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What does AAA mean in Pigeon Post documents?


History boi
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This is a digital version of a WW1 pigeon post document I recently received, and i am trying to find out what it says. I think it is from the Battle of Arras in 1917 since that is where my family member served who brought this home. The (?) symbols mean that there is a word we haven’t figured out yet.

29E28480-ABBD-4E6A-972D-01D836B70453.png

Edited by History boi
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3 hours ago, Bardess said:

I think it's the end of a sentence - full stop

Yes that’s correct (aka decimal point).  It’s one of a series of punctuations using multiple letter codes in signals and radiograms (‘International Code of Signalling’).  They are known as pro-signs (procedural signs), the most famous being SOS.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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I am still a little confused, so i was researching and i found that AAA stands for Ainti-Aircraft artillery, but if you are saying it is a full stop i don’t understand why they would write that in a hand written document rather than just a full stop. 

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15 minutes ago, History boi said:

i found that AAA stands for Ainti-Aircraft artillery

Hi and welcome to the forum.

Acronyms are only authoritative in context, so for the signal traffic the other posters are absolutely correct.  It  might be written under shellfire and in the dark recesses of a tank full of petrol fumes.  This handwritten message might be received wet, muddy and almost indecipherable.  Then it would be transmitted to another headquarters, perhaps by Morse or voice or runner.  It might even be encrypted with the Playfair cipher if important enough.  Therefore, it had to be absolutely clear to all recipients that the original sender intended to write a full stop.  A period (full stop) can mean many things, from dirt on the message pad to a slip of the pencil or a full stop that resembles a comma.

As the other posters have pointed out, that is the reason behind using AAA and it is very common in signals traffic. 

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If you post the handwritten document we may be able to help you to decipher your other queries. Welcome, by the way ^_^ 

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These are some of the images i have of the document. Also if anyone can figure out or known where this was sent from and where it was going it was be a great help. 

03095961-EBA8-4023-8DC8-A72EFD341774.jpeg

80BE8391-43FC-446A-B897-933A9616B4AA.jpeg

9FD708B3-2EB2-4E47-BD25-612807D505D9.jpeg

Edited by History boi
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Fair & Rumble are code names for the sender's & receiver's units. In this case I'd suggest a battalion HQ sending to Brigade HQ.

Lt. Col. James Jones is the best lead you have. He could be the James Jones that rose from CSM to command a battalion. MIC has his Lt. Col. Rank for Durham Light Infantry attached Norfolk Regiment.

His medals were sold in 1996 with details showing DLI attached 17th Lancashire Fusiliers.

Your note only has a date of 21, no month or year and the only location is the Blue Line and that's simply a blue line drawn on a map for an offensive action.

It's possible there's a copy of your message with a unit diary which would also give it some context.

Start point would be to track down Lt. Col. Jones (are there any other contenders?), establish possible battalions for him and check the relevant diaries.

TEW

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From “Fair” To “Bumble”

Date 21st. Time 04.50 (in morning).

Battalion established on Blue Line objective STOP Strength available not sufficient for further advance STOP Line of posts established 500 yards North East of Blue Line STOP Am consolidating position STOP 

This is a situation report from an officer commanding an infantry unit after an assault.  He is unable to go further and attempting to create a defensive line in preparation for an enemy counter-attack so that he can hold and secure the ground that he has achieved (at some considerable loss - he’s not yet had time to accurately assess his strength - but deems conveying his exact position more important, probably because of friendly artillery).  The ground is almost certainly badly chewed up, or at least there is no extant trench line, so his men are positioned in small groups with a gap between each across his frontage, probably in shell holes.

NB. I agree that it is probably from a battalion to its brigade as that would be the shortest distance for the pigeon to go.  Establishing “lines of posts” was common in the churned up ground of e.g. Passchendaele in 1917.

D745F2B3-A35A-4D2E-BD0E-286A31A8CFCE.jpeg

2677EB7B-ADBF-4375-B138-8C67BC61EE54.jpeg

4544D13D-A37B-4410-AF0C-376798FF940B.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE
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I just have to say thank you guys sooo much for helping me find out what the content of this message was. :D

1 hour ago, FROGSMILE said:

From “Fair” To “Bumble”

Date 21st. Time 04.50 (in morning).

Battalion established on Blue Line objective STOP Strength available not sufficient for further advance STOP Line of posts established 500 yards North East of Blue Line STOP Am consolidating position STOP 

This is a situation report from an officer commanding an infantry unit after an assault.  He is unable to go further and attempting to create a defensive line in preparation for an enemy counter-attack so that he can hold and secure the ground that he has achieved (at some considerable loss - he’s not yet had time to accurately assess his strength - but deems conveying his exact position more important, probably because of friendly artillery).  The ground is almost certainly badly chewed up, or at least there is no extant trench line, so his men are positioned in small groups with a gap between each across his frontage, probably in shell holes.

NB. I agree that it is probably from a battalion to its brigade as that would be the shortest distance for the pigeon to go.  Establishing “lines of posts” was common in the churned up ground of e.g. Passchendaele in 1917.

D745F2B3-A35A-4D2E-BD0E-286A31A8CFCE.jpeg

2677EB7B-ADBF-4375-B138-8C67BC61EE54.jpeg

4544D13D-A37B-4410-AF0C-376798FF940B.jpeg

 

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Do you have the details of the family member? That should help connect him to the Lt. Col.

TEW

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1 hour ago, History boi said:

I just have to say thank you guys sooo much for helping me find out what the content of this message was. :D

 

What was your family member’s name and regiment, do you know?

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This is the Lt. Col. I think we're dealing with.

https://www.durhamatwar.org.uk/story/14365/

Complicated list of units he served with.

His DSO citation shows he led by example on the front line.

If so then the pigeon message may be from him back to his own HQ (date and event unknown). I can't see they'd have different pigeons for different destinations. Once at Bn. HQ the message could be sent on to Brigade or Division as needed.

The images look to be the top copy rather than the carbon copy kept by the sender. In which case your family member must have been at Bn. Or Bde. HQ. I can't see the opportunity for any passing ordinary rank to grab old messages for a souvenir.

TEW

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11 minutes ago, TEW said:

This is the Lt. Col. I think we're dealing with.

https://www.durhamatwar.org.uk/story/14365/

Complicated list of units he served with.

His DSO citation shows he led by example on the front line.

If so then the pigeon message may be from him back to his own HQ (date and event unknown). I can't see they'd have different pigeons for different destinations. Once at Bn. HQ the message could be sent on to Brigade or Division as needed.

The images look to be the top copy rather than the carbon copy kept by the sender. In which case your family member must have been at Bn. Or Bde. HQ. I can't see the opportunity for any passing ordinary rank to grab old messages for a souvenir.

TEW

I think that you were right in your earlier post TEW.  Pigeons were a formation owned asset loaned to battalions. In which case the pigeon would ‘home’ to its loft at brigade HQ.  That scenario matches also the different code names of FAIR and BUMBLE.  It wouldn’t be tactically sensible for a message to be sent to Battalion HQ Rear, when that is interjecting an extra step rearwards that would potentially delay the conveyance of important tactical information that formation commanders would be waiting upon.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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12 minutes ago, TEW said:

the pigeon message may be from him back to his own HQ

If it is @TEW's LTCOL James Jones and the web site is correct, then I am confused.  It suggests he was promoted to acting lieutenant colonel on 1 October 1918 and died of wounds two weeks later  That rules out 21 October 1918.  So he only wore the rank for the last 2 weeks of his life.  The DSO citation called him 'battalion commander' in September 1918 but implies he still wore the rank of major, which he became entitled on 23 July 1918. 

Signal traffic in an orderly room was checked, filed and cross-referenced.  Sometimes counter-signed by an officer.  Your chances of getting your hands on one and keeping it was pretty remote outside the small group of signallers and orderly room clerks at brigade HQ (as TEW says).  My grandfather returned with an original signal as a souvenir, because he worked as a signaller on a brigade HQ.  When the OP posts the details of his family member, a lot of this should fall into place.

The pigeon is not going to fly from the battalion commander to his own battalion headquarters, as he is effectively his own HQ (Tac HQ).  So the only person really, really interested in his assessment that he cannot advance any further is his immediate superior, the brigade commander.  Also, pigeons return to a loft.  Battalions won't have a pigeon loft and send birds down to their companies as they have runners and signallers to do that.  Typically a pigeon loft needs to be in place for 2 weeks for the birds to see it as their home and a battalion HQ is probably not safe enough for this homing to occur.  However, the pigeon loft was often taken to a brigade headquarters.  Just as Frogsmile says.

Once again, what a fantastic souvenir the OP has and thanks for an interesting thread.

Probably the quickest cross-check is the OP passing on the information on the family member and someone with the unit war diary of the 19th Battalion, DLI checking who was the  battalion commander on July 21 and September 21 1918 and were they attacking.

 

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All points noted. May need another contender for the officer then.

Good job I didn't start posting regarding other possibilities for the pigeon message.

Who's to say it delivered its message? Perhaps someone found a dead pigeon months later and kept the obsolete as a souvenir.

TEW

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On 20/09/2022 at 13:06, WhiteStarLine said:

 

Probably the quickest cross-check is the OP passing on the information on the family member and someone with the unit war diary of the 19th Battalion, DLI checking who was the  battalion commander on July 21 and September 21 1918 and were they attacking.

 

I too think that course of action is likely to bear fruit, although I sensed 1917 might have been a possibility for the events outlined in the message.  It is an amazing artefact to have and it feels impossible to not be intrigued about what may have happened subsequent to the message being sent.  I do hope that the OP @History boiwill report back!

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Just downloaded the 19/DLI diary and for 21st, July, Aug & September 1918 there were In Support, In Camp & In Reserve Billets. They're a bit slack in giving the CO's details. However, a June appendix shows that Lt. Col. W B Greenwell DSO left for Officers' School Aldershot 27/6/1918 and was replaced by Major H R McCullagh who is then Lt. Col. McCullagh in late September and still CO.

Not a mention of a Jones as CO in WO95/2484/4.

For Jones I also downloaded the 17/Lancashire Fusiliers diary which shows his arrival as CO 12/9/1918 (not from 19/DLI). His death and DSO award are mentioned at the end October' diary. This diary is almost illegible for 21/9/1918.

104 Infantry Brigade says the brigade was training with contact aeroplanes 21/9/1918.

TEW

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1 minute ago, TEW said:

Just downloaded the 19/DLI diary and for 21st, July, Aug & September 1918 there were In Support, In Camp & In Reserve Billets. They're a bit slack in giving the CO's details. However, a June appendix shows that Lt. Col. W B Greenwell DSO left for Officers' School Aldershot 27/6/1918 and was replaced by Major H R McCullagh who is then Lt. Col. McCullagh in late September and still CO.

Not a mention of a Jones as CO in WO95/2484/4.

For Jones I also downloaded the 17/Lancashire Fusiliers diary which shows his arrival as CO 12/9/1918 (not from 19/DLI). His death and DSO award are mentioned at the end October' diary. This diary is almost illegible for 21/9/1918.

104 Infantry Brigade says the brigade was training with contact aeroplanes 21/9/1918.

TEW

I might have missed something key.  Is it impossible for the incident that the message relates to, to have been in 1917?

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I think it is all speculative until @History boi returns and gives us details of who the family member was and why he thinks the message might have been from Arras (which is very plausible).

Or, the alternative is to check every battalion that was commanded by an officer with the worn rank of LTCOL, with the surname of Jones and who was attacking on the 21st of a given month and had reached the Blue Line.  We can start with the introduction of the Carrier Pigeon Service in the early months of 1916 (when pigeon messaging transitioned from being an Intelligence function).

Much as I enjoy predicate logic, I think I will sit this one out and see if the OP responds.  He doesn't have to as he has expressed thanks, but it would be very interesting if he did and we had a glimpse as to why he has the signal.

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I did check MICs for other Lt. Col. Jones and only found non-infantry men. The OP's Jones may not have an MIC though.

Regarding rank, the Jones who took over 17/LF 12/9/18 is ranked as Lt. Col. so he was not promoted to the rank 1/10/18. No idea when he was promoted or his previous positions. The web link to his bio misses out the 2nd Connaughts.

TEW

 

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3 hours ago, TEW said:

I did check MICs for other Lt. Col. Jones and only found non-infantry men. The OP's Jones may not have an MIC though.

Regarding rank, the Jones who took over 17/LF 12/9/18 is ranked as Lt. Col. so he was not promoted to the rank 1/10/18. No idea when he was promoted or his previous positions. The web link to his bio misses out the 2nd Connaughts.

TEW

 

As officers records have generally survived I should hope that it might be possible to track down as many Lieutenant Colonel James Jones of the infantry as there were, albeit that it is an inconveniently common name. 

Edited by FROGSMILE
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The only family members that served in ww1 was a guy who served in a factory in Britain, and Thomas Latta Sharp who served in the British Red Cross Society in France and brought back a shell from the battle of arras with “Arras 1917” engraved in it. But my grandmother game me a medal of someone who wasn’t in our family but it was from someone named “DVR.R.SLOAN” and the regiment he was in was the A.S.C which i researched and meant Army Service Corps. 

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Thanks for getting back to us.  I think we were all hoping you had an ancestor who was a signaller or pigeon handler and he recorded the date and the unit he was serving with!!!

Anyway, it is a wonderful artefact and clearly genuine. so one day someone will come up with the right James Jones.

Cheers, Bill

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2 minutes ago, WhiteStarLine said:

Thanks for getting back to us.  I think we were all hoping you had an ancestor who was a signaller or pigeon handler and he recorded the date and the unit he was serving with!!!

Anyway, it is a wonderful artefact and clearly genuine. so one day someone will come up with the right James Jones.

Cheers, Bill

To be honest I’m not 100% sure that that’s the only people, there are probably more people that served but i have to do some more research into that.  

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