K.J. Bunting Capt.
Issued down to Divisions
(for distribution down to Battalions)
NOTES ON RECENT FIGHTING – No. 6.
(Issued by the General Staff)
1. The following translation of a German document (I/a48580) indicates good dispositions and handling of our machine gun units, during the fighting in March. It emphasises again the value of the disposition of machine guns in depth – both in attack and defence. In the attack, security against counter-attack is thereby given to the flanks; in defence, provision is thereby made for resistance to the enemy’s attempt to widen any gap into which he may penetrate.
2. Fire effect is the essential. Therefore, an extensive field of fire (1,000 yards or more) is required for machine guns; direct fire must be a primary consideration; and the employment of guns singly should be avoided. Generally, forward guns should be employed in pairs, and guns in rear should be in pairs or groups of four, so as to facilitate control of a considerable volume of fire.
3. In defence, the disposition of machine guns in depth must be based on definite plans for restricting the area into which an attacker might penetrate. The enemy generally attempts to effect penetration at the weaker portions of the line and to take our more strongly prepared positions in flank and reverse. This should be anticipated and should not necessitate bringing our machine guns into action in unforeseen directions as has sometime occurred.
4. Single guns with hostile infantry may be dealt with in previously prepared defences by single 18-pdrs in advanced positions, and on all occasions by the fire of rifles and Lewis guns used boldly in front of the main position.
TRANSLATION OF A GERMAN DOCUMENT.
C.G.S. of the Field Army
Ia/II Nr. 82373 op. 30-3-18.
1. During the course of our offensive, the principal resistance was offered by the machine gun nests distributed in depth. Their total destruction by the artillery bombardment prior to the assault, even when this was of considerable duration, was not achieved and cannot be expected. We must be satisfied with the neutralization of as large a number as possible of these nests by means of heavy artillery fire and bombardment with blue cross gas shell.
The engagement of those machine gun nests which remain in action will then be carried out by single guns (of light Minenwerfer), which are under the orders of the most advanced infantry, follow this infantry as close as possible and fire over open sights at close range (1,1000 yards). It is advisable that batteries allotted to individual battalions should always be the same. Under the protection of the fire of these guns (or Minenwerfer), the infantry will advance by bounds with quite weak groups, the light machine guns forming part of these groups.
The heavy machine guns should generally be employed to keep down the occupants of the objective of the attack during the infantry attack, and to follow the latter up by large bounds. They also afford security against the enemy’s counter-thrusts.
The method outlined above has apparently not been employed universally, but where it has, it has been successful and casualties have been light. I request that steps be taken to ensure that this method is brought to the knowledge of all units as early as possible. The idea of compelling success by the employment of masses of troops must be absolutely eradicated. This merely leads to unnecessary losses. It is fire effect which is decisive, and not numbers.
2. The extraordinary moral and explosive effect of the medium and heavy Minenwerfer has been once more proved during the attack on the 21st March. The selection of the position of the Minenwerfer companies during the advance must be based on the consideration that they must be able to bring their medium Minenwerfer into action as soon as the attack comes to a standstill, especially against defended villages, farm buildings etc. There is no question of employing heavy Minenwerfer and Flugelminenwerfer in open warfare; there is therefore all the more reason to make use of them in trench warfare. Apart from the preparatory bombardment prior to the actual attack, their principal task will always be to annihilate the enemy’s infantry. Villages which lie within range form, on account of their strong garrisons, particularly suitable targets.
19th April, 1918.
Printed in France by Army Printing and Stationary Services. PRESS A-4/18.