Skeleton Exercises in c.1940 - what did they involve?

Discussion in 'General' started by Pember, Dec 23, 2013.

  1. Pember

    Pember Junior Member

    I would be most grateful if anyone can shed light on what 'skeleton exercises' involved in circa 1940, at battalion and brigade level, in the UK Home Forces.

    Would this only have involved a small group of personnel - e.g. commanders, senior staff and signallers - or extended to all sub-units and involved the 'rank and file'?

    Any insights appreciated!
  2. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    T.E.W.Ts (Tactical Exercises Without Troops) This can be applied at all levels from section commanders through higher command. Sometimes on maps or maps and sandtables or in defence areas a walk and talk through. Depending on level - could involve all admin and logistics, signals and agencies required to carry out the task or level of training. See preparing for war 1939 and Infantry training manuals :

    Regimental training 1940 including T.E.W.Ts:
  3. Pember

    Pember Junior Member

    Thank you very much indeed!
  4. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Gunner Tours

    The short answer is probably. I don't think a "skeleton exercise" is the same as a TEWT. These types of training exercises serve different purposes.

    A TEWT, Tactical Exercise Without Troops is cognitive training in which officers practice planning and issuing orders.

    I think a skeleton Exercise covers military training where commanders participate but only a sample of soldiers to represent the manouvres of many. So in practising a complicated operation, say a divisional deliberate assault with a barrage,commanders down to company or even platoon level might take part with a unit represented by two soldiers to represent the left and right markers.

    It might also include cover what in modern terms might be called a command post exercise. This is a training exercise in which headquarters and communications units practice staff procedures and the passage of orders. It can be carried out at different levels from Company to Army group.

    They two types of exercise can be combined. A brigade level skeleton exercise might be set up to allow the brigade and battalion HQs and signalers to practice. Company commanders might carry out a TEWT and then act as lower controllers feeding in reports.
  5. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

  6. Pember

    Pember Junior Member

    Thank you!
  7. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Some exercises lasted three days or more and involved a whole infantry division. The practice of manoeuvring a division on the ground was valuable experience. The tactical deployment of the three infantry battalions within an infantry brigade was general monitored by a group of umpires led by a senior officer. Involved in one when as Battalion Signals Officer and questioned intently by a senior umpire as they presented me with a number of scenarios to test my reaction to the problems being presented in my
    siting of a Battalion HQ Signals Office under heavy artillery fire.

    TEWTs were also valuable and instructive, working from either sand-table models or on the actual ground where you walked over a situation as you were required in small groups of officers to decide on the alternative tactical manoeuvres that could be employed and discuss alternatives. Once attended as an infantry officer a TEWT conducted by our Divisional Field Regiment to practice giving orders for directing and correcting fire as puffs of smoke on the model indicated where shells were landing. All useful training.

    Joe Brown.
    Earthican likes this.
  8. Pember

    Pember Junior Member

    Thank you Joe Brown for the further insights!
  9. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member


    Reading through my father's regimental war diaries I have found so far an 'Exercise Skeleton' starting on 2 Apr 1941 in Northern Ireland, as part of 182nd Inf Bde (61st Div). It seems to me that Home Forces did an awful lot of exercise's (in 1942 they did 21 exercises alone) but extra to that there was exercises just for signals/comms, etc. One interesting point that I read was, at times exercises were curtailed as they had to comply with regulations about non fuel days ie only emergency transport was allowed to use fuel.


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