Encyclopedia - Trench Runners

Camoflauged US Marine billets Clearly identifiable - at least in daylight - by the red arm-bands fixed around their left forearm, trench runners (or messengers) were drawn from both a specialised and everyday background.  The function of a runner was not simply to bear messages from one area or command unit to another, although this featured prominently.

More critically - and requiring specialisation - qualified runners would be expected to closely familiarise themselves with areas of the front line into which a battalion would soon enter, generally so as to relieve the line's present occupants.

In order therefore to be able to guide the newly-arriving troops with accuracy - particularly given that many such troop movements were undertaken nocturnally under cover of darkness - runners would need to excel both at map-reading and at reconnaissance, generally working in pairs and often with perhaps eight working upon the same task at various parts of the line.

Speed and accuracy were essential in ensuring that the relieving force were in place before daylight; in short, before the enemy force could catch troops in the open with artillery fire.

Memoirs and Diaries: A Runner's Story

The Austro-Hungarian declaration of war was the first ever delivered by telegram.

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