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Alfred Izard

(1893-1968) – Essential war worker

Alfred Izard was 18 in 1911when he came to train at Porthcurno Telegraph Station. During the war, he served on board cableship 'Electra' as Third Electrician. He sailed through the treacherous, submarine infested waters of the Mediterranean repairing damaged undersea telegraph cables, thus ensuring Britain's vital communications remained operational.

Credit: Porthcurno Telegraph Museum and portrait copyright Margaret Wells and family

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Alfred Izard (pronounced ‘eye-zard’) was 18 in 1911 when he came to train at Porthcurno Telegraph Station.  During the war, he served on board cableship Electra as Third Electrician, sailing through the treacherous, submarine infested waters of the Mediterranean repairing damaged undersea telegraph cables, thus ensuring Britain's vital communications remained operational. In November 1915 the British Admiralty took control of Electra and she became part of the Fleet Auxiliaries.

The telegraph cables provided the most secure and reliable form of communications between Britain and her allies. Telegraph work was therefore considered a reserved occupation. The Eastern Telegraph Company issued Telegraph Cable Service badges to their employees to demonstrate that they were involved in essential war work.

Alfred kept a diary from 1915 to 1918. It provides an insight into the day-to-day danger he experienced:

Friday 5th November 1915 ‘A very unpleasant incident has happened near Gib[ralter] which has made all aboard the Electra sit up a bit. Two British transports have been torpedoed less than three hours from here with, it is feared, heavy loss of life’.

Friday 19th November 1915 ‘Owing to the considerable activity of enemy submarines in the Mediterranean, we are steering on a special and secret course. We also have certain instructions re. Wireless, necessitating keeping continuous watch – keeping a special look out at certain hours on a certain wave length for submarine warnings’. 

After the war Izard continued to work for the Telegraph Company on cable ships and in Cape Town. He was a keen mountaineer and insect collector and had a stag beetle named after him.  He retired to Cornwall and died in the Penzance area in 1968.

Credit: Porthcurno Telegraph Museum