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"Some British Trends In Combat Firing" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   Notes on British combat fire training at the British Infantry School, from the Intelligence Bulletin, July 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.]




Combat firing is being stressed in courses at the British Infantry School. Our observers, in a recent report, point out that the basic British instruction in this subject is very similar to that taught at the U.S. Infantry School and training centers, but that the British are specializing to a higher degree in the more minute phases of the training. Such specialization is believed to increase all-around proficiency, and to contribute to good fire discipline.

The British teach combat firing to individual squads (British sections), and each member thereof must previously have received thorough training in known-distance firing.


As in U.S. courses in combat firing, the main British theme is fire and movement. Since the British squad consists of a Bren-gun group and a rifle group, teaching the mechanics of fire and movement is very simple.[1] When a squad leader desires to move his unit forward under enemy fire, he is taught to get his Bren gun into a new position under the cover of his rifle fire. After the Bren gun has reached the forward or flanking position, the riflemen advance, in turn, under cover of are from the Bren gun. Variations of these methods are also taught by the British.


The following special items of interest to squad leaders in combat firing are also included in the British courses:

a. Signaling with Bren Gun

The use of fire from a Bren gun to give signals is considered especially useful to a squad leader on the battlefield. If his Bren gun is separated a considerable distance from the remainder of the squad, and if a particular action is planned at a given time, the firing of the Bren gun during a lull in the battle makes an excellent signal. The best type of signal appears to series of single shots followed by a short burst of fire, or any such simple combination previously agreed upon.

b. Special Uses of Bren Gun

British Bren gunners are given special instructions to make them proficient in firing their weapons from elevated positions. The gunner and his assistant are given detailed training in climbing trees, clambering up the sides of houses, or getting, up on any other elevated object. The British teach, in great detail, the theory of covering a reverse slope by what normally would be plunging fire. In this instruction, both riflemen and Bren gunners are cautioned about the need for more accurate fire in case the beaten zone is a level surface.

In this plunging-fire instruction, the types of gun positions most frequently used are roofs of houses, window sills of upper stories in buildings, trees with sufficient height and stability to permit operation of the Bren gun at some distance from the ground, crests of small ridges, and so forth.

c. Stress of Fire Superiority

As in U.S. infantry training, the British stress the importance of fire superiority. In this the Bren gun plays an important part. For example, the Bren may be sent to a flank to silence an enemy machine gun which is holding up an advance. The Bren gunner is also taught methods of neutralizing enemy fire at a time when the enemy is covered by smokethe British believe that an enemy, advancing in reasonably close combat without being able to see, will be demoralized more quickly by automatic fire than by rifle fire.

[1] The Bren gun is the basic automatic weapon in the British Army. It is a .303-inch caliber light machine gun, air-cooled and gas-operated, which for fire power and operational purposes can he compared to the U.S. Browning automatic rifle. This gun is often mounted on a tracked vehicle (known as a universal armored carrier) which is popularly called the "Bren gun carrier."

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