ARTILLERY INSTRUCTIONS NO. 83
Headquarters, Fifth Army
27th December, 1917
- As it is essential that the artillery should get as much rest and training as possible during the winter and in order that work on defences may progress as much as possible with the minimum number of casualties, Artillery action for the present is to be limited strictly to what is considered necessary for the defence of the line.
- "Harassing" fire at night will be stopped for the time beingexcept in the case when reliable information is forthcoming that a relief is in progress.
- No desultory shooting, either on trenches or batteries, will take place. The only shooting that might be classified under the headings of desultory should be to check the lines of fire, any necessary registering and checking of the error of the day on datum points.
It should be noted that it is possible to overcheck barrage lines &c. and thereby give away valuable information to the enemy.
- The enemy's trenches will not be bombarded except in case of necessity and then only when observation is possible.
- When, however, the action of the enemy becomes so aggressive as to render reprisals desirable, these reprisals should take the form of fully organised, fierce and concentrated bombardments, lasting a certain definite time and placed on selected portions of the enemy's organisation where damage is likely to be caused. When carrying out reprisals in this manner trenches should never be bombarded without a determined effort being made to destroy something definiteMachine Gun or Trench Mortar emplacements, dugouts, etc.
Care must also be taken not to shell empty trenches with shrapnel: the enemy does not ordinarily occupy his front line very thickly by day, consequently to shell his front line holds out, under ordinary circumstances, very little prospect of killing Germans and therefore fails to fulfil its main object.
As regards the enemy's artillery, in this connection, it is best to select one hostile battery and turn the full weight of the counter batteries of the Corps on to it and smash it rather than to distribute fire simultaneously over a number of batteries.
Whenever a destructive shoot of this nature, whether it is in connection with reprisals or in the ordinary course of counter battery work, has taken place, shrapnel fire should be kept over the destroyed emplacement for the next few days in order to catch the salvage parties if possible.
- In order to carry out the principles laid down in G.H.Q. Memo on Defensive Measures (O.A.D. 291/29 dated 14th December, 1917) together with the Army Instructions which have already been issued on this subject it is necessary that the batteries, both of Field and Heavy Artillery, on each Corps front should be echeloned in depth and placed chequerwise so that if the enemy should break through on a wide front all our guns are not put out of action at the same time.
- Until such time as offensive operations are to be resumed by us, the Artillery of the Army will be placed purely defensively and in such a manner, consistent with para. 6, that the following two main tasks can be carried out:
- In the event of the enemy showing signs of attackingto place a Field Artillery Barrage 250 yards in advance of our front system with a Heavy Artillery barrage behind it.
- In the event of the enemy breaking through our front systemto hold him to the ground gained and inflict heavy casualties on him until such time as our counter attack Divisions accompanied by mobile batteries can be brought up.
- One or two 18pdr. Batteries per Divisional Sector should be placed about 5,000 yards behind our front line in strong emplacements with good fields of fire.
These batteries will remain silent, their task being to support the counter attack in its initial stage whilst the mobile batteries are getting into action.
The siting of them, therefore, must receive the most careful consideration.
- Efficient Artillery support to the counter attack will require the most resolute action and exercise of the highest form of initiative, and Artillery Commanders down to Battery and Section Commanders must be trained to act, when the occasion arises, independently and with complete self reliance.
- The only exception to the principle laid down in para. 7, which involves siting our guns well back, is that a certain number of counter batteries will have to be kept in fairly forward positions in order to carry out routine counter battery work, mainly with a view to assisting in training air observers.
Once it is made perfectly clear that the hostile attack has been launched, by the fact that the enemy's infantry is seen advancing, the work of these counter batteries, as such, will cease and their whole energies be devoted to breaking up the enemy's infantry organisation.
Our latest experience has been that the enemy's infantry advances in mass with a view to overwhelming all resistance by sheer weight of numbers.
Extraordinary opportunities are, under such conditions, offered to well handled and resolute Artillery to inflict very heavy losses and to break up the attack completely.
- The importance of siting Field Artillery in such a way as to avoid any dead ground cannot be overestimated.
Arcs of fire must be as wide as possible and gun pits constructed so that guns can be put in and taken out without difficulty as fire may be required in any direction.
- All batteries must be properly dug in, wired all round and camouflaged.
The positions should be so organised as to afford suitable rallying points for Infantry, should occasion arise, and be capable of Machine Gun defence.
- Every battery in the line must prepare and maintain a second position for a "reinforcing" battery of the same nature.
The position must in the first instance have weather proof cover for ammunition prepared and a shellproof telephone dugout and Battery Command post.
Shelters for personnel can then be started as time and labour become available.
The necessary O.Ps. for these positions must be selected and made, and "Battery Boards" prepared.
It is essential that the positions should be most carefully camouflaged.
- Too little time and care is not to be given to concealing batteries from the air.
Camouflage must constantly be improved and the result checked by means of air photographs.
All blast marks must be carefully obliterated or concealed.
Tracks and tramways should never stop at a deadend in the Battery but be continued on into a dummy position a short distance off.
- The "reinforcing" positions mentioned in para. 13 are in addition to and must not be confused with "alternative" positions which all batteries, especially Field Artillery, should have ready for occupation.
When indications are clear that the enemy has discovered one of our battery positions, alternative emplacements should be occupied, if possible, before his destructive shoot begins.
- It is advisable to keep a single gun or Section well away (100 to 400 yards) from the real position of the battery. Its emplacement should be as strong and well concealed as possible. All ordinary shooting should be carried out from this position so as to conceal the real one.
A certain number of isolated shelters for storing ammunition and other purposes should also be built away from the actual position.
- Mobile "roving" guns which wander about and fire from different positions especially at night when the flashes can be detected and serve to mislead and mystify the enemy. This must however be done with circumspection and not too often otherwise the ruse may give rise to suspicion.
- If any emplacements have been abandoned owing to hostile fire they should occasionally be fired from.
- Every battery must establish and organise an O.P. in close vicinity to its gun position, ready to be occupied should the enemy succeed in breaking through our forward line of resistance.
In some cases it may be necessary to have more than one of the O.Ps. available in order to deal with any of the varying situations that may arise.
- Artillery O.Ps. in the backward areas must be selected and tabulated in connection with those gun positions chosen for the support of each successive rear line of resistance.
Steps must be taken so that no portion of the foreground will be left unwatched.
Special care is necessary at the boundaries of Corps areas where each Corps must in this matter work in close conjunction with its neighbours.
- Every Group Commander, whether of Field or Heavy Artillery, should establish an observation station for himself in the close vicinity of his Headquarters whence a general view of the country can be obtained and from which he can, if necessary, see for himself what is going on in his immediate front.
A "crow's nest" in a tall tree will often meet the case.
- "Dummy" gun emplacements often serve a most useful purpose. The usual fault is that they are much too obviously dummy. The whole matter requires most careful stage management and to be of real value dummy emplacements must resemble real emplacements down to the smallest details.
On fine days when hostile aeroplanes are about fires should be lighted close to them so that the smoke can be seen.
Tracks leading to them should be made and even short lengths of tramway laid.
Now and again "roving" Sections or guns should actually fire from them.
Most particular attention must be given to imitating blast marksas they are one of the things most apt to give away a concealed position on an air photograph. The absence of blast marks leads to the presumption that a position is not occupied.
It must be realised that the blast mark of a Howitzer differs from that of a gun.
It is obviously useless to erect a dummy emplacement suitable for a 12" Howitzer and show a blast mark which would ordinarily be made by an 18pdr. gun.
- It is useful to keep a small supply of smoke candles in the dummy position.
When the enemy has engaged one of these positions the fact of lighting a few smoke candles and a couple of small fires to represent the usual explosions and fires in the gun pits is apt to give great satisfaction to the hostile air observer and often induces him to return home rather sooner than he otherwise would have done.
- Firing dummy "flashes" from false positions when his aeroplanes are about helps to mislead the enemy but it must be realised that it is no use firing dummy flashes unless a real battery is firing at the same time.
A succession of "flashes" on our side combined with an entire absence of shell bursts on the enemy's side merely degenerates into a somewhat indifferent pyrotechnic display serving no useful purpose whatever.
- Every Artillery O.P. that is manned by night will be provided with a complete outfit of S.O.S. light signals and these light signals will invariably be used in addition to any telephone message or other signal that may be sent out.
"Repeating Stations" are to be established wherever necessary. The rapid transmission of "alarm" signals to the guns requires even more care and forethought than ever to be exercised to ensure efficiency whilst the present defensive phase is in existence, owing to the greater distances over which the messages will have to travel.
The only sure test of a really efficient system is when messages can get back to the guns at once even though the weather is foggy and the telephone has broken down.
- The foregoing instructions refer mainly to the present defensive policy but the fact must never be lost sight of that this is a mere temporary phase to be followed eventually by a resumption of the offensive.
Consequently though, for the moment, the strengthening of our rear defences and the rest and training of personnel is of paramount importance, yet gun emplacements etc. already established in the forward positions must not be allowed to fall into a state of decay, as their eventual reoccupation will almost certainly become necessary at some future date. If handed over in good repair they can, without in any way detracting from their eventual value as gun positions, be organised into Infantry strong points and incorporated into one of our defensive lines.
Whenever such a system is adoptedwhether it be the conversion of an old gun position into a strong point, or the adaptation of an Infantry strong point in any of the rearward lines so that it may eventually be utilised as a gun position, an Artillery Officer should invariably be detailed to see that the work carried out is suitable from the Artillery point of view.
[signed] H. Uniacke
G.O.C., R.A., Fifth Army
Copy No. 1 and 2 Fifth Army "G.S."
3 D.A. & Q.M.G.
4 VII Corps
5 VII Corps Arty.
6 Cavalry Corps
7 Cavalry Corps Arty.
8 XVIII Corps
9 XVIII Corps Arty.
10 5th Brigade, R.F.C.
11 G.S. Intelligence
12 Third Army
13 Third Army R.A.
14 Captain Renondeau
15 Third French Army
16 M.G.R.A., G.H.Q.
17 5th Balloon Wing
18 15th Wing, R.F.C.
19 Fifth Army A.A. Group
"The Infantry cannot do with a gun less": The Place of the Artillery
in the British Expeditionary Force, 19141918