NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 17. 9 July 1918

Headquarters 178th Infantry Bde. stamp.

Issued down to Divisions

(for distribution down to Battalions)

T/9

NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 17.

(Issued by the General Staff)

The attached German document gives a detailed description of the enemy’s tactical procedure and arrangements during the recent operations. Although in previous notes attention has been drawn to the majority of the points on which emphasis is laid in this document, the following should be particularly noted.

  1. Great stress is laid on the fact that it is necessary for the attacking troops to be thoroughly trained in open warfare.
  2. It is pointed out that the most rigorous secrecy is vital, and that the time and place of the attack should not be communicated to the troops until the last moment.
  3. Special injunctions are given as to the thorough reconnaissance of the sector to be attacked.
  4. The minimum objective is definitely laid down as the defender’s artillery positions. The infantry, after passing beyond the limit of the barrage zone, is instructed to push forward rapidly, relying on infantry weapons (including light and heavy machine guns), and supported by light trench mortars and by the field artillery placed at the disposal of the regimental commanders. From the outset of the attack distribution in depth is enjoined.
  5. The need of the personal initiative of subordinate commanders, and the necessity for the exploitation to the utmost of any success, are emphasised.
  6. The aim especially set before the infantry is the overcoming of strong points and centres of resistance by envelopment combined with concentration of machine gun and artillery fire, rather than by direct attack, reserves being only employed at points where initial success has been obtained.
  7. As soon as a hostile counter-attack has been repulsed, an immediate counter-thrust is prescribed. It is laid down as the principal concern of commanders that the general forward movement should be promptly resumed and the defenders pressed as closely as possible.
  8. Reference is made to the difficulties caused by the defender’s centres of resistance in splitting up the attacking troops.In order successfully to meet an attack on the lines laid down, the essentials are constant observation in order to guard against surprise, organization of depth in defence, economical distribution of troops in forward positions, and determined resistance with a view to the retention of tactical localities and strong points between which the enemy may succeed in penetrating, combined with counter-offensive action.9th of July, 1918.Printed in France by Army Printing and Stationary Services.                                                                 PRESS A-7049 & 7018S-7/18.

 

 

 

 

TRANSLATION OF A GERMAN DOCUMENT.

[S.S. 723]                                                                                                                  Ia/51522

 

Issued by German G.H.Q.

at the beginning of 1918.

 

NOTES ON THE BREAK-THROUGH, FOR BRIGADE, REGIMENTAL AND BATTALION COMMANDERS.

 

  • – PREPARATIONS.

 

  1.  
  • The preparations in the position itself are usually made by the division in line (Stellungs-division). The objective will be kept secret. Instructions should be given in good time regarding the nature, extent and state of these preparations. If the preparations are not sufficiently advanced, the attacking troops will, if necessary, lend their assistance.
  • A thorough training of the attacking troops in open warfare and offensive tactics is the most important point. The attacking infantry must be trained to co-operate with machine guns and trench mortars, and with the artillery accompanying it. To keep close up to the creeping barrage and to assault immediately “on top of” the supporting fire of the machine guns are two principles which must become second nature to the infantry. Training should be carried out with blank ammunition. The creeping barrage is, nevertheless, not the principle thing; it assists the infantry in the close combat, but cannot entirely obviate the latter. The infantry should, in principle, advance under the protection of the heavy machine guns ready to place a barrage in front of it. The tactics should be those of assault troops; massed formations should be avoided. Subordinate commanders must be thoroughly trained. The first requisites are discipline and a firm attitude on the part of officers. Superior commanders must know their subordinates thoroughly, in order to be able to employ them judiciously. The moral of the troops and of the subordinate commanders, and their elan and determination must be raised. During training, the men should wear their full equipment. The fighting strength of the infantry should be checked (men on detachment). As rapidity of movement is of the utmost importance, the men’s equipment for the attack should often be reduced.
  • During training, the various means of communication should be employed; all ranks should be trained in their use. Too many men should not be employed on this duty.
  • Rigorous secrecy must be maintained. The time and place of the attack should not be communicated to the troops until the last moment. The notification of zero hour at the last minute should be practiced. All cases of indiscretion should be severely dealt with, even in the case of officers. Any elements which are suspected should be kept in rear and watched without their being aware of it.

 

    1. The men must be constantly instructed to take cover from air and ground observation.
  • The equipment of the men, harness of the horses, the vehicles, and the defensive measures against gas, must be inspected. The troops must not take any unnecessary baggage with them. Men must be trained to load vehicles in accordance with definite instructions, and to calculate weights. The kits of officers and Feldwebel must be inspected. Text books and papers must be reduced to the absolute minimum. The first line transport and travelling kitchens should be provided with good teams, if necessary from the regimental transport.

 

    1. The kit which the men are to carry for the assault should be thought out in detail. Any unnecessary reduction of kit does more harm than good.
  • Supply of rations. Iron rations must be checked. Every man should go into battle well provided with food and drink. Vegetable rations are unnecessary. Full use should be made of all stores and supplies captured from the enemy. These should be carefully guarded. Tobacco should be provided. On days of heavy fighting alcohol should be issued.

 

    1. The supply of water in the forward area will be difficult, and men should, therefore, carry two water bottles. A reserve supply of water should be maintained with the first line transport. During the first few days of an offensive, it will scarcely ever be possible to send up supplies of rations.
  • Supply of maps. Maps, air photographs, oblique photographs, and sketches of the zones of attack and of the enemy’s battery positions should be issued down to platoon commanders. Uniformity must be secured in the type of map and the conventional signs used by the infantry and artillery, and also by the air service.
  • Reconnaissance of the sector to be attacked. This should be carried out by the commanders in conjunction with the divisions in line. Movements of all officers or staffs, which might attract the enemy’s attention should be avoided. The sectors of attack selected by the higher commanders mainly from the map should be located on the ground by means of prominent features. The sectors of attack should not all be made equally wide. Where the conditions are more favourable for a rapid advance, the sector should be made narrower.

 

    1. The positions of the enemy’s strong points, woods, etc., the capture of which necessitates special measures (such as an artificial smoke screen, envelopment, etc.), should be noted. Special assault detachments should be detailed in advance for the capture of particular strong points. The troops for holding the captured ground should be detailed in advance.
  • Brigade, regimental and infantry battalion commanders must receive detailed instructions as to the preparation of the attack by artillery, trench mortars, aircraft and, if necessary, tanks, and as to the support which they will receive from these arms. Every subordinate commander must have a general idea of the arrangements. The artillery commander should give the infantry commanders a short explanation of his proposed course of action.
  • The meaning and use of all visual and flare signals, including those of units on the flanks, must be absolutely clear. Their allotment and the method of employing them must be settled in detail.II – THE ASSEMBLY.

 

    1.  
  • Guide detachments (Einweisungskommandos) should be detailed. The routes of approach and the assembly positions should be carefully and inconspicuously reconnoitred, distributed and marked out for the following:-

 

  1. The attacking infantry, with light machine guns distributed as for assault troops. The machine gun group is the tactical unit of the infantry.
  2. The heavy machine guns and light Minenwerfer (generally with their battalions). Machine guns and trench mortars should not be massed. From the outset, the heavy machine guns must be ready to protect the attacking infantry by their fire, and must not be kept in reserve in rear. Machine guns should be detailed from the outset for anti-aircraft defences.
  3. The artillery accompanying the infantry, with a detachment of pioneers (battery commander with the regimental commander).
  4. Carrying parties and police detachments. Means for crossing trenches protected by wire (lengths of duck board, about 13 feet long, are useful). Preparations must be made for the supply of rifle, machine gun (filled belts) and light trench mortar ammunition, rifle grenades and hand grenades; horsed transport and hand-cart echelons.
  5. First line transport. Arrangements must be made for its concentration and for bringing it forward. The most rigorous march discipline must be enforced. Subordinate commanders should check the concentration.
  • Supernumerary officers and N.C.O.s, intended to replace casualties, should be warned in advance and sent forward. A company does not generally need more than one officer, in addition to the company commander, for the first attack.
  • Vehicles with material for crossing obstacles and shell holes should be provided, e.g., fascines and, with the batteries, portable bridges. The requirements must be thought out beforehand. The men of the first line and regimental transport should be trained beforehand in overcoming difficulties of ground.
  • Brigade and regimental command posts in the assembly positions must be fixed, and arrangements made for communication.It is important that the commander should be able to overlook the ground to be attacked.Wireless communication must be established between the regiment and the battalions and artillery sub-groups, as well as with the brigade or the “signal communication head” and from the brigade to the division.Increase of signal traffic before an attack should be avoided. Strict discipline must be enforced in regard to telephone conversations and wireless messages. The “Signal Service Traffic Regulations” must be observed.

 

    1. The subsequent extension of the system of communication intended during the attack must be worked out in advance, and the main lines must be marked out on the map (see para. 23). The whole Staff must have a thorough knowledge of these arrangements and not only the technical officer.
    2. Communication by lamp and signals must be arranged.
    3. Telephonic communication should be established between the regiment and the brigade, between the latter and the division and the artillery groups. In establishing these communications, the arrangements which will be required, as the attack progresses must be taken into account. If the division has pushed its “signal communication head” (Meldekopf) in advance of brigade headquarters, the regiment will establish communication with the division instead of with the brigade (see para.23).
    4. These command posts should be pushed as far forward as possible.
  • Arrangements must be made to organize the first attack in depth, and to form regimental and brigade reserves. The machine guns must be allotted, and each machine gun must be detailed to a special task. The sectors of attack must also be allotted. 

 

  1. III- THE ATTACK.
  2. Each unit must have its objective assigned to it in detail e.g., the capture of particular positions, machine gun nests and dug-outs. Positions which are to be passed by and taken by means of a turning movement must be specially indicated. Arrangements must be made to protect the flanks and to “mop up” trenches. Officers’ watches must be repeatedly synchronized; the hands must be correctly set; it is not sufficient merely to note that a watch is so many minutes fast or slow.
  • Regiment in Front Line.

 

  1.  
  • Watches must again be synchronized shortly before the attack.
  • The infantry should penetrate the enemy’s position simultaneously with the fall of the last rounds of artillery and trench mortars. Everything which might disclose prematurely the hour of the attack must be avoided (no machine gun fire, no cheering etc.).

 

    1. A rapid advance affords the maximum degree of security and ensures success. Beware of traps (ruses). The covering fire of machine guns must always be ready (also that of rifles, rifle grenades, trench mortars and the artillery accompanying the infantry).
  • The minimum objective is the enemy’s artillery position. Consequently, the enemy’s positions should be overrun without a halt, isolated battery positions penetrated and the advance continued beyond the latter positions. The quicker the gun positions are reached, especially those of the heavy artillery situated on reverse slopes, the fewer will be the casualties.
  • From the outset, distribution in depth should be immediately established from rear to front (in echelon, flank defence).
  • The batteries accompanying the infantry should be pushed forward as single guns or by sections, from sector to sector, in such a manner that they are never all out of action at the same time. Sufficient ammunition must be taken forward. A few guns with plenty of ammunition are of more value than a large number of guns with little ammunition. The same applies to the trench mortars. The section commanders of the artillery should open fire on all favourable targets on their own initiative.

 

    1. Infantry regimental and battalion commanders must be acquainted with amount of ammunition carried by their accompanying artillery, in order that ammunition may not be wasted on targets of secondary importance. All reserves, whether they have been specially detailed for this purpose or not, must of their own accord make every effort to assist in getting forward guns and ammunition.
  • The reserves must be brought up closer than is usual in open warfare, but they must not be engaged too soon.
  • The position of commanders must be clearly marked (flags).Brigade and regimental commanders should select positions from which they can see the ground. These positions should be moved forward by bounds to the next point from which observation can be obtained. (Take horses forward.)

 

    1. Command posts should be used as long as possible, otherwise communication fails and command becomes impossible. Commanders should push as far forward as possible, in order that they may exert their personal influence on the troops which they hold in reserve. If necessary, a commander must himself intervene in the conduct of the operations, or must send an officer from his own staff or from his own reserve of officers to any point in the front line where his presence may be required.
    2. The battalion commander accompanies his troops on the battlefield, his place as a rule being in the vicinity of the company reserve.
  • Communication during the attack.
  • During the attack, communication within the regiment, and from the regiment to the brigade, to the artillery in position and artillery accompanying the infantry, to the aeroplane, and to the units on the flanks, is indispensible. As direct telephonic communication in the forward fighting zone cannot generally be relied on, the transmission of information must be effected by other means (liaison officers, mounted orderlies and cyclists).
  • The division will push forward continually, and as far as possible, on the general alignment of regimental headquarters, a report centre (“signal communications head”) which will be connected by telephone to the division through the brigade. It will, in addition, be plentifully provided with every other means of communication. All orders and reports will be sent through this report centre, which will ensure their transmission. It is essential that all information regarding the successive positions of the regimental command posts should be notified to this report centre. When command posts move, someone must be left at the old headquarters to receive orders until such time as the new headquarters is completely established. The report centre will establish telephonic communication with the regiment as soon as the forward movement has come to a standstill.
  • Communication within the regiment, and from the regiment to neighbouring regiments and to report centre, will be carried out by mounted orderlies.

 

  1. Communication with the artillery in position will be carried out through the artillery liaison officer who is attached to each battalion. Each battalion must be in possession of a signalling detachment.
  2. Communication with the artillery accompanying the infantry must be established either direct with the commander concerned or through the artillery liaison officers. (In addition, the artillery staff must be able to observe for themselves.)
  3. Communication with aircraft will be carried out by laying out cloth signals near the command posts and message dropping stations, as soon as the infantry aeroplane appears.
  4. The troops in front line will lay out cloth signals as soon as they have reached their objective, or, if the advance has come to a standstill, as a rule only when the aeroplane calls for them.
  • The progress of the attack will not be uniform. Reserves must only be employed at points where an initial success has been obtained; this initial success should be extended by a turning movement or by rolling up any portions of the line which still hold out. This systematic enveloping movement should be continued with the assistance of the supporting troops, the leading assault waves continuing to press forward in their sector of attack. The personal influence of infantry commanders and their own spirit and initiative are frequently decisive. The centre of gravity of the attack must always be clearly recognised. It is important to occupy high ground; massing should be avoided; cover should always be taken from air observation.
  • Machine guns, artillery and trench mortar fire should be rapidly concentrated upon centres of resistance which are successfully holding up our advance from a flank; assault troops should be pushed forward to attack from a flank by means of an enveloping movement; too large a force should not be used for this purpose, nor must the general direction of the attack be lost sight of.
  • Centres of resistance and hostile artillery battery positions tend to split up the attacking troops, and all ranks must immediately endeavour to regain touch with their commanders. It is the duty of the latter to collect and reorganize their forces repeatedly, and to re-establish the distribution in depth. New reserves should be formed.
  • The most distant objective should be allotted to the first wave, which should push forward as far as possible. The first and second waves should overrun the hostile trenches. It is expressly forbidden (for these troops) to take prisoners or clear dug-outs.
  • Troops must not collect in villages or in woods, but should go round the edges of them. As soon as the attack of a village has succeeded, the majority of the troops should be at once withdrawn. A protective garrison should be left behind.

 

    1. Deep dug-outs and caves should be searched at once, in order to discover enemy nests and isolated stragglers.
  • The necessity for co-operation between battalions and regiments must never be lost sight of. They should not, however, wait for one another, but care should be taken that the flanks of elements which are advancing independently are protected by supporting troops and, above all, by machine guns.
  • Arrangements must be made for the supply of ammunition for machine guns (filled belts), trench mortars and artillery, and for the supply of hand grenades and of water for machine guns. The various echelons of horsed transport and hand-carts must follow up the attacking infantry.

 

  1. Repairs to machine guns should be carried out at the wagons. Belts must be filled. Empty boxes and belts should be returned to the wagons.
  • Regiment in Support.
  • The general task of the regiment in support is to carry forward the attack when the forces of the initial blow becomes spent. As a general rule, it should not intervene in the battle unless ordered to do so by the brigade: it is the duty of the regimental commander, however, to act entirely on his own initiative in an emergency.
  • The later the regiment is engaged, the better. Its spirit must not be daunted in the event of small local reverses. It should only be engaged at points where the attack progresses.
  • It must maintain visual communication with the front line regiment. The commander of the support regiment must be able, personally, to view the battlefield, otherwise it will be impossible for him to command his regiment.
  • Communication with the brigade (in the event of the unit being divisional reserve, with the division) with the artillery, etc., as laid down in para. 23.
  • A reconnaissance of the ground with a view to bringing forward the troops in 2nd line must be carried out from the assembly position. The final decision as to the roads of approach and the formation to be adopted for the attack will depend on the fall of the enemy’s fire. Areas which are not swept by fire must be utilized; if the formation is temporarily lost, it should be re-established.
  • The scattered elements of the front line regiment must be collected, reorganized and brought up as a reserve to the second line. For this purpose, energetic officers should be kept in readiness. The company Feldwebel, with the first line transport, should collect stragglers and control wounded.

 

    1. IV. REPULSE OF HOSTILE COUNTER-ATTACKS.
    2. Police measures should be very strict behind the front.
    3. A study of the hostile position, of the ground, and of the attitude of the enemy during raids carried out by patrols and during minor operations undertaken by divisions in line, gives the best indication regarding the position of the enemy’s main line of resistance. Counter-attacks carried out by local reserves need only be expected in the main line of resistance; counter-attacks by larger forces need only be anticipated behind the main line of resistance.
    4. The points where hostile counter-attacks and tank attacks are likely to be delivered should be the subject of careful previous consideration.
  • If distribution in depth is continually maintained, counter-attacks are almost certain to be repulsed. In repelling a counter-attack, the co-operation of machine guns, batteries accompanying the infantry, light Minenwerfer and trench mortar companies is necessary; in this respect, heavy machine guns should be employed in dominating positions in rear in a similar manner to the batteries accompanying the infantry, in order to afford protection by their fire to the advancing infantry. They should advance rapidly in echelon from one position to another; they should be distributed chequerwise. The forward companies will employ their light machine guns in the front line.
  • As soon as a counter-attack or a hostile attack has been repulsed, an immediate counter-thrust should be delivered. The principle concern of commanders is to see that the general forward movement is immediately resumed and that the enemy is pressed as closely as possible. In particular, the fresh reserves which have been engaged to repel the counter-attack must continue the forward movement; new reserves must be constituted by collecting together all available units.V. – ACTION TO BE TAKEN WHEN THE OBJECTIVES HAVE BEEN GAINED.

 

  • A formation should be rapidly adopted which will ensure the maintenance of the ground which has been gained against the enemy’s counter-attacks, until the attack can be continued. Units should be organized in considerable depth in the formation which will eventually be necessary for the continuance of the attack. The reserves will then form the counter-attack troops required for the defence of the position. Small parties should be pushed forward to act as a screen; reconnaissance must be continually carried out. Arrangements must be made to secure flanking fire from the machine guns sited at points which cannot be seen by the enemy; these points are frequently situated on low-lying ground. Flanks must be secured; touch must be maintained and co-operation effected with neighbouring units. Machine guns must be brought into position for defence against aircraft.
  • Order must be re-established in units, reserves detailed, and communication established with higher formations and with units on the flanks. New commanders must make themselves known by name to subordinate commanders, and the latter must make themselves known to the men.
  • Communication must be established with the artillery, which should rapidly organize the artillery defence (artilleristische Abwehr). It is important that the artillery should have direct observation, so as to be able to detect the hostile counter-attack and break it up the moment it is launched. All points which would form good observation posts should be immediately reported to the artillery. All results of infantry observation should be communicated to the artillery by the most rapid means available.
  • The supply of ammunition and food must be ensured and the travelling kitchens brought up.
  • Construction of the position. – Units should dig themselves in as rapidly as possible. The exact trace of the line will not be settled until later. Attention must be paid to the distribution of the forces engaged, and to arrangements for reliefs and rest. Protection against aerial observation is of very great importance.
  • Medical services.
  • In certain circumstances, units which have suffered heavily should be relieved in good time.
  • As soon as his counter-attacks have been repulsed, the enemy should be attacked immediately and pursued with fresh forces.All the above arrangements must be made in close agreement with the artillery and the units on the flanks.VI – SUCCESSFUL PENETRATION OF THE ENEMY’S POSITIONS.

 

  1.  
  2.  
  3. As soon as the enemy’s positions and artillery have been captured, the fighting assumes more the character of open warfare. Methodical preparations come to an end and personal initiative and vigorous action take their place.The commander’s place is well forward. Columns of route must be rapidly formed, and the artillery accompanying the infantry and the light Minenwerfer must follow closely on the roads.
  4. Assert and exploit German superiority in open warfare.
  5. The pursuit of the enemy should be rapid and uninterrupted. He must be given no respite, even during the night. One unit should not wait for another. At the same time, effective measures must always be taken to overcome by fire any unforeseen resistance (machine guns, artillery in position). There must be close co-operation with the artillery. Sections of artillery or single guns should move with the advanced guard.
  6. Reconnoitring patrols should be sent out at once to the front and flanks; these should have mounted orderlies and cyclists attached to them. The flanks should be covered by reserves in echelon, and especially by machine guns.
  7. Communication must be maintained with higher formations and with units on the flanks as described above. Communication must also be maintained with the first line transport.
  8. Attention must be paid to the supply of ammunition and rations. The supply officer and N.C.O.s of the train must, on their own initiative, keep in constant touch with the battalion staff.
  9. Arrangements must be made beforehand to give the troops rest during the short halts. The travelling kitchens should be brought up, or orders given for the iron rations to be consumed. Iron rations consumed must be replaced immediately.VII. – ACTION AGAINST THE ENEMY’S REARWARD POSITIONS.
  10. The enemy’s rearward positions are best carried by the first vigorous pursuit. Such attacks must be supported by fire. A short concentration of fire by machine guns, trench mortars and the artillery accompanying the infantry will often prove sufficient. If the capture of these positions is delayed, it usually involves heavier casualties.Single heavy guns should be brought rapidly forward, as their action is frequently decisive.
  11. In principle, patrols should be pushed forward to the attack well in advance of the troops. Such patrols will often dislodge the enemy if he is already shaken, and, in any case, they should carry the enemy’s outpost zone.
  12. If the enemy has had time to garrison his rearward positions with fresh reserves, he should first of all be driven from the zone in front of those positions, so that the ground necessary for the development of the subsequent attack can be thoroughly consolidated.A co-ordinated attack, after an artillery preparation, will then be carried out under the orders of the higher command. General Headquarters,
  13. 4th July, 1918.
  14. General Staff (Intelligence),
  15. The procedure in this instance is similar to, but more rapid than, that for the first attack.
  16. A thorough close reconnaissance must be made to find out the situation and depth of the enemy’s position, and the method of holding it. Where is the weakest point? Which is the easiest line of approach?
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