Most of us, when the expression "visual signalling" is used, automatically think of 'bunting tossers', our brothers-in-arms in the Operations Room  Branch - BUT - is that too a parochial assumption ? 

They of course sent signals all the time when in company with other ships when we in the W/T Branch couldn't {radio silence}, and used flag hoists, hand flags {semaphore} and flashing light.  The 'tool box' for Morse Code by flashing light was quite extensive, and dear old BUNTS had the choice from the following list:-

  1. Mast-head {or upper mast areas} DSL [Daylight Signalling Lantern] 3000 Watts

  2. 20-inch combined searchlight and signalling projector

  3. 20-inch signalling projector

  4. 10-inch signalling projector for incandescent lamps 1500 Watts

  5. 6-inch hand signalling lantern

  6. 6-inch hand signalling lantern for post action signalling  from carriers, cruisers and capital ships

  7.  5-inch hand signalling lantern 60 Watts

  8. Aldis signalling lantern

  9. Intermediate signalling lantern

  10.  Portable signalling lantern

  11.  Hether signalling lantern

  12. Light weight DSL

  13. All round flashing lantern. 

The BUNTINGS 'BIBLE' for many years {certainly from the early 1920's right through to 1953} was O.U. {meaning Official Use, a level of written instructions/directives between BR - Book of Reference - and CB - Confidential Book - and carried the number 5440.  By 1953 the version in force was number 40, so to summarise, the 'bible' was OU 5440[40].  Its name was "V.S. Matriel Handbook". In 1953, that was withdrawn from use and in its place came BR1971 "Visual Signalling and Equipment Handbook" - short title "V.S. Handbook".

You will observe that it was a good eight years after the war that all matters of Visual Signalling were down graded, in security terms, to Book of Reference status, where all-comers have unlimited access to the book and the information it contains. During WW2, the 3000 Watt DSL {which note is "ALDIS TYPE"} was protected by a CB [Confidential Book] with a large font [in bold] on the inside cover saying

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This was the front cover

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The use of the word ALDIS has come to mean a hand held small signalling lantern usually readily available on the bridge, bridge wing or signal deck.  Now whilst this is indeed an Aldis lamp, the terminology is wrong, because any size of signalling lantern, fixed mounted or portable, can be an ALDIS LAMP. An eminent Victorian inventor, who invented lots of things around the turn of the 19th on 20th centuries, who was called Arthur Cyril Webb ALDIS, invented a system of keying the Morse Code via a lamp/lantern, by rotating a mirror at whose focus the light is located.    What follows are a few photographs showing the signalling devices used during the WW2 period.

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Visual signalling, bunting-style, relied upon the naked eye, and was used only to send signals [be they in plain language {P/L}, groups from the ANSB [Allied Naval Signal Book] / INTCO [International Code of Signals], or in fleet-work jargon {corpen four answer etc}.  It was an OVERT VISUAL SIGNALLING PROCESS.

Running almost in parallel with the Buntings Visual Signalling Department, was a very special and secretive Visual Signalling Department whose signals were NOT OVERT and thus, could not be seen by the human eye which included an enemy !

Before I tell you about the instruments used, lets see some pictures, all thirty six of them.  I mention the numbers because I can never recall 'this subject' as being one of the wars achievements, and it does seem strange that this little handbook is packed with so many pictures.  I wonder whether it could be the case of 'a lot of money spent on so little a gain' ?  Still, here we go and these pictures are in no logical order.

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1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.
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13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24.
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25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36.

 

Now,  just enough information follows to allow you to understand the principles involved of.........

VS BY INFRA RED RADIATION.pdf