Sir Lionel George Alfred Hooke KBE
History shows that even at School Lionel Hooke was an ardent student of wireless telegraphy. In 1913, the year after leaving BGS, Lionel joined the Marconi company as a marine wireless operator. In the following year Marconi merged with the Telefunken Company to form Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd (AWA).
On Christmas Day 1914, Hooke sailed from Hobart as wireless operator on board the Aurora carrying the support party for Sir Ernest Shackleton’s proposed crossing of the Antarctic continent. In March 1915 the
ship was moored in McMurdo Sound for the winter. An ice field formed around her. In May it began to move, severing her mooring lines and carrying her northwards. She was trapped in the drifting floes until the ice melted in February 1916. After enduring appalling conditions for more than ten months, in March 1916, Lionel miraculously established contact with the outside world 900km away, ultimately leading to their rescue.
Later that year Lionel sailed for England, joining the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. He served in anti- submarine vessels, commanded armed tugs and later qualified as a pilot. In 1918 he transferred to the Royal Air Force. Soon after his return to AWA in 1919, Lionel was promoted Melbourne Manager.
Under the 1922 Wireless Agreement between the Government and AWA, the Commonwealth assumed a controlling interest in the firm. In return, the Government provided additional capital, promoted AWA’s concept
of direct wireless telegraphy between Australia and Britain and transferred Australia’s coastal radio stations to the company. Hooke was in his element with the coastal radio operation, reorganizing and re-equipping the stations. He loved the sea and travelled abroad by ship whenever possible. On land he was a motoring enthusiast. His automatic distress transmitter (patented in 1929) improved safety at sea by enabling emergency wireless messages to be sent from ships that did not carry an operator.
Between the 20s and 50s, AWA acquired an enviable international reputation. In 1944 Lionel took over as Managing Director.
Sir Lionel was knighted in 1957 and became Chairman of AWA in 1962. He presided over the company’s decisions to manufacture television transmitters, television receivers and micro-electronics equipment and to expand its research into solid-state electronics and optical-fibre communications. Within the company he was held in such regard that it sometimes verged on awe and reverence. Admired for his loyalty to AWA and for the concern he showed for its staff, he appreciated the importance of being visible to all.
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