Fianna Eireann Semaphore Signalling


Click on image for larger version. Courtesy of the Liam Langley Collection

“A short introduction and guide to Semaphore signalling” from the 1914 Fianna Eireann Handbook

“Signalling is an important service in the modern warfare. In the days when troops went into battle in close formation the commands were passed by word of mouth or carried by messengers from point to point. Such a course is nowadays impossible, for great distances often separate the various units of an army operating in the field. Signalling by heliograph or flag during the day and flash signalling by lamps at night is one of the many methods of communications now used. Both the Morse and Semaphore should be learnt by every boy who wishes to become an efficient scout.


This rapid and simple means of signalling ought to be learnt by every fiannaidhe. The youngest boy scout can, after a little practice, easily read the semaphore, if correctly sent, at a rate of up to twenty letters a minute. This system will be found useful in camp, on scouting expeditions, etc., in communicating short distances. The alphabet, numerals and numerals and various signs are determined by the positions of the arms to one another. These positions are made visible to the distant observer by flags held in each hand.

Semaphore Drill

A leader should teach the Semaphore to his section, taking care that the boys under him pay attention to the following points:

Prepare to signal – All boys stand to attention, holding the flags in a perpendicular position against the arms.

Ready – Carry the left foot about ten inches to the left, at the same time drop the flags in front of the legs at the full extent of the arms, the pole of the right flag crossed in front of the left.


The signaller must stand exactly facing the person or station he is sending to.

The flags must not be allowed to incline to the rear. Do not send too fast. Twenty letters per minute (which is all that is necessary to pass first-class test) is quite fast enough, and if properly sent will be easily read. Sending messages too quickly will confuse a poor reader, and will therefore, mean extra work and a waste of time.

When signalling the sender should have someone to read aloud the message to him at the same rate as he is able to send it. The reader should have someone to write down the message as he receives it. Never guess a letter or a word, it only leads to confusion, and might lead to disastrous results.”

– Handbook text courtesy of Eamon Murphy



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: