A discussion of the methods of maintaining direction, largely
based on a lecture given by Maj. Lord Lovat of
the British Commando School, appeared in Intelligence
Bulletin No. 4, for December, 1942. Extracts from
Major Lovat's lectures to the Commando School on "Scouts and
Observers," "Ambushes," "Street Fighting,"
and "Woodcraft and Bivouac" appear below. Although
his views do not necessarily represent official
British doctrine, they are reprinted here as a matter
of fundamental interest to American troops.
2. SCOUTS AND OBSERVERS
The importance of maintaining observation superior to that of
the enemy cannot be overemphasized. In this connection it is the
duty of scouts and observers, who are highly trained specialists, to
supply their commanders with information which cannot in the
normal way be provided by other troops. These specialists must
be able to obtain accurate information under all conditions of
warfare, and in all kinds of terrain, with or without the aid of
maps, field glasses, or other instruments. "No Man's Land," whether
it is 100 yards or 100 miles wide, must be kept under
continuous observation and regarded as a network through which
no piece of information, however small, should be allowed to escape.
Although scouts must have a knowledge of the organization
and work of other arms--especially of the infantry--they should
be expert at the following special activities:
a. Using field glasses for long-range observation.
b. All map reading.
c. Writing reports and messages; keeping logbooks.
d. Taking bearings; using the prismatic compass.
e. Patrolling long distances by day and by night.
f. Fieldcraft, stalking, concealment, and living off the land.
g. Bivouacking; personal care in the field.
h. Planning, constructing, and manning observation posts.
i. Use and care of arms.
j. Identification of troops, both friendly and hostile.
In addition, it is desirable for a scout to be competent at evaluating
air photographs, executing field sketching and plans, and
performing first aid. He should also be able to ride a horse, drive
a motorcycle, sail a boat, swim, and cook.
There are numerous roles in which scouts are invaluable, including:
a. Patroling, observing in small detachments, sniping, and verbal reporting.
b. Penetrating enemy lines and working inside them.
c. Moving skillfully and silently over difficult country at night.
d. Constructing field defenses and erecting obstacles.
e. Executing demolitions and sabotage.
Scouts and observers not only must be physically fit, but must
have 100 percent self-confidence. There are more occasions in
their work when they need a cool hand, a clear eye, and a quick
imagination than in any other branch of the military service.
In guerrilla warfare it is always necessary to be on the lookout
for opportunities to surprise the enemy, and to attack him
when and where he least expects it. Ambushing him whenever
possible will make him respect you a great deal, especially if you
can get away without losing any of your own men.
b. Choosing a Locality
In choosing a locality, it is necessary to take the following
requirements into account:
(1) A safe, sure line of retreat, such as wooded or broken ground, for all men in the ambush.
(2) Firing positions from which fire can be opened at point-blank
range. It may be helpful to let the men prepare their own positions
with rocks or sandbags, but this must not be allowed if there is
any real likelihood that air or ground observers will detect the positions.
(3) The locality should provide at least two firing positions; very
often it is better if these are on opposite sides of a road.
(4) If possible, the locality should permit the ambush to see
the enemy while he is as much as 300 or 400 yards away, so that
if his strength is dangerously superior, he can be allowed to pass.
Having found out by what routes enemy patrols or small detachments
are accustomed to move, it is necessary to obtain the
fullest possible answers to the following questions:
(1) Do the enemy patrols move on foot, by motor transport, or mounted?
(2) What is the average strength? How armed? How many vehicles?
(3) Do they patrol in armored cars or tanks?
(4) At what time do they use the routes?
(5) How do they move? In one block? Or do they have protective detachments
out in front or rear? Do the detachments move far from the main body?
(6) How will they summon assistance when attacked? From what point can
they get assistance most easily?
(7) If the enemy carries supplies, can they be used if captured? If
they cannot be used, can they be destroyed easily?
(8) What sort of troops are they? Young or old? Trained or untrained? Alert
or careless? Can the officers and noncoms be picked out readily, and
killed by the first volley?
Having found out as much information as possible, and having
chosen the locality, it is advisable to make a detailed reconnaissance
of the position. If it is impossible to take the entire
ambushing force to the place, the next best procedure is to make
a sand model of it and of the surrounding country. Every man
should be shown where he is to go. When this is physically
impossible, the noncoms should at least be shown where they are
to place their sections.
(1) Keep the whole operation as secret as possible.
(2) Almost invariably, the preliminary movements from camp
or base must be made in the dark, and the actual taking up of
positions must be done in the dark, too.
(3) Sentries must be posted to give warning of the enemy's
approach. If possible, make use of a local man or woman who
need not remain concealed.
(4) Adopt a simple signaling system.
(5) If the enemy detachment has scouts out in front, these
must be allowed to pass unobserved. If one or two men are
posted farther up the road to deal with them, the scouts must
not be touched until the main attack has begun.
(6) The leader of the ambush will give the command to open
fire. Fire must be rapid, so as to have an immediate, overwhelming effect.
(7) A few of the ambush's best shots should be selected beforehand
to dispose of enemy officers and noncoms.
(8) If vehicles are to be destroyed, men must be detailed
beforehand for this work. The remainder must remain concealed
to deal with any reinforcements or with enemy troops hiding in trucks.
(9) When the ambush is scheduled as a night operation, take
along as many Very pistols as possible, and use them liberally as
soon as the fighting starts.
(10) Movement should be as silent as possible; for this reason, all
troops should be equipped with rubber-soled shoes or rubber boots, if available.
(11) Remember that soldiers will usually face the direction
from which hostile fire comes. It is useful for an ambush to be
divided into two distinct groups; one of these can fire first, and
the other can then fire on the enemy from his rear.
(12) When using light machine guns for your ambush, place
them so that they fire directly along the track.
(13) At the beginning of hostilities, road blocks are useful for
halting convoys abruptly. In later actions the enemy will suspect
road blocks of indicating the presence of troops in ambush; under
these circumstances, various types of land mines, expertly hidden, will
be more effective.
(14) It is most important for sentries to remain in position
until the order to retire is given.
(15) All wounded men should be removed; ponies or mules
are useful for this.
(16) If the ambush is successful, take away or destroy all
matériel on the scene. All papers should be taken for examination. Search
the dead for anything that may be useful.
(17) When the withdrawal has begun, it should be completed
as fast as possible, with the ambush group dispersing to meet
again at a place designated before the beginning of the operation.
4. STREET FIGHTING
It sometimes happens that one or more unattached companies
are ordered to surprise and occupy a town or village which is
in the hands of an enemy garrison, and to hold it for a limited
period. Not only surprise but speed is essential in such an action. If
the enemy has any warning of the attack, he will quickly try
to turn almost every house into a fortress. In this case an unattached
company, lacking artillery and air support, will find it
costly, if not impossible, to turn out the enemy. The greatest
care in planning and the utmost secrecy are therefore necessary.
At the beginning of the attack, troops should advance in single
file along both sides of the street, keeping close to the walls and
maintaining intervals of about 3 yards between men. Each file
will watch the windows and doorways of the houses opposite, and
be prepared to engage enemy snipers. It may also be convenient
to place a Bren gun on each corner at the end of the street to give
effective supporting fire. When movement along the roofs of the
houses is possible, snipers selected for their agility and marksmanship
should be sent up to the roofs to support the advance
that is taking place in the street.
A doorway leading into a house, or into a room, must never
be approached directly from the front. It is best to approach it
from one side, hugging the wall, and then to hurl one or two hand
grenades through the doorway. Immediately after the explosion,
the attacker should enter, with his pistol (or rifle) ready for firing.
Even if the defenders are not killed or wounded by the grenades, there
is a good chance that they will be knocked out--for a few seconds, at least.
A strongly defended house will have to be taken floor by floor, or
even room by room--hence the danger of allowing the enemy
to organize any resistance. Once a house has been entered, and
fighting is in progress on the upper floors, the attackers should
post one or two men on the ground floor to watch the street and
guard against surprise.
The best way to deal with strong resistance in houses is to
work around the flanks and toward the rear, and thus enclose the
defended localities in a number of small pockets which can be
reduced one by one. Three-inch and two-inch trench mortars are
most effective in street fighting, because of their extreme accuracy
and the demoralizing effect of their grenades and their rapidity
of fire. They are especially useful against strong barricades.
Once the attack has been launched, the enemy must be kept
on the run and deprived of any opportunity in which to rally
and organize his resistance. All the attackers must be trained
to display the greatest initiative, since the slightest hesitation
may prove fatal to the whole operation. Subordinate
commanders, in particular, must combine a dare-devil recklessness
with a cool head. In this type of warfare, the motto is "Hit
first, hit hard, and keep hitting!"
Finally, it must be emphasized that a small attacking force
cannot afford to take prisoners in the course of street
fighting. It is too easy for the prisoners to escape and, once
having escaped, to harass the attackers. Furthermore, men
cannot be spared to serve as escorts.
5. WOODCRAFT AND BIVOUAC
Woodcraft is the art of making the most of the natural physical
features of a countryside, so that one may work and live in
comparative comfort. The object of using woodcraft in bivouacking
is not so much to "rough it" as to "smooth it."
The following are useful articles to carry: rifle, scissors, needle,
thread, buttons, safety pins, rubber bands, strong cord, copper
wire, adhesive tape, nails and tacks, waterproof matches (see subpar. d),
flashlight, emergency rations, and first-aid supplies.
b. Bivouac Site
A good bivouac site should provide water, fuel, dry and level
ground, concealment from ground and air observation, a covered
line of approach and retreat, security against surprise attack,
and security against spread of fire. Old camp sites should be
avoided, because they may harbor disease and because the best
fuel will have been used up. Do not choose the lowest part of
the available ground; rain may make it uninhabitable.
Choose the sheltered side of a rock or fallen tree; if there is a
gap between the tree and ground, block it with stones or earth.
A good windproof and snowproof shelter can be constructed by
laying branches with one end on the ground and toward the
wind and the other against a pole supported by two stout stakes
about 3 feet high. The branches should slope at an angle of
more than 45°.
Earth draws heat out of the human body; therefore, one must
have more protection underneath than on top (the greenhorn is
usually unaware of this fact). A sleeping bag for two men can
be made of blankets temporarily sewn together on three sides.
To keep the feet warm on cold nights, it may be worthwhile to
fill a sack or sandbag with hay or straw, place the feet inside,
work the straw around the feet, and tie the sack at the knees.
If it is possible to have a camp fire without risk of enemy
observation or danger of the fire spreading, it is an excellent idea
to spread fuel over the place selected for bivouac and then burn
out the ground. This makes a warm bed, since heat is not drawn
from the body, but is given out from the ground.
If the ground is dry, a trench for the campfire should be dug in
line with the wind.
Hard woods are best for cooking; they burn slowly and do
not give too much heat. Soft woods burn quickly; although they
are good for lighting fires, they generally give off sparks. If possible,
always use dead branches taken from the lower part of a
tree, or dead wood which is not too moist from lying on the
ground. If a fire smokes, give it more air.
The waterproof matches (mentioned in subparagraph a) are
useful and easy to make. Dip ordinary matches in shellac and
lay them out to dry. They should be struck only in an emergency,
when the supply of regular matches is damp. Sometimes it is
possible to dry matches satisfactorily by rubbing them through hair.
To light a fire without matches, assemble very small dry shavings,
remove a bullet from its case, tip out some (but not all) of
the powder from the cartridge case onto the shavings, insert a
small piece of frayed cotton rag into the case, and fire the cartridge
into the air. The rag should catch fire, and must be applied to
the shavings at once. It is important to remember that bone-dry
shavings are likely to be found in dead birch trees. Always
make certain that fires are out before your departure.
e. Important Note
It is absolutely essential, in bivouac, to place all articles so that
they may be assembled quickly and moved during the night, if
an unexpected need arises.