History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
CS The Cable - George Browne 1929
August 16th 1929 letter from George Browne to his mother, Minnie
My dearest Mother,
At last I have my £7000 in the HongKong and Shanghai Bank and I feel I can tell you my yarn from beginning to end.
I admit I feel happier now that it’s all fixed and I feel I can let go at full speed.
We left Singapore on the 3rd of June bound for a repair to the Banjoewangi - Port Darwin cable about 150 miles from Port Darwin and I did not know by then that I had even drawn a horse. When we were off the Straits of Lombok on the evening of the 6th a wireless message came through from Weltevreden, a suburb of Batavia, in Java.
It was worded as follows: - “Master ‘The Cable’ P.N.A. From Singapore - Cable Sweep 77644 Trigo won Eastern” and. Pooley, our 2nd electrician, who had received it, gave it to Flett, the skipper.
This happened at 5.45 pm and as Flett had no numbers near it he put it up on the notice board in the saloon, where it attracted little or no attention until dinnertime and I knew nothing about it until dinnertime, when someone mentioned that Trigo had won and on enquiring the source of the information I was told that it was on the board.
As the results of the draw was unknown to us except that Cragadour and Mr Jinks the favourites had been drawn by Singapore men, I did not bother to look at the message.
At 7:55, just as I was going on watch, the 4th engineer told me that the winning number was included in the message and just then 8 bells struck and rather than be late relieving I went on watch without looking at it. As soon as I had taken over and had settled down I began to wonder why the message had been sent as I could not remember the result having been sent in previous years. Just then Pooley came up and went into the wireless room, which in the Cable is on the after side of the bridge, and I asked him what the winning number was and he said 77644. This I jotted down in pencil on the sleeve of my white coat and told him my tickets were in the seventy seven thousands, as I remembered looking at them when I heard that Jackson, an accountant in our office, had drawn the favourite which was in the thirty three thousands. This he flatly told me couldn’t be so as he knew there were not such high numbers in Singapore and I could take it from him etc. etc. etc. (conceited ass).
However I knew myself that all my tickets began with 77 and until 10 o’clock played with the idea of winning it but I have been in so many small sweeps and have never been within a thousand that I had almost put the possibility out of my mind. When my tea came up I began to get speculative again and I had a terrible desire to leave the bridge and go down and have a “look see” but Flett was snoring peacefully and I didn’t like to leave the bridge as a lot of little fishing boats were about. However, call me superstitious if you like but I made up my mind that if I left the bridge unattended my ticket wouldn’t be the right one.
The funny thing is that after all this I didn’t look for it when I went down to my room at midnight and it was 12:20 and I had got into pyjamas and was having another cup of tea when the number on my jacket sleeve caught my eye and opening my desk there ticket 77644 lay on top of everything and £7000 at least coming my way.
I am rather astonished at myself but I didn’t get excited but sat there and carried on with my schemes and about 1 o’clock went over and told the 4th engineer who very nearly hit the deckhead and we had a couple of whiskies and water and I went to bed and slept well
Later in the day I sent your wire and as we only had that message to go on I felt a bit anxious about whether the number was right. Anyhow I was congratulated by all hands, most sincerely by old Flett, the skipper, who is a good sort and has a lot of regard for me, and I am quite contented with life here under his command.
On our way back we called at Banjeowangi and as soon as I got into the office met Payton, who had drawn Mr Jinks, he was awfully fed up with himself and I learnt a lesson from him. The others told me he had a quarter share in this ticket and on the strength of it held a parit-party (roughly described as lashings of whisky and gin etc before dinner) and dinner which cost him about $400 and borrowed money to do it with. He will get about £40 pounds for his starter and as he’s only a fourth share he will have lost by it. At present I am going very easily and next week I will write Bob* and let you know of my plans and intentions. Well, Mither, I hope to make things much easier for you and at present my leave is postponed for two months. I will let you know when I hear anything definite. Well Mither, love to Bob, AW, Aunt S. and heaps of love from
Your affectionate son
P.S. This must catch the Dutch mail so I shall have to carry on in my next. Love G.
*Bob was George’s brother.
Notes on how the news made its way to The Cable on 6 June 1929:
The message for George Browne would have been sent from England to Singapore over the Eastern Telegraph Company’s cable network. From there, it was sent on to Batavia in Java over the cable from Singapore.
The reason for forwarding the message to Batavia was that as well as having a cable connection, Batavia had a marine radio station nearby. This was PNA in Weltevreden, broadcasting on the 500 kilocyles (600 meters) band, an international calling and distress frequency for Morse code maritime communication.
PNA would also have been the closest radio station to the route of the cable ship while it was on its way to repair the Banjoewangi - Port Darwin (Java - Australia) cable. As we have seen in the letter, the message was relayed by the PNA station’s operator to the 2nd electrician on The Cable.
Last revised: 4 April, 2021