• On August 4, 1914, a man was deployed to the cable station at Porthcurno in Cornwall with the job title of “censor” to intercept communications between the enemy and their agents.
• This marked the birth of worldwide system of censorship with its main aim 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.
The outbreak of the First World War brought with it a number of challenges as countries looked to gain a strategic advantage over one another. One of the most important of these challenges was communication; the ability to send and receive information quickly and securely was a great asset to any military. Great Britain, at the time, had the world’s most sophisticated undersea telegraph cable system, which wrapped around the entire world. It was this network of cables that the British chose to target in order to disrupt the communication networks of their enemies.
On August 5, 1914, a day after Britain had declared war on the Germans, a British ship, the Alert, set sail from the port of Dover with a mission to cut off all of Germany’s communications with the world by sabotaging the Germans’ undersea cables. This mission was successfully accomplished and marked the beginning of a new era of communication interception.
The day before the Alert set sail, on August 4, a man was deployed to the cable station at Porthcurno in Cornwall. His 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. The main aim of this censorship was to prevent the communication of strategic intelligence between the enemy and their agents.
To put this system into perspective, the network of 180 censors at U.K. offices handled over 50,000 messages per day. This was an impressive achievement, made possible by the deployment of censors across the empire. It allowed the British to gain a significant advantage by having the ability to intercept and monitor the communications of their enemies.
The censorship system of World War I is a prime example of the power of communication interception. It allowed the British to gain a strategic advantage that would have been impossible to achieve without the censors. The system was so successful that it inspired similar programs in future wars and is still seen in some form today. This goes to show the importance of communication interception and the role it can play in gaining an edge in times of conflict.