Topic: AIF - DMC - Scouts
Scouting or Protective and Tactical Reconnaissance, Part 1
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.
Reconnaissance is without doubt one of the most important services in war. Its study and practice should be taken up in Australia seriously and without delay. It should not be concluded that it is entirely the duty of Mounted Troops. There is much broken and bush-covered country in the vicinity of our chief cities and coastal towns where only good Infantry could scout effectually.
The Field Service Regulations (Part I. Operations) lay down the principles on which to train our troops in the subject of Reconnaissance. But there is no detail or explanation of the methods to be employed. Having made a special study of this branch of the military art, I venture to put forward in the following pages some conclusions I have formed as to methods of training, which may serve as a guide to instructors and officers.
Although every squadron of Light Horse and every company of Infantry should be capable of carrying out Protective Reconnaissance, there is very urgent necessity for the training of (selected) Squadron and Company Scouts.
But more than that is required. A Corps of Scouts should be organised, receive higher training, and be at the disposal of each O.C. Field Force for Intelligence purposes.
The value of good Scouts is never truly appreciated until the lack of them has led to disaster. They are '(specialists," and, as such, their organisation and training should not be left till the outbreak of war.
I am indebted for the Introduction to a distinguished soldier, Colonel H. De B. De Lisle, C.B., D.S.O., P.S.C., now holding a high Staff appointment at Aldershot, after having completed a very successful term of command with the First Royal Dragoons in India.
From the earliest times, Military History clearly demonstrates that the success of great leaders has depended on their ability to pierce the fog of war. In other words, to obtain reliable information regarding the plans, position, and strength of the hostile forces, is more important to a General than numerical strength. Such information may be obtained in various ways, by a well-organised system of local intelligence agents, usually called Spies, by a reconnaissance by a large force or by selected Scouts. In recent times, any small group of men detached from a force consider themselves entitled to be called Scouts, and the term has been even used as a title for a hastily-raised untrained irregular unit of mounted men. Originally a Scout was a man with special training, added to a natural aptitude, keen sight and quick hearing. The word itself proves that such work was usually performed at night, for our word Scout comes from the French word ecouter, formerly written escouter, to listen.
Many instances are recorded in history of important results due to the work of individual Scouts, and even in our own time instances occur to us which must demonstrate the importance of this branch of Military training. The training of Scouts is no easy matter, and though every man should receive instruction in detached duties, only a proportion have the natural aptitude to become a trained Scout in its proper sense of the word.
Scouting has two objects, namely-protection and information.. The former duty consists in guarding a force when halted or on the march from surprise, denying hostile spies or Scouts any approach. This is the elementary work of a Scout, and these duties should be learnt by every mounted man, ass well as by selected men of other branches of the Army.
Scouting for information, is far more difficult to learn as well as to teach, and calls for great personal bravery, a quick, active brain, physical endurance, ability to find the way by night as well as by day, the aptitude to form a correct estimate, and to report in clear language without exaggeration. To find so many qualifications in one man constitutes the scarcity of efficient Scouts, but there can be no doubt that with proper training a fair proportion of Scouts will be found in every unit. In Australia there is less difficulty in obtaining good material than at Home. There, the free country life tends towards observation, and the distances between stations to endurance ; moreover, the sport which is attainable by all, instead of being closed to a few, trains the boyhood of that great country to be adept in those very qualifications which are essentials to the good Scout. The pursuit of game demands the same qualities of self-denial, powers of vision, hearing, and concealment as searching for an enemy, and those who have as boys been keen sportsmen have already laid the solid foundation, for becoming good Scouts. Many who have had no such opportunities can nevertheless acquire this art by studying the methods of other famous Scouts, or, better still, by receiving personal instruction from a Scout himself. It is therefore a great pleasure to recommend this work to all Military readers and students, because the author not only had exceptional opportunities of putting his theories in practice on active service, but proved himself a Scout of a very high order, who not only distinguished himself in reconnaissance work, but trained his subordinates to be excellent individual Scouts.
In future campaigns the importance of reliable information will be even more important than in the past, and yet more difficult to obtain. The training in this branch of Military education will thus serve to increase enormously the value of the individual and to facilitate the success of the Forces of the Empire.
H. DE B. DE LISLE,
The Royal Dragoons.
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Citation: Brigade Scouts, Scouting or Protective and Tactical Reconnaissance, Part 1, Preface and Introduction