The IET Archives has just completed the cataloguing of a collection called the ‘Ernest Edwin Oakley Papers’, one of four collections donated in the second half of 2015 related to individuals who had spent most of their lives working with Standard Telephones and Cables Ltd (STC). The IET Archives already holds the corporate archives of STC at New Southgate, which is where STC’s Telephone Division was based and so these collections of papers amassed by former STC employees were warmly received.

Ernest Edwin Oakley (1916-2000)

Ernest (Ernie) Edwin Oakley was born 2 September 1916 at Manor Way, West Thurrock, near Grays in Essex. The third of four children he was known to family and friends as Ernie but at work was known as Ben Oakley (named after a band leader).

Ernie attended West Thurrock Infant and Junior School until he gained a (free place) scholarship in 1927 to Palmers Endowed School for Boys in Grays. From Palmers Ernie won an exhibition to Hertford College, Oxford University, in 1935. He graduated with a BA in Mathematics (Class II) in 1938 and later received his MA.

Ernie (Ben) began work with STC in 1938 and spent his whole working career with the company until retirement in July 1980. A photograph from an STC retirement event for Ernie in 1980 is shown below (Ernie is the individual in the centre).


On the occasion of his 40 years’ service award in 1978, the following was written about Ben in the November 1978 edition of the ITT Business Systems UK Data Systems Division Bulletin;

“… he joined the company in New Southgate as a tester…. Ben later became a Design Engineer and worked on airfield lighting systems. In 1959 he came to Enfield with the Instrumentation and Control Division. Currently [1978] Ben is Section Head of General Indication and Limited Selective Control Systems.”

The E. E. Oakley Collection of Papers

This small collection of papers consists mainly of STC material and a number of technical booklets and leaflets produced by STC. Three groups of papers are particularly interesting; Ernie’s detailed notebooks from an STC trade visit to Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia in 1958; electricity control room photographs from the 1950s (showing STC installed equipment); and Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) booklets from the Inauguration of National Control in March 1962.

The Belgrade visit notebooks provide extensive detail about meetings with UK and Yugoslavian government trade representatives, meetings with potential agents for STC, and meetings with potential customers. An example of the detail to be found in the notebooks is as follows;

“19/9/58. 9.00 a.m. Visit to Federal Chamber of Foreign Trade for interview with Secretary of Foreign Agency Section, Marcovic. STC are advised that Union of Electricity Economy Enterprises for Serbia deals direct with the agent of the manufacturer and does not import equipment through one of the import houses. It is confirmed that Komercbiro [potential agent] are suitable to act as agents for STC. The STC engineers are shown up-to-date lists of foreign firms for which Komercbiro already act as agents. There would seem to be no confliction between these products and the products manufactured by STC.”

The image below shows the cover of travel documents with which Ernie was issued for his flight to Belgrade.


The series of 29 official STC control room photographs come primarily from the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board control rooms at Pitlochry and Errochty and the CEGB’s North Thames area control room. The photograph below shows the North Thames control room. STC manufactured a range of indication diagrams (the panels shown in the background of the photograph) for many different industries including electricity supply.


Standard Telephones and Cables Ltd (STC)

Standard Telephones and Cables Ltd (later STC plc) was a British telephone, telegraph, radio, telecommunications and related equipment manufacturer. During its history STC invented and developed several ground-breaking new technologies including pulse code modulation (PCM) and optical fibres.

The company was established in 1883 as an agent for the US Western Electric company, but when in 1925 Western Electric’s international operations were bought by ITT Corporation, the company’s UK operations were renamed Standard Telephones and Cables. ITT floated part of the company on the London Stock Exchange in 1979, and continued to reduce its stake in the company through the 1980s. STC was eventually bought by Nortel in 1991.

The E E Oakley collection includes several STC technical leaflets and booklets from the late 1950s and early 1960s including the leaflet shown below for the Stanofone portable telephone (this brand name was registered in the late 1950s).


There is even a beer mat in the collection (reproduced below). The front of the beer mat has the words, ‘STC 100 TXE4, Bromley, April 1980’. The reverse of the beer mat has the words, ‘Switching Main Exchange Products Division, STC Limited: STC completed its hundredth TXE4 installation in April 1980’. Until 1980 the TXE4 analogue electronic switch was an early replacement for electro-mechanical systems.


The Ernest Edwin Oakley collection has been catalogued with an archive reference SC MSS 272 and is available to consult by appointment at the IET Archive Centre, Savoy Hill House, London.