Jessie Fothergill.

The Encyclopædia Britannica : a dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information (Volume 32) online

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continuous wave wireless is likely to play an all-important part.

While the chief characteristic of the earlier position-warfare
period was the evolution of signal implements and the adapta-
tion of signal organization to stationary tactics, it was in the
great battles of 1916 and 1917 that signal policy began to crystal-
lize in very definite shape. The first result of the stabilization of
the situation was the running forward of lines in all directions to
serve the multifarious units which now for the first time made
good their claims to telephone communication. Magneto and
buzzer telephones and magneto, buzzer, and combined exchanges
made their appearance in all formations from brigade rearwards,
and buzzer telephones and exchanges were issued to battalions
and batteries. The lines to serve these telephones and exchanges
had in many cases to be duplicated and even triplicated, and a
festoon of lines, converging from front to rear, or stretched
transversely and at all angles across the front, hampered move-
ment and defied the utmost efforts of the signal personnel whose
business it was to maintain them. The necessity for economiz-
ing signal personnel and for the protection of lines alike tended
to bring about two reforms. On the one hand, control was vested
in the signal officers of superior formations; on the other hand,
by their orders, all circuits were concentrated into a certain
Limited number of well-defined main routes.

The first of these reforms in point both of importance and of
time was the rearward movement of the centre of gravity of the






490



SIGNAL SERVICE, ARMY



command of forward signals from the uncontrolled battalion,
through brigade, division, and corps, to army. Concurrently
with this, the commanders of signal units became staff officers
i.e., representatives of the command itself instead of simple
executants. 1

In the meantime, the idea of the central signal route in each
formation having been launched, it was natural that other means
of signalling should at once tend to concentrate along these
routes, with their protected test-points and signal offices. Econ-
omy and greater trustworthiness at once followed, and in the
battle of the Somme, 1916, when the British army first carried
out a great offensive from prepared positions, the central signal
route, running from front to rear of each divisional sector and
reinforced with all possible means of intercommunication, was
attempted as a definite policy. The line system was carried for-
ward in 6-ft. buries to a cablchead in, or even in advance of, the
front line. Cable detachments were organized and held in readi-
ness to extend the lines. Runners and despatch riders were
organized in relay posts along the cable route. Wireless and
power buzzer sets were also erected in convenient dugouts close
to cablehead and the forward communication centres. By this
concentration of means along one line, and by an all-round train-
ing which made the personnel to some extent interchangeable,
economy of personnel, elasticity of procedure, and a minimum of
casualties were ensured.

In the more extended offensives of 1917, this principle was
carried still further and reinforced by instructions issued by G.H.
Q., which required the headquarters of formations to give the
signal officers concerned early and detailed information as to
projected operations, forbade movements of headquarters with-
out good cause, and laid down other important points of principle.

The culmination of position warfare thus arrived in the spring
of 1918 to find the signal service quite equal to the calls made
upon it. At G.H. Q. and on the lines of communication were ade-
quate office staffs and a sufficient number of permanent line and
airline construction companies and sections. The bases, camps,
depots, and stores concerned with the administration and supply
of a great army were served by army telegraph and telephone
routes. Maintenance. parties at all offices dealt with ordinary
day-to-day repairs; breakdown gangs at central positions were
in readiness to cope with the catastrophic breaks due to bombing
and long range shelling. At G.H.Q. itself powerful wireless
stations formed the initial link of a chain line which reached
right forward to the front line; other stations were engaged in
intercepting the German wireless; and a headquarters wireless
staff coordinated the activities of the Intelligence stations scat-
tered throughout the rear army zone. Here, also, was the nerve
centre of the whole signal service in France the directorate of
signals the staff which formulated the policy of the service,
supervised its organization and working, and allocated the
incoming reinforcements of men and material.

The basis of the signal system of the army was again a telegraph
and telephone network which was built up on a " chessboard " or
" grid " system, that is with front-to-rear routes and routes trans-
verse to the front, spaced at regular intervals and with the main
signal offices and test-points at the junction of the two. Until late
in 1917 the approved theory was to make the line system approxi-
mate as nearly as possible to the perfect " grid " with as few and as
heavy routes as possible. With the increase in the amount of long-
range shelling and bombing which was a marked feature of early
1918, this principle required considerable modification. Two or
three parallel routes usually took the place of the single heavy
route of each corps or army area, and all routes were diverted to a
much greater extent in order to avoid centres likely to be bombed
or shelled.

The constitution and working of the army signal company per-
haps more nearly reflected the conditions of position warfare than
did that of any other. A telegraph construction company, a light
railway signal company, and airline sections were the chief elements
of the construction personnel, though there were also cable sections
for connecting up isolated units at any time, and dealing with emer-
gency connexions in battle. Here, also, were wireless light motor
sections, mainly employed on supervisory duties, but like the G.H.Q.

1 Strictly, this applies only to corps and army headquarters,
though before the war ended, it was the unofficial practice in most
divisions also.



wireless, available to take their place in the chain of intercommunica-
tion in the event of the failure of the lines. Most of the traffic was
dealt with by wheatstone, duplex, and simplex telegraphy, and the
magneto telephone, wireless telegraphy being chiefly utilized to
assist and police the more forward stations. The chief signal officer
of the army had also to coordinate the signal schemes of the forma-
tions in his army, and under his command were the area detach-
ments whose permanent duty was the maintenance of the buried
cable in the army area.

In the area of a corps the forward position of which was liable
to frequent shelling the main routes were still permanent line and
airline and the construction personnel consisted in the main of air-
line detachments. In addition, corps cable sections were available
for emergency cable-laying, for loan to overworked divisions (a fre-
quent case), for artillery signal work, or for running spurs to iso-
lated offices off the main airline routes. The personnel of the corps
cable sections was also often employed to supervise labour parties in
the construction of the buried cable system, though, as above men-
tioned, maintenance personnel was provided through the army area
detachments. The corps wireless section, while principally con-
cerned with store distribution and supervisory and police duties,
was more intimately connected with the tactical employment of
wireless than was that of the army. Particularly in battle periods,
the corps-directing station was frequently obliged to step in and
assist its less powerful subordinates to attract the attention of other
stations or to rebuke stations using undue power or contravening
priority regulations, besides policing procedure and listening for
occasional windfalls from forward German stations.

Lastly, the chief signal officer of the corps had to supervise and
control the signal communications of the heavy artillery. For this
purpose a special section had been added to his company, but this
was altogether inadequate and in practice the whole energy of one
corps cable section was usually devoted to the construction and
maintenance of artillery lines. These corps units were differentiated
in principle from the area detachments by the fact that they pos-
sessed sufficient transport to enable them to move forward while con-
tinuing their work. In all adaptations of the signal units of forma-
tions below army the essential characteristic of mobility was re-
spected. Those elements t>f the service which required to be special-
ized to areas were embodied almost entirely in the army company,
others being organized so as to be able to move as integers.

This principle of mobility naturally applied with still more force
to divisional signal companies. Even when position warfare seemed
to be most definitely established the retention of its horse transport
by the divisional company was insisted upon, in spite of the extra
work entailed by the care of horses upon a personnel fully occupied
with its technical work. This insistence had its reward in the long
run, for mobility regained all its old importance on March 21 1918
and retained it to the end of the war.

The original divisional signal company in 1914 consisted of the
following elements three " brigade sections " (in principle serving
the infantry brigades), each of a telephone detachment and a squad
of signallers, a " headquarters section " consisting of a small office
staff and a few signallers and despatch riders, and a " No. I section "
of three cable detachments, each of which was capable of laying 10 m.
of cable and carrying three offices. By the spring of 1918 the
" headquarters section " had been enlarged in every branch, and
" No. I section " had been increased to four detachments to cater
for the field artillery headquarters; but the " brigade sections,"
though much overworked, had remained practically unchanged.
To these three original elements, however, others had been added.
A small section, similar to a " brigade section," was serving with
every field artillery brigade in the division. The reorganization of
the machine-gun service in Feb. 1918 added another small section
to serve the divisional machine-gun unit. The extension of wireless
telegraphy to the division had invelved the addition of sufficient
personnel to man a " Wilson " and three " 50- watt " sets and a
charging set for accumulators. In addition, men were attached from
brigades to man six power buzzers and their corresponding receivers,
and to eke out the still undermanned visual detachments.

Forward of battalion headquarters, the direct responsibility of
the divisional personnel ceased and, in battalions and batteries,
signal communications were built and maintained by regimental
signallers. Occasions occurred when the requirements of these units
could be accommodated on the central system, but these were
exceptional. Usually their signallers were fully occupied with the
lines and with visual communication between the front line and
their headquarters. The means at their disposal were light cable
lines and enamelled wire with D3 buzzer telephones; heliograph,
lamp, flag, 2 disc, or shutter; pigeon, messenger dog, message-carrying
rocket and runner. In the case of power buzzer, pigeon, and messen-
ger dog, communication was usually roundabout, via brigade, divi-
sion and even corps headquarters; in the case of other appliances,
direct touch from front line to company headquarters and from
company to battalion headquarters was the rule.

The most interesting portion of the evolutionary history of signal
communication in the war finishes with this period, and the story

2 The artillery still used both Morse and semaphore ; infantry
signallers at this stage of the war were trained in Morse only.



SIGNAL SERVICE, ARMY



491



of the remaining months of mobile warfare is that of the reversion
to simple skeleton systems, based on the principle of the central
route studded at suitable intervals with forward communication
centres. No further radical reorganization took effect, the princi-
pal change being the gradual switching over from spark to continu-
ous wave wireless for command intercommunication purposes.

(3) Signals in Theatres of War other than France. While the
greatest measure of evolution and adaptation naturally took
place in the most important field and that nearest to the home
sources of supply, almost every one of the outlying British thea-
tres of war presented its special problems and emphasized the
need of forethought and careful preparations, in respect of
methods, personnel and stores alike, to suit local conditions, for
instance in arranging for intimate cooperation with the inter-
communication service of the navy in such operations as those
of the Dardanelles, and the coastal operations of Sinai and Syria, 1
and in assigning an unusually large part to visual and wireless
communications when a considerable water gap has to be
spanned, as in the Dardanelles campaign. But perhaps the most
significant lesson of experience in these campaigns was the
greatly enhanced importance of wireless telegraphy relatively
to other means of communication. Wireless plays a predominant
part in such operations as those in E., W. and S.W. Africa, or
those of the desert mounted corps in Palestine, which are con-
ducted in vast, ill-developed theatres of war by comparatively
small forces; for these frequently involve far-flung troop move-
ments in the offensive, and tactical isolation of detachments in
the defensive.

The sets in use in the British Expeditionary Forces engaged in
outlying theatres were the 3-K.W. lorry set; the iJ-K.W. set
mounted on a limbered wagon and drawn by teams of horses, bul-
locks, mules, or even men; and the Marconi pack set, a O-5-K.W.
set either carried in a limbered wagon, on pack horses or mules, or
by bearers. The latter proved particularly valuable for work with
flying columns of swiftly moving troops. All three types of set were
spark sets deriving their energy from internal-combustion engines.
In the future, these will doubtless be replaced by the more efficient
continuous wave system of wireless, but they played their part
well in the 1914-8 campaigns over ranges respectively of 120-
100, 80, and 30-50 miles. The extreme case of isolation in the
defensive is of course that of a garrison under prolonged siege, and
as an example both of the utility of wireless telegraphy in this case
and of the actual working output of even a small set, the case of
Kut may be quoted. The only means of signalling possessed by the
defenders of Kut for some weeks was a small wireless set. By means
of this, touch was kept with the relieving forces until the surrender,
6,313 messages consisting of 434,861 words in 144 days being the
final record of the set.

One other lesson learnt in the outlying campaigns may be men-
tioned the special necessity, in the theatres far from home supply
services, for standardization of implements and stores. This had only
been partially carried out when the war ended, but since then a con-
siderable reduction has been effected in the number of types of
instruments in use.

(4) Relation to other Arms. A subject of considerable impor-
tance is the relation between signals and other arms. Before the
World War, the signal service was regarded by the general staff
as an executive servant and by other elements of the army its
existence and potentialities were too often slighted or ignored
altogether. As the war went on, the importance of rapid, trust-
worthy, and copious intercommunication was emphasized more
and more. The effect of this, in the gradual change in the status
of the formation signal officer from the executive to the staff
officer, has already been emphasized as one of the main features
of the evolution of the service during the war period. Similarly,
the relation of " signals " to intelligence, artillery, and even to
infantry, has undergone a distinct change.

The intelligence service of all armies owes no small measure
of its present effectiveness to the means provided by signals for
tapping sources of enemy information. The listening sets; the
position-finding wireless set; the interception wireless set; the

1 It was doubtless owing largely to the experience of these cam-
paigns that steps were taken towards the end of the war to har-
monize the signal procedure of the navy, the army and the post-
office, that is, the form and manner of sending messages, the checks
in accuracy, the ensuring of priority, and suchlike matters of techni-
cal detail that, in fact, are as important to efficiency as the design of
instruments and the principles observed in their employment.



aeroplane wireless compass, are all efficient means of making out
enemy plans and dispositions. So-called " wireless camouflage" 2
and the dissemination of false information by all means of signal-
ling are well-recognized strategems.

The relation between artillery and the signal service is still
more obvious. Efficient artillery fire was never more dependent
on good observation than it was in the position-warfare battles
of 1915-7, and observation is useless without intercommunica-
tion. As has been noted earlier in this article, artillery signal
communication has become one of the definite functions of the
signal service.

With the infantry, the signal service, through the regimental
signal personnel which it supervises, has an equally close con-
nexion, though the personal comradeship which is the basis
of true liaison was made difficult, in the war, by the inevitable
demands made on infantry labour for the burying of cables.

Signal personnel have frequently proved their ability to give a
good account of themselves in infantry fighting, but it cannot be
too strongly emphasized that the employment of signallers as infan-
trymen whether in the battalion, brigade, division, corps, or army,
is a mistake except as a very last resource. The signaller is a valu-
able technical tradesman and he cannot be trained in a few days or
even a few months. More casualties have probably been caused by
lack of signallers, and therefore of the efficient signal communica-
tions essential to the guidance of the battle, than can ever have been
saved by their employment in the fighting line.

No small amount of the attention of signal units, especially in
position warfare, is now devoted to ^ferving the needs of other
technical branches of the army. Tank corps, royal air force, and
survey battalions all made special demands upon the intercom-
munication service.

(5) Means of Intercommunication. Details of the means of
intercommunication employed by the British army signal service
will be found in the official Manual of the Corps of Signals, Parts
I., III., IV., and V. Some of the details of more general interest
are given in the following few paragraphs.

Telephone and Telegraph. The standard instruments in use are
the telephone No. no (magneto ringing), the fullerphone (buzzer
call) and the telephone D Mk. III. (buzzer call). (In addition, a
lineman's telephone is provided for the use of the intercommunica-
tion maintenance personnel which has both magneto ring and buz-
zer call.) Of the telephones, no special description is needed, their
only peculiar characteristic being a robustness of structure and
parts calculated to stand the rough usage of army life.



Line Secondary C" Cs




FIG. 2.



The fullerphone is an instrument of peculiar interest. The chief
cause of the leakage from telegraph and telephone circuits was the
electrical stresses set up within the earth by the rapidly alternating
current used. The fullerphone is a telegraph instrument, the essen-
tial point of which is the changing at the receiving end of a steady
current into an intermittent current of audible frequency, while at
the same time the current in the line remains steady. A typical
fullerphone receiving circuit is shown in fig. 2. The interrupter (X)
may be driven by any means, either electrical or mechanical. In
army patterns it is driven electrically, being operated by means of a
local cell.

If a steady E.M.F. is applied between line and earth and the cir-
cuit is closed at the interrupter, a steady current will pass through
the choke coils (Cl, 2), contact 2 and receiver. If the circuit is
broken at X the current cannot pass through the receiver but will
flow into the condensers (Ki, K2, K3_). When the circuit is again
closed at X the condensers partially discharge through the receiver.

When the interrupter is working we therefore get an intermittent
current in the receiver which can be made audible by adjusting the
interrupter to run at a suitable speed, while the line current alter-
nately runs into the condensers or through the receivers and remains
practically constant and continuous in the line. The dots and
dashes sent by the single current Morse key at the end of the line

2 Manipulating the technicalities and the volume of traffic of
one's own wireless so as to mislead the enemy's interception service.



492



SIGNAL SERVICE, ARMY



are therefore reproduced in the receiver as short or long notes.
Readable signals can be obtained with about half a microampere,
a main battery of one dry cell being sufficient. The employment
of such an extremely small continuous line current eliminates
danger of overhearing, induction being reduced to a minimum.

In the rear areas, simplex, duplex, and wheatstone telegraphy are
all used in the offices of the higher formations, which in the case of
the armies may contain several hundred telegraph instruments and
telephone subscribers. Magneto exchanges are the rule as far for-
ward as brigade headquarters. At brigade headquarters buzzer
exchanges are also installed and at battery and battalion head-
quarters buzzer exchanges are the rule. Circuits are of galvanized
iron or copper wire beyond the limits of frequent shelling. For-
ward of this, main routes are of buried armoured cable (2-, 4-, or
7-pair brass-sheathed or iron-armoured usually) or light field cables
which are standardized in several sizes in both single and twisted
twin circuits. Enamelled wire, that is, wire roughly insulated by a
coating of enamel, was used by forward troops during the war, but
is now obsolescent.

Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony. In all formations down to
infantry battalions continuous wave wireless is now practically the
only means used. There are three standard sets. For use at, or in
rear of, army headquarters, or for long distances in mobile cam-
paigns, a set is provided with a maximum range of 400 miles. The
set has two 7o-foot masts and is fitted to be carried either in a box
car or a limbered wagon. (This is the equivalent of the former
" heavy motor set.")

For distances up to 200 m. a smaller set is provided which has
two 4p-ft. masts and can be carried as above or on pack animals.
For divisional work, the old " Wilson " and " British Field spark "
sets have been replaced by a portable set with a range of 12 miles.
This has two 15-ft. masts*,is worked from accumulators or by a
hand generator, and carried on pack animals or by bearers.

Finally, the loop sets already mentioned earlier are retained for
work within the battalion and battery if required, though they are
likely to be replaced soon by short range and short wave C.VV. sets
of much greater efficiency. The power buzzer and 3-valve amplifier
sets are also available for issue in case of position warfare.

Small portable wireless telephone sets for forward work have been
devised, and similar sets were indeed used in the Air Force during
the last months of the war. The sets are not yet standardized, but
those in use have a range of some 2,000 to 3,000 yards.

Visual Telegraphy. The visual instruments include the helio-
graph as used in pre-war days (see 13.223); the Lucas lamp; the
shutter, and the flag. Of these, the heliograph has a range up to
loo m. or more, but is only of really extended use in a country with a
large proportion of sunlight.

The very efficient and portable Lucas lamp is a powerful electric
lamp with an 8-candle-power bulb set in the back of a cylindrical
lampholder with a powerful reflector at its back. An 8-cell battery
of ever-ready cells provides a current at an E.M.F. of 12 volts.


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Online LibraryJessie FothergillThe Encyclopædia Britannica : a dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information (Volume 32) → online text (page 183 of 459)