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INFANTRY


nothing to do with a “ skirmish, ” but are the actual organ of battle, and their old duties of feeling the way for the battle formations have been taken over by “ scouts.” The last-named were not, however, fully recognized in Great Britainl till long after the war-not in fact until the war in South Africa had shown that the “ skirmisher ” or firing line was too powerful an engine to be employed in mere “ feeling.” In most European a.rmies “ combat patrols, ” which work more freely, are preferred to scouts, but the idea is the same.

The tire-fight on the line of skirmishers, now styled the firing line, is the centre of gravity of the modern battle. In 1870, L owing to the peculiar circumstances of unequal armaofjgggf ment, the “ tire-fight ” was insufficiently developed and uneconomically used, and after the War tacticians turned their attention to the evolution of better methods than those of Worth and Gravelotte, Europe in general following the lead of Prussia. Controversy, in the early stages, took the form of a contest between “ drill ” and “ individualism, ” irrespective of formations and technical details, for until about 1890 the material efficiency of the gun and the rifie remained very much what it had been in 1870, and the only new factor bearing on infantry tactics was the general adoption of a “ national army ” system similar to Prussia's and of rifles equal, and in some ways superior, to the chassepot. All European armies, therefore, had to consider equality in artillery power, equality in the ballistics of rifies, and equal intensity of fighting spirit as the normal conditions of the next battle of nations. Here, in fact, was an equilibrium, and in such conditions how was the attacking infantry to force its way forward, whether by fare gr movengient rg by hgh; Frlince sgught the étnsweri in the omain o arti ery. n er the gui ance o enera Langlois, she re-created the Napoleonic hurricane of case-shot (represented in modern conditions by time shrapnel), while from the doctrine formed by Generals Maillard and Bonnal there came a system of infantry tactics derived fundamentally from the tactics of the Napoleonic era. This, however, came later; for the moment (viz. from 1871 to about 1890) the lead in infantry training was admittedly in the hands of the Prussians. German officers who had fought through the War had seen the operations, generally speaking, either from the staff officer's or from the regimental officer's point of view. To the former and to many of the latter the most indelible impression of the battleneld was what they called Alassen-Driickebergerlu-m or “wholesale skulking.” The rest who had perhaps in most cases led the brave remnant of fheir companies in the final assaults, believed that battles were won by the individual soldier and his rifle. The difference between the two may be said to lie in this, that the first sought a remedy, the second a method. The remedy was drill, the method extended order. The extreme statement of the case in favour of drill pure and simple is to be found in -fthe famous anonymous pamphlet A Summer N i ghfs Dream, in which a return to the “ old Prussian tire-discipline ” of Frederick's day was offered as the solution of the problem, how to give “fire” its maximum efficacity. Volleys and absolutely mechanical obedience to word of command represent, of course, the most complete application of fire-power that can be conceived. But the proposals of the extreme close-order school were nevertheless merely pious aspirations, not so much because of the introduction of the breech loader as because the short-service “ national ” army can never be “ drilled ” in the F rederician sense. The proposals of the other school were, however, even more impracticable, in that they rested on the hypothesis that all men were brave, and that, consequently, all that was necessary was to teach the recruit how to shoot and to work with other individuals in the squad or company. Disorder of the firing line was acce ted not as an unavoidable P

evil, but as a condition in which individuality had full play, and The 1902 edition of Infantry Training indeed treated the new scouts as a thin advanced firing line, but in 1907, at which date important modifications began to be made in the “ doctrine " of the British Army, the scouts were expressly restricted to the old-fashioned " skirmishimz " duties.

as dense swarm formations were quite as vulnerable as an ordinary line, it was an easy step from a thick line of""'individuals” to a thin one. The step was, in fact, made in the middle of the war of 1870, though it was hardly noticed that extension only became practicable in proportion as the quality of the enemy decreased and the Germans became acclimatized to fire. Between these extremes, a moderate school, with the emperor William (who had more experience of the human being in battle than any of his officers) at its head, spent a few years in groping for close-order formations which admitted of control without vulnerability, then laid down the principle and studied the method of developing the greatest fire-power of which short service infantry was supposed capable, ultimately combined the “ drill ” and teaching ideas in the German infantry regulations of 1888, which at last abolished those of 1812 with their multitudinous amendments.

The necessity for “ teaching” arose partly out of the new conditions of service and the relative rarity of Wars. The soldier could no longer learn the ordinary rules of Conditions

safety in action and comfort rn bivouac by experience, of me and had to be taught. But it was still more the new Zffizffv 8 8.

conditions of fighting that demanded careful individual training. Of old, the professional soldier (other than the man belonging to light troops or the ground scout) was, roughly speaking, either so far out of immediate danger as to preserve his reasoning faculties, or so deep in battle that he became the unconscious agent of his inborn or acquired instincts. But the increased range of modern arms prolonged the time of danger, and although (judged by casualty returns) the losses to-day are far less than those which any regiment of Frederick's day was expected to face without ii inching, and actual fighting is apparently spasmodic, the period in which the individual soldier is subjected to the fear of bullets is greatly increased. Zorndorf, the most severe of Frederick's battles, lasted seven hours, Vionville twelve and Worth eleven. The battle of the future in Europe, without being as prolonged as Liao-Yang, Shaho and Mukden, will still be undecided twenty-four hours after the advanced guards have taken contact. Now, for a great part of this time, the “old Prussian fire-discipline, ” which above all aims at a rapid decision, will be not only unnecessary, but actually hurtful to the progress of the battle as a whole. As in Napoleon's day (for reasons presently to be mentioned) the battle must resolve itself into a preparative and a decisive phase? In the last no commander could desire a; better instrument (if such were attainable with the armies of to-day) than Frederick's forged steel machine, in which every company was 2 human mitrailleuse. But the preparatory combat not only will be long, but also must be graduated in intensity at different times and places in accordance with the commander's will, and the Frederician battalion only attained its mechanical perfection by the absolute and permanent submergence of the individual qualities of each soldier, with the result that, although it furnished the maximum effort in the minimum time, it was useless once it fell apart into ragged groups. The individual spirit of earnestness and intelligence in the use of ground by small fractions, which in Napoleon's day made the combat d'nsn/'e possible, was necessarily unknown in Frederick's. On the other hand, graduation implies control on the part of the leaders, and this the method of irregular swarms of individual fighters imagined by the German progressives merely abdicates. At most such swarms-however close or extended-can only be tolerated as an evil that no human power can avert when the battle has reached a certain stage of intensity. Even the latest German I nfanlry Training (1906) is explicit on this point. “ It must never be forgotten that the obligation of abandoning close order is an evil which can often be avoided when ” &c. &c. (par. 342). The consequences of this evil, further, are actually less serious in proportion as the troops are well drilled-not to 2 This is no new thing, but belongs, irrespective of armament, to the “ War of masses.” The king of Prussia's fighting instructions of the 10th of August 1813 lay down the principle as clearly as any

modern work.