Open main menu
This page needs to be proofread.

a decisive attack framed by the commander-in-chief after “engaging everywhere and then seeing” as Napoleon did. The 1905 regulations adhered to this theory of the attack in the main, only modifying a number of tactical prescriptions which had not proved satisfactory after their transplantation Form la-tion olfthe from South Africa to Europe, but after the Russofffigfl Japanese War a series of important amendments was mga., issued which gave greater force and still reater elas g

ticity to the attack procedure, and in 1909 the tactical “ doctrine” of the British army was definitively formulated in Field Service Regulations, paragraph 102, of which after enumerating the advantages and disadvantages of the “ preconceived idea ” system, laid it down, as the normal procedure of the British Army, that the general should “obtain the decision by manoeuvre on the battlefield with a large general reserve maintained in his own hand ” and “ strike with his reserve at the right place and time.”

The rehabilitation of the Napoleonic attack idea thus frankly accepted in Great Britain had taken place in France several years before the South African War, and neither this war nor that in Manchuria effectively shook the faith of the French army in the principle, while on the other hand Germany remains faithful to the “ preconceived idea, ” both in strategy and tactics.1 This essential difference in the two rival “ doctrines ” is intimately connected with the revival of the Napoleonic artillery attack, in the form of concentrated time shrapnel. V The Napoleonic artillery preparation, itf will be remembered, was a fire of overwhelming intensity delivered against the selected point of the enemy's position, at the moment of the massed and decisive assault of the reserves. In Napoleon's time the artillery went in to within 300 or 400 yds. range for this act, -i.e. in front of the infantry, whereas now the guns fire over the heads of the infantry and concentrate shells instead of guns on the vital point. The principle is, however, the same. A model infantry attack in the Napoleonic manner was that of Ol<as aki's brigade on the Teragama hill at the battle of Shaho, described by Sir lan Hamilton in is Sta# Ojicefs Scrap-Book. The japanese, methodical and cautious as they were, only sanctioned a pure open force assault as a last resort. T en the brigadier Okasal-ci, a peculiarly resolute leader, arrayed his brigade in a “schematic " attack formation of four lines, the first two in single rank, the third in line and the fourth in company columns. Covered by a powerful converging shrapnel fire, the brigade covered the first 900 yds. of open plain without ring a shot. Then, however, it disappeared from sight amongst the houses of a village, and the spectators watched the thousands of fiashes fringing the further edge t at indicated a fire-fight at decisive range (the erayama was about 600 yds. beyond the houses). Forty minutes passed, and the army commander Kuroki said, “ He cannot go forward. We are in check to-day all along the line.” But at that moment Okasaki's men, no longer in a “ schematic " formation but in many irregularly disposed groups-some of a dozen men and some of seventy, some widely extended and some practically in closing order-rushed forward at fu speed over 600 yds. of open ground, and stormed the Terayama with t e bayonet.

Such an attack as that at the battle of Shaho is rare, but so it has always been with masterpieces of the art of war. We have only to multiply the front of attack by two and the Th' forces engaged by five-and to find the resolute decisive . . . .

mek general to lead them-to obtain the ideal decisive attack of a future European war. Instead of the bare open plain over which the advance to decisive range was made, a European general would in most cases dispose of an area of spinneys, farm-houses and undulating fields. The schematic approach-march would be replaced in France and England by a forward movement of bodies in closing order, handy enough to utilize the smallest covered ways. Then the fire of both infantry and artillery would be augmented to its maximum intensity, overpowering that of the defence, and the whole of the troops opposite the point to be stormed would be thrown forward for the bayonet charge. The formation for In 1870 the “ preconceived idea " was practically confined to strategy, and the tactical improvisations of the Germans themselves deranged the execution of the plan quite as often as the act of the enemy. Of late years, therefore, the “ preconceived idea " has been imposed on tactics also in that country. Special care and study is given to the once despised “ early deployments " in cases where a fight is part of the “ idea, " and to the difficult problem of breaking off the action, when it takes a form that is incompatible with the development of the main scheme.

this scarcely matters. What is important is speed and the will to conquer, and for this purpose small bodies (sections, half-companies or companies), not in the close order of the drill book but grouped closely about the leader who inspires and controls them, are as potent an instrument as a Frederician line or a Napoleonic column. .

Controversy, in fact, does not turn altogether on the method of the assault, or even on the method of obtaining the fire superiority of guns and rifles that justifies it. Although one nation may rely on its guns more than on the rifles, or vice versa, all are agreed that at decisive range the firing line should contain as many men as can use their rifles effectually. Perhaps the most disputed point is the form of the “ approach-march, ” viz. the dispositions and movements of the attacking infantry between about 1400 and about 600 yds. from the position of the enemy.

The condition of the assailants infantry when it reaches decisive ranges is largely governed by the efforts it has expended and the losses it has suffered in its progress. Sometimes even after a firing line of some strength has been The established at decisive range, it may prove too difficult 25,221 ch or too costly for the supports (sent up from the rear to replace casualties and to augment fire-power) tomake their way to the front. Often, again, it may be within the commander's intentions that his troops at some particular point in the line should not be committed to decisive action before a given time-perhaps not at all. It is obvious then that no “ normal ” attack procedure which can be laid down in a drill book (though from time to time the attempt has been made, as in the French regulations of i87 5) can meet all cases. But here again, though all armies formally and explicitly condemn the normal attack, each has its own well-marked tendencies.

The German regulations of 1906 define the offensive as “transporting fire towards the enemy, if necessary to hiS immediate proximity ”; the bayonet attack “con- Cum, ” firms ” the victory. Every attack begins with deploy- Views ment into extended order, and the leading line 0111719 advances as close to the enemy as possible before 3:35120 opening nre. In ground offering cover, the firing line has practically its maximum density at the outset. In open ground, however, half-sections, groups and individuals, widely spaced out, advance stealthily one after the other till all are in position. It is on this position, called the “first fire position” and usually about 1000 yds. from the enemy, that the full force of the attack is deployed, and from this position, as simultaneously as possible, it opens the fight for fire-superiority; Then, 'each unit covering the advance of its neighbours, the whole line fights its way by open force to within charging distance. If at any point a decision is not desired, it is deliberately made impossible by employing there such small forces as possess no offensive power. Where the attack is intended to be pushed home, the infantry units employed act as far as possible simultaneously, resolutely and in great force (see the German Infantry Regulations, 1906, §§ 324 et seq.).,

While in Germany movement “ transports the fire, ” in France fire is regarded as the way to make movement possible. It is considered (see Grandmaison, Dressage de Vinfa-nterie) that a premature and excessive deployment enervates the attack, that the ground (i, e. covered ways of approach for small columns, not for troops showing a fire front) should be used as long as possible to march “ en troupe ” and that a firing line should only be formed when it is impossible to progress without acting upon the enemy's, means of resistance. Thereafter' each unit, in such order as its chief can keep, should fight its 'way forward, and help others to do so-like Okasaki's brigade in the last stage of its attack-utilizing bursts of fire or patches of wood or depressions in the ground, as each is profitable or available to assist the advance. “From the moment when a fighting unit is uncoupled, ' its action must be ruled by two conditions, and by those only: the one material, an object to be reached; the

other moral, the will to reach the object.”