53 Infantry Brigade lessons learnt from Recent Operations 27 August 1917
LESSONS LEARNT FROM THE RECENT OPERATIONS.
1. Inadvisability of “long” objectives owing to the confusion and exhaustion of the troops which render them specially vulnerable to enemy counter-attacks.
2. Necessity for the greatest attention being paid to the training of Coy and Platoon Commanders in leadership. Battles are now more than ever “battles of the Coy and Platoon Commanders”. The counter-attack of “B” and “C” Coys 8th Bn. Norfolk Regt. on J.14.a.3.3. on the 11th August, is a good example of the results of good leadership by subordinate Commanders.
3. Necessity for Reserves to be well forward, otherwise they cannot be got up in time.
4. Necessity for immediate re-organization when an attack has failed. Troops who have crowded into trenches must be thinned out at once and re-formed.
5. More initiative required in gaining ground by means of pushing forward small parties covered by the fire of M.Gs, L.Gs riflemen and rifle bombers. Greater activity in sniping required. The 6th R. Berks R. were very active in sniping and inflicted considerable losses on the enemy in GLENCOURSE WOOD.
6. The rapid exhaustion of troops is a factor which must be reckoned with. This is caused by:-
(a) The long distances troops have to march from rest areas.
(b) The lack of accommodation near and in the front line, and also in back areas, such as RAILWAY DUGOUTS, RITZ ST. etc.
(c) The heavy shelling of back areas which prevent troops getting any rest.
(d) The condition of the country which is much torn up, and is very marshy in places.
This physical exhaustion affects the moral of the troops when they are counter-attacked. It also renders their efforts at consolidation of any ground won somewhat feeble.
On this account I advocate the sending up of special consolidating parties of infantry if necessary, as well as R.E. and Pioneers. These should construct S.Ps and trenches to form a Main Line of Defence, a short distance in rear of the line held by the most advanced troops provided that the tactical siting of these is suitable.
7. If an attack has once failed, it is no good launching another without adequate preparation. Fresh troops will probably have to be used.
8. Necessity of good communications: roads and duck-board tracks.
9. Owing to the heavy shelling, it was found impossible to maintain communications by telephone forward of Brigade H.Q.
Power Buzzers were not a success owing to the fact that no suitable dugout existed in the forward area.
Visual signalling was fairly successful, but owing to the shell bursts, dust and smoke, it was unreliable. The Forward Stations were at times heavily shelled, and this interrupted communication by this method.
In future operations it will be necessary to rely largely on runners, signal rockets and pigeons.
The German method of showing the positions of advanced troops by means of white strips might be tried.
10. An increase of heavy guns for counter-battery work is recommended.
11. Special Lewis guns should be provided to deal with enemy aircraft flying low over our front lines: these cannot be dealt with by anti-aircraft guns. They might however be fired on by field hows., in the same manner as the enemy does when our planes are flying low.
12. The effect of the enemy gas shells is most trying to troops. Even if few casualties are caused, the troops are prevented from getting rest, working and ration parties are delayed, reliefs are rendered more difficult etc. The effect of our gas appliances on the enemy must be similar. A greatly increased use of gas on our part in recommended.
13. The bombing raids carried out at night by the enemy aircraft on areas just in rear of the forward area are very disturbing to troops, and prevent them getting a good rest. The work carried out by our air service in this respect is beyond all praise. When however, we are in a position to send over nightly large numbers of aircraft to bomb the enemy’s back areas continuously and harass his marching columns and camps with M.G. fire, it will have a very great effect on the moral and efficiency of his troops, and the results should be far reaching.
14. The provision of dugouts for troops in the forward area is a matter of urgency.
Commanding 53rd Infantry Brigade.
Aug. 27th 1917.