Questions regarding Signal traffic handling in large HQs using the "finished check" method/procedure

Discussion in 'Trux Discussion Area' started by pamak, Dec 30, 2021.

  1. pamak

    pamak Junior Member

    Hello everybody,

    I was reading the British Army Signals in the Second World War by Major-General R. F. H. Nalder, C. B., O.B.E. who was a senior Royal Signals officer which triggered a question regarding a signal practice in large British Headquarters.

    On page 40, the author mentions a second measure that was used in larger signal offices to handle the signal traffic of large Headquarters (the first measure was the introduction of Staff Message Control to Army Headquarters and above).
    The exact quote from the book reads as follows:

    Secondly, there was introduced the 'finished check' method of progressing the clearance of messages. This was also applicable to the larger signal offices and became universally adopted except in India. It was copied from a practice which was current in the Admiralty.

    My question is if somebody knows more about this method. The only thing I found came from a research of my Canadian War Diaries I have seen in Heritage. Specifically, in Reel T 21306, page 791 the term "finished check" is mentioned in the minutes of a technical signal meeting on 29 May, 1944. The quote from this source says

    Finished Check Register

    It was decided that IN-traffic would be registered and that OUT and THROUGH traffic would be handled by means of the finished check. An adequate type of register was approved and its use will be authorized in the First Cdn Army Signal Instruction.

    Unfortunately, I do not have a way to search the term "finished check" across the whole Heritage reel collection of Canadian War diaries of large headquarters and I also have not been able to find the First Canadian Army Signal Instruction which authorized this register (and which perhaps may have an Annex with this register).

    I will note that I have looked at the various signal registers of signal pamphlets and noticed that the signal register form remained the same from the the Pamphlet No.8, Signal Office Working of 6th May 1944 (Signal Register in Figure 5) to the same Pamphlet of 1952. Plus, to my knowledge, the signal register in these pamphlets is the same for signal offices serving smaller headquarters (the 1952 pamphlet mentions explicitly that its procedures apply to any small signal office) and none of these pamphlets mentions the term "finished check." So, I wonder if there are some differences in registering the signal traffic in Signal Offices serving Army and above Headquarters which is not described in these pamphlets.

    So, after the above background info, I am asking the community here to see
    1. if anybody has more info about traffic handling procedure in signal centers serving large Headquarters
    2. If anybody has a way to search the term "finished check register" in the Canadian War diaries of the Heritage site.

    Thank you
  2. Temujin

    Temujin Member

    It’s possible the records your looking for have NOT been digitized yet. Here’s a few files I found at LAC Canadian Army Signal Instruction&

    Some of these records are still “restricted by law”….but otherwise you can go see them at LAC, or hire a private researcher, or ask them to be copied (digitized) and sent to you (a cost for this service)


    The second record from above IS Available, it shows you the Reels that the information is on.

    I just checked the first Reel, T-21306 and it HAS been digitized by Heritage Canadiana…’s a link to the first one

    War diaries : T-21306 - Héritage

    I quickly checked, and the Signal files ARE ON this reel, I found them about 1/2 way thru the Reel…….in fact near the back of this, it’s talking about “signal procedures” before D - Day etc, interesting


    Unfortunately their is NO SEARCH ENGINE on the Heritage Canadiana files, so you have to go thru them “page by page” to find anything specific. If you KNOW that proximate date of the info you are looking for, you can randomly scan thru the files, when you spot files “near” the date you may be looking for, stop and go page by page……..

    BUT, sometimes the Reels are “all mixed up” (usually because researchers went into the files years ago and did NOT put them back in order……and when they microfilmed the files years after….they just microfilmed them in the order they were currently in)……it sucks, but that’s the way it is

    the Reels usually are “dated” at the top of the file (go to page 9 to 11 of each Reel, this usually tells you the “unit name” in the files and the approx date…..I say approximate, as sometimes the files say 1942, and you’ll be searching away merrily and then start finding pages from 1945 in the middle of your research, and “maybe” some time later, it switches back……or those dates MAY be in another Reel….again, its just the way it is

    I find, while I’m searching for something, I’m ALWAYS finding valuable information on other subjects and I get “sidetracked” following rabbit holes… just takes time

    Last edited: Dec 30, 2021
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  3. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Three suggestions: 1) have you tried the Royal Signals Journal / magazine? 2) Try asking David Abrutat? See his 'About' ABOUT — David Abrutat 3) Check out this book on the organization at Bletchley Park during World War Two, Decoding Organization. Bletchley Park, Codebreaking and Organization Studies, published by Cambridge University Press in 2012. See: Professor Christopher Grey - Research - Royal Holloway, University of London and
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2021
  4. pamak

    pamak Junior Member

    Thanks for the reply. Yes, I am aware of the digitized reels and I even browsed a big part of them I mentioned in my original post the quote I found in T 21306 which is the best I have found so far regarding the "finished check" method. Notice that T 21307 and T 21308 have been also digitized.
  5. pamak

    pamak Junior Member

    Thanks for the reply. I am not sure if there is an online record of old Royal Signals journals or magazines which I can use to search the term. I am also afraid that it is very difficult to find an article dedicated to the of topic internal message/paper handling procedures in large signal centers during WWII. As for the third option, I doubt that it will discuss such subject in the context of administrating a signal intelligence unit. The signal intercept and the breaking of codes is vast and I cannot see any author feeling the need to veer off the theme and start discussing the topic of my interest.

    For sure, I understand that my topic of interest is obscure, but I found it interesting that this procedure of 'finished check' was considered to be important enough by a senior Royal Signals officer to mention it in his book. While production and technological changes certainly had a major impact on signals, this organizational/procedural change (which came as a result of the bitter experience of signal delays that harmed the operations of major British formations during the early WWII campaigns) had also a big impact on the responsiveness of signals during the last stages of the war.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2021
  6. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    Since you say the procedure was copied from 'a practice which was current in the Admiralty' I wonder whether AFO S2 (Message Handling) would help. Unfortunately the link to the digitised copy of this links to another publication so it will be necessary to contact the Comms Museum to have it corrected and obtain a copy.

  7. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Cited in part:
    Your choice, I cannot see any harm in emailing both David Abrutat and Chris Grey to ask do they know anything. Chris's book is the only book I know which covers the subject from an organization viewpoint.
  8. pamak

    pamak Junior Member

    Thanks for the reply.

    Yes, according to the author, the procedure was copied from the Admiralty. I was reluctant to follow this path because of my minimum knowledge of naval affairs (and sources) but you gave me a good starting point and your lead eventually led me to the following digitized version of the 1961 Admiralty Fleet Order titled S.2.-Message Handling. Instructions.

    The procedure that is described there does not mention the term "finished check register" but the concept seems to be the same one described by the author about the Army's message handling procedures and it is about keeping track of messages as they move from one office to another inside big communication centers. In this naval procedure, there are "check sheets" and "traffic record sheets" (instead of signal registers and finished check registers used in the army?).

    Notice that the Navy has a "Traffic Centre" and a "Main Signal Office" in addition to the various other offices used for the transmission/reception of messages ( Radio Room, Teleprinter Room, etc). From what I am reading, my initial impression is that the function of the Navy's "Traffic Centre" is a combination of the functions of a "Staff Message Control" and "Signal Office " in army formations. On the other hand, the Navy's "Main Signal Office" has much more narrower function (compared to the Army's) and it is mostly about the duplication and distribution of messages (page 31, 3102 (5))

    Here are some interesting excerpts about the Navy's message handling procedure From Pages 37-38

    Choice of Recording Methods

    The following paragraphs describe how recording and checking is now achieved, though the actual methods vary with the size of the organisation. Where the daily volume of traffic is small, it is sufficient to list details of messages as they are received, and to tick them off when action is complete. However, to do this when the number of messages is large, would entail lengthy searches before each message can be ticked off.

    3704. Office Numbers

    a. The work of checking can be made easier by arranging for recorders to allocate sequential reference numbers to messages in order of their time of receipt. These are known as “ OFFICE NUMBERS ” and are used as follows:—

    (1) To check that messages have been sent from the Traffic Centre to the appropriate offices for transmission and/or distribution.
    (2) To assist each office which handles a message, to check it in on receipt and out when passed on.
    (3) To provide a rapid means of tracing a message while it is still in the transmission/distribution stages, and establishing which offices have or have not handled it.

    b. Fresh series of numbers should normally begin at 0001 local time. However, in some cases, it may be simpler to work from 001 to 999, and then begin a new series regardless of time or date.

    3705. Traffic Record Sheets

    a. Forms 1572/3 are traffic record sheets, specifically designed for use with office numbers [Bold mine for emphasis]. They are at present under revision with the object of making them sufficiently flexible to be used in any ship or shore headquarters. However, the present forms can be adapted to suit present requirements and in the interests of standardisation, this is preferable to a locally produced sheet. It should be noted that the revised Form S. 1573 is designed as an IN and/or OUT traffic record sheet. Form S.1572 is being allowed to lapse.

    b. When using these sheets, every message is allotted an office number, and the details (D.T.G., precedence, etc.) are noted against the number. Spaces are provided for “ Ticking ” and " Cross Ticking ”, showing which other offices have been sent copies for distribution/transmission/encryption, and which have returned them after taking necessary action. When the recorder is satisfied that all copies of a particular message have been returned to him, he initials the traffic record sheet alongside the appropriate office number.


    3707. Check Sheets The various communication offices should keep sheets of office numbers for checking messages as they pass through. There is no printed S Form to cover this requirement. Sheets of office numbers should be produced locally, with a space alongside each office number for ticking and cross-ticking

    b. The recorder should periodically check from his traffic record sheet whether any message has been outstanding for an unusually long time. If so, he should find out in which office it is being held up. Numbers are ticked on a check sheet as the messages enter each office, and cross-ticked when they leave. If therefore, the recorder asks whether a message with a particular office number is held, it should be obvious at once that either:— (1) The number has not been ticked at all, i.e. the message has not entered the office. (2) The number has been ticked once, i.e. the message is somewhere in the office. (3) The number has been cross-ticked, i.e. the message has been dealt with and has left. c. The rating in charge of each office is responsible for checking that all necessary action, so far as he is concerned, has been carried out before returning copies of messages to the recorder.

    3709. Queries and Filing Office a. This is an annex to the traffic centre and is the office to which signal queries must be made regarding any message after it has been handled. It is the office responsible for arranging the retransmission of messages on the appropriate circuits after a ship reports a change of radio watch (e.g. from broadcast to LCN). It is also the final check position.


    I could not find the naval forms S.1572 or S.1573 (traffic record sheet in bold by me above) to compare them to the Army's signal register as it is shown in the pamphlets of Signal Office Working, but the naval forms seem to be more detailed and even track the message when it is sent to other offices for duplication/typing.

    I wonder if any naval expert here has readily available th traffic record forms mentioned above.

    Anyway, more later
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2021
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  9. pamak

    pamak Junior Member

    Well, it took some time but today I can post the official results after a lot of research

    From WO 244/88

    Standing Orders, Second Army, Signals

    relevant pictures about the signal office procedures and the "finished check" method in the Second Army ( are attached

    IMG_2212.JPG IMG_2213.JPG IMG_2213.JPG IMG_2214.JPG IMG_2215.JPG IMG_2216.JPG IMG_2217.JPG IMG_2218.JPG IMG_2219.JPG
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  10. pamak

    pamak Junior Member

    and here is an arrangement of the signal office


    Note the "RCV" truck (Remote Control). Does anybody know what type of truck this is? I went over the list of signal vehicles in Trux's forum but I am not sure which truck corresponds to this RCV vehicle. It does show it has 6 RC units inside the truck and 8 more in the penthouse (presumably the wireless sets are at some distance from the signal center but I doubt that any wireless vehicle had 14 wireless sets.
    timuk likes this.

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