1. REGARDING POSITIONS
a. In Depth
Like the Russians, the British are firm believers in distributing their
antitank weapons in depth. This not only goes far toward preventing
encirclement, but results in "smothering" the tank waves. Whenever
possible, antitank defenses—including traps, obstacles, and
mines—should be so located that enemy vehicles will be channelized,
or caught in positions where they will be subject to flanking fire. The
flanks of tank echelons, although often protected by accompanying
artillery, are especially vulnerable, partly because the visibility
of the tank gunners is severely limited and partly because tank leaders
are instructed to dash forward and gain their objective even if this
involves dangerous exposure of flanks.
b. Changing Sites
Once a gun has opened fire, its position is given away by the flash, which
may be seen both by air and ground observers. Therefore, the only means of
protection is a change of position. The coordination of such moves is
vastly important, because even one change may upset or alter the defensive
layout as a whole. The British recognize that more training is required
in the reconnaissance and layout of positions, especially with reference
to the selection and coordination of alternative positions. Also, the guns
should be so sited that they are defiladed from enemy ground observation. To
accomplish this, it is frequently necessary to dig pits for the guns, just
deep enough to allow the gun barrels to have traversing room above the
ground. Slit trenches are provided for personnel and ammunition.
c. In North Africa
In the North African campaign, the British usually boxed in their battle positions
completely with mines, providing an all-around defense. Such minefields, according
to American observers, are normally marked with a barbed-wire fence, usually
consisting of one to three strands. British-laid minefields along the enemy
front were well covered by automatic weapons, while the dead spaces in between
were covered by infantry mortars.
The minefields were sited and laid by British engineers.
Other information obtained by our North African observers included the following:
"The normal fire unit is the single gun. Where possible, guns are sited so
as to be mutually supporting. A favorite gun position appeared to be behind
a slight ridge, defiladed from the front, exchanging fire across the front
of a neighboring gun, which, in turn, fired across its front. Some guns,
especially 47 mm, are sighted to the rear so as to catch the
tanks in their engine compartments or thinner armored portions after they have passed.
"The decision to employ guns on portee or on the ground is reserved
to the battery commander.
". . . A typical position for the 57-mm gun is a
shallow emplacement similar in plan to the standard emplacement for our
37-mm gun (M3). A low parapet of loose dirt is built up in front
of the gun, just high enough to permit the muzzle of the piece to swing through
its maximum traverse. Deep slit trenches for the protection of the crew are
habitually provided. Ammunition chests are likewise dug in. It was observed
that in level, open terrain, such an emplacement provided a high measure of
concealment, especially if the muzzle were fully depressed so as to rest on
the parapet. By doing this, the characteristic shape of the gun was
concealed . . ."