Topic: AIF - Lighthorse
Australian Light Horse
Tactical Training of the AIF at Zeitoun
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.
General Principles:1. Every body of troops when halted will be protected by Outposts.
2. The duty of Outposts is to give warning of any threatened attack, and in the event of attack to gain time, at any sacrifice, for the Commander of the force protected, to put his plan of action into execution.
A force can only be regarded as secure from surprise when every body of the enemy within striking distance, is so closely watched, that it can make no movement, without its immediately becoming known to the Outposts.
The first duty therefore of Outposts, is observation of the enemy, the second duty resistance.
3. Observation of the enemy will consist ofa) Keeping such a close watch on all bodies of the enemy within reach of the Outposts, that no movement can be made unobserved.
b) Watching all approaches along which an enemy might advance.
c) Examining all neighbouring localities in which his patrols might be concealed, or which he might occupy preparatory to an attack.
Resistance, will consist of delaying the enemy on a prepared defensive line, called the Outpost Line of Resistance, until further orders are received from the Commander of the protected force.
4. Machine Guns with Outposts, may be employed to sweep approaches, and to cover ground which an enemy in advancing may be compelled to pass or to occupy.
5. The Outposts will stand to arms one hour before dawn and remain under arms until the patrols, which should be sent out at that time, report that there is no sign of an immediate attack. When the Outposts are relieved in the morning, the relief should reach the Outposts half an hour before it begins to get light. The troops relieved will not return to Camp, until the patrols report all clear.
An Outpost Commander should be informed as to:1: What is known of the enemy and of other bodies of our own troops.
2. Intentions of the commander who appoints him, if the enemy attack.
3. Where the force to be covered will halt.
4. The general position to be occupied by the Outpost troops under his command and, if there are other troops on his flanks, the limits of the line for which he is responsible.
5. Detail of the troops allotted to him.
6. Hour at which they will be relieved.
7. Where reports are to be sent.
The Outpost Commander issues orders on the above, and also as to any special arrangements required. Smoking Lighting of Fires, etc., and cooking.
Informs Outpost Coy. Cmdrs. where his position will be.
Duties of a Commander of an Outpost Company:-(a) Move his command to the ground covered by scouts.
(b) Halt under cover, holding a line in advance of the position for the piquets.
(c) Examine the ground, decide on the number and position of the piquets, and the position of the support. Choose the position primarily with a view to defence. The defensive line, corresponding if possible with the piquet line, should support and be supported by adjoining companies.(d) Move troops into position, withdraw covering troops and send out patrols (from the supports if necessary).
(e) Give instructions to Commanders of Piquets and Detached Posts regarding action in case of Attack.
(f) Communicate with the companies on his flanks, and ascertain their dispositions.
Duties of a Commander of a Piquet:a) Read orders to piquet, explain direction of enemy, position of support and of other piquets, and action in case of attack.
b) Tell off piquet and post sentry groups.
c) Satisfy Himself that Group Commanders know what is to be clone with persons found entering or leaving outpost line.
d) Strengthen post as far as possible, make sanitary arrangements.
e) Take ranges of important objects and lay out line of fire.
f) If the sentries are relieved from the piquet, carry out the reliefs so that the enemy cannot ascertain the position of the outpost. Arrange the piquet according to Plan.
Not allow men to take off accoutrements by night. Men should lie towards the front to avoid confusion.
A Sentry must clearly understand:1. The direction of the enemy.
2. The extent of ground and any special points he is to watch.
3. The situation of the sentries on his right and left.
4. The situation of his piquet and the best way to reach it.
5. The situation of any detached posts in the vicinity.
6. How he is to deal with persons approaching his post.
7. The names of rivers, villages, &c., in his view, and the places to which roads and railways lead.
Groups. - Six men and N.C.O.
Reconnoitring Patrols. - Two to 8 men & N.C.O.
Standing Patrols. - About three and three men and a N.C.O.
Visiting Patrols. - Two men and a N.C.O.
The duties of Outposts are:1. To provide protection against surprise.
2. In case of attack to gain time for the Commander of the force to put his plan of action into execution.
The Advanced Guard during the day, will invariably find the Outpost line for that night.
Thus the Battn. or Brigade finding the Advanced Guard complete a tour of duty of 24 hours.
Troops will probably finish their days march, just before dark. The Advanced Guard is leading so they are already on the spot, and should be able, to at once form some knowledge of the ground with a view to putting out Outposts in the most suitable positions.
It is a very difficult to put out Outposts in strange country after dark. If a fresh Battn. or Bde. were marched up from the main body to form the Outpost Line, a great deal of valuable time would be lost, and confusion would certainly ensue in the dark, between the fresh troops marching up and the Advanced Guard troops already in front.
All troops require rest, therefore as few as possible should be employed on the Outpost line.
Strength of Outposts not less than 1/8 or more than a 1/4 of the total force should be employed, as a general rule, but circumstances alter cases. It is therefore impossible to lay down any fixed strength.
The Commander of the Force will inform O.C. Outposts roughly where lie proposes the main body to bivouac, camp or billet, O.C. Outposts will make his arrangements according and chose his line of Resistance, which is almost invariably the Line of the PIQUETS.
Now the Advanced Guard was formed by one Battn, this Advanced Guard is now formed into Outposts.
The O.C. Outposts first has a look round the country and decides exactly on his line and how many Companies are required to afford sufficient protection.
We will say three are required leaving one Coy. as Reserve.
O.C. Outposts now divides up his line into three sectors, and carefully allots one portion to each of the three companies.
They are numbered from the right of the Outpost line, No 1 Outpost Coy, No 2 etc. Each Outpost Company finds its own groups, piquets and supports.
O.C. Outpost Coys, now look over the section of country allotted to them, and decide where to place their groups, piquets, supports &c., they must arrange with the Coys. on their flanks that the groups and piquets are roughly on two general lines throughout the whole of the Outpost lays, supports being placed where they can most quickly, and effectually reinforce the firing line.
Each Coy. Cmdr. having decided what line his component parts of Outpost Coy. are to take up, moves off his Coy, under cover of a line of scouts. These scouts remain out, until the several parts of the Outpost Coy. are in position, they can then be withdrawn.
Position of Groups, and composition.
Each Group consists of six men under a N.C.O., finding two sentries, sentries should not be relieved together, but at alternate hours, as it takes some time for a man woken up from sleep to get accustomed to the darkness. Bayonets will be fixed) unless orders to the contrary are given.
Groups will dig themselves in. Should they be ordered in case of attack to hold on and not retire, on to the Piquet line, they must also protect themselves by a parapet to their rear.
One sentry will invariably be standing so close to the men of the group that he can rouse them up with his foot, without taking his eyes off any special bit of country, which he may be watching. If required for observing purposes the other sentry may be placed ten or twelve yards away, the sentries must be able to communicate with one another in low tones.
If single men or parties of men approach his post, the sentry rouses the group commander, who in turn wakes up as many men of the group as he considers necessary.
The sentry allows the man or party to approach within about ten yards; he then in a low distinct voice says "Halt" and covers them with his rifle (if he does not halt shoot), he then says "Hands up", one of the group other than the sentry advances up to the man or party, keeping his rifle at the ready, and finds out by conversation, what the party are, if they are friends they are passed on, if enemies made prisoners, if inhabitants, they are sent to the nearest Examining Post. If they bear a flag of truce, one of the party will be blindfolded, and brought in, the remainder sent away.
Meanwhile the other sentry is keeping a specially smart look out, as it is a very old trick, to engage a group in conversation, and then rush it with concealed troops.
If a large force say of 50 men are known to be approaching the group, a verbal message will at once be sent to O.C. Piquet, the group will open fire, and then if they have orders to do so, will retire on their piquet without masking its fire, every group should have a line of retirement specially marked out for it, with stones sticks or some means which will show up in the dark.
Each line of approach for the enemy which enters the Outpost Line, must be guarded by a piquet with its group about 400 yds. in front.
The Piquets are placed on the line of Resistance the word piquet should suggest Fighting to the mind.
Each Piquet is found by one platoon, and is numbered from right to left throughout the Outpost Coy.
In order to carry out its object efficiently, the piquet is placed on a road or track, or any place where the enemy are likely to make for, to obtain access to the position.
To guard a road at night, the troops are actually placed across it and the road should be blocked. Men on each side of the road dig in, and place obstacles to their front and immediate flanks.
One sentry is placed over arms, about the centre of the piquet, Cmdr. of the piquet is in rear of him, on each side the sentry are spare men, on the right flank, are the three reconnoitring patrols, consisting of three men each and a N.C.O, on the left of the piquet are the three visiting patrols, of N.C.O. and 2 men. If a piquet is always arranged as above, every man will know his place in the dark, there will be no confusion, neither except in case of attack, will the spare men he disturbed.
Supports will be placed in rear of the Piquets and in some position where they can easily move up and support the Piquet line if required to do so.
They should dig in at the place, to which they will move in case of attack, having done this they then retire to the position chosen for them for the night.
At night it is essential that the line of advance from resting place to their position in the Piquet line should be clearly defined.
Reserves will be placed in rear of the Supports, in such a position that they can easily move up to any portion of the Line of Resistance which they may be required to reinforce. The Commander of the Outposts or his representative will be with the Reserve.
Visiting Patrols are now not mentioned in the Inf. Training, but their use is as follows, to go out right and left to visit the piquets on their flanks and also the neighbouring groups in order to find out their exact positions, and report to their own piquet commander, where the next piquets and groups will be found, this is very essential, in order that they may be no overlapping of companies, and also that groups and piquets may be able to hike up two general lines.
Visiting Patrols are also to visit their own groups at intervals during the night to ascertain that the sentries are awake and alert.
The groups of an Outpost line are only for protection, they cannot find out information regarding the enemy, therefore reconnoitring patrols are used. Their business is to obtain information about the enemy, his strength and movements. Their duty is to observe, but never to fight. They should be sent out with a definite object, perhaps to go and observe a certain village where there might be advanced posts of the enemies cavalry, to reconnoitre a bridge &c. The time they would roughly require to observe a certain locality should be estimated, and they should then be sent out and told to return at a certain time, if they are very much overdue in their return, a second patrol should be sent out. Reconnoitring Patrols may also be employed to go out in front of the Outpost Line to remain out and listen.
The party should not move together, but as a general rule one man in front followed by N.C.O. and 1 man, with remaining man in rear.
N.C.O.'s should be specially selected for the duty, and above all should have a good knowledge of map reading.
Reconnoitring Patrols may be sent out from each piquet, or they may be detailed direct from Coy. Headquarters.
Any information obtained will at once be brought back verbally by one of the men with the patrol, be will not go out again.
It is not advisable that the patrol should return by the same route as they went out, they may have been seen and possibly an ambush arranged for them on their return journey.
Standing Patrols are sent out to watch some special locality, ford bridge &c., or any spot, where the enemy are likely to mass for attack. It's placed near any road a cyclist orderly should be attached to the post, in order that any information obtained may be brought back as quickly as possibly. This patrol may consist of a N.C.O. and three or four men, they must be specially careful to keep unobserved, otherwise their duty cannot be carried out.
There is always a chance of this post being cut Off, it should therefore never be used, except in cases of necessity, there are occasions and places when it is necessary as for instance.a) At a place on the front or rear of the extreme flank of a force, especially if it is at a place where the flank could easily be turned.
b) When it is desirable to watch either some position which the enemy is likely to seize for the purpose of observation, or some position in front of the outpost line, where lie might gather for attack.
Numbers employed usually from six to twelve men with N.C.O. or Officer.
In the event of the Post having to fall back the Outpost line should at once be warned.
Flags of Truce.
On the approach of a flag of truce, one sentry or more if at hand should advance and halt the bearer and his party at a distance from the post. The sentry will detain them until instructions are obtained from the Commander of the Outpost Coy. If instructions are given to allow the bearer to pass, he must be blindfolded, and taken under an escort to the Commander of the Outposts.
Except with the permission of the Cmdr. no conversation is to be held with the bearer of the flag of truce or his party. If only a letter or a parcel is brought, a receipt must be given for it, and it must be forwarded at once to the Cmdr. of the Outposts. The bearer of the Flag must then at once return.
In cases where any persons are to be permitted to pass the line of sentries, they will generally be restricted to certain roads, chosen by the Officer Commanding the Outposts, and at convenient points selected by him, here examining Guards will be posted.
The strength of an Examining Guard will depend upon circumstances. The amount of work which is expected to fall upon it will be the point to be considered. The persons who are allowed to pass the post, will require to be escorted to the rear, and there must be men available for this duty. The commander of the examining guard will be an officer or selected N.C.O., and should if possible be able to speak the language of the country.
Deserters, flags of truce, or inhabitants permitted to pass the line will be blindfolded.
Notes on Outposts.1. Reliefs for Outposts will arrive one hour before dawn.
2. At (lawn, which is a likely hour for attack, there is thus a double strength of outpost.
3. As soon as it is clear that no attack is forth corning the old outposts march off.
4. If the force which outposts cover is advancing, it will pass through them. They then re-form and march at the rear of the main body.
5. If the main force is retiring, the position of the outposts will be taken over by the rearguard. The outposts will fall in and march at the head of the main body.
6. The less firing there is in outposts lines the better their duty is accomplished.
7. By night outposts have fixed bayonets.
8. No fires are allowed, except by permission of O.C. Outposts. No smoking by night is allowed. No smoking by day except by supports and piquets at discretion of O.C. Outposts.
9. At night it is usually sufficient to guard roads and paths.
10. If there is a bridge or defile within easy distance of the outpost line, and by which enemy must approach it is usual to place a patrol there, which is called a Standing Patrol.
11. The use of detached posts, whose Object has already been explained, should be firmly avoided.
12. Outpost duty is exacting, and should be performed by as few men as possible.
13. It is far better to hold on too long, if attacked, than not to give the main body time to get ready.
14. The conscientious performance of outpost duties is necessary in order to avoid disasters.
By day single sentries are sufficient. All parts of the Outpost Line should be well hidden, if necessary the piquet may be brought back in rear of their night position in order to place them well under cover from view.
Observation posts should be chosen where a good view of all ground to the immediate front may be obtained, any Officer or N.C.O. in charge of this post, should be provided with a telescope, and should occupy himself in continually sweeping with his glass all ground within view.
By day, the infantry standing patrols will probably be replaced either by cyclists, or cavalry.
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Citation: Australian Light Horse, Tactical Training of the AIF at Zeitoun, Outposts