Topic: AIF - Lighthorse
The Australian Light Horse
Militia and AIF
After the formation of the new Commonwealth of Australia, the thorny question of defence required immediate attention. Six different military forces needed to be integrated, each with different ideas on emphasis, methodology and funding. At the same time the Boer War was winding down but the lessons learnt were vital in shaping the views of the military establishment at the time. Drawing upon his own South African experience, General Hutton commissioned a new manual designed for mounted forces which was released in 1902 under the title: Mounted service manual for Australian Light Horse and Mounted Infantry. The essay by Hutton in the preface clearly articulates the ideas held at the time for the training and employment of mounted troops.
From: Mounted service manual for Australian Light Horse and Mounted Infantry, 1902, pp. 1 - 3.
The principles of organisation essential for mounted troops are assured by the squadron system, i.e., that the squadron shall be maintained as the tactical and administrative unit, capable of independent service at all times. The squadron should be divided into four troops, each complete in itself, and capable, in its turn, of independent service. The troop is further divided into permanent sections of four men with their four horses, one of whom will be selected as section leader.
Each troop should be composed of men raised in the same locality, or, if detachments from existing corps, of men belonging to the same regiment or battalion. The permanent sections similarly should be made up by men who, live in the same vicinity in civil life, or who have some association in common.
Men and horses should never be transferred from their original troops, or even sections, except for unavoidable reasons. Men and horses should maintain at all times their relative positions in the ranks, in barracks or in bivouac, in stables or in horse lines. Men will be permitted within limits to choose their own sections.
It will be found that the permanent section or comrade system, if carefully and intelligently adhered to in principle no less than in letter, will produce the highest and best form of discipline. Men will naturally fight better and with more confidence among those whom they know and trust rather than among strangers. Self-respect and good conduct are more assured among men who are bound together by ties of comradeship and of previous acquaintance than among men who are strangers to one another.
The principle of comradeship once established goes far to supply the discipline which makes united action possible, and therefore produces that cohesion, or mutual reliance, and that instinctive confidence which insures individuality or self-reliance.
Confusion becomes less probable, and by the comrade system thus initiated much of the work of the non-commissioned officers is obviated-men in the same section performing small offices for one another, which under other circumstances must be carried out as a fatigue by men specially detailed.
A regiment or battalion may be formed by associating together from two to four squadrons.
A regimental staff in proportion will then be required. A. brigade may be formed of from two to four regiments. The establishment
(1) of a squadron;
(2) its sub-division into troops ; and(3) the regimental staff for a regiment of four squadrons are inserted.
It is not possible that squadrons will at all times turn out at their full establishment, and commanding officers, therefore, will be guided by the following general rules:
There should never, if possible, be more than six sections, i.e., 34 men in a troop for purposes of drill or manoeuvre.
Troops should never be broken up if it can be avoided, but always kept intact as a unit.
Permanent sections should be preserved intact at all times as far as possible, but if in consequence of the absence of certain individuals they cease to be so temporarily, the sections thus reduced in numbers should be broken up and distributed among the others. It is a good plan for the sections to be known by the name of their section leader rather than by any particular number.
Non-commissioned officers of and above the rank of sergeant, the artificers and trumpeters should be serrefiles, and not included in the section system.
The squadron leader is solely and entirely responsible for the instruction, drill, equipment, and interior economy of his squadron, and for the training of his horses, their condition, and the shoeing, subject to the direct supervision and command of the officer commanding the regiment.
It is the duty of the regimental staff to afford the squadron leader whatever assistance he tray require in carrying out his duties, but they will in no respect interfere with his performance of them. Thus the adjutant may assist, if requested, in the drill and tactical instruction of the squadron, the quarter-master in matters of interior economy, and the veterinary surgeon in horse management, &c.
Similarly the troop leader will be responsible for his troop, subject to the command and supervision of the squadron leader, and the section leader will in like manner be responsible for the three men and four horses of his section.
The above system of decentralisation gives each officer and man a distinct responsibility, and is calculated therefore to create and foster that individual action which is of such vital consequence in modern war, and which tends further to bring out the best military qualities of all ranks.
Citation: The Australian Light Horse, Militia and AIF, Organisation