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William Llewellyn Preece

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William Llewellyn Preece (1866-1918)

Eldest son of William Henry Preece.

1919 Obituary [1]

WILLIAM LLEWELLYN PREECE was the eldest son of the late Sir William Preece.

He was born at Southampton in 1866, and passed away on the 10th November, 1918. He was not of a robust constitution, and had been in indifferent health for some years prior to his death.

At the outbreak of the war he was eager to render what help he could, but he had perforce to content himself with performing the everyday duties necessary in the carrying on of the work of his firm. With the development of the naval electrical methods for the detection of the presence of submarines his opportunity came, and he was prompt to take it.

Early in 1917 he was given an appointment at the Admiralty with the rank of Lieutenant in the R.N.V.R. The work was arduous and exacting in the extreme, involving unceasing application and effort, and it was soon obvious that the strain of it was having a serious effect upon his health. He kept on, however, until within a fortnight of his death, when under pressing medical advice he was compelled to relinquish his commission. At this time influenza was raging at its height, and he fell an easy victim to it. Pneumonia supervened, and the end came suddenly. In the great roll of illustrious names of those who have laid down their lives on the altar of duty in their country's cause, none deserves a more honourable place than that of Llewellyn Preece.

His activities as an engineer are better known in the Colonies than in the Homeland. After completing his studies at the Electrical College, Hanover Square, in 1886, he joined the staff of the Midland Railway under that distinguished Railway Telegraph Engineer, the late W. E. Langdon, and in 1892 he was appointed Chief Assistant Engineer. Of his association with Mr. Langdon he always spoke in the most affectionate terms, and there is little doubt the sterling qualities of the chief helped to build up and crystallize those fine characteristics of uprightness and conscientiousness in Mr. Preece's nature, which were so distinctive in him in his later career.

During this period his engineering responsibilities covered a wide field both in the power and lighting and in the electrical signalling systems of this important railway, and this experience had a marked influence upon his outlook later when questions concerning the application of machine generated electricity to telegraph and telephone systems came before him.

In 1898 he resigned from the service of the Midland Railway and became a partner with Sir William Preece, just then retired from the Post Office, Major Cardew, and his brother Mr. A. H. Preece, in the firm Preece and Cardew, consulting engineers. In this combination of interests his telegraph experience enabled him to undertake, in co-operation with his father, the consulting work in connection with telegraph, telephone, and wireless engineering matters which were referred to the firm by the various Colonial Administrations.

With the subsequent retirement of Sir William from active participation in the work of the office, the full responsibility for this side of the firm's business fell to him.

In 1909 Sir John Snell joined the firm, and later Mr. John H. Rider, and the designation of the firm became Preece, Cardew, Snell and Rider.

While most of his work was of a nature which could be dealt with in written reports, he was called upon at different times to give advice upon engineering matters on the spot. In 1912 he undertook a special investigation for the Government of the Federated Malay States of the telegraph and telephone systems in that Colony. He also visited Trinidad and other Colonies to report on similar questions. In 1916 he visited the United States in order to bring himself into touch with the latest developments in telegraphy and telephony in that country.

In 1914 he entirely revised the well-known textbook on "Telegraphy" originally written by Sir William Preece and Sir James Sivewright. In 1915 he read a paper, before the Institution upon "Telephone Troubles in the Tropics." In all these undertakings, as in his consulting work generally, he devoted himself unsparingly to the interests of the Colonial Administrations which he served. He was blessed with a keen perceptive faculty which enabled him quickly to grasp the essential points in a case, and he possessed a fund of knowledge of technical details which was almost inexhaustible. He never courted publicity in his work. Nature had blended in him in a remarkable degree the qualities of unfailing courtesy, delicate tactfulness, and obvious sincerity in all matters, and it is not too much to say that the many sterling virtues of his fine character earned for him not only the esteem, but also the affection, of countless officers of all grades of the Colonial services with whom he came in contact.

In 1912 he gave evidence for the Post Office before the Parliamentary Committee upon the Marconi contracts in connection with the "Imperial" Wireless scheme, and for some time before he joined the Admiralty he was engaged in preparing a biography of Sir William Preece.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution in 1887 and a Member in 1907, and at the time of his death was a Member of the Council. He was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He was a member of a number of other scientific institutions, was greatly interested in Church matters, and wrote many papers on religious subjects.

Up to the time of his death he acted as Secretary of a branch of the Churchmen's Union. His religion was of a nature which withstood the wear and tear of everyday application. He was broad-minded and big-hearted, and at any time in his life it fittingly could have been said of him: "He hath a tear for pity and a hand open as day for melting charity." Latterly, his views on the hereafter coincided with those of other notable scientists of to-day, and to him his earthly end was but the passing over to a higher sphere of life. So may it be.

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