Back to search results
Name: RICE, Reginald Kenneth
Birth Date: 3 July 1890 Koraikanal, Madras, India
Death Date: 23 Jan 1973 Itchenor, Sussex
First Date: 1914
Last Date: 1915
Profession: Wireless engineer
Area: Mombasa, Entebbe
Book Reference: UJ, Gazette
War Service: RN
Uganda Journal - Vol. 35, pp.43/48 - When a young Marconi engineer, Reginald Kenneth Rice, received instructions in the summer of 1914 to install a wireless transmitter and receiver at Mombasa, he had no grounds for thinking this assignment would present any different problems from those he had encountered on similar projects in other parts of the world. But when he arrived in East Africa on 20 September 1914, he found Mombasa in a state of siege and in daily expectation of invasion from the south and bombardment from the 'Konigsberg's' guns. The island had been denuded of troops by emergencies elsewhere, and the port installations were left to the protection of volunteers in the Town Guard. Rice helped the volunteers to dig trenches and to improvise defensive positions, and was unable to devote all his attention to his specialist commitment until Punjabi sepoys arrived from Nairobi to reinforce the Mombasa garrison.
The decision to establish a wireless telegraphy station at Mombasa had been taken in 1912 without much regard for its usefulness in the event of war with Germany. The idea had originated in December 1907 from a request by the Italian Government, which was anxious to connect the proposed network of Marconi stations in its East African colonies with the Zanzibar cable through a wireless installation at Lamu. Largely through the representations made by John Thomas Gosling, the Postmaster-General of the British protectorates, the Colonial Office decided against the Lamu installation in favour of a station at Mombasa, which could eventually be linked with Kismayu and Lamu in order to bring the most troublesome part of the East African Protectorate into more rapid communication with headquarters. Funds for the Mombasa station were allocated to the Public Works Departments for site preparation, labour and station buildings, and the contract for the technical work was placed with the Marconi company. ……….
While preparation of the Mombasa site progressed depressingly slowly, Rice improvised a temporary installation on which he intercepted a number of messages relating to enemy movements in the Bosphorus and on the Eastern Front. The success of these experiments led to a discussion on the feasibility of intercepting messages passing between Mwanza and Bukoba. Efforts had already been made to receive German messages on the Lake but these had failed, presumably because the experiments were conducted by an amateur enthusiast with inadequate instruments for the task. Although Rice's short experience of reception conditions at the coast pointed to even greater interference problems in the electric-storm belt around the Lake, he thought these problems would not prove insoluble and that the interception project was worth a trial. This meant that he would have to interrupt his work on the Marconi contract, but his presence at Mombasa was not considered essential so long as there were naval vessels keeping wireless watches in the port. Rice accordingly left for Kisumu with the Mombasa receiving equipment to join the SS 'Clement Hill', which had been chosen as the base for the interception experiment. …………. [success]
The experiment on the 'Clement Hill' had proved worthwhile and its continuance from a land base was discussed between Rice and J.J. Killingbeck, the Assistant Postmaster-General at Entebbe. The object of the proposed change was to improve the quality of reception, and also to ensure regular manning of the apparatus after Rice's impending return to Mombasa. …………. [more success] 23 November 1914 when Rice accepted an appointment as Director of Land Wireless Telegraphs with the local rank of Captain. Although this compromise placed him under military orders it was tacitly recognised that Rice still had obligations to his company and the other contracting party, the Protectorate Government, for the completion of the Mombasa station. …………… the Postmaster-General reported on 13 April 1915 that the Mombasa contract had been satisfactorily completed. Three days later Rice handed over the station to the Protectorate authorities and resigned his military appointment. He left immediately for the Seychelles, which he had visited in January 1915 to site a station for the Admiralty, and where he remained in charge of the installation at Mahe until the autumn of 1917.
Gazette - 4/11/1914 - Appt. - Field Telegraphs - To be Director of Land Wireless, with rank of Captain - R.K. Rice, Marconi Engineer
Back to search results