Report: Bartholomew Committee, lessons to be learnt from operations in Flanders

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    TNA Catalogue Reference: CAB 106/220

    Context: War Cabinet and Cabinet Office: Historical Section: Archivist and Librarian Files: (AL Series), WAR OF 1939-1945: France and Flanders - 1939-1940

    Scope and content: Final report of the Bartholomew Committee on lessons to be learnt from the operations in Flanders.

    Covering dates: 1940

    Courtesy of Drew
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    Terms of Reference
    Composition of the Committee
    Evidence - List of Contributors

    PART I - General

    PART II - Lessons
    1. Higher Organisation
    2. Organisation Generally
    3. Tactics
    4. Defence against Tanks
    5. Defence against Air Attack
    6. Employment of Air Resources
    7. Command and Control
    8. Questions of Administration

    1. General
    2. Royal Armoured Corps
    3. Artillery
    4. Royal Engineers
    5. Signals
    6. Infantry

    APPENDIX A - Report by Lieutenant-Colonel E.C. HUBERT

    Notes on Evidence, Wednesday 18 June 1940
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    The terms of reference of the Committee were:-

    1. To consider lessons of the recently operations in FLANDERS which can be applied usefully to our present organisation and training.

    2. To suggest the modification in our organisation, training and equipment which should be made to meet the problem with which the British Army will be faced in the event of an attempted invasion of this country.
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    General Sir William H. BARTHOLOMEW, G.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O.

    Major-General C.C. MALDEN, Director of Military Training
    Major-General N.M.S. IRWIN, D.S.O., M.C.
    Brigadier D.G. WATSON, M.C.
    Brigadier W.C. HOLDEN, D.S.O., M.C.

    Colonel R. GURNEY, M.T.I.
    Major G.W.S. BURTON
    Captain R.W.M. de WINTON
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    The Committee took evidence from the following Officers:-

    Lieutenant-General W.G. LINDSELL, D.S.O., O.B.E., MC.
    Lieutenant-General W.G. HOLMES, C.B., D.S.O.
    Lieutenant-General The Honourable H.R.L.G. ALEXANDER, C.B., C.S.I., D.S.O., M.C.
    Lieutenant-General A.F.A.N. THORNE, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O.
    Major-General B.A. HILL, C.B., D.S.O.
    Major-General D.G. JOHNSON, V.C., C.B., D.S.O., M.C.
    Major-General H.E. FRANKLYN, D.S.O., M.C.
    Major-General H.G. MARTIN, D.S.O., O.B.E.
    Major-General G. le Q. MARTEL, D.S.O., M.C.
    Air Vice Marshal C.H.R. BLOUNT, O.B.E., M.C.
    Major-General R. CHENEVIX TRENCH, O.B.E., M.C.
    Major-General F.N. MASON MacFARLANE, C.B., M.C.
    Major-General V.V. POPE, D.S.O., M.C.
    Brigadier J.G. HALSTED, O.B.E., M.C.
    Brigadier C.J.S. KING, C.B.E.
    Brigadier G.I. GARTLAN, D.S.O., M.C.
    Brigadier C.E. HUDSON, V.C., D.S.O., M.C.
    Brigadier D.H. PRATT, D.S.O., M.C.
    Brigadier C.B. FINDLAY, M.C.
    Brigadier Sir Oliver H. LEESE, Bart., D.S.O.
    Brigadier E.H. BARKER, D.S.O., M.C.
    Brigadier C.P.W. PERCEVAL, D.S.O.
    Brigadier J.S. STEELE, M.C.
    Brigadier C. McV. GUBBINS, M.C.
    Brigadier D.W. FURLONG, D.S.O., O.B.E., M.C.
    Colonel E.N. COWELL, C.B.E., D.S.O., T.D.
    Lieutenant-Colonel H. LUMSDEN, D.S.O., M.C.
    Lieutenant-Colonel L. BOOTLE-WILBRAHAM, D.S.O., M.C.
    Lieutenant-Colonel R. BRIGGS, D.S.O., M.C.
    Lieutenant-Colonel D.A. STIRLING
    Lieutenant-Colonel E.O. HERBERT
    Lieutenant-Colonel T.J.W. WINTERTON
    Lieutenant-Colonel L.E. BOURKE
    Commander AntiTank Regiment 48 Division
    Battalion Commander from 4 Division
    Major D.N.W.N. IRVEN
    Major T.F.J. COLLINS.

    In addition to the verbal evidence taken the Committee received evidence and opinions in writing from the following:-

    Major-General B.L. MONTGOMERY, D.S.O.
    Major-General H.B.D. WILLCOX, D.S.O., M.C.
    G.O.C. 61st Division
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    PART I


    It must be appreciated that the operations on which this report is based consisted almost entirely of a series of withdrawals which the B.E.F. was compelled to undertake to conform to the movements of Allied forces on our flanks. In spite of the enemy's superiority in materials, on no occasion were we forced to relinquished the main position by a frontal attack against the B.E.F. and, without question, the British soldier is at least as good as the German. In many cases attacks were made on abnormal formations holding extremely large frontages, and yet we kept the enemy back and succeeded in holding him off sufficiently to enable a very large proportion of the force to be evacuated. That this was done in spite of the fact that the main striking force of the German air arm was directed against the B.E.F. is proof, if proof were needed, that given a reasonable fighting chance the British Army may fight with confidence of success.

    New and unexpected developments included the dive bombing attack, and a greater number of enemy armoured formations that had been anticipated. The German showed once more that he is a first class soldier and that he fights with the greatest determination, pressing forward through any weak spot or gap in the defences without any regard to the dangers to which his flanks may be exposed. If checked, his organisation is such that rapid support from the air, mortars and his infantry guns is very quickly available.

    By every means in his power, and often with great ingenuity the enemy has concentrated his means of attack on the morale of his opponents. In the application of his weapons he relies almost as much on terrorisation by noise, as on material effect. The loud burst of the shell from his infantry gun was out of all proportion to the casualties it caused, while his dive bombers and the bombs themselves are fitted with noise producing gadgets. Enemy troops on our flanks, and those who succeeded in penetrating our positions appeared to change their positions and use their fire with the object of giving the impression that they were more numerous than they really were. Similar attempts to undermine morale included the dropping of dummy parachutists behind our lines, while ruses, such as passing troops through the lines disguised as refugees were also employed. Every conceivable ruse has been employed, and to counter them we must be active both mentally and physically.

    Throughout the campaign the C-in-C was faced with the necessity for maintaining touch with the War Office and co-operating with the Allies on either flank, and the Commander of an Army Group, in addition to being responsible for the executive command of the B.E.F. This constituted a problem of extreme difficulty.

    Faced with these problems, and against the methods described, our organisation as planned (in many respects units, arms and material authorised were not available) and our tactical conceptions have on the whole stood the test.

    Before any reference is made to detail, the Committee wishes to stress what appear to be the following major lessons of the campaign:-

    (i) The Offensive Spirit.
    The six months devoted largely to the preparation of elaborate defensive positions tend to blunt the offensive spirit both of our own troops and of our Allies, although our immediate problem is once more one of defence, and the construction of concrete emplacements and defensive localities, this must not be allowed to prejudice the inoculation of a fiercer, aggressive spirit into their troops by all commanders. The key to success against the German is to hit

    (ii) Discipline.
    Coupled with this offensive spirit, physical fitness, the ability to 'live hard' (for periods on short rations), and the need for rigid discipline are of paramount importance.

    (iii) Air Superiority.
    Whilst being fully conscious of the magnificent effort of the R.A.F. in the face of great German numerical superiority, the Committee feels that urgent action is required to place co-operation between the two services on a better basis.

    (iv) Anti-Tank Defence.
    Against an enemy equipped with Armoured Fighting Vehicles on the scale of the German Army an increased scale of issue of Tanks and Anti-Tank weapons is of the first importance. In addition, all ranks must be taught to adopt aggressive tactics against any tanks which succeed in penetrating our positions; they should be hunted and ambushed by day and stalked and harried by night, relentlessly and tirelessly until they have been destroyed.
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    In this part of the report, the more general lessons of the campaign are dealt with, while PART III deals with the detailed application of these lessons in so far as they affect individual arms, organisation and equipment.


    (a) The Organisation of G.H.Q.
    It is considered that the many responsibilities with regard to liaison which fell to the C-in-C greatly increased his difficulties of executive command and it is strongly recommendd, should a similar arise, that an army headquarters should be formed for executive command of the B.E.F., under G.H.Q.

    The need for this, is further stressed by the fact that the G.H.Q. signal organisation is not suitable for mobile operations involving frequent changes of headquarters, as G.H.Q. must remain to the international underground telephone system in order to maintain touch with our Allies and the War Office.

    (b) Corps organisation
    Divisions were frequently transferred during the battle from one corps to another, and it has been suggested by some that the corps should be regarded as the basic fighting formation. The Committee does not take this view and considers that, while it is always desirable to keep divisions under the commanders and staffs they know, it is wrong to attempt to tie the hands of the higher command by laying too much stress on this point.
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    (a) The Basic Fighting Formation
    On the assumption that it will not be possible to restrict frontages, it is obvious that the lower the formation or unit which can be organised and equipped to fight by itself the better. The battalion group has much to commend it, but this would entail the battalion commander having too many subordinates, and would also lead to training difficulties. The brigade therefore seems to be the best to organise as the lowest self-contained fighting formation, in the form of a brigade group, within the division.

    The tactical handling of the division should be based on these self-contained groups, which will be normal both for training and fighting. With this decentralisation, it will be necessary for both brigade and battalion commanders to work more on their own initiative than in the past, though the principles in F.S.R. II Section 14 remain unaltered. An addition staff officer for operations on Brigade headquarters will be necessary. From the evidence given to the Committee it is very clear that divisions must have their own reconnaissance and protective unit, which, owing to the probability of its encountering enemy armoured reconnaissance units, should itself be armoured - see para (c ) below. It also required its own defence against low flying aircraft, specialised troops for anti-tank defence and an addition of some medium artillery. There was also a general demand for an increase in the number of medium M.Gs. This is shown in more detail below:-


    The following regrouping changes and additions to the establishment are recommended:-

    One M.G. Battalion of 5 Companies providing one M.G. Company to each Brigade (Brigade Companies need not be "Fully Mobile").
    One 6" How. Regiment
    Light A.A. Regiment
    One "Tank Fighter" Company as part of Anti-Tank Regiment
    Div. Recce Unit

    (a) One battery of the Anti-Tank Regiment should be given self-propelled mountings.
    (b) An Army tank counter-attack unit should be included in the division, though it is realised that this must be a long term policy.

    Three battalions
    One battery Anti-Tank regiment (allotted from div. anti-tank regiment)
    One company M.Gs (allotted from div. M.Gs battalion)
    One field regiment
    One A.A. platoon of 4 heavy M.Gs e.g. Besa (as an integral part of the Brigade)

    (a) It is suggested that if they can be made available one troop of four 4.5 How.s should form an integral part of the brigade for close support, as a weapon capable of greater accuracy than the mortar is required for use in the same way as the German infantry gun.
    (b) The anti-tank company commander will remain as the brigade anti-tank officer.

    No major alteration except the addition of one platoon of anti-tank guns (three guns) as an integral part of the unit and certain additions of equipment.

    (a) Personnel for the anti-tank troop will be found from a platoon of the present brigade anti-tank company
    (b) As soon as possible this troop should be increased from 3 to 4 guns.

    (b) Motor Divsions
    The motor division as a separate organisation should be abolished, as it is an uneconomical use of the M.T. available. The proportion of troop carrying companies should not be less than one per division, though companies should not be permanently allotted to specific divisions.

    (c) Recce Groups and Divisional Recce Unit
    It was evident that reconnaissance groups capable of independent action were necessary, and that such groups could not be permanently responsible for the protective and reconnaissance tasks required by divisions. From the evidence given to the Committee it is very clear that divisions must have their own reconnaissance and protective unit, and that owing to the probability of its encountering enemy armoured reconnaissance units it should itself be armoured. The existing divisional cavalry regiments should be grouped as Army Armoured Reconnaissance Brigades and, until such time as a Divisional Armoured Reconnaissance Unit can be provided, it is recommended that Divisions should be given a motor cycle battalion as their own reconnaissance unit.
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    3. TACTICS


    (a) Such experience as we have consists mainly of rearguards actions. We have no experience of a prolonged defensive battle from which we can draw conclusions. Practically all the positions taken up by the B.E.F. were developed behind a water line. Whether this is always the best obstacle on which to base a defensive position is debatable, but it seems to be quite clear that where speed is necessary, where it is essential to impose immediately delay on the enemy and particularly on his A.F.Vs, and where any immediate offensive by our own troops for the time being is unlikely, the water obstacle is probably the best that can be found. Such an obstacle has, however, serious disadvantages. A river is liable to be overlooked by hill, and trenches covering the river are easily located by the enemy observation posts unless they are very carefully concealed. The water line may be a canal, the banks of which are raised above the levee of the surrounding country, in which case the defence of the bank itself is a matter of considerable difficulty, as there is dead ground on the enemy side which cannot be overlooked, except possibly from a flank. Moreover the occupation of a water line, the bridges of which have been destroyed, denies to the defender any opportunities of offensive ? [word obscured] except by fire, and makes it more difficult for them to patrol and find out what the enemy is doing. An additional disadvantage is that the water line frequently lengthens the frontage to be held. On the other hand provided the bridges are blown and provided the obstacle is kept under fire and under observation a water line is probably a more difficult obstacle for the A.F.Vs to cross than any other. On the whole, therefore, it seems right to conclude that at any rate in withdrawal and in a rapidly organised defensive position the occupation of a water line is sound. This does not mean that, in the organisation of a defensive position for occupation over along period, the from line should necessarily be a water obstacle. It might well be possible to use the water line as an obstacle covering the divisional reserve line whilst the forward defended localities are based on a continuous chain of natural and artificial tank obstacles. It is quite clear, however, that, no matter what the degree of organisation may be, it is essential to ensure that the forward line is covered by an obstacle or obstacles of sorts, that there is an occupied stop line somewhere in rear and that so far as possible the position is concealed and difficult to reconnoitre. As a matter of interest it is understood that the Germans contemplate the occupation of a position with their main obstacle covered by forward troops in a forward zone as well as by outposts.

    Our comments at this stage apply to the defence of a water line though probably many of the lessons can be applied to the defence of a position covered by an obstacle other than water.

    (b) In considering enemy methods of attack which must influence our defensive tactics, we must remember that the Germans are extremely quick in gaining contact, an every pertinacious in maintaining it once gained. During the withdrawal from the River DYLE, their reconnaissance troops were very quickly in touch with us on each new position, and their snipers and mortars came rapidly into action. In addition, carrier planes often brought up reinforcements of infantry almost as soon as our positions had been located. The enemy had almost complete air superiority throughout the operations which enabled them to bring artillery fire to bear on all our positions very quickly and entirely prevented any reconnaissance, either tactical or artillery, by our own machines. This hampered all our operations from the very commencement. The German method of preparation for attacks consist of rapid reconnaissance, which taps along the front line until a weak spot or gap is found. As soon as such a spot is located the crossing of the obstacle is effected and a small bridgehead is made. This bridgehead is subsequently widened and a tank bridge speedily installed over which the tanks cross. Once such a crossing is made the bridgehead is widened to allow the passage of more and more troops. If a weak spot is not found as a result of the initial reconnaissance, a concentration of gun and mortar fire, or dive bombing, is put down behind which a crossing is forced. The ensuing action is in both cases the same.

    Subsequent to the forming of a bridgehead, which may happen at one or more places, the Germans, by using infiltration methods and with a complete disregard for open flanks, attempt to push their mobile troops through, if necessary on a narrow front. The axis of such an advance will sooner of later be one of the roads leading back through our position.

    It was proved in all actions that the German does not like being counter-attacked and that rapid retaliation will frequently force him to withdraw or to try to penetrate somewhere else. The lessons that we can draw from this are that we must endeavour, if we can, to prevent him crossing the obstacle by good reconnaissance and by well placed fire; that any concentration which may presage a crossing must be at once engaged by fire and that any bridgehead or footing that the enemy may obtain on our own side of the line must be immediately counter-attacked with vigour. In addition the position must have depth, and localities must be capable of holding out though isolated, and must on no account withdraw because they are outflanked, or even surrounded.

    (c) As regards the general system of the layout of a defensive position the teaching of our manuals is correct, but the doctrine laid down in our pamphlets must be modified to suit the very wide fronts which were imposed upon us, and which are likely to become normal in future.

    In taking up a defensive position it is essential that reconnaissance and organisation should be carried out quickly. Sufficient time, however, must be taken to ensure that the initial dispositions are sound and that the troops are given the best chance of doing themselves justice. As soon as possible a good system of observation must be established, combined with a really efficient sniping organisation. Any enemy seen must be shot at and all movement must be made dangerous and difficult. Two sniper rifles per battalion are not enough and should be increased to the original eight, while in addition, the need for good rifle shots to combat the enemy's infiltration tactics was apparent.

    F.D.Ls must be sited to that the whole obstacle is covered by fire; this is particularly applicable to a water line. Other posts in rear must be mutually supporting. The rear platoons of forward companies must be sited so that they can support the F.D.Ls by fire and counter-attack immediately to regain the forward lines.

    Behind the front the define must be organised in depth in a series of localities containing infantry, anti-tank guns and M.Gs.

    Obvious trenches under enemy observation are useless and will be rendered untenable by mortar and gun fire. Trenches must be sited and gun to ensure the maximum concealment, and there must be plenty of alternative positions. Narrow slit trenches with a low parapet are probably the best type of trench until the position is developed.

    Villages and woods are good anti-tank obstacles, but if they are occupied due consideration must be given to the fact that they are liable to be subjected to dive bombing attacks in which case well concealed slit trench positions outside the localities may be preferable.

    The greatest effect against enemy tanks will be obtained when they have been divorced from their supporting troops. Great depth in the anti-tank defence is therefore required. Guns should not be placed too far forward to cover positions already covered by obstacles against direct attack. Further where the obstacle is a water line there is no necessity to place guns in forward localities because the obstacle acts as protection. Guns should be sited inside infantry localities, should be defiladed from the front and should engage tanks by surprise and in enfilade. The maximum use of natural cover must be made to obtain concealment both from view and fire.

    In order to save time the initial layout of all anti-tank defences must be made by the Infantry Brigadier in each Brigade Sector, the Commander of the Infantry Brigade company co-ordinating the siting of guns and mines.

    Subsequently the layout should be co-ordinated by the Commander of the anti-tank regiment in accordance with the Divisional Commander's orders.

    It is clear that the Anti-Tank Regimental Commander must act as the adviser to the Divisional Commander in all anti-tank defence and not merely on the distribution and allotment of the guns. The Infantry Brigade Company Commander must act in the same capacity to his Brigadier, since the location of guns and mines and development of natural obstacles are all one problem.

    As it is essential to ensure that the line of defended localities is held, as much fire as possible should be brought down in front of and between them. Some M.M.Gs must therefore be sited for this purpose. Other guns must be sited well back to protect rear areas and the divisional reserve line. Isolated sections will quickly be overrun and guns must therefore be sited inside the infantry localities. The closest touch must be maintained between M.M.Gs and the infantry units and sub-units in whose areas they are operating.

    The Carrier Platoon provides the Battalion Commander with a reserve of fire power and the means with which to carry out a counter-attack both by direct action and by infiltrations methods. They should therefore be sited well back in the battalion area so as to be available for any task required of them. They proved of immense value in every role, mounted, dismounted, or even when driven across the front without firing to frighten the enemy infantry.

    - 6. MORTARS
    Mortars in the battalion are insufficient and the number should be increased. They are invaluable for bringing fire rapidly to bear on enemy reconnaissance parties or on possible assembly areas etc. They may therefore be sited well forward. They require a means of communication between the O.P. and the detachment.

    On wide fronts the organisation of the S.O.S. lines or defensive fire is difficult, and entails the registration of a number of alternative targets. The wider the front, the more flexible must be the plan for artillery support and the more must it rely on observed fire.

    Speed in organisation of defensive fire is essential and battalion and battery commanders should fix provisional defensive fire tasks quickly and get them registered. Adjustments and co-ordination can follow. The main principle is that guns should be in action and ready to shoot as soon as possible. For quick action armoured O.Ps are invaluable but it is open to question whether, owing to enemy D.F. methods, those can be used after the first 24 hours, without change of position. Owing to the shortage of gunner officers and as the number of O.Ps who can be manned is limited, O.Ps must be known to infantry officers so that they can point out targets to the gunner officers. If they cannot be pointed out, a map spotting must be given together with information as to the position of the nearest troops to the target.


    (a) It is absolutely essential that all troops should be thoroughly imbued with the principle that it is their job to hold their positions whether they are outflanked or surrounded. Troops should make full use of alternative positions to avoid mortar and shell fire, and by constant shift of position they should try to keep the enemy guessing as to which position they are in fact occupying.

    (b) It must also be constantly and persistently rubbed into all ranks that in the defence they must be as aggressive as possible, that they must seize every opportunity of killing enemy, or attacking and exterminating parties infiltrating into their position.

    The determination to hold on and to be aggressive depends largely on a high esprit de corps, but more particularly on a very high standard of leadership on the part of the Officers, Warrant Officers and N.C.Os. These are points which require immediate attention, and no opportunity should be missed, in training, to instil into everybody that on their grim determination and on their resourcefulness may depend the success or failure of the defence in their part of the line.

    (c ) It was apparent in the operations under consideration that many officers and men did not appreciate the extreme value of cunning and a high sense of the importance of not giving the enemy a target. All ranks must learn to avoid being observed so as to keep down the casualties which will be incurred from careless exposure.

    (d) Finally it cannot be too continuously emphasised that it is the duty of all commanders from the most senior downwards to impress on their subordinates that surprise and the use of the unexpected is just as important in defence as in attack.
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    (a) The value of tank obstacles
    With an enterprising enemy such as the Germans, the value of rivers, canals, woods, villages, and other natural obstacles can be over-estimated - this may well apply to the sea and no obstacle must be regarded as proof against tanks.

    (b) Tank hunting units
    The offensive spirit in dealing with tanks should be instilled into all ranks and the creation of special tank hunting forces should be undertaken on the precedent of the Spanish Civil War. Their task would be to hunt, harry and ambush tanks which may have broken through, and to attack them by night in their "harbours" by dynamite, petrol bombs and other devices. An aggressive type of defence against any tanks which succeed in getting inside or behind our defensive system is essential.

    (c) Anti-Tank mines
    As anti-tank mines are often required at short notice, the first echelon of mines together with their vehicles, now with the Field Park company, should be transferred to the brigade transport.

    (d) Anti-Tank weapons
    The anti-tank defence within the division requires strengthening so far as weapons are available. Anti-tank guns should be included in the battalion and brigade. A proportion of the anti-tank guns in the division should be on armoured and self-propelled mountings. All anti-tank guns should have an improved shield giving greater protection. The need for a tractor giving better protection against S.A.A. was very evident. It should be noted, however, that the 2-pounder anti-tank gun and the anti-tank rifle fully justified their introduction into the service. Even in the case of heavily armoured vehicles the anti-tank rifle was found to be effective against their tracks, although the sight of the tracer cap flying off may have given rise to the belief that the bullet itself had ricochetted harmlessly. The importance of aiming at the tracks should therefore be stressed. Now that the Germans can obtain exact details of the powers of penetration of our present weapons it must be assured that they will increase armour accordingly. We should therefore hasten the production of the 6-pounder anti-tank gun.

    (e) Organisation of anti-tank defence
    Except in a very deliberate defence, the initial anti-tank measures of all kinds should be the respectively of brigade commanders. Subsequently, the anti-tank defence by all means available should be co-ordinated by the O.C. Anti-Tank regiment under orders of the divisional commander.
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    The Committee came to the following conclusions:-

    (a) Effect of air attack on roads
    Despite the extreme unpleasantness and temporary delays caused by air attack on the movement of columns along roads, air attacks alone cannot prevent such movement taking place.

    (b) Effect of air attacks on railways
    The delays caused by air attack on railway junctions, marshalling yards and other centres were often of a temporary nature only, as a diversion could soon be arranged. Damage to running lines at awkward spots, and at a distance from the repair facilities of railway centres, caused more lasting delays.

    (c ) Effect of dive bombing
    Though dive bombing is effective against material targets and has considerable moral effect against inexperienced troops, the casualties inflicted on personnel are surprisingly small.

    (d) Active defence against air attack
    Fighters are undoubtedly the best protection, but all forms of A.A. armament have proved their efficiency. The allotment of A.A. artillery, both heavy and light, which could be made to the B.E.F. was inadequate for the task. The need for more A.A. fire in the forward areas was very strongly felt.

    (e) A.A. small arms fire
    Small arms fire is effective both for bringing down aircraft and for reducing the morale of the enemy pilot, but its greatest value by far is the "kick" it gives to the firer. The value of small arms A.A. fire much therefore be stressed and all troops should be trained to engage low flying aircraft with every available weapon - not, however, at too great a height.

    Our present teaching that A.A. S.A. fire should be controlled under the platoon commanders orders is not practicable in present conditions; men should be trained to fire individually.

    (f) Passive defence against air attack
    The slit trench is the best means of passive defence and all troops should be trained to dig in immediately on every occasion. Careless exposure and casual movement were too prevalent until troops had learnt their dangers by experience. Rigid air defence discipline must therefore be enforced. If the men are below ground, they have little to fear. There is a mass of evidence to show that bombs bursting only 5 yards away have had practically no effect.

    Everyone must be taught not to fear bombing. If men protect themselves by digging and taken offensive action by fire, anger and ridicule will become the overriding emotions - not fear.
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    (a) General
    The B.E.F. met with slight air opposition in its advance to the DYLE. In its withdrawal to the ESCAUT, opposition increased and, later, in the attack on its flank and rear by enemy armoured formations, and in its subsequent withdrawal to the coast and embarkation - as was learnt from an intercepted message - the whole effort of the German Air Force was directed against it.

    (b) Lessons
    The outstanding features of the German air action and the lessons learnt were:-

    (i) The concentration of the maximum air effort to assist in achieving the immediate object in view. There were abundant examples of this. The concentration on the Belgians and the advanced French cavalry formations in the early days. The support of the break-through on our right. The concentration on our rear and flank as the armoured attack developed in that area. The concentration on our roads at the time of the withdrawal to the coast and finally the concentration on the points of embarkation. At such times attacks at other points were slight and it was almost possible to deduce from the air action alone, the enemy's intentions for the day. Apparently at no time during the period when the defeat of the Allied armies in the north was the aim of the German High Command were there any serious diversions of the aircraft against strategical objectives.

    (ii) The close co-operation between the enemy's army and air forces. There is little doubt that the policy of equipment, organisation and training of the enemy has been directed to this end. Air action, both in time and place was always intimately connected with the tactical situation on the ground. Even in the case of "impromptu" attack it was seldom more than 25 minutes before the call was answered. This indicated not only good organisation and communications for the purpose, but the siting of many of their landing grounds close up behind their advanced troops. Efforts should at once be made to simplify and improve our own intercommunication between ground and air for similar purposes. Another example of the close co-operation which existed was the many instances by troop carriers to land in fields close to our forward localities almost immediately after contact on the ground was made.

    (iii) The outstanding value of air attack as "supporting fire" to cover the assault of armoured and, at times, infantry formations. According to the reports from formations concerned, it was this feature which contributed to the successful "break-through" against the French on our right more than any other factor. Although this "close tactical bombing", which is carried out by dive bombers with both M.Gs and bombs, is a form of artillery "preparation", it can be carried out under circumstances of time and place when effective artillery fire would not be possible. It is accurate and has the great advantage of placing the fire to conform with the observed movements of the assaulting troops - an extremely difficult, if not impossible problem for the artillery observer in a ground O.P.

    (c) It is imperative to ensure forthwith that a system comparable to that of the Germans should be introduced into our Army and Air Force. Even the brigade group must be able to call up immediate support by wireless, a process which out to be easier in the defence than in the attack.

    (d) Use of aircraft for intercommunication
    The enemy used aircraft for the control of his armoured divisions to the fullest extent, and even carried unit commanders. It is recommended that we should study this development in the control of our own formations. In the meantime the aircraft employed by the Germans for this purpose are easily recognisable and when seen should be attacked with the greatest vigour.

    (e) General effect on morale
    The magnificent work done by the R.A.F. in the face of German numerical superiority, is appreciated by all. The Committee, would, however, like to point out that by the nature of things, neither the actual bombing carried out by the R.A.F. in support of the B.E.F. nor its effect was seen by the man in the field. All day he saw swarms of enemy bombers escorted by fighters and suffered from their attack. Occasionally he saw or hoard above the clouds an attack by our fighters. Unlike the German soldier, he had never seen aircraft closely co-operating with him to defeat his own particular enemy opposite to him. All this had a very definite effect on morale and gave the impression that the enemy superiority was complete and that our own air force hardly existed. Radio news reports that the RUHR and HAMBURG had been bombed were cold comfort. There are three steps which can be taken to put matters right.

    First, as a matter of training, all ranks must be taught how the R.A.F. work, where fighters patrol, and get their greatest successes, the localities and nature of the targets bombed and the effect on the battle in which the soldier is taking part etc. Suitable lectures by good lectures are needed together with study and demonstration during exercises.

    Secondly, early provision should be made of suitable close support aircraft together with the developments organisation and training to use them.

    Thirdly, until such aircraft are available, the R.A.F. must "show the flag" to the troops in the forward areas - even at the expense of other tasks - by carrying out some bombing with existing machines in sight of our lines.

    (f) Reconnaissance
    As decided before the advance, tactical reconnaissance under corps took the form of "tip and run" sorties at the times when fighter "sweeps" were taking place. It produced good results up to about the fifth day, after which the German fighter concentration made reconnaissances of any kind by Lysanders impossible. Corps reconnaissance then virtually ceased. The "tip and run" sortie could probably have been continued throughout the operations if suitable fast aircraft had been available. Whether we shall ever be able to return to the deliberate type of reconnaissance with a comparatively slow machine is doubtful. Escorts of fighters may enable it to be done. It should be noted in this connection that the Germans with their great superiority in the air, were able to keep artillery machines, of similar type to the Lysander, almost constantly over the front, to the great discomfort of our forward troops.
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    (a) "Ad hoc" formations
    As far as possible control must be exercised through normal existing headquarters, and only in exceptional cases should "ad hoc" formations be created. Co-ordination of the operations of such forces is extremely difficult and they have not the necessary means for control or administration. It is appreciated that in certain circumstances the creation of "ad hoc" formations is necessary. The operations did however emphasise the difficulties which ensue, through lack of adequate means for control and administration.

    (b) Size of Headquarters
    Headquarters of all formations have gradually been increased. This is mainly due to attached personnel, most of whom must be shed when mobile operations being. In view of air attack it is generally necessary to divide headquarters during operations into a command post and a rear organisation.

    (c) Confirmation of Orders
    Orders issued by higher formations often took the form of conferences and verbal orders which were not confirmed. As some people affected by the orders were not present, they received no orders or information on essential matters.

    (d) Value of Motor Contact Officers
    There is complete unanimity among all witnesses that the motor contact officers have proved invaluable, and an increased scale as follows is desirable. It is understood that steps have already been taken to this end and the Committee regard this provision an urgent mater.

    CORPS - 6
    DIVISION - 4
    BRIGADE - 3

    (e) Mobility of Commanders
    There is a definite need for some carriers, scout cars or motor cycles with pillions in lower formations and unit H.Qs for use during the battle. This will allow some reduction in the scale of motor cars with headquarters.

    (f) Intercommunication

    (i) Wireless
    The B.E.F. did not make the best use of wireless. The Germans, on the other hand, appeared to use wireless to the maximum extent and mostly "in clear". We had no difficulty intercepting information but there was so much that it was rarely possible to extract items in time to take action on them. Approval was given in the B.E.F. to break wireless silence on crossing the frontier and our failure to make full use of it was due to:-
    - (a) lack of training and practice in view of restrictions during the static period;
    - (b) the ingrained habit of wireless silence during this period;
    - (c ) the fear of D.F.

    It is recommended that a greater use of wireless should be made at all times, that restriction should be reduced to a minimum, and that once operations are joined, the maximum use of wireless should be made. Certain precautions are, however, necessary to counter the enemy's D.F. organisation which is most efficient; these will include the use of remote control, and periodical moves of wireless sets, which should be dug in, particularly after contact has been made for more than 24 hours and the enemy D.F. organisation is well established.

    (ii) Codes
    Ciphers were for many purposes too slow to be used inside and forward of corps areas. Simple improvised word codes for place names and numbers and phrases (e.g. advance, zero hour, relieve) were used and proved to be of value. The use of those codes should receive official approval, as an alternative to the more cumbersome use of cipher.

    (iii) Light Signals
    Neither the scale of issue nor the quality of the signal is adequate. It is recommended that the allotment of very pistols should be increased to 1 per Section, together with a generous scale of lights. A good system of light signals for use as an S.O.S. is an urgent necessity.
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    The Committee wish to call attention to the following points:-

    (a) Administration generally
    General LINDSELL reported that administrative plans were prepared in the greatest detail to deal with every eventuality which could be foreseen. In the light of experience he expressed the opinion that broader instructions in the form of directives, leaving details to be worked out by Corps, would have been preferable.

    The problem of supply in the field hinges on railheads. It was realised that the most obvious places for selection as railheads, by reason of the facilities available, would be immediate targets for aerial bombardment. In view of this, railheads were established at minor stations, where the facilities we have been trained to expect for operations of this scale were not available, and were constantly moved. In spite of these restrictions the supply system worked satisfactorily, which suggests that our desiderata are too academic.

    (c ) Refugees
    The refugee problem plays a very important part in an operation of this type. The only really satisfactory course is to forbid all movement, except for key men, who must be got away early. From the experience of Flanders (a short resume is attached at Appendix A), the following lessons have emerged:-

    - (i) A pre-arranged refugee scheme is essential and controlling forces must be placed in position before the main flood of refugees starts.

    - (ii) Use of sideroads etc requires many more men for control than allowing flow along a natural artery, and in addition by-roads are more easily blocked.

    - (iii) Force must be used to immobilise vehicles. Without it vehicles will move on again at the slightest opportunity. Removal of distributor parts from cars and harness from horses are the easier methods.

    - (iv) Uncontrolled evacuation leads not merely to traffic james but to dislocation of local services (light, water, sanitation, hospital, etc).

    - (v) Refugee streams once started must be allowed to flow. To attempt to stem the tide involves an inevitable block.

    - (vi) Refugees must be persuaded to leave parked vehicles if they are to avoid heavy casualties. In one day on a refugee road in Belgium the killed in four parks were 12, 5, 15, 7.

    (d) Maintenance
    Once the ABBEVILLE line had been cut, the army depended on a 7 days supply of requirements which had been dumped North of the SOMME. From the evidence given by G.H.Q. "Q" staff it is considered that dumping should be reduced to the minimum, reserves being held as far as possible in the [? next two words faint] en cas mobile trains.

    (e) Transport

    - (i) L of C railways companies using 10-ton lorries were found to be too heavy for en cas mobile road convoys.

    - (ii) The size of the tail of a corps and the numbers of transport vehicles tied up in it was a matter of considerable comment. The vehicles available as reserves in the hands of G.H.Q. were always inadequate for the large unforeseen demands they had to meet. Although no concrete proposals were put forward it is considered that the whole question merits consideration by an expert committee. The lines on which economics might be effected are:-

    - The removal from Corps of all unnecessary or "luxury" units and units such as mobile ordnance workshops which might well be army units on a less mobile basis.

    - The reduction of scales of reserves, ammunition, petrol, specialised equipment and tools.

    - The carriage of reserves, when required, by vehicles from a pool instead of having vehicles "tied up" for specific purposes.

    (f) Movement Control
    This whole subject should be studied in greater detail than was possible by this Committee. From the evidence already taken, the procedure developed in peace appears to have worked satisfactorily. In the case of the control of movement in the rear areas (i.e. behind divisions) it is desirable to have some specifically trained organisation on the lines of the French R.R., the use of troops even in the divisional areas is wasteful of fighting material.

    (g) Troop Carrying Companies
    During operations it was sometimes found difficult to find troop carrying companies for the issue of fresh instructions. Wireless sets should be provided for headquarters of troop carrying companies for communication with the formation to which it has been allotted.
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    1. GENERAL
    PART II of the report is intended to supplement the broader principles outlined in PART II. Recommendations are submitted only on these points which have been covered by the evidence taken in Committee. It is appreciated that further and more detailed suggestions will be forthcoming from the committees which have taken evidence on their own arm of the service.

    In the case of the Armoured Car Regiment and the A.A. Artillery our report is based on the evidence of an individual officer. The Committee is in general agreement with the views expressed, but wishes to make no comment on the technical issues.
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    - A. Armoured Car Regiment
    Opinion was unanimous that the armoured car regiment with wheeled vehicles able to cover long distances with little maintenance was invaluable.

    The present organisation, as a whole, is considered suitable but the number of troops in a squadron should be increased from three to five.

    Certain increases in, and modifications to, the equipment of the armoured car regiment are required:-

    (i) A 4-man vehicle is essential for reconnaissance purposes.

    (ii) Vehicles must have a four-wheeled drive.

    (iii) Wireless sets should have the power of a No. 9 set.

    (iv) Every vehicle must have some form of anti-tank gun - preferably a 2-pounder, or at least a .8 M.G., and must be proof against A.P. S.A.A.

    Operation and Training
    The attachment of one truck load of Engineers to each Squadron proved most valuable. While some engineers should always train with Armoured Car Regiments, they should not be an integral part of the regiment. At night the regiment was always withdrawn to the rear to link up with its maintenance services. It is suggested that we should train to the German system, whereby armoured vehicles "laager" where they end up at nightfall, and the maintenance services are sent up to them - in spit of certain obvious risks.

    - B. Divisional Cavalry Regiments
    Their general organisation has already been dealt with in PART I. If retained, the following reorganisation within the regiment is recommended:-

    (i) Being a reconnaissance unit, it is essential it should have its own rear link wireless and anchor set.

    (ii) 12 scout or armoured cars are required in R.H.Q. The need for some wheeled vehicle in this regiment is strongly felt.

    (iii) All tanks should be cruiser tanks, preferably heavy cruisers, armed with 2-pounder guns.
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    (A Committee under the Inspector of Artillery is sitting at LARKHILL).

    - A. Field Artillery
    It is the consensus of opinion that the field regiment should be reorganised into three batteries of two troops of four guns. The four gun troop is considered to be a very good fighting unit. Whatever establishment is adopted the number of officers appears to be too small, and it is suggested that it should be increased to 11 Officers per 8 gun battery. Suggested increased in equipment are given below:-

    (i) Armoured O.P's should be increased from two to six at the scale of one per troop.

    (ii) Transport All officers should have a motor cycle with pillion. A compensating decrease can be made in the number of cars.

    As stated in PART II, the 6" How., the range of which is too short for counter battery, should be an integral part of the divisional artillery.


    (i) The detailed distribution of anti-tank guns within the division has already been suggested in PART II.

    (ii) At present there is no anti-tank artillery in the corps for the protection of the corps administrative area. To avoid divisional anti-tank artillery begin taken away for this purpose, it is suggested that a corps anti-tank regiment should be provided as soon as guns are available.

    (iii) The following changes in personnel and equipment are recommended:-

    - It is essential that all troops should be commanded by officers
    - Addition of one regimental transport officer.
    - Increase of gun crew from 5 to 6, exclusive driver, to enable the Bren gun to be manned at the same time.
    - Cooking facilities to be on gun basis.
    - Provision of scout car for the battery commander.
    - Provision of motor cycle with pillion for the battery captain.


    (i) Training

    Heavy A.A.
    Certain faults in fire control were noted and the necessity for correcting them in training should be stressed. Fire effect appeared to be general speaking, low and behind. 400 foot should therefore be added to the predicted height. Fire was wasted on single aircraft. It should be limited to the initial burst of eight rounds, as avoiding action by the aircraft will render further bursts uneconomical. On the other hand, against mass formations of aircraft a barrage should be maintained against the leader of the first echelon, on the principle that the following waves will fly into it. Generally speaking the 3" was more suitable than the 3.7" for mobile operations.

    Light A.A.
    Guns should not as a rule engage single reconnaissance machines. By so doing they call attention to the fact that there is something in the area worth protecting. Fire should not be opened until the enemy is within 1,000 yards (ground range). Within this range the fire of the Bofors has proved very effective.

    (ii) Meteor
    Poor meteor was responsible for much inaccuracy. The establishment should be increased by two men per regiment, one meteor expert and one orderly.

    (iii) Motor Cyclists
    It was suggested that the motor cyclists of a Light A.A. regiment should be increased as follows:-

    BATTERY - 3
    TROOP - 2

    (iv) Kerrison Predictor
    It is considered that this predictor is not required in the forward areas.
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    (a) Organisation Field Companies
    In spite of the frequent need to decentralise and the variety of tasks which a field company has to perform, the Committee is of the opinion that the present organisation of a Field Company is adequate. The equipment on the other hand, carried by the company can be drastically reduced for mobile operation. At present every possible requirement is held. Most of the tools are never used and it is suggested that the G.1098 should be divided into two parts:-

    (i) Equipment required for mobile operations.

    (ii) Equipment required for static warfare.

    The latter category should be kept at the engineer dump.

    (b) Bridging
    Our whole bridging policy is too complicated and wants overhauling. It is recommended that there should be nothing between a rubber boat and kapok and an all-purpose bridge capable of taking a tank.

    It has been suggested that the bridge company is too large, unwieldy and difficult to hide. It should be split up into sections, one for each division. While this may be practicable, if an all-purpose bridge is adopted, it is realised that with our shortage of equipment it would probably be uneconomical to do this.

    (c) Explosives
    The shortage of weatherproof explosive - i.e. plastic was acute.

    (d) Motor Cycles
    There is a demand for more motor cycles in a field company and it is suggested that the numbers should be increased by 30%.
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    5. SIGNALS

    (a) Higher Formations
    It was agreed that on the whole in front of Corps the teaching of the Training Manuals was sound, and the equipment satisfactory for both mobile and static warfare.

    Behind Corps it was not so satisfactory. Light Armoured cable and ultra low frequency wireless is required. The signal organisation of G.H.Q. wants reconsideration with a view to increasing its mobility.

    (b) Cable
    The present line laying vehicle has poor cross country performance with the result that line is laid alongside roads and is cut by saboteurs or shell fire. If production allows, it is suggested that there should be a tracked line laying vehicle - especially for the Artillery.

    (c) Wireless
    Wireless below Corps should be simplified. The No. 3 set is too cumbersome, and its abolition would allow the replacement of a 3-ton lorry by a 30cwt truck.
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    It was agreed that with minor modifications in organisation and increases in equipment, the battalion could be made into a more efficient fighting unit. These changes are small and within the range of our present resources.

    (a) Riflemen
    In mobile warfare the need for good rifle shots is more apparent than ever, to combat the infiltration tactics of the Germans. Snipers proved invaluable but there must be at least eight Sniper rifles in a battalion.

    (b) Anti-Tank Guns
    As stated in PART II the Committee are convinced that the battalion must have some anti-tank gun protection of its own. A new platoon of three (to be increased later to four) 2-pounder guns should be premed in the Headquarter company. The personnel can be found from a platoon of the present brigade anti-tank company.

    (c) 3-inch Mortars
    The present scale of two mortars should be increased to six. At the same time means of communication must be provided, between the mortar and its O.P. by the addition of telephone and a short length of cable.

    (d) 2-inch Mortars
    There was no evidence as to the value of this weapon, because little or no H.E. was available. Most witnesses, however, agreed that it was well-worth retaining on the assumption that H.E. was provided in the proportion of 75% H.E. to 25% smoke. It was felt that any weapon which would give the platoon its own intimate support was of value.

    (e) Carriers
    The carrier was a great success even when used in an assault role, for which it was never intended. There was a general demand for increased numbers by all arms, and for many purposes. It is recommended that the carrier platoon should be increased by four carriers, including one to be used by the commanding officer for command purposes and that an A.T. rifle should be provided for every carrier and a pad fitted to enable fire to be directed backwards.

    The following improvements are recommended provided they do not prejudice the rate of production.

    (i) Armour should be raised by two to three inches especially at the back.

    (ii) Each carrier should carry smoke grenades or some other means of smoke production; a 2" mortar might be suitable.

    (iii) An A.A. mounting is required.

    Every battalion commander recommended the provision of two D.R's for the carrier platoon.

    (f) A.A. L.M.Gs
    It is considered that the single Bren in an A.A. role produces too small a cone of fire, and that twin mounted guns should be introduced. While the difficulties of production may preclude it, it is recommended that the Bren - used solely in an A.A. role as in the A.A. Platoon of Battalions - should be superseded by a more powerful weapon such as a heavy Besa.

    The present allotment of one truck per gun in the A.A. platoon is wasteful. Lastly, as all the new types of B vehicles have an enclosed cab it is suggested that the Scarfe ring should be fitted in place of the Motley mounting.

    (g) Tommy Guns
    These should be issued on the scale of one per section, carrier and group of five transport vehicles.

    (h) Pioneers
    The pioneer platoon proved its value, but it requires an increase in some items of equipment e.g. cold chisels and crowbars.

    (i) Entrenching Tool
    The light entrenching tool was a success and should be carried in the platoon truck until contact is made. The existing tools (picks and shovels) will still be required.

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