31 March 2020

From Trans-Atlantic Telegraph Cables to Ventilators

This year Siemens in the UK celebrates its 170th anniversary in the UK but when we look back we’re more likely to remember this as the year when Covid 19 hit the world.

Rarely during this time has daily life been so challenging but throughout this period Siemens has had a history of innovation, helping to solve the problems of the time and enabling the future.

Typically Siemens UK heritage has been a largely unpublicised, after all we’re a German company aren’t we? Yet it’s a long and proud history with some incredible world firsts and feats of ingenuity. It’s also true to say that never has our mission statement of “Creating environments that care” been more relevant.

So from transatlantic telegraph cables to our involvement in the Ventilator Challenge UK consortium, the whole Siemens UK family, are tremendously proud of our contribution to innovation and to UK manufacturing.

Siemens’ UK heritage

So most people associate Siemens with being a German organisation and that’s understandable given our current HQ is indeed in Germany. But we’ve been here a long time, starting with a young 19 year old who got sent to the UK to have a look at the industrial revolution that was happening in Britain.

Wilhelm Siemens arrived in the UK in the 1840’s and established what eventually became Siemens Brothers Limited.

Siemens Brothers Ltd eventually formed the basis of what became AEI and English Electric which in turn spawned Companies such as GEC, now Alstom

To anyone living on Siemens Road in Stafford next to the Alstom factory, that’s because the factory was originally the Siemens Dynamo works!

Wilhem became a British citizen, married an English lady, settled in the UK, became a British citizen and changed his name to William. He was subsequently knighted by Queen Victoria.

One of his great friends was a certain Michael Faraday who succeeded him after William became the first President of what is now the Institution of Engineering & Technology (look at the list of Presidents in Savoy Place – some famous names!).

Did you know? – some notable Siemens UK achievements

I mentioned a few contributions by Siemens – here are a few from pre-1950:

  • First ever water meter (1852)
  • London-Calcutta telegraph link (1869)
  • First domestic house powered by electricity – Cragside (1870)
  • Submarine cable to link between Britain and the USA (1873)
  • First ever electric street lighting (1881)
  • First electric lighting in a British theatre  – Savoy Theatre, London (1881)
  • Design of the standard gas mask for allied forces (WW1)
  • Helping in the design of the Pipeline Under the Ocean (P.L.U.T.O) to fuel the Normandy landings (WW2)

Connecting the world

Today digital connectivity is taken for granted and Siemens remains at the forefront of digitalisation. It’s also critical to ensure we all stay connected – never has this been more apparent during the Covid 19 crisis.

In 1873 Siemens laid a transatlantic telegraph cable as part of the victorian communications revolution. Using one of the world’s first vessels designed specifically to lay cables, the SS Faraday. We still have the brass ships telegraphs from the SS Faraday in our Manchester offices today.

A nod here to Mssrs Webster & Horsfall, a current customer with a shared heritage, celebrating their 300 years this year – they made the cable cores for the first successful telegraph cables to the USA in 1865 & 1866!

Siemens in2020 – “ingenuity for life” in action

Today Siemens commitment to the UK remains as strong as ever. We’re still committed to innovation and manufacturing. We aim to “Create Environments that Care”. Our DNA is “ingenuity for life”

In 2016 we opened our wind turbine blade factory in Hull and we’ll soon be building a train assembly facility in Goole.

We are a world leader in digitalisation, electrification, mobility and cutting edge medical equipment.

This manufacturing heritage and skillset means we can play a crucial role in the Ventilator Challenge UK consortium – working with other world class manufacturing companies to meet to current challenge of getting much needed ventilators to the NHS.

Continuing Sir William Siemens’ legacy.

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