Missed Signals on the Western Front

How the Slow Adoption of Wireless Restricted British Strategy and Operations in World War I

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About the Book

Though wireless communication was in early development during World War I, the technology could have made a profound impact on tactical operations and on the entire strategic conduct of the war. Providing details on how and why the technology did not fulfill its promise as a great military tool until years later, the book points primarily to the British army’s institutional bias against wireless communication as the technology’s downfall, reinforced by the crude, unreliable wireless sets with which the army began the war. It also demonstrates how improved wireless communications between infantry, command, artillery and air observation could have improved the flexibility, accuracy and effectiveness of the British military strategy in the German Spring Offensive, the Hundred Days Counteroffensive and the battles of the Somme, Passchendaele, and Cambrai.

About the Author(s)

A retired bank director, Mike Bullock lives in Warwickshire, England.
Laurence A. Lyons, an adjunct professor of electrical engineering at the University of West Florida and the University of South Alabama, lives in Foley, Alabama.

Bibliographic Details

Mike Bullock and Laurence A. Lyons
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 236
Bibliographic Info: 13 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2010
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4937-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vi

Preface      1

Introduction      3

1. Military Wireless Before the War      15

2. Operational Signals—Pre-war and Early Mobile Warfare      25

3. Operational Signals—Static Warfare in 1915      34

4. 1915—The RFC Invents Wireless Telephony      53

5. Operational Signals on the Somme      66

6. A Counterfactual—The Somme with Wireless Telephony      76

7. Operational Signals in 1917      87

8. A Counterfactual—Passchendaele and Cambrai with Wireless Telephony      107

9. Operational Signals in 1918      115

10. A Counterfactual—The German Spring Offensive and Hundred Days with Wireless Telephony      141

11. Command, Control and Communications      150

12. Intercept, Encryption and Jamming      167

13. An Assessment of Wireless as It Was Actually Employed      181

Conclusion      192

Appendix A: Wireless Technology      195

Appendix B: Signal Service Units, 1914      199

Appendix C: Signals Service Units Later in the War      201

Chapter Notes      203

Bibliography      215

Index      221

Book Reviews & Awards

“an essential read”—The NYMAS Review.