In 1940 the Beam Station was closed and the masts dismantled. A team of men, some local, some from further afield, started to take the masts down in the winter of 1939/40.

The contractors for this work were F.E. Beaumont, Commercial and Ecclesiastical Steeplejacks from Streatham, London.

The site foreman at that time was Thomas Sanaway Rodwell, who at the time of writing (1993) is living in retirement in Grimsby after a distinguished career with the BBC which was crowned by the award of the British Empire Medal for services to the communication industry.

Another of the workers involved in dismantling the masts was a young Harry Woolf who had cbme from Essex to work on the site. Other men who worked on the site were Bob Jackson, Jimmy Flegg, C. Cuff, Tom Tye, Percy Greenfield and G. and J. Groves or Greaves. Tom Rodwell could not name others. In his own words "being over 50 years ago and being a little over 75 years old, some of my memories may not be 100 accurate as memories fade a little".

Much of the detail about the dismantling has come from Thomas Rodwell or "Snowy" as he was known on the site and Harry Woolf.

The Tetney masts were dismantled and re-assembled at Dorchester and Somerton, Somerset and used for communications during World War 2. The condition of the steelwork was as good as new and was all used again.

The masts were transported by road on lorries and trailers belonging to Dennis & Co. of Epping Forest near London. The mast legs were on a lorry and the cross bracings on the trailer. Each mast needed three lorries and trailers to transport them. All the steelwork was loaded on the Tetney Road. The ground was too soft for the vehicles to go onto the field and the steelwork was moved across the field on wagons which were propelled by hand on a rail track.

The southernmost mast (nearest the present school) was dismantled first. It was winter and at one time the snow was 18 inches deep. Working conditions were very difficult and the men only worked between three and five hours daily. It took two months to dismantle the first mast. The men were only paid for the hours worked. At that time this was between one shilling and four pence and two shillings and nine pence per hour according to the position held. When the weather improved the men worked seven days a week - from 7 a.m. to 8.30 p.m. Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Harry Woolf remembers being paid one shilling and eight pence per hour and being guaranteed 65 hours per week.

After the second tower was dismantled improved weather and experience of working with this type of mast led to the men agreeing to take the remaining six masts down at a price of £160 per mast. Each mast was then dismantled in 10 working days with a team of eight men.

Tetney Beam Station disappeared from the skyline in around six months.

Why did the station close?

I have received a number of intriguing suggestions and leave the reader to draw their own conclusions.

It may be helpful to consider the situation prior to the introduction of the beam service and follow the thread through to the closure of the station.

In broad outline the situation was as follows. Prior to the construction of the beam stations the majority of the traffic was carried by cable but within months of the opening of the beam service it had captured a large proportion of the business. The cable operators began to feel the effects of the competition and revenue dropped quite substantially. For example, the beam service had taken 65 of Eastern Telegraph traffic and more than 50 of Pacific Cable traffic within six months. Dominion governments were also effected because they were subsidising the cable companies. The Post Office beam stations were turning out to be a major threat to cable interests. Cablegrams cost 6d at the ordinary word rate and 2 shillings for full rate while by beam radio the full rate was 4d.

Action was required. A committee was set up under the chairmanship of Sir John Gilmour which led to The Imperial Wireless & Cable Conference at which the companies and governments were represented. The remit of the conference was to review the situation which had arisen and to make recommendations with a view to a common communications policy being adopted by the various governments. In 1928 a report was produced which recommended that the cable and wireless resources of the British Empire be merged into one system.

As a result a new company was formed under the name "Imperial and International Communications Ltd." This name was changed in 1934 to Cable & Wireless Ltd. which is the name still used today. It was recommended that the company would have a revenue target of £1,865,000 and that it would lease the Post Office beam stations for £250,000 p.a. for 25 years until 1953.

In September 1929 the beam stations were transferred to the new company which controlled not only Tetney Beam Station but 164,400 nautical miles of submarine cable, 13 cable ships, 253 cable and wireless stations and offices and a stock of new cable worth £824,000.

Tetney was a key part of a very profitable side of the business. According to the 1928 report the beam services to Australia, South Africa and India yielded a very high profit.

Unfortunately not everything worked to plan. In the 10 years following the agreement there were a number of pressures which made the targets difficult to attain. Among these were the growth of air mail services, competition from foreign wireless services and of course the world economic depression which squeezed the revenue. It became clear that in spite of re-organisation the company would not reach the financial targets.

Another problem for the company was that the Post Office held the monopoly for wireless telephony(the spoken word) and this was clearly the next stage in the development of telecommunications.

In April 1938 a new agreement was reached. Among the results was that the Post Office beam stations were conveyed to the company and this saved over £250,000 per annum. Other concessions were made. These were probably insufficient and therefore financial considerations may have played a part in the closure of the station.

With war approaching there may well have been strategic considerations and the following suggestions have been made:- In war time the station would have been a very prominent landmark for enemy pilots. Due to the proximity of a number of airfields it may have been a danger to low-flying aircraft. It could have caused interference to the system of radar stations which stretched along the eastern side of Britain. The station at Stenigot being the nearest in the chain. Messages would have been vulnerable to interception by the enemy. The position of the station would have made it an easy target for enemy aircraft.

Another possible reason was that radio and cable had never really sat easily side by side . Rationalisation of both services was needed and the approaching war gave an impetus to this which had not been there in more settled times.

It may well be that a number of these possibilities came together to make the case for closure overwhelming, but more research is needed before a definite conclusion can be reached. One thing is certain - in 1939/40 Tetney was one of three stations closed down and the services concentrated at Somerton and Dorchester. We know that the masts went to these places although the buildings remained and have had a number of uses over the years e.g. housing Polish POW's, boat-building, mink farming, food store, craft shop etc.

 Dismantling the Masts
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