British CHQ in battle.

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yantaylor
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Re: British CHQ in battle.

Post by yantaylor » 23 Mar 2021 21:16

Sheldrake, when you mentioned a four-man FOO team calling for “Victor Targets from the 72 guns of the division or even Uncle target from the guns across the corps”, would the Company Commander have the power to order such a strike or does he need that FOO team. I remember a chat I had with a US Inf battalion commander and he said that no nations army could operate as good as the US artillery fire plan, as a company commander could call for anything from division artillery to Corps.

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Sheldrake
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Re: British CHQ in battle.

Post by Sheldrake » 23 Mar 2021 21:55

yantaylor wrote:
23 Mar 2021 21:16
Sheldrake, when you mentioned a four-man FOO team calling for “Victor Targets from the 72 guns of the division or even Uncle target from the guns across the corps”, would the Company Commander have the power to order such a strike or does he need that FOO team. I remember a chat I had with a US Inf battalion commander and he said that no nations army could operate as good as the US artillery fire plan, as a company commander could call for anything from division artillery to Corps.
There is a difference of opinion between the British and US Army about which had the better approach to managing massed artillery fire.(or fires as refer to by our colonial chums).

The US Company commander could indeed request fire either via the attached Sergeant or Lieutenant FOO using the artillery communications system or up the infantry comms channel to the artillery LO at battalion HQ. The fire direction centres at regimental, divisional and corps level responded by allocating fire units.

The British or Canadian company commander has a superficially similar choice. usually via the captain FOO or via the major BC at battalion HQ. The Artillery regimental HQ and Artillery cells at divisional and Corps HQ acts as a fire direction centre. However the captain orders fire from his own troop and the major orders fire from his battery and the colonel orders fire from his regiment. The British system allowed for certain observers to be authorised to order, not request, fire from a larger number of units.

There are two differences in the systems

1.The British & commonwealth system put the senior artillery officers forward. The FOOs were the troop commanders and the BC's place in battle was next to the CO of the infantry or armoured unit he supported. The RA regimental command net operated in parallel to infantry or armoured communications but one level higher. This was not just for the passage of fire orders but also to read the battle to understand where the balance of fire was needed, and who was in the best place to control it. The key concept was to command artillery from the highest level but delegate control to the lowest.

2. The emphasis in the British system was to ORDER, rather than REQUEST fire. In my, post war, service I ran an FDC at regimental level and the divisional artillery operations cell. OK not at war but in lots of dry and live firing exercises. The emphasis was always to assume the FOOs knew what they were doing and give them what they asked for. These chaps were fellow captains and majors. The US system seemed to us to give a similar result but it took a lot longer as the FDC seemed to try to second guess what was actually needed. It was sergeants talking to captains. Some of my instructors at the Royal School of Artillery were Australian and US Vietnam veterans. That was their view.

I may be wrong, as a biased brit. Sorry this is a bit of am long and abstruse answer.

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Re: British CHQ in battle.

Post by Gary Kennedy » 24 Mar 2021 15:29

I have found myself quite struck by certain posts and opinions, probably in other places than here, about the effectiveness of US Field Artillery seemingly to the exclusion of all others (cue not helpful mental image of two non-US cartoon gunners looking at a shell and one asking the question, 'It's pointy end first, isn't it?'). The US Army 'Reports of the General Board' are not shy at highlighting problems encountered while finding that overall the system was highly effective.

British and associated Commonwealth artilleries could concentrate the fire of multiple guns quite effectively (Mike, have you met Uncle Victor?) at formation level and also bring in AGRA units. They could fire quick observed shoots and also predicted fire, deliver barrages in concert with the infantry advance and also heavy concentrations from over a hundred guns. Wireless communications via No.22 and No.19 sets did perform well, though it seems there was some apprehension from those officers who had experienced the opposite in the early war years.

The British system was observation heavy and did require effective communications from the observer back to the Batteries and beyond. As noted above Rifle Coy commanders in Br/CW and US units had the ability to request unplanned fire, but the effectiveness for all was reliant upon the capability of the infantryman concerned. There's an RA comment on it in "The Development of Artillery Tactics and Equipment" I think but I can't find it now.

US FA units did not originally include any dedicated forward observers, unit officers having to undertake the roles, with FOOs being added to Div 105-mm Bns by an amendment in June 1944; USMC 75-mm and 105-mm Bns had them throughout. The FDC in US units, as I can only pretend to vaguely understand it, did provide a standardised system that enabled local and non-local artillery to be quickly synchronised to mass fire(s) but this was still limited by what artillery was physically in range, which was the same for all.

Gary

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Re: British CHQ in battle.

Post by Richard Anderson » 24 Mar 2021 16:46

Gary Kennedy wrote:
24 Mar 2021 15:29
The British system was observation heavy and did require effective communications from the observer back to the Batteries and beyond.
This is actually the main issue WRT the ability of infantry Rifle Company commanders, be they British or American to call for fire. Infantry radios did not net with FA radios and vice versa. The key to effective communications was the radio operator and his radio.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Gary Kennedy
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Re: British CHQ in battle.

Post by Gary Kennedy » 24 Mar 2021 20:00

Yes, the whole subject of which sets were carried at what level and in what numbers, and that of which sets could even talk to one another has definitely become an (additional) obsession of mine.

Gary

yantaylor
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Re: British CHQ in battle.

Post by yantaylor » 24 Mar 2021 20:46

Thank you everybody!!!!
Stay safe
Ian

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