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Voicepipes were rigid or flexible speaking tubes running between stations on a ship between which reliable oral communication was helpful. They were a common tool in all navies, and popular for their relatively fail-safe nature in combat.

Calling Up

Some voicepipes had covers with whistles in them, and the means of calling up the remote station was to remove the cover on your end, place your mouth over a mouthpiece and blow vigourously into the tube to cause the whistle at the other end to sound.[Citation needed]

Others, particularly those placed in noisy places, had electrical call bells situated nearby.[1][2] As technology and resourced permitted, voicepipes in such places were often replaced by navyphones such as the Pattern 1856 Navyphone, which were more easily heard.

Experience and Lessons

Voicepipes were not always very useful in spaces where the sound of machinery or conversations of others could get in the way. It was common practice in such places for voicepipes and navyphones to be allotted an enclosed space called a "silent cabinet", which must have often been a relative term.

By the end of the war, at least, it was decided that some multiple outlet voicepipe networks would benefit from the installation of stop cocks to shunt off stations not essential to the current situation, such as alternate control stations.[3]

Common issues with voicepipes were found to be that water would clog them. This was usually remedied by fitting tighter adapters where topside appearances presented themselves, and by fitting more drainage stoppers at low points where water might collect.

Between 1916 and 1919, a study had been done to see whether diaphragms could be inserted in voicepipes to act as barriers against poison gasses that might travel along the pipes. "Ferrotype" was found to be a suitable material which did not reduce the acoustic efficiency of the tubes appreciably.[4]

See Also


  1. Torpedo Drill Book, 1905. p. 208.
  2. Torpedo Drill Book, 1914. p. 210.
  3. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1918. p. 214.
  4. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1918. p. 215-216. (A.L.G. 16986/16 and N.S. 16429/18).


  • H.M.S.O., London Torpedo Drill Book, 1905 (Corrected to December, 1904). Copy in Tony Lovell's library.
  • H.M.S.O., London (1914). Torpedo Drill Book, 1914 (Corrected to May 15) Copy in Tony Lovell's library.
  • H.M.S. Vernon. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1918. C.B. 1527. Copy 20 at The National Archives. ADM 189/38.