The Signal Service in the European War of 1914 to 1918

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The following is a transcription of the book "The Signal Service in the European War of 1914 to 1918" published in 1921. The copyright on the work has expired which allows it to be presented here. While not dealing directly with Canadian Signals matters, although there are some references, it does provide an interesting and detailed examination of signalling during the Great War of 1914-1918. — Webmaster
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EUROPEAN WAR OF 1914 to 1918.




(Late Major, R.E.).




Chatham :




Introductory Chapter. — Summary of the Scope of the History

Chapter I. — Pre-War Signals. The Formation of the Signal Service

Chapter II. — Signals in the Retreat, the Battle of the Marne, and the Commencement of Position Warfare on the Aisne

Chapter III. — The Battle of Ypres-Armentieres and the Winter of 1914-1915

Chapter IV. — Rise of the Telephone System to Primary Importance in Forward Signals

Chapter V. — Lessons of the Battles of 1915

Chapter VI. — Enemy Overhearing: Its Detection, the Counter-measures adopted, and its Effect on the Telephone in the Forward Area

Chapter VII. — Forward Signals in 1916. — Divisional Headquarters to Cable-head

Chapter VIII. — Signals in the Somme Offensive. — Buried Cable

Chapter IX. — A Review of Signal Service Organization within the Armies between 1914 and 1917

Chapter X. — Signals in the Battles of 1917. Part I: The March German Retreat. — General Discussion of Signals in the Position Battles of this Year

Chapter XI. — Army and Corps Signals in the Position Battles of 1917

Chapter XII. — Forward Signals in the 1917 Position Battles

Chapter XIII. — The Surprise Battle of Cambrai and the Winter of 1917-1918. Tank Corps Signals

Chapter XIV. — Signals in Retreat

Chapter XV. — Position Warfare in the Summer of 1918. Final Consideration of Reorganization due to the Growth of the Expeditionary Force and Stationary Warfare

Chapter XVI. — Signals in the Final Advance



Contents of Chapters

Chapter I.

Comparison of the Signal System of an Army with the Nervous System of an Organism. — Signals in the Nineteenth Century; — The South African War. — The First Official Tribute. — Suggested Co-ordination of Telegraphs and Signalling. — The Need for an Organized System of Orderlies. — Appointment of Committees to Study Intercommunication Problems. — Experiment. — Alternatives Considered. — The Formation of the Signal Service. — Co-ordination of all "Message Routes" under One Director of Army Signals. — The Duties of the New Service. — Signal Practice, 1904 to 1914. — Introduction of the Telephone and Motor Cyclists. — Early Criticism of the Telephone. — Army Wireless Telegraphy in Its Infancy. — Visual : Semaphore versus Morse. — Lessons of the Russo-Japanese War. — The Signal Service in 1914. — Mobility the Premier Consideration. — No Control of Artillery Signals. — Total of the Signal Service at the Outbreak of the European War. — Its Responsibilities and Defects. — Looseness of Organization and the Absence of the Magneto Telephone. — Summary of the Position as Regards Signals in August, 1914. — Battalion Signallers. — Individual Influence of Commanding Officers. — Initial Shortages in Establishment, Particularly of Motor Cyclists.

Chapter II.

The Advance to Mons. — Signals in the Battle of Mons. — Utilization of the Local Telephone System. — Commencement of the Retreat. — Intercommunication by Despatch Rider only. — Battle of Le Cateau. — Loss of a Cable Detachment. — Visual at Le Cateau. — The Retreat Resumed. — Use of Permanent Lines of the Country. — Triumph of the Motor Cyclist Despatch Rider. — Organization Improves. — Signal Establishments Proving Insufficient. — G.H.Q. Signal Company Hard Pressed. — Lessons of the Retreat. — Replenishment of Stores. — Wireless Telegraphy. — Forward Signals in the Battle of the Marne. — The liaison Officer. — Lessons of the Advance, — Position Warfare on the Aisne. — Duplication of Forward Routes. — Increase in Enemy Artillery. — Growth of the Signal System Generally. — Poled Cable. — Visual Signalling Falls into Disrepute. — Artillery Signals. — The Appearance of the Magneto Telephone. — Wireless Receiving Sets with Heavy Artillery.

Chapter III.

The Object of a Signal History. — March to the North. — Battle of Ypres-Armentieres. — Despatch Riders again Useful. — Further Extension of the Magneto Telephone. — Increased Difficulty of Maintenance of Lines. — Regimental Signallers. — Visual Signalling of Very Secondary Importance. — Semaphore versus Morse. — Communication within the Battalion. — Building up a Rear Organization in Signals. — The Signal Depot. — Signal Parks. — Signal Service Control over Technical Stores. — " Controlled " Stores. — Lines of Communication Signal Service. — D.R.L.S. on the L. of C. — Formation of the Armies. — Army Signal Companies. — Changes in Signal Transport. — The Use of Pigeons by the Intelligence Corps. — "Intelligence" Wireless — The First Wireless Compass Station.

Chapter IV.

Growth of Signal Responsibility in Artillery Intercommunication. — General Introduction of the Magneto Telephone and Consequent Changes in the Signal System. — Construction Work much Increased. — Evolution of "Comic" Airline. — Consequent Changes in Establishment. — The First Inklings of Enemy Overhearing. — Summary of the Principal Incidents of the Rise in Importance of the Forward Telephone System.

Chapter V.

Lessons of the Battles of 1915. — Intensive Character of Warfare Causes Increase of Precautions against Enemy Artillery Fire. — Buried Cable. — Laddered Cable.— Wire Netting. — Alternative Methods of Forward Signalling. — Visual. — Pigeons. — Wireless. — Lessons in Organization and Policy.

Chapter VI.

Enemy Overhearing. — Early Experiments and Consequent Precautions. — The First French Listening Post. — The Vibrator and Buzzer fall into Disuse. — Metallic Circuits. — Cable Twisting. — Policing of Circuits, — Code Calls and Position Calls. — Our Own Listening Set Organization. — Description of a Listening and its Work. — Fullerphones and Screening Buzzers.

Chapter VII.

The Passing of the Shallow Bury. — Armoured Cable. — Ypres and Kenimel Deep Buries of the Spring of 1916. — Preparations for the Somme Offensive. — Airline. — Construction in the Back Areas. — The 59 Proof (6 ft.) Bury. — The Grid System. — Protection of Signal Offices and Manned Dug-outs. — Army and Corps Control. — Methods of Burying Cable. — Mechanical Excavators. — Study of the Situation at the Close of 1916. — German Evidence on Buried Cables.

Chapter VIII.

The Somme Offensive —Three Types of Signal Problems Involved. — Organization of Signal Communication Schemes. — Signals in the Limited Offensive : Forward Cables, Runners, Pigeons, Visual. — Signals in the General Offensive : Forward Cables, Pigeons, Visual. — The Lucas Lamp. — Aeroplane Signalling. — Battalion Signallers. — The Brigade Pool. — The Reappointment of the Battalion Signal Officer. — Divisional Signal Schools. — Runners and Relay Posts. — Signals in Slowly-moving Position Warfare. — Wireless. — Wireless through German Eyes. — New Methods of Forward Signalling : Power Buzzers. — Message-carrying Rockets and Bombs. — Acoustic Horns.

Chapter IX.

Factors for and against Increase of Establishments. — Three Recognizable Stages in Army Signal Service Reorganization between 1914 and 1917. — Increase of Divisional Signal Companies in 1914. — First Temporary Adjustment to Meet Position Warfare Conditions, May, 1916. — First Great Re-organization in Winter of 1916-1917. Difficulty Experienced in Finding the Men to Complete New Establishments. — A Review of Organization in Wireless Telegraphy. — Appointment of Army Wireless Officers. — Formation of Army Wireless Companies. — Decentralization of Wireless. — Growth of "Intelligence" Wireless. — Portable Electric Lighting. — Visit of Post Office Representative to France. — Appointment of Liaison Officer at G.H.O. — Formation of F.W. 7. — Signal Service Training in France. — Army Signal Schools. — Appointment of A.D. Signals, Training, in 1918.

Chapter X.

The German Retreat in March, 1917. — Cable Wagons, Wireless and Two-way Visual. — Mobile Warfare Conditions. — Position Warfare Resumed before the Hindenburg Line. — The Position Battles of 1917. — Increase in Artillery Activity. — Transport Troubles. — Deeper Advances than on the Somme, — Signal Forward Policy. — Forward Parties Involved in the Fighting. — Germans Adopt the Principle of "Defence in Depth." — Temporary Revivals of the Field Line System. — Signal Preparations and Rehearsals. — Buried Cable still the Signal Officer's Best Servant. — Artillery Movements in the Last Week before Zero Cause Congestion. — Lapses of Signal Discipline. — Necessity for esprit de corps. — Signals in the Attack. — Overhearing Precautions' Relaxed. — Forward Signals Standardized and the Signal Officer given Authority by the Publication of S.S. 148. — General Discussion of the First Staff Manual for Intercommunication in Battle, — Signal Operation Orders. — Forward Signals in the Attack. — Troubles due to the large Absorption of Untrained Personnel Required to Complete the First Great Re-organization.

Chapter XI.

Army Signals. — General Responsibility. — The Permanent Line and Airline System. — Subdivisions of the Army Telegraph and Telephone System. — Intelligence Centres. — Picture of the Army Signal Units at Work. — Indoor and Outdoor Staff. — Army Wireless. — Control of W/T Stores and all W/T Stations in the Army. — D.D. Signals' Office Staff. — Corps Signals. — Lighter Routes and More Alternatives. — Corps Artillery Signals. — A.D. Signals' Distribution and Employment of Corps Signal Personnel. — Special Aspect of Corps Signal Work. — Stores, with Particular Reference to Buried Cable. — Corps Wireless. — The Corps Airline System. — Corps Control of the 1917 Buried System. — Improvements in the Buries of 1917. — Buried Cable in the South and in the North : A Contrast. — Increased Enemy Artillery Attention to Signal Systems. — Refinements of Camouflage and Protection. — Greater Extent of the 1917 Buries. — Duties and Distribution of Area Personnel. — Records of the Buries. — Special Features of the Northern Buries. — Contrast between Signals in Rear of and forward of Divisional Headquarters. — Rise in Importance of Alternative Means.

Chapter XII.

General Remarks. — Horses of Cable Sections a Problem. — Universality of Training Aimed at. — Motor Cyclists. — Visual in the Division. — Wireless in the Division. — R.A. Signals. — Brigade Signals. — Forward Signals in the Attack. — Pushing forward the Buried Cable. — General Policy of Forward Signals Compared with S.S. 148. — Forward Lines. — Forward Visual. — Message-carrying Agencies. — Decentralization of the Pigeon Service. — Formation and Organization of the Messenger Dog Service. — Runners. — Forward Wireless. — Loop Sets. — Continuous Wave Wireless. — The History of the Power Buzzer and Amplifier.

Chapter XIII.

First Battle of Cambrai. — Signals in the Surprise Attack. — Cavalry Line System in Addition to Command and Artillery System. — Use of Area Personnel. — "Camouflage" Line System of Poled and Trench Multicore Cables. — Effect of Tanks on the Line System. — Precautions to Ensure Secrecy. — Testing with Galvanometers and Fullerphones. — Alternative Methods. — Problems Caused by the Depth of the Advance. — Cavalry Signals. — Decreased Telephone Facilities. — Congested Transport Prevents Line Stores from being brought forward. — Twisted Cable in Mobilization Equipment. — Cable Dumps. — Visual : Two-way Working. — Wireless. — Other Methods of Forward Signalling. — Brigade and Battalion Signals. — Use of Enemy's Lines. — Pigeons and Runners. — Stabilization of the Situation. — Consolidation of the Signal System. — The German Counter-attack. — S.S. 191, like S.S. 148, Ignores the Possibility of a Retreat. — Emergency Divisional Route Saves the Situation. — W/T Very Useful. — Signal Personnel Engaged in the Fighting. — Guards Division Counter-attack. — Lessons of the Battle. — History of Tank Signals. — Evolution of Tank Wireless. — A.D. Signals, Tank Corps. — Trench Warfare again. — Increase of Enemy Bombing Causes Modification of Rear Routes and Signal Offices. — Second Great Re-organization of the Army Signal Service. — No. 5 Section of a Divisional Signal Company. — Strength of Signal Service and Economy of Personnel. — Army Conference Considers Possibility of Retrenchment.

Chapter XIV.

The General Situation in March, 1918. — Buried Cable Absent or Incomplete on the Critical Front. — Poled Cable and Airline Between Divisions and Brigades. — Visual and Wireless Relied upon to a Great Extent. — Too Little Attention Paid to the Signal System of the Rear Defence Zones. — The Opening of the Attack. — Fog Prevents Observation and Visual Signalling. — Line System Destroyed within a Few Minutes. — Two Main Phases of the Retreat. — The Fighting Retreat through Prepared Positions. — Arras and the North. — Safe Buries and No Retreat. — The Situation South of Arras. — Excellent German Long-range Artillery Preparation. — Loss of Forward Signalling Apparatus and Signallers. — Importance of Wireless and Visual and Message-carrying Agencies in the First Phase. — Formation of a Rear Emergency Carrier-pigeon Service. — The Second Phase : The General Retreat. — Extent of the Withdrawal. — Characteristics of the Retreat. — General Signal Policy. — The Divisional Route. — A Contrast in Staff Methods and its Effect on Signals. — The Need for Concentration of Headquarters. — Chief Difficulties Encountered. — Hurried Movements. — Laterals. — Congestion of Traffic. — Supply. — Filling Up at Dumps. — Destruction of Routes. — Lessons Learnt during the Retreat. — Line Signalling in Retreat. — Permanent Lines and Ground Cables. — Effect of Tanks, Traffic and Horse Lines. — Cables Used. — Instruments Used. — Emergency "Grid" of Ground Cable. — Wireless. — Practice in Stepping Up Required. — Supply of Accumulators. — Interception. — Rise in Importance of Wireless. — Visual. — Differences in procedure. — Message-carrying Agencies.— Battalion Inter-communication. — Loss of Stores. — The Lys Retreat. — The 9th Corps in the Marne Retreat. — Signal Personnel in the Fighting Line. — Carey's Force. — The Retreat Reflected in Rear Signals. — Special Instructions for Future Similar Emergencies. — Special Training for Mobile Warfare.

Chapter XV.

Effect of the Retreat on the New Stationary Warfare System. — Buries Back to Corps Headquarters. — The Signal System of the G.H.Q. Reserve Line. — Shortages of Material Produce a Relatively Slender Line System. — The Human Element in Buried Cable. — Education of the Working Parties. — The Bury of the Future. — General Characteristics of the 1918 Summer Signal System. — Development of Wireless. — C.W. W/T liaison with the French. — Silent Days. — The Signal Service thoroughly Efficient. — G.H.Q. and L. of C. Signals. — Traffic Statistics for 1918. — Standardization of Stores. — Field and Armoured Cable. — The Four-plus-three Buzzer Exchange and the Test Panel. — Signal Repair Workshops. — Air Force Signals. — Re-organization of Divisional Signal Companies. — Revision of Signal Service Qualifications and Trades. — The Commanding Officer's Certificate. — Formation of S.D.6 and Appointment of D. Signals, G.H.Q., Home Forces. — Training American Signal Units. — Artillery Effects on Signals in 1918. — Maintenance Difficulties. — End of Trench Warfare.

Chapter XVI.

British Signals in the Marne Advance.— Alterations to suit the French Intercommunication System. — Two Distinct Phases of the Main Advance. — Mobility, the Chief Essential. — Army Signals and Mobility. — Concentration on One Main Route. — Standard Forward Offices. — Construction Across the Devastated Area. — Corps Signals in the Advance. — A.D. Signals' Three Responsibilities. — The Corps Signal System. — The Transition from Rigid to Mobile Warfare : a Dangerous Period for Signals. — Co-ordination between the General Staff and Signals Solves most Difficulties. — The Forward Communication Centre System. — Use of the Abandoned Divisional Cables. — Their Replacement by Airline. — Reconnoitring of German Permanent Routes. — Corps Wireless. — Corps H.A. Signals. — Dominance of British Artillery. — The Last Buried Cable. — Divisional Signals in the Advance. — General Policy. — Divisional Artillery Signals. — Three Types of Country Traversed. — The Line System. — Trouble with Tanks, Kite Balloons, Traffic and Marauders. — Brigade Lines. — Supply of Cable. — Salving. — Lateral Lines. — Forward Wireless in the Advance. — Stepping-up. — Continuous Wave Wireless. — Special Use of Wireless. — Difficulties Decreased and Opportunities Increased. — Pigeons, Messenger Dogs, etc., Unimportant. — Mounted Orderlies. — Aeroplane Signalling. — Visual . — Cavalry Signals. — Finale.