Trench Warfare – Notes on Attack and Defence

Seven months into the war, in February 1915, the War Office published this little pamphlet entitled Trench Warfare: Notes on Attack and Defence.

For those of you who can’t be bothered (I know, it’s late at night, chilling out, etc etc), I have enlarged the preface for you, as it is worth reading.  Let’s not forget that the very nature of warfare was changing rapidly, the phrase ‘trench warfare’ was in its infancy, unlike the way it would trip off the tongue as the war progressed, and still does today.  The preface refers to the fighting assuming much of the character of siege warfare, and that ‘the doctrine expounded in Field Service Regulations holds good’.  The British army did have established practises for the potential of trench warfare at the outbreak of war, even if they didn’t call it that at the time, but much of the minutiae had to be learnt on the hoof, details of newly learnt tactics disseminated to the troops as quick as possible.

Note the optimism of ‘This phase may not endure…’

Page two, opposite the preface, deals initially with ‘recently received’ reports of infantry assaults on entrenched German positions and the reasons for their failure, followed by what to do about it.

‘The energy and the courage of the troops will do the rest’.  We then move on to ‘A Local Attack’,…

…which covers the next few pages,…

…followed by an article on methods of attack that have proved satisfactory (as opposed, note, to successful.  That comes later).

Ah, here we are then, page eleven, and we have a ‘Description of a Successful Attack’.

The final pages deal with notes on defence,…

…and on recent German methods of attack.

So your job, as an infantry officer, is to take on board these new tactics and train your troops accordingly, a.s.a.p., along with everything else in your daily routine.  Still, at least there were only a mere eighteen pages to learn; by December 1916 the latest, heavily illustrated,  ‘Notes on Trench Warfare’ had increased to 76 pages, as I will show you in due course.

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