- Field Battery positions should not be placed too far forward, the object being merely to establish an effective defensive barrage. It must be ensured that all batteries are capable of opening a defensive barrage on and in rear of our own front line.
Forward positions are however necessary for certain batteries detailed for counter-battery work, and also for occupation by single guns or detached sections employed for harassing fire.
The positions of single guns and detached sections must be constantly changed.
Battery positions within 3,000 yards of our own front line will be wired all round.
- Certain single 18-pdr. guns (or captured 77-mm. if these are available) will be placed in positions from which fire is possible on to our own front system over open sights at a range of about 1,000 yards to 1,500 yards.
These guns will only be fired in case of a hostile penetration of our front system by infantry or tanks; they must be most carefully camouflaged and all movements in their vicinity reduced to a minimum. Accommodation for a working detachment and for a dump of 200 rounds of ammunition per gun must be provided. This ammunition will be dumped in the proportion of 50 per cent shrapnel and 50 per cent H.E. (delay fuze).
Not more than two such guns will be employed on a divisional front and they will be sited to cover in the arc of fire those sectors where hostile penetration appears to be the most likely and most dangerous.
- So far as the Field Artillery are concerned all firing will, as a rule, be carried out from detached sections or single guns, the main positions being kept as quiet as possible.
- In the case of Heavy and Siege Artillery the constant movement of single guns and sections is impossible. The principle of using only a few positions for daily trench warfare will however be observed, the remaining positions being well camouflaged and kept as quiet as possible, fire only being opened for counter preparations or S.O.S.
Work must be concentrated on the strengthening and improvement of the positions which are in daily use. It is recognised that this strengthening must usually be limited to the accommodation provided for ammunition and personnel, as the provision of bomb-proof overhead cover for heavy guns and siege howitzers demands an expenditure of material and labour which cannot be provided.
- An alternative position must be maintained by every Field Battery and by not less than half the Heavy and Siege Artillery, in order to provide positions for a rapid reinforcement of artillery for the protection of our existing front system, and to provide alternative positions for occupation in the event of severe hostile counter-battery work.
This amounts in effect in IV and V Corps to maintaining in the best possible order positions at present occupied; in the case of the northern portion of VI Corps front and in the XVII Corps additional positions will have to be prepared.
Map boards for such positions must be held in readiness for issue under the orders of Corps R.A., H.Q.
- As regards construction and improvement of positions. This must be carried out on a regular system so that improvement is continuous.
Sequence of work should be:
- Slit trenches for personnel and weather proof cover for ammunition.
- Telephone dug-out and command post.
- Mined dug-outs for personnel.
- Splinter proof cover for ammunition.
- Splinter proof cover for gun pits.
- Sufficient O.P.'s for use by a concentration of artillery, either for offense or defense, must be prepared and maintained on each Corps front.
In the construction of O.P.'s concealment is the first consideration. The maximum possible amount of protection from shell fire must then be provided without sacrificing concealment.
Cover from weather and freedom of movement are essential for good work.
Maps showing arcs of vision from O.P.'s must be prepared and it must be ensured that, so far as topographical conditions allow, the whole of the enemy's territory is under close observation to a depth of at least 1,000 yards. Special O.P.'s for long distance observation will also be necessary.
- The means of communication available for use of the artillery must be considered and systematically improved in consultation with the A.D. Signals of the Corps. When examining existing systems and considering improvements attention should be paid to the following points.
- Is the exchange system between batteries and between Observing Stations sufficiently good to afford facilities for the use of alternative O.P.'s by batteries? Are the connections to Kite Balloons, Sound Ranging Sections and Observation Groups sufficiently direct to allow of efficient observation of fire being carried out?
- Does the system lend itself to meet the demands of a rapid concentration of the artillery?
- Security from severance during hostile activity?
- Does a suitable basis exist for a rapid extension of the system forward if offensive operations are undertaken which will involve penetration into the hostile defensive system?
- Trench Mortars must be fully used to strengthen the defensive barrage on areas especially suited to their employment.
Trench Mortars will usually be kept in defensive positions not nearer than 500 yards to our foremost line to avoid being immediately overrun in case of hostile attack. From such positions they can be used to bombard our own front line if this is temporarily occupied by the enemy. Sufficient defensive emplacements should be prepared and occupied to allow of the fire of at least two 6" Trench Mortars being concentrated on any 500 yard length of our own front line which may be temporarily occupied by the enemy.
Trench Mortars will also be the weapons principally employed for the bombardment of the hostile front system of trenches and for this purpose certain mortars will be moved up, as required, into, or adjacent to, our foremost line.
Observation posts and communications must be provided for trench mortars if their full utility is to be developed.
- The artillery barrage when units have been withdrawn to rest will be too thin if distributed evenly along the entire front.
The scheme for the opening of the barrage must contemplate its concentration in front of the most vulnerable portions of our line and on the most likely lines of hostile approach. The first of machine guns must be considered and included in the arrangements for the defensive barrage.
Counter-battery groups of Heavy and Siege Artillery will be allotted S.O.S. tasks for neutralising fire on hostile battery positions believed to be occupied.
Corps will draw up schemes for counter-preparation and S.O.S. barrage and will mutually arrange co-operation on the flanks of Corps.
Corps schemes will be forwarded to Army H.Q. as soon as complete and not later than 1st January 1918. Any difficulties of adjustment between Corps will be referred to Army H.Q. for decision. Schemes must include the action and movement of batteries, principally Field batteries, brought up as a reinforcement to cover a counter-attack on our front system.
- As soon as all details regarding the artillery arrangements for the defence of our front system are complete, positions and O.P.'s must be selected for covering our next system of defence. As soon as material and labour are available work will be commenced on these positions in the same sequence as laid down in Section 6 above.
It may be assumed that, in the event of being compelled to withdraw to this second system, the artillery at the disposal of the Corps will be reinforced by about 50 per cent of the normal winter allotment. Routes of withdrawal to these second line positions from those covering the front system must be selected and allotted.
As soon as the allotment of artillery to the Army and within the Army to Corps has been finally settled, reinforcing units will be earmarked for each Corps from those that are withdrawn to the rest area.
Further Instructions, 7th February 1918
- S.O.S. Barrages
- The S.O.S. lines of the Field Guns and Medium Trench Mortars should be brought back as close to our own lines as is consistent with safety.
This means that where trenches are close together the S.O.S. barrage will open on the hostile front trench or wire. Where trenches are far apart, it will open about 200 yards from our own front line.
Field guns will fire 75 per cent shrapnel and 25 per cent H.E. with delay fuze.
- Owing to the small number of 18-pdrs. available to form the S.O.S. barrage, certain portions of the front cannot be covered by fire from guns of this nature (see para. 10 sub para. 2, Third Army G. 3/789 of 18.12.17).
4.5" Howitzers using 106 fuze must be employed to assist the 18-pdr. guns and trench mortars given in sub para. (a) above.
- Medium and Heavy Siege Howitzers will all be employed in the formation of a secondary barrage. This barrage will also be formed as close to our own line as is consistent with safety.
The maximum available proportion of 106 fuzes will be used by such batteries for this purpose.
This supersedes any instructions contained in para. 3 of Section 10 Third Army G. 3/789 of 18.12.17.
- Heavy guns will be employed on main traffic routes in rear, or on H.Q. and communications centres.
- Super-heavy Howitzers will be employed on counter-battery or in the bombardment of known and important command posts or on communication centres.
- Counter-preparation is the action taken by the artillery to prevent the development of an attack believed to be imminent.
The authorities responsible for ordering Counter-Preparation are -
- Corps Commanders and their Staff
- Division Commanders and their Staff
- C.R.A.'s of Divisions and their Staff
- Counter-preparation may therefore frequently merge into S.O.S. On the other hand, an S.O.S. call having been received and no attack developing, it may be considered advisable to proceed with a counter-preparatory bombardment.
- As a further case, counter-preparation may be ordered on account of information received from deserters, agents, or any other source, quite independently of any actual call from the front line due to the action of the enemy, and in such case may be opened for a pre-determined and definite period.
- In principle the counter-preparatory bombardment will be opened on the hostile first system of trenches and main approaches in their proximity with every available gun, howitzer, and mortar excepting super-heavy howitzers and heavy guns.
Care must be taken that this bombardment is not diffused to too great a depth; it is designed to crush the hostile infantry assembling for attack in the proximity of the hostile first system of trenches.
18-pdr. guns should fire 75 per cent shrapnel and 25 per cent H.E. with delay fuze--other natures the maximum possible quantity of instantaneous fuzes.
Bursts of Lethal [gas] shell will be fired on suitable localities if meteorological conditions allow.
In the event of a hostile attack being detected before it has left its jumping-off line it will be of great advantage to put down a prolonged burst of Lethal shell on the hostile front and support trenches and thus compel the enemy to attack in masks.
- On account of the conditions mentioned in sub-para. (b) above it will frequently be advisable for the Field Artillery and Trench Mortars to open on their S.O.S. lines, especially where "No Man's Land" is wide, creeping back on to the hostile first system of trenches.
- Artillery action in event of a prolonged hostile bombardment.
Owing to the necessity of reserving the available stocks of ammunition at the gun positions to meet the actual attack, it will not be possible to maintain indefinitely a heavy counter-preparatory bombardment if it becomes evident that the enemy is engaged only in his preparatory bombardment. Under these circumstances the artillery action will consist of -
- intense counter-battery work, gas shell being freely employed, and
- harassing fire on roads to hamper replenishment of ammunition and the approach march of the troops destined to carry out the attack.
Gas shell will be employed in favourable localities when meteorological conditions are suitable, but the tendency to scatter these shell in insufficient concentration must be carefully guarded against, or all effect is lost.
Counter-preparation will on occasion merge into action such as is outlined above. On the other hand all artillery units must be prepared to at once take up their counter-preparation or S.O.S. tasks on receipt of a message or order, or on seeing the appropriate signals.
- Preparation of positions for reinforcing artillery.
It is impossible to lay down the exact amount of artillery reinforcements which may be expected. The Third Army Defence Scheme Part III gives the maximum which can arrive in the first 96 hours. Corps must therefore be prepared to receive this artillery. The maximum would only be sent to one Corps when the limits of the attack are already defined, and it is shown that the enemy's intention is to break through on that front.
In this case some artillery would be kept out of action so as to be available as a reserve to be moved where required.
The actual number of unoccupied positions which have to be prepared and maintained are as follows:
- For reinforcement of artillery to defend present first system 100 per cent reinforcing positions for field artillery and 50 per cent reinforcing positions for heavy artillery to be maintained by batteries actually in the line; this includes Brigade H.Q. dug-outs.
- The strength of artillery for defence of 2nd system will be taken to be:
Actual Strength. This includes any reinforcements received and any artillery at rest whether temporarily in G.H.Q. Reserve or not, plus the following reinforcements:-
- Heavy Brigades R.G.A.
- V Corps - 6, 2 Mixed, 2 9.2", 1 8", 1 Mobile
- IV Corps - 6, 2 Mixed, 2 9.2", 1 8", 1 Mobile
- VI Corps - 8, 2 of each sort
- XVII Corps - 4, 1 of each sort
- V Corps - 2 Div. Arties. 2 Army Brigades R.F.A.
- IV Corps - 2 Div. Arties. 2 Army Brigades R.F.A.
- VI Corps - 2 Div. Arties. 3 Army Brigades R.F.A.
- XVII Corps - 2 Div. Arties. 1 Army Brigades R.F.A.
In siting batteries for the defense of the 2nd system, regard must be had to protracted operations throughout the Battle Zone, and batteries must be distributed in depth so that operations may be conducted throughout this zone with the minimum of movement of batteries. As the Battle Zone varies considerably in depth along the Army front this must be regarded as a principle only, to be adapted to the local conditions on each Corps front.
- As regards the Rear Zone. A scheme showing Corps and Divisional boundaries on the Rear Zone will be issued to Corps. Reconnaissances of artillery areas have already been furnished by Corps. Further orders will be issued as to the distribution of artillery and selection of positions for the Rear Zone.
- As regards the sequence of work.
- The general reconnaissance must first be completed including the position of Brigade Headquarters and the grouping of the artillery which will be at disposal settled.
- Work on positions for the Forward and Battle Zones will be carried on simultaneously. Further instructions will be issued regarding work on the Rear Zone when the question of provision of labour has been thoroughly investigated and settled.
- All positions will first be marked and the work of provision of artillery boards put in hand. Construction of O.P.'s will then be commenced. O.P.'s must be constructed in depth throughout the Battle Zone.
When positions of Headquarters, Batteries and O.P.'s are fixed, the work of digging in the main lines of telephone communication will be undertaken, under a scheme to be prepared in collaboration with Corps Signals. The existing telephonic system will be utilized as far as possible. Brigade and Battery command posts and telephone dug-outs should then be constructed. Ammunition recesses with weather-proof cover will next be made, and finally slit trenches for personnel.
The ground at the actual gun positions should not be broken until it is possible to erect weather-proof cover over the pits.
Points to be considered in the preparation and execution of Defence Scheme.
- It is impossible to foresee and provide for every contingency. The initiative of Brigade and Battery Commanders must not be too much cramped by the allotment of fixed positions either to fall back to, or to advance to, if they happen to be in reserve at the time of attack.
Brigade and Battery Commanders must be ready to vary their dispositions at once if the direction of the hostile attack changes during the course of operations from that contemplated in the scheme. Batteries already in action must be ready for a complete change of their arc of fire due to the development of operations.
- Brigade and Battery Commanders and their Staffs, of Artillery in Corps Reserve, should go over the various counter-attack schemes on the ground.
Effective artillery support to the counter-attack demands most prompt and resolute action and individual initiative on the part of Artillery Commanders down to Battery and Section Commanders.
- O.P.'s must be provided in depth. O.P.'s close to the present general alignment of batteries will serve as back O.P.'s for the defence of the first system, and as forward O.P.'s in the event of a hostile penetration of the First System and so on. All batteries should select, and prepare with suitable communication and cover, an O.P. in close proximity to the battery to enable hostile Tanks and Infantry that have penetrated our defences to be engaged at close range, provided that the trajectory admits.
Brigade Commanders should establish O.P.'s in the vicinity of their own H.Q. from which they can if necessary get a general view of the country, and ascertain the progress of operations. At the junction of Corps areas particular care is necessary to ensure that all back areas are under proper observation.
- Anti-Tank Defence.
Draft instructions for anti-tank defence were sent to G.O.'s C, R.A. of Corps on 8.1.18; the final G.H.Q. instructions on the subject are still awaited. Meanwhile attention is drawn to the following points:
Anti-Tank Defence must be organised in depth.
- The distant area, i.e. while tanks are moving up into or are halted in their assembly positions.
Main reliance must be placed on the R.F.C. to locate and report tanks in this area. They will be engaged by the artillery according to the instructions contained in S.S./131 "Co-operation of Aircraft with Artillery."
- The barrage area. The S.O.S. barrage will be thickened and made as dense as possible by the inclusion of all pieces except super-heavy howitzers and heavy guns.
- The forward gun area. It is important that the specially placed forward anti-tank guns should have a wide arc of fire. It will usually be best merely to camouflage these guns; they are then capable of firing in any direction.
- The defensive battery area. In every 18-pdr. battery and in certain selected 60-pdr. batteries one or two guns, usually the flank guns, will be told off and held in readiness to be run out and to fire direct with H.E. at the tanks.
- The Mobile Reserve Area. Positions must be selected for occupation by sections of 18-pdrs. brought up from the Corps local reserve on the first warning of a tank attack. These positions will be selected with a view to the engagement of the tanks over open sights, after they have just passed through the main line of our field artillery positions. Routes must be carefully reconnoitred.
"The Infantry cannot do with a gun less": The Place of the Artillery
in the British Expeditionary Force, 1914-1918