British snipers

Discussion in 'General' started by Longlance, May 23, 2015.

  1. SMLE

    SMLE Junior Member


    My grandfather Edward Byrne was with the 2nd London Irish Rifles and was sent on a snipers course in 1942.

    Looking at his service record entry it looks as if the course was held at the Brigade HQ and lasted 4 days followed by another 6 days the following week.

    B103 Course.jpg

    I have his section roll book from North Africa in 1942-43 and it shows his section as part of the standard rifle company and equipped with a Bren but instead of Riflemen there are 1st and 2nd Snipers and 1st and 2nd Bombers. Bexley84 did let me know that the LIR set up "Scout and Sniper" sections during this time. I don't know if this is how snipers were normally employed at this period.

    Roll 1.jpg Roll 2.jpg
  2. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    Snipers did work as pairs.
    It would not be unusual for two snipers to go out together one acting as spotter and one sniper and periodically swapping roles.
    ceolredmonger likes this.
  3. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    Hi SMLE
    I wonder if your Grandfathers Section was trained for a specific job.
    The make up is not that of a normal rifle sections .
    A Cpl and L/Cpl as normal and a Bren pair for covering fire, a sniper pair and a pair of bombers (entry men?).
    Also they seem to have revolvers issued to the Bren pair which is unusual and would more likely be of use to the snipers for local protection.
    They may be worked as a house clearing team snipers and Bren covering the entry group
    ceolredmonger likes this.
  4. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    Martin Pegler - formerly of the Royal Armouries did some extensive research work on Snipers. I think he wrote an Osprey and at least on excellent general work.
  5. ClankyPencil

    ClankyPencil Senior Member

    Yeah. I've got his book 'Out of Nowhere - A History of the Military Sniper' published by Osprey.

    Amazon Link

    ^^ You can pick up a 2nd hand hardback edition on amazon pretty cheaply

    It's a really good book covering all aspects of Sniping from training & tactics to equipment (rifle/scope combinations, camoflage, ammunition etc) and their development.

    It has loads of sketches, photos & documents and some personal accounts.

    I particularly like how a lot of contempary photos (i.e. IWM/US/MOD) are included, and he identifies what equipment is being used, including any adaptions made (i.e. it seems many commonwealth troops preferred using the Bren Gun sling on their sniper rifles etc).

    Even if you're not heavily into sniping/snipers it's still an interesting read and probably worth getting hold of a copy.
  6. idler

    idler GeneralList

    The History of the 58th 1939-1945: 2nd Battalion The Northamptonshire Regiment includes an interesting Load Table for a company, undated but 1943-44-ish. I've had a look through the text and can't see a reference to the table; make of this what you will:
    Right at the bottom of the table, below the company total line so perhaps not part of the company establishment, are three snipers with two sniper rifles, one standard rifle and 300 rounds of .303" between them. Despite there being columns for kit like binoculars, etc. nothing else is listed against the snipers.
  7. Kellard

    Kellard Active Member

    The Royal Marines always retained their snipers and the RM Sniper Wing at RM Small Arms School Browndown was in operation throughout the war. The snipers did use the P14 and later the No4Mk1 (T)
  8. IanS

    IanS Junior Member

    Just read the interesting observations and comments on this thread and thought I should add something I learnt from my father who was a sniper Sgt in HQ Coy, 4th Batt. Kings Own Scottish Borderers.
    He told me he was chosen to train as a sniper because he was a good shot. He was also a great poacher as a boy and made his own silencer for a .22 single shot bolt action rifle he and his pal used at night for roosting pheasants.
    He was trained by the Lovat Scouts and the following is an extract from his army record "attended course S.W.2, at stalking, observation and sniping wing of the advanced handling and fieldcraft school, Llanberis". He was also a PT instructor, small arms instructor and explosives instructor.
    If my memory is right, there were eight snipers per battalion and a total of forty eight in his regiment. He and his snipers were attached to the battalion's HQ company and would be assigned to any of the companies in the battalion., A Coy, B Coy, C Coy etc.
    They often worked in pairs and would often move into no-mans land, dig in and observe the enemy positions, they would be there until dark.
    His luck held throughout the war but his first section of snipers were killed, I think it was during the Battle of the Bulge. Because of the hard winter and high water table, they were often frozen in their trenches. My father got pneumonia and was sent back from the front to recover. During this time his snipers were co-opted to assist Royal Engineers to carry mines to the front line. The enemy heard them moving and mortared the location, a mortar bomb exploded near the leading soldier, setting off the mines he was carrying, which set off the mines in a chain reaction right down the line. There were 39 Royal Engineers and my fathers snipers, all were killed.
    He died last year at the age of 95. I took some video of him being reunited with a No4 T and telling stories of some of his exploits. If this is of interest, visit this link
    Last edited: May 10, 2017
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  9. idler

    idler GeneralList

    From the oddly-titled Job Analysis (Field): The Infantry of April 1945 (it's a very well produced booklet to educate personnel selection officers on what their selectees will be doing):

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  10. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    Makes it sound as if sniper is in tank firing out.
    I am sure he means firing at tank and hitting driver through slot.
    Post war snipers were trained to take out tanks optics.
  11. idler

    idler GeneralList

    I read that bit twice as well.

    The text doesn't strike me as particularly military in style, but you'd expect it to summarise the 'climactic norm' of sniper employment. It's a pity there's no mention of the training regime.
  12. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    I agree.
    Learner Sniper not a usual term in training pamphlets.
  13. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    this caught my attention
    my late father told me about a chap in his unit who could shoot through the slit of a tank to take out the driver.
    I just took it along with other snippets of what went on at the time and as ever wish I had asked more about it
    so lost in the mists of time
    canuck likes this.
  14. idler

    idler GeneralList

    I assume the 'learner snipers' would have already 'done the course', but it makes sense to send them out with an old hand for further instruction or assessment. If this was the norm, perhaps it was 21 AG policy rather than army-wide?
  15. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Anyone interested in the above might find it rewarding to obtain a reprint copy of Army Training Instruction No.9 - The Organization, Training and Employment of Snipers - 1944:

    Search | Rob van Meel - Re-Print Military Literature

    It's not so much an instruction as a discussion of sniper employment. For example, it recommends the use of 'learner' snipers as above.

    One thing to wary of on the site - P&P seemed to me to increase disproportionately for 'bulk' orders, so it might be worth playing around with combinations of wants.
  16. idler

    idler GeneralList

    As with so many things: nothing on what you're looking for but a surprising amount on what you're not:

    Military Training Pamphlet No.14 (India): Infantry Section Leading 1941:

    14.vii. Includes a table Suggested Organisation of a Section which outlines example 'specialist' roles for riflemen in the 1 NCO plus 10 man section. Numbers 3 and 4 riflemen are roled as Sniper-Scout with the following note:
    In case anyone's interested, there is a wire diagram of the battalion but it is lacking any detail. Column headings are shown for Strength, Weapons, Vehicles and M.C.s and Cycles but no figures are included! Additional details picked out from the text are:
    No MMGs.
    There are six mortars in the Mortar Platoon, each with its own 15-cwt truck.
    The Carrier Platoon has an undisclosed number of sections each of three carriers.
    In the printing data at the back, the maual's dated as 13/12/41. I believe there are later printings incorporating amendments but I'm fairly certain this is the original unamended edition.
  17. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I've found a few references re snipers in the latter issues of Infantry Notes I've been able to get copies of.

    From No.10 of December 1944;

    Sniper's "Kills" - The sniping propagandist quotes the number of GERMANS killed by snipers in the last war and attempts to prove that time spent on sniping was time well spent. So far in this war very few claims have been recorded and it is felt that we may well suffer again through letter out (sic) sniping die in peace time. Units' claims would be most acceptable in this office if they could be sent in every month. They should be recorded as (a) kill, body found and (b) hit claimed.

    From No.11 of March 1945;

    Motor Battalion WE II/231/3 - Amendment No.6 to the above WE has been approved, with effect from 12th December 1944, as follows. "Six privates will be trained and armed as snipers and will include the following ranks and appointments; 1 Corporal and 1 Lance-corporal". Although snipers are not shown as such in the WE six sniper equipments are already authorised for issue. The additional ranks allowed are in accordance with the policy of raising status of the sniper by providing the opportunity of promotion while still remaining a sniper.

    The Canadian Infantry Battalion WE indicates they withdrew their two snipers from each Rifle Coy HQs under an amendment of May 1944 to form a Section in Bn HQ. I'm sure I've seen somewhere a reference to an amendment being requested to the British Inf Bn WE to do likewise, I thought in ATI No.9 mentioned earlier, but I can't find it now! Assuming I'm not imagining it, it was dated slightly ahead of the Normandy landings, so about the same time as the Canadian amendment. The Canadians went one step further with the addition of a Scout Officer (circa Sep44) to oversee the snipers at Bn HQ, which sometimes lead to them being referred to as a Scout Platoon.

    With reference to snipers in Rifle Sections and Platoons, my understanding is that these were the more able shots in the Platoons but not armed with anything other than a normal rifle. ATI No.9 details the possibility of Section snipers working with Bn snipers to form a pair, as well as the alternative of two men per Rifle Coy being withdrawn to act as 'learners' as mentioned earlier. It also recommends that either the Bn IO or 2-in-C takes on training and employment of the snipers in addition to his other duties.

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  18. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    The iconic photo of Sgt. Harold Marshall of the Calgary Highlanders Scout and Sniper Platoon.

    As Gary noted, by 1944 Canadian infantry battalions had added a Scout and Sniper Platoon to Battalion Headquarters, under the Intelligence Officer.

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  19. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    Looks like the handle of a Gurkhas Kukri along side the grenade and sheath behind the sling swivel.,He was ready for hand to hand fighting.
    canuck likes this.
  20. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    Yes it is. Good eye. There is a better view in this photo.

    stolpi likes this.

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