CO-OPERATION OF THE R.A.F. CORPS SQUADRONS
WITH OTHER ARMS DURING A MOVING
1. Introductory. Whether the move is an advance or a withdrawal, the problems to be solved are much the same: the latter case however, is the more difficult operation, and is herein dealt with. The principles can be applied to an advancing battle mutatis mutandis.
2. Role of Squadron. Provided Liaison with the ground can be efficiently maintained the functions of the Corps Squadron are properly –
(1) Battle Reconnaissances.
(2) Artillery work with surprise targets.
(3) Liaison Reconnaissance to identify, and communicate to with other Arms.
Systematic bombing and shooting up of live targets is more properly the role of Army Squadrons and reinforcing Brigades.
3. General Idea. If these duties are to be carried out, it is essential that the energies of the Squadron should not be taken up by moving daily from place to place: a situation must therefore be taken up well in rear, and touch kept with other Arms by means of advanced landing grounds occupied in turns.
A Map of all feasible grounds (in rear of a large sector of the front, to legislate for possible cases of divergent lines of retirement) should be compiled by R.A.F. Brigades, kept up to date, and issued to all concerned. If this is not available, the duty of selecting suitable sites, lies with the R.A.F. Officer attached to a report centre.
4. Main Report Centre. The first essential is to establish a Main Report Centre (M.R.C.) in close proximity to Corps H.Qrs. (Advd H.Qrs): It is a sine qua non that this Centre should be on a practicable landing ground.
This M.R.C. would be in charge of the Corps Squadron B.I.O., and its position notified to all units (if necessary by message dropping). All aeroplanes of the Squadron would land in the early morning at this Centre, and function from there throughout the day, returning to the base aerodrome in the evening.
A Wireless Station, a few small spares, petrol and oil, and a Corps D.R. service, would be installed at this M.R.C.
5. Move of M.R.C. In the event of Corps H.Qrs., continuing to move backwards a new landing ground will be taken up, and if possible installed before the first ground was abandoned. (see 7 below)
As soon as a move is contemplated an arrow would be put out near the T on the landing ground, pointing in the general direction of the new site. When the forward ground is finally vacated, the T is taken up, and the arrow left out.
It is hoped by this means to ensure constant Liaison between Corps and Squadron H.Qrs.
6. Artillery Work. Fire on targets notified from the air will largely be the task of the Divisional Artillery. Owing to the withdrawal of the bulk of Siege Batteries, and to the lack of means of communication from Corps H.A., to batteries, it is likely that H.A. H.Qrs., and the C.B.S.O. will cease to operate with large formations, and that their position will approximate to Corps H.Qrs. Mobile Heavy Artillery Brigades will be attached to Divisional Artillery.
All units must remember the absolute necessity of moving the personnel and material of their Wireless Station, and of erecting same whenever possible.
Artillery Units ready for action with aeroplanes, should keep out the ground strips of their calls, except in presence of Enemy Aircraft.
7. C.W.S become A.R.C. When Corps H.A., H.Qrs., ceases to function tactically the Central Wireless Station (C.W.S.), will remain as an advanced report centre (A.R.C.), for work with Divisions.
It will be under the charge of one of the Squadron wireless Officers, and will be equipped in the same way and will function in the same manner as the M.R.C.
When withdrawal becomes necessary the A.R.C., will move past the M.R.C., and will take up its position near the new Corps Advd H.Qrs., where the B.I.O., will again take command, it will thus become itself the Main Report Centre, while the old M.R.C., becomes the A.R.C.
One of these two Stations is thus likely to be in action and both will have landing grounds in their vicinity.
Communication between M.R.C., and the A.R.C., will be maintained by wireless.
8. Liaison Reconnaissances. The services of the R.A.F., will be of extreme value in identifying and reporting positions of unit Headquarters: they supplement other means of communication in this respect, or at times supplant them in the absence of telephone facilities, and during periods of road congestion. An efficient Air Service should be able to keep the Corps Commander informed of the position of his units and should be able to transmit his orders to them.
A whole Flight should be detailed for this important service (This Flight could reinforce the Battle Reconnaissance or Artillery Flight in the event of the withdrawal being premeditated and leisurely).
Every H.Qrs., should be provided with ground strips to form a two or three letter code call (only those letters should be used which can be formed into straight strips) and a Popham Panel. The code calls should not be arbitrary, but should have their index letter such as to indicate to the aeroplane, the nature of the formation to which they belong.
The Observer would then know for instance, that he had located 2 out of 3 Divisions – could inform a Division of the situation of a neighbouring H.Qrs., etc. etc., by means of message bags. (See Note).
If the importance of carrying and displaying these strips is impressed on units, it should be possible for an aeroplane flying over an area and calling by means of Klaxon Horn, or Very’s Lights, to rapidly accumulate valuable information as to the positions of units throughout the day.
This form of Liaison should be infallible, whereas, Wireless inter-communication may fail owing to lack of experience, delicacy of instruments, lack of trained signallers, running down of accumulators, etc.
9. Attachment of R.A.F. Observers to Formations. In order that the possibilities of Aerial Co-operation outlined above may be taken full advantage of, it would appear essential for a proportion of the Observers of a Squadron to live, and move with units of the Corps.
It is suggested that:-
2 Liaison Officers should be attached to Corps H.Qrs.
1 Battle Reconnaissance Observer to each Divisional H.Qrs.
1 Artillery Observer to each Divisional Artillery H.Qrs.
These Observers would be informed by the unit Commander, as to what particular information is desired: they would then proceed to the nearest Report Centre, and pick up the aeroplanes detailed for the service. It must however, be pointed out, that the R.A.F. cannot provide transport for each of these Observers. The essential principle of the whole scheme proposed, is that it should be possible to carry it out with the means at the disposal of every Corps Squadron in the Field, and the transport allotted is barely sufficient for present requirements.
If units desire the services of an attached Observer, they must when occasion demands, find some means of transport, horse, bicycle, motor bicycle, etc, to enable him to reach the nearest aeroplane landing ground.
The information obtained by these special Observers, though primarily for the benefit of their own formation, will be in every case transmitted to the M.R.C.: the Pilot will be responsible that this is done when the aeroplane lands on the advanced instead of Main Report Centre.
10. To sum up the essentials of the scheme proposed are:-
(1) A rearward location of Squadron aerodrome, and Administrative H.Qrs., to avoid constant movement and road congestion.
(2) Forward tactical landing grounds.
(3) The division of the Squadron into Battle Reconnaissance, Artillery, and Liaison Flights.
(4) The utilisation by of all units of ground strips to denote their positions.
(5) The attachment of R.A.F. Observers to units for Liaison work.
(6) No extra transport or material required, beyond that now in possession of Corps Squadrons.
(Details as far as at present worked out, are attached).
Commanding 15th Wing,
Royal Air Force.
In the Field.