The  above  diagrams shows  the  Battalion  having  moved from an assembly area, is advancing on a two column front on parallel roads  in  order  to  contact  the  enemy  and  probe out  his defensive ‘strong-points’.

The map diagram illustrates the Battalion's deployment of four rifle companies, carrier platoon, mortar platoon and anti-tank platoon.   The Battalion wireless net shows 'B' Company (code sign L2 on the net) is leading the right column and 'D' (L4) the left column. The Carrier Platoon (L5) is protecting the right flank and behind them in reserve is 'A' Company (L1).  Behind 'D' Company on the left flank are the 3-inch Mortar Platoon (L6) followed by 'C' Company (L3) which is in reserve.  The Anti-Tank Platoon (L7) in the area of Battalion Headquarters ready to be deployed when enemy tanks are encountered.   The Royal Artillery battery operating in support of the Battalion, has the code sign L8.

The Battalion during an attack relies on wireless for communication.  Often cable-laying parties would follow the rifle companies into an attack and if the advance was held up the line-laying signallers would quickly provide telephone communication to Battalion Headquarters.   Nevertheless, wireless was always best suited for the mobility of advancing, attacking forces . . . despite its time-to-time limitations.

When the battalion occupied a defence position, we relied on telephone  communication  backed  up  by wireless. When a telephone line ceased to work, the signaller would open up wireless transmission if ‘wireless silence’ was not in operation. Battalion Headquarters would always be on 'listening watch' for such an eventuality.

Layout of the Battalion in a defensive position: Signals Platoon deployed to provide a communications network with the Battalion Commander at its centre.

   
18WS: Battalion Net of Company and Support Arms.
38WS: Battalion Sub-Units Nets.

19WS: Brigade Net.
22WS: Royal Artillery Net.

An actual diagram of the line communication network deployed by the 7th/9th (Highlanders) Battalion The Royal Scots when holding a position on the west bank of The Rhine is shown on page 47. Later the 8th Battalion The Royal Scots passed through this position and made a successful crossing of The Rhine and went on to attack Goch.

 

Reality -- Stress and Strain of Maintaining Communication

I am sure that it was the experience of all infantry signallers that wireless communication could be unreliable and telephone links subject to break-down when cables were damaged by enemy shellfire or churned up our own tracked vehicles.

Wireless for military purposes was first used in World War I, but the sets were said to have been 'very large, heavy to transport, unreliable and their transmissions could be received by the enemy'. Even at the start of World War II wireless was still in its early stages of development for military use. The WS18 we used from 1941 onwards had been developed by Pye Radio Co. from the earlier WS8 made by Murphy Radio, incorporating improvements gained from our experience in the 1940s when we opposed the German blitzkrieg attack which ultimately forced the British Expeditionary Forces to withdraw back to Britain for the 'final defence of the Realm'.

WS18 operational range was approximately 4 miles but the transmission of signals at strength was always subject to the type of terrain. If the WS18 was sited in the 'shadow' of a hill or in the vicinity of large objects it could lose signal strength and often the signaller in charge had limited scope to avoid these obstacles or minimise their effects. The over-riding factor was always the tactical siting of the Rifle Company Commander's headquarters, not necessarily the best position for the WS18 to work. When wireless reception was difficult, the Company Commander with the signallers often tried to find a compromise, balancing tactical requirements with securing the optimum signal strength for transmission and reception. Clearly, communication was crucial to the Company Commander: his need to keep in contact with the Battalion Commander and the other attacking companies and to be able to call on mortar and artillery support.

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44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50 Index