CONFERENCE OF MAJOR GENERALS
R.A. 24th December, 1915.
Major General Headlam, G.H.Q.
Major General Mercer, First Army.
Major General Franks, Second Army.
Major General Johnson, Third Army.
- It was decided to keep minutes of the proceedings, and to circulate these to officers attending on the clear understanding that they were for ³domestic consumption² only, carried no official authority and were not to be quoted in any official correspondence. These minutes will be sent out on Tuesday afternoon with any suggestions of subjects for discussion from G.H.Q. Armies will send subjects they suggest on the same day to G.H.Q. and to other Armies.
- The question of the best means to adopt for incalcating a common doctrine was first discussed. The multiplication of papers on the subject was deprecated, but at the same time it was agreed that the issue of short pamphlets giving the result of the experience gained in different matters, such as for instance, counter-battery work, wire cutting, etc. would be very useful to officers, especially now that such a large number are inexperienced. G.H.Q. will take up the question with General Staff, and, if the idea is approved, will prepare a list of suitable subjects. Armies agreed to assist in the work by preparing the notes on certain subjects.
First Army gave particulars of the AIRE COURSE which is doing such valuable work, and Second and Third Armies will consider the possibility of starting something of the same sort.
- It was agreed that there would be many advantages in defining more closely than at present the duties of the G.O.C. the artillery of a Corps. Armies will consider a draft prepared by G.H.Q. on the subject for next week. (Dropped - see minutes of 31/12 §1)
- The question of the best means to adopt for the location of hostile batteries was discussed at some length. All were agreed that there was no necessity that the personnel employed should be artillery, in fact, that it would be better to get men from other arms now that it is possible to find men in the Army who understand the use of surveying instruments but there should be a small percentage of artillery to ensure the connection between the system and the artillery being maintained. The First and Third Armies were in favour of placing the whole system under the topographical section; the Second Army would like it under artillery control. It was generally agreed that this was a matter which might well be left to Armies to arrange. (Sent minute to GS to this effect. JH)
- The recent orders as regards separation of trench mortar batteries into two classes were gone into in some detail. It was generally agreed that the 4-inch was not an infantry weapon; but, in view of the fact that the actual orders on the subject had been issued by the General Staff it was agreed that nothing could be done beyond devoting the attention of the Trench Mortar Schools to the formation and maintenance of the medium batteries. These Schools will also train instructors for the infantry batteries, but it will be impossible for them to do more than that; and these infantry batteries must be formed in Corps independent of the artillery.
- The experience of Artillery Schools in Armies has shown the necessity of paying particular attention to the training of young temporary commissioned officers, both in their gunnery duties and in the ordinary duties of an officer. This is the duty of Brigade Commanders, and Armies will take this up.
- The question of mixed brigades in Field Artillery, gun and howitzer, was raised, and all officers were unanimously in favour of this. G.H.Q. to take up.
- Attention was drawn to the necessity for arranging that all the 18-pdrs. do not wear out at the same time. G.H.Q. to take up.
- The allotment of new batteries--one 12" Howitzer and one 4.7"--shortly expected was discussed. It was decided that it was better to get 12" howitzer batteries together, and, in order to do this, First Army are willing to let their howitzer of the 18th battery join the other of the same battery in the Second Army, and to take themselves the new battery. (Done)
- Major Livingstone Learmonth, D.A.A.G. attended, and discussed the following questions connected with the Adjutant Generalıs branch:-
- The proposal to attach partially trained men in addition to establishment. It was agreed that this was only required in the case of the heavy siege, e.g. 6" guns and upwards, 8" howitzers and upwards; that 20 per battery would be a convenient number, and that if these were allowed we would be prepared to receive partially trained drafts.
- The question of sending home three Lt.Colonels to train brigades at home. It was agreed that the best course would be to send the three seniors who have completed their 5 years as Lt.Colonels, and have not been appointed to command the artillery of a division.
- The necessity of careful selection when recommending Temporary Lieutenants for promotion to Temporary Captain. Men of the world, of 25, or so, and upwards, with the power of command and of handling men are what are required.
- Similarly, great care to be taken in selecting officers with temporary commissions for permanent commissions. Out of the five, it should be normally three Field and two Garrison, but this need not be rigidly adhered to; the great thing is to get the best men.
- A list of officers elegible for the higher artillery commands was gone through. The principle to be followed in recommending officers for Brigade Majors was also discussed. The general opinion was that it was generally inadvisable to take a Major for Brigade Major who had had no previous staff experience of any sort. (Cancelled in minute of 31/12)
"The Infantry cannot do with a gun less": The Place of the Artillery
in the British Expeditionary Force, 1914-1918