In memory of Edward Russell-Clarke

Portrait of Edward Russell-ClarkeEdward Russell-Clarke was born in 1871, writes Ann Powell. He was the elder son of Edward L A Clarke and Louisa A Clarke of North Kensington, London. He was educated at Charterhouse School, in Surrey, and Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he demonstrated a talent for mathematical and mechanical sciences.

In 1895 he became a barrister. He developed a successful legal practice, specialising in patents and other scientific cases. He became an Associate of the Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1900, later becoming a member of its council.

He delighted in inventing and improving scientific and electrical apparatus, and took out many patents. He was a keen skier and mountaineer. He married Frances M Daubeny in Paddington, London. They had four children.

During the First World War he lived with his family at Penbidwal (which was also known as Penbydwl), Pandy. At the outbreak of war, he had offered his services to the Admiralty. He gave up his legal practice to become technical advisor to the Naval Intelligence Department.

In September 1914 Edward and a fellow wireless telegraphy enthusiast called Bayntun Hippisley told the Admiralty that they were receiving messages on a lower wavelength than any being received by existing Marconi wireless stations. The German fleet was using the low wavelengths, and the two amateurs quickly received permission to set up a listening station at Hunstanton in Norfolk. Other stations were later established around the British Isles.

Edward had scientific instruments erected on the roof at Penbidwal, from where he intercepted coded German messages. He was awarded the MBE for his work as an aviation electrician and telegraphist for the Admiralty in August 1917, and the CBE for his work as an expert adviser to the naval staff on wireless telegraphy in January 1918.

He died at Penbidwal on 17 October 1918, shortly before the war ended. His death was attributed mostly to sheer exhaustion from his excessive workload, from which he had allowed himself no respite. He was laid to rest in St Michael’s Churchyard, Llanfihangel Crucorney.

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