The fourth day of my count down to the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1.
From the photograph of Walter (on Monday's post) it is evident he is wearing an armband on his right sleeve. This denotes he was a trained signaller/telephonist which was a rather more dangerous role than sitting behind a desk answering the phone.
He would have been part of a team responsible for maintaining communications between the Forward Observation Officers (FOOs) and brigade so that the artillery could be targeted on specific points with greater accuracy. This photograph is of a Royal Field Artillery Forward Observation Officer with a signaller beside him calling in firing instructions to the batteries at the rear.
The FOOs would advance in close support of assaulting infantry in any major attack and the signallers would have to lay telephone lines in the open between them and brigade HQ – effectively going over the top carrying heavy reels of telephone cable they would have to deploy as they advanced, in the open, under fire.
The picture below gives an idea of the burden these guys would have had to struggle forward with.
And once laid, the wires would inevitably be cut by enemy shell-fire so the signallers would have to go out again in the open to fix the breaks. If a signaller was going to win a gallantry medal it was most likely for his efforts supporting the FOOs in a major attack. And for the enemy, signallers were high value targets because without communications the artillery would be firing “blind”. The armbands of course handily marked them out for what they were… they may as well have painted targets on their chests!
On the first day of the battle of Loos the War Diary of the 71st Brigade RFA recorded that,
“The O.C (Officer Commanding) brigade went forward to be in communication with GOC (General Officer Commanding) 46th Inf Bde”.
He would have needed telephone comms to keep in touch with his batteries. In all likelihood it would have been the task of Walter and his mates to set up those comms as the assaulting infantry were going in.
More tomorrow as 71st Brigade RFA are transferred to the killing fields of the Somme…