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Runner

From The Great War 1914-1918

A runner was a military courier, a foot soldier responsible for carrying messages during war. Runners were very important to military communications, before telecommunications became commonplace. Even though field telephones were widely used for the first time during the First World War, they relied on copper wire lines, which were often damaged or unreliable. Radio technology existed, but was generally regarded as too insecure for frontline use. Hence, most armies still made extensive use of runners.

On battlefields dominated by automatic weapons and trench warfare, as well as the first widespread use of air attacks, runners faced one of the most dangerous jobs: they had to leave the safety of a trench, bunker or other shelter, and carry messages to other positions. There were occasions when a runner could frequently use the communication trenches between the front and battalion/brigade headquarters, which were located further to the rear. However, if these trenches were destroyed through excessive shelling, other routes would have to be used, and this invariably meant overground and in the open. This was an incredibly dangerous practice as the runner would then be vulnerable to machine gun or sniper fire. For the same reasons, officers could not be sure that their message had been delivered until a runner returned to their unit. If a runner did not arrive with an important communication the chances are he was delayed, wounded, killed or lost. Runners were frequently decorated for bravery.[1]

References / notes

  1. Runner. Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. Accessed 21 April, 2017.
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