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"How British Deal with Road Craters, Obstacles" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   A report from British Army documents on how British troops deal with road craters and road obstacles, from the Intelligence Bulletin, August 1943.

[Editor's Note: The following article is wartime information on enemy tactics and equipment published for Allied soldiers. In most cases, more accurate data is available in postwar publications.]




In the British Army, troops of all arms are instructed how to deal with road craters and road obstacles when prompt action is required in an emergency. The following is an extract from a British Army document on this subject:


First, look for antitank mines, antipersonnel mines, and booby traps, within or around the craters. Then look for a detour and use it if possible, cutting down fences and ramping all low banks. If a suitable detour exists, it will nearly always be more advisable to use it than to repair the crater.

If it is necessary to fill in the craters, slightly different methods will be used for dry and wet craters.

a. Dry Craters

Trample down all loose earth inside the crater.

Start filling the crater with all the loose soil available. As soon as the depth has been sufficiently reduced, a tracked vehicle should be driven across the crater to consolidate the soil, and this procedure repeated at intervals. Where brushwood is available, alternate layers of brushwood and soil should be laid. The brushwood will help to consolidate the soil, and at the same time distribute the load. Any rock, stone, or gravel thrown up by the explosion should be saved, and used later in making the road surface.

Continue filling until the depth of the crater has been reduced to 3 feet. As a rule, any filled-in craters of this depth will be passable for tracked vehicles, 3/4-ton trucks, and even 1 1/2-ton trucks.

If it is essential to make a passage for all military vehicles, cut ramps on opposite sides of the crater, and shovel the soil from these two cuts into the crater. If each ramp is cut 10 feet long, enough soil will be made available to reduce the depth of the average crater so that it will be passable for all vehicles.

The surfacing of a filled-in crater should be completed before any but the most essential vehicles are permitted to cross, unless the crater is completely dry and likely to remain so. Otherwise, vehicles crossing over will churn up the soil and soon render further crossing impossible. The surfacing should consist of the stones and gravel which have been reserved for this purpose or of fascines [brushwood bundles]. A maintenance party will be needed to look after the surface until an engineer repair party can take over.

The following table may be used as a guide to indicate the time and labor required for crater filling. If a party of 20 men, equipped with picks, shovels, and axes, go to work on a dry crater 25 feet in diameter and 7 feet deep, in medium soil, they can make it passable for

tracked vehicles _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 
in 30 minutes
"4 x 4" (all-wheel-drive) trucks _ _ _ _ 
in 35 minutes
3/4-ton trucks _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 
in 40 minutes
all vehicles except buses _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 
in 75 minutes
all vehicles _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 
in three hours

b. Wet Craters

If a crater contains water, a modification of the above procedure will be necessary.

If rocks and stones are available, use them to fill the crater up to water level. If there are no rocks or stones at hand, fill the crater bottom with earth. Cover this with two layers of empty sandbags to form a seal. Lay 9 inches of brushwood, and then 9 inches of earth. Repeat this sequence of empty sandbags, brushwood, and earth until the depth of the crater has been reduced to 3 feet. Layers should be laid so that they slope upward toward the center of the road to allow for consolidation of the center.

After this, follow the procedure outlined for filling a dry crater.

Water-filled craters naturally take slightly longer to improve than dry craters.


Hastily contrived road obstacles—such as farm wagons, the wheels of which have been removed, or felled trees—will often be fairly easy to destroy or move. However, it should be taken for granted that they will be liberally bobby-trapped. There will seldom be enough time to wait for skilled engineer personnel to locate and neutralize these traps. Therefore, the first troops to arrive on the site will find it necessary to set off the traps by using hand grenades or by tying ropes to the obstacle and, from a safe distance, hauling it off the road. It must also be remembered that antitank mines will probably have been laid in the road underneath the obstacle for this reason, an extremely careful examination of the road surface is a necessity.

Finally, it is strongly emphasized that if any possible detour exists, it is normally much quicker to go around an obstacle than to remove it. It must be expected that detours or obvious turnouts will be imaginatively mined and booby-trapped.

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