TRANSLATION OF A GERMAN DIVISIONAL ORDER.
REGARDING THE IMPROVEMENT OF FIRST LINE DEFENCE.
No. 1.441 MARQUILLIES, 27-2-15
The inspection of the position of the Division (14th) by H.E. the General Commanding VII Corps, the Chief of the Corps Staff, and myself, leads me to make the following remarks:-
- It must be clearly understood by everybody down to the last man in the company that shelter-trenches fully capable of use as fire-trenches must be made 50 to 100 metres behind the front line. Wherever possible the construction of these shelter-trenches should go hand-in-hand with that of the front line defences. Wherever this is not possible on account of standing water or the backward condition of the front line defences, the construction of these shelter-trenches should be taken in hand as soon as possible.I repeat emphatically that the front line must be held in all circumstances. When a commander voluntarily gives up a portion of the front line he exposes the adjoining sections to the danger of being outflanked and forced to surrender. This commander therefore takes upon himself more responsibility than he is entitled to.
- I do not in the least underestimate the moral effect of a bombardment of the front line previous to an attack. The shelter-trenches are to be used from time to time for the occasional relief of the troops occupying the front line, to avoid heavy losses. There is the danger, however, that a reoccupation of the position in order to beat off an attack may become impossible when troops are withdrawn to a flank, or that a sudden change of fire-direction on the part of the enemy on to the densely occupied trenches on either flank, may cause heavy losses and intensify the moral; effect on the troops.
- Considering my very clear instructions of 5th February, Section 1, No. 300 (secret) paragraph 1 of the final remarks, I cannot understand how an officer commanding a battalion sector could tell the Corps Commander that he proposed to take up a position behind the front line, giving as a reason that his front line was too weakly held and not sufficiently fortified.
- The instructions of 5-2-15, Section 1, No. 300 (secret), concerning the completion of the positions, have not been sufficiently carried out. The following details are noticeable: the parapets in many places are too low and too weak. There are not sufficient traverses or parados.
- In many places banquettes are wanting, and a continuous firing line is not arranged for though these could have been provided long ago with little trouble. The possibilities of flanking fire have not been thought of sufficiently. Shelters on the rear side of the trench unless protected by at least 3 metres of earth are to be at once removed. Entrances to shelters are to be traversed.
- Greater energy must be shown in pumping water out of the trenches and communication-trenches by means of the small pumps, the position of which should be occasionally changed. I further draw the attention of officers in charge of sectors to the necessity of pumping out old trenches and communications, which will save the labour of constructing extensive new ones.
- Troops should not be content with a fairly dry trench, but should ensure that trenches and communication-trenches are kept entirely free of water, so that further rainfall may not lead to a dangerous state of affairs. Whenever the trench has been pumped dry, digging must continue in order to strengthen the parapet, especially in cases where the sole of the trench is on ground level.
- I quite realise that great exertions are demanded of the troops, but I have noticed in many instances that the necessity for this amount of work is not sufficiently appreciated. In order to employ the available labour to the best advantage, the following procedure should be observed:- The forces holding the front line trenches are at full strength and must remain so. Any difference, exceeding 100 men, between the fighting strength and the strength shown on the ration return is not justifiable and should not exist. I draw the attention of Commanding Officers to this, and request them to prevent the unnecessary detailing of men for various duties which are not authorized by superior authority. Company Commanders and Colour Sergeants are to be strictly supervised in this matter.Section 1, No. 330). Company Commanders have, against my express orders, kept every loophole occupied and have ordered their men to fire every half hour or “every now and again”; this is an inadmissible alteration of my orders, and if it occurs again I shall have to take disciplinary action. Where these practices continue there is no possibility of sufficient work being done. It depends upon local conditions whether work on the first line trenches is best carried out by day or night. A good deal of work, construction of banquettes, levelling of ground, etc., can be carried out by day.Reserves when used as working parties, are to be at full fighting strength. Complaints have been made to the Corps Commander about the lack of material in the front trenches; this lack of material is mainly due to the fact that the materials were not indented for in time. Indents should be sent in some time ahead, as the Pioneer Parks are frequently unable to cope with demands at short notice.I expect strict compliance with my orders of 5-2-15, Section 1, No 300 (secret), and rely on officers in charge of Battalion Sectors to see that they are carried out.(Sd.) Von DitfurthSent to :- 14th F.A.B.
- Hauptmann Bindernagel
- 79th Infantry Brigade 11th Jaeger and 2nd Coy. 19th Pioneer Btn.
- 27th Infantry Brigade for Regiments and Companies and 3rd Company 7th Pioneer Btn.
- (Lt. Gen. Comdg. 14th Divn.)
- Battalion Commanders, and not their representatives who temporarily occupy posts in the front line, are responsible for the effective completion and repair of the trenches in their Battalion Sector.
- It is the special duty of the Battalion sector Commander to see that repairing and building material is brought up into the front line in good time. The men detailed for this are not to be drawn from the troops in the first line trenches, but from reserves of each sector.
- The troops in the front line are there for working purposes in the first instance; only a few posts are needed for the observation of the enemy and they should not fire unnecessarily (see special Divnl. Orders 8th February,