Radio, when properly used, furnishes a valuable means of signal
communication. It is used for both tactical and administrative messages by
all units of a modern army. It is an essential means for highly mobile
elements such as aircraft and armored units, and is especially useful for
control of motor movements and for dealing with fast moving situations.
One of the chief disadvantages of radio communication is that radio
intelligence is one of the enemy's best methods of obtaining information of
our plans, dispositions, and operations. In order to provide the necessary
signal security a high state of training is required of all personnel. In North
Africa the British have come to understand the importance of proper security
measures in radio communication. In one campaign, security measures were
poor and, as indicated below, valuable information fell into enemy hands. In
a later campaign, corrective measures were taken; many of the earlier
failings in the British signal security were remedied by the introduction of
new procedure, combined with the reduction of traffic in the clear.
a. Lack of Signal Security
The following weaknesses in British signal security in one of the
earlier campaigns resulted in the enemy acquiring valuable information on the
strength and disposition of British forces and on their future plans.
(1) The enemy found it impossible to predict a certain attack from an
examination of requests for supplies. The sudden increase in requests for
rations, fuel, and ammunition indicated the imminence of an attack. It was
this extra supply traffic, combined with the German knowledge of the code
call system, which enabled the enemy to anticipate the attack, and to make the
necessary dispositions to meet it.
(2) The exact location of British unit positions was made easier by one
station asking another to call back at a prearranged time.
(3) The identification of units was often made much easier by the
constant repetition of names and code references, and the almost complete
lack of security measures in conversation under conditions of bad
(4) Carelessness in the use of plain language, especially under battle
conditions, allowed information to escape relating to matters as important as
command and operation plans.
(5) The practice of giving the coordinates of enemy positions in the
clear was of value to the Germans by giving them information as to:
(a) The exact location of their own troops.
(b) The general location of British troops, since the report of the
position of enemy forces obtained by visual observation necessarily gives the
approximate location of the reporting unit.
(c) British intentions. The traffic between two British stations
included reporting in the clear locations of enemy tanks, followed by a reply
stating an intention to attack then or at a prearranged time.
(6) From the number of captured British codes and documents found
in enemy possession, it was evident that the practice of forwarding a code name
or list to all units in a division, and of showing the complete distribution list, has
proved of great value to the enemy in determining the exact British order of battle.
b. Success of Signal Security
The effects of improved methods were most clearly seen at the time of
a later British offensive. The Germans were unaware as to whether British
preparations were offensive or defensive, nor did they know either the time of
the attack or the strength of the forces employed.
This lack of information was attributed to the new signal procedure, increased
radio security measures, the observance of radio silence by units
arriving in their assembly areas, and the fact that no special supply preparations