Topic: AIF - DMC - Scouts
Scouting or Protective and Tactical Reconnaissance, Part 7
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.
(B) THE FLANK SCREEN. GENERAL REMARKS.
The Flank Guard protects the main body from a surprise attack from the Flank. In order to do so, it seizes, and hold's as long as may be necessary, a succession of defensive positions. These positions must first be reconnoitred. This is done by the Flank Guard throwing forward a small advanced Screen which will act as already described in Section A. But outside the Flank Guard, i.e., towards the enemy, there must also be a screen of Scouts, and it is their formations movements and defies that are discussed hereunder.
Firstly, I submit the following diagram as an aid to the understanding of the context:-
1. - Preliminary Instructions.
The leader of the troop or section told off for the Flank Screen should get clear directions as to-(1) The direction of the advance and any contemplated changes thereof.
(2) What is known at present about the enemy, and of the position of our Advanced Guard, and of any neighbouring columns of friendly troops.
(3) Any special directions as to rate of march.
As laid down in Section (A), the leader will pass on his instructions to his subordinate before extending and supplementing them by anything he thinks necessary.
He will then tell off an advanced patrol (or patrols), a reserve under his own immediate control, and at least one rear patrol. He may also require connecting links between himself and his support or the Mainguard.
2. - Extension.
Extension must be by units - “twos" or "fours" (four men). In Africa - it was not unusual to see the Flank Screen composed of an apparently endless string of single files, riding behind each other with painful exactitude at about a distance of fifty yards or so. Up hill and down dale, across spruit and donga, they rode, looking neither to right nor left, but watching only the men in front of them. What wonder that every day told its tale of Scouts (?) shot down at close quarters, of troopers missing, of main bodies surprised.
By breaking your Screen into units you secure a delegation of command and fix responsibility upon your N.C.O.'s and four leaders, i.e., upon individuals who should he accustomed to accept responsibility and exercise command.
You say: "Corporal Jones, take your 'four' and Scout on my right. I look to you, I depend on you, to protect that flank and give me warning of any danger." Does it not stand to reason that Corporal Jones will do his best to rise to the occasion?
It is very important that at the outset the leader retains with him a fair proportion of his command to meet subsequent emergencies, but he must detach at least one patrol straight to the front, and another to follow in rear. I do not attempt to lay down distances, because those depend entirely on the nature of the country. Suffice it to say that in clear country distances will be greater and detachments less in number than in enclosed or timbered country.
In any case the patrols must keep "touch" with the body from which they are detached.
3. - Movements.
The Main Plank Guard best carries out its duty by the successive occupation of defensive positions. Similarly the Flank Screen takes up points of observation. The leader should so arrange that there shall be a full utilisation of all vantage points. A study of the sketch and notes will give an idea of what is meant. The instance is founded on an actual occurrence. I may say that the Main Body was moving at a walk on good ground, but the country traversed by the Flank Guard was boulder-strewn ridges. There was neither timber nor scrub.
The dotted line with arrow points shows the route of the main body, which was a small column.
The Flank Guard leader is at A, studying the situation.
He has with him the greater portion of a troop -his advanced patrol is halted at R; his support is shown moving in fours towards D.
He decides that he must secure the point C quickly. He there-fore sends a four at a canter to hold B, and with a message to the four already there to push on rapidly to C. This done, lie mounts his party and moves up to B, leaving a patrol to stay at A until he is seen to get to B. On arrival there the disposition is: Advanced patrol at C; Main party at B; patrol leaving A. From B, he can see down and across the valley Y, Y, to where the view is closed by low ridges. He would like to know what is beyond. Suddenly the sharp-pointed hill at F arrests his gaze-if only we had that, he thinks, we could see far and wide. Without any loss of time lie canters up to C himself, with four men leaving the remainder at B to follow leisurely. Arrived at C, he has another look, makes tip his mind, and at once sends a corporal and two men to Scout and occupy F, signal the result of their observations, and remain there till the rear patrol arrives at E.
Next an advanced patrol is sent to E; the main party is then at C, and another patrol is leaving B. Thus by successive steps the Screen moved from one observation point to another. There was always some, portion halted in observation, and no important point was given up to possible seizure by the enemy until the next point was secured. Surprise was impossible.
All the units of the Screen will frequently halt at suitable points to make observations. When a, general halt is called, the Screen becomes a succession of Cossack posts and groups keeping a sharp look out--in fact, a temporary out post line, fronting outwards from the Main Body.
5. - Contact with the Enemy.
Whenever the enemy is discovered, the chief thing to be remembered is to at once warn the supporting portions of the Flank Guard and then the Officer commanding the Main Body. If the enemy is unaware of your presence, lie very low and avoid alarming him. Should he be advancing to the attack, fire on his Scouts or skirmishers and hold them back as much as possible. When compelled, and not before, retire, still fighting wherever a position offers.
6. - Signals and Signalling.
Constant touch must be maintained between all units by signals and by signallers.
Endeavour should be made to get touch with the Advanced Guard and Rear Guard.
Previous: Part 6, Lecturettes
Citation: Brigade Scouts, Scouting or Protective and Tactical Reconnaissance Part 7 The Flank Screen