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Reporter in the Warsaw Uprising (1944)

As messengers (including detectors ) are soldiers referred walking messages or commands deliver. Detectors are thus a military means of command under field-like conditions. In addition, detectors can also transport smaller quantities of supplies and help clarify the situation by observing their corridors .


The Athenian messenger and marathon runner Pheidippides is often referred to as the first to report, even if the historicity of his use at the Battle of Marathon (490 BC) is not certain.

Until the era of the Cabinet Wars , the number of troops involved in a battle was small, at least in comparison to the mass armies after the introduction of general conscription . Battles were only fought in daylight, the majority of the troops could be led centrally by optical and acoustic signals. These included the troop flags and trumpet signals. The connection between the chief commander in chief and the commanders at the wings was maintained by mounted officers. This type of command transmission did not change significantly during the Napoleonic Wars . The number of troops involved in battles with the Levée en masse rose rapidly and reached six-figure numbers in individual battles. But remained range and fire density of the guided weapons low, so Mounted orderlies behind the squares and loosened units were able to maintain the connection between commanders and troops.

The Boer War (1899–1902) was characterized by widely spread skirmishes and guerrilla tactics in rough terrain. Both the British and the Boers used African reporters who carried messages over sometimes long distances. During the seven-month siege of Mafeking , Baden-Powell used black messengers as commander of the enclosed British troops, who only came through enemy lines in civilian clothes and using lists of wars, risking execution and torture as "spies". Within the besieged city, young white cadets served as reporters to relieve the fighting troops. On the other side with the Boers, the later marathon runners and Olympic participants Jan Mashiani and Len Taunyane under General Piet Cronjé served as reporters and covered long distances under the most difficult conditions at high speed. After the end of the Boer War, Baden-Powell minimized the combat participation of black Africans on the side of the British and instead spoke only of the (white) “boys from the city” whom he had used as reporters and scouts. His experiences went into the founding of the boy scout movement , with which Baden-Powell wanted to counteract the "softening" of the white youth of the Empire . In his first book for boy scouts from 1908, a terrain game is described for reporters who have to reach a besieged city.

Reporters in trench warfare

German reporter in a shallow trench on the Western Front (1916)

With the advent of field artillery with high cadence and range as well as machine guns , which also hit the area behind the front , the use of closed formations in combat led to loss rates of unmanageable heights. There was trench warfare as early as the Crimean War (1853–56), the siege of the Düppeler Schanzen (1864) and the American Civil War (1861–65), and it became the rule in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05). The western front of the First World War (1914-18) was a single rift system. The fighting troops sought protection from the density of the fire in the ground and could only be reached from their own hinterland through trenches . In order to limit the losses in case of direct hits, the trenches were only sparsely occupied in width, instead there was a deeply staggered system of manned replacement trenches and individual hedgehog positions . The front and the visible area behind it were deserted on the surface of the earth.

Oral orders from the staffs could not reach the loosened and buried formations. Although field telephones allowed communication via cables in the situation of a static front line , these mostly superficially laid lines were often interrupted by artillery fire. In the event of attacks or other changes of position, there were no established telephone connections to the new positions anyway. In both situations, messengers who could move through the ditch systems were the only type of connection, since mounted detectors would have been easy targets and reliable and portable radios did not yet exist. Carrier pigeons and reporting dogs were not a reliable substitute, while flares were limited in their expressiveness. The fact that the technical development of the means of communication lagged behind the destructive power of weapons favored the defensive .

German registration bag from the First World War with compass and binoculars

The equipment of reporters did not differ significantly from the equipment of normal infantrymen . Reporters often carried their messages in reporting or map pockets, and they were usually armed with a rifle . Maps , site sketches and compasses were used for orientation, binoculars for observation. A flashlight could be useful for reading reports and maps, but could only be used with strict light protection on the enemy side.

Adolf Hitler was one of eight reporters on the regimental staff of KB 16. RIR who kept the connection to the battalion staff. In the propaganda of the National Socialists this fact was depicted as heroic with reference to Hitler's distinctions with EK I and II and his wounding , while his opponents referred to the lodging of the reporters with the relatively safe regimental staff and Hitler's lack of promotion and thus Hitler's war effort as harmless to the point of being harmless to dismiss for shirking. Ian Kershaw calls this devaluation "inappropriate" in his biography of Hitler. It is true that the reporters were not very busy and relatively safe during the quieter phases of the trench warfare. But when they were deployed, it was particularly dangerous - they had to go through the barrage that had damaged the pipes and made them necessary. The losses among reporters were relatively high. Thomas Weber, on the other hand, characterized Hitler's mission as comparatively harmless, since as a regimental reporter he got less close to the front than reporter to battalions or companies .

Reporters , propaganda
painting by Elk Eber (1938)

In 1938 Elk Eber created the picture Der Meldegänger , certainly not by chance with reference to Hitler's biographical experience in the First World War. The large-format oil painting in the heroic-realistic style is intended to embody male-soldier virtues. The painting was exhibited at the Great German Art Exhibition in Munich in 1939, where Hitler bought it for 10,000 Reichsmarks . The motif was also often reproduced in art postcards. The original is in the DHM collection .

In 2019, the war film 1917 by director Sam Mendes was released . The protagonists of the film are two British Army messengers who are supposed to bring an urgent order to the front line in the British sector of the Western Front in 1917 . The film follows this one order practically in real time. Even if the plot is embedded in the Alberich company , the film is not based on a real incident. However, the director dedicated the film to his grandfather Alfred Mendes, who fought in World War I and was often used as a reporter because of his small height.

Reporters in World War II

During the Second World War , the importance of messengers decreased as the war of movement required other forms of communication. With the increasing motorization of the troops, detectors on foot could not keep up, on the eastern front with their great distances, even motorcyclists could no longer do so. The only thing that remained of the news force in motion was the radio. The radio technology became smaller and therefore portable by individual soldiers, a particularly advanced example of this is the device SCR-536 ("Walkie-Talkie") of the US Army . There were backpack radios in the Wehrmacht .

The replacement of reporters by other forms of mobility and communication, however, depended on the degree of motorization. Most of the infantry divisions of the Wehrmacht moved on foot and on horseback . In the division of an infantry division of the Wehrmacht from 1937, there was a whole Kradmelder platoon at division staff level. Some of the detectors on the staff of an infantry regiment were equipped with motorcycles, mounted or had bicycles . In the command platoon of an infantry company there were four detectors on bicycles and five detectors on foot, one of whom was also a trumpeter . Each of the three platoons of an infantry company also had three reporters.

Today's use

With the further improvement of radio technology through to satellite radio , reporters are of little importance in modern, regular armies. There they are separated even as a makeshift failure or blockage of these means of communication used, for example, shielding the radio link in urban warfare . Other application scenarios are the suspected eavesdropping of the electronic guidance means by the opponent or the delivery of messages that are difficult to transmit electronically, for example maps or sketches. As a rule, the detectors connect the subordinate unit with the next highest leader. Even modern armies still use motorcycle detectors in the field , albeit more for reconnaissance purposes. However, motorcyclists are not reporters by definition.

In asymmetrical warfare and hybrid warfare , reporters still play a certain role on the part of the non-regular armed forces, since their deployment cannot be elucidated electronically and they are difficult to distinguish from civilians from the air .

Web links

Wiktionary: Reporters  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. George Beardoe Grundy: The great Persian War and its preliminaries: a study of the evidence, literary and topographical . J. Murray, 1901, p. 172, describes Pheidippides as a "professional despatch runner"
  2. ^ Christopher Duffy: The Military Experience in the Age of Reason . Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1987.
  3. ^ Valerie B. Parkhouse: Memorializing the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 . Matador, Leicestershire 2015, ISBN 9781780884011 , p. 382.
  4. Tim Jeal: Baden-Powell: Founder of the Boy Scouts . Yale University Press, New Haven 2007, ISBN 978-0-300-12513-9 , pp. 280-282.
  5. Tim Jeal: Baden-Powell: Founder of the Boy Scouts . Yale University Press, New Haven 2007, ISBN 978-0-300-12513-9 , pp. 359-361.
  6. ^ Bernth Lindfors: Early African Entertainments Abroad: From the Hottentot Venus to Africa's First Olympians . University of Wisconsin Pres, Madison 2014, ISBN 9780299301644 , p. 177.
  7. ^ Robert H. MacDonald: Sons of the Empire: The Frontier and the Boy Scout Movement, 1890-1918 . University of Toronto Press, Toronto 1993, ISBN 0-8020-2843-8 , pp. 117-144. (Chapter 4, "The Frontier Spirit in Scouting for Boys"), on the quote, on the language of Baden-Powell: "in an image which pitted enfeebled civilization against a challenging barbarism in the service of empire", p. 121.
  8. ^ Robert Baden-Powell: Scouting for Boys . H. Cox, London 1908, pp. 205 f. (Reprinted by Courier, 2007, ISBN 978-0-486-45719-2 )
  9. Jens Warburg: The military and its subjects: To the sociology of war . Transcript Verlag, Bielefeld 2008, ISBN 978-3-89942-852-0 , pp. 218-220. JSTOR j.ctv1fxk47
  10. ^ John Frank Williams: Corporal Hitler and the Great War 1914-1918: the List Regiment . Cass, London 2005, pp. 203 f.
  11. ^ A b Ian Kershaw: Hitler 1889–1936: Hubris . Penguin, London 2001, ISBN 9780141925790 . ( Online )
  12. Thomas Weber: Hitler's First War. Adolf Hitler, the Men of the List Regiment, and the First World War . Oxford University Press, Oxford 2010, ISBN 978-0-19-923320-5 , Chapter Of Front-Line Soldiers and 'Rear Area Pigs'
  13. Steve Plumb: Neue Sachlichkeit 1918-33: Unity and Diversity of an Art Movement . Rodopi, Amsterdam 2006, ISBN 9789042020191 , p. 144.
  14. ^ Karin Hartewig: Art for everyone !: Hitler's aesthetic dictatorship . Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2018, ISBN 978-3-7431-8900-3 , p. 95. (Reliable despite BoD publication, see author at Ch. Links)
  15. Reporters, inventory no .: Gm 2005/39 in the property database of the DHM
  16. 'It Was Part Of Me': Director Sam Mendes On The Family History In '1917' ,, December 21, 2019
  17. Baron v. Imhoff: The German news force in the east . In: Pioneer: Journal for the transmission troops , Volume 14 (1941), Issue 1, pp. 11–15, doi : 10.5169 / seals-559597 .
  18. War strength certificate for the staff of an infantry regiment (Reich), KStN 101 (R) of October 1, 1937. ( Online )
  19. war footing evidence of a rifle company b (Reich), KSTN 131b (R) of 1 October 1937. ( Online )
  20. Compare the use of motorcycle detectors by General Paul Van Riper in the Millennium Challenge simulation game in summer 2002. See War Game Raises Questions . In: Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute , Volume 128 (2002), pp. 4-6.