In 1970 the South East region held a long-service dinner with a difference it celebrated 40 years of service.
The dinner held on 11th February in the Castle Keep Hotel, Broadstairs, 23 of the staff were presented with long service award by their chairman, Group Captain Hugh Dundas. Of the 23, two had served with the company for 40 years: Mr. Frank Austen (general manager) and his brother Mr. Leonard Austen (Maidstone branch manager).
Before introducing the guests, who included Lord Wakefield of Kendal, Mr. Maurice Exwood, Mr. Ralph Gabriel, Mr.Lloyd Thompson, Mr. Stanley Naish and Mr. Gordon Alder, Group Captain Dundas read the following telegram message from Mr. Paul Adorian: "Having had the pleasure of sharing over 90 per cent of 40 years with Austen and others at Thanet, I am especially pleased to send my good wishes for your celebrations."
In his speech, Group Captain Dundas paid special tribute to the pioneering work of the region's general manager, Frank Austen, and outlined the progress of the region from the time when it was just an experiment by Mr. Austen in his father's garage.
At the end of his speech, Group Captain Dundas made the long-service presentations. Special gifts of a canteen of cutlery and a gold watch were made to Mr. Frank Austen and his brother Mr. Leonard Austen, respectively, for having served 40 years. A novel gift of a scrapbook measuring 3 ft. by 2 ft. was made to them by the staff of the South East.
No one knows more about wired service in the South East than Frank Austen. He not only introduced it but also built it up to its present extremely successful level. On 29th October, 1929, he acquired consent from Broadstairs Council to cross the highway with a pair of wires from his house in Church Street to Magdala Road, St. Peters. But it was pointed out in the letter that this did not mean he had been given permission to relay wireless programmes. An application was immediately sent to the Postmaster General. Permission to establish a receiving station for the distribution of programmes was granted on 20th November, 1929. Two years later, Broadcast Relay, the company that grew into the Rediffusion giant and whose headquarters was in Clacton-on-Sea, turned its attention to Thanet and secured a 10-year concession from Ramsgate Corporation in April, 1931, to provide a service on the Whitehall Housing Estate. That same year, Broadcast Relay promoted a petition from residents in Margate to persuade the Corporation to grant a concession for wired radio (this it did in 1933). And who was in the middle of this invasion of Thanet by Broadcast Relay? A small company called "Broadstairs and St. Peters Radio Relay Service" owned by none other than Frank Austen.
In April, 1932, Lord Wakefield of Kendal (then Mr. W. W. Wakefield), a director of Broadcast Relay, wrote from Bush House to the secretary of the company saying: "While in Broadstairs, could you see if you can obtain a Broadstairs concession ? The present position is that it is in the name of Austen and it has another six to nine months to run."
A merger was in the making. But missing were the millions; Mr. Austen sold out for £100, with the promise of a further £300 if the Broadstairs concession was renewed for another 10 years, and joined Broadcast Relay as engineer-in-charge of Ramsgate on a one-year service agreement at £250 p.a.
With concessions for Margate, Broadstairs, and Ramsgate, Broadcast Relay named its South East offshoot, Isle of Thanet Broadcast Relay Service Ltd. Then came the war and the Thanet service was put under great strain.
Rediffusion South East Celebrates 40 Years !
REDIFFUSION
Reproduction of an article pubished in 1970
Frank Austen, Lord Wakefield, Leonard Austen

Frank Austen, Lord Wakefield, Leonard Austen

Long Service Award Winners. Hugh Dundas Front Centre.

Long Service Award Winners. Hugh Dundas Front Centre.

Relay House Westwood. 1934

Relay House Westwood. 1934

First Motorised Transport in Thanet. 1935

First Motorised Transport in Thanet. 1935

During the war, the civilian in South East England was almost as much in the front line as the soldier, The danger of invasion of the area became so great that Thanet was declared a protected area and evacuated. Nine out of every 10 people were moved out. Disconnections occured at some 50 a day during evacuation. But the staff's morale ran high as the Thanet service was declared an essential service that should remain after evacuation.
As enemy air activity intensified so did the nervousness of local inhabitants, for aircraft flying low over the sea could be overhead within two minutes of being observed. Consequently, the people became reluctant to listen to radio programmes for fear of missing the local "imminent danger" signal. Such a state of affairs produced a further slump in the network's activities, Things soon changed with the enterprising decision to relay the warning signals over the network. New subscribers were taken on in leaps and bounds. The service was even extended into ARP centres, ambulance stations, and gun emplacements.
In 1943, the company was renamed Isle of Thanet Rediffusion Service Ltd. In 1948 it was changed again to its present title: Rediffusion (South East) Ltd. The same year, Frank Austen became district manager and then general manager, a year later.
After the war, television returned to the scene revolutionised by war-time "radar" research, and presented a great challenge to broadcasting. Within a very short time wired television sets were in use in Margate which acted as a "guineapig" for the group. As a result of their success, the company expanded so rapidly it was like an explosion from within. Ashford, Deal, Canterbury, Dover, Hastings, Bexhill, Folkestone, Lewes, Rye, Tunbridge Wells, Hythe, Brighton and Eastbourne succumbed one after the other to the expertise and knowledge of the South East.
1970, the region's forty-first year of service, sees it satisfying the overwhelming demand for colour. Every branch is wired for colour and already over 3,000 colour subscribers have been taken on to boost the region's total to well over 110,000. Quite a difference from Church Road days when they were counted in a few hundreds. No one could ask for a better growth from that £100 investment than a company worth more than £4 million with an annual turnover in millions.
It is all too easy to think of the South East as being just Frank Austen and forget his many loyal and hard-working supporters. So we are sure Mr, Austen will not mind our mentioning men like W. G. Foad, W. H. Bishop, S, Faulkner, R. Cook, S. J. Moon, N. A. Lawrence,
J. H. Sharp, C, L. McGill, and L. Austen, of course, all of whom were with the company in its early years and have helped their general manager build such a fine region and enviable record. Our congratulations to Frank Austen and all the South East staff.
Broadcast Relay Ramsgate. c1930

Broadcast Relay Ramsgate. c1930

Showroom, 123 High St Margate C1930s

Showroom, 123 High St Margate C1930s

Handcart as used by Wiremen. 1930

Handcart as used by Wiremen. 1930