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"Do's and Don'ts for British Armored Units" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   A list of armored "Do's" and "Don'ts" compiled by the British, from the Intelligence Bulletin, October 1942.

[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.]



British armored forces have gained considerable experience in desert warfare while fighting the Germans and Italians in North Africa. The British, out of their first-hand knowledge of armored warfare, have compiled a list of "Do's" and "Don'ts" for armored units.[1] The list, which the British do not intend as a complete study of the subject, is presented here in part for the information of our troops.


a. Radio

(1) Never use radio if you can communicate by any other means without loss of efficiency.

(2) No station lower than company commander will acknowledge orders by radio.

(3) When receiving a radio order, keep hand on switch in readiness to acknowledge instantly in correct sequence. Do not hesitate to "break in" if previous station has not acknowledged after the prescribed wait.

(4) If your immediate superior has not acknowledged a radio order after it has been repeated once, acknowledge and act on his behalf.

(5) Think before you switch to "send" and know: exactly what you are going to say.

(6) Make your messages and orders brief and simple, containing the barest essentials.

b. Tactical

(1) Learn to fire on the move in case the terrain and hostile fire do not permit you to halt.

(2) When you come under hostile fire, run into a position giving defilade to the tank hull if possible. If there is no "hull-down" position, keep moving. When taking up a hull-down position, the gunner must give the order to halt, just as his sights break the crest. This saves unnecessary exposure.

(3) In open terrain, do not stay in position when being engaged by tanks heavier than your own or by antitank guns firing at effective ranges. Under these conditions, the aim must be to advance diagonally at a good speed into effective range, fire a number of rapid and accurate rounds, and break off action diagonally at a good speed. The latter maneuver can be covered by smoke.

(4) Do not waste ammunition by firing at ineffective ranges, even if you are being shot at.

(5) Do not engage in a slugging match with heavier opponents. Engage them by short and rapid bursts of fire and frequently changed positions, whether you are in a hull-down position or not.

(6) Your primary aim must be to gain surprise. Use trickery. Attract attention in one direction, and hit from another.

(7) If you are suddenly engaged in the open by concealed antitank guns, an attack carried out at high speed is not only the most effective, but the safest course. Often there is no time to make a plan and one cannot halt. Tank commanders and drivers must use their initiative and adopt a bold course. For example, swing right or left, go fast for the enemy's flank, and charge right in.

(8) Never abandon a tank or crew under fire if there is a reasonable chance of getting them away.

(9) Remember that enemy tanks are normally supported closely by antitank guns; therefore always be wary of attempting to attack enemy tanks in rear. Keep a weather eye in that direction.

(10) Remember that tanks must never be used as stationary pillboxes to hold a position exposed to enemy fire. They may take up a position of observation from which they will be ready to attack the enemy. This may be by fire from a hull-down position or by fire and movement.

(11) Whenever possible, fight with the sun behind you. Whenever possible, fight into the wind.

c. Drivers

(1) Keep changing direction. For example, if your gunner is firing, pull up one steering lever after every shot fired. Do not keep jerking the lever back and forth. Make bold changes.

(2) Do not be afraid to "step on the gas" when in action. The faster you go, the higher your morale will be, and the fewer your chances of being hit.

(3) Never reverse in order to turn, unless you are on dead ground or in a hull-down position.

(4) Supply units must be given plenty of night driving, and all stop lights, horns, and so on must be disconnected.

(5) At halts, vehicles must pull to the right and get off the roads.

(6) In daylight, distances between vehicles must not be reduced under any circumstances. The unit which moves at close distances invites unwelcome attention from enemy aircraft.

(7) Tanks must not "track" each other. Vehicles in a straight line make an excellent target for enemy strafing; they raise more dust, which gives away their position.

(8) When halted, units should arrange themselves so that not more than three vehicles are in a straight line.

(9) Tracks in flat, sandy terrain are numerous and varied. It is never safe to imagine that because a track is wide and much used, it is the one marked on the map.

(10) If the tactical situation permits, always halt with your radiator into the wind.

(11) In soft sand, never follow the tracks of the vehicle in front.

(12) In soft sand, do not attempt to turn sharply.

(13) Select the gear you think best before you reach a soft area, and do not wait till you are in the area before shifting.

(14) Go for a soft area as fast as you can, with safety, and hope that momentum will carry you over.

(15) Do not follow the vehicle in front too closely.

(16) Use your clutch with care.

(17) In soft sand, never use your brakes. Allow yourself to roll to a halt.

(18) Whenever possible, stop on a downhill slope, no matter how slight.

(19) If you have to lower tire pressure for a long soft stretch:

i. Do not lower it more than one-fifth;
ii. Pump up as soon as possible;
iii. Do not let the tires get too hot to touch with hand;
iv. Mark the position of the cover on the rim to check up on creeping.

(20) When you get stuck do not use your engine in useless attempts to get out. Dismount (except driver) and try to get out by pushing. If this is no good, use sand mats on your metal troughs or, as a last resort, wait for a tow.

(21) If you break down or get lost, stay by your vehicle, ration your food and water at once, and by flashing a mirror, waving a flag, etc., help those who are looking for you.

(22) If you see a vehicle stuck, do not drive straight up to it or you, too, will probably get stuck.

d. Protection

(1) Windshields of trucks should be painted with a mixture of sand and oil to prevent flashing in the sunlight.

(2) When at a halt, dig a trench big enough to house and protect the crew, but small enough so that you can drive the tank over the trench.

(3) Park vehicles so that they won't make obvious targets. Don't forget to make use of natural camouflage.

e. Navigation

(1) Always trust your direction-finding instruments before your instinct.

(2) The navigator is not necessarily right. The commander or second navigator should always check up on him. If necessary, a halt should be called for a moment to check up. It is better to do this than to go miles off a course.

(3) Be sure that speedometers on the navigator's vehicles are working and in order.

f. Maintenance

(1) Stick as closely as possible, within operational limits, to the rules laid down for cleaning oil-bath air filters.

(2) Check tire pressures frequently. Correct pressures are most important.

(3) Wipe the top of the gasoline cans before you fill the vehicle tank. The dust and dirt which get into the carburetor and engine, when this task has been neglected, have caused many breakdowns at critical times.

(4) Washing water may be strained and used in radiators in the event of shortage.

[1] United States military doctrine on this subject may he found in FM 17–10, Armored Force Field Manual: Tactics and Technique.

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