Topic: AIF - Lighthorse
Australian Light Horse
Tactical Training of the AIF at Zeitoun
Advanced Guard by Day
The following entries dealing with the emerging tactics taught to officers and NCO's at the Imperial School of Instruction, Zeitoun and are extracted from a very informative handbook called Lectures by Commandant, School of Instruction, Zeitoun, 1916. At one time or another, all officers and NCO's within the Light Horse were inculcated with the tenets expounded by the lectures.
Lectures by Commandant, School of Instruction, Zeitoun, 1916:Advanced Guard by Day
An Advanced Guard is to a force on the march, much what Outposts are to it when halted.
1. The Advanced Guard must protect the main body from the moment the march of the latter begins.
The Advanced Guard Commander will therefore decide the hour at which the advanced guard will clear the starting point and the distance at which it will precede the main body.
No distance can be laid down, it varies with the nature of the country and the tactical situation.
If a force is retiring, or if it is advancing but out of reach of the enemy, the duties of an advanced guard are principally those of policing and improving the route to' be followed.
When however a force is advancing, and there is a possibility of meeting the enemy, the work of the advanced guard becomes extremely difficult.
Its commander and his subordinates must display a mixture of dash and discretion, which it is not easy to attain.
Dash is needed, because it is the first duty of an advanced guard to enable the main body to march undisturbed and unchecked.
Small parties of the enemy must therefore be brushed aside without hesitation.
This can only be effected by extremely rapid attacks delivered without any delay.
Discretion is however necessary, as a too impetuous advance guard, may find itself involved in an action with a superior force. The Officer Commanding the main body may then have to fight on ground, not advantageous in order to rescue his advanced guard.
The enemy will try and bring this about, on ground chosen by himself, which has probably been fully reconnoitred beforehand, with the idea of forcing a fight.
Chief duties of an Advanced Guard.1. It is responsible for the local reconnaissance of the country, through which it passes.
2. It must prevent the march of the main body from being checked.
3. It must not involve itself too heavily in an action.
Although reconnaissance is one of its duties, it is essentially a Fighting Force.
Component parts and Composition of an Infantry Advanced Guard of one Coy.
The Fighting portion of an Advanced Guard is called the Main Guard. It is preceded by a smaller body called a Vanguard, whose chief duty is to drive away hostile scouts and patrols.
In front of the Vanguard marches the point and flankers, whose object is to discover ambushes and to prevent the enemy scouts from observing the line of march.
In open country points and flankers will be replaced by a fan shaped screen of the company scouts.
The various parts of an Advanced Guard are connected together by chains of men, who are called connecting files.
This is a most important duty, and men must be well trained, in order to carry it out.1. Connecting files are always dropped from a body in front and never sent up from the one in rear.
2. To prevent losing touch at the bends of a twisting road each connecting file drops back, so that he never Loses Sight of the Connecting File behind him.
3. If the road is very twisting, the forward body of troops will have to drop more connecting files, or else it will lose sight of the connecting file behind it.
4. If the road straightens out, connecting files will adjust their distance to the normal, about 40 yds. between each.
5. There should be a N.C.O. in rear of each forward party who will be responsible for dropping and picking up connecting files when required .
6. Connecting files will constantly look both forwards and backwards.
7. They will also run to meet a message if one is passed along the files.
We will now deal with the setting out of one Company as an Advanced Guard.
In Battn. Orders of the previous night it should be stated at what hour the Battn. will march. We will say that the order is for the Battn. "to pass the starting point, Church S. of the village, at 6 a.m." This refers to the head of the Battn.
Officer Commanding the Advanced Guard, at once orders the tulle of parade for the Advanced Guard, the point has to be about 1100 yds. ahead of the main body by 6 a.m.
If the company parades at 5.20 a.m. it should give sufficient time.
Now the Outposts of the previous night are still out, therefore it is safe for the Advanced Guard to be set out, under their cover.
The Advanced Guard Coy, marches off in fours, and passes the church, 40 yds. beyond it, the first connecting file is dropped and with him a N.C.O., who is responsible for the correct linking up of this rear connecting file, with the head of the main body when it comes along.
Every forty yds. a connecting file is dropped.
When the Coy. has marched about 400 yds., the three rear platoons are halted. They form the Main Guard.
The remaining platoon marches on still dropping connecting files. At a distance of roughly 400 yds. from the mainguard this platoon halts and forms the Vanguard.
The Company scouts and probably eight more picked men (24 all told) are now sent on, about a further 300 yds. to form the screen of scouts, which is a preferable method to points and flankers.
Scouts work in pairs, with a single man following in rear of each pair to connect them up to the head of the Vanguard.
The number of pairs of scouts required acid the distance between each pair must depend entirely upon the locality and nature of the ground. In thick scrubby or wooded country more scouts would be required and closer together, than in open country.
As each part of the advanced guard reaches its position, it clears the road and falls out.
All the above details must be complete and in their places ready to move forward by 6 a.m.
The Battn. now marches up and passes the church at the named hour, just before reaching the church, the N.C.O. in charge of the rear connecting file gives the advance signal this is passed right away up the Advance Guard and the whole of it moves forward.
The pace is regulated by the main body.
Messages. The Scouts should send in all information, these messages will be collated by the Officer , in charge of the Vanguard, who will write them down and then send them on to the Officer Commanding the Advanced Guard who will probably be riding at the head of the Mainguard. The quickest method of sending messages up and down a Advanced Guard marching along a road is by means of cyclists, if these are not available, written messages will be passed down the line, each connecting file running either forwards or backwards 40 yds. to receive it, and hand it on.
Some messages received by the officer with the Vanguard may require immediate action, in which case lie will carry out whatever he thinks necessary, send the message on and also state what measures he has taken.
The Advanced Guard Commander deals with all Messages, sending them on when necessary, and stating any action taken to the Officer Commanding the Main Body.
Halts will come from the main body, but because they halt they is no heed for the Advanced Guard necessarily to do ills same. There, may be a hill or some small- position ½ or ¾ mile to his front which he certainly ought to secure therefore he will march on, dropping the necessary number of connecting files to connect with the halted Main Body. When the Main Body again advances, the Advanced Guard will remain halted, until the normal marching distance has been regained and then move on.
It must be clearly understood, that if a small party of the enemy are met with, the Vanguard at once extends and if required the Mainguard also, and hurl the enemy out of the way or capture them. The enemy hope to make the Advanced Guard halt, this roust on no account be permitted, otherwise the march of the Main Body is held up.
Go straight ahead extended and allow no halt until the Advanced Guard. meets with such superior number of enemy that you are obliged to halt and take up a fire position, while awaiting orders from the Officer Commanding the Main Body.
The Advanced Guard may be told to hold on, while the Main Body moves off to a flank, and tries to film one of the enemy flanks, or the Advanced Guard may be supported by one or More Companies from the main body, and ordered to push on again.
This will have occasioned delay, which is `what the enemy meant it to do, they may now clear off having accomplished their object, but in any case, the normal march formation will be resumed as soon as possible.
The proportion of Vanguard to Mainguard is about 1 to 3. If any mounted troops are available they will precede the Vanguard, and move some distance in advance of the Infantry scouts, taking most of the reconnoitring work off them.
A Battn. acting as Advanced Guard will be paraded and set out in the same manner as a Coy. The officers commanding the rear platoons of both Vanguard and Mainguard, being responsible for connecting files, being dropped.
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Citation: Australian Light Horse, Tactical Training of the AIF at Zeitoun, Advanced Guard by Day