QUOTE (rivnut @ Wed, 7 Jan 2004 08:29:33 +0000)
In one form or another, Battle Procedure has existed in armies for a very long time. John Keegan, in "The Face of Battle" touches upon the subject of battle procedure at Agincourt itself. All evidence points to the fact that English archery units were highly organized and kept in as good order as the troops ever were during WWI.
I agree, I think it has been around in a basic form for a long time. Armies such as the Spartan and Roman armies would not have been as effective as they were without some kind of BP.
However, in those days, and up until at least the early 19th century, I believe that it was more of a higher command/staff concern. It would have been primarily about logistics - getting your troops to the right place at the right time with sufficient arms and ammunition to achieve the task, and making sure that they and their horses had enough food and water. Senior officers had to know and understand the commanding general's intentions.
However, armies in those days tended to be small, they were not complex compared with those of 1918, and battles rarely lasted more than a couple of days.
I guess my question is really about how BP developed at the lowest levels. How did information and intention get pushed down to junior ranks?
If you were say a pikeman in a ECW pike block or a musketeer in a Napoleonic company how much did you really need to know about your commanders intention etc. to do your job? Probably not much, but you would have wanted musket balls, a full waterbottle and food. In those days I guess a company of a couple of hundred men would in practice have been the smallest unit of battle. Junior NCOs would not have needed to make tactical decisions. What really counted was the men knowing their drills (e.g. go from column to line etc.), obeying commands and keeping their place in the formation.
This is very different from the level of independent thought and flexibility required of a junior NCO in the BEF by 1917-18, or by German stormtroopers. Tactics as espoused in SS 143 of Feb 1917 would have demanded that detailed and different orders would have had to reach all four of a platoon's sections. It would also have meant a more complex BP allowing time for rehearsals etc.