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 Signaling 
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Post Signaling
I don't think we have a thread for this; if so perhaps Susan will move this.

In the Clayton/Craig book, Trafalgar; the Men, the Battle, the Storm, I came across a letter from Nelson to George Duff whose orders were to repeat the signals from frigates off Cadiz regarding the Combined Fleet's movements. It reads:

" ... Distant Signals to be used, when Flags, from the state of the weather, may not be readily distinguised in their colours. If the enemy be out, or coming out, fire guns by day or night, in order to draw my attention ..."

What were the "Distant Signals"? Lights? Flares?


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Mon Oct 10, 2005 9:20 am
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Exactly what Nelson's fleet was using in 1805 I am not sure, but the British had a system of using large, simple shapes. These are described in Brian Tunstall, Naval Warfare in the Age of Sail, ed. Nicholas Tracy, p. 212. They were proposed by Richard Hall Gower, an HEIC officer and naval architect (there were other Gowers in the Navy). According to Tunstall, "As an alternative to the flags, Gowere introduced 'shapes' in the form of two sets of cones and two sets of cylinders, to be made of light wicker or basket-work, painted black, or else of canvas set out with collapsible hoops to save stowage space. They were installed for hoisting at the yardarms. The shapes were very simple, and the triangular ones were reversible, while the small cones could be combined." These shapes could be distinguished at greater distances than flags. Gower made his proposals in the 1790's (third edition in 1800), so this concept would have been available by 1805. I think I have read of its use on the Cadiz blockade, possibly in one of the accounts by Howarth or Pope.


Mon Oct 10, 2005 7:15 pm
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Thanks, Albert - much appreciated!

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Tue Oct 11, 2005 11:01 am
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Since I posted my acknowledgement to Albert, I ferretted about in THE TIMES where there is a lengthy entry dated December 30, 1828 and includes:

"....Rear-Admiral Raper, the officer to whom we allude, has published a work, entitled 'A new systems of Signals, by which Colours may be wholly dispensed with, Illustrated by Figures, and a series of Evolutions, describing in a familar Manner the general movements of a Fleet'...."

There is quite a lot of content in the article, so I will read further, carefully.

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Tue Oct 11, 2005 2:03 pm
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Further from the Craig/Clayton Trafalgar book, quoting William Cumby, First of the Bellerophon, and referring to indistinct flag signals from the Mars:

" .... Soon afterwards Mars hauled down the flags, and I said 'Now she will make the distant signal 370,' which distant signals were made with a flag, a ball, and a pendant differently disposed at different mastheads by a combination totally unconnected with the colour of the flag or pendant used ..... "

The source is given as NMM MSS JON/7


I continue to enjoy this intriguing book.

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Sat Oct 15, 2005 12:15 pm
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I thought this was interesting:

From THE TIMES, April 1st, 1797.

" ..... Yesterday Earl SPENCER laid before the KING in his closet for his Majesty's approbation, a book containing a new code of Signals to be immediately adopted in the Royal Navy of Great Britain, and on which the Admiralty Board have been employed for some days, in consequence of intelligence lately received from Ireland, that a confidential person under an Admiral on that station having decamped for France, to which place he has taken a variety of books and papers, and among other the book of Signals....."

Does anyone know any more about this? i.e. who the culprit was and which signal system was introduced?

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Wed Mar 08, 2006 11:56 am
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I'm searching for some Signals, that were used very often, like "Captain onboard the flagship".

I know, that the RN used the code of Sir Popham, bur I didn't find some Websites with a Translation of this Code or anything.

Can someone help me please?

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Sun Apr 23, 2006 4:26 pm
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There was a French site about Popham's code. However, it seems that it no longer exists. :(

Here is a link with basic information. For particular signals, you would have to look for a copy of a signal book.

I have access to one from 1796, but I believe that it's based on Howe's system?

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Mon Apr 24, 2006 5:29 pm
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Thanks, it's a little step.
I've found the French site about Popham, but my PC couldn't load it.

Pophams code were used since 1800, right?
So your code from 1796 must not, but to 99 procent is Howe's code. (Can you understand, it's a bit confused :wink: )

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Tue Apr 25, 2006 11:56 am
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Post Signaling History
Signaling during this period is a subject very confusing to me, and possibly to anyone no longer actively using the various codes. I thought I would attempt to post a very simple outline of the history of this subject.

About 1673, "The Permanent Fighting Instructions" was first issued. This consisted of a limited number of common commands like "Form Line of Battle" and "Engage the Enemy More Closely." By the time that the complex naval battles in the 1700’s began, Fleet Admirals had begun issuing their own "Additional Instructions" to supplement these "fighting instructions." These varied not only from admiral to admiral but were modified for use in different regions and different situations by the authors.

In 1790, Admiral Lord Richard Howe recognized the growing need and issued his "Signal Book for the Ships of War." This expanded the fighting instructions but continued this same system of basically one-way and very limited communication.

In 1800, Home Popham developed a more useful signaling system allowing two-way communication with a much expanded vocabulary titled "Telegraphic Signals or Marine Vocabulary." This did not replace the fighting instructions but functioned as a supplement to it. An example of this is the message sent by Nelson immediately following his famous "England Expects…" message (which was sent using Popham’s code). The following message was "Engage the Enemy More Closely" using the regular fighting instructions signal. How did they keep the codes separate? There was a special flag that meant that what followed was Popham’s code and a final flag that said that the Popham code was finished.

Popham issued a second version in 1803 at the request of the British East India Company with a specialized vocabulary for Indiamen. In 1805. the navy version was officially issued to the British Navy but it was by no means in general use that year.

In 1812, a much expanded revision was accepted by the Admiralty (still as a supplement). In 1816, the Admiralty replaced the fighting instructions with a modified version of Popham’s 1812 edition.

[EDITED May 21, 2006 -- Between the original system and Popham's telegraphic code, there were numerous people who created systems to "improve" whatever code was in place at the time. A good source to further explore this subject would be "Naval Warfare in the Age of Sail" by Brian Tunstall.]

What is further mind-blowing to me are all the other aspects of signaling. A previous post dealt with "distant" communication using large shapes, but communication was also needed at night. Messages were sent using lanterns (of different colors) placed at different spots on a ship’s masts and spars.

Throw in the enemy getting their hands on the code and having to reissue it completely as Mary noted happened in 1797 (see above) and you can guess what a headache this gave to naval officers.

Don


Last edited by timoneer on Sun May 21, 2006 9:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Wed May 17, 2006 8:06 pm
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Post Re: Signaling History
timoneer wrote:
What is further mind-blowing to me are all the other aspects of signaling. A previous post dealt with "distant" communication using large shapes, but communication was also needed at night. Messages were sent using lanterns (of different colors) placed at different spots on a ship’s masts and spars.

Night signals were actually a little bit more complex than just lanterns. They involved the firing of guns, rockets or false fires as well. The number and/or placement of the type of signal represented a number. When combined, they corresponded to numbers in the night signal book.

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Wed May 17, 2006 8:56 pm
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Charles Knowles also came up with a signalling system in 1778. I haven't had the chance to digest it, but it seems that his system consisted of flag combinations representing Nos. 1-50. He then has different "Classes" of signals, each of which were indicated by a unique flag.

Whether it was actually used or not, I have no idea. Perhaps someone does?

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Wed May 17, 2006 9:28 pm
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susan wrote:
Charles Knowles also came up with a signalling system in 1778. I haven't had the chance to digest it....

Susan, where did you find this?
Don


Sat May 20, 2006 9:38 pm
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Charles Henry Knowles published the details in A Set of Signals for a Fleet, on a Plan Entirely New in 1778.

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Sun May 21, 2006 1:14 am
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Post Re: Signaling History
susan wrote:
Night signals were actually a little bit more complex than just lanterns. They involved the firing of guns, rockets or false fires as well. The number and/or placement of the type of signal represented a number. When combined, they corresponded to numbers in the night signal book.

Susan, I was aware of the use of rockets, guns, etc. at night but only listed the lanterns as those might be the method to transmit the most complex and therefore the most confusing (at least to me) message. You raise a good point about the "night signal book." I looked and really could not find out much about it. I wonder if it was a part of the "fighting instructions" (static), additional instructions by each Admiral (variable), or even a supplementary part of particular codes like Popham's. Do you happen to know?

Don


Sun May 21, 2006 5:24 pm
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