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Handbook of Signalling 1918

Handbook of Signalling


Repository Document ID Pages Dimensions Plates

11cm x 17cm


I have an actual copy of this small blue-green handbook.  Mine is marked "Sig HE Munns Jx 126760" (possibly wrong in the name) in pencil in the inside jacket. 

The book is slimmer than the Handbook of Signalling 1913, with some content missing and most of the plates gone.  Moreover, my copy lacks most of even this reduced set of plates (noted below).  It appears that many of the sections in common between the two have little if any alteration.



Chapter I. -- Miscellaneous Notes on Wearing Certain Flags, etc. 1
Chapter II. -- Signalling by Semaphore 4
Chapter III. -- The Use of the Morse Code 10
Chapter IV. -- Signalling by Flag Waving 13
Chapter V. -- Telephone 16
Chapter VI. -- Signalling by Heliograph 20
Chapter VII. -- Visual Signalling Between the Navy and Army 43
Chapter VIII. -- Flag of Truce 56
Chapter IX. -- Organisation of the Signal Department 59
Chapter X.

-- Hints to Signal Ratings

Chapter XI. -- Care and Maintenance of Materiel 87
Chapter XII. -- Signal Stores 115
Chapter XIII. -- Miscellaneous Information 122


I Flags and Pendants Used in Naval Signalling (2 pages, missing in my copy)
II Substitutes (1 page, missing)
III Flags and Pendants Used in the International Code  (1 page, missing)
IV Certain British Flags (4 pages, color, first 2 missing)
V Semaphore Signs and Signification (1 page, b/w)


I Morse signs (2 pages)
II Pattern Numbers of Signal Flags and Pendants  (1 page)
III Sizes of Signal Flags
IV Logs, Returns and Forms, etc.
V Abbreviated Titles, Naval and Military (5 pages)
VI Standards of Knowledge (1 page)


I recommend the 1913 edition in any places where this edition has been thinned out or where my plates are missing.  Plate V, for instance, is unchanged from the 1913 edition, and I presume that the plates with common names between the two might be identical in original complete copies of this.

I particularly enjoyed one section this edition has which the earlier one did not:  Chapter V Telephone. I excerpt it here.

Chapter V.


Precautions when using

22.  Particular attention is called to the danger of leakage of information passed by telephone.  No telephone is entirely safe from possible leakage.  A private direct line is safe from overhearing by operators, but apart from this the possibilities of conversations on all telephones being overheard are considerable.  The greatest danger of leakage on all telephone lines is the possibility of mechanical faults which result in a third party accidentally overhearing a conversation.  All lines pass through Post Office centres, where they are led over test frames, an overhearing may result from contact with adjacent wires, either on or near the test frames, or on any portion of the routes where the wires run close together, or through faulty insulation of the wires.  Other sources of leakage on telephone lines are the possibility of an evilly-=disposed person or enemy agent tapping the lines where they run overhead, as they do for the greater part of their length in many cases.  Also there are numerous points on all lines where they can be officially tested, which form a possible source of leakage.

2.  Matters of a secret nature are not, therefore, to be discussed over the telephone unless the conversation is so worded that no information would be disclosed to a third party who might overhear the conversation.

3.  Care is also to be taken that no information is divulged over the telephone to unauthorized persons.  No information is to be given by telephone in answer to enquiries, unless the authority and identity of the enquirer are established beyond doubt.

4.  During war, weather forecasts must not be passed over the public telephone line, except in code, under any circumstances whatever.

5.  Reports of prevailing weather conditions may be passed over the public line in P/L, but only when absolutely necessary.

6.  Senior Naval Officers are to take steps to prevent unauthorised use of the telephones and to warn all concerned of the danger of leakage of information.

Hints on Telephoning Messages, Single Letters, Numbers, &c.


23. In passing messages by telephone, the following points should be noted:

(a) If an unusually long message is to be passed, the sender should notify the factg by saying "long message" before commencing

(b) If the message is in P/L, the sender should pass it on straight through to the end.
(c) If the message is in code or cypher, the sender, after repeating the heading, should give the warning "First Group."  As each group is passed, the receiver should say "yes" if satisfied, or query the group by repeating it back.

2.  When the sender has sent the whole message, the receiver should repeat it back, the sender remaining silent until a mistake is discovered.

3.  If the message is being telephoned to two or more recipients simultaneously, the sender should, before starting the message, designate one of them only to answer.  After this recipient has repeated back the message correctly, the sender should ask the others in turn if they are "all right."  It will usually be unnecessary for them to repeat back, since they will have overheard the first recipient doing so.

4.  Operators must exchange names and record them on the pad.

Single Letters

5.  When single letters are passed, or words spelt, on the telephone, it is essential to use the phonetic alphabet (See Article 96.)  [ed note:  seemingly not a part of this handbook]


6.  Single numbers (other than cypher groups or times of origin) are often difficult to telephone.  This difficulty can be overcome by saying the number first, then counting up to it from 3 or 4 digits below it.  Thus, to pass the number "sixteen", the procedure would be to say "sixteen : twelve thirteen fourteen fifteen sixteen", emphasizing the number when spoken for the second time.

7.  The figure "nought" is always to be telephoned as "Oh," thus:

The cypher group 06610 should be telephoned as "Oh double six one oh."

The time of origin 1140 should be telephoned as "Double one four oh," not "eleven forty."

If the figure "nought" occurs singly, it should be telephoned as "Oh for zero."


24.  The principal points to be observed are accuracy, courtesy and speed.

2.  When making a call do not speak until you hear "Number please" (if working through an exchange) or hear the number (or the name of the place) required, repeated back.

3.  When making a call, give the name of the exchange before the number, e.g.,  "Central 3171" not "3171 Central."

4.  Speak close to the mouthpiece; speak distinctly without shouting, remembering it is the consonants which are difficult to hear.

5.  When receiving a call-- state at once what station you are:  say "Signal School speaking" not "Hallo-- who's there?"

6.  If asked to "hold the line" -- do not replace the receiver but keep it in hand.

7.  In the case of a "cut-off" the transmitting station should hold on and re-establish connection : the receiving station should hang up the receiver.