Topic: AIF - DMC - Scouts
Scouting or Protective and Tactical Reconnaissance, Part 3
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.
No matter how well the Screen keeps touch and observes it is yet failing in its duty unless the results of observation are correctly and quickly conveyed to the O.C. Advanced Guard.
This subject may be divided into –(a) What to Communicate.
(b) How to Communicate.
(a) What To Communicate.
The O.C. Advanced Guard wants information about the enemy or about the country. The former may be Negative, viz., that the enemy is not in a certain locality. Or it may be Positive-that the enemy has been discovered.
He then wants to knowHow many of the enemy are there? Where are they?
What are they?
What are they doing?
The mere reporting "Enemy in sight in (small or large) numbers" is almost valueless. A report should run something like this:"Left flank patrol reports being fired on by (estimated) six enemy from scrubby hill one mile beyond our left flank. Patrol has taken cover. I have sent Lieut. X. with 8 men to reinforce left flank and report later."
Further report later:"Lieut. X. reports-'On my party joining our left flank patrol enemy's fire ceased. A few moments after I saw 4 men galloping away from scrubby hill one mile west in a northerly direction. Have reinforced left flank patrol with 4 men, as country in front looks difficult, and am returning with others."
Scouts should always report the bare farts of what they see, and not report inferences. Sound conclusions can seldom be formed from one report only. It is the business of the officer who gets many reports to collate them and form conclusions thereon.
The Scout is quite at liberty to form his own conclusions on what he sees, as a guide to his subsequent movements. I will give an instance.
Soon after sunrise one morning a patrol surprised and captured a single Scout of the enemy at the gate of a farmhouse. There were numerous horse tracks and boot marks about the gate. The farmhouse was on the slope of a low hill, and the tracks led up this hill. The leader sent back exact report of what he saw. In his own mind he concluded that a patrol or party of the enemy had assembled at the farmhouse and had very shortly before ridden off to join their commando. One man had for some reason or other been late, and was caught.
The patrol leader, therefore, ascended the hill and looked over it with much caution, ;and was rewarded by the discovery of a party of about 150 men, some already mounted and some saddling up, round a house about 600 yards away.
By lying in concealment the patrol leader and his men remained undiscovered until they were joined by a half squadron from the Support, which at once opened a lire that demoralised and routed the enemy with loss. The officer who received the first report had also concluded that there was a large party of the enemy near at hand, and had hurried up a reinforcement. It is possible that he had received other reports that confirmed him in his conclusions.
It is very important for the O.C. Advanced Guard to know whether he is opposed by cavalry, infantry or artillery, or more than one arm. Scouts should, therefore, look out for any signs which will enable them to tell definitely to what arm the enemy as seen belongs.
(b) HOW TO COMMUNICATE.
Messages and reports can be sent, verbally or written, by messenger or by signalling. Trained signallers with flags, &c., can seldom be of use u among the scouts because of the difficulty of concealing them while at work. But they should certainly be with the Supports and Mainguard.
A portable disc arrangement for doing the Morse code is now used in India, and should prove very valuable in reconnaissance, because the operator can so easily conceal himself. It is all advantage to have Scouts who can do semaphore with their arms, as there are many occasions when they will be thus able to pass on information. However, it will frequently happen that the only possible means of communication along the line of patrols is by a verbal or written message carried by a man. Therefore, this method should be practised. A verbal message is almost certain to be garbled in transmission by untrained men; but with plenty of practice it becomes reliable, because the sender learns to give it in a few carefully chosen words, and the intermediate receivers pass it on verbatim. Of course, when time permits, always write the messages.
The nature of the ground and the urgency of the case must decide the patrol leader whether to send his report along the line to the officer with the directing patrol, or to try and reach the O.C. Vanguard direct. The messengers should take precautions to conceal themselves while going and returning. Speed may be so important, however, that every other consideration must be neglected.
The signals laid down in our drill books (L.H. Manual, “Silent Drill," Infantry. Training., Sec. 49) are of use only among the Scouts themselves, and should be so used. Scouts accustomed to work together can also devise others as they find them necessary. In patrolling the regulation whistle should seldom or never be heard, and shouting of orders should i.e. prohibited.
Previous: Part 2, Protective Scouting
Citation: Brigade Scouts, Scouting or Protective and Tactical Reconnaissance Part 3 Communication