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"Training of Engineer Units" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following U.S. military report on British training of engineer units during WWII was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 14, Dec. 17, 1942.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. 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 remarks on British training problems for engineer units are presented in order to indicate methods of obtaining thorough performance and creating realism in the technical elements of field exercises.

a. Umpiring

In training exercises an unusually large number of umpires are assigned to Division and Corps engineer units. One senior umpire is assigned to each Headquarters and three officer umpires are allotted to each Field Company. In the case of an exercise including large numbers of minor demolitions, a number of noncommissioned officer umpires are added. Each officer is provided with his own transportation and also has at least one motorcycle messenger.

Umpires are instructed to give full consideration to technical as well as tactical details of operations. For example, in the case of demolitions, umpires are reminded that in actual combat no large demolition plan ever functions at 100 percent efficiency. Where there appears to be a valid reason to suppose that a demolition might not function (e.g., because of inadequate waterproofing precautions in appropriate cases) the demolition might be ruled a failure or a partial failure.

b. Demolitions

In order to emphasize the selection of explosives available in combat, and their limited quantities, wooden blocks to represent standard charges, sand to represent bulk explosives, packets of gravel to represent special types of explosive charges, and varied kinds of cord and string to represent primacord, safety fuze, and instantaneous fuze are prepared and carried by troop units. Each time a demolition is prepared, the correct amount of dummy explosive is placed in position. When the unit's supply of dummy explosive is exhausted, no more demolitions can be prepared until additional stores are received.

When the camouflet method is used in a cratering operation, units are required to drive a hole in some suitable nearby waste ground, to fire an actual camouflet charge, and then to fill the chamber produced with an adequate amount of dummy explosive.

No demolition is considered complete unless the demolition party actually fires a primer or a small, token explosive charge as near as practicable to the site of the planned demolition.

c. Repair of Standard Bridge Equipment

After a simulated shelling or bombing of a temporary bridge, the umpire directs the actual removal of those parts of the bridge considered to have been destroyed or badly damaged. The removed parts cannot be used again during the exercise. This procedure emphasizes the need for adequate spare elements of standard bridges and of bridge materials for improvised structures. It also brings out the necessity for having adequate transportation equipment and maintenance parties, required for the repair of structures during actual operations. It is apparent that these lessons are not learned if the umpire merely rules a bridge out of action for a specified period of time.

In the case of enemy demolitions, opposing troops are in many cases presented upon arriving at a structure with a sketch depicting the existing condition of the structure. In case repair of an existing bridge is possible, passage is allowed over the original bridge once the requisite materials have been produced at the site and working parties have been there for the time calculated as necessary to effect the repairs.


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