Escher.gif (426 bytes)

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

CS Henry Holmes
by Bill Glover

Official number 115760

Built in 1903 by Napier and Mills Ltd., Glasgow

Length 221.0 ft  Breadth 31.6 ft  Depth 15.5 ft  Gross tonnage 978

Built for the West India and Panama Telegraph Company as a replacement for CS Grappler, and named after Captain Henry Holmes, a director of the company, who was involved in the ship’s design. The Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company supplied the cable machinery, which consisted of two independent combined paying out-picking up machines and one steam engine, all mounted on the well deck. Three cable tanks, triple bow sheaves and a single stern sheave were also fitted.

In August 1924 the vessel was moored in the harbour at St Thomas and during a hurricane lost both anchors and chains; the Captain, G.E. Greeve was forced to steam about the harbour all night. For his skill he was awarded a gold watch and 100 guineas (£105) by Lloyds of London. A similar incident occurred four years later.

In service until 1930 when relegated to a cable hulk at St. Lucia.

Ship’s engineer Collan Bawden Brett served on CS Henry Holmes in the early 1900s, and his granddaughter Kate Brett has kindly provided some information on his service, along with postcards he sent while on cable duty for the West India and Panama Telegraph Company.

Above: Castries Wharf, St Lucia, where the Henry Holmes went regularly for refuelling - it was the main coal depot for the British West Indies. Postcard dated 1905.
Below: General view of Castries Harbour, postcard dated 1906.

In 1907 an earthquake devastated Kingston, Jamaica, which was one of the stations on the WIPTC's cable route. On January 16th, just two days after the earthquake, Collan Brett sent this postcard to his parents in England to say that his ship was safe at Krum Bay, St. Thomas.

The Henry Holmes subsequently sailed for Kingston, presumably to make repairs on the cable, and on January 19th Brett took this photograph showing the earthquake damage there.
Kate Brett notes that Collan regularly printed his photos on the same postcard blanks that commercial postcard vendors used.

January 19th/07. Kingston, Jamaica, street scene after earthquake
Photograph by Cullan Brett

Cableships Index Page

Last revised: 3 February, 2019

Return to Atlantic Cable main page

Search all pages on the Atlantic Cable site:

Research Material Needed

The Atlantic Cable website is non-commercial, and its mission is to make available on line as much information as possible.

You can help - if you have cable material, old or new, please contact me. Cable samples, instruments, documents, brochures, souvenir books, photographs, family stories, all are valuable to researchers and historians.

If you have any cable-related items that you could photograph, copy, scan, loan, or sell, please email me: [email protected]

—Bill Burns, publisher and webmaster: