EH Lawn

Worked at:

  • Reefton Post Office: from 1896.1
  • Invercargill: Telegraph Engineer (Awarua Radio staff reported to him).
  • Awarua Radio: “In charge” during construction, and for a period following the outbreak of World War 1.1
  • Hamilton, Dunedin, Wellington: Various engineering roles in the Post Office.1
  • General Post Office, Wellington: Superintending Engineer, until 30 June 1939 (retirement)

Evening Post, 3 July 1939, p 10


Mr EH Lawn, AMIEE, Superintending Engineer of the General Post Office, who was directly associated with the introduction of the automatic telephone switching system into New Zealand and has since directed, and supervised the installation of all the exchanges at the principal centres throughout the Dominion, retired from the service on superannuation as from June 30.

On his last day of official duty he was tendered a farewell at a large gathering over which the Chief Engineer, Mr PV Miles, presided, and which was representative of the Chief Engineer’s staff, the Director-General’s staff, the Wellington district staff, and of his engineering colleagues from all parts of the Dominion. Many telegrams of good wishes were received.

In handing Mr Lawn a fishing rod as a tangible tribute of esteem from his Departmental colleagues, Mr Miles traced the guest’s distinctive career from the time of joining the Department at Reefton in 1896, and paid tribute to his many outstanding services in the sphere of communication engineering, constituting a record which he considered unique. Mr Lawn had worked in almost every branch of the Post Office, and when he became attached to the engineering branch in 1912 he commenced a career during which he contributed to many outstanding advances in communication engineering.

He was the Department’s expert and authority on the automatic telephone exchange system, and stood pre-eminent in that sphere. He had probably rendered his most valuable service as a specialist in automatic telephone exchanges, and for many years had been the most notable figure in the development of the automatic system.

He had also shown versatility as an all-round communication engineer when he took temporary charge of Hamilton engineering district some years ago, and later when he filled the position of City Telegraph Engineer in charge of Dunedin, and afterwards in a similar capacity in Wellington when, prior to the system of decentralisation of control, his responsibilities covered a large area which included Napier, Gisborne, Palmerston North, Wanganui, New Plymouth, and the Wellington districts.


Early in his career, continued Mr Miles, Mr Lawn had been singled out for special duty, when he was attached to Awarua radio station to assist in the erection of the high-power Telefunken wireless telegraph station in 1913. Immediately following the outbreak of war, Mr Lawn took charge at Awarua during a critical period.

He was one of the small band of engineers who did the pioneering work of automatic telephone equipment and he had supervised the installation in Wellington City in 1915-19, assisted in this work at Hamilton and Auckland, and, when City Engineer at Dunedin, supervised the installation of the automatic equipment of the Dunedin Telephone Exchange.

For a period following the retirement of Mr McDermott, the former Chief Engineer, Mr Lawn had filled the highest engineering position in the Department. Throughout his career Mr Lawn had won the admiration of his colleagues for his enthusiasm, his unbounded loyalty to the Department, and consideration for his staff. He had been greatly helped by Mrs Lawn, who had shown self-sacrifice and had given her husband great encouragement in his long and busy Departmental career.

The Chief Engineer’s remarks were cordially endorsed by Mr WR Newall (Deputy Director-General), P.H. Mason (Deputy Chief Engineer), Mr E.H.R. Green (Superintending Engineer), Mr WR Morgan (principal, Chief Engineer’s Office), and Mr GR Milne (Telegraph Engineer, Wellington).

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