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Couriers - A Heroic Tradition

Couriers have been used in every major war throughout history.

Anybody who has seen the film Gallipoli will know how important couriers were to the war effort. Gallipoli, inspired by true events, recounts the story of Australia's input into the Great War. At the time, couriers relied on muscle and athleticism or horse power. Unlike today, where documents and parcels can be sent around the world in super fast time, couriers had to sweat to complete their missions. And during times of war, the act of couriering was a heroic one - couriers routinely risked their lives to ensure crucial messages on military tactics reached the right hands.

Couriers in War

The movie's lead character who couriers crucial information during the conflict is in fact a sprinter, played by Mel Gibson, whose ability on the track proves heroic on the battlefield. At a crucial moment in battle, the phone line goes dead, leaving Gibson's character the burden of carrying a message to the brigade's HQ. Couriers have been used in all major wars, although of course the method of carrying messages has evolved. Today, couriers are used by British and American defence departments. Depending on the assignment, couriers can deliver their messages under armed guard, and in America two couriers always travel with sensitive materials such as nuclear weapons codes. There is a long standing tradition of couriers in war, in America during the Revolutionary War, couriers were bearers of dispatches, sealed packages sometimes written in 'invisible' ink for extra security. Mounted couriers courageously evaded the enemy to send for crucial reinforcements - timing was everything - a matter of life and death. It's no wonder that couriers are often used in movies depicting war as central to plot and action.

Couriers - Central to the Plot

By the First World War, couriers evolved from foot and horse to reach for the skies. Airplanes sped up delivery for couriers and by World War Two, couriers often undertook undercover roles, transporting spied material from enemy lines. Couriers were used to try and distract the enemy too - one famous case was that of the fake courier, Major Martin. His body was falsely washed up with a briefcase containing fake military tactics - a move that prompted Hitler's forces who discovered the documents to move his troops to Greece to defend the expected attack. The Allies meanwhile invaded Sicily with success. And the story of this courier also made it into film - it was turned into a book and a movie, called The Man Who Never Was.

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