Tactical communicationAugust 5 2009 at 1:58 AM
|Keith Matthews |
Response to Pyrotechnics, Radios and C3i in WWII
You are correct in that most communication by radio, flares and such was from Coy. or Bn. HQ to higher or supporting units. In the Second World War Canadian, British and other Commonwealth countries mostly relied on personal communication withinin the Inf. Bn., especially below the Company. Since the latter actions of the First World War this was ingrained in the ethos of the establishment and training. It heavily relied on intelligent junior officers and NCOs rather than technology.
This began at the 'O' group where each sub commander would be given the overall plan, clear orders and the opportunity to understand what each other would be doing - who should be doing what, where and when. Subsequent events would be put in context by this knowledge and intelligent responses. Key to this is observation of the battlefield (training in correct use of the use of the 'Eyeball Mk.1' is essential).
When sub-units contact commanders would update each other. This is often misleadingly reported in biographies and accounts like "met Bill by the farm, which was a bit hot, haven't seen him since boarding school, he tells me his sis is doing OK in the ATS..". Which probably really means "met the OC of the attached MMG Pln. as we were mopping up at the objective and arranged a mutually supporting defense plan and confirmed the fireplan for phase two, exchanged distracting pleasantries..".
Runners, message pads, flags and hand signals were used extensively but the role of the junior leader moving amongst their command was paramount. In many actions this applied to the Bn. and Coy Officers too. Valve technology in the radios was often too unreliable even with the most modern compact 38 Set ointended for Pln. to Coy. use. Add to this enemy listening in and unclear syntax, Officers were taught there was no substitute for personal contact and clear on the spot command.
A superb British account centering on this is Lindsay's "So Few Got Through". The title refers to the disproportionate casualties amongst Company Officers.
Flares tended to be one offs - success of mission signals so another phase can kick off (such as D-Day anti-artillery battery missions - dodgy if the flare pistol is in the channel and HMS Warspite is about to neutralise the area by other means..). Coloured smoke was carried for ground to air communication especially for friendly forces marking (usually yellow).
The theory of instant, clear communication was there, however the technology had not caught up. Some units/operations used US walkie-talkie radios after D-Day but there were too few.
sorry for the long winded message. I trust that this is of use.