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"British Use of Tanks in Jungle Warfare" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   A U.S. report on tactics developed by a British unit in India for the use of tanks in jungle warfare, from the Intelligence Bulletin, September 1943.

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




Tactics evolved by a British Army unit in India for the use of tanks in jungle warfare are given below. This information, published as a training memorandum several months ago, represented the thought of the British unit at that time, and it should not be regarded as the latest official British doctrine. The use of this document is felt to be timely since it may stimulate expression of U.S. opinion on the subject.

The memorandum emphasizes that tank, artillery, infantry, and engineer troops should train together to develop teamwork, confidence, and understanding. In jungle warfare, the British unit felt that large numbers of tanks will seldom be able to deploy sufficiently to develop their full fire power, and much of their work will be done in close cooperation with the infantry. It must be realized that, in the jungle, tank movements are largely confined to roads or trails.


a. The Approach

During the approach march, most of the tank strength should move in a close, compact group, some distance back of the forward troops. One tank platoon (four tanks) should move near the head of the troop column so it can cooperate immediately with the leading infantry soldiers in case of contact with the enemy. (The four tanks are considered the maximum number that should be deployed on the initial contact.) Tanks should not lead the column; they are too easily held up by demolitions and obstacles that they cannot by-pass without engineer assistance. In more open country, where they can deploy, tanks should lead, preceded by their own reconnaissance unit. Not less than a company must be employed for reconnaissance, and it should be followed closely by at least one company of infantry.

b. Attack

In the frontal attack, in thick jungle, it is unlikely that the tanks will be able to leave roads or trails; therefore not more than one platoon will be used in the attack itself, although more should be available and ready to exploit success. The actual method of attack is governed by the amount of fire support available. If it is considered sufficient to neutralize enemy antitank fire, tanks can slightly precede the bulk of the infantry, which, however, should follow closely. Where less fire support is available, the arrival of the tanks on the objective should be timed to coincide with that of the infantry. In either case some infantry should advance on either flank level with the leading tanks to prevent enemy tank-hunting parties—which may have survived the artillery barrage—from attacking the tanks with grenades or other similar weapons. In addition to the barrage and the close escort of infantry, it will often be necessary for tanks to cover their advance with smoke from their own projectors, or, if these are not fitted, from mortars.

This form of attack requires very careful timing and must be practiced as a drill by all infantry, inasmuch as the motor battalions in armored regiments cannot put sufficient men on the ground to deal with a strongly held position. Artillery and engineers must also know their exact roles in this operation; the former can often use a tank as an observation post. In the encircling attack, in thick jungle, tanks will assist in exploitation, once the road (or roads) is cleared. In either form of attack, the mere presence of tanks is of great morale value to the infantry.

In the more open spaces in jungle country, the primary role of tanks is to deal with any hostile armored force vehicles that are encountered; the tanks should not be dispersed for reconnaissance missions that can be performed by the motor-battalion carriers or their own armored-car patrols. If tanks are required to take part in an attack on enemy positions in the open, only the heavier types should be used, unless fire support is overwhelming and unless it is reasonably certain that enemy antitank weapons have been neutralized. Infantry troops can often be transported on the tanks to within reach of the objective if it is not possible for them to get there in their own vehicles. When woods, gullies, and other cover are being cleared, tanks will operate on the flanks and rear in order to deal with any enemy driven into the open. In village fighting, tanks should move in support of the attacking infantry and must also be used to watch all exits. They must never be sent into villages, unless preceded by infantry. If required to assist or take the place of artillery in providing fire support for an attack on a village, tanks should use high-explosive and not armor-piercing projectiles.

c. Defense

Where the terrain is suitable, tanks should always form part of the striking force from defended areas. If time allows, clearings should be made and trails improved for the use of tanks in this role. If not employed in this role, tanks should be held in reserve for counterattacks.

d. Withdrawal

In thick jungle, tanks can do little or nothing to hold up the enemy, but in more open country they can impose considerable delay, either by counterattacking or by threatening the head of his column. In this way they can help our retiring troops to break off contact, and, in an emergency, tanks can ferry out the rearmost parties of infantry. Enough tanks must be employed to watch both flanks, and, if carriers are not available, a proportion must be used to keep open the roads to the rear.

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