Online tour 23 - Communication

When the First World War started, armies were primarily still working with visual means such as flags and light signals, which soon proved to be dangerous and inefficient. The telegraph and telephone became very popular and, by the end of the war, more portable radios were being used. Great progress was booked in the field of radios, telephones, aerial photography, encoding and listening devices. Still, when the modern means were showing technical flaws, or when circumstances rendered them useless, armies soon returned to the use of primitive communication tools like light signals, or even animals such as dogs and homing pigeons.

Object 1: Heliograph

The heliograph is a device that sends light signals in a chosen direction using mirrors and sunlight. The word 'heliograph' is derived from Greek and literally means 'sun writer'. During the First World War, this device was used to send messages in morse uding light signals. The heliograph therefore contains a morse key that could tilt the mirror. (MMP1917, MZ 01562 en MZ 01563)


Object 2: Communication map

This map shows German communication lines in Beselare at the start of 1918 with just about all methods the Germans were using at the Front. For example, light signalling transmitted messages directly to headquarters in Dadizele, 5 km (3 miles) away.


Object 3: Tube

Pigeons were an important way of long distance communication, often used in difficult circumstances. This tube was used in both world wars to send messages. (MMP1917, MZ 08966)