On retirement the trench warfare system of grouping ceased and brigades were commanded as a whole by their own brigade commanders.
Position of batteries of a brigade were kept as close to one another as circumstances permitted so as to simplify communications and the passage of orders.
All retirements were carried out in an orderly manner by successive batteries or sections so that fire should be maintained continuously. When a retirement was made, the principle of not retiring till absolutely necessary and of then making as long a one as possible consistent with bringing effective fire to bear on our existing front line was carried out successfully. Batteries or sections often remained in action after the infantry had retired through the guns.
It was impressed on brigade and battery commanders to use their own initiative as much as possible in selection of targets and even, failing communications, on necessity of retirement, but the latter was to be decided only by brigade commanders in default of orders from the C.R.A. or B.G., H.A.
When possible the field artillery brigade commander was with infantry brigadier whose front he supported. This was found to be the ideal condition, but, if position of infantry brigadier was an unsuitable one for the field artillery brigade commander to command his batteries from, it was found more advantageous to have an artillery liaison officer with the infantry brigadier. The paramount necessity of the F.A. brigade commander being in personal touch with his batteries, especially during a retirement, was insisted upon.
Batteries did not have permanent liaison officers with battalions as this was considered wasteful and unnecessary under the constantly changing conditions, but whenever the necessity was obvious a liaison officer was provided. The system worked well.
The infantry brigadier, in consultation with the F.A. brigade commander, had full control of artillery covering his front, and batteries or sections could be told off for close support as required. This procedure during a battle of constantly changing conditions is absolutely essential and any effort at centralization of control can only lead to disaster.
Officer's patrols to keep in touch with the infantry situation and the position of the enemy were used with successnotably on April 14th when a patrol sent out by a battery of 19th Divisional Artillery established the fact that our troops were still holding Neuve Eglise, about which considerable doubt existed at the time.
It must be strongly impressed on all artillery officers that they will generally have to depend entirely on their own resources for keeping in touch with the tactical situation.
The usual field artillery training system of F.O.O.'s was adopted and, owing to favourable ground, observation worked well and at times brilliantly.
Communication was generally by telephone which on the whole worked well. Visual signalling was often adopted with success and on many occasions runners were used at critical moments and were instrumental in bringing effective fire to bear.
The greatest flexibility in communications is the only way to ensure success. There is no infallible method so every possible means has to be thought out and exploited.
2nd Army Brigade N.Z.F.A. who were in action on 25th Division front report as under:
I have not been able to ascertain whether other artillery units had similar experience.
At commencement of attack there were 500 rounds per 18-pdr. at the gunsother natures in proportionand all echelons were full. 100 rounds per 18-pdr. and 4.5" how. were dumped in some rear position.
During moving warfare constant changes of refilling points are necessary and it was considered unwise to have too many rounds at positions and refilling points. It was decided when retirement began that a suitable disposition of ammunition would be about
The ammunition supply worked smoothly and well.
At no time was any unit dangerously short of ammunition and very little was left behind on the ground on retirementin nearly every case all dumped ammunition was fired away before retirement took place.
A larger proportion of 18-pdr. H.E. was fired than seems justifiable. I have not been able to go onto the reasons for this exhaustively but it may be accounted for by the considerable proportion of H.E. with 106 fuzes and also that the hilly nature of the ground caused battery commanders to use H.E. when observation was difficult and the angle of sight unreliable.
About 45,000 rounds 18-pdr. H.E. with 106 fuze were used during the 11 days' operations.
The 106 fuze undoubtedly greatly increases the efficiency of 18-pdr. fire at ranges over 4500 yards, but any tendency to use it at medium and short ranges should be checked as its effect in comparison with a well burst shrapnel is necessarily small.
Counter Battery work was only carried out when good targets presented themselvesvery little area neutralization was attempted.
When a hostile attack is launched or imminent, the all important target, on which the fire of every possible gun should be directed, is the enemy infantry. This fact appears an obvious one, but I do not think it is perhaps sufficiently appreciated by some heavy gunners who during trench warfare are inclined to get a distorted view of the importance of counter battery work.
During a moving battle I think the C.B.S.O. and his staff can be most usefully employed in organizing a service of information by means of Field Survey posts and counter battery O.Ps. and distributing the information to divisions, etc. By this means he not only performs useful work at the time but also keeps track of hostile batteries with the view of restarting regular counter battery work as soon as the line becomes stable.
During the operations one aeroplane was always available for work with the artilleryL.L., G.F. and N.F. calls were the only calls sent.
All masts were installed by H.A. and D.As. [Divisional Artilleries] but owing to misty weather not many calls were sent, though records of some effective L.L., G.F. and N.F. calls were received.
Report on Administrative arrangements is attached. [not reproduced]
During the latter part of the period under review numerous batteries of French artilleryprincipally 75-mm. but also 155-mm.came into action on IX Corps front. No notification of the arrival of these batteries was sent to IX Corps nor were they in any way under IX Corps ordersfacts which militated against the most effective use being made of their fire. Immediately the presence of these batteries was detected every effort was made by the use of liaison officers and hastily established communications to employ them to the best advantage and to keep them au courant with the tactical situation.
I am strongly of the opinion that reinforcing artillery should be placed under the orders of the Corps holding the sector, who can then allot them to divisions as required.