NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 14. 7 June 1918

Headquarters 178th Infantry Brigade stamp.

K.J. Bunting Capt.

Issued down to Divisions

(for distribution down to Battalions)

T/9

NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 14.

(Issued by the General Staff)

GERMAN METHOD OF OVERCOMING MACHINE GUN DEFENCE IN DEPTH.

  1. The German document, of which a translation is attached, proves that the enemy has had considerable difficulty in overcoming our machine gun defence, and emphasizes the importance he attaches to training his troops in the engagement of machine gun nests.
  2. The chief points upon which insistence is laid in this document are the following :-
  1. No uniform method of dealing with machine guns – arranged for mutual support in depth – can be laid down, but it is essential that all arms should cooperate for their destruction.
  2. All located or suspected machine gun nests are to be engaged with aimed fire before and during the preparatory bombardment, but the neutralization of the majority of hostile machine guns will have to be carried out after the assault has begun. For this purpose, a light field howitzer and a field gun are to be attached to each battalion. Special efforts are to be made to get forward the light and medium minenwerfer and to ensure the covering fire of the heavy and light machine guns for the assaulting infantry. It is recommended that the field howitzers and guns should be employed firing direct from crests and at close ranges. Great emphasis is laid upon the necessity for good communication between the gunners and the infantry commander who selects the targets.
  3. If the assaulting troops are held up by machine gun fire, they are to lie down and keep up a steady rifle fire, while troops in the rear and on the flanks try to work round the flanks and rear of the machine gun nests which are holding up the attack. Meanwhile, the commander of the battalion which is responsible for the attack is to arrange for artillery and minenwerfer support and should protect his flanks from machine gun fire by means of smoke.
  1. The enemy’s tactics can be met by the methods already recommended (see “Notes on Recent Fighting No. 6 and No. 9”). In preparing a system of machine gun defence, special importance should be laid on :-
  1. The necessity for having in front of the outpost line of resistance – or of the main battle position, if it happens to coincide with the outpost line of resistance (see “The Division in Defence.” S.S. 210, Section 11, paragraph (a)) – a lightly held zone from 1,500 to 2,000 yards in depth. Only the most essential tactical points in this zone should be held during the hostile bombardment, but troops must always be kept in readiness to regain by immediate counter-attack the remainder of the ground which has been vacated as soon as the bombardment has finished.
  2. The concealment of machine gun positions from ground observation or from the air.
  3. The advisability, wherever possible, of having strong all-round defence for any tactical locality.
  4. The danger of having any dead ground near machine gun positions.
  5. The necessity for fortified posts to be mutually supporting.
  6. The importance of protecting the flanks of all tactical localities and fortified posts by defensive positions in rear as well as by positions on the flanks.

7th of June, 1918.

 

[I.a/50379.

(Distributed through Divisions down to Companies and Batteries.)

TRANSLATION OF A GERMAN DOCUMENT.

XIII CORPS, H.Q.                                                                                                  Corps H.Q.

Ia No. 576 op.                                                                                                              17-4-18.

Not to be taken into the front line.

METHODS OF SURMOUNTING THE MACHINE GUN ZONE.

Recent fighting has shown that special consideration and preparation is essential in order to overcome hostile machine guns. For further offensive operations, all troops (commanders as well as men) must possess a thorough knowledge of the methods of engaging machine gun nests and must be provided with the necessary means to meet all possible emergencies.

A uniform method of engaging machine gun nests does not exist. A successful issue must be sought by the co-operation of all arms and means of warfare, and by an intelligent use of ground.

  1. The enemy’s means of defence opposite this front consists of a deep, defensive zone, provided with a large number of machine gun nests. The machine guns afford one another mutual flanking support. Heavy machine guns are situated farther in the rear and are supported by light machine guns. Alternative positions are employed. According to prisoners’ statements, an extensive use made of indirect fire in order to conceal the machine gun positions.
  2. Our preparatory bombardment for the attack must be so arranged that it is suited to this scheme of defence. The artillery and Minenwerfer, which will be specially concentrated at the points of penetration, and must open an intense fire with H.E. shell upon a zone extending from the enemy’s foremost outpost line to a depth of about 300 yards, at the same time, the zone situated at about 660 to 1,100 yards in the rear of the line (according to the wind) will be bombarded with Blue Cross Gas Shell. The wave of H.E. and gas shell will then move slowly forward in front of the infantry. The object is to annihilate as many machine gun nests as possible prior to the assault by means of this preparatory bombardment.
  3. Located and suspected machine guns will be engaged with aimed fire. In addition, every endeavour must be made to discover as many hostile machine gun nests as possible before the day of attack, by means of a continuous reconnaissance by ground and air observation and by patrols, and, by a careful study also of the country farther in rear, to determine points where machine guns would probably be encountered in the event of a further advance.
  4. The neutralization of the majority of hostile machine guns will have to be carried out after the commencement of the assault. Infantry and artillery must be prepared for such tasks from the very outset.
  5. The means by which this can be carried out are:-
  1. Single light field howitzers in action or immediately in rear of the assault trenches; at least one per battalion.
  2. Batteries accompanying the infantry (as far as possible only the field gun, 96). It is preferable to allot sections or single guns to battalions, rather than to employ the battery as a whole under the command of the infantry regimental commander.
  3. Direct laying is the best method of fire for the guns under (a) and (b), being quicker and surer. It is desirable to take up positions on crests and to shoot at close ranges. The section commander should observe and fire as much as possible himself. Fire control requires specially careful consideration and preparation. The infantry commander selects the targets. The single light field howitzers and the sections of artillery accompanying the infantry must maintain constant communication with the foremost infantry line (observer) and with the infantry commander (battalion) to which they are attached. This communication must be short and must be ensured by various means (word of mouth, telephone, runner, mounted orderly), in order to prevent it failing.
  4. Light and medium “Minenwerfer” – They will be employed in the first instance in the positions allotted to them for the preparatory bombardment, and they will be allotted, for the advance, to the battalions which are to deliver the main blow.
  5. As regards their communications, the same principles apply as for the artillery, (see (a) and (b). Experience has shown that the light and medium Minenwerfer have often been unable to keep pace with the infantry. Thorough preparations must therefore be made to enable these weapons to push rapidly forward close behind the infantry.
  6. Light and heavy machine guns. The emplacements of the heavy machine guns must be so sited that the guns can, in the first place, support the assaulting infantry by means of overhead fire, which should, as far as possible, be flanking fire. It is recommended that these guns be sited in groups, forming batteries. If the nature of the ground prevents the strike of the bullets being located, effective use can be made of tracer ammunition (the available supply is limited).
  1. The penetration of the machine gun zone may develop roughly as follows:-
  1. The infantry, which is held up by a machine gun nest, lies down and engages the enemy with heavy fire from machine guns and rifles. If the hostile machine gun has not been accurately located, patrols must work forward and reconnoitre the position. A commander should not shrink from this loss of time; it will always pay. While the enemy’s fire is kept down by a large number of heavy machine guns, assault detachments of formations in rear or of neighbouring troops, making skilful use of the ground, work their way up to the next approaching it from the flanks and, if possible, from the rear. Light machine guns, advancing in echelon, will also accompany and support this movement. The main point is to prevent the enemy, by means of frontal and flanking fire with a considerable expenditure of ammunition, from developing his fighting powers to the fullest extent. The moral effect of uninterrupted fire is of great importance.As soon as the assault detachments are ready to assault, they will cause the fire which endangers their further advance to cease, by a signal which has been definitely agreed upon beforehand. The assault will be carried out with hand grenades, fixed bayonets and cheering.
  2. Meanwhile, the battalion commander provides for artillery and Minenwerfer support. Furthermore, he must be able to view the fighting of his battalion and to maintain complete command. Concentrated fire, directed against the “nest” which is to be attacked, is the quickest means of gaining the desired result. Flanking machine guns, which cannot be attacked simultaneously, will be neutralized by artillery (smoke shell). Minenwerfer or machine guns. The assault detachments can protect themselves from flanking machine guns by means of smoke (smoke bombs, smoke grenades).
  3. Troops will gradually force way their through the network of machine guns by making use of every local success. The attack must proceed uninterruptedly. The battalion commander must arrange for the artillery batteries accompanying the infantry, the Minenwerfer and the heavy machine guns to follow up in good time. In doing so, he must insist very strictly on the fact that the transmission of information is not interrupted. The artillery observer must always be in the infantry front line, and there should be an additional representative of the battery with the battalion commander. They must both maintain communication with the officer controlling the fire. Individuals who have themselves located hostile machine guns will be sent back to notify the accompanying artillery or Minenwerfer direct.
  4. Sufficient ammunition of the right kind – for artillery, the 1915 pattern H.E. shell with delay action fuze and shell with armour-piercing head for use against tanks – must be sent forward.
  5. When a number of field artillery and heavy batteries have been brought up by the orders of the division, additional artillery will become available for the engagement of (machine gun) battery nests. It is recommended that these batteries should be allotted to (infantry) regimental commanders for employment at points where the attack is checked.
  6. Machine gun nests which are exceptionally difficult to destroy will be engaged with tanks.
  1. Divisions must train their troops in the engagement of machine gun nests. Resting troops will carry out extensive training in this respect. The training will be carried out from the beginning with the various arms co-operating and against a skeleton enemy. The destruction of several nests, situated one behind the other will always be practiced.(Sd.) von STAABS,GENERAL STAFF (INTELLIGENCE),30th of May, 1918
  2. Printed in France by Army Printing and Stationary Services.                                                                     PRESS A-6/18-6710S-4,000
  3. GENERAL HEADQUARTERS,
  4. General der Infanterie.
  5. The place and time of all such training will be telephoned at 8 p.m. to Corps Headquarters.
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