- On the afternoon of the 8th February I proceeded to ABEELE and attended a lecture given by the Fourth Army Commander on the Battle of CAMBRAI to his Corps, Divisional, Commanders and their staffs. The Army Commander in concluding said that the lessons to be learnt from the CAMBRAI Battle were as follows:
- (a) Divisional boundaries should be arranged so that the Divisional reserve can be directly behind the Division. This is not always possible in a salient.
- That the LATEAU WOOD Ridge was convex in shape like all chalk ridges and that as the passages over the Canal S.W. of it had not been secured, frequent patrolling, both by night and day, was necessary; and that this apparently had not been carried out.
- That defence should be in depth.
- The handling of artillery in the defence.
- I should like to speak to you concerning this last point, and I trust that Artillery Notes No. 7 - "ARTILLERY IN DEFENSIVE OPERATIONS" now in galley proof, if approved, will be issued as soon as possible.
- I suggest that the G.Os.C., R.A., of Armies should attend the next Army Commanders' Conference and that the handling of artillery in the defence should be discussed in rather more detail than is set out in the Agenda for that Conference; in fact the "ABC" of the matter should be threshed out. It will be laid down in our manual, if the Field Marshal approves, that the basis of artillery action in defensive operations will be as follows:
- The defence scheme will be made out by the Corps in consultation with the Divisional Generals.
- A certain amount of Heavy Artillery will be attached to each Division.
- In the event of the Corps being attacked, the barrage will come down as arranged by the Corps, but the actual command of the Field Artillery and of the Heavy Artillery attached to the Division will remain in the hands of the Divisional Commander, until such time as the Corps consider that centralised control will give better results.
- The rest of the Heavy Artillery of the Corps will during the period of general counter-preparation be employed under Corps orders in counter-battery work, bombardment of rearward communications and harassing fire. If an attack appears imminent, the majority, if not all, of this remaining Heavy Artillery will co-operate in annihilating fire on points where the enemy's attacking troops are seen or are believed to be massing. At the moment of assault, every single weapon of the defence will be devoted to barrage fire, i.e. to the destruction of the assaulting forces. All tasks and targets for annihilating and barrage fire must be definitely allotted beforehand in close consultation with Divisional Commanders.
- Reinforcing artillery will be dealt with by the Corps as the situation demands. Normally the Field Artillery will be at once allotted to Divisions.
- On the 9th February, I visited all the Heavy Artillery Headquarters in the Fourth Army and all the Counter-Battery Offices.
The enemy's artillery is certainly very quiet now on the Fourth Army front, except for occasional activity opposite the VIII Corps. I cross-examined all the Counter-Battery Officers as to whether they considered that any hostile artillery had left their front during the last 3 weeks; they all said that they thought not, though it was very difficult to be sure at this time of year. General Budworth did not consider that there was sufficient evidence to prove any reduction in strength in the enemy's artillery. However, I gathered that many of the active positions were only occupied by one gun; this of course may be regarded as the enemy's normal procedure in using a gun some distance away from the battery for ordinary routine firing. I further gathered that in a recent raid on the XXII Corps front hostile artillery fire was far from being heavy, though the airmen reported a great many flashes.
I examined some photographs of our gun positions and camouflage was not successful. I will speak to the E.-in-C. [Engineer-in-Chief] about this.
"The Infantry cannot do with a gun less": The Place of the Artillery
in the British Expeditionary Force, 1914-1918