General Arrangements for Artillery.
- (a) There are 4 Divisions in the Corps, of which two will attack whilst two are in reserve.
(b) The Artillery of three Divisions only will be in action, the Artillery of C Division being split up between A & B Divisions and, until the final objective is reached will be under the orders of the C.R.A.'s A & B Divisions.
(c) One Brigade of C. Divn. Artillery is dug in in a forward position on both A & B Division fronts and, in each case one Brigade is kept mobile.
(d) The forward Brigades will not register or open fire until the Infantry have advanced some distance. After this they will join in in the barrages of the different lifts, so that, when practising the final bombardment gaps are left in the Divisional Artillery barrage on the 4th and succeeding lifts, which are closed up by these forward Brigades on the day of Assault.
Arrangements for advance.
- (e) On the day of Assault (Z day) when the Infantry have advanced considerably, the Mobile Brigades start their forward move and move to a position previously selected on the map in the enemy's lines and on the outer flanks of the Divisions with their special objectives told off.
(f) They are followed as soon as possible by the Brigades of A & B Divisional Artillery which are furthest back from the enemy lines, and if possible on Z night all the Divisional Artillery will be got forward in positions between the Mobile Brigades being careful not to select positions West of a given North & South line, as these Westward positions are reserved for the Heavy Artillery. This advance will take place under the protection of the Heavy Batteries.
(g) On the night of Z plus 1 the 60 pr batteries and the horsed 6" batteries will be advanced and also some 9.2" platforms horse-drawn. If it is impossible to get all forward every endeavour will be made to get forward anyhow single guns.
(h) On the night of Z plus 2 the 6" tractor drawn batteries will move followed by 9.2" drawn by horses. The 8" and other heavy howitzers will move when the roads are made good which must be done as rapidly as possible by Divisions.
- The lines of advance are named beforehand, and carefully marked with small yellow flags every 50 yards and the bridges are specially marked, the number of bridges required is noted and the Divisional Artillery is told for which routes they are responsible. As soon as possible lorry circuits are arranged for and all must understand that when two bridges are available, the right hand one must be used.
- The bridges are of two sorts:
(k) In two parts to take a weight of 5 tons carried on the tops of wagons, those bridges should have a ribband, on either side, 9" high, to prevent poor drivers from over-riding the edge, and so blocking the whole advance, they must be made wide enough to take a 60 pr. and they will take either 60 prs. or 6" howitzers.
(l) In one piece, to take 7 tons, mounted above a pair of G.S. Wagon wheels & drawn by two horses. To use this latter bridge when the trench is reached, the horses are unhitched and the pole taken out and the whole is run forward by hand, the wheels falling in the trench and the bridge remaining in its place. All bridges over our own trenches must be put down before Z day. There are 28 bridges of the first sort with each of A. B. & C Div. Artilleries and 20 in reserve, and 20 bridges of the second sort in reserve. When the advance commences, parties of pioneers should be ready to at once fill up what trenches they can so as to allow the Divisional bridges to be taken further forward.
Provision of cover.
- At first after the forward move, batteries will be in the open, and the order of urgency of work in the new positions is as under:
- Trenches to shelter detachments.
- Guns dug in.
- Men's shelters covered where possible with captured material or material brought up from first position.
It is wise to take up some camouflage grass and where it is impossible to take forward rabbit wire; rolls of fishing nets are invaluable.
Liaison and control.
- (m) With each Battalion Commander is a Subaltern of Divisional Artillery and with each Brigade Commander a Major or Captain.
(n) The H.A. Group Commander of the Group especially supporting each Division has battle headquarters close to the C.R.A. of the Division. He is thus able to get immediate information, after the assault has commenced. He is not under the orders of the C.R.A., but, subject to his carrying out the pre-arranged scheme he will do all that is possible in any emergency, reporting his action at once to the Heavy Artillery Commander.
(o) The G.O.C. Heavy Artillery of the Corps has under his immediate control the heavy batteries and a freak group consisting of very heavy howitzers for counter-battery work and special tasks. In order to avoid disarrangement of existing communications, maps, etc., he remains in peace headquarters.
(p) When the heavy batteries and horsed 6" howitzers advance the latter come temporarily under the heavy battery Group Commander, who keeps in touch with the Divisional C.R.A., but is independent of him.
- (q) Corps dumps have been made well forward for supplies, forage, etc. Every battery has drawn three days rations of bully beef, etc., and in addition they have been enjoined to save all the bully that they can from their daily rations.
(r) Water is a great difficulty. Wagon lines are ordered not to advance beyond the river ANCRE which is 1500 yards inside our lines. For some time petrol tins have been collected and each lorry or ammunition wagon coming up to the batteries brings up two petrol tins full and takes back two empty ones. When the advance takes place, full petrol tins will have to be taken forward and all water in the enemy lines will be examined and treated before being used.
- During the advance the infantry all along the line will burn red flares at stated times to show their position. Every imaginable scheme for signalling both to aeroplanes and also to the main O.P's and so back is being tried, especially shutters and searchlights. Codes have been arranged as the former are very slow in working.
- Probably two wireless aeroplanes will be up per Corps and these are protected by contact squadrons. The planes in the different Corps are tuned to very different wave lengths to avoid jamming. No one either of Heavy or Divisional Artillery was met with a good word for the balloons, except that they made the enemy nervous. They will only be used for general observation.
- The medium. This will be used to cut wire & parapets wherever they can reach them, practically about 2/3 of front line but very little support line. It is not considered practicable to take them and their ammunition forward in the advance. All the Stokes mortars will be taken and slings to carry their bombs have been made which enable a man to carry all his equipment and also 6, one sling over each shoulder and one round the neck.
10 extra 2" batteries and 8 extra Stokes batteries are with the Corps and they have 500 rounds a mortar in addition to their usual establishment. The medium T.Ms are in a hole 12 feet deep and have ample dug-out accommodation for men and ammunition well underground. The Heavy T.Ms are about 25 feet down in enormous emplacements on the principle of the French design.
- There is only one Trench gun on -- Division front to deal with an awkward salient and afterwards a communication trench which it enfilades. It is some 2-300 yards behind the front line, well dug in.
- The -- Division has worked out that if it is to cut all the wire within 3500 yards, 70,000 rounds will be necessary, this is prohibitive. It is therefore essential for the infantry to state what wire can be left. The 60 pdrs are supposed to cut these lines of wire at ranges from 5000 to 7000 yards. They will try to cut a few lines, using two shrapnel to one H.E., but favourable results are not anticipated.
- The O.Ps seen were nothing to buck about. It has been recognised that concealment is better than protection and the roofs are only splinter proofin one case iron rails placed close with a few inches all over. Nearly all except those in front trenches were along a trench giving excellent view along the ridge of a hill. Telephone dug-outs went down opposite these and gave ample cover. There is a bullet proof mushroom topped concrete moveable O.P. for use in front trenches but it was not seen. In one or two cases the observer is well underground with a periscope but this did not appear to be very satisfactory or necessary. All lines to O.Ps were laid by Division or Corps Signals, buried 6 ft. and orders were given that no extra lines were to be made. These orders are more honoured in the breach than in the observance, as batteries which have wire prefer to run them direct to avoid the Exchange and the hearing of other batteries connections. When these private wires were run they were also buried 6 ft. but the trench was open, which appears to have advantages. The supply of wire is scarce, all units have orders to take forward their full equipment, so that it is only the pinchers who have been able to run private wires.
General Scheme of Attack
- (s) There will be 5 days wire cutting combined with bombardment before the actual assault. Generally speaking some three hours are given for wire cutting in the morning and perhaps another three hours in the afternoon. Maps are divided up into uneven areas, corresponding roughly to groups of trenches, and lettered, and Divisions are asked in which they propose to cut wire. Suppose they say H & P Sections; the deliberate bombardment of trenches by the heavies is kept off those sections.
(t) Owing to the great number of trenches which have to be done in, Divisions - not C.R.As Divisions, are told that it is impossible to do in any trench twice deliberately and that it is up to them to prevent them being repaired by every means which is available.
(u) The first arrangements for the bombardment are made out by the Army, which taking three or four successive lines roughly parallel to the front line gives, after consultation with the Corps, the times at which the infantry must have arrived at those lines. The G.O.C. R.A. Corps then places subsidiary lines and the GS give the times at which the infantry may be expected to reach them. All these times are the times they must be reached, they may reach successive lines earlier, but, if possible must not start from them earlier than the times noted. The barrage in front will however check undue haste. Generally speaking this barrage is about 800 yards deep and consists of first Divisional Artillery, the 6" hows., then heavy hows., the special heavy hows being on selected targets not connected with the barrage. When the successive lifts occur, heavies lift at once to next line, Divisional Artillery creeps back. All batteries of each nature are given straight lifts so that there is practically no switching and, though the lifts as far as possible follow the lines of trenches, in places they go across the open country. Deliberate observation is of course impossible during the set bombardments; batteries should, keeping as far as they can the line of the trench, search the length of their 50% zone over and short of it, so that all the ground is fairly plastered with fire. During the set bombardments on the days prior to Z the same lifts are always practised though sometimes the 4th or 5th line is started on instead of the first and the times of the lifts are varied, also at times the full width is not taken up. These set bombardments vary from 40 minutes to 1 hour 25 minutes and there are from one to three a day, rate of fire usually one round per gun per two minutes. Villages are dealt with one day by every available gun and howitzer firing rapidly for 12 minutes, field guns with shrapnel, and later the field guns again rain shrapnel on them for a short time. A concealed valley is searched for 40 minutes one day by all available howitzers. Every night and during set bombardments all approaches are searched by heavy shrapnel in the distance, and by 18 pdr. shrapnel along all near communication trenches. On one day there is a concentration of fire on all known battery positions, but to avoid giving away the number of batteries all do not open. For the same reason all the T.Ms. should not cut wire together. On Z day the final objective is reached and there is about 400 to 500 [yards] in front a strong trench on to which the barrage is lifted whilst the objective is consolidated. At a fixed time, the barrage is lifted in certain sections and patrols go forward to see if the trench is occupied. If it is not occupied we take it and have succeeded in breaking through the line.
(v) The batteries which are most suitably placed do in the trenches during the deliberate bombardments and not necessarily the batteries in whose straight bombardment area these trenches are. Special groups are formed for enfilading under the G.O.C.,H.A., Reserve Corps. During the bombardment immediately prior to the assault (1 hour) the strong places are specially treated, arrangements being made to bring all batteries into their correct line just prior to the assault. During these preliminary days, raids with or without gas are constantly tried. Officers are specially told off during the set bombardments to watch the general effect and evenness of the lifts.
- (w) There must be the strictest censorship of all letters from the moment that operations start.
(x) Battery commanders must see to the training of the loading muscles and strict attention to the details of drill, especially in the case of new batteries. Also drill must be practised with gas helmets on.
(y) Lanes between guns for Divisions moving through the lines must be carefully marked out to prevent the fire of the batteries being masked.
(z) If a new battery comes in at the last moment some trained personnel of all ranks from the old batteries must be settled beforehand to attach to them in order to stiffen them up.
(aa) Hours of official night must be arranged.
(ab) Captured guns must be brought back, as early as possible, by Ammunition wagons returning empty.
(ac) When registering targets, if ammunition is available, some rounds for effect should always be fired.
(ad) Every battery should have a datum point, the ground line of which can be seen, and after registering, a few rounds should be fired on this datum point to find the true error of the day and so find out errors in the days corrections.
(ae) 12" and 15" howitzers in the Fourth Army do not commence registration or firing until the first day of preliminary bombardment.
(af) Some spare platforms for 9.2" hows. should be laid well forward.
(ag) All roads where anything can be seen from the enemy's lines should be well screened and to prevent espionage, all batteries which are against high roads.
(ah) It is all important that a very large dump of material should be started as early as possible, owing to the great difficulty in collecting necessaries at a late hour. Steel cupolas, galvanized iron, heavy pit-props, rabbit wire, camouflage grass, green paint, boards, concrete, bricks, iron rails and speaking tubes are all wanted in unexpected amounts.
(ai) A large number of 1/5000 maps are essential for the whole area with which Corps are interested. These should not be small size.
(aj) One topographer is attached to the Heavy Artillery of each Corps from the commencement of operations to make out planchette boards for any new positions taken up by the Heavy Artillery. No attempt is to be made to supply boards for the Divisional Artillery, until the Heavy Artillery is satisfied.
- Camouflage is much used in the Fourth Army and is invaluable for purposes of concealment. Rabbit wire with a little camouflage grass tucked in here and there is the best. It is no use putting it flat on the ground, it must be raised some feet on posts. To avoid shadows the wire should be sloped away from the top of a gun emplacement & all trenches (which cast very decided shadows) should be screened by strips of camouflage wire. The wire must be of open mesh, nothing is worse than one thing which is seen, viz: pieces of close meshed iron for reinforcing concrete, with a few bits of grass tucked in. The open coir matting is good for sides of guns, etc., but no use for overhead cover.
- It is no use comparing the protection which can be obtained for battery positions in the dry chalk of the Fourth Army, with the clay here, but the amount of protection varied much in the different batteries, and some notes are appended as to what has been done.
(ak) Generally speaking the Field Artillery gun-pits had 5 ft. of cover overhead consisting of pit-props or rails about 2 ft. apart, galvanized iron, two rows of sandbags filled with chalk soil, soil, & burster of concrete slabs or stones, some soil & turf on top. Some 250 to 350 cartridges and shell were arranged in the walls in the gun pits. From one corner of the pits stops went down to a store at least 8 ft. below the surface with 8 ft. of cover made as above described. A deep trench was common along the back of the position which led to magazines in rear of either flank of the battery with 10 to 12 ft. of cover overhead. Sometimes there was 1 to 2 ft. of airspacing between two roofs. In two cases there was a telephone dug-out tunnelled 20 ft. below the surface.
(al) Siege batteries varied very much. Except in the case of two 6" batteries which had been established about two months, the cover was almost invariably camouflage only. Most of the batteries were dug into banks, and a wall of sand-bags one stretcher and one header thick was built up behind them under the camouflage. 10th Siege Battery which may be taken as a representative 9.2" battery, was in an orchard, the howitzers were sited irregularly under low trees with camouflage over them. Deep trenches, very narrow, were cut on either side of the howitzers, which led to magazines for the cartridges, 14 ft. below the surface, 10 ft. by 9 ft. by 6 ft. high with 12 ft. of cover overhead. These magazines should be dug out and the roof then put onnot tunnelledand 10 men can make one in three days, making their own concrete for bursters. Concrete slabs make the best bursters. Dug-outs for the men to live in and for protection were tunnelled into a sloping bank at the back of the orchard. Six hundred shell were arranged in rows, a sandbag between each shell, on the slopes of the orchard and covered with grass, so arranged that they could be rolled on boards down to the gun in turn. A high screen had been erected between the high road and the battery. One section had been in position 14 days and one section 4 days and the work was practically complete. All dug-outs should have two entrances, one being turfed over to prevent gas entering and the other having the usual gas blankets.
(am)The heavy batteries had either camouflage or splinter proof cover over them. They had, generally speaking, not been very long in position, and the magazines and dugouts for the men were not always as finished as the one above described. As these batteries may often be moved into forward Divisional Artillery positions, when the latter advance, it is well that the gun-pits of the most advanced Field Artillery batteries should be made big enough to take a 60 pdr.
- The Divisional Artillery arrangements have been already described.
(an) In the case of the Siege and Heavy batteries it was almost always possible to make magazines with ample bomb proof cover either sunk in the ground, in banks, or in the cellars of houses with deep piles of sandbags over them and entrances out through the walls leading into deep trenches which led to the gun-pits.
(ao) In the case of shell it is obviously impossible to provide bomb-proof cover and in the III Corps area, the methods of dumping were very varied. In one Group the heavy shell appeared to be crowded all together as close to the gun pits and in them as possible. The Group Commander was gambling on the fact that he had had three 9.2" shell hit directly by 5.9s and that the walls only had been split, no detonations occurring. The labour of supply was of course reduced but the system is too dangerous to be advocated. In several cases, as already described lanes of projectiles with filled sandbags between each were caused all over the field. One 6" battery had the shell in lots of about 30 behind a wall, with traverses out 3 ft. wide of sandbags between the lots. Where slopes were available in one or two cases shell were in trenches, cut rather like a field kitchen, behind the gun. One trench on the arc of a circle and radiating from it three trenches converging to a point at the gun, the shell being rolled down these trenches in turn with no labour. In some cases the shell were in long lines nose to base in the open. What appeared for general use the best method was used in Captain Cream's 8" battery. A trench about 5 ft. deep was cut under some bushes about 20 yards behind the battery. Shell was standing in this trench, lots of about 20 separated, they were washed in the trench and then sand-bags put over them - a most valuable idea for preventing dirt again getting on in rolling them up to the gun. Behind each gun was a 14 ft. lever pivoted on a stand with a small rough iron tray pivoted on the point. The small end of the lever being raised a shell in sand-bag was rolled on to the tray, small end lowered, and the shell brought up level with the ground, tray swivelled, and shell rolled off on to a board and rolled up to the gun-pit. Supply as rapid as the gun could be fired and no labour.
"The Infantry cannot do with a gun less": The Place of the Artillery
in the British Expeditionary Force, 1914-1918