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.
The Germans during the retirement from Mons, and more especially in the advance from Paris to the Aisne, had a methodical method of shelling areas of ground. Troops moving along roads could see a shell -area in front of them, each Battalion, as it neared the area, moved out into artillery formation in quick time, passed through the area, generally with very slight loss, then reformed into column of fours, and continued to press on.
In advancing to the Attack of a position, the early stages will almost certainly have to be carried out in Artillery Formation, nearing the position, when coming under rifle fire, Lines of Skirmishers will be formed.
In case of a column being suddenly shelled men must be able to take tip artillery formation, very quickly doubling out as fast as they can go.
If in fours on a road, the leading company goes to the right the next to the left, and so on.
At the commencement of the War, each platoon was split up into its four sections, each section advancing in fours this method was altered to file, and then again, to single file, which proved to be the best; it is almost impossible for gunners to direct fire on little columns, advancing in this formation, as from the distance the file only appears as one skirmisher.
When shelling an area, ground only is being shelled, therefore by watching where the shells are falling, it is possible for a skilful section Cmdr. to lead his section clear of the actual Shell shots.
When advancing to attack a position, the German gunners appeared to try and pick out an actual target.
The forward and backward effect of shrapnel is 300 yds., the lateral effect 30 yds.; therefore no small column must be within 30 yds. of another laterally and not within 300 yds. vertically.
If a column was shelled, Company Cmdrs. at once acted and moved their companies into the required formation, the leading company went off to the right, thirty yds. from the road No. 1 Platoon dropped one section in single file, not less than 30 yds. further on, another section was dropped then another and another, the whole platoon moving on at once, with the four sections, in some rough kind of echelon. No. 2 Platoon meanwhile was moving out to the right and about 40 yds. in rear of No. 1, breaking into four columns. No. 3 Platoon roughly followed No. 1, 300 yds. in rear, No. 4 Platoon roughly following No. 2, at 300 yds. distance. Thus each Company forms 16 small columns, all in single file. The two rear platoons will probably have to kneel down and wait to get sufficient distance from the two leading platoons.
Now on coming under rifle fire, five lines of skirmishers were formed as follows.
No. 1 Platoon formed sections on the right, and extended to the right, No. 2 Platoon formed sections on the left and extended to the left, No. 3 the wane as No. 1, and No. 4 the same as No. 2.
This roughly brought the company into four lines, although not quite covering one another off.
If required the Cmdr, of No. 1 Platoon can double two of his sections forward thus making the fifth line.
Direction must be ordered and carefully kept, the leading line extending over the whole front allotted to the Company. Connecting files will be dropped.
The rear lines will probably have to halt to get the required distance from the leading line, 200 to 300 yds. In artillery formation a few connecting files will be found necessary, especially if the country is scrub, or undulating.
Next: The Attack
Citation: Australian Light Horse, Tactical Training of the AIF at Zeitoun, Artillery Formation