The IET Archives has just completed the cataloguing of a collection called the ‘Thomas Oswald Papers’, the last of four collections donated in the second half of 2015 relating to individuals who spent most of their working lives with Standard Telephones and Cables Ltd (STC).

The collection contains hundreds of original detailed technical papers written by Thomas Oswald primarily for STC Submarine Cables where he was an expert in cable electrical design and analysing submarine communication cable faults. The image below shows Thomas at work in the Canary Islands in 1978.


Thomas Oswald (1920-2014)

Thomas Oswald worked as a radar mechanic in the Royal Air Force (Flight Sergeant) from February 1940 to March 1946. Then from April 1946 until September 1951 he worked for Mullard Equipment Ltd where he did development work on carrier telephony, picture telegraphy and on magnetic materials.

Thomas then had two jobs in quick succession. From September 1951 until January 1952 he worked for the Ministry of Supply, where he was a technical author for air publications. He then moved to Wayne-Kerr Laboratories Ltd in January 1952 to work on the design of AC bridges. Finally in September 1953 he was employed by Submarine Cables Ltd where he was to spend the rest of his career.

At Submarine Cables Thomas carried out research into the transmission properties of cables; installed telecommunications equipment in Ireland and Canada; and developed submerged repeaters for trans-ocean multichannel telephony which he worked on throughout the 1960s and beyond. Thomas was responsible for and almost wholly carried out the electrical design of the repeaters for the Cantat B link between Newfoundland and Quebec provinces in Canada and was head of the electrical design section (he had several patents to his name).

Submarine Cables Ltd was acquired by STC in 1970 and Thomas continued working for the company, which became known as STC Submarine Systems, until his retirement in 1985. However, Thomas did not fully retire from STC in 1985, and instead he continued to do work for them under a series of one year part-time employment contracts. He ceased part-time employment with STC Submarine Systems in July 1990 when he moved to Denholm, Roxburghshire, but continued working for STC at a consultant, being paid on a project-by-project basis, until the mid-1990s when he was aged in his mid-70s.

Thomas joined the IEE in 1957 as an Associate Member and then became a Member in 1966 when the IEE’s membership category structure changed. Thomas remained a Member of the IEE for more than 50 years until his death in 2014.

The Collection

The bulk of the reports in this collection come from the time that Thomas was working for STC Submarine Cables from 1970 up to the mid-1990s. The reports are highly technical and include detailed mathematical calculations looking at problems such as hydrogen ingress into the cables and cable corrosion. The material is therefore likely to be of more interest to technical specialists but there are some photographs of more general interest such as pictures taken whilst working on projects and whilst on board cable ships.

The three photographs below show;

  1. A Vancouver Island, Canada, harbour photograph from 1962 (one of a series of Vancouver Island photographs taken from the shore).
  2.  A photograph of a repeater taken aboard the cable ship C S Ariel in the Baltic in 1968 (from a series of photographs taken in the Baltic). A repeater is used to regenerate the light wave in an optical fibre cable travelling long distances through the ocean. Without repeaters, due to signal loss, the optical signals would be limited in the distance they could travel.
  3.  A picture of a sea dog (British Telecom International cable-guided underwater vehicle), taken in the North Sea in the 1970s.




For those interested in the technical reports of STC Submarine Cables and the technical problems associated with underwater communication cables, the Thomas Oswald collection has been catalogued with an archive reference SC MSS 276 and is available to consult by appointment at the IET Archive Centre, Savoy Hill House, London.