The Cracknell brothers.

The two Cracknell brothers were significant in the development of telegraphic communication in the Australian Colonies because they each held the position of Superintendent of Telegraphs:

E. C. Cracknell.

E. C. was born at Rochester, England, in 1831, was educated at Oxford University. In 1848 he went to London, where he devoted himself to scientific pursuits.

He came to South Australia on the Irene with Charles Todd in November 1855 and took up his appointment as a technical Assistant to Todd on his arrival. Soon after he was appointed Sub-Inspector of Telegraphs.

After helping to establish the new technology in South Australia, E. C. took up the position of Assistant Superintendent of Telegraphs in New South Wales on January 1, 1858 while Captain Martindale still held the dual appointments of Commissioner of Railways and Superintendent of Telegraphs. Cracknell's appointment had the strongest recommendation of Todd. He opened the first telegraph line to Liverpool, a distance of 22 miles, on 26 January 1858. In 1861, Cracknell was appointed Superintendent - and held it until his death in 1893.

In February 1857, Mr. Cracknell took a team of NSW men, horses, implements, etc en route to the frontier in South Australia to help Charles Todd survey and mark out the intended telegraph line linking Adelaide and Melbourne.

About the middle of December 1860, the gentlemen of the Electric Telegraph Department gave a complimetary dinner to Mr. Cracknell, the Superintendent, on the occasion of their removal from the Exchange to the new central station in George Street.

He paid two visits to England and, on his return to the country, introduced the latest improvements in telegraphic communication. His return from one of those visits was recorded in the Sydney Morning Herald of 12 December 1876. Certainly telegraphic communication increased rapidly under his supervision

Throughout his career, E. C. Cracknell was a devoted Army Officer. While Superintendent of Telegraphs, he also commanded the partially-paid Submarine Mining Corps. He made himself thoroughly acquainted with torpedo warfare and, at the time of his death, was the Major Commanding of the New South Wales Torpedo Corps. In September 1870, a group of Commissioners was appointed "to advise the Government in matters connected with the defence of the Colony from foreign aggression". Mr. E. C. Cracknell was one of the seven Commissioners. The other Commissioners were: Lieutenant-Colonel Richardson, President; Captain Young, H. M. 18th Regiment; Messrs William Macleay M.L.A., James Barnet (Colonial Architect), Captain Francis Hixson (Harbour Master and Superintendent of Pilots) and E. O. Moriarty (Engineer-in-Chief for Harbours and Rivers).

Lieutenant-Colonel E. C. Cracknell died at his residence, Edgecliffe Road, early on the morning of 14 January 1893. About two months previously, Colonel Cracknell had taken ill at an all-day parade of the submarine miners and had not been in good health since. Nevertheless he stuck to his duties until about the end of 1892. His death, which was due "to a general breaking up of the system", caused a feeling of intense sorrow to pervade the Electric Telegraph Department, as he was much respected by the officers. Although he was clearly a tyrant in some of his actions, E. C. Cracknell was nevertheless one of the most popular officers in the Civil Service in the country.


W. J. Cracknell.

William J. Cracknell was born in London on 25 December 1832. He was an elder brother of Edward Charles Cracknell (see above).

After attending Oxford University, he arrived in New Zealand in 1855 but subsequently moved to Queensland.

He commenced duty in the Telegraph Branch as the Te;egraph Station Master at Ipswich on 13 April 1861 - the day that office opened after the completion of the telegraph line from Brisbane.

The Queensland Gazette announced his appointment as Acting General Superintendent of Telegraphs on 9 April 1963. This appointment was upgraded to Superintendent of Electric Telegraphs on 28 November 1863.

See a cover sent to W. J. Cracknell in 1866.

Cracknell married Miss Mary Ann Hair - an English girl. They lived first in the Telegraph Office in William Street on the corner of Stephens Lane. Later he built a house in Cracknell Road, Annerley (named after him) on a site of about 51 acres. That home was later destroyed by fire so he rebuilt another home on the same site. When the new Telegraph Office was opened in Queen Street in 1879, Cracknell declined to use the house provided to him there and remained in his Annerley house.

Cracknell had a sad family history:

In January 1868, Mr Cracknell was suspended (p.8).

On 10 November 1869, the Brisbane Courier reported that:

"an accident occurred yesterday to Mr. W. J. Cracknell, Superintendent of Telegraphs, which fortunately was not a serious one. It appears that Mr. Cracknell, with his wife and family, were driving to Sandgate in a buggy, and when within about two miles of Cabbage-tree Creek bridge, the king-bolt broke, and the horse, taking fright, bolted with the shafts, leaving the other part of the vehicle in the road. The whole of the occupants were thrown out, but beyond the fright and a few bruises and scratches, no one sustained any injury".

William Cracknell retired on 16 October 1880 - although some sources indicated that he retired earlier in the year. He moved to a fruit farm on the banks of the Parramatta River on tthe outside of Sydney where he had spent some of his early years. He died on 1906 leaving two married daughters (Mrs. Phil. P. Agnew and Mrs. Jack McLean).

An old telegraph officer was later to write to the Queenslander when he found out that Cracknell had died:

"as I read the above in your paper, memory took hold, and I who served under the deceased gentleman you mention can testify to his many qualities. Firm but considerate, in carrying out his duties, he made many staunch friends among his subordinates a those of his old officers who survive him bear a kindly remembrance of him. Off duty, he was ever the courteous and genial friend. In the days when I joined the Electric Telegraph the business was carried on in an old brick building in William Street, and, of course, was quite a small thing to what it is now. Some few years after I joined, Mr. Cracknell asked for and obtained a holiday, proceeding to England, and on his return to Brisbane retired on pension". I enclose a photo which well represents my old and valued friend. I do not think that there are many of the long time ago William Street officers now on active duty in the Telegraph Department".(The Queenslander 14 July 1906).