Lunchtime seminar – 24th November: Rachel Boon (University of Manchester)

Rachel Boon

‘To Strive, To Seek, To Find’ – the ambitions at the Post Office Research Station, 1945-1951

In 1946, the Engineer-in-Chief, Sir Stanley Angwin wrote a memorandum in which he proposed his vision for the future of the Post Office Research Branch. His policy depended on three major changes: a shift from short-term projects to long term fundamental research, increasing the number of senior scientific staff in the branch and expanding the facilities at the Research Station, Dollis Hill. He argued that this would improve efficiency and increase profitability in the Post Office.

This paper explores the internal and external factors that affected this future programme. Using a broad range of Post Office and government documents it will investigate to what extent these ambitions were realised.

By focusing on the activities of the Research Branch this paper highlights tensions unique to the Post Office, which as an organisation crossed public, private, civil and military spheres. I will demonstrate that this position meant the Post Office was more vulnerable to the policies of post-war reconstruction than other government departments. As a result, the Post Office had the unenviable task of improving the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure with limited manpower and resources.

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