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"British Indoor War Game" from Intelligence Bulletin, January 1943

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following report on British war games used for military training during WWII was originally published in the Intelligence Bulletin, January 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 British Infantry Company Commanders' School suggests that greater realism can be added to indoor war games by using two identical sand-table models in each exercise. This enables two groups to oppose each other, one on the offensive and the other on the defensive. The tables should be placed in separate rooms, preferably adjoining each other and as nearly sound-proof as possible.

Such an arrangement is a particularly good training medium for platoon commanders and squad leaders; it is stimulating in that two sides are actually pitted against each other. The procedure offers a wide training scope, because the instructor can take up with each group war problems extending from the plan of the platoon commander down to the detailed action of each individual soldier. To derive the greatest benefit, students should give their orders and otherwise conduct themselves as in actual warfare. Wearing of gas masks would give added realism to the exercise.


An instructor and, preferably, two assistants should coordinate the exercise. They act as umpires, with the senior instructor moving from one group to the other to explain each situation as it would appear to the other side and assess the fire effect and casualties.

Each side is given a written report dealing with the situation at the start of the exercise and the mission it is to accomplish.

Realism can be added by having colored pegs to represent the platoon commander, squad commander, and so on. Also, cotton or wool could be used to represent smoke and the burst of high explosives.

[Figure 7. Sand Model War Game]
Figure 7. Sand Model War Game

The instructors should keep students strictly to what is practical, reminding them when necessary of the factors of time and space in connection with transmitting information and executing their plans. Distances, ranges of weapons, visibility, and the existence of streams, banks, woods, bogs, railroads, and mire as antitank obstacles or otherwise, need interpretation to students until they have as vivid an impression of the country depicted by the sand model as they would have if they were on the ground itself. Emphasis should be given to the actual position of students and the exact routes taken when on reconnaissance. For instance, would they be riding, walking, running, or crawling? Are their weapons loaded? If so, what is the position of the safety catch? Would they use their binoculars? Would the sun reflect from their celluloid map cases, and thereby give the enemy sniper an easy shot with his telescopically sighted rifle?

The instructors should see that the following points, among others, are brought out:

a. By the Attackers

(1) The plan and orders of platoon and squad commanders;

(2) Routes of advance and formation;

(3) Position of antitank rifle, mortar, and Tommy gun;

(4) Action when fired on;

(5) Use of smoke;

(6) Action on reaching objective;

(7) Withdrawal (if applicable);

(8) Messages.

b. By the Defenders

(1) Orders by platoon and squad commanders for occupation of position;

(2) Orders regarding the digging of weapon pits;

(3) Concealment of squad posts and fields of fire;

(4) Antiaircraft protection;

(5) Antigas protection;

(6)Position of platoon headquarters and platoon weapons;

(7) Covering of road blocks;

(8) See that squad leaders know the position of platoon headquarters, that they know who is on the right and left, and that they prepare range cards;

(9) The position of wire (if applicable).

c. Regarding Administrative Duties.

(1) Ammunition supply;

(2) Evacuation of casualties;

(3) Feeding;

(4) Provision of spare clothing;

(5) Position of platoon truck;

(6) Latrines;

(7) Duty rosters;

(8) Organization of platoon for work.

The instructor and his assistants should see that the action is not slowed up--the tempo should tend to increase toward the end of the exercise. To help achieve this result, the instructor can allow the student less time to take action on the information he brings them dealing with the movements and actions of the opposing sides.

The height of interest is reached at the conclusion when both sides are brought together, and the instructor points out the dispositions of the opposing forces on the respective sand models and relates the moves and counter moves made by both sides during the exercise.


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