The following report on street fighting was taken from a lecture given by
a British major to soldiers attending the Commando school.
* * *
It is conceivable that one or more independent companies might, on occasion, be
called upon to occupy a town or village held by an enemy garrison, and to
hold it for a limited period against attack. Such an operation may be
facilitated, and casualties lessened, by remembering certain lessons resulting
from the street fighting which took place in the Spanish Civil War, especially
around Madrid at the end of 1936 and the beginning of 1937.
The vital essentials of the attack are surprise and speed. If the enemy
has any warning of the attack, he will very quickly be able to turn every house
into a fort, and an independent company, lacking heavy artillery and air
support, will find it very costly, if not impossible, to turn him out. The
greatest care in planning, and the utmost secrecy are therefore necessary.
Once the attack is launched, the enemy must be kept continually on the
run, and not given the least respite in which to rally and organize his
resistance. Troops must be trained to display the greatest boldness and
initiative, since the slightest hesitation may prove fatal to the whole
operation; junior officers, especially, must combine a dare-devil recklessness
with a cool head. In this type of warfare the motto is "Hit first, hit hard, and
keep on hitting." Nothing is more demoralizing to the attackers than a
long-drawn-out and indecisive battle in the streets.
When advancing along a street, troops should move in single file along
both sides of the street, keeping close to the walls and with an interval of
about 3 yards between each man. Each man should watch the windows and
doorways of the houses opposite, and be prepared to engage enemy snipers. It
may also be expedient to place an automatic rifle or light machine gun at
street crossings to give effective covering fire. When movement is possible
along the roofs of the houses, picked snipers of special agility and marksmanship
should be sent up to the rooftops to cover the advance below. Never
approach a doorway into a house, or a room, directly from the front. If
there is an enemy behind it he is sure to see you several seconds before
you can see him, and he will shoot first. Approach from one side, hugging
the wall; then take one or two hand grenades and throw them inside, and
follow on in yourself immediately after the explosion, with pistol or rifle
at the ready--the pistol is to be preferred. It is fairly certain that if
the grenades do not actually kill or seriously wound the defenders, they
will knock them out for a few seconds at least.
A house that is strongly defended will have to be taken floor by floor, or
even room by room; hence the danger of allowing the enemy to organize any
resistance; but once a house has been entered, and fighting is proceeding
on the upper floors, the attackers should post one or two men on the ground
floor to watch the street and guard against surprise.
Strong resistance in houses is best reduced by working round the flanks
towards the rear, and thus enclosing the several defense areas in a number
of small pockets which can be reduced one by one.
Mortars, both light and heavy, are most effective in street fighting, owing
to their extreme accuracy, the highly demoralizing effect of their bombs, and
their rapidity of fire. They are especially useful against street
Finally, it must be emphasized that a small attacking force in street
fighting cannot afford to take prisoners; it is too easy for them to
escape and, having escaped, to do great damage to their captors. Furthermore,
men cannot be spared for escort.