The latest tactics and technique used by the British in training for combat
in villages and towns indicate a rather definite consolidation of the lessons learned
in the present war. Much of the procedure which is at present practiced throughout
the United Kingdom is based upon intelligence coming out of Germany and
Russia. Experience gained from these sources coupled with lessons learned in
North Africa, should provide useful lessons for street fighting procedure.
In a general way, basis of present British instruction in this subject is
movement covered by fire, for the most part irrespective of the apparent cover
offered by buildings or other town construction. The theory of attack, which
contemplates the thorough cleaning out of a particular area in a defended town,
presupposes that none of the enemy can be expected to withdraw until he is driven
out by the force of infantry arms. Such a theory is analogous to methods used by
American troops in cleaning out areas infested by Japanese on Guadalcanal. It
can be seen that the burden of the attack lies with the junior commander. Even
the platoon leader is often required to make his own plans and decide upon his own
sub-objectives entirely separate from those of the company commander.
The British infantryman uses a face net or veil made in a manner similar
to the helmet net worn by United States troops. However, the face veil of the
British soldier is sufficiently large to cover the helmet, the face and part of the
shoulders. The mesh is somewhat finer than that of the helmet net. It is not
attached to the helmet, but is removable and can easily be folded and carried in a
pocket of the uniform. Such a veil assists in breaking the facial outline which is
so easily distinguishable, especially when the wearer stands in front of a window
or exposes his head above a regular skyline.
The British teach individuals who are fighting from the inside of buildings
to stand back from an open window, even though this may narrow the field of fire
considerably. The theory is that fighting within a town or city does not require
the broader field of fire usually necessary in open country.
Where an automatic weapon is mounted to fire from within a building, a
special preparation is required to prevent dust from rising from the improvised
base. One method used is to spread a carpet over the base, or some other piece
of compact flexible material, before setting up the weapon. A second method
envisages the setting up of the tripod, followed by a thorough wetting of the surface
on which the tripod rests.
When crossing streets which may be covered by enemy fire, a platoon
leader requires his unit to move by squad rushes across the open area rather than
to go individually. The thought here is to prevent enemy snipers from picking off
members of a squad in rear of the first one or two who attempt the crossing.
The soldier is taught never to cross a street unless it is necessary for him
to do so. Progress along the street should be from door to door, and at the double,
keeping as near the wall as possible. In this instance, progress should be made
by individuals and not by groups, since sufficient cover for only one or two men
in each doorway can be expected. Should a man be hit and fall, members of his
squad are instructed not to pause to effect a rescue, since the sniper causing the
original casualty is almost certain to be in a position to kill anyone who pauses in
the immediate vicinity.
While cleaning out the interior of large buildings, it is believed that the
best procedure, where possible, is to proceed from top to bottom; it is easier to
throw hand grenades downstairs or through holes made in floors of upper stories
than it is to attempt to throw them upstairs.
In most instances where a room is about to be entered, a hand grenade
is first thrown into the room by opening the door, throwing in the grenade and
closing the door quickly. The instant after the grenade has exploded, and while
the results of the concussion from the explosion are still in effect, the clearing
party rushes into the room with a light machine gun or rifle ready for action. The
drill usually prescribes the movement from room to room or from floor to floor
in two groups, evenly divided, the rear group covering the advance group by fire.
For instance, at the foot of a stairway one or two men will cover the progress up
the stairs of what might be called an advance searching party. After the advance
group has arrived at the top of the stairs, the rear group then follows. When a
room has been searched and found to be free of the enemy, the forward group
calls out. "Clear". This is the signal for the covering group to enter the room.
With the complete party assembled, the search is then continued from room to
room and from floor to floor. The importance of searching a particularly
well-defended building from top to bottom appears to be taken into special account. This
naturally requires the progress from the roof top of one building to that of another.
Once a particular building has been cleared, the searching party then returns to
the roof, from which they move to the top of the next building, and so on.
In order to perfect this drill until it becomes a matter of second nature,
the British have instituted a battle drill called Street Fighting. In this drill, a
street of a town is established as a training ground and a complete infantry platoon
runs the course described below:
(1) The platoon divides itself into its three sections (U.S. Squads) in such
a way that one section may cover the right-hand series of buildings, while another
takes care of those on the left-hand side. The third section splits itself into two
groups in order to cover the rear of each series of buildings which form the street.
This latter section remains in firing position in the rear of the buildings until a
considerable portion of the street has been cleared by the first two sections. The
supporting section then advances to positions from which it may cover the rear of
the buildings farther along the street.
(2) As to the action of the two sections which clear the houses paralleling
the street, the section on the right side moves forward a predetermined distance,
covered by fire from the left section. After the right section has reached its
sub-objective, it takes up a firing position which will permit it to cover the advance of
left section up its side of the street. This maneuver is then continued along the
street until the entire allotted area has been cleared, see sketch.
(3) As to the progress of the individual section in its movement up one
side of the street, the rifle group normally goes first, covered by the Bren-gun
group. After the rifle group has reached its sub-objective, it then covers the
movement of the Bren-gun group while it rejoins the section. As was described
above, the entire movement of this section (squad) is covered by the fire of the
opposite section from an echeloned position.
In case the enemy fire is so intense and his resistance so stubborn as to
cause a definite pause in the progress of the platoon, the 2-inch mortar is brought
into play, either for HE fire or for smoke-bomb screening purposes.