Methods of Observation
and Communication During WWI
Michael Korenchan Period 5 5/22/14
During World War One, good communication and observation was key to winning battles. There were many different methods of communication and observation. People communicated through visual communication, electronic communication, and by using animals.
There were two main methods of visual communication during World War One. These were flagging and lamp communication. These methods tended to be relatively inefficient because messages could be easily intercepted by people watching.
Flags were used to communicate from the ground to the air during the daytime. Different codes and commands were associated with the different flags. A skilled person could send 12 words per minute.
British forces especially would communicate with lamps. They used a lamp called a “Begbie” that had a special lens that would concentrate light to be seen over large distances. Operators would communicate with Morse code.
With new inventions and new ways to communicate, troops in during World War One used new electronic equipment to send messages. These included the radio and the telephone.
The radio was widely used at sea. This helped ships and submarines communicate with each other and with bases on land. Radio messages were commonly transmitted in Morse code.
The telephone helped people on different parts of a battlefield communicate with each other. As an army advanced, it laid new telephone wires to connect to various telephone posts throughout their territory. The wires were easily broken by people fighting on them in the trenches, so people would be disconnected often.
Animals were used during World War One to complete various tasks including delivering messages. They were very efficient. The most common animals were dogs and pigeons.
Dogs were used for all sorts of things during World War One. They were assigned different jobs based on their intelligence and physical abilities. There were scout dogs, sentry dogs, casualty dogs, explosive dogs, and messenger dogs. Messenger dogs were very efficient and useful because they could deliver messages very quickly and over difficult terrain. They were very reliable.
Pigeons were also extremely efficient and reliable. They had a 95% success rate at delivering messages. When troops advanced, they would move the pigeon lofts with them. The pigeons would have to find their lofts by themselves using their natural homing ability. They almost always found them, though they had no way of knowing where they were. Pigeons were also very hard to shoot down. There is a story about a carrier pigeon named Cher Ami that saved 194 American soldiers when they were surrounded by enemies. Cher Ami had to carry a message to the nearest American headquarters, which it had to find by itself. It was shot in the chest along the way, but kept flying, delivered the message, and saved all 194 soldiers.