With 4 August marking the centenary of Britain joining the First World War and remembering those that gave their lives in the conflict, V3 looks at some of the early technology used during the Great War.
In order for troops to communicate across the battlefield, early telephones were used with long wires linking telephones via switchboards. Unfortunately, these phones were only as reliable as the wires that connected them.
The wires were often broken by shell fire or the boots of soldiers rushing around in the mud of the trenches. To compensate for the lack of reliability, everything from visual signals, semaphore and written messages carried by dogs and carrier pigeons, were used to ensure that communication was maintained between commanding officers and their men.
Developed from the telegraph, radio was widely used on land, sea and in the air during WWI. However, the longwave wireless sets were fragile, heavy and expensive.
Crucially, radio transmissions were vulnerable to interception by the enemy, meaning codes had to be used which slowed the speed of communication during chaotic exchanges of fire with enemy forces.
When the British government acquired the Marconi Company telecommunications and engineering company, it focused the firm to develop radio for wartime use. This led to radio kits being made more portable and voice to be transmitted along with code, effectively evolving the way radio was used.
However, the static nature of trench warfare meant radio was best used by scout plane pilots who could rapidly report on the enemy's location and the accuracy of artillery fire. The more mobile nature of the Second World War was where radio really came into its own by building upon the technology of the Great War.
By the time the First World War ended, significant improvements had been made in communication systems. Wireless technology was one such evolution that worked alongside the developments pioneered with radio.
Continuous Wave wireless sets were used to transmit messages from relay stations to battalions and military headquarters during the conflict, thereby bypassing the need to rely on messages being delivered by runners or animals. This helped to keep military units coordinated while they endured the to-and-fro of artillery bombardment.
The developments in wireless technology would eventually lead to the foundations of more robust communications technology that was put to use in the Second World War, and eventually led to the rise of modern radio networks.
While World War One will be remembered by many as a bloody and rather pointless conflict that saw thousands lay their lives down for a few yards of land, the war drastically changed politics, warfare, manufacturing and technology. From the ruin of war came the foundations of modern communications that would have a world-changing effect a century later.
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