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Thursday, 29 October 2009
Imperial Camel Corps - Brief History
Topic: AIF - 5B - ICC


The 1st Brigade, Imperial Camel Corps

Brief History


Members of the Camel Corps, Abbassia, Egypt, 1915


The following is an article written by Jim Underwood called The organisation of the Imperial Camel Brigade, 1916-1918, which first appeared in the official journal of the Military History Society of Australia, Sabretache, in their edition of 1 December 2003.

Jim Underwood, The organisation of the Imperial Camel Brigade, 1916-1918, Sabretache, 1 December 2003.


The 1st Brigade, Imperial Camel Corps - more commonly known as the Imperial Camel Brigade - was raised on 13 December 1916 under the command of Brigadier General Clement Leslie Smith VC MC (17 January 1878-14 December 1927) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. (1). The Brigade concentrated at Mazar on the north coast of the Sinai Peninsula, north-eastern Egypt. Located between the Gulfs of Suez and Aqaba at the northern end of the Red Sea, it covers some 23,500 sq mi (61,000 sq km). 19

December; and on the following day advanced to El Arish where it was attached to the Anzac Mounted Division. The Anzac Mounted Division was a mounted infantry (light horse) division formed in March 1916 in Egypt during World War I following the Battle of Gallipoli when the Australian and New Zealand mounted regiments returned from fighting as infantry. The Imperial Camel Brigade had its baptism of fire as a brigade formation at the Battle of Magdhaba. The Battle of Magdhaba took place near the tiny Egyptian outpost of Magdhaba in the Sinai desert, some 22 miles from El Arish on the Mediterranean coast. In late 1916 the Turkish forces in the Sinai that had been menacing the British-controlled Suez Canal had retreated to the 23 December 1916--only four days after being concentrated and 10 days after being raised. (2)

While the actions of the Imperial Camel Brigade are referred to in official and private accounts of the Sinai and Palestine campaigns, little has been published on its structure. The aim of this paper is to examine the Brigade organisation as it evolved over the period from its raising in December 1916 until its disbandment in June 1918. Part 1 of the paper records the organisational changes that took place in the Brigade during its existence. Part 2 which will appear in the March 2004 Sabretache will take a closer look at the establishments of the units that formed the Brigade.


Brigade Organisation--December 1916 The initial organisation of the Brigade was: (3)

Brigade Headquarters

1st (Anzac) Camel Battalion

2nd (Imperial) Camel Battalion

3rd (Anzac) Camel Battalion

No. 1 Mountain Battery, Hong Kong & Singapore, Royal Garrison Artillery

26th (Camel) Machine Gun Squadron,

Machine Gun Corps (MGC) Section,

2/1st (Cheshire) Field Company,

Royal Engineers (TF) Signal Section,

Royal Engineers Wireless Section,

Royal Engineers Section,

1/1st Welsh Field Ambulance (TF) Detachment,

Army Service Corps Detachment,

Camel Transport Corps (4) Detachment,

Egyptian Labour Corps

The two Territorial Force (TF) units were on loan from the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division (TF) which was then garrisoning the Suez Canal Defences. The detachments from the Army Service Corps, the Camel Transport Corps and the Egyptian Labour Corps were ad hoc units for which there were no proper establishments.

The strength of the Brigade was approximately 2,800. It was capable of putting into the firing line, after providing "camel holders": 1,800 rifles, 36 Lewis light machine guns, eight Maxim medium machine guns and six 10 pounder pack mountain guns. (5)

Raising of Independent Camel Companies--1916

The main combat elements of the Brigade--the Camel Battalions—were formed from the independent Camel Companies that had been raised from January 1916 onwards to combat the pro-Turkish Senussi tribesmen who were threatening the Nile Valley from the Libyan Desert. During its existence, the Imperial Camel Corps raised 18 Camel Companies—10 Australian, six British and two New Zealand.

The first four Camel Companies, filled by Australian infantrymen from the First and Second Divisions, Australian Imperial Force (AIF), marched into the British Army's Camel Corps School at Abbassia near Cairo in the last week of January 1916. All four Companies were in the field on operations against the Senussi before the end of March 1916. (6) Also in January 1916, the permanent staff of the former Camel Corps School were absorbed into a new Headquarters, Imperial Camel Corps under command of Major C L Smith VC MC. (7)

In March 1916, it was decided to increase the Camel Corps by six Companies with personnel drawn from various British Territorial Infantry and Yeomanry units then in Egypt. In June, approval was given for five additional Companies. The personnel for the four additional Australian Companies were provided from the Anzac Mounted Division and Light Horse reinforcements in Egypt. The fifth Company was raised from the New Zealand Mounted Rifles. Subsequently, in the first half of 1917 two more Australian Companies and a further New Zealand Company were raised from the same sources.

Provisional Camel Battalion

In late July 1916, as part of the British preparations for the forthcoming Battle of Romani, four Camel Companies that had been operating in the Western Desert of Egypt against the Senussi threat, were formed into a provisional Camel Battalion for operations east of the Suez Canal. This provisional Battalion formed part of now Lieutenant Colonel C L Smith's "Mobile Column" which operated on the extreme right flank of the British advance eastwards after the Battle of Romani (4-5 August 1916). The Column was engaged in several clashes with the Turkish Left flank guard as it tried to envelop the open desert flank of the withdrawing Turkish force. The main combat elements of the "Mobile Column" were the 11th Australian Light Horse Regiment, the City of London Yeomanry Rough Riders and the provisional Camel Battalion. (8) During these operations the Camel Battalion consisted of three British Companies and one Australian Company.

An ever-changing provisional Camel Battalion saw action during the early months of the British advance from Romani to El Arish. Imperial Camel Corps operations included participation in the raid on Mazar (15-17 September 1916), the attack on Maghara (13-15 October 1916) and wide-ranging patrols in the Sinai Desert on the southern flank of the British advance towards Palestine.

Raising of Regular Camel Battalions

In September 1916, approval was given to form regular Camel Battalions and most of the independent Companies were redeployed from the Western Desert to the Sinai to man these units. The 1st Battalion was raised on 9 September; the 2nd Battalion on 4 November and the 3rd Battalion in early December. Although the Imperial Camel Brigade was formally established on 13 December 1916, the allocation of Companies to Battalions remained flexible for some months. This may be illustrated by reference to the changing composition of the 1st Camel Battalion in Table 1 below.


Aug 1916--Provisional Camel Battalion--Smith's Mobile Column

No.4 Camel Company (Australian)
No.5 Camel Company (British)
No.9 Camel Company (British)
No.10 Camel Company (British)

09 Sep 1916--1st Camel Battalion formed

No.4 Camel Company (Australian)
No.5 Camel Company (British)
No.6 Camel Company (British)
No.7 Camel Company (British)

13 Dec 1916--Formation of the Imperial Camel Brigade

No.3 Camel Company (Australian)
No.4 Camel Company (Australian)
No.7 Camel Company (British)
No.12 Camel Company (Australian)

26 Dec 1916--After Battle of Magdhaba

No.1 Camel Company (Australian)
No.3 Camel Company (Australian)
No.4 Camel Company (Australian)
No.15 Camel Company (New Zealand)

Late Mar 1917--Final Organisation--After First Battle of Gaza

No.1 Camel Company (Australian)
No.2 Camel Company (Australian)
No.3 Camel Company (Australian)
No.4 Camel Company (Australian)



Brigade Augmentation

In the first half of 1917, the Imperial Camel Brigade took on a more formal structure and the ad hoc and "on loan" units initially included in the formation were replaced by units with authorised establishments.

In January 1917, the 1/1st Scottish Horse Mounted Field Ambulance replaced the section of the 1/1st Welsh Field Ambulance that was on loan from the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division. This was an improvement in medical support to the Imperial Camel Brigade. The Welsh Field Ambulance was an Infantry Division Field Ambulance and its stretcher bearers were not mounted. Furthermore, only one section of the Welsh Field Ambulance had been allotted to the Brigade. This had proved inadequate during the attack on Magdhaba when the Brigade had suffered 27 wounded. The Scottish Horse Field Ambulance was at least a mounted unit; but its organisation was designed to support a Cavalry Brigade of about 2,000 personnel not a Camel Infantry Brigade of some 3,000 personnel capable of operating away from established lines of communication. 

In February 1917, the Imperial Camel Corps Mobile Veterinary Section joined the Brigade. This was a purpose designed veterinary section catering for sick, injured and wounded camels. Prior to its arrival, veterinary support in the Brigade was very basic consisting of a single Veterinary Sergeant in each Camel Company.

In March 1917, the 10th Field Troop, Royal Engineers replaced the section of the 2/1st (Cheshire) Field Company on loan from the 53rd (Welsh) Division. This, too, was a significant enhancement. The section of Cheshire engineers had been drawn from an Infantry Division and it lacked the mobility to support the Camel Brigade. The 10st Field Troop was specifically raised and equipped to support the Imperial Camel Brigade. Importantly, the new Troop had a significant capacity to develop water supplies; a capability lacking in the Cheshire's section.

In May 1917, the newly raised 4th (Anzac) Camel Battalion joined the Brigade. From this time onwards, it was usual for three Camel Battalions to operate forward with the Brigade while the fourth Battalion was rested in the Suez Canal Defences. At the same time, four of the six British Camel Companies formed the 2nd (Imperial) Camel Battalion while two Companies were rested or patrolled in the Western Desert where the restless Senussi remained a dormant threat.

Also in the first half of 1917, the ad hoc administrative detachments were replaced by properly established units raised specifically to support the Imperial Camel Brigade. The Imperial Camel Corps Brigade Train replaced the Army Service Corps detachment. The Imperial Camel Corps Brigade Ammunition Column replaced the temporary Ammunition Column provided by the Camel Transport Corps. The Imperial Camel Brigade Signal Section replaced the wireless and cable sections at Brigade Headquarters. The Imperial Camel Brigade Ordnance Section was also formed. At the same time there were significant changes to No. 1 Mountain Battery and the 26th Machine Gun Squadron.

No. 1 Mountain Battery, Hong Kong & Singapore, Royal Garrison Artillery. This Battery was manned by British and Indian officers and Sikh and Indian Muslim other ranks. The other ranks were recruited in Hong Kong and Singapore mainly from ex-Indian Army regulars residing in these two colonies. Despite its title, there were no Chinese in the unit. The Battery was equipped with horses and mules when it fought in the Western Desert against the Senussi in the first half of 1916; but in June 1916 it was converted to camel transport. It was initially equipped with six 10-pounder BL pack mountain guns. This gun had been introduced into the British inventory in 1901 but it was obsolete by European standards. It used an old-fashioned three-piece breech mechanism. There was no recoil system. The gun leaped and bucked when it fired. It was even known to topple over when fired on uneven ground. The gun's calibre was 2.75 inches and the standard projectile weighed 10 pounds. Its maximum range was 6,000 yards with percussion or 3,700 yards with time fuse. In early 1917, the Battery was re-equipped with an improved gun--the Ordnance BL Mark I calibre 2.75 inches. This new gun bad a maximum range of 5,600 yards for shrapnel and 5,800 yards for high explosive. Two of the older 10-pounder mountain guns were retained as rudimentary anti-aircraft guns although the gun detachments relied on the expediency of throwing their greatcoats over the guns to camouflage them from prying German aircraft. (9) No camouflage nets were provided.

With the limited range of its guns, the Battery bad to fight from a position well forward in both attack and defence. Its personnel were highly regarded for their bravery in action and professionalism. Within the Brigade, the Battery was affectionately known as the "Bing Boys" on account of the high pitched plaintive noise made by the discharge of the mountain gun.

26th (Camel) Machine Gun Squadron. The history of the Machine Gun Squadron is somewhat obscure. No unit War Diaries have been located in Australia or the United Kingdom. There are also discrepancies between various published works and official records regarding the title of the Brigade's machine gun unit and its parent unit. During its existence this unit apparently underwent a number of name changes. The Brigade machine gun unit appears to have been established initially in Egypt as the 26th (Scottish Horse) Squadron, Machine Gun Corps in October 1916. The parent unit was the 1/3rd Scottish Horse--a Yeomanry regiment that had fought dismounted at Gallipoli as part of the 2nd Mounted Division. After the evacuation of Gallipoli, the Regiment was sent to Egypt where it became part of the 1st Dismounted Brigade. (10)

Whether the Scottish Horse machine gun unit was originally a horsed unit or camel mounted has not been determined. No record has been located of the unit undertaking camel training at Abbassia in October 1916 or at any other time. However, the 26th (Camel) Machine Gun Squadron was on the Imperial Camel Brigade's order of battle when it was raised in December 1916. To add another wrinkle to the problem, the history of the New Zealand Camel Companies--With the Cameliers in Palestine by John Robertsun--states that the 26th (Camel) Machine Gun Squadron was formed from the machine gun sections of three Scottish Yeomanry regiments that had fought at Gallipoli--the Scottish Horse plus the Lanarkshire Yeomanry and the Ayrshire Yeomanry. (11)

Initially, the 26th Machine Gun Squadron was armed with eight Maxim machine guns that had apparently seen hard service at Gallipoli. (The normal allotment of guns to a machine gun squadron was 12 guns.) In the first quarter of 1917, the Machine Gun Squadron was reequipped with eight Vickers medium machine guns and about the same time the unit was retitled the 265th Machine Gun Company. In some contemporary documents the unit is also referred to simply as the Imperial Camel Brigade Machine Gun Company. (12)

Australian Camel Field Ambulance. When the Imperial Camel Brigade was raised in December 1916, Headquarters Egyptian Expeditionary Force approached the Australian Government, through AIF headquarters in Egypt, to provide the personnel for a camel-mounted Field Ambulance to support the Brigade. (13) The Australian Government approved the request but advised that it would be several months before the unit became operational. It was agreed that the officers and senior NCOs would be drawn from Australian medical units then serving in Egypt; while the bulk of the other ranks personnel would be sent to Egypt after completing their initial military and medical training in Australia. The officers and NCOs would join the Australian contingent when it arrived in Egypt. Until the Australian Camel Field Ambulance became operational, medical support was provided by the two British Army Territorial Force units indicated above--the 1/1st Welsh Field Ambulance and later the 1/1st Scottish Horse Mounted Field Ambulance.

Meanwhile in Australia, in late January 1917, 93 other ranks commenced their military and medical training at Seymour, Victoria. This contingent departed Australia on l0 May 1917 on HMAT Boorara and arrived in Egypt on 19 June. Here they were joined by six officers, one warrant officer and 13 senior NCOs. The Ambulance commenced camel training on 29 July 1917 and this was completed within three weeks. On 18 August, the unit entrained at Cairo and moved to the Palestine front that was then facing the Turkish Gaza-Beersheba defensive line. On 20 August 1917, the Australian Camel Field Ambulance replaced the 1/1st Scottish Horse Mounted Field Ambulance in the Imperial Camel Brigade. However, for a period, 30 members of the Scottish Horse Field Ambulance remained attached to the Camel Field Ambulance as the Australian establishment did not initially include the necessary drivers and artificers--saddler, farrier, wheelwright--to man the wheeled vehicles issued to the Ambulance. The original Australian concept was that the whole Ambulance would rely solely on camels for transport and medical evacuation. With the advance of the British force into southern Palestine, the terrain proved more suitable for the use of wheeled vehicles and those held by the Scottish Horse Field Ambulance were taken over and retained by the Australian Camel Field Ambulance.

97th Australian Dental Unit. This unit, consisting of one officer, two sergeants and one private, was attached to the Australian Camel Field Ambulance from 1 September 1917. Prior to the attachment of this dental unit, there had been no dental support in the Imperial Camel Brigade since its raising in December 1916. The only dental equipment carried in the Brigade was a set of forceps carried by the Battalion and Field Ambulance medical officers. Extractions were done without any local or general anaesthetic. Considerable dental work was required prior to the third Battle of Gaza to make the Brigade dentally fit. (14) (It is interesting to note that dentures were only provided if the soldier had insufficient teeth to masticate the Army ration.)

Brigade Organisation--December 1917

By the end of 1917 the order of battle of the Imperial Camel Brigade had settled down into the organisation that it was to retain until its disbandment in June 1918:

Brigade Headquarters

1st (Anzac) Camel Battalion

2nd (Imperial) Camel Battalion

3rd (Anzac) Camel Battalion

4th (Anzac) Camel Battalion

No. 1 Mountain Battery, Hong Kong & Singapore, Royal Artillery

265th Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Corps

10th (Camel) Field Troop, Royal Engineers

Brigade Signal Section, Royal Engineers

Imperial Camel Corps Brigade Train

Imperial Camel Corps Brigade Ammunition Column

Imperial Camel Corps Brigade Ordnance Section

Australian Camel Field Ambulance

97th Australian Dental Unit

Imperial Camel Corps Mobile Veterinary Section

Disbandment of the Imperial Camel Brigade

By mid-1918 the British advance into Palestine had moved into country which was increasingly unsuitable for camel operations. The rugged nature of the Judean Hills and the cold, wet winter of 1917-1918 caused an excessive number of camel casualties. In early June, the decision was made to convert the Australian and New Zealand Camel Companies to horsed units. (15) Personnel from the 1st Camel Battalion were used to form the 14th Australian Light Horse Regiment; while the 3rd Camel Battalion formed the 15th Australian Light Horse Regiment. These two Regiments, together with a French Colonial cavalry regiment--Regiment Mixte de Marche de Cavalarie--formed the main combat units of the newly raised 5th Australian Light Horse Brigade. (The French cavalry regiment consisted of North African troops--two squadrons of Spahis and two squadrons of Chasseurs d'Afrique.)

The two New Zealand Camel Companies were used to raise the 2nd New Zealand Machine Gun Squadron that supported the 5th Light Horse Brigade. (16) At the same time, the Australian Camel Field Ambulance was converted to a mounted brigade field ambulance and re-titled 5th Australian Light Horse Field Ambulance, also supporting the 5th Light Horse Brigade. Personnel from the 4th Camel Battalion were used to bolster the number of troops in the 14th and 15th Light Horse Regiments as a number of personnel in the 1st and 3rd Camel Battalions returned to their original units.

The six British Camel Companies were retained until 1919; mainly for patrolling the lines of communication and the Sinai Desert. The last two British Companies were not disbanded until June 1919 but personnel strengths were progressively run down. There was one last hurrah for the Imperial Camel Corps. No.7 and No.10 (British) Camel Companies were detached to the Hejaz from July to September 1918 to assist Colonel T E Lawrence and his Arab army in its attacks against the Damascus-Mediua railway east of Aqaba. The majority of the camels of the Imperial Camel Corps also found their way to the Hejaz. Some 2,000 riding camels and 1,000 baggage camels were transferred to Lawrence for use by his Arab army in its advance to Damascus.


(1) Australian War Memorial - AWM4 Item 11/12/1 - War Diary Headquarters Imperial Camel Brigade 13 December 1916. The dates of specific events in some published accounts of the Imperial Camel Corps are at variance with the dates used in this papst. (and with one another). Where possible, dates used in the paper are taken from contemporary Official Records.

(2) Australian War Memorial - AWM224 Item MSS42 - Imperial Camel Brigade--Short History compiled by Captain R Hall in 1919, p. 1. Captain Hail was the Staff Captain on Headquarters, Imperial Camel Brigade when the Brigade was disbanded in July 1918. He also wrote a book on his experience in the Imperial Camel Corps: The Desert Hath Pearls, Melbourne: The Hawthorn Press, 1975.

(3) Australian War Memorial - AWM4 Items 11/12/1 and 11/12/2 - War Diary Headquarters Imperial Camel Brigade December 1916 and January 1917.

(4) Attached to the Brigade as a temporary smallarms Ammunition Column. It consisted of 59 camels and 23 Egyptian drivers. Australian War Memorial - AWM4 Item 11/12/2 - War Diary Headquarters Imperial Camel Brigade January 1917.

(5) Hall, op.cit, p. 1.

(6) Australian War Memorial - AWM45 Item 12/36 PART 1 - Report on Organisation and Formation of the Imperial Camel Corps, 1916 dated 31 December 1916.

(7) Ibid.

(8) Sir Archibald Murray's Despatches (June 1916-June 1917) - Second Despatch. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1920; pp. 60-61.

(9) Order of Battle of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, 26 July
1917, p. 7.

(10) Correspondence with the Machine Gun Corps Old Comrades Association, United Kingdom, 22 February 2002.

(11) John Robertson, With the Cameliers in Palestine, Dunedin, NZ: A H & A W Reed, 1938; p. 26. On page 25 there is a photograph of the Scottish machine gunners on parade with their camels.

(12) For example, see Australian Imperial Force Order No 874 dated 27 September 1917.

(13) Colonel R M Downes, The Australian Army Medical Services in the World War of 1914-1918, Volume 1 Part II The Campaign in Sinai and Palestine, Melbourne: Australian War Memorial, 1930; p. 269 and National Archives of Australia A11803/1 Item 1817/89/151.

(14) Australian War Memorial - AWM224 MSS279: Australian Camel Field Ambulance. Narrative by Major G S Shipway dated 26 May 1919.

(15) Australian War Memorial - AWM25 Item 157/1 - Headquarters Imperial Camel Brigade Preliminary Instruction dated 10 June 1918 and Headquarters Imperial Camel Brigade Re-organisation Order No 1 dated 16 June 1918.

(16) Major J H Luxford, With the Machine Gunners in France and Palestine. The Official History of the New Zealand Machine Gun Corps in the Great World War 1914-1918, Auckland: Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd, 1923, p. 225.


Further Reading:

Imperial Camel Corps, AIF

Imperial Camel Corps, Roll of Honour 

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

Double Squadrons  


Citation: Imperial Camel Corps - Brief History

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 5 April 2010 9:49 AM EADT
The Australian Light Horse, Some Features of Squadron Training, Arthur William Hutchin
Topic: AIF - Lighthorse

The Australian Light Horse,

Some Features of Squadron Training

Arthur William Hutchin


Arthur William Hutchin (seated, left) with the the Staff Officers of the 3rd Infantry Brigade


In 1912, Lieutenant Arthur William Hutchin of the Army and Instructional Staff penned an essay called "Some Features of Squadron Training" which was published in the Military Journal in September 1912.

Hutchins was at the beginning of a long and distinguished career in the Defence forces. When he wrote the article he had been appointed Lieutenant on 16 September 1911 in the 3rd Military District where he served as Assistant Brigade Major, 17th Brigade Area. During the Great War he served as Brigade Major for the 3rd Infantry Brigade being Mentioned in Despatches and awarded the DSO.

Hutchin, AW, Some Features of Squadron Training, Military Journal, September 1912, pp 272 - 276.


Some Features of Squadron Training.

The idea of these notes is to draw attention to some of the more common faults which are repeated and commented on year by year during the Continuous Training Camps of the Light Horse Brigades, and which it would seem must be brought home as frequently as possible to those responsible for training and leading the various squadrons, if ever they are to be eradicated.

It is apparent at the outset that squadron leaders and troop officers have many difficulties to contend with, those in chief being the lack of opportunities for training and self-education in the fundamental principles of mounted work in the field, and the drifting personnel which they command. The word “drifting" is used advisedly, for, although there are many long-service men, the average length of service of the man in the ranks would probably work out at something under three years, and from a personnel recruited and serving in that manner, a maximum of efficiency is beyond the bounds of reasonable possibility. These evils I do not propose to deal with, but rather with those to which they give rise.

The squadron in its home training is taught to drill, and immediately it takes the field all drill is promptly disregarded. The fundamental idea of Light Horse organization, viz., that the unit is the section, which has a responsible leader in its No. 1, and that the troop is composed of a certain number of sections under a superior leader, is not applied; and if one were to examine the average squadron on a field day galloping to a position, or changing ground at a fast pace, in 90 per cent of cases would he find sections intermixed and out of hand of Nos. 1, and troops in a similar state. In fact, the squadron becomes an excited mass of individuals, without any cohesion whatever. When the signal “Action" is given, horses are not properly handed over to the No. 3, who, with a swinging rifle across his shoulders, and trying to collect three nervous horses sufficiently well to lead them, has a very unenviable task. The consequence is that the led horses do not get promptly to cover. A few bullets would teach a very severe lesson and show all ranks the importance of rapidly transferring the horses from the danger zone, and what an encumbrance a Light Horseman minus his horse may be. The maintenance of the correct formation is vital, and never so vital as when acting at top pace; for the idea of the Light Horse attack is a series of swift, sudden blows accurately delivered from different points, a long-sustained attack being possible only when in concert with other arms.

Moreover, it is usually inadvisable to dismount at a very great distance from .r position, the axiom being to remain as close as possible to the horses, so as to prevent them being cut off and to allow of rapid change of ground. The handing over of horses must often be done under fire, consequently it must be carried out quickly, yet methodically.

When the squadron has gone into action and formed its firing line, one frequently finds men of different sections intermixed, and troops not intact, thus causing men to be away from the control of their natural leaders, resulting in confusion and unnecessary movement to regain their proper places.

Again troop leaders are often found to fail in their duties as fire unit commanders. The description of the target is vague, the range, if range be given, is more vague, and it is no uncommon sight to see adjacent troops in the same alignment ranged upon a common target, using elevations varying as much as 200 or 300 yards, and that, too, when the objective is under 1,000 yards distant. Not only is the ranging faulty, but the fire control is equally so, little care being taken to see that the correct elevation is put on each rifle. No. 1 of each section should be trained to look to this.

The Light Horse Manual particularly mentions the great effect which can be obtained by sudden bursts of accurately-delivered fire, leading the enemy to overrate one's strength and to effect surprise. Troop leaders should practise this idea, and put a stop to the bad habit men have of finding their own target and firing indiscriminately at it without reference to what any one else may be doing. How often are men seen to actually fire a shot in the middle of an advance; and what can be the value of that shot? And what can a trooper do beyond exposing his position, who fires in a wild fashion when mounted? Yet these things do occur.

The whole matter is one of control. Troop officers should strive to work rapidly, silently, without undue “hustle." Perfect equanimity on their part, total absence of excitement, quiet and steady control by signal as far as possible, are preferable to endeavouring to give orders audible above the roar of galloping hoofs or rattling musketry. For calmness begets confidence, and confidence obedience, whilst the whole are the outcome of method. Habits follow, as a matter of course; and immediately good habits are inculcated the number of things correctly done without thought must leave the mind free to face circumstances which are not constant and which cannot be done automatically. This is the fundamental idea underlying all training, whether of the individual or of a force.

During manoeuvre, one is frequently struck by the very limited use made of ground scouts and the restricted knowledge of their duties displayed by those selected. Few squadrons appear to have men who have been permanently told off as ground scouts and trained accordingly. The Light Horse Manual on the subject says,

"Although every man in the squadron is to be instructed in the duties of ground scouts, a sufficient number of men of superior intelligence and horsemanship, must be selected and especially trained as the scouts of the squadron.”

The duties of scouts are to ascertain whether the ground in the immediate vicinity of the squadron is suitable for mounted troops, to point out obstacles, and to indicate the best points of passage.

Single troops always throw out scouts in difficult ground; a squadron should never manoeuvre over unknown or broken ground without being preceded by a ground scout.

The number of scouts employed, and the distance to which they are to go out, must depend upon the nature of the ground and the rapidity with which the body is moving; they must not, however, be more numerous than is absolutely necessary, and must be sufficiently far in advance to give ample warning of obstacles, and never out of sight of their squadrons.

Squadron commanders are responsible (without any order) that one scout from each squadron gallops out to a point at a suitable distance, as explained above, in front of the centre of his squadron if in line, or line of squadron columns, or opposite the exposed flank of the squadron; in the latter case the leading squadron also sends out an additional scout ahead of the column. After reaching this point, each scout conforms as far as possible to the pace and to any change of direction of his squadron.

The fact that a squadron is practising over very open country should not deter the ground scouts from being utilized, even if only to find passages through fences. A scout should always take post on the exposed flank of the led horses when in the attack.

Another phase of mounted work which I should like briefly to touch upon is the relation of drill to the ground. Just as cover is most vital to the individual in the firing line so is concealment to bodies of troops on the move. So keen and penetrating are the intelligent scouts of a modern army, and so great the possibilities of aerial reconnaissance, that the question of secret movement from place to place is daily becoming more important. The fullest advantage will in future have to be taken of the contour of the country, its hills and hollows, and its forests. Squadron leaders might well practise the handling of their squadrons with this idea in view.

Adjacent to almost any training ground may be found a stretch of country to suit the purpose. Let a troop officer be posted at any distance from 600 to 1,000 yards, in likely place for an enemy's look-out to occupy, to observe the squadron. The squadron leader will then put the squadron through some movements suitable to the ground and with some definite tactical object in view. Let each officer in turn take host as observer and much will be learned of the possibilities of even open country for providing cover for quite considerable bodies of troops.

The continual practice of such exercises will, moreover, cultivate that eye for country which is a most valuable asset.

Finally, the subject of reconnaissance and the training of the individual in scouting seems to be a feature of squadron work the value of which is not fully understood, and which, consequently, does not receive the attention it deserves.

The average well-educated Light Horseman is the ideal person for this work, because of the fact that he lives continually in the bush and every day is called upon to exercise those senses which are inseparable from a good scout. He is usually keen of eye, a good judge of distance, a horseman who knows how to look after his horse and capable of withstanding exposure and fatigue.

But the things he is used to observing in his daily life are not always what he would be required to do from a military point of view. Negative information, for instance, is often quite as valuable as positive ; and his natural bent must therefore be supplemented by a training in what to look for, what to avoid, and how to render reports suitable for military work.

The scout should understand that he is a chosen individual upon whom greater risk is thrust, from whom greater intelligence is expected, and for whom there is more chance of distinction than for the average individual. He must feel that his officers have confidence in him, and that the discovery of the enemy's plans and the fate of his comrades depend upon him and how he carried out his work.

Perhaps one of the most difficult tasks a scout has to perform is that of mapping a country which he has been sent to report upon.

Cavalry Training says:-

"When a man has learnt to read a map, elementary instruction in sketching should be given. This to include instruction in conventional signs; judging distances by time or eye; making a simple approximate scale; finding an approximate north point; sketching a simple piece of country; drawing a map from memory; estimating heights."

Absolute accuracy is not to be sought after; but the result should be approximately so, having due regard always to speed in working. It is, again, much more vital that the sketch should include valuable concrete information rather than that time be wasted in compiling a work of art of comparatively small military value. Field Service Regulations, Part 1, section 16, says:-

"A plan or panorama sketch is a useful adjunct to a report, and it is often possible and convenient to dispense with the latter and to convey all essential information on the former. Clearness and relevancy are required, not artistic effect. Ranges in yards to conspicuous points should as far as possible be indicated on such sketches."

Other phases of the work include

(a) Ability to find the way:-

Colonel Henderson says,

“In peace time it is often difficult to find the way; but in time of war, when the country is unknown and unmapped, and one must constantly be expecting the enemy to appear, the task is one of much greater difficulty."

“Experience teaches that many messengers may be sent, but comparatively few arrive at their proper destination in time. The same applies to scouts who are required to find some definite piece of information in a given time."

(b) Use of Eye and Ear:-

There are many signs which to the trained eye and ear are full of import, e.g.

1. Dust Clouds:-

Troops in movement invariably raise dust clouds in dry weather, and the clouds are different in the case of cavalry, guns and infantry.

2. Tracks:-

The trained observer can pick up tracks and follow them. He can form a good idea of what troops made the tracks, and how rapidly that body is moving. He can tell whether they are new or old, and perhaps formulate some very valuable theories to work on.

3. Deserted Camps and Bivouacs:-

The scout should be able to deduct much from these as to the size and composition of the force which rested there, when it rested, and in which direction it moved.

(c) Getting Across Country:-

Most Australian Light Horsemen will want but little instruction in this, as they are in the habit of jumping a fence or swimming a creek in the course of their daily work.

(d) Reporting:-

Field Service Regulations, Part I, section 16, deals fully with reports. Reports should, whenever possible, be in writing.

“It is more important that the information contained in a report should be relevant and accurate and should arrive in time to be of use, than that the report should be long and elaborate."

(e) Horsemanship:-

As in paragraph (c) the care and preservation of his horse is a daily habit of the Light Horseman, and he will need to learn but little more than he already puts into practice as a matter of course.

(f) Scouting by Night:-

Men will need practice in observing things by night, for appearance and distance are very deceptive.

The hearing and sense of smell will come more into play and the scout should be able to direct his steps with the aid of the stars.

Seeing that scouting work is of such a specialist nature it requires much thought and constant practice if it is to be efficient.

Skill at arms prizes are offered annually and competed for amongst the various arms of the service, but I have not yet heard of trophies for scouting. Competitions might well be instituted for extended patrol work for, say, sections of Light Horse, covering 25 miles of country; and for individual scouts, given definite missions over a more limited area, and points allotted for headings similar to those above indicated.

Likewise when the troops are concentrated for manoeuvre annually, something might be clone in the direction of actual scouting, instead of the idle sending of disjointed d patrols in diamond formation along main roads 3 to 5 miles in advance of the main body, as usually happens.


Further Reading:

Brigade Scouts

The Light Horse

Australian Light Horse Militia

Militia 1899 - 1920

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Australian Light Horse, Some Features of Squadron Training, Arthur William Hutchin

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 15 December 2009 3:51 PM EAST
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
The Australian Light Horse, Squadron and Company Training by Major Duncan John Glasfurd
Topic: AIF - Lighthorse

The Australian Light Horse

Squadron and Company Training

Major Duncan John Glasfurd


Duncan John Glasfurd


The following Lecture called Squadron and Company Training was delivered by Major Duncan John Glasfurd, Director of Military Training, at the War Course, 28th May to 20th June, 1913. Subsequent to that, it was published in the Commonwealth Military Journal of January, 1914.

Glasfurd was considered to be a meticulous officer with a keen sense of humour. During the Great War he volunteered his services where he quickly rose to Brigadier General. Glasfurd was given command of the 12th Australian Infantry Brigade. On 12 November 1916 Glasfurd was wounded by shell-fire in Cheese Road while reconnoitring the trenches. After a ten-hour stretcher journey from the front line he died at the 38th Casualty Clearing Station at Heilly. 

Glasfurd, D, Squadron and Company Training, Military Journal, January 1914, pp 15 - 35.

Squadron and Company Training.

Training and Manoeuvre Regulations, section 4 (2) lays down that the training year should be divided into two periods, which will be devoted to

(i.) Individual training.

(ii.) Collective training.

Further on, in the same book, in section 4 (10, (12) and (13), suggestions are made in regard to the application of a similar method to the Territorial Force of Great Britain, the system of training of which somewhat resembles that of the Citizen Forces of the Commonwealth as regards the periods of "Home Training," and "Annual Continuous Training in Camp."

May I here suggest that this book, Training and Manoeuvre Regulations, deserves more attention than it usually gets, and that a study of Chapter 1 will do a lot to help you constantly to keep in view the ideal that all training should be "sound preparation for war."

If citizen troops are to derive full benefit from their annual continuous training in camp, we may take it that during the home training period they should complete their "individual training," and that troops of Light Horse and sections of Infantry should also be advanced so far in "collective training" that they can profitably take their places in their squadrons or companies in order that most of the time at camp may be devoted to squadron and company gaming in field operations.

In these remarks I propose to deal only with squadron and company training during the collective period, but before doing so I would like to point out how important it is that junior officers and non-commissioned officers should be trained during the "individual training period,'' so that they may be of some assistance in training the company when the "collective training period” comes on. I know it is very hard to arrange this, but a good deal could be done by introducing some "method" into the annual training programme of regiments, and it is certain that until a considerable improvement is made cm the present home training arrangements our Citizen Army will not be tuned up to the highest, pitch of which it is capable as regards lighting efficiency. General Haking gives some invaluable hints in "Company Training." This lecture is largely based upon his teaching.

It requires some skill on the part of the regimental officers to decide what to teach during the "individual" period, and what to teach during the "collective" period of training. It is difficult to draw any hard and fast line, but elementary work, which can be demonstrated to the men on the ground near their home training centres, should be selected for "individual" training - whereas subjects which require constant repetition on different types of ground should be allotted "collective" training period.

How is fighting efficiency arrived at nowadays?

In the Regular Army the old idea of turning a man into a machine by means of (1) steady drill, and (2) strict discipline has exploded, and the present system of training each individual's intelligence has taken its place. It is obvious that in a citizen army, it would be useless to attempt to turn men into machines.

(1) In a citizen army Drill must be regarded merely as a means to an end. We must not attempt to copy the precision of regular soldiers. Better results can be obtained at drill by short "bursts" of concentrated effort when all are made to work alertly and strictly “at attention," rather than by long periods of close order work at which, after a certain time, slackness is unavoidable. These "bursts" of concentrated effort "at attention" should always be made when falling in the company; in telling it off; in marching out of camp for a short distance; in marching into camp; and when dismissing. No matter how tired the men may be, officers should insist upon smartness on parade on these occasions at least, and on others too, if only for a short time.

(2) Good discipline really means that courage, respect, cheerfulness, comradeship, emulation, sense of duty, and, in fact, all good "moral" qualities which are favourable to success in war, have been improved by sound peace training; while fear, insubordination, and other undesirable characteristics nave been eliminated. I do not mean that training will make a coward into a brave man, but I do mean that the stock of courage possessed by the average man can be greatly improved by confidence in his leaders, in himself, and in his rifle and bayonet.

I am afraid I am taking a long time to approach the subject of helping you to initiate a sound system of company training, but war is made with men, and in order to get the best work out of different kinds of men, we must consider which of the different methods will produce the best results. Perhaps the best way to ensure good fighting qualities in the Australian Army is to teach it to "play the game" by building it up on a foundation of mutual confidence and respect. Confidence and respect are required on the part of the troops in the superior knowledge, skill, and ability of their leaders; and on the part of the leaders in the devotion of their troops and in their fitness to make the best use of their weapons.

In Training and Manoeuvre Regulations, section 36, under the head of "Collective Training," you will find "The training of the squadron, battery, and company forms the foundation of the efficiency of the Army."

Now, how are we to set about improving the progressive collective training of squadrons and companies at annual camps?

The first thing is to decide upon the best workable system, and the next thing is to explain that system to the brigade majors and citizen regimental officers, so that they can in turn teach their companies. Of course, you may be able to improve upon the system I suggest, but up to the present I have not found traces of any system at all in any of the camps I have attended. It is obviously quite impossible for anyone except regimental officers to train their companies, but it is our job to help them, and a great many need this help in regard to what to teach and how to teach their men.

The guiding principle is contained in the first sentence of Training and Manoeuvre Regulations:-

"Training is the preparation of the officer and the man for the duties which each will carry out in war."

It should be impressed on all ranks throughout, that the sole object of all training is to fit them for their duties in war. If our training is sound preparation for war, it is useful training. If it is not sound preparation for war, then the sooner we stop it and divert our energies into more useful channels, the better for our training.

It is a good thing, of course, to understand as much as we can of tactics - both of our own and other arms, and even of our own or other armies, and of our own and other days. Tactics is one of the subjects about which the more we know, the better; but also, it is a subject about which it is far better to know even a little about our own job thoroughly than a lot in a vague and hazy way about the generals' jobs.

So, I repeat that our job is to prepare for war, and that we have to start by learning our own job and by teaching our men to make the best use of their weapons in attack, defence, and service of security (which means sentry and patrolling duty and reconnaissance). Of course men should be able to understand a tactical operation, but this is best taught by a study of how to use their weapons in war.

Take Field Artillery Training, Yeomanry and Mounted Rifle Training, Engineer Training, or Infantry Training, and read the passage on the "Object and Method of Training." The passages are much the same in each of these books. Importance is laid upon:

Development of a soldierly spirit.

Training of the body.

Training in the use of weapons-drill, etc.

Training in technical subjects.

Suppose now that we were to go out to-morrow to train a company in attack or defence, or the service of security.

How are we to start our training?

First of all we must be quite sure of what we intend to teach, and we must think out beforehand what we intend to do. This means that we must start with some knowledge.

The next thing is to begin with a short, clear, and interesting lecture, say on the previous evening, or on the morning before going out, then follow this with demonstration on ground. So there are two forms of instruction

(i.) Lecture indoors.

(ii.) Demonstration.

First, with regard to lecturing. It is not easy, and most of us dislike it intensely; but it is necessary, so we must all make an attempt. First, we must know the subject - we must be clear as to what we intend to teach. If we start with these two essentials, it goes a long way towards gaining a certain amount of confidence which is required to put our knowledge into words. Study the Training Manuals carefully, study the ground before you work on it, and try to apply the book to the ground. Knowledge of principles can be obtained by a study of the Training Manuals, but, as these books are necessarily very condensed, the difficulty is to expand them into lectures. General Haking suggests that a good form of lecture or explanation is by means of question and answer based on Training Manuals. This is quite easy if you study the book and think. You are referred to "Company Training," by General Haking, in the Army Review, January, 1912, which was re-published in the Commonwealth Military Journal for March, 1912. This will explain the system, and show that a series of questions can be prepared without serious difficulty by any company commander. The points you have to think of are:

What is our object?

How are we going to set about it?

What is the first thing to do?

How will the ground affect this?

What is the next thing to do?

Why not do something else?

And then difficulties-suppose so and so-what then?

Do not be afraid of a question if you cannot answer it. Ask somebody who knows, but be sure to find the answer, so that you can satisfy your men if the same question should occur to them.

Now, as regards out-door instruction. Having cleared up the situation by means of a short lecture the previous evening, and by a few words. of reminder on the ground, and keeping the object clearly in view, you march your troops to the ground you have chosen.

It is a good thing - in fact it is essential to good instruction - to think out your work on the ground beforehand.

A great deal can be done if you get the men to teach themselves.

Suppose you are doing outposts. You can point out the position of the camp you are out to protect, and the direction of the enemy, and the position of the piquet, etc. Then take three men and let them choose their own sentry Posts, or fix the routes they would patrol. The rest of the company can look on and 'criticize-they will usually be good at criticism-it is pretty easy to criticize as a rule. But it rouses interest and makes them think. Then other men could, in turn, take up sentry posts; the advantages and disadvantages of each being discussed.

Time would not be wasted if the critics are in the meantime questioned as regards the “duties" of sentries, etc., as laid down in Field Service Regulations, or employed at visual training or judging distances in connexion with the scheme.

In the defence, the troops in turn might choose their own ground, always with a definite object in view.

Or, again, take instruction in attack. Suppose the company has been lectured on the subject and you are now on the ground. Place them in a fire position 900 yards from the enemy, and tell them they have to get forward t eater the enemy and establish fire superiority preparatory to assault. Remind them of the chief points:-

Rapid advance.

Halt for breath under cover.

While regaining breath re-charge magazine, adjust sights. As soon as they have got their breath rush forward to the best fire position.

Let each section do this over the same bit of ground, the others to point out faults. When each section has finished take the whole company over the ground slowly. Halt at the different fire positions and discuss the same.

Ask men definite questions as regards mistakes.

The subject of drawing up programmes of work is dealt with in a separate lecture, but it is desirable to point out here that while it is very necessary to provide instructive, interesting, and varied work, this can often be done by repetition on different ground rather than by changing the subject of instruction. One sometimes sees “attack and defence," or even “attack, defence and outposts" dealt with in one morning's work. This is not sound, for time is lost, and the men get confused in changing from one subject to another.

A whole morning, or even a whole day, can profitably be spent at “company in the attack," when different phases of the attack are demonstrated and the men shown how the same principles are applied on various types of ground.



  • Be quite clear regarding what you are going to teach.
  • Prepare your work so that you have knowledge and confidence.
  • Train for war.
  • Do not be satisfied with anything less than the best.
  • Instruction to be simple.
  • Do not train men in tactics; only in the use of their weapons in attack, defence and protection.

There are two forms of instruction

(i.) Lecture (prepared by means of questions based on Training Manuals).

(ii.) Demonstration on the ground (to follow lecture).

Get men to instruct themselves by demonstration and helpful constructive criticism.

Provide variety by repetition on different ground, rather than by changing the subject and using the same ground, which is probably unsuitable.

In conclusion, let me again recommend you to study “Company Training," by General Haking.


1. The above lecture was followed by three clays' practical work on ground near Sandringham in order to demonstrate a method of company training in attack, defence, and protection. 'The following notes were made during the course of the exercises, and it is hoped that they may prove of assistance to officers in training their units by means of the system referred to in the foregoing lecture. It is difficult for officers to train their men and, at the same time, to solve tactical problems on ground they have never seen before. It is essential, therefore, that they prepare their lectures and demonstrations on the lines given below, and then rehearse the exercises with their subordinate leaders before working them out with their men. For example, one Saturday afternoon might be spent in preparatory work, the following Saturday in rehearsing with the officers and non-commissioned officers; the actual work with the company being carried out on the third Saturday.

2. The first step is to choose the subject of instruction. As “Protection" is one of the special exercises for the year, we will choose “outposts."

3. The next step is to prepare a lecture, taking care that it must be short (ten minutes is enough), clear, and suited to the knowledge of those under instruction. General Haking gives some “questions and answers" in his book, “Company Training." These are produced in Appendix I., and another specimen lecture is given in Appendix II. Officers are recommended, however, to prepare their own lectures, because they learn a great deal by doing so.

4. Having explained the subject by means of a lecture one evening, we proceed on the following day to train our men by means of a demonstration on the ground. It is worth while repeating once more that we can only train our men by means of constant practice on the ground of the duties they will have to carry out in war. The outline of a scheme, which was actually worked out on the ground, will now be explained.



Reference Maps 1 and 2.


Map 1

[Click on map for larger version.]


Map 2

[Click on map for larger version.]


Map 2 NOTE:-

The detail given in these paragraphs should be summarized and Issued to the non-commissioned officers and men under instruction on typed or hectographed slips of paper.



During company training in outposts, we do not want to teach the men to solve tactical problems, but only how to make the best use of their weapons on outpost duty. Still we must have a small scheme.



A Western Force, in friendly country, is advancing against an Eastern Force.



A Western Detachment, strength as under, arrives at SANDRINGHAM at 2.00 p.m. 3rd June. A hostile detachment of about equal strength is known to be at DANDENONG.

Western Detachment—

Brigadier-General Jones Commanding.

Headquarters 1st Infantry Brigade. A Squadron 1st Light Horse.

1st Battery, Field Artillery; 1/3rd Artillery Bde. Ammn. Column. 1st Engineers (Field Company).

No. 2 Section, and Engineers (Signal Unit).

1st Infantry Brigade (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th infantry). and Company, 1st Divisional Train,

1st Field Ambulance.

There are no other troops, either friendly or hostile, within 25 miles. Brigadier-General Jones decides to halt for the night on arrival at SANDRINGHAM. The following instructions were issued while on the march.



Colonel Brown, Commanding 1st Infantry.

G. 27. 3rd. I intend to halt at SANDRINGHAM for the night. You will be O.C. outposts. A hostile detachment of about equal strength is at DANDENONG. Our Light Horse patrols are in touch with those of the enemy north of MORDIALLOC. There are no other bodies of troops, either friendly or hostile, within 25 miles. In case of attack, I intend to occupy the high ground which runs N. & S. astride BAY ROAD, about Y4 mile from the sea.

The detachment will bivouac on the open land about 900 yards N.E. of SANDRINGHAM Railway Station.

The outposts will consist of 1 troop 1st Light Horse and 1st Infantry, less 4 Companies. 2 Companies 1st Infantry will act as inlying piquet.

The outposts will be relieved when the advanced guard has passed through them about 7.o a.m. to-morrow.

(Signed) J. JONES, Br. Genl., Commanding Western Detached Force.

HAMPTON, 1.0 p.m.

5. On receipt of these instructions the outpost commander rode on ahead to make a personal reconnaissance; after which he issued his orders in accordance with Field Service Regulations, Part I, Section 78 (2).

6. On arrival at the rendezvous, the company was marched to point E, where its commander gave a brief summary of the chief points in the lecture already given.

The company was divided into sentry groups, piquets, support, reconnoitring patrols, and a detached post, each of these parties being only a few yards apart so that every man had a chance of seeing the other portions of the outpost company and of hearing the duties explained and the instructions issued. It should be made clear that this diagrammatic subdivision of the company is purely for instructional purposes.

7. The company commander at point E then explained the outpost commander's orders to his men as follows:-

(i.) Our detachment halts to-night, 3rd-4th June, near SANDRINGHAM. (and indicates point F on the ground). In case of attack the detachment will occupy the high ground astride BAY-ROAD north and south of point E, where we are now. A hostile detachment of about equal strength is at DANDENONG (over there. about 11 miles east). Our Light Horse patrols are in touch with those of the enemy about 5 miles east of here. There are no other bodies off troops, either friendly or hostile, within 25 miles.

It will be instructive, at this stage, for officers to write out the orders which would be issued by the officer commanding outposts, as well as by the commanders of any of the outpost companies.

(ii.) The outpost companies will occupy the general line from the sea (over there, near the end of BLUFF-ROAD) through the points A, B, and C (indicated on the ground), to a point over there, about J mile N. F. of HAMPTON STATION. Outpost mounted troops are out in front over there, furnishing standing patrols at road junctions along the POINT NEPEAN-ROAD.

(iii.) Our company is No. 3 outpost company, and is allotted the frontage A, B, I, from BAY-ROAD inclusive to HIGHETT-ROAD inclusive. The company is responsible that none of the enemy penetrate this section of the outpost line.

(iv.) In case of attack, the piquet line will be the outpost companies' line of resistance. The piquets will not retire without orders.

(v.) No traffic through the outpost line is allowed by night. No smoking is allowed after 6.o p.m., by which hour all fires are to be extinguished.

(vi.) The outposts will be relieved when the advanced guard passes through about 7.o a.m. to-morrow.

(vii.) I will be with the support.

8. The outpost company commander further explained to the men that their duty was, firstly, to watch for the enemy's approach and so provide against surprise, and secondly, to resist the enemy (should he advance) on the line A, B, I.

The degree of the resistance to be offered by the outposts must at all costs check the enemy on the line A, B, I, until the main body has had time to move from F and occupy the high ground north and south of E.

Our detachment will take about twenty minutes to assemble (see question 10, Appendix I.), and another twenty minutes to occupy the ridge; say, total, forty minutes.

Therefore, to be on the safe side, the outposts must check the enemy for three-quarters to one hour; and it may be necessary for us to sacrifice ourselves to gain this time to enable our commander to put his plan of action into effect. Our company must act in conjunction with the companies on both flanks.

9. When preparing the work, No. 3 outpost company commander decided to post three piquets (each of one section) and one support, as follows:

No. 1 Section: Piquet astride BAY-ROAD, near A.

No. 2 Section: Piquet near B.

No. 3 Section: Piquet astride HIGHETT-ROAD, near 1.

No. 4 Section: Support to be posted near D.

No. 4 Section is now told off as “covering party " preparatory to removing the remainder of the company to the ground allotted. No. 4 Section sent out three patrols (each of four men), the remainder of the section following as a support; it is not sound to scatter the whole covering party across the front in “daisy-chain" formation. The covering party, like even other body of troops. must be given clear instructions, which might run as follows:-

A 7. 3rd. Instructions for and Lieutenant Keene, i /c. covering party.

(i.) There is a hostile detachment near DANDENONG, about 11 miles east of here. Our Light Horse patrols are in touch with those of the enemy about 5 miles east of here. Our detachment halts at F (indicated), with outposts on the line A, B, C.

(ii.) Our company is No. 3 outpost company, and is responsible for the frontage A, B, I.

(iii.) Your mission is to prevent the enemy overlooking, or interfering with, the outposts until the piquets and sentry groups are posted.

(iv.) In case of attack you must delay the enemy as long as you can, and fight your way back to the piquet line.

(v.) Unless seriously attacked, you must hold your ground until recalled by me.

(vi.) You should go out at least as far as the road leading from G to K, but use your own judgment in carrying out your mission. (vii.) Reports to B.

(Signed) Z X, Captain, Commanding No. 3 Outpost Company.

Point E., 2.30 p.m

10. On active service, after the "covering party" had gone out, Nos. 1, 2, and 3 Sections would be sent, under their commanders, to their approximate piquet positions near A, B, and I. respectively. But for purposes of demonstration, the instructor carried out the work of posting each piquet in turn for the benefit of the whole company; part of the company being told to select their position as a piquet, the remainder being told to observe and being subsequently asked for their criticisms. The instructor then pointed out the advantages and disadvantages of the different positions selected, and decided which was the best, giving his reasons.

A piquet-post should be well concealed; it should have a good field of fire at close ranges; its flanks should be strong; it should not be easily surrounded; and it should support and be supported by the piquets on either flank.

The outpost company commander will confer with the commanders of the companies on his flanks, in order to arrange for this mutual support. The outpost company commander is responsible for placing the piquets, but the subalterns and non-commissioned officers should be trained in this duty.

11. A piquet has to find one or more sentry groups (to be relieved after eight to twelve hours' duty) ; sentry over piquet three reliefs; reconnoitring patrol-three reliefs (uncertain times) ; men to dig fire trenches and latrine trenches, as well as messengers and men for wood and water fatigue, cooking, &c. The piquet commander has to see that his men have ammunition, food, and water before they go on duty. The fighting efficiency of a piquet and the comfort of the men are both dependent upon the piquet being well organized. The following system of "telling off" a piquet has been found to work well. Suppose the piquet is a section at about war strength, say, twelve files, the following commands are given:

“Section, number. Files 1 to 3, under Corporal Smith, you are sentry group over there near G. Corporal, post the group. I will visit you in ten minutes' time.

The remainder of the section form the piquet.

Files 4 to 6 are first relief, under Sergeant Y. Files 7 to 9 are second relief, under Private O.

Files 10 to 12 are third relief, under Lance-Corporal P.

Second relief, stand fast. Remainder, four paces outwards close march.

Reliefs, number (each relief numbers 1, 2, 3).

Nos. 1 and 2 files of each relief-slope arms. You are reconnoitring patrols.

No. 3 front rank of each relief-slope arms. You are piquet sentries. No. 3 rear rank of each relief-slope arms. You are messengers or spare men.

The first relief will be on duty from now onwards for four hours (or two hours if troops are fatigued or by night).

The piquet is to remain ready for action, with accoutrements and rifles laid ready for use.

Order arms. Stand easy."

The advantage of this method is that each “relief” is a complete party, under its own commander, and the company commander knows at once where to look for the relief on duty.

The piquet commander then posts the piquet sentry; explains the orders and the duties of each man (see Appendix II., paragraphs 15 to 18), sends out the first relief reconnoitring patrol; makes cover (and sometimes "dummy" trenches); explains what to do in case of attack; practices falling in rapidly, so that all may know what to do and there may be no confusion; and tells off the various fatigue parties.

The above system is capable of modification. For example, if the piquet is weak, we will not be able to detail more than perhaps one sentry group of three men; or we might post a pair of sentries; or, in suitable country, the piquet sentry might do the work of a sentry group. Again, it may be advisable to find patrols from the supports. Remember there is no "formalism" about outposts; the arrangements made must be the best under the circumstances.

At this stage especially the company commander must depend upon his subordinate leaders to assist him in teaching the men.

12. For purposes of demonstration, some men were sent out from piquets A, B, and I to post themselves as sentry groups near G, H, and K, as described in paragraph 10. The instructor pointed out to the onlookers what was right and what was wrong; then a party of the onlookers repeated the exercise; and, finally, the instructor decided where the sentry posts ought to be, and why.

It was found that the question of mutual support and the enemy's lines of advance were not always sufficiently considered, and that the sentries' line of retreat often masked the fire of the piquet.

Piquets can sometimes be placed so as to extricate sentries by fire. The country near BAY-ROAD and HIGHTETT ROAD is close, and the view is restricted; so it would need to be thoroughly searched by patrols.

13. The handling of patrols, which needs thorough instruction and frequent practice, can only be briefly referred to here. A patrol leader must constantly ask himself: “What is my mission? Will this action help me to accomplish my mission? How am I to make certain that the news reaches my commander? Which is the best place to go to? What is the best way of getting there? What is the best formation under the circumstances? Where will the enemy expect to see a patrol? and so on.

While some of the men are being instructed as sentries or reconnoitring patrols, the remainder can observe and criticize, or they can be exercised in visual training and judging distance, or taught their duties with the piquet.

14. So far this article has dealt chiefly with day dispositions. It will, however, provide a whole afternoon's work as it stands, and perhaps enough has been written to explain this method of instruction.

There is a great deal to be learnt by this form of exercise. For one thing, one instructor cannot teach a whole company by himself; he must have trained subalterns and section commanders qualified to pass on correctly what they themselves have been taught.

Again, it is impossible to carry out this sort of systematic instruction unless the work has been carefully prepared and rehearsed on the ground. One cannot train one's men and make up one's scheme of work at the same time, as one goes along. Even when the work has been carefully prepared, it will improve every time it is repeated.

15. It is now proposed to deal briefly with a few points of general interest in connection with outposts. To begin with, it is essential to be quite clear regarding the objects to be attained by all protective troops. These are, firstly, by means of reconnaissance, to obtain timely warning of the enemy's proximity; secondly, by means of resistance, to ensure that the enemy is held off until the commander of the main body 'has time do put his plan of action into effect. This “plan" is not necessarily defensive. Our commander may intend' to attack the enemy, in which case the outposts must secure any tactical points which may assist the development of the attack of the main body. Each case must be dealt with according to circumstances. There are no fixed rules for outposts. Their strength, composition, and disposition vary by day and night according to the nature of the country, the proximity, strength, and characteristics of the enemy, and the plan of the commander. For instance, the distance between the sentry groups and piquets depends upon the facilities for observation, but should not usually exceed about a quarter of a mile. The distance between the other portions of the outposts depends upon the action if attacked; it is a good thing actually to practice reinforcing the piquets from the support, and so on. Again, the frontage allotted to outpost companies depends entirely upon circumstances; a company may find itself responsible for half a mile or more. The frontage allotted to sentries to watch should overlap.

16. It is often thought that the normal procedure is for the outposts to fight until the main body comes up to them, i.e., that the line of resistance of the outposts is usually the fighting position of the main body. Sometimes, especially with small forces, this may be the case. But it should be clearly understood that the line of resistance of the outposts is not necessarily the ground which the main body would hold in case of attack. This is made quite clear by a study of Field Service Regulations, Part I. (reprint 1912). In section 76 (2) it is stated that

“The distance of the outpost position from the main body it regulated by the time which the main body requires to prepare for action, and by the necessity of preventing the enemy's artillery from interfering with the freedom of movement of the main body."

Then, again, to comply with Field Service Regulations, section 78 (2) iv, the commander of the outposts should give detailed orders regarding "Dispositions in case of attack. Generally the line of resistance, and the degree of resistance to be offered;" i.e., by the outposts. It should be noted that the line of resistance by night does not necessarily coincide with the line adopted by day.

Field Service Regulations, section 79 (1) certainly states that "Retirements of advanced troops upon a line of resistance are dangerous, especially at night," but it will be seen the line o f resistance o f the outposts is here referred to.

In short, the outpost line of resistance must be selected with a view to obtaining sufficient time for the commander of the main body to put his plan of action into execution. This time can be obtained either by fighting a delaying action towards the main body, or by obstinate defence until the main body domes up to the outposts.



The following questions and answers on "Outposts" are extracted from “Company Training," by General Haking, a book which will prove of great assistance to regimental officers in training their men:

When two nations declare war against each other what action is taken by the opposing armies?

They usually march towards each other.

Do they meet and fight the first day!

No, they have to march several days before meeting.

What do they do at night?

They halt and the troops go into billets or bivouac, and the men go to sleep.

Is it safe for all the men to go to sleep?

No, because the enemy might surprise them when they were asleep, they would not be ready to fight, and they would be defeated.

Must all the men stay awake?

No, because if they did the army would get no rest, and after two days or so they would be completely worn out by marching without sleep, and would be unable to keep awake or to fight when the enemy was met.

How many men must stay awake?

We shall he able to answer that question more definitely later on, meanwhile it is sufficient to say that the army does not take very long to get ready to fight, and small bodies of men posted in good places between the army and the enemy can delay the enemy's advance long enough to enable the main body, who have been asleep, to get ready for battle.

How long does it take for a force to get ready for battle?

That depends greatly upon the size of the force. Suppose the company came in here last night after a long march in the enemy's country, and slept in these barracks, or bivouacked on the barrack square, with their rifles, ammunition, kit, etc., alongside each man, it would not take the company more than a few minutes to turn out and attack any enemy that came along.

How long would it take the whole battalion to turn out and get ready to fight?

It would take longer because there are several companies to be got into proper formation for fighting. A battalion in battle takes up a wider front than a single company, and consequently the flank men have further to go to get into their proper positions.

The space occupied by a battalion should be compared on the blackboard with that occupied by a company.

How long does it take for a brigade to get ready?

Still longer, because there are four battalions, and when the brigade is deployed for battle it naturally takes up much more room than one battalion, and so it goes on to a division and an army. The larger the force the longer it takes to get ready to fight, either when it is halted during a march or when it is assembled in bivouac.

How long in actual time would it take for a company to turn out?

Suppose we were all asleep, and everybody knew exactly what he had to do and where he had to go if the enemy attacked, it would not take us more than five minutes to put on our accoutrements, charge our magazines, and deploy outside the bivouac. It would take a battalion about ten minutes, a brigade fifteen to twenty minutes, and a division, with all its artillery from three-quarters of an hour to an hour.

Is the force in a good place for fighting directly it has deployed outside the bivouac?

That depends entirely upon the nature of the ground round the bivouac. Some ground might be suitable and other ground might be very bad. For example, a force very often bivouacs in a valley where there is plenty of water to be found for the men and horses, but a valley would not be a good place to commence a fight, because a valley has hills or rising ground on each side of it. If the enemy gets on to that rising ground he will be able to see everybody in the valley and shoot them, whilst the people in the valley will only be able to see the rifles of the enemy being fired over the crest of the ridge, and can see very little of the men who are using those rifles or of the enemy's troops that are in support or reserve.

Draw on the blackboard a section of a valley showing the troops who have deployed close to their bivouac engaging the enemy who have deployed a firing line along the crest of the opposite ridge.

What are we to do to prevent this?

It is absolutely necessary for our main body, or the greater part of it, to occupy the ridge in proper fighting formation before our outposts are driven back over it. It is clear, therefore, that more time is required than at first appeared necessary, because the force has not merely to wake up, put on its accoutrements, saddle or harness the horses and deploy close to the bivouac, it has also to march to the ridge, and the time taken over that operation depends upon the distance of the ridge from the bivouac.

Suppose there is no ridge close by, what is to be done then?

The ground must be either perfectly flat, when the enemy would have no advantage over us, or else there must be some hill or commanding ground within rifle or artillery range of the bivouac.

Suppose there is such a hill, how is it to be dealt with?

If it commands the bivouac, and the enemy could get guns on to it at night and shell the bivouac as soon as it was light enough to see, we must either move the position of our bivouac or occupy the hill with outposts to prevent the enemy getting hold of it.

How far off can the artillery shell the bivouac?

They can do it easily at a distance of two and a half miles.

Are we to send out outposts two and a half miles away from the bivouac?

That depends a good deal upon the size of the force. If it is a small force it does not take up much room in bivouac, and can easily be hidden, and then this distant point could be lift unguarded. With a large force, which takes a long time to get ready for battle, the outposts being nearly three miles away would be an advantage, because if the enemy were to attack in strength it would take him a longer time to drive the outposts back three miles than it would a shorter distance.

Is it a good thing always to but the outposts as far away as possible?

No, because the further the outposts are sent away from the bivouac the greater is the number of men who are required to occupy the outpost position, and who, consequently, are deprived of their night's rest.

Why does it take a larger number of men?

Draw on the blackboard one semi-circle of outposts a mile away from the bivouac and another semi-circle two miles away, and show that if the posts in each case were about the same distance apart, as they would have to he, double the number of posts would be required for the further position, and, in consequence, double the number of men.

What have we learnt so far?

1. That whenever a force halts for any length of time it must be protected by small detachments placed between it and the enemy, so that the main body may have plenty of time to get ready to fight before the enemy is upon them. These detachments are called outposts.

2. That them outposts must not he composed of more men than is absolutely necessary, so that as many men as possible may have a good night's rest.

3. That the outposts must prevent the enemy from occupying the ground near the bivouac which his been selected as most suitable for the main body to hold at the commencement of the fight if the enemy attacks.

4. That the outposts must occupy any ground whence the enemy could fire into the bivouac.

The next question that arises naturally in our mind is how are these outposts arranged?

Before answering this question let us hate a clear idea of what we wanted to do.

1. We want to gain information as early as possible regarding the approach of any hostile force.

2. We want to ascertain whether that force only consists of a few scouts who could do no harm to the main body or whether it is a serious attack.

3. We want to prevent hostile scouts from gaining any information about the strength or position of our main body.

4. We must delay the advance of a large hostile force until our main body has had time to get ready to attack and defeat it.

How are we going to gain information?

If you have made an appointment to meet a young lady at 5 o'clock in the afternoon, you go to the place arranged, and if she is late, as she generally is, you look in the direction you expect her to come from. The enemy is not so pleasant to meet, but you treat him in exactly the same manner. Men, called sentries, are posted all along the front watching every direction from which the enemy could come, so as to give immediate warning of his approach.

How far can a sentry see to his front?

That depends partly upon his eyesight, but chiefly upon the nature of the ground. In almost every kind of country the view is restricted by trees, hills, farm-buildings, villages, hedges, &c. In some places it is difficult, if not impossible, to find a place for a sentry where he cab see for more than 50 or 100 yards. In such a case the enemy can get very close to the sentry without being observed.

How do we get over this difficulty?

We send out small parties of two or three men to scout forward beyond the sentry, and examine any ground the sentry cannot see. These small parties are called patrols.

How often are they sent out?

That depends upon the amount of ground in front which the sentry cannot see. If there is a good deal of such ground the patrols would have to go out at least once every two hours by day, and even more frequently at night. As a rule, however, by day ground which cannot be seen by one sentry can be watched by another sentry on the flank of the first.

How is this managed at night when the sentry can only see a short distance in front of him?

Although a sentry cannot see far at night it is equally difficult for the enemy in large bodies to move across country in the dark, and consequently when the country is intersected by woods, hedges, streams, &c., the enemy are compelled to keep to the roads and tracks. If sentries are placed well forward on these roads, they can give sufficient warning of the enemy's approach. When it is possible for the enemy to move off the roads or tracks it is essential that a frequent system of patrolling should he maintained.

How are we going to prevent the enemy's scouts from getting past our sentries and ascertaining the position and strength of the main body?

The scout in war does not walk through sentry lines in the same bold manner that he adopts in peace operations. Nevertheless there is always a possibility that stray scouts may get through the outposts by night. Even if they do it is not easy for them to get any definite information as to the strength of the main body, and they cannot do the main body any harm; furthermore, they must get back again before daylight, or they are almost certain to he captured. It would deprive too many men of their night's rest to place sentries so close together as to render it impossible for a very daring hostile scout to get through, and it is a risk which must be accepted.

How are the sentries to ascertain whether the enemy consists of a few men, who could not hurt the main body, or a large force?

If there are only a few men they will be likely to do their best to avoid the sentry-they are out to get information, not to drive in the outposts. It will be seen later, however, when we discuss the question of delaying the enemy if he advances in strength, that the resistance which must be offered by the outposts will disclose the strength of the enemy.

How are we going to delay the enemy?

The sentry cannot stop or even delay a large hostile force for more than a minute or two, because they can get round his flanks and cut off his retreat. In order to delay the enemy we require a stronger force, called a piquet' which is posted somewhere in the rear of the sentry, and which can bring a heavy fire to bear on the enemy if he advances and compel him to deploy a much larger force than the piquet. This will take some time, and it will take still longer for this hostile force to gain superiority of fire over the piquet, or to rush it successfully with the bayonet. It will take the enemy still longer to work round the flanks of the piquet, especially at night, and endeavour to cut off its line of retreat.

What sort of place should we choose for posting the piquet?

Some locality where there is a good field of fire in the direction from which the enemy is most likely to advance, and where there is no other place close by, especially on a flank, which commands the ground occupied by the piquet, and which the enemy could occupy and thence fire into the picquet.

Would such a position be suitable by night as well as by day?

The field of fire by night is always very restricted, because the men cannot see, so that the importance of commanding ground is not so great. In fact, a better fire position can frequently be selected on low ground looking up over the crest of a rising slope in front, with the sky as a background. On the darkest nights figures moving over the sky-line can be observed at a considerable distance, whereas, if the position selected is on the top of a hill the only view is into a valley where everything is shrouded in pitch darkness.

If the suitability of a position by day does not agree with that by night, will it be necessary to change the position of the piquet?

Yes; and there is another reason why it is desirable to change the position of the piquet by night. The enemy may have been able to discover its position during daylight, and he may have made plans to attack it during the night. If, when he advances, he finds that the position of the piquets has been changed. It will come as a surprise to him, and his plans will be upset.

When changing the position of the piquet to a locality suitable for outposts by night is it usual to draw it back or establish it further forwards?

It is best to send it further forward for two reasons. First, the enemy will come across it before he expected to meet with any opposition; and, secondly, the sentry is usually much further away from the piquet by day than he is by night. He is generally on high ground by day where he can get a good view, but this is not a good place for observation by night, because he has no sky-line to look over. It would be a mistake to give up this ground to the enemy, and consequently the sentry is pushed still further forward; which means that the piquet must also be moved forward so as to close up to the sentry.

Are the piquets and sentries always moved forward at night?

No, it depends a great deal upon the ground. If the country is very close and it is practically impossible for large forces of the enemy to move off the roads or tracks, or if there is a river in front of the piquet, its flanks are then secured by the impassable nature of the country, and it is only necessary to arrange for a heavy fire towards the only approach the enemy can select, namely, the track through the close country or the bridge across the river.

Is it possible to lay down any exact rules as to the selection, of the position for a piquet or a sentry?

No, because the ground is never the same, and a position which is suitable in one locality is quite unsuitable in another. We shall see, however, when we come to study the details of sentry and piquet work that there are a few general rules or principles which can be applied with some certainty in definite types of country which we are likely to meet, and these principles will be of great use to us when we are deciding what to do.

How long is the piquet to delay the enemy?

As already stated, that depends upon the size of our force and the distance it is from its fighting position outside the bivouac. In any case the piquet must put up a very serious resistance, and be prepared even to sacrifice itself, if it is necessary, for the safety of the whole force. For this reason piquets are very carefully entrenched, obstacles are made in front, and bushes, trees, and hedges which interfere with the field of fire are cut down.

How are the companies arranged on the ground so as to provide these piquets?

It is usual to allot a certain front of ground to one company, with other companies to its flanks until the whole outpost position is carefully guarded. These companies are called outpost companies. Sometimes, owing to the nature of the country in front, one piquet is sufficient for each outpost company, sometimes two are necessary, and sometimes three.

If one Outpost company has to find three piquets, and another outpost company only one piquet, will not the strength of the piquets vary considerably?

Each piquet generally consists of one section. The officer commanding a company finding three piquets would endeavour to make each piquet even smaller than one section, so as to retain in his hand a strong support which could reinforce any particular piquet which is being heavily attacked. The company which is furnishing only one piquet will be placed at some very important locality, which the enemy is very likely to attack.

In such a case would any difference be made at night?

It is better, if possible, at night to avoid any movement of reinforcements, because contusion is likely to result. The reinforcements come up in the dark, they may not know exactly where to go to, and they may arrive too late to prevent the piquet from being driven back.

What is the best plan to adopt at night when there is only one piquet?

It is better to place the whole company in the spot selected for the piquet, so as to avoid any movement when the enemy attacks.


Appendix II.

Specimen Lecture on Outposts, Suitable For Company Training.

1. Every body of troops, whether at rest or on the march, must protect itself against surprise. The troops detailed for this duty of protection to a force at rest are called “outposts."

2. When a force is on the march, it is protected by advanced, flank, and rear guards, and these protective troops are relieved by the outposts after arrival in camp.

3. The O.C. force details an officer to command the outposts, and gives him the necessary troops for the purpose; these troops are called “outpost mounted troops" and "outpost companies." The O. C. outposts allots to each outpost company a definite section of ground for which it is responsible. It is a point of honour with every outpost company that no enemy is allowed to penetrate the section of the outpost line for which it is responsible.

4. We will now consider the action of one of these outpost companies, and imagine that there are similar companies on our right and left. This will give us an idea of how a force at rest is protected in war.

5. Having received his instructions, the outpost company commander marches his company with proper precautions (i.e., he sends out scouts or patrols to make sure the country is clear of the enemy) to the ground he is to occupy.

Before he reaches his position, he halts the company under cover, sends out a “covering party," and himself goes forward to reconnoitre. The covering party usually consists of patrols (three to six men), followed by a support, whose duty it is to prevent the enemy from interfering with, or overlooking, the outpost line while it is being posted. The commander of an outpost company has to remember that he is responsible for protecting the men resting in camp. He must guard against surprise, and if he is attacked he must fight hard in order to gain time for the main body to turn out, so that the commander of the force may put his plan of action into effect.

6. So you see that the outposts have a double duty: firstly, reconnaissance or watching the enemy so that he cannot make a move without being detected secondly, resistance, or checking the advance of the enemy until the main body is ready to fight.

7. Keeping these two duties in mind, the commander of the outpost company first selects his line of resistance, that is to say, the line he intends his company to hold if attacked. As the company must' be prepared to make a protracted resistance, they must have a good field of fire and he concealed from view, for one of the first principles of outpost work is to see and hear without being seen or heard. In choosing this line of resistance, the commander of an outpost company must consult the commanders of the companies on both flanks, so as to arrange for mutual supporting fire, and make certain that no ground is left unwatched or unprotected.

8. The next thing is to select the outpost company's line of observation, and to decide on the number of sentry groups to be employed. If observation is difficult we must use reconnoitring patrols to search the ground we cannot see. Reconnoitring patrols are given a definite task, told when to go out, when to return, and their approximate route. The conduct of reconnoitring patrols is an art in itself, and will be dealt with separately. Standing patrols are sometimes employed to watch certain approaches in front of the outpost line. Their du y is chiefly observation. They are not often used by Infantry, but standing patrols of mounted troops or cyclists are most useful.

9. Having done all this, the outpost company commander goes back and chooses the position for his supports, and then he is ready to bring his troops on to the ground they are to occupy.

10. Now, you see that an outpost company is divided as follows:


Force Protected by Outposts


It must be clearly understood that this diagram is merely an example. The placing of outposts depends entirely on the features of the country and the nature and proximity of the enemy. There must be no “formalism."

There is sometimes a reserve to the outposts; when there is no reserve an "inlying piquet" takes its place.

Reconnoitring patrols can be provided from either the piquets or supports; their duty is to search the country in front of the outposts or to watch the enemy.

Detached' posts are sometimes used in case of necessity to watch important places. They act similarly to piquets.

Usually the sentry groups consist of from three to six men under a non-commissioned officer or old soldier. One of these men is always on the watch, while the others lie close to him so that he can arouse them (by a gentle kick, perhaps) at a moment's notice. The advantage of this system is that the sentry has his “mates" close beside him, and should he fancy he hears or sees anything he can at once arouse them to verify his suspicions. Moreover, the sentry can be relieved every two hours without causing the movement of parties, which might be seen by the enemy's scouts.

It is not always necessary to have sentry groups in front of the piquets, for sometimes the piquet sentry can see all that is required from the piquet itself. The main thing is to provide for efficient observation.

Communication must be maintained at all times between all parts of an outpost position.

11. It is clear that these little sentry groups are not strong enough to resist the enemy in case of attack; they are only intended to detect his advance.

12. The duty of resistance usually falls on the piquet, which consists of a party, very often a section," under an officer or a non-commissioned officer. The piquets provide the reliefs of the sentry groups.

13. As no one knows where the attack will come from, it is usually best for each outpost company commander to keep a support which can be sent, on emergency, to any part of his line which is in need of assistance. The outpost company commander chooses the place for the support and gives its commander instructions regarding the degree of readiness to be maintained, as he does for the other fractions of the 'outpost company.

14. When these arrangements have been completed, the piquets march to their places, covered by scouts of course, and taking care they are well concealed, for it is very important that the enemy should not be able to "mark down" the positions of any part of the outposts. On arrival at the selected spot orders are issued, the piquet is "told off” into reliefs, and sentry groups are posted.

15. Every man on piquet should know the direction of the enemy, the positions of the next piquets and of the support, what he is to do in case of attack by day or by night, whether there are any mounted troops in front. The piquet sentry must look out for signals from group sentry, look out for signals from piquets on right or left, warn piquet in case of alarm or suspicious occurrence, allow no noise or straying from the piquet. Orders will also be issued on the subject of ranges, land marks, sanitation, smoking, lighting fires, and cooking.

16. Commanders of sentry groups must know that no one other than troops on duty, prisoners, deserters, and flags of truce will be allowed to pass through the outposts either from within or from without, except with the authority of the commander who details the outposts or of the commander-in-chief. Inhabitants with information will he blindfolded and detained at the nearest piquet pending instructions, and their information sent to the commander of the outposts. It will often be necessary to harden our hearts when dealing with inhabitants. (See also Notes, para. 7 (v).

On the approach of a flag of truce, the party composing it will be halted at such distance as to prevent any of them overlooking the posts, and will be detained until instructions are received from the outpost company commander. If permitted to pass the outposts, the individuals bearing it will be blindfolded and led under escort to the commander of the outposts. If the flag of truce bears a letter or parcel, it must be received by the commander of the outpost company, who will give a receipt, and instantly forward it to head-quarters. No conversation, except by permission of the commander of the outposts, is to be allowed on any subject.

17. Sentries must know the position of the sentries on their right and left, the position of the piquet and of any detached posts in the neighbourhood, the ground they have to watch, how to deal with persons approaching their posts the names of all villages, rivers, &C., in view and the places to which roads and railways lead, the ranges of points to the front.

Sentries must be alert and watch for the enemy and for signals from our own troops; they will give the alarm by message, not by firing, unless absolutely necessary.

A sentry will immediately warn his group of the approach of any person or party. When the nearest person is within speaking distance, the sentry will call out "Halt," covering him with his rifle. The group commander will then deal with the person or party according to the instructions received by him. Any person not obeying the sentry or attempting to make off after being challenged, will be fired upon without hesitation.

18. Except when challenging as above, no one is allowed to speak to persons presenting themselves at the outpost line except the commanders of the nearest piquet and outpost company, who should confine their conversation to what is essential, and the commander of the outposts. Prisoners and deserters will be sent at once, under escort, through the commander of the outpost company, to the commander of the outposts.



A sketch of this description is very useful for teaching young officers and non-commissioned officers elementary map reading and field sketching. It can be reproduced from survey maps by means of wax sheet or hectograph. The class can be instructed to fill in detail of tactical importance on the ground, and by this method they will learn more in a limited time than they would if they set out to make a sketch in the first instance. All officers should be able to make a rough field sketch, to enlarge a map, and fill in detail of tactical importance, but elaborate mapping with special instruments should be left to experts.



Further Reading:

Western Australian Mounted Infantry 

10th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF

The Light Horse

Australian Light Horse Militia

Militia 1899 - 1920

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Australian Light Horse, Squadron and Company Training by Major Duncan John Glasfurd

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 16 December 2009 4:59 PM EAST
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Web Sites of Interest
Topic: A Latest Site News

Web Sites of Interest


Below is a list of web sites that  might be of further interest.


Biographical Research Links
Useful Links

Genealogical Links

1. NSW Births and Deaths Records Search

2. Victorian Births and Deaths Records Search

3. Australian Cemeteries

4. England- 1901 Census

5. Scotlands People

6. Society of Australian Genealogists


Other Links

Families and Friends of the First AIF


Military History Society

Military History Society, Victoria Branch

The Charge at the Nek, Gallipoli - 7th August 1915 - Presented by Jeff Pickerd, MHSA Victoria Branch. 

The Rifle Club Movement and Australian Defence 1860-1920, Andrew Kilsby 



Citation:  Web Sites of Interest

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 30 October 2009 10:48 PM EADT
Monday, 26 October 2009
The Australian Light Horse, The Bayonet for Mounted Riflemen by GGA
Topic: AIF - Lighthorse

The Australian Light Horse

Bayonet for Mounted Riflemen





 9th Australian Light Horse Regiment "On Manoeuvres" with bayonets in hand.

[Schramm Photograph Album]

[Click on photograph for a larger version.]


The following item penned by "GGA" called The Bayonet for Mounted Riflemen details the use to which the bayonet may be used in the hands of a Light Horseman. It is most prescient in content laying the intellectual ground work for the famous charge at Beersheba by the 4th Light  Horse Brigade some three years after publication in the Military Journal in January 1914.

The identity of GGA is possibly Gerald Gleeson Ayliffe who had been a trooper in the South Australian Mounted Rifles, Active No.1 Squadron where he rose through the ranks. Ayliffe was given a commission with the 5th South Australian Imperial Bushmen, 28 February 1901. He served in South Africa till the end of the war. Ayliffe remained with the Light Horse retaining the Honorary Rank of Lieutenant. The essay encapsulates his experience in South Africa.

GGA, The Bayonet for Mounted Riflemen, Military Journal, January 1914, pp. 135 - 140.


The Bayonet for Mounted Riflemen


In dealing with this question it is important first to come to a clear understanding; as to what we mean by a mounted rifleman. The question of mounted rifle tactics is here dealt with on the distinct understanding that a mounted rifleman is a good horseman and horse master, equal to the cavalryman in these respects, and that he fights on foot and not mounted. He is not a cavalryman, as we understand the word, and he is not a mounted infantryman.

As regards his action when mounted, the question of fire from the saddle was discussed at Bloemfontein in 11912 between Boer and British officers; it was suggested as an occasional method to meet special conditions, rather than put forward as a tactical practice. The so-called "mounted rifle charge," by which occasional success has been attained, was shown as a rule to have been a rapid gallop for a fire position close to an enemy taken unawares, especially in the cases where success was achieved. After peace trials in South Africa the bayonet was proved quite unsuitable as a weapon for use when mounted.

In this article it is proposed to consider the question whether the mounted rifleman should be armed with the bayonet, for use on foot only, and the conclusions arrived at are based upon the discussions at Bloemfontein referred to above.

Partly in order to encourage the offensive spirit, and partly to make full use of the moral and material effects which are produced by cold steel, the cavalryman is armed with the sword or lance, the infantryman with the bayonet. The cavalryman makes full use of the momentum of his horse, is taught to press home his attack mounted, and is armed with an arme blanche suitable for this purpose and for no other. The infantryman is taught to get to close grips with his enemy on foot, and is equipped accordingly. Mounted riflemen-those of them at all events who are trained on a citizen basis, and only for short annual periods-are not taught mounted shock tactics, nor are their horses trained for the purpose, or suited to such training. The question arises whether they should be- taught ever to press their attacks h(-me on foot and use the bayonet as infantry are taught to do.

Let us consider first the essential tactical difference between the two arm, that do their fighting on foot, the mounted rifleman and the infantryman. This difference is due to the greater mobility of the former, which he owes entirely to his horse. To retain this mobility it is essential that his horse shall be readily available for his use when he requires it. To fulfil this condition the horses must usually be mobile, especially in the attack, and for this to be the case it is necessary to have one horse holder out of every four mounted riflemen. For a given strength, in these circumstances, 25 per cent of fire effect is lost with mounted riflemen, as compared with infantry. A commander of mounted riflemen, if he wants to obtain the full effect of his arm, must use its mobility to its full extent, and he mast think constantly, not only of the positions of his men, but also of the positions of his led horses.

In view of the fact that full tactical use can only be made of this mobility where freedom to manoeuvre is unfettered, it will be as well to consider our question under two definite headings

I. - Freedom of manoeuvre unlimited.

II. - Freedom of manoeuvre limited for one side or the other, either by the nature of the country, or by the mission which the force is required to carry out.


I. - Freedom of Manoeuvre Unlimited.


(a) In the Attack.

In the attack by daylight we see at once how difficult it is for mounted riflemen, who are advancing on foot, to have their horses constantly close to them. Masses of horses afford a large and conspicuous target for guns and rifles, cover for them is difficult to find, and this difficulty increases as the defended position is approached. The defenders, on the other hand, can usually have their horses under cover not far front the firing line. For these reasons it seems highly improbable that mounted riflemen, advancing for long distances on foot, will have much chance of getting home with the bayonet against well handled enemies in a defensive position. Rather than await such attack, it would be open for the defenders to mount rapidly, make use of the superior mobility thus assured, out-manoeuvre the dismounted attackers, and either pour a heavy fire upon them from some fire position or, a flank, or shoot down their horses and so destroy their mobility once for all.

The foregoing remarks apply to attacks in daylight by mounted riflemen upon mounted riflemen, and not upon infantry. Infantry, on account of their inferior mobility, cannot occupy as extended a front in proportion to their numbers as can mounted riflemen. It is open to the latter either to manoeuvre the infantry out of their position by seizing fire positions on their flank, or, if no such positions are available, to outflank the infantry and even to surround them. With plenty of time available, a force of mounted riflemen adopting these surrounding tactics has practically a certainty of defeating, in a country like South Africa at all events, a slightly inferior force of infantry. They kill, moreover, be able to do so with a minimum of loss to themselves, and they will not require the bayonet for the purpose. On the other hand, if time is limited owing to the defenders expecting reinforcements from elsewhere, or for other reasons, a superior force of mounted riflemen, which does not succeed in ousting infantry from a position by manoeuvre and fire action alone, must then fight as infantry fight, and be taught, as infantry are taught, to get home with the bayonet. With good troops on both sides the attackers will require greatly superior numbers for the purpose. When the full use has been made of the horses to enable the mounted riflemen to deliver their attack from the most effective direction, then it is improbable that further use can be made, in this instance, of superior mobility. As the horses need no longer be mobile, most of the horseholders can be in the firing line. Unless they go there, the mounted riflemen will lose 25 per cent of fire effect and of impetus for their bayonet charge.

For night attacks the bayonet should be of use in all cases. Owing to restricted view the fire of the defenders cannot be as effective as by day, so the approach mounted can be closer. Surprise, as we all know, is a dominating factor, and the silence and secrecy of the bayonet in skilled hands makes it above all others the most effective weapon to employ. Furthermore, its use, as compared with rifle fire minimizes the chances of killing friends instead of foes.


(b) In the Defence.

We can now consider the use of the bayonet by mounted riflemen who are, for same purpose or other, occupying a defensive position-freedom of manoeuvre being complete for both sides. In such circumstances, when considering the attack, we saw that, in most cases, the defending mounted riflemen could operate most effectively by waiting until the attackers had lost mobility by leaving their horses at a distance, and then mount under cover and make full use of their own mobility to out-manoeuvre their opponents.

Should this course be impossible for some reason or other, and should the attackers succeed in creeping so close that the defenders are unable to get to their horses, then again we find a use for the bayonet by mounted riflemen. A bayonet charge by the defenders may be the most effective, or even the only way to save the situation, This subject will be treated at greater length when considering the case where freedom to manoeuvre is limited for one or both sides.

As regards defence of a position by night, the defenders will be especially anxious to prevent rather than to ensure, secrecy regarding the development of an attack. The free use of rifle fire will, therefore, be less open to objection, and the bayonet perhaps less important for this reason. At the same time, the advantage of being better able to distinguish friend from foe when using this weapon holds good in this as in the former case.

II. - Freedom of Manoeuvre Limited.

Before proceeding farther, it seems desirable again to impress the point that, so far, we have only been considering the tactics of the mounted rifleman whose, freedom of manoeuvre is unlimited. We had an example of this in the case of the Boer forces in some of the phases of the South African War. They could rove at will over wide and sparsely populated country, giving or refusing battle at their will, and making full use of their mobility to arrange sudden combinations, and to strike sudden and unexpected blows. They were good horsemen who had spent their lives in the saddle, and good individual rifle shots. It was under these conditions that armed with the rifle only, they made their world-wide reputation. But even in that war it was not on all occasions that freedom of manoeuvre was complete. The forces investing Ladysmith, for instance, were tiled to the vicinity of that place when attacked by the British relieving forces, and it is not difficult to imagine somewhat similar cases in which one side or the other will be unable to manoeuvre at will in wars fought in other countries, and wen in South Africa itself.

A force of mounted riflemen may have its movements limited by the fact that it is only a comparatively small portion of a very large force which shuts it in on both flanks. The mission of mounted riflemen may be to press forward and interfere with mobilization, demolish bridges or other facilities for movement of troops and stores, and so forth. Such objectives may be guarded by small bodies of infantry, or even of mounted troops, who are obliged to stand their ground n order to carry out their mission. It is not difficult to conceive a number of similar examples of cases in war in which mounted riflemen - defined as “good horsemen, armed with rifles, who fight on foot" - would find that their freedom of manoeuvre was limited. In fact, it would hardly be going too far to say that such conditions represent the average, rather than the exceptional, case in war generally.

We now come to the question whether, in such circumstances, mounted riflemen require rifles only, or whether they should have bayonets and be carefully trained in their use.

(a) In the Attack.

Let us again consider the attack first. In discussions with some of our most distinguished opponents in the late war, the point has frequently been made that, by creeping under cover to close range, bodies of Boers on some occasions succeeded, using rifle fire alone, in driving good infantry out of defended positions. They did this by skilful use of cover, creeping up to within few yards, and picking off every defender who showed his head to fire. As these examples provide a very strong argument in favour of equipping mounted riflemen with the bayonet for use when acting on the defensive, it is not necessary to answer the point at this stage; it will be referred to later. In considering the attack generally, it seems sufficient to note that, when mounted riflemen are fighting under conditions which prevent the tactical application of their superior mobility, then they have lost the factor--mobility-which distinguishes them from infantry. They must fight as infantry fight. Wide experience, drawn not from one; special example, but from wars over all parts of the world, has taught the lesson that infantry require bayonets as well as rifles, and if this is the case then mounted riflemen, fighting as infantry, require the same amount when pressing home an attack.

(b) In the Defence

Turning now to the question of the defensive, with freedom of manoeuvre limited, we can adopt the same argument. Our tactical instructions for infantry impress, as strongly as anything can be impressed, the importance of the use of the bayonet by defenders of a position, both as a means of meeting assaulting troops, and as a means of carrying out local counter-attacks to force an enemy to throw his reserves into his firing line.

But let us consider at greater length the examples, referred to above, where Boer mounted riflemen succeeded, by rifle fire alone, in wresting positions from good infantry. On investigating these cases, it will be found that positions so captured were most of them on the skyline of steep, rocky hills or kopjes. Such positions are, of course, very weak ones, because they do not provide a good field of fire. They afford a view of the low ground a few hundred yards away, but no view at all of the steep, rocky slope immediately at the defenders' feet. Attackers who succeed in reaching the foot of such steep slopes are practically safe from rifle fire, unless flanking fire can be provided, which is seldom possible. Such attackers can creep up to very close range, even within 8 or 10 yards, and then be concealed and wait till a defender's head shows on the skyline. The result is obvious. The defender has to peer about for some time for his enemy, who spots him at once and shoots first. But what is the solution from the defender's point of view? There seems to be only one alternative to “Hands up," and that is to form behind the skyline, charge over it, and hurl the attackers down the slope, bayoneting those that hesitate about leaving. Numerous examples can be quoted of the success of such tactics. Waggon Hill suffices as a case in point.

It may be advanced that a weak skyline position of this nature should never be held, and that all positions should have a clear and continuous field of fire, extending from the firing line itself for many hundred yards. Desirable as this may be in theory, it is seldom attainable in practice, and although sometimes possible with small forces, it is seldom possible with very large ones. Nearly all extended positions have weak points in them.


With complete freedom to manoeuvre for both sides, it does not seem pi that mounted riflemen will find as much use as infantry do for the beyond forces are not too unwieldy because of their size, then the mobility of m riflemen affords them effective means of dealing with enemies who leave, horses and attempt long advances on foot. On the other hand, even with complete freedom to manoeuvre, uses can be found for the bayonet, especially night.

Where for some reason the power of manoeuvre is limited by the ground, by the situation of neighbouring forces, or by the mission entrusted to the troops, then mounted riflemen must fight as infantry fight, and be armed as infantry are armed.

In deciding upon the armament of mounted troops due regard must be paid to the periods of training undergone by men and horses, and especially also to skill in leadership. The cavalry leader, for instance, may have to make up his mind in the fraction of a second whether shock tactics or fire tactics, or a combination of the two, will be the best method to defeat his enemy. Such leadership requires practice and judgment attainable only by the professional soldier. As regards completeness of armament, we can put at one end of the scale the Russian cavalryman, who receives several years' continuous training as a regular soldier, who:

"carries a rifle slung over the left shoulder, a sword from his right shoulder, a bayonet superimposed on the sword-scabbard, forty-five rounds of ammunition in two pouches at his waist, a steel tube lance if he is a front rank man, and perhaps a light entrenching tool." [The Army Review, April, 1913, page 580]

At the other end of the scale of armament we can put the citizen mounted troops of a Dominion like South Africa, who are nearly all good horsemen and fairly good shots when they join as recruits, but are unable to spare time for more than a very few weeks' training every year. Some of the men of forces of this nature have in the past carried a rifle only. The majority have now recognized the need of a bayonet, both on account of its practical utility, and also on account of its great moral effect.



Further Reading:

Western Australian Mounted Infantry 

10th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF

The Light Horse

Australian Light Horse Militia

Militia 1899 - 1920

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Australian Light Horse, The Bayonet for Mounted Riflemen by GGA

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 16 December 2009 6:36 PM EAST

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