On This Day…

On the 13th June 1915 Nobel-nominated Henry Moseley embarked at Avonmouth destined for Gallipoli as Signals Officer of 38th Brigade

Moseley was a brilliant scientist who in 1915 was nominated for Nobel Prizes in both Physics and Chemistry. His work using X-ray spectroscopy demonstrated the physical basis for the atomic numbers and made sense of the Periodic Table.


The War Office couldn’t see any use for physicists among engineers

When war broke out Moseley was at a scientific conference in Australia. He hurried back to Britain intending to enlist in Kitchener’s New Army. However his plan to obtain an officer’s commission in the Royal Engineers was thwarted by the War Office, who initially could not see any use for a physicist among engineers. Undaunted, Harry persisted and eventually “bullied” his way into the Royal Engineers. By mid-October 1914, Harry had begun formal training as a Royal Engineers signals officer at Aldershot, where he initially learned to communicate just using signalling flags. A month later, he was transferred to Salisbury Plain where he was taught a mixture of old and new signalling techniques including traditional visual methods of signalling such as the heliograph as well as more modern electrical signalling including telegraph and telephone systems.

Harry and his unit assumed that they would be sent to France and the Western Front. But Gallipoli became their destination as the British Government sought to break the gridlock which set in after the first land offensive. Realising that they would be sent to the Mediterranean, Moseley determinedly set out to secure appropriate equipment for his men including sun helmets, boots and telephone wire – even if that meant ‘commandeering’ material destined for another unit.

In June 1915, Moseley and his brigade arrived in Alexandria and by July these inexperienced soldiers of Kitchener’s ‘New Army’ had arrived at Helles at the southernmost tip of the Gallipoli peninsula. There they gained essential combat experience against Turkish troops before being readied for a fresh invasion further north.


Commemorated on the Helles Memorial

Moseley landed with his brigade at Anzac Cove on 5 August 1915. The objective of the British troops and their allies was to take a precarious salient on Chunuk Bair . In the heavy fighting in the days that followed thousands of men on both sides died and Moseley was killed on 10th August while sending a telephone report to divisional Headquarters during a Turkish counter-attack in the Battle of Sari Bair. His body, like that of so many others, was never found but his name is commemorated on the Helles Memorial.

WW1 & WW2 communications Visual signalling using flags during WW1

Moseley was traiined in comms techniques including visual signalling as shown by the soldiers here.