All Red Line

All Red Line

The All Red Line was an informal name for the system of electrical telegraphs that linked all the British Empire.It was inaugurated on 31 October 1902. It had this name because on many political maps, British Empire territory was coloured red (or pink).

Some parts of the line were completed considerably earlier. The first transatlantic cable connected Ireland and Newfoundland in 1858, although it later failed. In 1866 the "Great Eastern" laid out a lasting link from Valentia Island, in Ireland, to Newfoundland. By 1870 Suez was linked to Bombay and from there to Madras, Penang and Singapore. Australia was linked to British telegraph cables directly in 1870, by extending a line from Singapore to Port Darwin, although it ran through the Dutch territory of Java. By 1872, messages could be sent direct from London to Adelaide and Sydney. Australia was linked to New Zealand by cable in 1876.

To complete the All Red Line, therefore, the major cable laying project to complete was for the trans-Pacific section. The "Pacific Cable Committee" was formed in 1896 to consider the proposal and in 1901 the "Pacific Cable Board" was formed with eight members: three from England, two from Canada, two from Australia and one from New Zealand. Funding for the project was shared between the British, Canadian, New Zealand, New South Wales, Victorian and Queensland governments. In 1902 the "Colonia", a newly built cable vessel, began laying the 8000 tonnes of cable needed to complete the Bamfield, Canada, to Fanning Island section of the cable. The final cost was around 2 million pounds.

Originally the British government felt the All Red system should only have sea-landings on British controlled soil for security purposes. Due to this, Britain was actively seeking to acquire Fanning Island to use it as a mid-point of power regeneration between Western Canada and Australia on the trans-Pacific Ocean branch of the system.


Atlantic Ocean
* Great Britain
* Ireland
* Canada
* Saint Helena
* Ascension Island
* Barbados
* Bermuda

Pacific Ocean
* Bamfield, Canada
* Fanning Island. It was deserted until a telegraph relay station was established.
* Fiji
* Norfolk Island, branching to New Zealand and Australia
* Brisbane, Australia
* Hong Kong

Indian Ocean
* Perth Australia
* Keeling Islands, branching to India and Africa
* Mauritius
* South Africa
** Durban
** Cape Town

External links

* [ Understanding the Imperial Cable Communications and Strategy, 1870-1914]
* [ Map of the 1902 line]
* [ A 1904 speech] by Sandford Fleming on the importance of an imperial cable system.
* [ Gentlemen of the cable service]

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