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'Battle Procedure' and the orders process


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#1 Charles Fair

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 02:10 AM

Some questions that have been puzzling me for a while:

When was the concept and process of 'Battle Procedure' formally identified and developed?

All todays officers and NCOs have BP bashed into them such that it becomes reflex. The definition from ancient memory is something very similar to this:

"Battle Procedure is the process by which a front line soldier is launched into combat knowing what task he has to achieve and with what fire support he is going to get."

This was certainly well established by WW2, but I think must have been well established by the end of WW1, perhaps under a different name. It would have been impossible to run the offensives on 1918 without soem form of BP.

One essential component of BP is an effective process for the dissemination of orders. This includes:

- Warning Orders
- Orders headings which provide an effective and consistent structure for giving orders. (Typically today one would use the top level headings such as Ground, Situation, Mission, Execution, Command & Signal, Service Support)
- a process for 'extracting' the orders that you give to your own men from the orders that you receive from your commander. This enables orders to be effectively transmitted from the highest level to the lowest, with relevant detail being added at the appropriate level.

Has anyone come across these concepts in say syllabuses of staff training courses or FSR in WW1?

I suspect that efficient BP is one reason for the effectiveness of the BEF in 1918, but havent yet seen much discussion. Typed orders that I have looked at (mainly in 1916/17 so far) often lack clarity and consistency in their structure.

Interested in your thoughts,

Charles

#2 Chris Henschke

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 05:56 AM

"Definite rules as to form in which operation orders should be drafted are not laid down. The object of an operation order is to bring about a course of action in accordance with the intentions of the commander, suited to the situation, and with full co-operation between all arms and units. So long as this object is fulfilled, the form of the order is of little importance."
Field Service Pocket Book, 1914 Chapter III

Notwithstanding what is written in the FSPB, I have noticed many orders that at least start with;

Information
Intention

that conforms with what is now Situation, mission...

and a lot of them finish with;

Reports

that conforms with Command and Signals.

But , yes, the concept of 'Battle procedure', and a formal sequence for orders and when they were formally introduced is an interesting one.
I was always of the opinion that the current sequence for orders was based on the WWII German format.
Certainly, British and Commonwealth units used a definite Information, Intention, Method, Phases, Admin, Intercommunications format.
I'll keep hunting...

#3 Deleted_rivnut_*

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 08:29 AM

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. Unfortunately the grunts got very little press in those days. A topic of that sort rarely made it into print and certainly no great detail about the organization of battle has survived from early 15th century England. The quote from the Field Service Pocketbook says it all.

Cheers,
Kev

#4 Chris Henschke

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 02:43 PM

But from FSPB 1938 there is a change and 'Warning orders' are mentioned and a format is acknowledged;

"When detailed operation orders cannot be issued in sufficient time to enable troops to make the necessary preparation, a "warning order" should be issued; this order should give sufficient information to enable all the necessary preparations to be made."......

"But a recognized form and sequence should always be followed as nearly as practicable, since this makes important omissions less likely, ans assists subordinates, who can more easily grasp the meaning of an order issued in a form with which they are familiar.
The form is as follows..."
It then details the format under the headings;
INFORMATION
INTENTION
METHOD
ADMINISTRATIVE ARRANGEMENTS
INTERCOMMUNICATION

This is taken from the FSPB pamphlet No.2 1939 Notified in A.C.Is for the week ending 8th February, 1939.

So, now the Warning Order is used and the Orders Format is set. The concept of battle procedure revolves around 'timeliness and organization' and using a recognized sequence is an aid. So, I agree with you, Charles, it probably was formally developed by 1918. This question is when...?!

Chris

#5 Charles Fair

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 06:10 PM

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.

#6 Charles Fair

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 12:41 AM

Chris - very many thanks for these extracts. They have raised a few more points which I will post in a day or two.
regards

Charles

#7 BMoorhouse

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Posted 09 January 2004 - 09:08 AM

Charles,

The first example of 'battle procedure' where the British Army trained their men in great detail was for the November 1917 Cambrai offensive, where for the first wave assault troops individual objectives were issued to sections/platoons. The planning in parts was so detailed that officers joked that they were able to pick the dugout which they would occupy before the attack. The significance of this planning was that soldiers were also told what the other units objectives were, and were therefore able to co-ordinate their attacks.

The Ypres offensive in 1917 also had objectives defined by known enemy positions (usually pill boxes/strong points) with troops being allocated to 'work' given fortifications. I don't think that this was planned to the same extent as later actions - no doubt because of prevailing conditions which meant that many defences were not identifiable. This of course made detailed planning, as was used at Cambrai, impossible.

Regards,

Brendon.

#8 Chris Henschke

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Posted 09 January 2004 - 02:29 PM

Let's not confuse battle procedure with detailed orders. Battle procedure is the 'process' or procedure used. Not the amount of detail in orders. Battle procedure is the action/s taken by the platoon from the time the situation or problem appears until an operation is commenced. It allows the commander to launch his force into battle quickly with the maximum preparation. It ensures that as many as possible of the actions required before battle are carries out concurrently , thus saving time.
Battle procedure is designed to enable the force to launch into combat in the minimum amount of time , thoroughly prepared for the operation and with the greatest amount of co-ordinated support available.
I think in Charles' thread we are trying to establish;

a) when the Wng O was introduced, and
cool.gif when a formal sequence of 'operation orders' was introduced.

The link between Wngo and Opord is the guide for the procedure.

#9 Chris Henschke

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Posted 09 January 2004 - 02:31 PM

Damn those Clickable Smilies!

That should read;
a)
cool.gif

#10 Chris Henschke

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Posted 09 January 2004 - 02:33 PM

I give up [U]rolleyes.gif

#11 BMoorhouse

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Posted 12 January 2004 - 04:13 PM

QUOTE (Chris Henschke @ Fri, 9 Jan 2004 14:29:43 +0000)
Let's not confuse battle procedure with detailed orders. Battle procedure is the 'process' or procedure used. Not the amount of detail in orders.

Chris,

Can you amplify what you mean please. Are you talking about how a given platoon/company had systems developed to react to the enemy (and presumably also integrate with other arms like artillery/tanks/aircraft.)?

You appear to have a lot of knowledge in this area - but I am unfamiliar with your terminology/acronyms. There will no doubt be people that could provide a lot of first hand 'evidence' of battle procedure if we understand what you mean exactly.
smile.gif

Brendon.

#12 Edward_N_Kelly

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Posted 22 January 2004 - 04:24 AM

QUOTE (BMoorhouse @ Mon, 12 Jan 2004 16:13:55 +0000)
QUOTE (Chris Henschke @ Fri, 9 Jan 2004 14:29:43 +0000)
Let's not confuse battle procedure with detailed orders. Battle procedure is the 'process' or procedure used. Not the amount of detail in orders.

Chris,

Can you amplify what you mean please. Are you talking about how a given platoon/company had systems developed to react to the enemy (and presumably also integrate with other arms like artillery/tanks/aircraft.)?

You appear to have a lot of knowledge in this area - but I am unfamiliar with your terminology/acronyms. There will no doubt be people that could provide a lot of first hand 'evidence' of battle procedure if we understand what you mean exactly.
smile.gif

Brendon.

I think I know what he is saying.

Armies over the years have created a series of drills which will ensure that, at a given order (or more recently an event - see below), the sequences will be followed by all concerned and the commander will know exactly where his troops are and what they are doing in preparation for the next order.....

One of the drills used in more modern times by the Australians (and evolved from close country warfare though still used in just about all conditions), when a section hears a shot fired when advancing to contact, each member of the group will react instinctively (and not just drop to the ground or stand around gawping). If fired on from the frontal arc all member will call out "Contact Front", the scouts will attempt to locate the enmy and return fire, the gun group will move to the right or higher ground, the rifle group close up on the section commander and go into "all round defence" ie face outwards.

Thus endith the "battle drill" part.

The section commander now has all his troops in known positions that can both defend themselves and support each other) and can assess the situation to determine what his section should do (they are now regarded as "under orders" - all to now has been automatic) - to retire, to engage in a fire fight and/or advance, or to await orders/support from the rest of the platoon.

In the First World War all combatants developed a series drills, generally of a similar nature to each other, to cater for both the natural rection of people to be confused when in first contact with the enemy and to produce a known outcome to the orders given. Higher level tactics (ie on Company level or higher) were as a result of the training of the officer and Senior NCO groups not basic "drills" as such.

Edward

#13 Greg

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Posted 22 January 2004 - 09:20 PM

On the subject of proforma orders Hitchcock uses an identifiable set in his account of his raid on the Double Crassiers near Loos in 'Stand To' .
Greg

#14 Charles Fair

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Posted 16 May 2007 - 12:59 PM

I am still thinking about the questions I raised in this thread. I have recently been researching a trench raid in this thread.

It is clear that Battle Procedure of some form was well underway very early with the training for the raid starting on 18 June. A Warning Order came out then, with various Op Orders following.

I have been looking closely at Colonel Hamilton's Operational Orders. These do not have the clarity of the sequence of WWII orders (Information, Intention... etc.) and at times come over as muddled. There are 8 pages, with 4 more of Appendices. At times I have had to go through the orders more than once to work work out the sequence of operations.

For example the ORBAT of the various subunits of the raiding party is not laid out clearly with relevant attachments (e.g. RE sappers from 4th London Field Company RE) and detachments explained at the same time. The task/mission of each subunit is not clearly stated after its composition. All the information is there, but not necessarily where I would expect it. These orders just lack the clarity that a modern set of orders would bring.

This must reflect the learning curve that the BEF was going through as it learned to deal with more complex operations involving other arms. In this case, although it was only a weak company strength raid it was a complex operation with other units involved beingthe Brigade MG Coy, Bde TM Battery, all the Divisional artillery, Corps Heavy Arty, RE Field Coy, Special Bde RE for gas.

I still wonder what what officers were taught about writing and giving orders, and how they were taught it. Were they ever issued with an aide-memoire containing the orders sequences for various types of operation?

#15 Rob B

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Posted 16 May 2007 - 01:08 PM

Edward I agree many of the drills which in early days would have needed either deliberate or snap orders just became unit Standard Operational procedures, in other words how things are done which remove the lengthy orders process, the Jungle contact being the classic ambush left and every one knew what to do and got on with it. As to WW1 orders I have seen on the forum typed up formated orders for deliberate actions like trench raids or patrols I also beleive that Filofax or one of its predecesors had a leather folder which included orders inserts but that would have unlikely to have gone below platoon commander level.
Cheers,
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#16 Chris Henschke

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Posted 16 May 2007 - 03:07 PM

QUOTE (Charles Fair @ May 16 2007, 10:29 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I am still thinking about the questions I raised in this thread. I have recently been researching a trench raid in this thread.

I still wonder what what officers were taught about writing and giving orders, and how they were taught it. Were they ever issued with an aide-memoire containing the orders sequences for various types of operation?


I agree that orders lack the detail that is currently required and in a set sequence but in the last few years I have tracked down some early examples of orders formats. I have a 1913 copy of The Solution of Tactical Problems, by Lt.-Col. J. Layland Needham, p.s.c.
It was first printed in April 1906, and after the issue of Field Service Regulations, Part 1 : Operations it was extensively revised. In 1911 the preface of the Fifth Edition stated in part;

‘In the present Edition examples of Operation Orders for attack, occupation of a position, advanced and rear guard, outposts, marches and night operations have been added…
January, 1911.’


The Operation Orders chapter paraphrases FSPB 1914 thus;
'No definite rule is laid down as to the form in which Operation Orders should be written, but some indication is given of the form in which it will usually be well to frame them, and certain rules are laid down with regard to wording.'

Another example of orders in a set sequence is in Skeleton Operation Orders, an aide-memoire by Major W.D.J. Pollard. I have a second edition (1917) but it was first printed in 1913.
The example of Attack Orders is attached.

Although not issue publications both of these books (printed by Hugh Rees, Ltd.) give a suggested sequence for orders that are very similar.

Chris Henschke

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#17 Druid_Ian

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Posted 16 May 2007 - 05:11 PM

if you go onto http://cgsc.cdmhost....CISOSTART=1,101 and download Notes on Infantry attacks and raids it gives a very interesting look at some of the planning processes involved in an attack

The rest of the site is interesting as well

Good Hunting


Ian

#18 charlesmessenger

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Posted 16 May 2007 - 06:36 PM

To go back to Charles F's original question Battle Procedure per se was formally introduced in the British Army in 1941 and was taught as such at the battle schools that sprang up as the result of the May 1940 debacle in France. The key, as Chris Henscke pointed out, was to save time and this in order to better react to the German Blitzkrieg tactics. The secret was concurrent activity - carrying out the necessary preparatory steps for an operation as simultanoeusly as possible, ie while the commander carries out his recce and prepares his orders, his 2ic moves up the troops.

Certainly by 1918 the BEF was unconsciously using Battle Procedure in the shape of warning orders and recce parties being sent on ahead. I have noticed this in particular during the preparations for the 8th August attack. Thus the COs of the tank bns and their tactical HQs were sent on ahead of the tanks and crews, when they were deployed to Amiens, so that they could receive their orders and carry out recces in time to brief the tank crews on arrival.

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#19 Chris Henschke

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Posted 17 May 2007 - 10:08 AM

Thank you Charles. I'm still perplexed as to why some have confused battle procedure with contact drills.

#20 Old Tom

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Posted 17 May 2007 - 05:45 PM

Hello,

An interesting thread. My thoughts on the competence of senior officers and the shortage of trained staff officers (recent thread on 1 Jul 16 and 'resignations') seem to have some bearing. Procedure, rather than the format of orders, is, I suggest, the point at issue. By procedure I mean the sequence of actions that have to be taken by a commander and his staff (whether one is talking of the adjutant and RSM) or a Major General General Staff and all that goes with that exalted level. My view is that the large number of headquarters, Brigade, Division and Corps formed as the New Armies deployed just did not have sufficient trained staff officers for whom the principles would have been second nature. As I write this I am concious of the ease with which more or less modern procedures (I retired from the Army in 1985) come to mind. I think this has occured with some of the contributions.

A work of fiction, (about an infantry battalion inWW1) comes to mind in which a newly appointed adjutant says to his CO, when his CO has been called to Brigade, that he does not know who the CO usually takes with him etc. I suppose that sort of infromation was called SOP in WW2.

My very general reading has encountered reproductions of orders that while detailed lack a standard form and if that was common at a level at which large numbers of units, e.g. artillery, were placed under command of a HQ for a particular operation then some confusion might be expected.

Old Tom

#21 Charles Fair

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Posted 17 May 2007 - 10:13 PM

Many thanks for comments and insight, I will come back with more detailed observations and comments shortly.

#22 Captain Dave

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Posted 19 May 2007 - 02:15 PM

If I may add my 10c. The orders (in written form) I have seen surviving from WW1 are normally very concise and brief, 2 to 3 pages for a Bde attack for example. I assume most of this pertained to the Bns having SOPs in place, thus this did away with a lot of paperwork and endless repitition, but I would also put the format down to individual HQs. It's unlikely that the platoon commander would have seen the Bde orders, and the Coy OC would have drafted his up from the CO and so on. My point is that most of the orders formats would have become more simpler as they disseminated down and more extranious information was discarded.

#23 Ali Hollington

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Posted 12 September 2007 - 03:36 PM

In SS 135 Instructions for the training of divisions for offensive action which is dated December 1916 there is a reference to warning orders.

To quote from page 6:

"2.As soon as this plan has been approved by the Corps Commander, it is issued immediately in the form of instructions to subordinate commanders, together with any information available as to the action of the Divisions on either flank.

This is the Warning Order, and the earlier it is issued, the more time will be available for subordinate commanders to make their plans and preparations, and to issue instructions to their subordinates.

3. The Divisional Staff then work out the necessary details to give effect to the plan, and issue them in a series of "Instructions" as and when they have been worked out."

I haven't finished reading this pamphlet but have been looking in war diaries (only a few) for this being put into practice. The 10th Essex war diary (Wo 95/2038)refers to receiving a warning order on 18th Sept 1916.

Regards

Ali

#24 Tom A McCluskey

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 06:59 PM

Charles,

Warning Orders are a regular feature of Highland Division operations (and probably throughout the army); I will dig one out for you. As you are aware, the Warning Order, is the initiator for 'concurrent activity', which sets the wheels in motion as such, and as of 1917, there is an army-wide tactical doctrine of who is basically doing what within the infantry platoon; and generally all are receiving a formal set of orders, with fairly detailed models and often rehearsals on topography very similar to the objective.

What firepower/support the soldier was going to be given, I think, in general, he knew. However, whether he could communicate with it (thus receive it) and battlefield friction, could mean that connecting with support was spurious, and proven to be difficult. I think the lack of decent battle-worthy communication systems was the stumbling block that prevented 'what fire support he is going to be given' from being realized, and it wasn't through the lack of trying (pigeons, cloth markers, flags, field telephones, tin markers, rifle-fired rockets, etc.). Unfortunately, the nascent wireless systems were just not man-portable. Additionally, whether the guns or fire-support could get forward was another matter. If you look at the orders delivered, the components of the NATO sequence are generally there, and, during 1917, maps, compass and watches are becoming more available. So, I personally believe, albeit not formalised in the same way, most of the components of battle procedure were in place.

Anyway, that’s my take on it.

PS - I have not forgotten about the comments on 31 Jul 17 (ref 4/5 BW), I am still on November 1916 at the moment.

Aye

Tom McC

#25 Tom A McCluskey

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Posted 21 January 2008 - 08:24 PM

Charles,

Sorry it's been a while. Here is the first page of a Warning Order issued to the 7th (Fife) Battalion, The Black Watch. They served in 153 Bde, 51st (Highland) Division, under Harper.

Hope it is of use

Aye

Tom McC

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