Whistle Commands 101

Contemporary accounts of Light Infantry officers are clear that many could easily direct their troops exclusively with whistle commands.

We know from these accounts that using whistles was a fairly novel concept and that no standardized signal format was ever developed for the British Army at this time.

This means that Light Infantry officers pretty much made it all up as they went!

In the Nothern Brigade, some universal whistle signals have evolved and, of course, our Light Company uses them.

It is policy that every NCO and Officer in the company has a whistle.

The following is a short tutorial on the whistle commands.


All whistle commands in the Northern Brigade consist of a combination of short and long blasts. We'll use graphic symbols to illustrate these blasts.

SYMBOL
WHAT IT MEANS
Short blast
Long blast
Pause

 

Right then! Now that we have the basics down, let's review the Universal whistle commands of the Northern Brigade. These commands have been established over the course of years and despite their simplicity, are very effective on the battlefield.

 

COMMAND: "GO"
blast
explanation
result
two short blasts simply mean "go" or "march" or "advance". The company moves forward.

 

COMMAND: "STOP"
blast
explanation
result
one short blast simply means "stop" or "halt". One blast has been chosen for "stop" as it is difficult to mistake. The company halts.

 

COMMAND: "RALLY"
blast
explanation
result
three blasts mean rally on the source of the whistle.

The company breaks ranks and reforms on the source of the whistle.

This one is important for the marker as he is responsible for marking the new position and making sure people dress on him.

 

COMMAND: "RETREAT"
blast
explanation
result

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NCOs see to your sections and retire in good order (as if we ever DO this).

 

 

COMMAND: "CEASE FIRE!"
blast
explanation
result
several consecutive short blasts.

Cease Fire! (Don't pull the trigger!)


In addition to the Northern Brigade whistle commands, the Lights have a few of their home grown signals.

 

COMMAND: "SCREEN!"
blast
explanation
result

Start with "GO"

This gets the company moving forward to prepare to screen the regiment.

Company marches forward in loose order.

Once clear of the flank:
release the hounds with:

two quick blasts followed by a quick pause followed by two quick blasts Company flushes out to cover the entire frontage with an extended line.

 

COMMAND: "FLANKERS AWAY"
blast
explanation
result
One long sustained blast signals section leaders to take their men and flank the column while on the march.

Section 1 advances indian files to the right, proceeding down the flank of the column towards the front.

Section 2 advances indian files to the left proceeding down the flank to the column towards the front.

 

The King's Royal Yorkers