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Remembered Today:

Battlefield communications, Gallipoli + role of buglers ?


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I wonder if I could tap into the collective knowledge here, to help me better understand how, in an era before radio communication, command and control of troops was managed on a Great War battlefield. My particular interest is in how this applies to a Territorial Force battalion that served at Gallipoli in 1915.


I'm assuming communication could be managed in three forms:
1. Passing of written or verbal messages by runner.
2. Visual signalling by flags (or light).
3. Sound signals, by bugle.


Does that cover the available options at the time ?


The battalion went to Gallipoli organised in four companies, overseen by a smaller battalion headquarters. Each company consisted of four platoons.


From photographs taken not long before embarkation, the battalion in question's signals section seems to have consisted of about 20 men. There was also a designated signals sergeant and a signals officer. I assume the men would have been distributed amongst the rifle companies and battalion HQ, but don't know in what proportion. Any ideas ? The only signalling equipment they seem to have possessed was flags, though in pre-war photos lamps and heliographs are on display too. While they certainly had field telephones later, I have not seen any evidence that they were in use with the battalion at Gallipoli.


The available battalion embarkation roll assigns all men in the ranks into four companies (unfortunately, no distinction is drawn for the various specialist sub-organisations that existed, such as the machine gun section, pioneers, the battalion band (employed as stretcher bearers) and the signallers). Each company had four Buglers assigned to it; there were a total of 16 in the battalion.

I'm particularly in the dark regarding these buglers.
1. I understand them to have been trained as soldiers first and buglers second. Would they in fact have had any real battlefield communications role at all, or was their instrument primarily for use in camp routine ?
2. Given there were four to a company and 16 in the battalion, to whom would they have been assigned ? One to each of the 16 platoons ? That seems logical, and I have seen a photo of one of the platoons prior to embarkation that indicates it had a bugler embedded within it, but what then of the company commanders and battalion CO ? It would seem odd if the ability to give sound signals was available to platoon commanders, but not to higher command levels. There don't seem to have been enough buglers to go around if they really were a means of conveying orders.


The battalion's first action was a confused and disastrous affair, which perhaps makes its own point about the efficiency of the available means of communication (and reflects my own confusion too).


Grateful for your thoughts !



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Telephone lines would primarily have been set up by the Divisional Signalling Company (typically divided into four sections, one with divisional HQ, and one with each subordinate brigade HQ), from division to brigade, and then from brigade down to battalion.  

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The RND Medical Unit also had its own telephone line at Gallipoli; I came across the reference just yesterday.

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At the risk of flogging a dead horse; the evacuation plans involved each post reporting in by telephone before withdrawing.

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