Topic: MilitiaRC - Rifle Clubs
The Rifle Club Movement
A letter from Colonel JC Hoad, DAG.
The following is extracted from a memorandum circulated by Colonel John Charles Hoad, Deputy Adjutant General (DAG), and issued with General Order No. 23 of 1 April 1902.
While Australia was with the winning side toward the closure of the South African War, one element of this war becomes remarkably clear in the development of Australian military policy, the ability of the individual Boer as a guerrilla fighter in resisting the British war machine. Seeing that Australia suffered analogous conditions as that of the Boers, viz., little money for defence, low population numbers and vast areas to defend; it was only natural to take the successful strategies from the war and apply it to the local conditions. The result is this letter by Colonel Hoad with his remarks framed clearly withing this context.
Military Forces of the Commonwealth
Melbourne, 26 March 1902The Secretary,
(... Insert name here ...) Rifle Association
The General Officer Commanding the Military Forces of the Commonwealth requests that you will promulgate to the members of your Council copies of this minute containing his observations as regards the development and changes necessary in the rifle practice of the future. Copies should also be forwarded by you to the Secretary of each Association in affiliated with you.(1) The modern rifle, with its extreme accuracy and length of range, renders necessary a more advanced form of instruction, and of practice, ill rifle shooting than has hitherto pertained. It is obvious that the practice of rifle shooting, as initiated 50 years ago, on the first introduction of the breech-Ioading rifle, must now be modernized so as to utilize to the fall the vast developments which have been made, and which are now taking place. The recent campaign, moreover, has very clearly indicated that the "sporting" element of rifle shooting is an important factor towards success in the individual or scattered formations of all modern battlefields, and especially such as those upon which our troops have been engaged in South Africa, where there are so many conditions of special interest to us in Australia. The excellent shooting which has given such advantages to our enemies in South Africa is the result of constant warfare against savage peoples, and continuous experience in the killing of game. The Boer has thereby acquired by tradition, by practical knowledge, and by mature experience a facility in the practical and ready use of his rifle, and a broad knowledge of its capabilities, which few of us in Australia can hope to achieve except by artificial means.
(2) In order to obtain the result above indicated, it will be advisable to divide rifle practice into 'two classes, namely:(a) The Elementary Stage, which includes shooting at a fixed mark on a measured range, and, where ordinary ranges are not available, practice by means of miniature ammunition on a miniature range.
(b) The Advanced Stage, which comprises shooting at all object moving at varied rates of speed and at measured distances, and at appearing and disappearing objects.
(3) It is evident that if the full value is to be obtained from our modern rifle, and if we are acquire excellence under the conditions which we know to prevail on the modern battlefield, it will not be sufficient to confine our instruction in, or our practice of rifle shooting to the elementary stage, no matter to how scientific a point that elementary stage has been brought.
(4) It is essential that the higher scientific knowledge, and the more expert skill with the rifle under conditions of actual war, which the Boer possesses, should be acquired, and, with this object in view, we must devote the greatest possible attention, and the most important prizes with a view to attaining the highest standard of excellence in the advanced stage referred to in 2 (b). It is obvious that to hit an object moving, laterally (or advancing and retiring) at a given distance and at a given speed, requires not only all the expert knowledge possessed by the man who fires in the elementary stage at a fixed mark, but, in addition, the scientific knowledge and the tried experience which will enable the firer to calculate the pace at which the object moves, and the distance and time required for the bullet to travel in order to reach that object.
A similar expert knowledge and continuous practice is required in order to achieve success in firing at comparatively small objects which appear and disappear. The General Officer Commanding, therefore, desires to appeal to the expert at shooting at a fixed mark to devote all his knowledge, all his experience, and all his scientific training to firing at moving and disappearing objects under the very difficult conditions which he must meet with in actual war, bearing in mind that he has yet to acquire the knowledge and the instinct which is inbred in the Boer, and which is the result of the experience of generations in shooting at game and in fighting their enemies.
(5) The General is well aware that there are many difficulties in adopting means to the ends in view, and that some expense and no little ingenuity will be required in order to arrange moving targets which at a given distance shall maintain an unvaried speed and in making a system of appearing and disappearing targets which shall meet the requirements without undue expense. Suggestions on this head will be circulated at an early date.
(6) It is also most desirable that every encouragement should be given by Rifle Associations to riding and shooting combined. The special characteristics of the Australian make skill in horsemanship and marksmanship specially consistent with his value as a citizen soldier. In this respect, also, valuable lessons may be learnt from our gallant enemy in South Africa. The General desires that the Associations will carefully consider the best means of encouraging this speciality of the Australian Military Forces. Competitions might, in his opinion, be arranged without difficulty for (a) single horsemen; (b) groups of 4 men; and (c) troops of 12 men and an officer. A course of about 1½ miles might be laid out with three firing points at comparatively short ranges - 300, 400, and 500 yards - and competitors started to gallop over the course; points being given for marksmanship, time, and horsemanship. In this connexion it may be remarked that the single horseman would require to tether his horse on the plan adopted in the North-Western Provinces of Canada, namely, by attaching the bridle to the stirrup-iron or girth, or by the use of a linker; by groups - 3 men dismounting, and the fourth holding the horses and by troops - three-fourths dismounting, and one-fourth remaining mounted.
(7) The General Officer Commanding proposes during the ensuing winter to invite the attendance of the Commonwealth Council representing the State Rifle Associations to discuss the above-named points, and to ask them for suggestions as to how the foregoing developments may be best carried out in the interests of rifle shooting, and to the increased benefit of the Military Forces of the Commonwealth generally.
J. C. HOAD, COLONEL,
Deputy Adjutant General
Citation: A letter from Colonel JC Hoad, DAG, 26 March 1902