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World War I The war to end all wars.

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  #1  
Old 20 Sep 17, 12:15
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WW1 Intel Gathering

I’m hoping members here can point me in the right direction for learning more about the intelligence gathering operations on primarily the Western Front. Any websites that would have info on this would be super if one is available. Are there any books out there you would recommend?

My preference though is to learn more about the day-to-day type intel gathering from behind enemy lines as opposed to Room 40 Zimmerman Code or Mati Hari type stuff. I realize of course that they also learnt a fair bit from interrogating prisoners. The Germans occupation of eastern France and Belgium must have provided the Entente with a number of potential locals who could be turned into ‘spies’ who could provide info on a fairly regular basis i.e. troop or squadron movements or what they heard from loose lips or anything else of a military nature which might help piece together what the other side was up to. Info that might seem mundane might provide a gold mine of info i.e. the lack of certain food stuffs might indicate the blockade is taking hold for example.

What sort of info would they be able to provide? How was it passed thru the lines to the other side and disseminated? Etc etc...

Thanks in advance.
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  #2  
Old 20 Sep 17, 13:07
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I guess that photo-reconnaissance was the main source.
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Old 20 Sep 17, 13:46
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Originally Posted by McMax View Post
I guess that photo-reconnaissance was the main source.
Photo recon seemed to form a fairly large part of the daily intel.

Still I have seen references to the establishment of 'operatives behind enemy lines' but so far not much beyond that.

Just found the following but it will have to wait until I get home later in the day to go through it.

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/service/gdc/sc...30402001re.pdf
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Old 20 Sep 17, 20:08
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Difficult to quantify: but I would suspect HUMINT:- information gathered from prisoners. Hence the regular trench raiding.
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  #5  
Old 21 Sep 17, 02:18
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Originally Posted by Canuckster View Post
I’m hoping members here can point me in the right direction for learning more about the intelligence gathering operations on primarily the Western Front. Any websites that would have info on this would be super if one is available. Are there any books out there you would recommend?

My preference though is to learn more about the day-to-day type intel gathering from behind enemy lines as opposed to Room 40 Zimmerman Code or Mati Hari type stuff. I realize of course that they also learnt a fair bit from interrogating prisoners. The Germans occupation of eastern France and Belgium must have provided the Entente with a number of potential locals who could be turned into ‘spies’ who could provide info on a fairly regular basis i.e. troop or squadron movements or what they heard from loose lips or anything else of a military nature which might help piece together what the other side was up to. Info that might seem mundane might provide a gold mine of info i.e. the lack of certain food stuffs might indicate the blockade is taking hold for example.

What sort of info would they be able to provide? How was it passed thru the lines to the other side and disseminated? Etc etc...

Thanks in advance.
Hi

Rather 'British' focussed but I have attached a list of publications that are about or have sections on 'intelligence' during WW1. It is not the totally available just the ones I have.

WW1int002.jpg

The 'Related Books' are:

'Conceal, Create, Confuse - Deception as a British Battlefield Tactic in the First World War' by Martin Davies. Spellmount, 2009.
'Raiding on the Western front' by Anthony Saunders. Pen & Sword, 2012.

There was a whole range of intelligence sources (as there are today), they all had problems of some sort at various times, eg. HUMINT sources in Belgium being rounded up by the Germans during 1916 and having to be rebuilt as a network etc.

I hope that helps
Mike
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Old 21 Sep 17, 06:51
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Armour Against Fate - British military intelligence in the first world war - Micheal Ocleshaw
Haig's Intelligence: GHQ and the German Army, 1916-1918 - Jim Beach
Room 40 British Naval Intelligence 1914-18 - Patrick Beesly

Both sides used early forms of ELINT The Germans were adroit at tapping British field telephones and telegraphs using receivers in dug outs at the front that could pick up the ground return signals from up to a mile away. Britain and France had a network of wireless listening stations and even when they couldn't break the the enemy cyphers gained significant intelligence by identifying the German signallers (from their morse "fist") and tracking their movements (and hence the movement of their unit). The British network remained active in WW2 and fed Bletchley Park. Britain quickly acquired copies of all the German Naval code books and Room 40 the cypher breaking section of the Admiralty had an enviable reputation for breaking German cyphers very quickly. The Germans believed that they had acquired Britain's highest level naval code book but this was in fact a plant and used to feed mis information by British Naval Intelligence.
Britain had developed a means of tapping international telegraph cables without leaving a trace and were secretly reading the Swedish trans Atlantic cable which crossed Scotland. As the Swedes were breaking neutrality by allowing Germany to use the cable this seemed fair game.

Air observation was important but a large amount of tactical intelligence came from tethered kite balloons rather than free flying aircraft. The balloons could keep a particular section of the front lines under observation 24/7. When an attack was planned it was common practice to attack the enemy's balloons to force them to be winched down thus temporarily blinding his intelligence officers. From mid 1916 Britain and France had the advantage of having many more balloons available than the Germans

In terms of Humint sources Germany relied heavily on agents run through Switzerland into France. Britain and to a lesser extent France air lifted agents to behind the German lines, first landing them but when Trenchard stopped this as being too dangerous for his pilots parachuting them, In 1917/18 British GHQ had a flight attached dedicated to this task
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Old 21 Sep 17, 09:48
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Originally Posted by MikeMeech View Post
Hi

Rather 'British' focussed but I have attached a list of publications that are about or have sections on 'intelligence' during WW1. It is not the totally available just the ones I have.

Attachment 71991

The 'Related Books' are:

'Conceal, Create, Confuse - Deception as a British Battlefield Tactic in the First World War' by Martin Davies. Spellmount, 2009.
'Raiding on the Western front' by Anthony Saunders. Pen & Sword, 2012.

There was a whole range of intelligence sources (as there are today), they all had problems of some sort at various times, eg. HUMINT sources in Belgium being rounded up by the Germans during 1916 and having to be rebuilt as a network etc.

I hope that helps
Mike
Hi
despite working on the 'review' the attachment does not appear to want to come up when clicked on. So to repeat.

WW1int004.jpg

WW1int005.jpg
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Old 21 Sep 17, 19:58
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Wasn't Signals Intelligence also in it's infancy as well along with aerial recon?
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Old 22 Sep 17, 02:47
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Originally Posted by Merkava188 View Post
Wasn't Signals Intelligence also in it's infancy as well along with aerial recon?
Hi
Yes it was. Before the war the Austro-Hungarians possessed a signals intelligence service (according to Ferris, page 4, book 1992 listed in my previous post). France was probably second to this (Britain had a code breaking organization in India but it was aimed at the Russians) and broke the German military cipher in mid September 1914 (Beach, page 159, in 2013 book).
Armies were sending wireless messages in clear and Ferris, page 5, mentions that:
"Generations of historians have sneered at the Russian Army for doing so before Tannenburg. Yet in France the German Army did precisely the same, with identical results. During September-November 1914 French and British forces intercepted at least some 50 radio messages in plain language from German divisions, corps, armies and army groups. These provided otherwise unavailable insights into the collapse of enemy command and the yawning gap in its line during mid September 1914. Victory on the Marne was no miracle."

Mike
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Old 22 Sep 17, 04:49
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeMeech View Post
Hi
Yes it was. Before the war the Austro-Hungarians possessed a signals intelligence service (according to Ferris, page 4, book 1992 listed in my previous post). France was probably second to this (Britain had a code breaking organization in India but it was aimed at the Russians) and broke the German military cipher in mid September 1914 (Beach, page 159, in 2013 book).
Armies were sending wireless messages in clear and Ferris, page 5, mentions that:
"Generations of historians have sneered at the Russian Army for doing so before Tannenburg. Yet in France the German Army did precisely the same, with identical results. During September-November 1914 French and British forces intercepted at least some 50 radio messages in plain language from German divisions, corps, armies and army groups. These provided otherwise unavailable insights into the collapse of enemy command and the yawning gap in its line during mid September 1914. Victory on the Marne was no miracle."

Mike
. Networks of listening stations were established, perhaps the most elaborate being that established by the French under the command of a Commandant Cartier with some very tall masts (the Eiffel Tower being pressed into service to provide one of these). This allowed even relatively small transmitters in Germany to be picked up and their position triangulated and plotted. Even without breaking codes this could provide the Allies with valuable information. France created a special unit, the 8e Régiment de Transmissions, for just this work. Working under Cartier its HQ was the Eiffel Tower. Every operator tapping in Morse signals had their own style or ‘fist’ by which he could be ‘identified’ even when transmitting coded messages (although the French did experiment with a Morse key that used an oil filled relay to smooth out the operator’s own rhythm). If an operator who had been previously identified as being part of the HQ of a particular military unit was detected transmitting from a new location then this would suggest that the unit had also relocated. The volume of signal traffic and any changes in this could reveal a unit held in reserve being brought up to strength and preparing for battle. As early as the beginning of 1915 Cartier could give the French High-Command a complete organisation chart of the German armies, corps and cavalry divisions.

A similar system of DF (direction finding) stations was set up round Britain in 1916 by a Capt. H. J. Round; these were used to locate German ships and proved very effective in detecting movements of the German fleet. The scope and extent of this network was kept very secret and recipients of intelligence gained as a result of its use were not told how it was obtained. Some of these stations, suitably re-equipped, were used in WW2 to pick up German signals for decoding at Bletchley Park and in the Cold War to collect data on Warsaw pact forces. They might still be in service today.

Cartier and Round collaborated closely ensuring the best use of resources and cooperated in spoofing attacks on German wireless use.
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Old 22 Sep 17, 06:05
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Merkava188 View Post
Wasn't Signals Intelligence also in it's infancy as well along with aerial recon?

The British Army was initially dismissive of the use of aerial recce considering the light cavalry as being the proper instrument for intelligence gathering. Chief amongst these was Douglas Haig but he had a damascene conversion to the use of aircraft when in the 1912 manoeuvres the army he was commanding was roundly defeated in part through the clever use of intelligence gathered by aircraft. Thereafter Haig was an advocate of using the aircraft to gather intelligence. However early use by all sides was in part thwarted by the difficulties the aircrew had of actually knowing where they were at any time. At a time when RFC training for cross country flying consisted of giving the pilot a railway map and advising him to follow the tracks and come down low to read the railway station signs when in doubt any flight over unknown territory was a problem. Spotting enemy troop movements was not a lot of use if you had no idea where you or they were in the first place. In the first months of the war there were a number of instances of British and French recce aircraft having to land to ask the local peasantry for directions! Once the front lines had solidified matters became easier but long range recce was still a problem. Duncan Grinnell Milne describes his first hand experience of this in Wind in the Wires (when navigational issues were further compounded by the notorious unreliability of the RAF1a engines with which the BE2Cs used were fitted)
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Old 22 Sep 17, 12:55
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Wasn't Signals Intelligence also in it's infancy as well along with aerial recon?
Hi

There is an interesting document in the UK National Archives which has information on one of the tactical uses of SIGINT on the Western Front, this is 'Interception of Hostile Artillery Aeroplane Wireless Messages' General Staff (Intelligence), GHQ 3rd December, 1916 (with amendment dated 18th May, 1917) AIR 1/2141/209/1/51. To some extent the document is a summary of what had been done during the Somme. It states the 'value' of the method:

WW1sigint1916doc007.jpg

Also how it identified German units:

WW1sigint1916doc003.jpg

Also identified 'calls' with Armies:

WW1sigint1916doc004.jpg

The interception of calls also led to 'fighters' being sent up to disrupt the enemy artillery machine's activities as the system became more sophisticated. Ferris covers some of this with documents in Chapter III of his book. For the home base the author covers the use of SIGINT against air attacks on Britain in his "Airbandit" essay, also on the list I posted previously.

Mike
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Old 24 Sep 17, 04:21
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Originally Posted by Canuckster View Post
Photo recon seemed to form a fairly large part of the daily intel.

Still I have seen references to the establishment of 'operatives behind enemy lines' but so far not much beyond that.

Just found the following but it will have to wait until I get home later in the day to go through it.

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/service/gdc/sc...30402001re.pdf
Hi

For the British, both MI6 and GHQ France ran sources behind the German lines, this resulted in some 'rivalry' (chapter 5 in Beach, and Chapter 3 in Jeffery covers this and other espionage activities on the Western Front, Chapter 6 in Occleshaw also has information). There was a serious collapse of intelligence gathering after May 1916 when the Great Eastern Railway Company's steamer 'Brussels' was captured by the Germans. On board was secret information from agents behind the lines in documents being sent back to the UK. This breach resulted in the Germans rounding up many of the agents. However, the organisation was rebuilt, famously from the summer of 1917 with the 'La Dame Blanche' group of Belgian patriots (many of them women, more than 800 people involved by the end of the war). This organisation sent back much information on German train movements as well as other information.
At various times during the war the RFC/RAF would land agents behind the lines, some were parachuted in, they also dropped replacement pigeons. This was initially undertaken by various squadrons eg. In January/February 1917, No. 19 Sqn., although being equipped with SPAD VII kept "...four BE2c and one BE2e were on the strength of the Squadron for special duty and several important missions were carried out for the Intelligence by Lieutenant Reed." ('Fighter Squadron' by Derek Palmer, page 33). Later a 'Special Duties' Flight was formed under central control.

Mike
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Old 24 Sep 17, 06:40
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Landing and picking up agents was pioneered in 1914 by Jules Védrines, already a veteran flyer. He had originally been turned down when he volunteered for service being deemed to old at 33 but the fact that he was notoriously rude , foul mouthed and bad tempered may not have helped. However he was experienced in night flying and so was used by the French intelligence service to deliver and pick up agents flying a two seat Déperdussin monoplane. This was later in 1914 replaced with an experimental armoured Blériot monoplane which had doors in the fuselage under the wing allowing an agent rapid exit. Védrines trained a small group of pilots in agent landing and retrieval techniques, one of these was Georges Guynemer who carried out a number of such missions whilst with Escadrille MS3. By this time the Morane Sauliner L parasol monoplane was being used

As I've already posted Trenchard decided in early 1917 that using aircraft to land agents was too expensive in pilots and aircraft (and the Germans were threatening to shoot any pilots captured on such missions) and so parachuting was adopted and recruitment and training put in the hands of Captain W.A. Hazeldine. Details of much of this can be found in a History of Intelligence (B), British Expeditionary Force in France 1917 1919 by Lt Col.R.J. Drake, General Staff. a copy of which can be accessed on line from the WW1 archives Brigham Young University. From mid 1918 Britain was also using free balloons to insert agents the first of these being a Lieutenant Baschwitz-Meau who successfully landed in Luxembourg by this means.

The parachutes used were the Guardian Angel type. These could be used at relatively low altitude but had a problem in that they were deployed from a container that remained fixed to the aircraft. This meant that a dispatcher was needed to ensure that the chute deployed smoothly and did not snag. The need to have two men (agent and dispatcher) in the rear cockpit as well as the chute container limited the aircraft that could be used. The BF2b became the aircraft selected to serve GHQ for this purpose as its rear cockpit was relatively roomy.

Agent dropping in Italy was also pioneered by Major William Barker and Captain Wedgewood-Benn again using the Guardian Angel. The aircraft used was the Italian SP4 twin engined bomber
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Old 24 Sep 17, 09:38
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Even with an agent in place there was a communications problem. How did they get a message out and how did they receive instructions? One very common method was the carrier pigeon which at least solved the getting a message out issue and it was typical for an agent to arrive with a box holding three pigeons (which was of course a dead giveaway if the agent was stopped before reaching a safe house). However for an agent to be effective for any period would require constant replenishment of pigeons. The RFC developed a parachuteable pigeon box holding three pigeons. However this was not a reliable system and the box when dropped could drift some way before touching down and was difficult to find in the dark. However to the local population who were on very short commons by this time a box of pigeons must have been very welcome "Bien Le RAF ont de nouveau dîné"

Captain Round had developed a, for the time, portable wireless set and numbers of these, together with code books were delivered by incoming agents using free balloon, however no signals were received at the specified transmission times and it was assumed that the portable sets did not work. However subsequent investigations by Round revealed that the receiving station in France had been incorrectly set up by local technicians so that no transmissions from agents could be picked up. By this time an agent had been picked up by the Germans with a complete transmitter and the code book and the system was deemed too compromised to use.

Most communications with agents was therefore conducted through couriers who travelled through occupied Belgium and through the electrified fence into the Netherlands - a lengthy and insecure process
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