Paul Hawkins's life in radio communications has inspired a book on international telecommunications - featuring the story behind some iconic antennas that once dominated the Dorchester skyline. Joanna Davis reports.

An author has written a book on international telecommunications with special attention given to Dorchester Radio Station's part in the technological transformation.

Paul Hawkins, now of Somerset and formerly of Dorchester, has published Point to Point – A History of International Telecommunications During the Radio Years.

The book explains the history of the international telecommunications system, which the now defunct Dorchester Radio Station on Bridport Road, played a big part in.

Paul said: "The book features a number of pictures of various aspects of the station.

"Radio telecommunications and the radio stations are a part of history, locally and nationally, that is not well publicised or understood and this book attempts to explain what places like Dorchester Radio Station and many others did, without being overly technical.

"I think there are plenty of people around Dorchester who either worked there or had relatives working there, or just wonder what the place did so I hope the subject is relevant."

With today's modern 'digital revolution' of fibre optic cables and high speed internet it might be hard to imagine a time when global telephone and telegraph services were undertaken using long-wave and short-wave radio. But for a substantial part of the 20th century this was the case.

Paul, who attended Dorchester Secondary Modern, started as an apprentice at Dorchester Radio Station in 1967, which was then the GPO. He became a qualified technician in 1970.

He has enjoyed a long career in radio communications with time in the USA and retired from the Thales company in Templecombe, Somerset. Over the years he has done extensive research on telecommunications and has gained access to station archives.

Dorchester Radio Station was built in 1925 and began operations in 1927, providing a global telegraph network via the Marconi company. The station was an important part of Marconi's network of beam wireless stations.

Technology involved at Dorchester included massive beam antenna arrays with their distinctive ‘T’ shaped antenna masts that dominated the Dorchester skyline for many years, beaming signals to the USA, Canada, South America, the Middle and Far East.

Paul decided to write the book because not much is known about the history of radio stations, he said.

"I think there are plenty of people around Dorchester who either worked there or had relatives working there, or just wonder what the place did so I hope the subject is relevant."

The book tells the story, following the initial work of Marconi, of how radio technology developed from crude beginnings, then took a big step forward with the discoveries of ‘short waves’ and the construction of radio stations like the 'Marconi beam station' at Dorchester.

Paul said: "Dorchester initially transmitted messages and telegrams to the USA and South America and as the business grew so did the number of destinations to which Dorchester transmitted.

"The Middle East and Japan were soon added. Similar Marconi beam stations were built at Bodmin, Bridgewater, Grimsby and Skegness for communications with the British Empire countries and the GPO established a number of radio stations, Rugby being the main one, to provide an international radio telephone service."

It was not all ‘high tech’ and many local workers were employed to maintain and repair the station equipment, power systems and the masts and aerials.

Guglielmo Marconi visited Dorchester in 1930 but his life was cut short, suffering a heart attack and dying in July 1937, when flags were flown at half mast.

During the Second World War securing telecommunications with allies became very important and radio stations were camouflaged in an attempt to avoid being bombed. The camouflage over Dorchester radio station was quite extensive, although one heavy snow fall overwhelmed the camouflage covering.

Post-war, Dorchester had four extra transmitters installed and communicated with South Africa and Australia, but as submarine cables and satellites started to take over the rapidly growing volume of phone and data traffic, many radio stations became redundant.

Dorchester switched operation to ship to shore communications and the grand old antenna systems were replaced with more modest antennas.

Even the ship to shore systems were finally taken over by satellite communications and Dorchester transmitted its last message in 1979.

Although the station at Dorchester is now redundant and not accessible to the public, a piece of the radio station's history can still be viewed.

One of the Marconi transmitters installed at Dorchester in 1927 was restored to its original condition, and can now be seen at the Science Museum in London.

More recently Paul experienced one of the highlights of his career meeting Princess Elettra Marconi, the youngest child of Marconi, when he spoke about Marconi beam wireless stations at a conference in Italy in 2015.

*Point to Point - A History of International Radio Telecommunications during the Radio Years by Paul Michael Hawkins is priced at £9.99 and can be bought from Amazon, Waterstones and WH Smith. It is also available from the author by emailing