Friday, 19 August 2011

Tesla and the Tommies - Part 2

It wasn’t just Tesla’s theories about ‘death rays’ that the British Government were interested in. In 1899 Tesla claimed to have received faint radio signals from outer space on his array at Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs and believed them to be a form of interplanetary communication.

 Tesla's Colorado Springs Laboratory
"The feeling is constantly growing on me that I had been first to hear the greetings of one planet to another."
-Nikola Tesla, "Talking with Planets", Colliers Weekly February 9th 1901.
Then, in 1926, the Hepton footage was discovered in a French field, along with the journals and letters that constituted the rest of the Lefeuvre find. The silent black and white film, depicting the Pennine Fusiliers apparently alive and on an alien world, was shown to packed picture houses around the world. If the Pennines really were stranded on another planet, it occurred to some in the War Office that there maybe a way of communicating with them. They urgently sought confirmation from Tesla. Partly financed in secret by the British Government, Tesla continued to refine his Teslascope in an attempt to contact the battalion by radio, hoping to detect a responding radio communication from them. No such signal was ever detected or, if it was, its contents have been kept secret to this day.

In the end, the Government officially declared the Hepton footage to be a hoax but nevertheless continued its clandestine funding of Tesla’s research for some years after, suggesting that at least one or two powerful political figures believed in the provenance of the film. But, in the early 1930s, Ramsay MacDonald's Government became disillusioned with Tesla’s progress and withdrew its support.

However, the fate of the 'Broughtonthwaite Mates' along with this early governmental research served to foster an underlying attitude within Whitehall that, in the 1950s, eventually inspired the Government’s decision to form the British Rocketry Group.

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