Frederick the Great in speaking of Officers who relied solely on their own practical experience remarked that there were in the Army two commissariat mules which had served through twenty campaigns, "but," he added significantly, "they are mules still." Practical experience unless it forms a basis for reflection and is amplified by comparison with the experience's of others loses half its value.
(A) Tactical Notes
Bombardment and Barrage
Counter Battery Work
Concerning the Infantry
Resting of Artillery
Provision of Cover
Provision of Labour
(B) Notes on Organisation
Artillery Pioneer Companies
(C) System of Command
Counter Battery Groups
(D) Reinforcements and Training
Need for increase of Establishments
Supply of Reinforcements
Training during Operations
Training of F.O.Os.
Railheads and Depots
Forward railway System and personnel for working
Preparation for operations
Multiplication of types
Workshops and training of Artificers
Provision of visiting Artificers
Advantage of Gun Park
Rapid circulation of Spare parts
Handing over Guns between formations
Condemnation of pooling systemı for guns
Introduction of new mechanisms during operations
Necessity of providing longer range Guns and Howitzers
Equipment & Ammunition
No. I Memorandum on the Enemyıs Present System of Defence 20/8/17
No. II Attack Barrages
No. III Special form of Attack Barrage for Concrete Shelters
No. IV Later Amendments to Attack Barrages
No. V Suggested Trench Mortar Organisation
No. VI Suggested R.A. Staff Organisation
No. VII Report on Concentration Staff Office
No. VIII Syllabus for R.A. Staff Training
No. IX Proposed Artillery Intelligence Organisation
No. X Ammunition Supply and Expenditure
No. XI Proposed System of Supplying Artillery Reinforcements
No. XII Training of F.O.O.s.
No. XIII Report on Artillery Equipment
(A) Tactical Notes.
- This year's fighting has been noteworthy for a number of tactical changes on the part of the enemy.
The measure of our success has generally depended on the extent we have been able to keep abreast of these changes, which have all been defensive on the part of the enemy and designed to minimise the power of our Artillery.
Our part has therefore been to introduce such modifications and, if necessary, changes into our methods that the enemy may still feel the full weight of our Artillery in every action.
- Artillery nowadays is probably the most important arm from the tactical point of view and is the only arm which can utilize and bring into action at the same time the whole of its strength which is accumulated in any given area.
The principal lesson of the year's fighting is that neglect in making proper use of the Artillery, weak points in its organisation, or indecision in its tactical handling is paid for time and again by unnecessary and avoidable casualties to the Infantry and failure in the opportunities.
All possible resources in men and material must be made use of to keep the Artillery, and the services working in connection with it, in first class order.
Without this there is little hope of victory.
- The chief tactical difficulty has been to discover changes in the enemy's dispositions and intentions in sufficient time. Often it was necessary to fight a battle to find them out.
- Much can be done by the R.A. and Intelligence staffs working in the closest co-operationfirstly by finding out from prisoners, captured documents, etc. what the enemy's dispositions really are and secondly by a reliable forecast of what the situation is likely to be at the next battlebearing in mind that it is often better that the Artillery should search for the troops of the defence rather than the material obstacles.
The Artillery arrangements can then be made; but it must be realised under certain circumstances, that if the enemy is to feel the full weight of the Artillery, some risk that he may escape it must be accepted, as fire cannot be organised in great depth and at the same time give full results with certainty
The measure of the risk depends solely on the accuracy of our previous deductionsan intelligent appreciation of the existing situation reduces this risk to a minimum.
The main difficulty lies not so much in gathering the necessary information on which to base the Artillery plan but in the turning to profitable account of that information.
- Bombardments this year have been concentrated at all points within the range of the guns according to the enemy's habits at the momentsometimes as far back as possible, sometimes only for the first 1,000 yardsboth with good results.
- The organisation of the attack barrage also, both as regards its depth and as to the number of counter-battery weapons included in it, has undergone various changes, and must always so change in order to meet the situation in existence at the moment.
Pedantic rigidity of method in this matter should be strongly guarded against.
Certain changes and modifications, even though they may not have been forced on us by the enemy's tactics, are always advisablethey serve in a greater or less degree to help towards carrying out Stonewall Jackson's advice "Always to mystify, mislead and surprise the enemy"advice which perhaps is often not taken sufficient advantage of by us.
The most unyielding opponents of any suggested changes in barrage methods are to be found amongst Divisional Staffsto a counsel of their fears, being that the Infantry have been trained behind the line to expect a certain definite form of barrage which they are to follow and any change in the form of that barrage when the actual attack takes place might through [sic for throw] the machine out of gear. This giving-way to unbridled timidity on the part of those who are not actually going to follow the barrage themselves is much to be deprecated. It is open to the gravest doubt as to whether the men actually going over the top have the slightest idea as to whether the barrage they are following is exactly the same as they have seen before or whether there is any difference in itall they care about is its accuracy and efficiency. If they are occupied in watching the general form of the barrage and comparing it with other barrages under which they have attacked on previous occasions then they are not doing their proper job, viz., killing the enemy, and for that reason things may go wrong. We must guard closely against endeavour to make the battle conform to the training ground when the exact opposite should naturally be our aim.
- A certain number of heavy guns should be placed in "lying in wait" positions well forward prior to the initial attack on an organised system so as to reach well out along traffic routes, etc. They would not open fire until after zero hour thus introducing the element of surprise and bringing fire unexpectedly far back along important routes.
- It pays at times to have on a Corps front prior to an attack certain "Closed areas" into which nothing is fired. On the battle day heavy concentrations are turned on to these areas. All ranges and switches should have been worked out beforehand.
From captured documents and maps we know that the Germans carefully watch and note down any areas or routes that are free from shell fire and make use of them for bringing up counter-attack troops, etc. This system has at times given great results but must not be tried too often otherwise its value is apt to be discounted completely.
- [MISSING LINE]
it is not for the Group Commander of the Heavy Artillery covering the Divisional front to put forward proposalsit is for the Divisional Staff to say what they require to be done.
This point wants to be driven home.
It must be remembered that although a Heavy Artillery Group is in close liaison with a Division it is still under the command of the Commander of the Corps Heavy Artillery, i.e., it is under the Corps control and not under Divisional control.
- There is still considerable room for improvement in some instances as regards the manning of Heavy Artillery O.Ps.
Map or aeroplane shooting is apt to become an obsession. As regards the former method possibly bygone teaching at some of the Schools at Home may have had something to do with it.
This matter must be very carefully watched during Winter Training. No shoot should be done by aeroplane that can possibly be carried out by visual observation as it is wasteful of time, ammunition and flying time.
It is criminal to carry out a shoot by the map which can be done with visual observation.
- The necessity for thickening up the creeping barragefor having 18-pdrs. in the "combing" barrage and of further guns for smoke make it necessary to have a larger number of 18-pdrs. available in future operations.
This will be further emphasised if 18-pdrs. are provided with gas shell. All this points, under the organisation which exists at present, to more Army Brigades being formed.
Another matter that crops up in connection with the general question of an increase in the number of guns (on any given front) is as to whether we do not now require to add a third category to our present broad grouping into Counter-Batteries and Bombardment Batteries and have in addition a certain number of batteries specially told off for harassing fire.
Harassing fire particularly when, as with us, it is carried out in addition to other duties entails a very heavy strain indeed on the personnel, and there is no doubt, especially during prolonged operations, that the volume of fire is apt to diminish considerably in the early hours of the morning. Such a things should of course not occur but it is a matter of weak human nature and in war the human point of view and the psychological point of view must always be kept in the foreground. To ensure complete efficiency therefore there seems to be no doubt that the strength in personnel in the batteries told off for harassing fire (which, to ensure success, must be maintained ruthlessly day and night without intermission) must by some means or other be increasedin fact, practically speaking, almost doubled.
It is doubtful whether our harassing fire, taking it all round, has up to the present been sufficiently organised or taken sufficiently seriously.
- No alteration of or interference by subordinate Commanders with barrage tables as arranged by Corps must be allowed under any circumstances whatsoever. It seems almost unnecessary to lay this down but cases of interference by Divisions at the last moment have occurred and in each case the result has been disastrous.
- As a general rule, for 24 hours after the capture of a position (all objectives have been taken) the general line for the S.O.S. barrage should be that detailed for the final protective barrage. This simplifies matters and anything that tends to simplicity in battle is of the highest value: The artillery know exactly where to put the barrage, the Infantry know exactly where to expect itall without any further instructions or notification being necessary.
This first 24 hours is usually the most critical period for the Infantry, as it is then that it has everything to fear from the counter attack of an adversary who has lost a position but not necessarily the battle.
A well placed and effective S.O.S. barrage is therefore of the highest importance.
- The C.R.A. of each Divisional Artillery Group in a Corps should send an Officer (about 10 a.m.) the day before an attack to the G.O.C., Heavy Artillery, to give him all the latest available information regarding the Field Artillery barrages and the movements of the Infantry during the attack.
- Once the time table has started Corps must not under any circumstances whatever bring back the barrage at either of their flanks without first consulting the adjoining Corps and ascertaining the most forward position of the latter's Infantry at the particular flank concerned.
- Infantry in the line who sometimes during operations complain that the S.O.S. barrages are not put down in the right place must remember that their own Divisional Staff settles the line where the barrage is to be placed. Cases have occurred where this line has been settled in spite of protests by Artillery Officers concerned.
- It would appear that, speaking broadly, Infantry attacks are too uncertain of success and too costly to be worth undertaking if the state of the ground is such that the pace of the barrage has of necessity to be slower than 100 yards in 6 minutes. Anything slower than this means that the state of the ground is very bad and that the Infantry find extreme difficulty in crossing it.
As far as the Infantry is concerned it is the last 50 yards after the barrage has lifted off the objective that constitutes their main obstacleunless it is humanly possible to cover that last 50 yards in quicker time than it takes the enemy to recover himself and bring his machine guns into action, then the attack can only succeed at the expense of heavy casualties and a grave risk is run of even more costly failure.
- Protective barrages should be heavy or not at all.
A weak protective barrage is no protection in the case of attack by the enemy and does not prevent our troops advancing before their time (if it is regarded in any way as a signal)consequently in such a case ammunition is wasted, unnecessary wear is caused to guns and the physical endurance of the gun detachments is sapped to no purpose.
Protective barrage in severe fighting should be placed close in front of the Infantry and be maintained until the Infantry have thoroughly consolidated themselves.
This is not waste of ammunition.
- The chief changes made this year in bombardment and barrage as far as this Army is concerned are contained in Appendix 1-3.
- As was the case last yearthe time to carry out intensive counter battery work is between attacks. Provided this has been efficiently done, the Infantry have nothing to fear from the hostile artillery once the attack has started until they settle down on a fixed line when deliberate counter battery work for destruction must be resumed with unrelenting vigour.
- A battery cannot be destroyed in the real sense of the word.
It can be put out of action for a varying length of time which however will rarely exceed a week.
- Heavy "map-shoot" concentrations against groups or even single hostile batteries have however been of the greatest value. Even the most orthodox counter battery "purists" have been quite converted to this system after its results have been revealed by air photographs.
"Datuming" beforehand with visual observation is essential but is by no means always done, which accounts on occasions for the partial success only of these concentrations.
- Special counter battery O.Ps. giving a good general view should be established and manned at all times and especially during a battle. It is only in this manner that quick and accurate information as to the effect and relative importance of the enemy's shelling can be obtained by the Counter Battery Staff Officer.
- Liaison between the Infantry and the Counter Battery Staff Office is capable of improvement. An Officer from the Counter Battery Office should visit the Headquarters of Infantry Brigades daily and when possible Battalions in the line.
The Infantry will thus learn that the Counter Battery Staff Officer is their best friend and keep him supplied with information.
At the same time, as regards this matter of liaison, the time seems now to have arrived when we should depart somewhat from the time-honoured custom of the British Army and no longer throw the whole burden of responsibility as regards liaison on the shoulders of the Artillery.
Efficient co-operation, the off-spring of close liaison, between Artillery and Infantry calls for an equal measure of intelligent initiative from the Infantry as from the Artillery. This fact is often not sufficiently realised.
During quiet times Infantry Officers should arrange to visit a Counter Battery Office and see the working of it. They would then appreciate the valuable use to which the daily periodical reports can be put provided they are made out carefully, intelligently and accurately.
As it is these reports are apt to be looked upon as merely being a rather wearisome method of gratifying idle curiosity on the part of the higher formations and an exceedingly high percentage of Infantry Officers have not the faintest conception that such an organisation as a Counter Battery Office even exists.
- Counter Battery work is in actual practice limited by means of observation rather than by number of guns and every possible step that can be taken to increase our means of observation is therefore of the greatest value.
Too great reliance is placed on air observation which has many limitationswhen for any reason air observation is not possible matters often come to a standstill and nothing is done.
- With a view to verifying the accuracy of the air observation, the work of a Counter Battery Staff, and the actual shooting of the counter batteries, the reports sent in at the time were carefully checked with the actual results on certain German Battery positions after we had captured the ground on which they stood.
33 positions in the vicinity of LANGEMARCK, regarding the shooting on which full reports existed, were examined and checked.
The results of the investigation on these 33 positions may be summarised as under:
- Air reports more than borne out by state of target: 4 = 12%
- Air report completely borne out: 18 = 55%
- Air report approximately correct: 9 = 27%
- Bad observation M.P.I. wrong : 1 = 3%
- Position entirely mistaken: 1 = 3%
- There must be no confusion of ideas between the duties of F.O.Os. and those of the Liaison Officer going forward with Battalion H.Q.the Infantry are not clear on this point and they must be taught.
Speaking broadlythe former passes orders (as regards conduct of fire) to the gunsthe latter information.
The main duties of F.O.Os. are:
- To get where they can see any counter attack that the enemy may launch, i.e., they must be far enough forward to be able, without doubt, to distinguish between friend and foe.
- Never to relax their efforts, however great the difficulties, to establish and maintain communication with their Group or Battery.
F.O.Os. can have no prospect of success with visual signalling unless rear stations and O.Ps. keep up a continuous and effective lookout for signals from the F.O.Os.
- Machine guns used in barrages should have their own F.O.Os. in close touch with the Artillery F.O.Os.they should in fact work together.
- The greatest vigilance is required from all F.O.Os. for the first 24 hours after the capture of a position. They must not hesitate to send the S.O.S. signal if it appears that Artillery fire is necessary even though no signal has been received from the Infantry. Visual signalling must be arranged for all F.O.Os. in addition to telephone communication. One F.O.O. per Group or Brigade must be provided with Runnersa post must be established on each Divisional front from which the S.O.S. signal can be repeated.
- The final objective of an attack should be so chosen that it includes suitable forming-up places for the next attack. This incidentally would serve to dissipate the nebulous speculations often indulged in, sometimes even up to the eleventh hour, as to the actual line on which the Infantry are going to form up, and thus enable the lower Artillery Commanders to get out their final orders in time to satisfy themselves that all is right.
Time and again the definite decision on this point has been left so late that Battery Commanders on whom the main burden fallsand how heavy and sustained that burden is not fully realisedhave only just been able to get their barrage tables out before zero hour is upon them.
- The period when the Infantry are forming up is always an anxious time as regards the possibility of the enemy's artillery fire coming down; but in actual practice this year the Infantry have practically never suffered at this time and no assault has been prevented from this cause as far as the Fifth Army is concerned.
- When Infantry are forming up for attack and the line as so often happens is not particularly well marked it is desirable to have some desultory 18-pdr. shooting going on along the opening barrage linethis marks down this line definitely and Infantry must form up behind it, conformingto it. So as not to arouse suspicion, desultory shooting on this line should take place for a couple of nights beforehand as part of the ordinary night's "Strafe".
As regards the pace of the barrage it should be calculated not on the state of the ground at the time of making the plan but what it is likely to be that is to say after the ground has been heavily bombarded for some days prior to the attack and on the actual day itself.
It is generally judicious in the first instance to assume that attacking Infantry will take the maximum time possible in carrying out any contemplated operationas in the event of any change in time tables being made it is much easier as far as the Artillery arrangements are concerned to alter from a slow pace to a quicker one than vice-versa. In the first case the guns are left with a superfluity of ammunition which is a fault on the right sidein the latter case it means getting up more ammunition, setting more fuzes and very likely having at the last moment to re-arrange the whole of the dumps at the guns.
- When the Infantry forming-up line for attack is in rear of a line of posts which it is proposed to withdraw for safety reasons, patrols must be kept out on the original line until the very last moment, otherwise the enemy advances into these posts or nearly into them and the opening barrage comes down behind them. Complaints from the Infantry as to our opening barrage coming down behind the enemy's front line troops have been traced back to neglect of this precaution. Nevertheless forming up in this manner will often save losses from hostile M.Gs. which have been pushed so close up that they would otherwise be safe from our opening barrage.
Above all things, though, it is essential that when a forming-up line has been fixed the Infantry must form up on that line and nowhere else.
This may seem at first sight a somewhat futile sort of instruction to lay down but it is very necessary that it should be brought home as neglect in complying with it, either from failure to grasp its importance or from other causes has more than once led to serious trouble.
- In the absence of topographical features such as in the case of an area which has been heavily bombarded over some length of time the Infantry after a successful attack are usually extremely dubious as to how their front line actually runs. A way out of the difficulty is to put down a practice barrage on a certain definite line which is made known beforehand to all concerned. The Infantry can then pick off their position on a map by watching this barrage carefully and make any readjustments of the line that may be found necessary or possible.
This specially applies to shell-hole positions.
- Gas shell has been found to be a very efficient method of neutralizing the hostile artillery for the last night before an attack but if our intentions are not to become patent to the enemy, these shell must be provided in greater quantity and for more natures of guns than at present so as to allow of "gassing" being carried out more frequently.
The 6" Howitzer gas shell will probably remove this difficulty if supplied in sufficient numbers.
Gas shell to be effective must be used in concentration and in large quantities.
To fire isolated bursts of a few shell in hope that the enemy may thereby be induced to put on gas masks is useless and leads to waste of ammunition.
Gas shells, the effects of which although lethal are highly evanescent, are not, it is considered, so efficient as those of which the effects last for some time, and a very considerably larger proportion of lachrymatory shell seems to be required.
- Having established a smoke screen it is often useful to fire a certain number of gas shell into the cloud.
- When selecting enemy batteries for gassing previous to or during an attack it pays to give special attention to any that may be in action near a road.
The gassing thus serves a double purposeneutralizes the battery and blocks the road.
- When it is intended to carry out gassing of enemy batteries during the night, the state of the wind should be sent out to Counter Battery Staff Officers in sufficient time each evening for any special instructions as to the M.P.I., etc., to be sent out to Divisional Artilleries and Corps Heavy Artilleries.
- Transportation for both ammunition and guns has been one of the great artillery difficulties this year on this Army front.
This difficulty has arisen to a great extent by over-bombardment not by legitimate bombardment.
Over-bombardment usually takes place owing to changes in plan and postponementsthe state of the weather being, practically speaking, responsible in the majority of instances.
The bombardment for the attack of 31st of July was originally intended to last four daysit eventually lasted for sixteen days, with the result that the whole countryside was destroyed before the attack started.
- The provision of Instantaneous Fuzes in larger numbers will assist in this matter but the effect on our future movements of each shell should undoubtedly be considered more in the future than it has been in the past.
- The rate of advance of an Army in these days is entirely governed by the pace at which sufficient guns and an adequate supply of ammunition can be got forward.
So long as the enemy has a proportion of stout-hearted machine gunners and a supply of entrenching tools, so long will it be necessary for us to make use of large concentrations of artillery in supporting our Infantry.
There seems to be no phase between this and the pursuit of an enemy whose moral is completely broken.
- If therefore we are over going to pluck the fruits of victory, we must shell less lavishly or rather less destructively.
This can undoubtedly be done, and the enemy's moral still be shaken provided the fact is never lost sight of that moral effect is very transient.
- The light railways are now built entirely for the Heavy Artillery and a special officer must be installed at all Heavy Artillery Headquarters charged with the sole duty of liaison with the light railways.
If the light railways are to be ready in time, Heavy Artillery Commanders must forecast as accurately as possible the future movements of their batteries and the whole general plan of the forward move must be worked out in detail beforehand.
- When it is a case of getting forward Field Artillery ammunition with very heavy shell fore to face, a combination of light railway and pack convoy gives the best results. The light railway would allow, if possible, of loading the pack animals along a considerable stretch, thus making it difficult for the enemy to note down any one spot as a refilling point.
- A bolder policy is required as regards pushing forward broad gauge linesnot only for the purpose of getting ammunition well forward but to enable railway mounting howitzers and guns to be pushed up without delay.
With battle-days succeeding one another much more rapidly than heretofore the enemy's artillery is forced to change position constantlymany more risks can consequently be taken as regards pushing forward our railways.
We are likely to have an accession of strength as regards long range guns on railway mountings in the future.
When now broad gauge lines are being planned on any projected battle front it is most necessary, as far as the forwards areas are concerned, to bear in mind the dictum "Railways are good Servants but bad Masters." Otherwise unless much forethought be given to the possibilities of railways from an Artillery point of view the value of the above mentioned weapons may be somewhat discounted.
- Roads from the Artillery point of view were not so successfully pushed forward as the railways. Hence the advance of the Field Artillery was delayed and this in many cases reacted on the Heavy Artillery whose advance was also delayed since the Field Artillery in certain Sectors were occupying the only available gun positions.
The reason for this probably lies in the fact that it is not yet generally recognised that with ground in a state such as the battle field of Flanders roads must be built first and foremost, to suit the Artillery, and then used for other services as required.
It is of the highest importance that this fact should be thoroughly grasped.
In no other way can the Field Artillery be got forward into proper gun positions instead of being forced to come in action anyhow on either side of the main road.
The above applies equally to the ammunition supply of the Field Artillery. The one good main road per Corps which we aimed at is unsuitable for Artillery purposes under conditions such as existed in Flanders.
The importance of good and numerous routes by which ammunition can be supplied to the guns cannot be over-estimated.
We have only to study the present German Artillery methods to see how they eventually copy our own methods and those of the French and we must be prepared to find that their "harassing" fire, which at present is almost negligible, will sooner or later be increased in volume enormously.
Good wide roads and a good system of light railways is therefore a sine qua non and attempts should on no account be made to move a mass of Artillery forward until the communications are ready to take the traffic and to maintain that traffic without prospect of a breakdown other than from the action of the enemy.
- Signal methods have, relatively speaking, stood still whilst everything else has improved. Much attention should be paid to this matter and Divisional C.R.A's must give it their earnest attention.
- As soon as an attack has succeeded a certain number of light reels of telephone wire can be taken out by aeroplane and dropped behind our new front line. These can be picked up by F.O.Os. and used for establishing communication, working backwards, which is apt to be easier than attempting to lay a line forward.
- Pigeons are of very great value for communication purposes. Four pigeons should be supplied daily to each O.P. during operations. As there are probably two O.Ps. to each Group of 6 or 8 batteries this would not appear too large a number.
In any case during a battle every F.O.O. and Liaison Officer that goes forward should take 4 pigeons with his party.
- It would seem as if far greater use might be made of balloons in connection with visual signalling back from the forward areas. More experiments in this connection would be useful.
- On fronts where the enemy's shelling is really very heavy it is advisable to abandon all attempts to keep telephone lines intact. Visual signalling by lamp is at present the only alternative and special "concrete block" shelters should be constructed for the signal personnel directly the ground is captured.
Wireless is of course very badly needed for O.P. communications.
Most batteries require to pay more attention to the training of signallers in lamp signalling.
- It is very necessary during prolonged operations to make arrangements for gun detachments to rest somewhere away from the actual vicinity of the guns. That is to say as far away from noise as possible in order that they may obtain sufficient sleep.
- An intensive bombardment lasting several days followed by a battle constitutes a severe strain on H.A. personnel and cannot be efficiently carried out unless the most careful and well organised arrangements are made for resting both detachments and guns.
No Field Artillery should fight for more than six weeks.
Few people realise how great is the strain on the present day Battery Commander on a battle front.
- Working as they have to do with short detachments, preparing new positions, getting up large quantities of ammunition and firing an extended programme the artillery personnel was often during the battle reduced to a state of extreme exhaustion.
- The best system of relieving gun detachments is by making double detachments for each gun from the start, and having complete reliefs every 48 hours. To enable this to be done properly the establishment of Batteries in N.C.Os. and Gunners should be increased by 20%. This is a large increase and involves the general question of man-power but it is not the slightest use blinking at factsthe situation has got to be faced squarely. The physical endurance of the artillery at the later stages of this year's operations at times very nearly reached breaking pointnext year the strain will be even greater. Such is the situation and being such it is imperative that steps be taken to cope with it.
- The best method for providing cover for detachments in a heavily shelled area, where tunneling is not possible, is to make short length, deep, and narrow trenches 100 yards to the flank of battery positions.
Splinter-proof head cover should be added at the first opportunity.
The reasons against the provision of any more head cover than what is just sufficient to be splinter-proof are the extra labour entailed, the danger from burying in the debris, and the impossibility of making shell-proof cover under a very considerable time.
Corrugated iron with one layer of sand-bags has been found to be splinter-proof. A shell-proof for telephone operators and for a Command Post in each Battery is however necessary. It would seem that these could be provided if dug-out construction in a newly captured area was at once started well forward on a properly organised system.
Shell-proof shelters for Infantry in support etc. would then fall to the Artillery as we advance, in the same manner as the enemy's Infantry occupy old battery positions as they retire.
- It has been found by experience and many experiments that the concealment of gun positions depends much more on the character of the ground on which they are placed than on any application of camouflage material.
Since the enemy looks to pin point our batteries on aeroplane photographs of the areas in which they have been located by flash spotters and sound rangers, it is very important that gun positions should be selected with reference to such photographs in order that, in so far as tactical considerations permit, they may be chosen as much as possible on back-grounds which are favourable to concealment.
Tracks have been found impossible to hide on any large scale. In order, therefore, that they may not indicate the whereabouts of our gun positions on aeroplane photographs, it is of the highest importance not only to choose gun positions, but also to plan (by the aid of photographs) routes for traffic along such lines as will be least conspicuous and indicative of the disposition of the guns.
Such photographs need not be taken frequently, and comparatively few suffice to show the whole of a Corps front: for a single photograph taken with a wide angle lens at 12,000 feet shows a tract of country about 2_ miles long by rather more than 1_ wide.
If this picture, which will be similar to that on which the enemy will look for out gun positions, is available at Corps and Divisional Headquarters gun positions, dumps, lines of traffic, buried cables etc. can be planned to the best advantage from the point of view of concealment, and the possibilities of the whole locality from this point of view can be studied in advance when operations are contemplated.
The occasional photographs which are taken at present of our own side of the line are of comparatively little use because, not showing the whole area, they do not afford the same opportunity of forming a comparative estimate of backgrounds, and are consequently little referred to from the proactive point of view.
- Additional labour for both Field and Heavy Artillery is essential both prior to and during operations.
- It is necessary to attach both R.E. personnel and special carrying parties to each Battery moving forward into a new position during battle periods. The necessity for this has been made conclusively clear and in future it should be the policy in every Corps.
- The energy of the Artillery personnel is expended to the last ounce in getting their guns into action and above all in getting forward the necessary ammunition and it is impossible to find men for carrying R.E. material except at the expense of efficiency in the service of the guns.
- It should be a point of honour with the Infantry not to send up an S.O.S. signal except in case of an actual attack being threatened. This should be rubbed in at all Infantry Schools. The continued and quite unnecessary S.O.S. calls that some Divisions make a habit of sending up whenever a German ration party is seen on the move or a few stretcher bearers appear on the scene cause an enormous waste of ammunition, wear out the guns, tire out the Artillery personnel almost to the limits of endurance and make it a matter of extreme difficulty to build up an adequate stock of ammunition at the guns in readiness for the next battle day.
- "Meteor" telegrams in the Fifth Army have now for a long time been sent by Army Signals direct to all Battery Commanders.
Much time is saved thereby as the message goes automatically through all the Army signals offices and never has to be re-written by any Staff Officer.
- Low flying enemy aeroplanes are an ever present trouble. Batteries should have their own Lewis Gun detachments. It is suggested that T.M. personnel be trained in Lewis Gun for use against aircraft.
- Batteries should not send up all their specialists into the firing battery but keep a proportion of officers and specialists back in the wagon lines so as to replace casualtiesin fact follow the same system as prevails in the Infantry.
- Ammunition stacked at any position exposed to shell fire should not be kept on wooden platformstin is simple and uninflammable.
- The establishment of special Artillery "aid posts" has become necessary and will be even more necessary during next year's campaignthis must be legislated for.
It is noteworthy that the enemy has also found the same necessity.
- As soon as the locality has been decided upon as to where an offensive is to be initiated all necessary "screening" required in view of the eventual artillery concentration should be taken in hand at once and completed well before the first of the new batteries are due to arrive. It is too late to leave it until after they have arrived.
- The great moral in all the foregoing is that certain so-called "lessons" learnt during the Battle of the Somme led some of us temporarily astray this year, and certain "lessons" will assuredly lead us astray next year unless they are merely utilised as a basis for reflection.
As the enemy changes or modifies his methods of defence in order to hold up our attacks so we must modify or change our methods of Artillery attack in order to break down that defence, allow our Infantry to assault with a reasonable prospect of success, and gain their objective with the minimum of lossalways bearing in mind that the final decisive factor is the bayonet of the Infantry soldier.
"Lessons" as regards principles must be taken to heart and adhered to.
Before applying past "lessons" as regards methods we must be quite certain that they are suitable to any altered conditions that may meanwhile have arisen.
They must then be applied with intelligence, and above all with imaginationwhich latter must be tempered by circumspection, much common sense and last, but by no means least, inter-mingled with a modicum of cunning.
There is unfortunately no golden rule which will always achieve success.
"The Infantry cannot do with a gun less": The Place of the Artillery
in the British Expeditionary Force, 1914-1918