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Small Unit Signaling

Discussion in 'Other Weapons' started by the_diego, Mar 28, 2021.

  1. the_diego

    the_diego Active Member

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    What did commanders use to communicate with their men before radios became extensive? I'm talking about commanders at the battalion level downwards. Well, they used their voices of course, to be passed down by deputies and subordinates. But in battle, what tools were used? Whistles? Bugles? Colored flags? Smoke grenades?
     
  2. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    If you mean the telegraph lines the Germans destroyed them before Barbarossa started I don' t know if faxing was possible.all this added to confusion. The Soviets used the telegraph mostly which was costly.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2021
  3. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    All of the above, but runners passed messages and good commanders would move to where they thought they might be most effective, either to order a subordinate or lead by example. There were also a range of hand signals for control at very low level.
    .
    Don't forget that tactics were based on the technology of the time. Until 1914 the tactical unit was the battalion deployed as a firing line, supports and reserve. It was very hard to apply command and control once battle was joined amid a hail of bullets and shellfire.

    The conditions of trench warfare led to a revolution in low level tactics. Tactical problems were reduced to capturing or recapturing a trench or machine gun post. New infantry weapons were added to the infantry - hand and rifle grenades, light machine guns and even mortars and light artillery. A platoon commander in 1918 had probably more weapons to think about than a battalion commander in 1914. Command and control was extremely difficult in battle. This led to greater training for junior leaders and encouragement for individual initiative towards the overall mission.

    Basil Liddell Hart delivered a seminal lecture at RUSI after the end of the war. B.H. Liddell-Hart: The "Man-in-the-Dark" and the "Expanding Torrent"

    If you read to the end you will see a reference in the discussion to an infantry battalion as really 64 sections doing their best to achieve the mission.
     
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  4. DarkLord

    DarkLord Active Member

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    I always wondered how Subutai coordinated his battlefield strategies. Something unique about his battlefield movements is the unbelievable coordination in the heat of the battle...dude was a freaking genius.
     
  5. the_diego

    the_diego Active Member

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    AFAIK Jebe and Subedai used colored flags in the battlefied. But then, a continental Mongol campaign was usually fluid and commanders and troops alike had to wing it often, relying on standard battle procedures. In the case of the Mongols and later with the Ottomans, it usually entailed light cavalry fanning out to harass, scout, and whittle down enemy concentrations, until the main force of armored and heavily armed infantry and cavalry could draw up a clear order of battle at a specified place and time.
     
  6. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Actually, probably the two most common methods for small unit signaling (company and below) in WW 2 were using whistles and flares. Both whistles and flare guns were issued to many NCO's and officers at the pointy end of things. Squads and platoons also regularly used hand signals that were standardized and learned in training exercises.
    Runners are more commonly used between platoon and company level. At company level there might have been a radio, depending on which military you're discussing, or more commonly, a field telephone. The field telephone was far more reliable than a radio that required batteries and could have issues with tubes and such. A battalion HQ would definitely have field telephones and radios available to it. They might still use messengers, but would likely try to mount them on horses, motorcycles, or light vehicles rather than send them on foot.
     
  7. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Just before the beginning of Barbaross German pioneers cut the Soviet radio etc cables making it rather impossible to inform each other of the military situation. I believe Germans had radios which were intact and enigma for communication between each other at various levels.
     
  8. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    US Infantry, company, platoon, squad were trained from as early as the 1911 Infantry Drill Regulations, see Infantry drill regulations, 1911 : United States. War Department. n 79084108 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive. Same hand signals used in WW2, see FM 22-5 Basic Field Manual -Infantry Drill Regulations, 4 August 1941 with revisions through 1943. Easy download from here: FM 22-5 Infantry Drill Regulations, 1941 : United States. War Department : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive. Once you get past the first 82 pages, the revisions 1941 through 1943 (including some revisions to hand signals which start on page 79), and get to the actual 4 August 1941 manual, one finds Chapter 11 – Signals, where is found Section III - General arm and hand signals. In a visit there, I think, anyone with a nodding acquaintance with US Army hand signals from, oh, say, the Viet Nam era forward will find them familiar even with illustrations showing soldiers sporting the M1917A1 helmet.

    Go back in time from here to the 1911 regulations and you can find similar chapters in the 1939 and 1932 regulations.

    I've seen it said that the hand signals used in Band of Brothers were anachronism as they were not developed until the Vietnam war, obviously untrue. I remember being taught and using various of these signals during FTX's while a cadet at VMI in the early 1970s.
     
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  9. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The same can be found in Tactics and Techniques of Infantry Basic, under Infantry Drill Regulations, Section IX Signals. The US Army also had in their TO&E the issue of a good number of whistles to NCO's and officers in combat units, and standardized instructions on various calls that could be made using them.
     
  10. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The same can be found in Tactics and Techniques of Infantry Basic, under Infantry Drill Regulations, Section IX Signals. The US Army also had in their TO&E the issue of a good number of whistles to NCO's and officers in combat units, and standardized instructions on various calls that could be made using them.
     
  11. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    At a very small level, a Group, some ten men armed with One mg and One carrying ammo for the gun, and the others quite lightly for armed battle, the Group leader showed with his hands how to move ahead ( in line or widespread Group) and where to. No talking. At least I was taught it that way when I was a Group leader.
    When we were eating any slight sound by a Group member meant we changed eating place. That was the rule all through the mission.
     

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