Standard issue to officers in World War One was a field message pad and case, used to jot official messages on that could then be sent by a runner to wherever they needed to go. A number of variations of these cases existed and today we are looking at one specifically designed for the use by mounted officers, known officially as ‘Army Book 155’:
The case is made of red leatherette and is stamped on the front with its designation in black lettering:
The case opens up to reveal the replaceable message pad:
The printing code at the bottom of this sheet dates it to 1918. In fact this case contains two different message pads. The one above is a standard message form, underneath this is another pad, this time an ‘A’ Form for messages and signals:
This pad dates to April 1917. Both are perforated across the top edge so they can easily be detached when written.
The underside of the message book holder has a set of printed instructions advising the officer on how to use the forms contained within:
The case fold open to give space to store received messages etc. and has a small piece of blotting paper to dry ink if a message happened to be written with a pen rather than a pencil:
This Cavalry Message Book makes a nice companion piece to the infantry field message pad we looked at many years ago here.
The messages once written could be sent ria radio or dispatched by runner, a soldier whose job it was to carry the message, deliver it to its recipient and then bring back any reply there might be. Runners needed to be fit, reasonably intelligent and self reliant and not afraid to take risks to ensure their messages got through. They often had to get out of the trenches and sprint across open ground, sometime up to 150 yards. This made them an obvious target for the enemy who would try and kill them to prevent the message getting through. Private James Miller won the VC as a runner in 1916, his citation explains:
Private Miller was ordered to take an important message under heavy shell and rifle fire, and to bring back a reply at all costs. He was compelled to cross the open, and on leaving the trench was shot almost immediately in the back…in spite of this, with heroic courage and self-sacrifice, he compressed the gaping wound, delivered his message, staggered back with his answer, and fell dead at the feet of the officer to whom he delivered it. He gave his life with a supreme devotion to duty.