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Contact Patrol Ground Equipment


MikeMeech

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Hello All

As a new member I wonder if I could ask for some help. I have been working for some time on First World War Contact Patrols (Some work of mine has been published in Cross & Cockade International, Vol 40/2,/3, /4 and Vol 41/1, on this subject). Basically I am searching for photos of various items of 'missing' equipment, especially those used by the Infantry. There are tree items in particular:

1. The ground signalling panel called; 'Shutter Folding Signalling', 'Lathe', 'Louvre' or 'Panneau', all these terms are used in the records for this one item. This is described as an 'oblong canvas sheet about 6ft by 2.5ft pegged to the ground, on top of which is a series of panels (or slats/lathes 6 or 8 in number), these are white on one side, black or green on the other, joined together with tape so Morse messages could be sent to the Contact Patrol machine. This is not to be confused with the smaller devices used for trench signalling, although the principles were the same. It appears to have been in service from 1916 to 1918, when it was being replaced by the Popham 'T' Panel. Location of a photograph would be good, or if anyone knows of a serviving example would be of interest.

2. The 'Watson Fan', this was used to indicate the position of front line troops in the advance alongside or instead of flares. It is mentioned in many 1917 documents, although one secondary source believes it was first used in 1916. It is described as a 'pleated canvas disc white on one side 'neutral tint' (dark) on the other. It could be folded up to carry but although relatively light some documents describe it as "cumbersome things to carry". some units thought it worked well others did not. In the 'Great Contact Patrol Survey' (my title) of late 1917 to January 1918, 14 reports were in favour of Watson Fans and 8 reports were against. Although I doubt if there are any photos of it in action, for obvious reasons, there may be some of it on training scheme. It may be difficult to recognise 'on the march' without knowing what it looks like. A lot appear to have been produced as a document dated 10.8.17 states that 2100 remained in stock after issues had been completed. On 25.8.17 a document states that the 5th Army asked for 5000, although that is not the same as receiving. Although the 2nd Army stated on 24.11.17 that they had been used successfully by several Divisions. Again photos or surviving items are of interest.

3. The 'Respirator Haversack Flap', this was an extra cavas flap sewn on the back of the gas mask haversack that could be opened up to reveal white American cloth (or white paint in lieu) and a shiny metal disc, an earlier version appears not to have this disc. This was a replacement for the Watson Fan really and was much easier and lighter to carry. It appears to have been in use from August 1918 onwards in increasing quantities and was supposed to have become standard issue post war, although I do not think it did. I do have drawings of this item from TNA Documents, but have yet to see photos or any surviving example.

Any help in locating photos of these items would be welcome.

Thanking you all.

Mike Meech

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Hi Mike, welcome to the Great War Forum. Perhaps you should post your query in the "Equipment" subforum of the "Uniforms, Arms, Insignia, Equipment & Medals" section. That way your request for information might have greater visibility to the Forum members who are our equipment experts. I have the feeling that those items of equipment you listed were recommended in some sort of manual or letter of instruction for patrolling but as a practical matter were not taken along on many of those types of operations.

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Hi Mike, welcome to the Great War Forum. Perhaps you should post your query in the "Equipment" subforum of the "Uniforms, Arms, Insignia, Equipment & Medals" section. That way your request for information might have greater visibility to the Forum members who are our equipment experts. I have the feeling that those items of equipment you listed were recommended in some sort of manual or letter of instruction for patrolling but as a practical matter were not taken along on many of those types of operations.

Thanks for that Pete. However, all these items were used at some stage as various units put in reports on what they thought of them when using on operations. Also the RFC would state on their Contact Patrol reports if they had seen the devices or not. Opinions differed on all items used by the infantry, indeed the 'Great Survey' probably made choosing useful items of equipment more difficult as not only did opinions differ on the items in use but many units had their own ideas as well which were put forward through the command system. This resulted in major trials in early 1918 of the most 'promising' ideas both for showing the line and for signalling purposes. It should also be remembered that trials and experiments had been going on since, at least, 1915. After every battle comments were made on what worked or what didn't, or at least how it was perceived on the ground or in the air. The July 1916 Somme events had been analysed and changes made by the beginning of August for example.

Mike

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