Notes on Communications - 1st Canadian Division - 6 March to 5 May 1917

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The following is the text of an original report.[1]

Communications 1st Canadian Division

March 5th - May 5th 1917


Between March 5th and April 9th, the Division buried about four miles of armoured cable. in addition to what had been previously done by Corps working parties. The labour employed was approximately 5000 men nights.

Twenty five pairs were buried in each route, divided roughly as follows:

6 pairs Infantry
18 pairs Field and Heavy Artillery
1 pair Signal Service

Between April 9th and May 5th, two and one half miles of cable (25 pairs) was buried with an expenditure of 2500 man days work (approximately).

Buried cable is essential for successful communication during operations of this kind. The system should be finished at least one week before the attack in order to give the Artillery an opportunity to use it in the preliminary bombardment.

The cable was buried in all cases to a depth of 7 feet. One route was partially cut on the night on April 8th/9th, near BENTATA Tunnel, as a result of heavy shelling in that vicinity. Seven feet, in my opinion, is a minimum depth for safety.

Every possible effort must be made to leave no weak spots on the route. Joint boxes should be protected by sandbags.


Field cable was necessarily used to a great extent after April 9th. Earth return laddered lines are the most successful under heavy shelling and is shown in the attached reports by the Brigade section Officers of the 1st and 2nd C.I.Brigades.


This form of communication would be more suitable for a raid than extensive operations, as earth return circuits cause so much interference that reception is rendered difficult.

The difficulty of charging and transporting storage batteries would make this means of communication impossible in more open warfare.

The fact that no real messages were received by amplifiers during the three attacks, seems to prove that it would be well to drop them and concentrate all efforts on cable and visual work.


Owing to the success of telephone communication, very few occasions arose where it was necessary to use this form of communication. Units were always prepared to use it however and fully realise its importance.


The three wireless sets allotted to this Division were in constant touch with one another but it was not necessary to use them. Wireless should be very valuable in more open warfare.


In my opinion pigeons are hardly worth the trouble expended in looking after them. Several birds homed to lofts which they had occupied many months ago, one or two to POPETINGHE.


Some battalions still do not realize the importance of having bona-fide Signalling Officers. The result in such cases is poor battalion sections and lack of co-operation with Brigade Sections.

Wireless Officers.

The order that one officer must be detailed to each wireless set twenty four hours before ZERO to encode and decipher messages and superintend the moving of the station, was not carried out.


Even with metallic lines a code should always be used with field cable. Amplifiers will even pick up conversation on buried cable.

Forms of communication.

In my opinion we should concentrate on telephonic, visual, wireless, despatch rider, and runner communication, and treat amplifiers and pigeons as of very minor importance.

(Signed) G.A. CLINE


O.C.1st Canadian Divisional Signal Coy.


  1. Library and Archives Canada, RG 9, III, C.5., Volume 4438.