The origin of the runner began with a traditional story from Ancient Greece. During the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC there was a messenger soldier named Pheidippides who ran 26.2 miles to Athens to deliver important news of a Greek victory over the Persians. After the soldier made his announcement, he collapsed and died from exhaustion. Now, the modern day 25-mile race is called the Marathon, it is to commemorate the soldier and his extensive efforts for his city.
As such the runners were more effective compared to the commonly used carrier pigeons. However, these birds provided great use during the war, but sometimes they missed their targets. Because of this, critical information couldn’t be delivered when needed.
While being heavily targeted by enemy troops the runners had a lot of ground to cover. The average distance between the trenches and on the front line was about 150 yards. If a runner was spotted by enemy troops, they had to avoid heavy machine gun fire, artillery, and snipers to deliver their messages safely.
Horseback riders were more common in early wars because of their flexible availability. Riders rode across deadly terrain to deliver important messages to their officers.
Similarly with Runners the Riders had to memorize deadly terrain and navigate swiftly to complete their missions. Commonly enough Riders were often targeted by enemy soldiers, and the Rider had to think quickly to make sure him and his horse would survive while being targeted and to deliver the critical information on time.
However, motorcycles were used more in the Second World War. As such they were still in their early stages and technical difficulties occurred constantly. The Riders had a difficult time being sneaky when using these vehicles, the element of surprise was lost, and enemy soldiers could easily spot them out because of all the noise the motorcycle created.
Field telephones were widely used during the First World War. These devices used wire lines, occasionally commandeering civilian circuits when they were available. This new advancement in technology replaced previous methods of communication such as: flag signals and the telegraph. The telephone made communication almost instantaneous. There was no longer a need to worry about loss of life when delivering messages.
However, there were new threats that effected all countries using these devices. The average telephone line only spanned 7 miles. So, each telephone could only be within that limit of each other to communicate. This prevented the soldiers from going far distances to deliver messages. When this occurred, it was easy for enemies to intercept and destroy lines of communication. For one day the average soldier repaired approximately 40 lines of telephone wire. Not only were lines destroyed by enemies they were also destroyed by the chaos of warfare.
To conclude, communication was a very important asset in any war. From running across the Mediterranean to sending men on horseback on the Italian front. Delivering messages is a key component to strategy and it must occur with great diligence and skill.
One question I will leave here. What do you think is the most efficient form of communication? Read the 2 parts of this blog and send us a comment!