NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 11. 21 May 1918

K.J. Bunting Capt.

Issued down to Divisions

(for distribution down to Battalions)

 

NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 11.

(Issued by the General Staff)

 

Attention is called to the following points with regard to the employment of mounted troops :-

  1. Whether in attack or defence cavalry and cyclists, if they are to be used to the best advantage, must work in the closest co-operation with the other arms and the fullest use must be made of their mobility.
  2. In mobile warfare one mounted man who knows how to use his rifle is, owing to his mobility, of more than three equally well trained men on foot. One bullet from the flank has more effect than three bullets from the front. Recent operations have emphasised the fact that a sudden burst of fire from a comparatively few rifles coming from a flank can disorganize a hostile attack far more effectually than a much larger body of fire coming from the front. Cavalry, owing to its power of combining fire action with mobility, can, if properly used, always delay the advance of the enemy’s infantry. Cavalry, therefore, even when employed as infantry in the line, should never be far from its horses.
  3. Dismounted cavalry cannot be used to the best advantage if brigades and regiments are broken up and sent in small detachments to reinforce infantry units. Every effort, therefore, should be made when cavalry is put into the line to keep brigades and divisions intact with their machine guns, R.H.A. and R.E. It will then be possible for the cavalry commander to maintain a mobile reserve to be employed wherever the tactical situation may require. The value of such a reserve was brought out on several occasions during the recent operations. In the fighting between the Somme and Marcelcave from the 27th of March to the 3rd of April, a mounted force varying from one regiment to one brigade was retained as a mobile reserve by the cavalry divisional commander. The situation on our right was always uncertain and sometimes critical. This mounted force supported the infantry as far south as Aubercourt and Hangard and the reconnoitring detachments which it provided did valuable work south and south-east of Villers-Bretonneux.
  4. The cavalry, R.H.A. batteries and M.G. squadrons found it surprisingly easy to break off an engagement. This was largely due to the maintenance of the mobility of these units and to the training in open warfare which they had received. A cavalry division was holding the line north of the Somme from Sailly Laurette to the west of Morlancourt on the 26th and 27th of March. Although hotly engaged with the enemy in front of Sailly Laurette on the evening of the 27th the division was able, upon receiving orders to do so, to break off the engagement at 4.35 p.m., and at 10.30 p.m. was assisting in the defence of the line from Warfusee Abancourt to the Somme at Bouzencourt.
  5. Throughout the recent operations invaluable work was done by small officers’ patrols. Experience has proved that reconnaissance by mounted patrols is probably the best means of obtaining the necessary information with regard to the enemy’s movements and the position of our own troops. It is impossible to attach too much importance to the training of officers and men in this work.
  6. The following points with regard to the work of mounted troops in action were noticed during the recent operations:-
  1. There was a tendency when coming into action to dismount too soon. When galloping up to a position units should remain mounted up to the last possible moment.
  2. A senior officer should always be left in charge of the led horses, and he should have a few spare mounted men to act as messengers. The position of the led horses has frequently to be changed owing to shell fire, and, unless the closest liaison is maintained with the fighting troops, there is a danger of losing touch.
  3. The Hotchkiss gun proved a most useful weapon. Its fire was invaluable in covering the withdrawal in rearguard actions. All reports shew that pack horses must always accompany troops when dismounted. The Hotchkiss gun and ammunition must be brought up on pack as near to the firing line as possible. Casualties among the Hotchkiss gunners were heavy. It is necessary, therefore, that a large reserve of these gunners should be trained.   Printed in France by Army Printing and Stationary Services.                                                                                          PRESS A-5/18.
  4. 21st of May, 1918.
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