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Newmarket Local History Society

The Newmarket Telephone Exchange (page 3)

The Recovery from the Bombing and Modernization

Immediately following the bombing of the Post Office and Telephone Exchange engineers and officials were faced with difficult and urgent problems. Newmarket was a town of considerable military importance and it was vital that communications were restored.
Ron Maltby, a GPO engineer working at the Cambridge Exchange says that on that Tuesday afternoon they could not understand why they could not get through to Newmarket, until an army dispatch rider arived with the news. The old switchboard was unusable but spare switchboards were stored in various parts of the country ready for this sort of problem
Things neded to happen quickly, there was no time for planning committees or appeals, decisions had to be made and action taken. A temporary telephone connection was established in The Doric Cinema within hours of the bombing. The Doric itself had narrowly escaped being hit and the building suffered some superficial damage but a basic service was worked there with a handset for a couple of days.
It was decided to set up a temporary exchange in the Jockey Club Subscription Rooms (now the Horseracing Museum) on the opposite side of the High Street. Ron says that enginers were called in from anywhere and worked round the clock, taking four weeks to instal the new switchboards to give a service to all customers. Telephone work then continued with a total of 10 positions. Improvisation was necessary and at first the girls had to sit on sacks and were allowed no breaks when calls were coming in.
Ron believes that the space in the Jockey Club had been pre-allocated in case the exchange was hit. There were also small exchanges built into a large van or trailer which could be set up anywhere. He assumes that one of these was used to give a service to important people in the town within a few days.

The temporary exchange operated in the Subscription Rooms until 1949 when it moved to the new exchange in The Avenue (see below)

April 2010. One of our members, Charlie Dunning, whose late wife Joan Starling was a telephone operator at Newmarket in the 1950s, has found some of the original GPO training manuals from that period. He could show them to anyone interested.

The temporary exchange in the Jockey Club Subscription Rooms.
Foreground Miss G B Cole Chief Supervisor*, standing Miss Joan Brown Supervisor,
Operators R to L: Molly Mitson, Jean Woollard, Jean Smith, Iris Blades, Rae Spear, Thelma Bishop, Gillian Barnett
*Miss Cole was later awarded the British Empire Medal.

Left: The new exchange building at the time of its opening in 1949
Right: The group selector racks, engineer Ron Maltby.

Switchboard operators at work in the new exchange. The names of the girls have been provided by Mrs Gillian Cornwell (Barnett)
Left to right: Queenie Nash - Frances Brown - Jean Woollard - ??? - Thelma Bishop - Molly Mitson. - Trudie Owen - ??? -
Mary Millington - Gillian Barnett.     Standing - Miss Mary Wylie (Supervisor)

History of the Telephone Exchange - opening page
History of the Telephone Exchange page 2
History of the Telephone Exchange page 4
Jack Hoxley's story
The Admiralty Shutter Telegraph of the early 19th c

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