Night Signalling




Search  Inquiry Net

Back ] Home ] Up ] Next ]

Making A Start
Night Eyes
Night Ears
Night Nose!
Night Hiking
Night Stalking
Night Signalling
Night Hike Vision
Lights & Rockets
Training Games
Nature By Night
Telling Time by Stars
Night Photography
From Writer to Reader

Scout Books

Site Contents

By K. Graham Thomson

SAMUEL FINLEY BREESE MORSE was the resounding full name of the American artist and inventor of the first practical electric telegraph instrument. His surname is preserved for all time as the name of the signaling code by means of which letters of the alphabet and figures can be transmitted from one place to another-visually by means of flag, lamp, flare and smoke, disc and shutter, mirror and heliograph; audibly by cable or wireless.

As a matter of fact, the International Code, now almost universally used, differs quite a lot from the original Morse Code, although we call the code we use after Morse.

In Morse's own code, for example, the sign for F was the one we now use for R. He used spaces or intervals between the dots and dashes composing a letter, to make different signs ; this was rather confusing, and prevented fast signaling, so spaces within letters were abolished in the revised International Code now adopted. Morse died in New York in 1872 ; there is a big bronze statue of him in Central Park.

Signaling is jolly good fun, and good training for your mind and your body too. It is extra good fun signaling at night, but it is most important to grasp two points first.


One is that you must be absolutely perfect in your knowledge of the code, and the special station signals and abbreviations. The second is that there must be good discipline-extra good-while signaling games or practices are on. Nothing is so exasperating or so wrecking as slackness, idleness, or inattention at the opposite " station," causing your signals to be ignored or replies delayed.

So now, if you are a hundred per cent perfect in the Morse Code, sally forth at night with signaling lamps and do a spot of practice.

It does not much matter what apparatus you use, so long as you preserve good discipline in each station, and do not allow any shouting or running across between stations when you get a word you cannot understand.

The Chief Scout says " Every Scout ought to learn the Morse method of signaling," and you can make good use of it at night.

It is as well to begin practicing lamp signaling in your clubroom with an ordinary flash-lamp, or the cheap Mazda lamps mentioned.

If you are one of the lucky folk who have a clubroom with several rooms in it, you can have some fun if you rig up a lamp signaling installation with wires to all rooms, so that you can send lamp messages from one room to another with the doors shut. Each Patrol can have its special code sign, and the SM can send messages from his den to any particular Patrol without the others being disturbed, once they have seen that the message is not prefixed by their code sign.

Long-Range Work

Long-distance signaling at night with lamps is not at all easy. Such lamps are of two kinds : those where the light is on all the time, and signals are made by moving a shutter in front of the light; and those in which the light itself is flashed on and off. Both sorts are worked by a key or tapper, with which Morse Code signals are made.

Lamps for long-range work usually have a sight of some kind fitted to them, generally a little tube with crossed wires at the outer end of it, so that the lamp can be sighted accurately on the other station. The exact alignment of the lamp is necessary to get good results.

Two " station signals " are used to get accurate alignment. One is the letter W, which is sent to call the attention of the other station to the fact that there is something wrong with their light, and the lamp should be adjusted. The other station signal is OL, which means "open your light and leave it shining, so that I can align my lamp on your station." Prompt attention must be given to either of these signals, because they indicate that the station sending them cannot receive what is being sent.

Another method of light signaling which you may like to try on a bright night when there is a full moon, is to use mirrors or a heliograph reflecting the moonlight. Try at short range first with a mirror, focusing the light from it on to the other station and moving a sheet of cardboard in front of it to make Morse Code letters.

The great point about sending Morse with lamps at night is to send very slowly, but to preserve the proper proportion between dot and dash; the dash must always be three times as long as a dot. Take great care not to clip the dots, or send them too short ; if you do, they will not be observed at the receiving end. Send longish dots, and make the dashes three times as long.

Flare Signals

In Scouting for Boys the Chief describes another method of signaling with light at night ; flare signals.

You light a fire with dry sticks and brushwood, so as to make as bright a flame as possible. Two Scouts hold up a blanket in front of the fire, that is between it and those to whom you are signaling, so that your friends do not see the flame till you want them to. Then you drop the blanket while you count two for a short flash, or six for a long one, hiding the fire while you count four between each flash.

Enemy Airships

"Enemy Airships" is a good night signaling game. Two scouts are spies, equipped with a searchlight, with which they intend to signal navigational directions to the raiding airship. The airship is represented by another pair of Scouts with a lamp. These two pairs set off to reach two separate points a good distance apart, and at least a quarter-mile from camp.

When they have had five or ten minutes' start, the rest of the Troop set out to hunt them down, hunting in pairs. If a pair of detectives can find one or other of the pairs of " enemy " (the " spies " or the " airship "), they win, and the game is started again with different fellows as " enemy."

If the " spies " can reach their signaling post and start signaling to the " airship " before either party is caught, the detectives must stop pursuing, and read the message that the " spies " send, scoring points for accuracy in reading, and for accuracy in repeating it afterwards from memory. When signaling is ended, " spies " and " airship " must try to return to camp uncaught, and the detectives may again hunt and try to catch them.

Morse Relay

For lamp signaling practice with small flashlights, try a Patrol relay race. Space out the Scouts of each Patrol in line as far apart as the range of their lamps. Then start a message at one end of each line, to be signaled by each Scout to the one next beyond him, and so passed down the line. The Patrol that finishes first is given, say, twenty points, from which one is deducted for every letter wrong or missed in the message that arrives at the far end.

Signaling by sound can also be used at night, of course. A whistle carries a tremendously long way, especially at night ; so take care not to do any whistle signaling anywhere near houses, where it would annoy people. Here, again, it is important not to cut the dots too short, and not to go too fast.

Hunting the Signaler

This is a good game to play in wooded country. The fugitive, armed only with a whistle, is given five minutes' start, after which he is pursued by pairs of Scout police.

He tries to send a message for help to his friends, by signaling in Morse with his whistle. He may send one letter at a time, or two or more, pausing as he pleases, or whenever pursuers are too close to him ; but he may not let more than three minutes elapse between letters.

The police will score points for accurately reading and remembering the fugitive's message, or as much of it as he is able to send; as well as for capturing him if they can.

Chapter X Night Stalking

Night Scouting






Additional Information:

Peer- Level Topic Links:
Making A Start ] Night Eyes ] Night Ears ] Night Nose! ] Night Hiking ] Night Stalking ] [ Night Signalling ] Night Hike Vision ] Lights & Rockets ] Training Games ] Nature By Night ] Star-Gazing ] Telling Time by Stars ] Night Photography ] Forward ] Acknowledgments ] From Writer to Reader ]

Parent- Level Topic Links:
Scuba ] Skills ] Games ] Shelter ] Fire ] Night ] B-P's Camping ] Hikes ] Indian ] Spring ] Summer ] Autumn ] Winter ]

The Inquiry Net Main Topic Links:
 [Outdoor Skills]  [Patrol Method [Old-School]  [Adults [Advancement]  [Ideals]  [Leadership]  [Uniforms]

Search This Site:

Search Amazon.Com:

When you place an order with Amazon.Com using the search box below, a small referral fee is returned to The Inquiry Net to help defer the expense of keeping us online.  Thank you for your consideration!



Amazon Logo



Scout Books Trading Post

Dead Bugs, Blow Guns, Sharp Knives, & Snakes:
What More Could A Boy Want?

Old School Scouting:
What to Do, and How to Do It!

To Email me, replace "(at)" below with "@"

If you have questions about one of my 2,000 pages here, you must send me the "URL" of the page!
This "URL" is sometimes called the "Address" and it is usually found in a little box near the top of your screen.  Most URLs start with the letters "http://"

The Kudu Net is a backup "mirror" of The Inquiry Net.  

2003, 2011 The Inquiry Net,  In addition to any Copyright still held by the original authors, the Scans, Optical Character Recognition, extensive Editing,  and HTML Coding on this Website are the property of the Webmaster.   My work may be used by individuals for non-commercial, non-web-based activities, such as Scouting, research, teaching, and personal use so long as this copyright statement and a URL to my material is included in the text
The purpose of this Website is to provide access  to hard to find, out-of-print documents.  Much of the content has been edited to be of practical use in today's world and is not intended as historical preservation.   I will be happy to provide scans of specific short passages in the original documents for people involved in academic research.  


Last modified: October 15, 2016.