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Tuesday, 13 October 2009
Brigade Scouts, Scouting or Protective and Tactical Reconnaissance Part 11 Avoiding Detection
Topic: AIF - DMC - Scouts

Scouting or Protective and Tactical Reconnaissance, Part 11

Avoiding Detection

Frederick Allan Dove


3rd Light Horse Brigade Scouts in the hills at Tripoli, December 1918


In 1910, Major Frederick Allan Dove, DSO, wrote a book on a subject he was very familiar with through practical experience called Scouting or Protective and Tactical Reconnaissance. This book set the intellectual framework for the formation of the Brigade Scouts during the Sinai and Palestine Campaigns as part of the Great War.

Dove, FA, Scouting or Protective and Tactical Reconnaissance, 1910.

6. - How to Avoid Detection.

(1) By Day. - Whether moving or halted, avoid the skyline. Hills must be ascended for purposes of observation. This can be done in such a way as to obviate risk of being by hostile Scouts. In any arse, only one or two men should actually go to the crest. When there, keep away from single bushes, trees, or rocks. Undergrowth and long grass give the surest concealment. Get into a shadow if you can, hilt be careful of your background. Always take it for granted that flare is an enemy looking out for you, and act accordingly. When observing, remember that eyes were made before field-glasses. Use your eyes well and quickly first, sweeping the country from dose to you to far array. Then take up the glasses to examine, anything doubtful. When finished, slip carefully back below the crest, still believing that you are being watched for.

Movements straight forward or straight back are not so liable to betray you as movements to a flank. Before leaving your concealment, decide on your next halting place and how to get there.

Avoid roads, tracks, clearings, bare ground. If tracks of men and horses, &c., are to be looked for, do so on foot, some of the patrol keeping a sharp look out.

There is no more risky operation in Scouting than that of following up an enemy's trail, as it is so easy for him to lay an ambush for the trackers. Only one or two should do the tracking, the remainder Scouting in advance and to the flanks, thus:

The advances of patrols should be by successive movements from one point of observation to another. While halted the Scouts select the next position and the most covered approach. They should not mind going a considerable way back or making a wide circuit to attain their object. If there is no other way than by crossing clear open ground, one or two should do so quickly, making for different points, the rest remaining concealed until their mates signal “All clear."

In low brush or scrub about saddle high, movements are best made on foot; the Scouts mount occasionally to get better view around them.

Hollows, gullies, gorges give concealment but are very bad places to be discovered in. In such places the, patrol should be strung out rather than closed up, and no time should be lost in at least one Scout getting on to high ground.

(2) By Night. - Avoid making any noise, striking matches, etc. Ride in hollows, and on soft or sandy soil for preference. It is fatal to extend men by night, as calling, whistling or "cooeeing" will be most likely required to bring them together again. If anything suspicious is seen or heard, everyone should halt and dismount. One or two Scouts proceed to investigate, on foot if it is near. These men take a very careful note of their surroundings and the direction (by star, if possible) before leaving the patrol.

It must be understood that if they do not return in a reasonable time the patrol will proceed. No audible signals are to be allowed, unless for a very urgent reason indeed. Avoid habitations, unless it is part of your duty to search them. Dogs barking, cocks crowing, &c. may betray your presence. On moonlit nights, take advantage of the shadows of hills or belts of timber. Do all close examination work on foot. If your men are getting drowsy, make them dismount and lead horses for a few minutes. Most horses are wonderfully quick at night in detecting the presence or approach of strange men or animals, and will notice physical dangers, such as precipices, boggy ground, &c., before their riders. The night Scout will do well to note and heed the mute warnings given by his horse.
7. - Contact with the Enemy.

(1) When the patrol has seen without being seen: Endeavour to ascertain his numbers and arm of the service: look around for a better observation point; as soon as something definite has been ascertained, send off one mall who call find his way back; if the matter is very urgent, send two men, but not together or by the same route, if they can be safely separated. Go on observing.

 (2) When your are discovered: possible, "bluff" them as to your real intentions; try to draw their attention away from the direction in which you mean to move. If they are aggressive and too strong to be fought, divide the patrol and retire by different routes to a prearranged rallying place.

(3) At all times be prepared for an emergency, and when it comes, try to be cool. If you have been observant of the nature of the country, you will know where the nearest good cover is to be found.

Let me give one more illustration of how a small patrol may get out of a difficulty.

A patrol of three are at A (see Sketch), six miles from our Outposts, and making for a point ten miles further west. It is in the afternoon of a bright day. The country is known to contain many small prowling parties of the enemy. The patrols are under cover. Half a mile in front across the creek is a group of houses on the side of a low hill. From the houses the inmates can see along the clear banks of the creek for a mile and a half. The patrol must get on, and cannot afford the time to make a wide detour.

Around the houses are some saddled-up horses, about a dozen, mostly loose and grazing, with a man or two lounging around. Presently there is activity, but not ostentatious. The horses are caught and led behind the houses. Our patrol leader scents danger. A spur leads down towards his left front into broken low ground; but he does not want to go that way. He mounts his men and they all canter, just showing over the crest, down the spur for a hundred yards or so; one shows again lower down; they all move rapidly left about wheel, and round to their proper right. A pause is made to observe. The enemy have mounted, all of them, and are galloping diagonally to head off the patrol lower down the creek. Our men then make a bolt of it across the open to reach scrubby hill country ahead. In this they are successful. The enemy discover their mistake too late, and the patrol easily eludes the subsequent pursuit. The risk had be-en great. In war one must take risks, but every effort should be made to reduce these to a minimum when you have made what you consider the best preparations to avoid defeat, act with boldness and determination.
8. - Reporting Information.

This subject is dealt with fully in Field Service Regulations, Chapter 11, Secs. 9, 15, 16. I have also gone into it in Part I. of this book, (A)7, Communication.

Scouts and patrol leaders when being trained should have much practice in making verbal and written reports and rough sketches to illustrate their reports. They must above all try for accuracy in fact and detail. Some authors speak of the scout as an, amateur Sherlock Holmes, capable of writing a whole story about a few withered leaves, lying on the roadside, etc. The reading of such stuff can only tend to spoil men why might otherwise become good reconnoitrers. Our Scouts should bear in mind that the officer to wholly, they report wants Facts, not Fancies. He can form deductions if it pleases him.
9. - Section and Training of Scouts.

Presuming that the risen - in our regiments are already efficient soldiers - disciplined, well trained in musketry and skirmishing - those appearing to possess all or most of the following characteristics should be, selected for training as Scouts: - Strong, wiry build; active sport-loving character; brought up in a country district; good marksman (including judging distance); in Mounded Corps, a lover of his horse and a good rider; cool, quiet disposition, not prone to excitement nor exaggeration; fair amount of education.

The special training should include: Protective Scouting; patrolling; map-reading and sketching; marching on a bearing; by day and by night; finding way cut and back with and without compass or map, both by day and by night, and in familiar and in strange country; swimming rivers, etc., with and without horse ; development of the bump of locality, and the powers of observation ; hasty demolitions; what and how to report; first aid to wounded and treatment of injuries the result of accident and snake bite.

Previous: Part 10, Finding One's Way 

Next: Brigade Scouts


Further Reading:

Obituary, Frederick Allan Dove

Brigade Scouts

The Light Horse

Australian Light Horse Militia

Militia 1899 - 1920

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: Brigade Scouts, Scouting or Protective and Tactical Reconnaissance Part 11 Avoiding Detection

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 26 December 2009 4:28 PM EAST

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