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"British Training Notes" from Intelligence Bulletin, February 1943

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following article on British training methods was originally published in the Intelligence Bulletin, February 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Intelligence Bulletin publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]



The following article is a summary of a set of training notes prepared by the British Army, and should prove of special interest to our junior officers. The British stress the point that the object of all training is success in battle. "Modern battles," they say, "are fought by 'teams of fighters,' whether the team be a section, platoon, squadron, battalion, or regiment." They reason that since good training instills confidence and morale, their soldiers have an obligation to themselves and their outfits to seize every opportunity to train.


a. The Right Beginning

Troops must be launched into battle correctly; otherwise, it is difficult for large or small units to recover the initiative. All officers must understand the conduct of battle operations, especially with regard to their own level of responsibility.

b. Efficiency of Subordinate Units

Once the battle is joined, the issue passes to the junior leader and his subordinate unit. If the junior leaders are not well trained, and if the standard of minor tactics is bad, we fail--no matter how good the higher leadership may be.

c. Fighting Spirit

If our troops are not mentally and physically fit and tough, and do not have the "light of battle" in their eyes, again we fail--however good the higher leadership and minor tactics.

All ranks must be made to feel the offensive spirit. They must be trained to fight and to kill. Every soldier must be the master of the weapons with which he is armed, and must be ready and willing to use them. This applies to clerks, drivers, cooks, and other specially employed men.

d. Battle Drill

Battle drill is a procedure by which we insure a common line of approach to the battle problem of subordinate units, and a common procedure within these units.

A good system of battle drill, wisely used, will permit the speeding up of deployment and will enable the small unit to develop its maximum battle power quickly.

If every officer and man in the field army and the training depots is taught this common procedure, it will insure full cooperation in battle. When all personnel are taught the same battle drill, there need be no changes in methods when reinforcements arrive or when casualties require substitutions in junior leaders.


Well organized training will produce good results. Individual and collective training must be sandwiched, and the available time allotted in accordance with the needs of the unit.

The degree of training that is possible will vary with local conditions. Formations in reserve and in rear areas will be able to devote their whole attention to training. Formations in forward areas in contact with the enemy obviously will not be able to do this; in these formations, however, units in local reserve can do a great deal of training, and all units can do something. Wherever you are, observance of the following points is essential to produce good training:

(1) Prepare your programs well in advance.

(2) Be enthusiastic.

(3) Make all training interesting and varied.

(4) Introduce realism.

(5) Keep your training simple.


a. Enlisted Men

The individual training of the rank and file should be based on three main principles:

(1) The Grading of Every Man.--Every man must be graded carefully. After this, instruction is given in accordance with the needs of the individual. The grading applies chiefly to weapon-training subjects, gas, and specialist training, but a commanding officer may grade for any other subject he wishes.

There are three grades:

Grade A--Men who pass all tests, and are above the average. These men are earmarked as potential noncommissioned officers or specialists, and receive training as such.

Grade B--Men who are average, and who require half the full instruction.

Grade C--Men who are below average--who cannot pass their tests, and who require the full-time instruction in all subjects.

The whole unit should be graded in this manner once every three months.

(2) Rewarding Merit.--Men are dismissed from parade or instruction if they are doing well. The instructor, after 30 minutes, may fall out the good men--or, if the whole squad is good, let them all fall out.

b. Officers

(1) Preliminaries.--Commanders must train their own officers. Officers' days should be held at least once a week, wherever a unit may be, and the following subjects are among those that must be taught:

The technique of movement.

Battle drill, or general management of battle.

How to plan and carry out various types of operations.

Reconnaissance and deployment.

The cooperation of all arms in battle.

Officers should be instructed first by means of situation models, discussions, and demonstrations. The models need not be elaborate, especially since sand models are easy to make. Next come tactical exercises without troops, and then skeleton exercises. The headquarters exercise, the artillery exercise, the signal exercise--all these are of the greatest value.

(2) Verbal Orders.--Officers must learn to give simple and clear verbal instructions. Orders will produce only the results they deserve. You can train as much as you like, but unless your plan is clear and your orders decisive--and unless junior commanders know not only what their immediate task is, but what the main object is--you will not get the best results. (Often you will get no results at all.) It is for this reason that officers must have continual practice in giving verbal orders.

(3) Ground and Distance.--All leaders must be trained in the selection of ground. In country where features are not numerous, it is of the utmost importance to be able to pick out dominating ground. Most soldiers are bad at judging distance, but experience will remedy this.

(4) Intercommunication.--Efficient communications, which must be maintained throughout all phases of a battle, are primarily the result of training. All forms of communication must be practiced. Within the infantry battalion's area of responsibility, visual signaling and radio, singly or together, may provide the means at any time in battle whereby just the vital order or item of information may be transmitted and received. These means are complementary to each other, and alternatives must always be provided when communication lines are of paramount importance.

Regimental signaling personnel must be especially selected.

The standard of radio efficiency must be high in all units, including infantry battalions.

Infantry company commanders must practice indicating artillery targets and correcting artillery fire. Field officers and company officers must continually practice together.

Good maintenance of equipment, especially wireless sets and batteries, is vital. This includes routine testing.

Assistance in all communication problems must be a part of the responsibilities of chief signal officers, officers commanding divisional signals, and brigade and regimental section signal officers. Full use should be made of these officers.

c. Noncommissioned Officer and Specialist Cadres

Noncommissioned officer and specialist cadres (for reinforcements) are necessary at all times. Formations and units in the forward areas should train cadres in their rear echelon. It is important to maintain a high standard in training for specialists. To insure a uniform standard, specialists must be tested by a neutral board.

d. Sniping

Every infantry battalion must have a proper sniping organization, so that the battlefield may be dominated.

It is suggested that each company should select two known good shots for training as company snipers and in addition, one man in each section to be trained as the section sniper. Wherever possible, snipers should be issued telescopic sights or special sniping rifles.

These snipers must be highly trained in fieldcraft, camouflage, and marksmanship. Normally, they should be trained to work in pairs.

Their main task will be to locate and kill enemy commanders and reconnaissance parties.

e. Maintenance

The importance of daily routine maintenance inspections must be taught to all ranks. There must be a morning and evening maintenance period. All officers below the rank of major who are in charge of vehicles should attend these periods. They should not stand about idly, but should pitch in and do a good job of work.

The daily maintenance task system must be introduced and insisted on, so that it will become automatic under any conditions. The tasks for armored force vehicles may be based on mileage, to some extent.

During maintenance periods, all specialists must carry out maintenance on their particular equipment--wireless sets, mortars, and so on.


a. Instructions by the Commander

The commander must issue instructions covering the following:

(1) The object of the training.

(2) The principle on which it is to be based.

(3) The standard aimed at.

(4) The phases of war to be studied.

(5) How he wishes the available time to be used.

(6") Special instructions regarding night operations.

b. Rules to Observe during Training

The following are important points to observe during collective training:

(1) The training must be mixed. During company training, battery training, and so on, the whole battalion or regiment with full equipment should go out once every two weeks.

(2) Collective training must be based on preparing all units to live hard, move light, and fight simply.

(3) All arms must study how to operate efficiently without taking their full equipment into every battle. In certain battles, and in certain country, it may be possible to leave various types of equipment out of the battle. The carrying of unauthorized equipment in vehicles is forbidden.

(4) During unit training, every exercise must include dusk and dawn operations. These are the times when things happen in war.

(5) Realism must be injected into the training, and the conditions of the battlefield be reproduced as far as possible. Troops must be trained to advance under cover of artillery and mortar fire.

(6) Full-scale collective training should be real tests of endurance for commanders, staffs, and troops. They should be made to face difficult situations when really tired. If they are not tough, they will fail.

c. Operations to Be Taught

The following operations must be taught and practiced:

(1) The attack planned in complete detail.

(2) The dusk attack.

(3) The night attack.

(4) Penetration of obstacles.

(5) Reorganizing and holding the ground gained.

(6) Disengagement and withdrawal.

(7) Defensive tactics.

(8) Counterattacks.

(9) Patrolling by day and night (from one leader and two men to a platoon).

d. Unit Drills

(1) Movement by motor transport and on foot.

(2) Reconnaissance and deployment.

(3) Occupying a position by day and night.

(4) Bivouacking.

(5) Night attack.

(6) Mine lifting and laying.

(7) Infantry attacking with tanks.

(8) Consolidating an objective.

e. Night Training

Efficient training in night work is most important. Whenever possible, all units must carry out night training at least three nights a week. A continuous week of night work is strongly recommended for all training units. At first, all personnel must be taught how to move, observe, and listen at night. All units must be able to operate on dark nights, as well as when the moon is bright.

In training for a night attack, sufficient time must be allowed before daylight for consolidation of an objective already won, and for proper digging-in.

f. Crossing Minefields

All troops must be taught the technique of crossing a minefield, which is similar to the technique of crossing a river. It must include:

(1) Careful reconnaissance.

(2) Clearly marked routes and gaps.

(3) Alternative crossings.

(4) Mine-lifting party.

(5) Covering party and artillery support (if by day, smoke).

(6) Control and collecting points for motor transport vehicles manned by officers. Maintenance of good communications with an officer in charge of lifting operations.

(7) Order of priority of crossing.

(8) Lights and tape for marking.

(9) Recovery posts.

(10) Lines of departure. Assembly and re-assembly areas.

(11) Wire-cutting party.


a. Infantry vs. Tanks

Infantrymen must be trained to stand their ground when attacked by tanks. They must be taught that the heaviest possible concentration of small arms fire must be directed against all attacking tanks, from the moment they come within range, to force the tanks to close down. When the tanks are close enough, they must be attacked with sticky grenades.

All ranks must be taught the general characteristics of tanks, and at training depots tanks should be attached for a few days so that men may get used to them. All men must practice remaining in slit trenches and allowing tanks to run over them; also, they must ride as gunners in tanks. This will teach them that, at close range, tank guns cannot place fire on men in slit trenches.

Tank-hunting parties must be trained so that they can go out and destroy disabled tanks, and attack them when in bivouac.

b. Artillery

It is most important to train units to control their ammunition expenditure, and to render ammunition returns; if this is overlooked, it leads to waste.

c. Antitank Guns

Antitank units must be trained in the selection of defiladed positions, and taught to dig their guns in.

d. Concealment

It is of the utmost importance that all defense works be well camouflaged and that all subordinate units have alternative positions to which they can move. Troops must be taught to dig in at once when taking up a position. This applies equally to artillery and infantry.

There are three types of positions. They are constructed in this order:

(1) Fire positions.

(2) Alternate fire positions.

(3) Dummy positions (when there is time to make them).

e. Organized Rest

If all ranks are going all-out on fighting and training, it is essential to have organized rest. This must be adhered to strictly by all personnel.

f. Map Reading and Navigation

Map reading and navigation can always be improved. It is a great help in map reading if all commanders shade, in two or three different colors, the high ground on their maps.

g. Assault Courses

All training units should make assault or blitz courses. These are excellent for testing the fitness of all ranks. The courses can be laid out on any piece of ground--if possible, in an area in which live ammunition can be used. Blank ammunition, smoke, and fireworks will provide realism. Battle inoculation must be introduced at all training depots and reinforcement camps. Troops must be trained to advance under cover of artillery, mortar, and small-arms fire. They must also be shot over.

h. Observation

(1) General.--Too often during exercises infantry soldiers confine their attention to the back of the man in front. They fail to notice any objects or indications of military significance. Trivial details may disclose a great deal to an alert mind and keen senses.

Men must be taught to use their eyes. This training must be systematic and progressive.

(2) A Suggested Exercise.--A suggested form of exercise in the latter stages of observation training is as follows:

A route is selected over varying terrain. The route should avoid roads and tracks, and should pass through both open and close country--if possible, where the going is moderate at first but becomes rougher. Approximately 2 miles is sufficient for initial exercises. A number of objects should be laid along the route, and at varying distances from it--a fixed bayonet projecting from a bush, a steel helmet appearing above a rock, a clumsy imitation of natural camouflage, trip wires, men placed in position both close at hand and in the distance along skylines and crest lines, suspicious movement of individuals, rifle and light machine-gun fire, and prearranged noises and signals.

Students, accompanied by an instructor, follow the route and note objects seen, and the kinds and directions of noises. The men are not allowed to halt, but are kept on the move the whole time. The exercise is done best with small squads. Men should not march in formation, but should be at liberty to march as they please, provided that the prescribed route is adhered to.

Common faults are:

(a) Confining one's attention to a single suspicious object for too long and neglecting the rest of the area, thereby falling into a trap.

This fault can be demonstrated to squads by surprise attacks staged from a direction other than that in which their attention is fixed.

(b) Focusing either on the foreground or on the distance; thereby failing to include the whole perspective in one's sphere of observation.

A squad on a recent exercise, after spotting individuals in the distance, failed to observe a man with a light machine gun in the open at 25 yards, and, once having spotted certain nearby objects, failed to notice distant movements on skylines.

i. Marching

The fact that infantrymen often are carried by motor transport must not result in any reduction in the capacity for marching. Infantry must train to march at least 15 miles a day and fight a battle at the end of it. There is always a tendency to use vehicles for short journeys which could easily be done on foot.

j. Speed of Vehicles

Speed limits for each type of vehicle are laid down to prolong the lives of the vehicles, and to conserve spare parts and tires.

Excessive speeds and dangerous driving still are common and unchecked. This is simple unit discipline, and must be enforced.

k. Cooperation

It cannot be emphasized too strongly that successful battle operations depend on the initial cooperation of all arms, whether in armored or unarmored units.

No one arm, alone and unaided, can achieve successful results in battle. In training it should be made clear at an early stage that all arms must work together in the closest possible cooperation.

It will be stressed that intercommunication is a primary factor in the cooperation of all arms.

Every man must know the exact location of his own immediate headquarters during all phases of the battle.


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