Names of men behind Heathcote's historic 1910 wireless transmission are finally heard

Names of men behind Heathcote's historic 1910 wireless transmission are finally heard


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In 1910 the first successful military wireless signal was transmitted from a rock shelf at Waterfall to a tent next to Heathcote railway station.

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The role of Heathcote in a milestone of Australian military history was celebrated today.

In 1910 the first successful military wireless signal was transmitted from a rock shelf at Waterfall to a tent next to Heathcote railway station.

At the time the Australian Army had no trained wireless operators and used semaphore and Morse code to send signals

The transmission was the idea of Lieutenant George Taylor of the Army Intelligence Corp, who was also a cartoonist, journalist, engineer and pioneer aviator but who had no wireless experience.

But he had a premonition about the possibility of a major world war and felt wireless had a role to play.

He organised a wireless test to be set up at the 1910 annual artillery camp at Heathcote.

The aim was to show senior officers the strategic value of wireless to aid troops in the field and in reporting enemy movements.

He was assisted by three other three other men, inventors and mechanics Edward Kirkby, Walter Hannam and Reginald Wilkinson.

A plaque commemorating the historic transmission stands at Veno Park on the corner of Veno Street and Princes Highway, Heathcote

But until today, the plaque only carried the name of Captain George Taylor and not his three assistants.

Thanks to the work of the Sutherland Shire Military Club, this oversight has been corrected and a new plaque was unveiled today listing the names of all the team involved.

Sutherland Shire Council assisted Sutherland Shire Military Club in applying to the NSW Government for $1800 in funding under the 2018-19 Anzac Community Grants program for funding for the new plaque.

About 80 guests attended the Veno Street Reserve in Heathcote as the commemorative plaque was unveiled by Sutherland Shire mayor Carmelo Pesce, Heathcote MP Lee Evans, representatives of the Shire Military History Club, and a descendent of Edward Kirkby, Brian Kirkby.

"Today is an important moment in our local history, where we can acknowledge the important role these three skilled civilians played in the first military wireless signal in NSW," Councillor Pesce said.

"The hard work of these men will now be recognised, alongside Lieutenant Taylor, for many years to come," he said.

Sutherland Shire Military Club president Clive Baker said the club was proud to help give recognition to everyone who was involved in the historic event.

"Our members did significant research for this project and we would like to see more descriptive plaques for Sutherland Shire, to help residents recognise the local military history and sacrifices made by our past residents.

At the time, the transmission was not taken seriously by senior army officers. Some said the transmitting equipment looked like "toys", according to research supplied by the Sutherland Shire Military Club

"The site of the sending stage was in a cave on a hill now known as Spion Kop in Heathcote National Park which they called Station B.

"The receiving station, known as Station-A, was in a tent next to Heathcote railway station.

"Several attempts at transmission were made over the weekend of March 27 and 28. Conditions were cold and cloudy with a fierce southerly blowing.

"Taylor was at Station-B in the cave when it occurred to him that the cave walls may be damping transmission so he and Wilkinson took the radio equipment out into the wild weather.

"With the equipment set up out in the wind and cold, they tried again and suddenly, the sound of cracking of the spark was drowned by a shout Wilkinson, "Station-A reports signal received."

Taylor was promoted to Captain before the Australian Intelligence Corps was disbanded. He went on the form the Wireless Institute of NSW in 1910, Intelligence Section, General Staff, WWI.

One mystery remains about that historic transmission, Clive Baker said.

"The existing Gatekeeper's Cottage in Heathcote has always been thought to be the house in the 1910 photograph," he said.

"But the chimney and verandah in the photograph don't match the existing house.

"Does someone in the shire have photographs of similar Heathcote houses dating back to the years 1900 to 1930?

"If so the Shire Military History Club would like to hear from you."

Anyone with information on the house can contact the Shire Military History Club at 61 Sixth Avenue, Loftus, or Clive Baker at warbookshop@bigpond.com.

The story Names of men behind Heathcote's historic 1910 wireless transmission are finally heard first appeared on St George & Sutherland Shire Leader.

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