Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 90.djvu/813

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Popular Science Monthly



���in the monotony of trench life.

In addition to these schools for the train- ing of operators, there was also one for the officers, to which I myself was attached for some time in the capacity of lecturer. The wireless section is now, of course, one of the largest and most important factors in the Royal Engineers, but at that time it was comparatively unimportant, and there was naturally a shortage of officers fully trained in this branch of the work.

Consequently to meet this deficit it was the custom to bring back signaling officers from their brigades for a short, sharp course of two weeks. This, coupled with their previous knowledge of telegraphy and circuits, was found to be sufficient to make them efficient leaders.

The operator naturally took longer, being absolutely untrained in such work, and his course usually lasted from three months to four or even more. The measure of his qualifications, however, was high and definitely fixed. He had to be able to send <ind receive at the rate of twenty-five words a minute, English, and twenty words a minute code and foreign languages. He had to be able to assemble and dismantle Marconi 1 3^ K. W. ; also to have a working knowledge of trench sets and a thorough knowledge of army procedure.

As a matter of fact, he rarely needed to work to the full height of his ability, for, in actual warfare, he found that the nec- essary speed rarely exceeded from fifteen to twenty words a minute, according to the activity of the Boche gunners.

The wireless, as I have said, is now an essential part in all trench warfare. When the infantry advances to an attack, the operator is always slightly in the rear. Where formerly a detachment of men had to reel out hundreds upon hundreds of yards of cable to establish telephone communica-



Wireless stations along a line for six miles, the last one using an umbrella type aerial

tion between a trench newly taken from the enemy and the first line reserve behind, now the operator simply picks up his box, his ground mat and his aerial single-handed and advances simultaneously with the at- tackers. Arriving at his new position, he props up his aerial, lays his ground mat, and communications are established almost at once.

It would be hard to overestimate the imp>ortance of his duties. When an enemy trench is being taken, it is he who reports the progress of the encounter — the number of the enemy, the nature of their defence, the amount of the casualties on either side, the condition of the trench when it is finally taken — whether it has been badly damaged by artillery fire, or whether it is practically intact. If a gas attack is com-

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