• On August 5th, 1914, Britain declared war on Germany and sent a ship, the Alert, to cut off Germany’s communication with the world by sabotaging their undersea cables.
• A day before the Alert set sail, a man was deployed to the cable station at Porthcurno in Cornwall to censor all communication that crossed the Atlantic.
• By leveraging the worldwide network of censors, the British were able to intercept strategic intelligence between the enemy and their agents.
On August 5th, 1914, a day after Britain declared war on Germany, a ship set sail from the port of Dover with a mission of cutting off Germany’s communication with the world by sabotaging their undersea cables. This ship was known as the Alert and it was equipped with the most sophisticated undersea telegraph cable system in the world.
A day before the Alert set sail, a man was deployed to the cable station at Porthcurno in Cornwall and the cables carrying traffic across the Atlantic came ashore on the beach. This man’s job title was “censor” and numerous other censors were deployed across the empire, from Hong Kong to Malta to Singapore. Once the censors were in position, a worldwide system of intercepting communications known as “censorship” was born. Its main aim was to prevent the communication of strategic intelligence between the enemy and their agents.
Over 50,000 messages per day were handled by the network of 180 censors at U.K. offices. This censorship system allowed the British to intercept enemy communications and gain valuable intelligence. This censorship system was essential in the war effort as it helped the British to identify and stop any attempts by the enemy to communicate with their agents.
The censorship system proved to be so effective that it continued to be used well after the First World War ended in 1918. It was eventually replaced by other means of communication interception, but its effectiveness in the war effort was undeniable. Censorship was an invaluable tool in the fight against Germany and it allowed the British to gain valuable intelligence that could be used to their advantage.