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"How New Zealand Troops Penetrate Wire Obstacles" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   A report on how New Zealand troops penetrate wire obstacles, from the Intelligence Bulletin, February 1943.

[Editor's Note: The following article is wartime information on enemy tactics and equipment published for Allied soldiers. In most cases, more accurate data is available in postwar publications.]


New Zealand troops have successfully used the following methods of getting through wire obstacles in the Middle East. In considering this report, the reader should keep in mind that it refers to a New Zealand rifle company which, in approaching enemy wire, has two platoons forward. Each platoon has its three sections forward, also. Nos. 3 and 4 of each section carry wire cutters.

a. Triple Concertina Fence

As the leading sections approach a triple fence of concertina wire, they deploy into a line and lie down about 10 to 15 yards from the wire. Nos. 3 and 4, under covering fire from supporting weapons, or from the section's own light machine guns, dash forward and throw themselves—relaxed—against two adjoining pickets. Screw pickets normally will bend under the weight, and the fence will partly go down. If a strand of barbed wire runs through all the concertina loops, and is tied to the pickets, it may have to be cut.

No. 5 man runs forward almost simultaneously, and, with his rifle held well in front of him at high port, hurls himself full-length against the length of wire between the pickets. As a result, the whole stretch of wire flattens almost to the ground.

Nos. 1 and 2, with their light machine gun, move quickly and carefully through the gap, and lie down about 10 to 15 yards past the wire. The section commander and the remaining men follow closely, lying down deployed in line, with Nos. 3, 4, and 5 joining Nos. 1 and 2. If necessary, the light machine gun gives covering fire while the rest of the section comes through. Simultaneously, all other forward sections are doing the same, and should be ready to resume their attack. If the wires are not tied, two men may be sufficient to crash the fence between pickets.

b. Double Apron Fence

In approaching a double apron fence, the sections follow the method outlined above. Nos. 3 and 4 throw themselves at the pickets (whether screw, angle-iron, or wood), with rifle at high port. These men quickly cut the top wire and any other fence wires that are tied to the pickets. No. 5 then dashes forward as before, throwing himself, with rifle held well out to protect his face, onto the stretch of wire between the pickets. All these men should throw themselves boldly, but with muscles relaxed. The section then hurries through the gap and deploys as before, ready to continue the attack.

Another method is for Nos. 3 and 4 to jump into the wire, cut the top few strands, and then fall on the remaining wire to make it sag, the section moving through as before.

c. Two Double Apron Fences, Close Together

The procedure described in sub-paragraph b, above, is followed, except that Nos. 5 and 6 crash down the second fence.

d. Combined Wire Obstacles

Sometimes troops encounter the combination of a double apron fence, a triple concertina fence, and another double apron fence—all close together. In breaking through these combined obstacles, six men are used, two per fence, who jump in, cut wires if necessary, and crash down on the fence. Here, as in the situation covered by sub-paragraph c, it may be advisable for the platoon to be divided so that only two gaps are made, instead of one per section. Two adjoining sections can then go through one gap; the remaining section, together with platoon headquarters, can go through the other. A definite method should be practiced and adopted by each unit.

Wiring gloves are advised for Nos. 3 and 4, but are not essential inasmuch as the rifle will bear the brunt of the contact with the wire. Burlap or some similar protection can be used around the hands, if necessary. It can be wrapped around the knees, also, if the men are in shorts. It is emphasized that this is not essential, however. Every man must realize the importance of speed, and must feel strongly determined to get through the wire.

e. Comment

The time in which a forward platoon gets through wire varies from 6 seconds, in the case of troops encountering triple concertinas, to less than a minute in the case of troops encountering the combined wire obstacles. Under cover of artillery and medium machine-gun fire, an entire forward battalion has succeeded in getting through wire in 2 minutes and immediately continuing the attack.

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