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Thread: Battle Drill

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    Default Battle Drill

    Section Leading; A Guide for the Training of Non-Commissioned Officers as Commanders and Rifle Sections, 1928:

    "Care must be taken that exercises to teach the combination of fire and movement are not carried out as a drill. When a platoon is attacking, advances must not be made by alternate section rushes, without consideration of the ground and the enemy's fire. Every advance should, if possible, be from fire position to fire position. Training on these lines in peace can only result in heavy and unnecessary casualties in war."
    CAMT 7-45, Canadian Army Manual of Training: Infantry Section Leading and Platoon Tactics, 1954:

    "Battle drill must be our servant and NOT our master."

    "It must be wisely used and applied."

    "It must be emphasized that all the drills which follow in this book are the basis on which to work. They are simple guides for the simple soldier. As sections and platoons become expert in these drills, they must learn to modify them and adjust them to the situation and ground. No one drill can suit all circumstances, and variations on those set out in this and other chapters must be encouraged and taught as soon as the "basic stroke" is mastered."
    Notes From Theatres of War, No. 16, North Africa November 1942-May 1943; The War Office, October, 1943:

    Battle Drill.--The teaching of battle drill undoubtedly proved to be of the greatest value in instilling dash and determination into troops and junior leaders. The best results have been obtained from battle drills on a platoon level, but training in the drills up to company level proved useful.
    It is important, however, that junior leaders should not regard battle drill as a universal panacea to be applied in toto in every situation. Battle drill training aims at teaching the basic "strokes," and thus represents only the first rung in the ladder. The drills must be intelligently applied in accordance with the nature of the ground and the particular tactical situation. There were many occasions when unnecessary casualties resulted from poor leadership because junior leaders blindly followed a set drill and failed to apply it with common sense.
    Col Arjun Ray, quoted in the RUSI Journal, Autumn 1989:

    Fetishism for battle drills has been largely responsible for sanitizing imagination, creativity and mental mobility in infantry ranks. Battle drills are a set of reactions Conversely, tactics are a thought out plan to overcome the threat, the two are therefore dissimilar.
    All quotes found at:

    "The Canadian Infantry Section Attack Part One: Attrition Training in a Manoeuvre Army" by Michael M. O'Leary:

    http://regimentalrogue.com/papers/sect_atk.htm#27

    and this is its companion piece, Part Two:

    http://regimentalrogue.com/papers/sect_atk_part2.htm

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Every advance should, if possible, be from fire position to fire position.

    Yes, yes and yes. Exactly!! Please send the me the references for this (page number and Pamphlet number etc) . This is excellent!

    In a more modern context you can replace or add to fire position with "observation position" or "communication position."
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    Yea, I have to agree with that. I know from personal experience going from the Infantry into civilian law enforcement that I had problems going into such a fluid environment without having a Ranger handbook, 7-8, 7-70, the TC on Dismounted Patrolling or the METL manual to help me adjust. In the Army I was able to memorize those TTPs before hand to help create a mental map or model to handle the various situations that may occur. Having specific lane training just reinforced that outlook and I think it does create some issues. I have seen numerous other former military people that seem to have issues with adjusting to the unkown without the benefit of a smart book to assist.

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    Wilf,

    Section Leading, 1928, A guide for the Training of Non-Commissioned Officers as Commanders of Rifle and Lewis-Gun Sections, is marked "26 Manuals 355" on the left side of the Title, and the quote is from Chapter VII, Section 22. "Exercises to teach the combination of fire and movement", Item 2; Pages 71-72.

    Mike O'Leary Emailed me the Title Page of the Manual, and the whole of Chapter VII in pdf this afternoon. Anyone who wants it can PM me with their Email (the file size is 1.82 mb).

    I originally posted this on the Rifle Squad thread some time ago, but it's quite relevant here:

    When the British Army introduced Battle Drill early in WWII, the same Field Service Regulations that described them also carried the warning that they were not intended to be a substitute for the tactical judgement of battlefield leaders and soldiers; they were simply intended to be training aids from which soldiers and leaders would have weaned themselves off of towards the end of their basic trade training. Of course, what has in fact occurred in practice is the replacement of tactical judgement by rote drill. The US Army formally adopted Battle Drill in the mid-1950's, and at the same time it formally adopted the Fire Team, with two per Rifle Squad.

    Thus all the funny business ever since. The Commonwealth Armies only began to adopt the two-Fire Team Rifle Section starting in the late 1970's, and by the 1980's it was the standard. The German Army has recently adopted the two Fire-Team Rifle Squad as well, with 10 men per squad and 1 MG-4 5.56mm LMG per Fire Team. I haven't heard so far, but I suspect that may adopt Battle Drill now too.

    The aforementioned is one of the reasons the offensive tactics of the present-day Rifle Squad are so fixated on the Frontal Attack; it requires a minimum of brainpower and a maximum of firepower to undertake. That said, there are a lot of reasons that the Frontal Attack is more often than not necessary: the ground doesn't provide enough cover and concealment; you're conducting mechanized ops and it's pretty obvious to both you and the enemy that you're coming and they're just waiting for you to pile out of your tracks; there's just not the time to perform a slower but less costly other-than-Frontal attack and you have to attack now, otherwise the enemy will have reinforced his position making it harder to attack a little later; etc.

    But in those cases when the Frontal Attack can be foregone, the two-Fire Team Squad and Battle Drill shouldn't be allowed to conspire against alternatives to the Frontal Attack. The German Army in WWII, as I have already mentioned before in this thread, never adopted Battle Drill and never formally adopted Fire Teams; if a Squad at any time split into two balanced teams, it was only because the tactical situation at that place and time made it appropriate to do so. The Squad Leader was free to develop and use his best tactical judgment to fight the Squad as best as he saw fit.

    The Fire Team concept and Battle Drill have become crutches with which to prop up weak leaders and weak soldiers who otherwise would be clearly seen to be unable to adapt to the tactical situation at hand; at the same time, by tying capable leader's and soldier's hands with doctrine that has morphed into rigid practice, it serves to obscure those whose tactical judgement is otherwise sound.
    Last edited by Norfolk; 12-28-2007 at 03:10 AM. Reason: Addition.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Default Fire teams and battle Drill

    Fireteams are nothing to do with Battle Drill. Battle drill was started in 1918 using entire platoons, not sections. If you can find a copy of Maxse's and Liddell-Harts 1919 manual, (SS-148??) it shows this in detail.

    What the US adopted in the 1950s is nothing like the UK iteration of Battle Drill.

    Battle Drill always talks about attacking from the rear or flank, or even by-passing. The 1942 Instructors hand book is explicit on this. Frontal attacks were used in training because of live ammunition range safety templates. How you train using live fire is still a major consideration on this matter.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Fireteams are nothing to do with Battle Drill. Battle drill was started in 1918 using entire platoons, not sections. If you can find a copy of Maxse's and Liddell-Harts 1919 manual, (SS-148??) it shows this in detail.

    What the US adopted in the 1950s is nothing like the UK iteration of Battle Drill.

    Battle Drill always talks about attacking from the rear or flank, or even by-passing. The 1942 Instructors hand book is explicit on this. Frontal attacks were used in training because of live ammunition range safety templates. How you train using live fire is still a major consideration on this matter.
    I had written that post for another thread, where I was discussing the effects of rote application of Battle Drill in lieu of tactical judgement. I was also observing how in the Canadian Army, the adoption of the US Fire Team system coupled to said rote application of Battle Drill made for an almost blind and automatic recourse to the Frontal Attack, even in cases where the traditional Flanking Attack that use to be taught in the CF was possible. At that time, we effectively dispensed with traditional Platoon Battle Drill and settled for an almost US-style approach. Not so good.

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    Default What is in US Books and what is

    Quote Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post
    I had written that post for another thread, where I was discussing the effects of rote application of Battle Drill in lieu of tactical judgement. I was also observing how in the Canadian Army, the adoption of the US Fire Team system coupled to said rote application of Battle Drill made for an almost blind and automatic recourse to the Frontal Attack, even in cases where the traditional Flanking Attack that use to be taught in the CF was possible. At that time, we effectively dispensed with traditional Platoon Battle Drill and settled for an almost US-style approach. Not so good.
    actually done in units and practiced in combat are more often than not quite different things...

    Most manuals are written in the service schools and reflect the thoughts of students at the school, some, called Snowbirds (No, not that kind... ) arrive before their Advanced course starts and thus have not absorbed great knowledge.

    Others, called Blackbirds, have completed their Advanced Course and are awaiting movement to their next assignment. These have absorbed Great Knowledge -- and therefor are doubly dangerous in the sphere of doctrinal writing...

    They are aided in this by civilian Educational or Training specialists and the occasional Field Grade who has fifty things going on at once. Also by the odd General Officer who has a pet rock he wants introduced to the Army...

    Contrary to what Wilf said Battle Drill as practiced by most infantry units in the US Army in the 50s through the 80s required thinking, a lot of it and it was not rote stuff -- unless they had a poor commander who believed in what the book said; fortunately, a relatively rare thing.

    Fire and maneuver at Platoon level and below is movement from wall to wall or tree to rock, is generally uncoordinated and after a few firefights, becomes automatic -- and it is effective (those who cannot adapt perish). Anyone who says squads don't do it hasn't been there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    actually done in units and practiced in combat are more often than not quite different things...

    Most manuals are written in the service schools and reflect the thoughts of students at the school, some, called Snowbirds (No, not that kind... ) arrive before their Advanced course starts and thus have not absorbed great knowledge.

    Others, called Blackbirds, have completed their Advanced Course and are awaiting movement to their next assignment. These have absorbed Great Knowledge -- and therefor are doubly dangerous in the sphere of doctrinal writing...

    They are aided in this by civilian Educational or Training specialists and the occasional Field Grade who has fifty things going on at once. Also by the odd General Officer who has a pet rock he wants introduced to the Army...

    Contrary to what Wilf said Battle Drill as practiced by most infantry units in the US Army in the 50s through the 80s required thinking, a lot of it and it was not rote stuff -- unless they had a poor commander who believed in what the book said; fortunately, a relatively rare thing.

    Fire and maneuver at Platoon level and below is movement from wall to wall or tree to rock, is generally uncoordinated and after a few firefights, becomes automatic -- and it is effective (those who cannot adapt perish). Anyone who says squads don't do it hasn't been there.
    Too true.

    I have a few big beefs with the current "synthesis" (I'll use that term for lack of a more sensible one that I just can't think of right now) of Fire Teams and Battle Drill in the Commonwealth (we adopted the Fire System from the US Army in the 1980's). Until the 1980's, we did just fine for the most part with the old 10-man Sections (on paper at least) with the 3-man Gun Group/LAR Group and the 7-man Rifle Group. When F&M has to be performed at Section level, you just did the best with what you had, and it seemed to work, mostly. Plus, you well suited to Flanking Attacks; the Two Fire-Team organization isn't as useful for that, although it certainly makes F&M at Section level easier, until casualities deplete it to the point that the Fire Teams just don't have the manpower to Assault and Fight Through the enemy position. The old Section organization was very good for that.

    I remember only performing one Section Flanking Attack in The RCR - and a 4-man Assault Group (assuming no one becomes a casualty), one of whom was carrying an LMG, is in no way as effective at closing with and destroying the enemy in CQB as a 7-man Rifle Group. The idea was that the Platoon Weapons Det would suppress the enemy, and the Sections would pepperpot through, in Frontal Attacks. Just nonsense. You do that when you have no other options; when you have an option, you Flank. Before Fire Teams, the Sections were encouraged to make up their own mind how to attack; after Fire Teams, they were effectively told to just pepperpot their Fire Teams, etc, in a Frontal Attack. That made a lot of Infantrymen very unhappy. Fire Teams and Battle Drill came together not to facilitate tactical judgement and coordination, but to replace it. I like the German system here instead.

    This bit came in only after we adopted the Fire Team System; that other English-speaking Regiment introduced it, and my Regiment fought it. DND sided with the PPCLI. A few years later, the Brits went the same way, though they are not as doctrinaire about resorting to Frontal Attacks as we are (but they fought in the Falklands, and we didn't - although we watched Brit Army training films about the subject; I guess those were just shown to the Ranks).

    I also get quite upset about the whole Platoon bit; As far as I'm concerned, Platoon is there to direct any Heavy Weapons they may have or receive from Company. Once the Platoon Cdr has made his appreciation and issued his order after Contact, let the Sections do their bit, and the way they see fit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post

    Contrary to what Wilf said Battle Drill as practiced by most infantry units in the US Army in the 50s through the 80s required thinking, a lot of it and it was not rote stuff -- unless they had a poor commander who believed in what the book said; fortunately, a relatively rare thing.
    .
    I do not say it didn't. I merely said it was very different from the UK iteration of Battle Drill. Page 10 of J.C. Fry's book gives his definition of battle drill, which makes this very clear. There is an additional definition on Page 66, about the purpose of Platoon Battle Drill, which suggests it Platoon Drills are purely supplementary.

    ...now it may be that the US did not teach Fry's work, but I understand that they did. As I don't really study US Inf Doctrine, the earliest FM 7-15 I have is 1965, so all and an info would be gratefully accepted.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Quote Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post
    I also get quite upset about the whole Platoon bit; As far as I'm concerned, Platoon is there to direct any Heavy Weapons they may have or receive from Company. Once the Platoon Cdr has made his appreciation and issued his order after Contact, let the Sections do their bit, and the way they see fit.
    Sorry to go off topic here, and back to the old thread, but I don't see what the problem is. Platoons don't just attack things. They do a whole range of activities which the organisation has to account for. The whole problem of this debate is everyone defaults to F&M as being the defining purpose of Squad and Platoon organisation. It is not. The defining purpose should be simple and effective control.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Sorry to go off topic here, and back to the old thread, but I don't see what the problem is. Platoons don't just attack things. They do a whole range of activities which the organisation has to account for. The whole problem of this debate is everyone defaults to F&M as being the defining purpose of Squad and Platoon organisation. It is not. The defining purpose should be simple and effective control.
    The way I am coming at it is that F&M in particular, and closing with and destroying the enemy in general, constitute the primary and the most demanding tasks of the Infantry. The Defence, Patrolling, and other tasks do not seem to make quite the "manpower" requirements that A-to-C and the Attack do. As such, the "manpower" requirements (et al) of the Firefight, the Assault, and Holding against Counter-Attacks, which expose the Section and Platoon to usually the heaviest losses of any Infantry operation, are some of the chief considerations from that perspective. Smaller units may break down more quickly under sustained battle attrition.

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    I guess I'm between the extremes as far as assault battle drill goes. We certainly did enough of it at squad and platoon levels and I can see how it can do as much harm as good.

    Immediate action drills for reacting to contact and breaking contact are another matter, at least according to Vietnam era recon vets. Yes, they sometimes had to be modified under fire but they got everyone started on a correct course of action. Kind of like torpedos and wire guided missiles that adjust course after being fired. They can't do any adjusting until they're fired. You have to take that first step.

    Many recon vets of B-52 Project Delta and SOG credit well rehearsed immediate action drills with their survival.
    Last edited by Rifleman; 12-29-2007 at 02:47 AM.
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    I understand your views Rifleman. Battle Drill, especially for Advance/Movement-to-Contact and the Attack bothers me especially in so far as it seems to prop up Infantry leaders who probably shouldn't be leading in the first place. The Germans deliberately avoided Battle Drill, and relied on developing and using the tactical judgement of their Infantrymen in general, and leaders in particular. No-one can claim that that approach didn't work for them, especially against opponents who used Battle Drill (The Commonwealth).

    I figure that competent and well-trained infantry and infantry leaders don't need Battle Drill, or if they do, only for very limited purposes. And on the other hand, Battle Drill can serve to disguise the poor tactical judgement of weak infantry and especially their leaders. For those reasons, I think that Battle Drill should be ditched and the German system adopted. It's easier to find out who's got the goods, and who doesn't, in peacetime if they don't have the cover of Battle Drill to hide behind.

    That said, I have to agree that on some things, like counter-ambush and the like, certain drills are or may be necessary; tactical circumstances allow no time for anything other than an instantaneous reaction.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rifleman View Post
    Immediate action drills for reacting to contact and breaking contact are another matter, at least according to Vietnam era recon vets.....

    Many recon vets of B-52 Project Delta and SOG credit well rehearsed immediate action drills with their survival.
    Drill just means common aims and means, so as you say, AI drills are very useful. Battle drill is just an extrapolation of that. Some drills get called SOPs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post

    @ I figure that competent and well-trained infantry and infantry leaders don't need Battle Drill, or if they do, only for very limited purposes. And on the other hand, Battle Drill can serve to disguise the poor tactical judgement of weak infantry and especially their leaders.

    @ For those reasons, I think that Battle Drill should be ditched and the German system adopted. It's easier to find out who's got the goods, and who doesn't, in peacetime if they don't have the cover of Battle Drill to hide behind.
    @ I think you are right. I am not a fan of Battle Drill, in terms of the name. IA drills are essential however, as is an objectively based form of infantry training. The real problem is Battle Drill is it is usually taught very badly, because people are confused by the language, so resort to simplistic iterations of what they think is right. That is why you have Section Attacks, and not Section IN the Attack.

    @ What is the German System? - and how do you measure tactical skill in peacetime. When I went up to ITC Brecon, back in the UK and suggested that TES kit be used on all tactical courses, everyone fell over in horror! To quote one SI "You can't learn anything once you become a casualty" - and yes he really said that.

    ...now, forgoing the idea of something called "a German system" I think you are right, and there are some pretty obvious ways to do it.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post

    @ What is the German System? - and how do you measure tactical skill in peacetime. When I went up to ITC Brecon, back in the UK and suggested that TES kit be used on all tactical courses, everyone fell over in horror! To quote one SI "You can't learn anything once you become a casualty" - and yes he really said that.

    ...now, forgoing the idea of something called "a German system" I think you are right, and there are some pretty obvious ways to do it.
    Yes, TES puts the fear into the hearts of Slackers and Ruperts alike. MILES became very unpopular very quickly in certain quarters here in the Great White North, particularly after Platoon and Company Attacks made using laser simulation kit revealed the utter tactical incompetence of a distressing number of Infantry Officers and NCOs alike. Attacking Platoons were being reducing to half a dozen men or so, pinned down, against a like number or so of aggressively-handled Enemy Force. Needless to say, MILES is sadly avoided by many Units as much as possible.

    The lads on the other hand, love it; although they hate the part where they have to sit out the rest of the fight when they get zapped, and not magically brought back to life by umpires. Every Field EX possible (Live-Fire excepted for obvious reasons) should be run with full TES/MILES support.

    The German System:

    Well, here's a start (Stan and slapout dug this up for us a little while ago) -

    Special Series No. 9, The German Squad in Combat (1943):

    http://ahecwebdds.carlisle.army.mil/...AslnIxyQ__.pdf

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    Hi Norfolk, I also found a manual on the German Rifle Company but for some reason it was never translated. The whole manual was published in German as part of the US Intell special reports project. Not sure of the reasoning behind that but they did it.

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    The lads on the other hand, love it; although they hate the part where they have to sit out the rest of the fight when they get zapped, and not magically brought back to life by umpires. Every Field EX possible (Live-Fire excepted for obvious reasons) should be run with full TES/MILES support.
    Ah, but it is best employed when we actually have the requisite quantities of blank ammunition to replicate a combat load. I've never seen that happen across dozens of MILES exercises. It's usually been a handful of rounds per each man, so the exercise or lane is run as far as it can go until one side runs dry. There was rarely enough ammo to employ sufficient suppressive fires to facilitate an assault, especially in MOUT town.

    Come to think of it, there was never any exercise of the battalion-to-company-to-platoon logistics flow during the exercise. No ammo planning, and very little "battlefield calculus" where leaders considered what the rates of fire would be and then factored in planned resupply throughout the fight. We always did a great job of pointing out casualty collection points on the terrain model though...

    Sometimes I sit back and seriously believe we suck, but have just sucked less than our opponents the last few go-arounds.

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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    Hi Norfolk, I also found a manual on the German Rifle Company but for some reason it was never translated. The whole manual was published in German as part of the US Intell special reports project. Not sure of the reasoning behind that but they did it.
    Hi slap. Yeah, I found that rather frustrating too. I was even more flustered when I discovered from a specialist source that the traditional German/Prussian script that The German Rifle Company is written in is supposedly almost incomprehensible to most ordinary Germans these days. There is some guy who does translate these things over in Germany or Brit-Land, and he's been swamped by such requests. He tries to get a few manuals translated a year, but it's a really long, tough slog to do so. I've just tried to track him down, but I seem to have lost him.

    Here are a few of links to the Evolution of the Section and Battle Drill for whom it may interest:

    http://www.canadiansoldiers.com/medi...fantry_Section

    http://www.canadiansoldiers.com/medi...fantry_Section

    Incidently, the following link comes from the Regiment that introduced British Army Battle Drill to the Canadian Army, and it was the Regiment that was commanded by the author of On Infantry, Lt.Col. John English:

    http://www.calgaryhighlanders.com/history/battle.htm

    jcustis:

    Yeah, blank ammo, never mind live ammo, is almost always grudgingly and stingily doled out. In The RCR, we got around that by loading "Militia Bullets" (shouting "Bang! Bang!" - pathetic isn't it?) when our regular ammo ran out. When we ran out of "Militia Bullets", as the Section Commander would quickly tire of this nonsense, he would issue the order to "Load Insults!", and thereupon, we would continue the notional firefight with unsocial expressions of ill-will towards the Enemy Force.

    We were told that the rear Sections and what not would resupply us with ammo and the like during the Firefight; never saw it done, and I have real doubts that it is practical under many conditions. Didn't somebody say something about the Army that wins is the one that is the least disorganized?

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    . . .
    Sometimes I sit back and seriously believe we suck, but have just sucked less than our opponents the last few go-arounds.
    Been that way for over 200 years I think...

    Sad thing is it need not be that way; politics, parochialism and egos are a big part of the problem but our national traits of impatience and unwillingness to think ahead contribute. Those things and our penchant for trying to substitute technology for good training.

    The kids generally pull us out of it; bless 'em...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Been that way for over 200 years I think...

    Sad thing is it need not be that way; politics, parochialism and egos are a big part of the problem but our national traits of impatience and unwillingness to think ahead contribute. Those things and our penchant for trying to substitute technology for good training.

    The kids generally pull us out of it; bless 'em...

    Simple, profound, and so damn true!

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