo Bay on her last voyage in 1964.
Image courtesy of James Skinner

CS MIRROR (2) WAR WORK

Until the middle of October 1942, CS Mirror carried out normal repair work in the Mediterranean, around the Canary Islands, Madeira and the Azores. Work was also carried out for the Admiralty in and around Gibraltar harbour. The most dangerous area to work at this time was off the west coast of Portugal, where German submarines and long range reconnaissance aircraft operated. Once when working twenty miles west of Cape Espichel and having just hooked the cable at a depth of 2700 fathoms a Focke-Wolfe suddenly appeared from out of the clouds and headed for the ship. However it didn’t attack and the only loss was the grappling rope which had been cut.

Having already laid a cable between Gibraltar and Algiers, Mirror had to do it all again when the cable was fouled by a number of ships anchors during a storm. The second cable was completed by November 1942. Another task undertaken around this time was the recovery of about 140 miles of German cable north of the Azores for use elsewhere.

Returning to Algiers on May 19th 1943 after a two day journey from Gibraltar, Mirror laid the shore ends for the cable laid from Gibraltar the previous year. Having completed this she then laid 35 nm of cable seawards to link with an existing cable to Bizerta. The next stage was to recover 50 nm of another cable and relay it into Malta. On arrival engineers undertook repairs to the cable hut and shore ends damaged during enemy air raids, this took three weeks.

Following the Allied landings at Sicily in July 1943 Mirror was able to repair one of the five cables to Gibraltar which had been cut when Italy entered the war. The next repair was to the Brindisi - Malta cable followed by repairs to the Malta - Alexandria cable about 200 miles from Malta, then back to Sicily and repairs to the remaining Gibraltar cables. This time the work was carried out without the assistance of mine sweepers and so work was frequently interrupted by mines breaking free from their moorings, these had to be destroyed by gunfire and  the highest number destroyed in any one day was thirteen. Two months was spent carrying out repairs on these cables and on completion Mirror returned to Malta for a spell in drydock.

Mirror then headed for Naples to repair the two sections of the Naples - Palermo cable. Little was known as to where this cable had been laid; finally, after a lot of ‘scratching about’, the cable was hooked. Just at that moment the escort vessel steamed up with a report that twenty four E-Boats were only fourteen miles away. It was a false alarm but the grappling gear had been cut away and work recovering the cable had to start all over again. The next stage was to link Palermo to Malta by splicing on to a cable already laid into Malta and laying 134 nm of new cable to Palermo.

The next two months was spent carrying out normal cable repair work mainly between Bizerta and Malta. This was followed by a return to Gibraltar after an eleven month absence, and another two months was spent in repairing cables in the area. From Gibraltar Mirror sailed to Algiers and from there to Naples and then Anzio. Once again Mirror was working in minefields using the narrow channels swept to allow assault craft ashore. The beach was also littered with mines and many hundreds had to be cleared before the shore ends could be laid. Here the first task was to lay a section of cable to Fiumicino, a small coastal town about twenty miles from Rome, as the final link in the Gibraltar - Rome cable. Fiumicino was linked to Rome by landline.

After the Allied landings in Southern France Mirror undertook repairs to the Ajaccio - Toulon cable and then returned to Gibraltar to carry out cable repairs. For a while Mirror worked between Gibraltar and Malta, then in the middle of  October 1944 she set out for Dakar, Senegal, to carry out repairs. Leaving Dakar on the 7th January 1945 she sailed to St. Vincent, Cape Verde Islands and then Bathurst, Gambia, carrying out repairs where required. Her furthest sailing point south was to repair the Cape Town - St Helena cable 800 miles from Cape Town. In the four weeks it took to complete the repair Mirror was escorted by two South African Naval Trawlers, the first time an escort had been provided since leaving Dakar, and only then because another ship had been torpedoed in the area.

Following a call at Walvis Bay, South West Africa for fuel and supplies, Mirror headed back to Gibraltar by way Takoradi, Gold Coast, Freetown, Sierra Leone, Bathurst, Gambia and St Vincent, Cape Verde Islands arriving there on the 14th May 1945.

See also the page on Mike Bonds and his service on CS Mirror (2)

Watercolour of CS Mirror (2) by J. Hosie
26 x 37 cm.

This watercolour of CS Mirror (2) was found by site visitor Margaret Gray in Tain, Scotland. There are no listings for the artist, J. Hosie; if anyone knows anything about this artist or his work, please email me.

Last revised: 19 January, 2011

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