Great War Trench Watches

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Great War Trench Watches

Post by koimaster » September 13th 2018, 3:58pm

Copyright © David Boettcher 2006 - 2018 all rights reserved.

British military men first used leather wristlets to wear small pocket watches on their wrists from circa 1885. Following on from this early experience, they were the first large group or section of the population to routinely wear purpose made wristwatches.

The Great War was the first time in British Army history that battles were conducted by generals in remote field headquarters from where they could not see the front line. Army units deployed across the vast fields of battle had difficulty communicating with headquarters. The execution of orders and coordination of manoeuvres and attacks by timing was vital. Whereas in earlier conflicts a unit could time its movements visually by watching for signals or simply keeping watch on units on its flanks and advancing as they moved, in the Great War the front was too wide for these methods to be effective. Instead, timing was used, e.g. "The attack will begin at oh six hundred hours".

The importance of watches during the Great War is emphasised by the extract reproduced here from the 1916 British War Office document "Instructions for the Training of Divisions for Offensive Action." A delay of even 30 seconds in starting must be avoided, therefore watches must be synchronised. A later section of the same document gives instructions for this; "All officers must acquire the habit of checking their watches daily with the official time, which can be obtained from the Signal Service. Commanders must pay special attention to this point during training."

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