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Full text of "Sniping in France, with notes on the scientific training of scouts, observers, and snipers"

SNIPING IN FRANCE 



the Same Author. 



WHERE BLACK RULES WHITE 
HAYTI 

THROUGH THE HEART OF PATA- 
GONIA 

HUNTING CAMPS IN WOOD AND 
WILDERNESS 

THROUGH TRACKLESS LABRADOR 







/Vow i ilrawing by] 



The Sniper-Observer.-Scoiat, 



[Ernest Blaikley. 
[i'rontispiece. 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 



With Notes on the Scientific Training of 
Scouts, Observers, and Snipers 



BY 

MAJOR H. HESKETH-PRICHARD 

D.S.O., M.C. 



WITH A FOREWORD 

BY 

GENERAL LORD HORNE OF STIRKOKE 
G.C.B., K.C.M.G., etc. 



Illustrations by ERNEST BLAIKLEY, Artists' 
Rifles, late Sergeant-Instructor at the Fii-st 
Army School of S.O.S., the late Lijut. B. Head, 
The Hertfordshire Regt., and from Photographs. 



LONDON: HUTCHINSON & CO. 
PATERNOSTER ROW E. C 



FOREWORD 
BY GENERAL LORD HORNE, G.C.B. 

IT may fairly be claimed that when hostilities ceased 
on November nth, 1918, we had outplayed Germany 
at all points of the game. 

Perhaps as a nation we failed in imagination. 
Possibly Germany was more quick to initiate new 
methods of warfare or to adapt her existing methods 
to meet prevailing conditions. Certainly we were 
slow to adopt, indeed, our souls abhorred, anything 
unsportsmanlike. 

Had it been left to us, " Gas " would have taken no 
part in the Great European War. 

But, however lacking in imagination, however slow 
to realize the importance of novel methods, once we 
were convinced of their necessity, once we decided to 
adopt them, we managed by a combination of brains 
and energy, pluck and endurance, not only to make up 
the lost ground, but to take the lead in the race. In 
proof of this statement I would instance Heavy Field 
Artillery, High Explosives, Gas, Work in the Air, etc., 



FOREWORD 

and many other points I could mention in which 
Germany started ahead of us, including Sniping, 
Observation and Scouting. 

And for our eventual superiority we owe much to 
individuals, men who, like the author of this book, 
Major Hesketh-Prichard, combined expert knowledge 
with untiring energy, men who would not be denied 
and could not recognize defeat. 

In the early days of 1915, in command of the 2nd 
Division, I well remember the ever-increasing activity 
of the German sniper and the annoyance of our 
officers and men in the trenches. I can recall the 
acquisition by the Guards' Brigade, then in the 
Brickfields of Cuinchy with Lord Cavan as Brigadier, 
of two rifles fitted with telescopic sights and the good 
use made of them. It was the experience of 1915 
that impressed upon us the necessity of fighting for 
superiority in all branches of trench warfare, amongst 
which sniping held an important position. It was 
therefore a great satisfaction to me upon my 
arrival from the battlefields of the Somme in the 
autumn of 1916 to find Major Hesketh-Prichard's 
School firmly established in the First Army area, 
thanks in a great measure to the support and encour- 
agement of Lieut. -General Sir Richard Haking, the 
Commander of the Eleventh Corps. 

From that time onwards, owing chiefly to the 
energy, enthusiasm, tact and personality of its Com- 



FOREWORD 

mandant, the influence of the Sniping, Observation 
and Scouting School spread rapidly throughout the 
British Forces in France. Of its ups and downs, of 
its troubles and its successes, and of its ultimate 
triumph, Major Hesketh-Prichard tells the tale with 
modesty typical of the man. 

I may be permitted to add my testimony that in 
each phase of the war, not only in the trenches, but in 
the field, we found the value of the trained sniper, 
observer and scout. 

This book is not only a record of a successful system 
of training, valuable as such to us soldiers, but also 
will be found to be full of interest to the general 
reader. 



CONTENTS 



CHAP. 

I. THE GENESIS OF SNIPING .... 

II. THE SNIPER IN THE TRENCHES . 
III. EARLY DAYS WITH THE XI. CORPS AND 
FIRST ARMY ...... 

IV. THE FIRST ARMY SCHOOL OF SCOUTING, 

OBSERVATION AND SNIPING . 
V. SOME SNIPING MEMORIES .... 

VI. AN OBSERVER'S MEMORIES. 
VII. THE CURRICULUM AND WORK AT FIRST 
ARMY SCHOOL OF S.O.S. 

VIII. WlLIBALD THE HuN ..... 

IX. THE CAT 

X. THE TRAINING OF THE PORTUGUESE . 
XI. THE MODERN SCOUT 



PAGE 

I 

25 
56 

71 

94 
114 

144 
164 
176 
184 
191 



APPENDICES 

APPENDIX A. PROGRAMME FOR TRAINING 

OBSERVERS. . . . .211 

APPENDIX B. GENERAL COURSE AT FIRST ARMY 

SCHOOL OF S.O.S. . . . 214 

APPENDIX C. I. CARE OF ARMS, GROUPING AND 

RANGE PRACTICES . . . 222 

II. PATROLLING AND SCOUTING . 232 

III. THE STALKING TELESCOPE . 239 

IV. FRONT LINE OBSERVATION AND 
REPORTS ..... 246 

V. SOME USES OF SCOUTS, OBSERVERS 
AND SNIPERS IN ATTACK AND 
DEFENCE AND OPEN WARFARE . 253 

VI. THE ENFIELD 1914 PATTERN 

" SNIPER'S RIFLE " . . 259 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



The Sniper-Observer-Scout Frontispiece 

The Sniper's End Facing p. 28 

Examination of a German Prisoner ...... 30 

Outside the Snipers' Post. " Shut the loopholes. I'm 

coming in" ,, 38 

Telescopic Sights. " Nurse your Target." i. "Not yet." 

2. "Now!" ., 44 

Spotting the Enemy Sniper ....... 46 

XI Corps Sniping School. Imitation German Trench used 

for spotting targets, etc. ....... 64 

Method of inserting Loophole, i. Original Section of 

Parapet ; 2. How bags are arranged and fixed round 

loophole to imitate original parapet (Gray's Boards.) ; 3. 

Parapet reconstructed with loophole 64 

XI Corps Sniping School. Showing the best form of parapet 

to conceal loopholes, and the wrong type of parapet for 

concealing snipers' loopholes ....... 66 

Section of typical German Parapet. Showing concealed 

loopholes made through tins, bags, etc. 66 

First Army School of S.O.S 72 

First Army School of S.O.S. No. i. Flat Parapet. The 

easiest possible form of parapet to spot movement behind 

practically a death-trap ....... 74 

First Army School of S.O.S. No. 2. Same parapet as in 

No. i after five minutes' alteration . . . . 76 

First Army School of S.O.S. Sniper's Robe on a 6ft. 4in. 

man in the open ........,, 88 

Find the Sniper. (The flat cap gives him away) . . 92 

Find the Sniper (Look for the rifle barrel) 94 

Telescopic Sights. With Periscopic Prism Aldis. With 

Winchester. With German telescopic sight (showing use 

at night) 98 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Inside the Observation Post Facing p. 122 

Lovat Scouts : Battle observers. ...... 126 

The Fatal Cap 14.2 

First Army School of S.O.S. Comparison of sniper's robe as 

opposed to ordinary kit firing over a turnip heap . . 144 

First Army School of S.O.S. Typical German Loophole 

Disguises in Earth Parapet . . . . - . . 148 

1. There are two snipers here one in uniform and one in a 

" sniper's robe " 150 

2. A contrast showing the drawbacks of uniform and a 

" correct " position ........ 152 

First Army School S.O.S. Showing effects and importance 

of light and shade ........ 156 

Night-work in No Man's Land 194 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 



CHAPTER I 

THE GENESIS OF SNIPING 

T) EADERS of this book must realize the neces- 
*^ sarily very narrow and circumscribed point 
of view from which it is written. It is simply an 
account of some memories of sniping, observation 
and scouting in France and Flanders, and its purpose 
is to preserve, as far as may be, in some form the work 
and training of a class of officers and men whose duties 
became ever more important as the war progressed. 
It is in the hope that the true value of sniping and 
scouting will continue to be recognized in the future 
training of our armies, as it certainly was recognized 
in the later years of the war, that this book is 
written. 

The idea of organized sniping was not a new one 
to me when I went out to France in May, 1915. I 
had been there before, in the previous March, and 
had seen the immense advantages which had accrued 

i i 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

to the Germans through their superiority in trench 
warfare sniping. 

It is difficult now to give the r ~exact figures of our 
losses. Suffice it to say that in early 1915 we lost 
eighteen men in a single battalion in a single day to 
enemy snipers. Now if each battalion in the line 
killed by sniping a single German in the day, the 
numbers would mount up. If any one cares to do a 
mathematical sum, and to work out the number of 
battalions we had in the line, they will be surprised at 
the figures, and when they multiply these figures by 
thirty and look at the month's losses, they will find 
that in a war of attrition the sniper on this count 
alone justifies his existence and wipes out large numbers 
of the enemy. 

But it is not only by the casualties that one can 
judge the value of sniping. If your trench is domi- 
nated by enemy snipers, life in it is really a very hard 
thing, and moral must inevitably suffer. In many 
parts of the line all through France and Belgium the 
enemy, who were organized at a much earlier period 
than we, certainly did dominate us. Each regiment 
and most soldiers who have been to France will re- 
member some particular spot where they will say the 
German sniping was more deadly than elsewhere, 
but the truth of the matter is that in the middle of 
1915 we were undergoing almost everywhere a severe 
gruelling, to say the least of it. 

2 



THE GENESIS OF SNIPING 

When I went out in May, 1915, I took with me 
several telescopic-sighted rifles, which were either my 
own property or borrowed from friends. I was at 
the time attached to the Intelligence Department 
as an officer in charge of war-correspondents, and 
my work gave me ample opportunity to visit all 
parts of the line. Whenever I went to the line I 
took with me, if it was possible, a telescopic-sighted 
rifle, and I found that both brigades and battalions 
were soon applying to me to lend these rifles. In 
this way opportunities arose of visiting the line and 
studying the sniping problem on the spot. 

One day I remember I was going through the 
trenches in company with the Australian Correspon- 
dent, Mr. Gullett, when we came to a very smart 
notice board on which was painted the word " Sniper," 
and also an arrow pointing to the lair in which he lay. 
The sniper, however, was not in the lair, but was 
shooting over the top of the parapet with a telescopic- 
sighted rifle. These rifles were coming out from 
England at that time in very small numbers, and 
were being issued to the troops. 

I had for many years possessed telescope-sighted 
rifles, and had some understanding of their manipu- 
lation as used in big-game shooting. In a general 
way I could not help thinking that they were unsports- 
manlike, as they made shooting so very easy, but 
for shooting at rabbits with a small-bore rifle, where 

3 i* 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

you only wounded your rabbit unless you hit him in 
the head, they were admirable and saved a great deal 
of unnecessary suffering. 

But to return to the sniper. Much interested, we 
asked him how he liked his rifle, and he announced 
that he could put a shot through the loophole of the 
iron shields in the German trenches " every time." 
As the German trenches were six hundred yards away, 
it seemed to me that the sniper was optimistic, and 
we asked him if he would let us see him shoot. I 
had with me a Ross glass which I always carried in 
the trenches, and when the sniper shot I saw his bullet 
strike some six feet to the left of the plate at which he 
was aiming. He, however, was convinced from the sound 
that it had gone clean through the loophole ! He 
had another shot, and again struck well to the left. 
I had a look at his sight, which was a tap-over fitting, 
and seeing that it was a little out of alignment I 
questioned the sniper as to how much he knew about 
his weapon. It is no exaggeration to say that his 
knowledge was limited. 

From this moment all telescope-sighted rifles 
became a matter of great interest to me, and it was not 
long before I came to the conclusion that about 
80 per cent, were quite useless, much worse, in fact, 
than the ordinary open sights, in the hands in which 
they were. The men using them had in most cases 
hardly any knowledge of how their sights were aligned. 

4 



THE GENESIS OF SNIPING 

A tap or a knock and the rifle was straightway out of 
shooting. 

For the benefit of the untechnical reader it will be 
well here to remark that if a telescopic sight set upon a 
4-inch base is one-hundredth of an inch out of its 
true alignment, it will shoot incorrectly to the extent 
of 9 inches at 100 yards, and, of course, 18 inches 
at 200 yards, and 54 inches at 600 yards. The sights 
had been issued without instruction, were often 
handed over as trench-stores, and were served out by 
quartermaster-sergeants who very often looked on 
them as egregious fads. 

It seemed to me that here was something definite 
to go upon towards that organization of sniping in 
which I so much desired to have a hand. That even- 
ing I laid the matter before my Commanding Officer, 
Lieut. -Colonel A. G. Stuart, of the 4Oth Pathans, 
than whom surely no finer officer went to the war. 
He was killed in 1916 by a chance bullet a mile behind 
the trenches, when he was serving near Ypres as 
G. S.O.I to the 5oth Division. 

He listened with both sympathy and interest. 
" You say," said he, " that all or nearly all the teles- 
cope-sighted rifles you have seen are so incorrect as 
to be worse than useless. Are you quite sure of this ? >! 

" Quite sure," said I. " And that is only one side 
of it. The men have no idea of concealment, and 
many of them are easy targets to the Hun snipers." 

5 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

" The proper authorities should move in the 
matter," said Colonel Stuart. 

" There don't seem to be any proper authorities, 
sir. The officers know no more than the men about 
these sights, and what I want to do is this : If it is 
possible I should like to be appointed as sniping expert 
to some unit. I believe I could save hundreds of 
lives even in a brigade the way things are." 

Colonel Stuart said nothing, so I went on : 

" Will you help me to get a job of this kind, sir ? 
I am asking because it seems absurd for a fellow like 
me who has spent years after big game to let men go 
on being killed when I know perfectly well that I 
can stop it." 

" Are you sure of that ? ' : 

" I am quite willing, sir, to go to any unit for a fort- 
night's trial, and if I do not make good, there will 
be no harm done." 

" Well," said Colonel Stuart at length, " we will 
talk to people about it and see what they say." 

After that, Colonel Stuart often questioned me, and 
I pointed out to him our continued and heavy losses, 
the complete German superiority, the necessity not 
only of a course of training but, more important still, 
the selection of the right men to train and also their 
value to Intelligence if provided with telescopes, and 
made a dozen other suggestions, all very far-reaching. 

When I look back now on these suggestions, which 

6 



THE GENESIS OF SNIPING 

came from a very amateur soldier of no military 
experience, I can only marvel at Colonel Stuart's 
patience ; but he was not only patient, he was also 
most helpful and sympathetic. Without him th;s very 
necessary reform might, and probably would, have 
been strangled at birth, or would have only come into 
the Army, if it had come at all, at a much later time. 

Colonel Stuart not only allowed me to speak of my 
ideas to various officers in high command, but even 
did so himself on my behalf. I was amazed at the 
invariable kindness and courtesy that I met on every 
hand. I used to introduce myself and say : " Sir, I 
hope you will forgive me if I speak about a thing I 
am awfully keen on sniping, sir. The Huns got 
twelve of the Blankshires in this Division on their 
last tour of duty, and I think we could easily beat them 
at this if we had proper training and organization." 
And then I would lay out my plans. 

But, though people listened, there were immense 
difficulties in the way, and these might never have been 
surmounted, although quite a number of Corps and 
Divisional G.O.C.'s had said to me : " If you can get 
away from your job at G.H.Q., come here and be our 
sniping expert. We shall be very glad to have you." 

Still, as I say, there is a thing in the Army called 
" Establishment," and there was no Establishment 
for a sniping officer, and if the matter were put through 
the War Office it would probably take some months, 

7 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

I knew, to obtain an establishment. Colonel Stuart, 
however, once I had convinced him, backed me up 
in every possible way, going to see the M.G.G.S., 
Third Army, Major-General Sir A. L. Lynden-Bell, 
who was in full sympathy with the idea. It was thus 
that the matter was mentioned to Sir Charles Monro, 
commanding the Third Army, and Colonel Stuart 
arranged with Brigadier-General MacDonogh, now 
Lieut.-General Sir George MacDonogh, who was then 
in command of the Intelligence Corps, to allow me to 
serve with the Third Army as sniping expert. 

John Buchan,* who was at that time the limes 
correspondent on the Western Front, also gave the 
idea great encouragement. He had seen for himself 
the awful casualties that we were suffering, and con- 
sidered the scheme which I laid out to be a sound one. 

Sir Charles Monro, in talking over the matter, made 
a remark which I have always remembered. 

" It is not," he said, " only that a good shot 
strengthens his unit, but he adds to its moral he 
raises the moral of his comrades it raises the moral 
of the whole unit to know that it contains several first- 
class shots." 

These are not the exact words which Sir Charles 
used, but they are as near them as I can remember. 

Now that I had got my chance I was at first ex- 

* Afterwards Lieut.-Col. John Buchan, Director of Information. 

8 



THE GENESIS OF SNIPING 

tremely happy, but later, as I could not go to my new 
work at once, I became a little nervous of failure, and 
pictured myself unsuccessful in my attempt to 
dominate the German snipers. I began to wish that 
I had gone to my work a month earlier, for when 
the Third Army took over from the French, the 
Germans offered any amount of targets, whereas I 
now heard that they were becoming more cautious. 
I, therefore, cast about for some way in which I might 
hope to make certain of success, and to this end, having 
conceived a plan, I went down to Neuve Chapelle, 
where my friend, Captain A. C. Gathorne-Hardy, 
9th Scottish Rifles, since killed at Loos leading his men 
and within ten yards of the German wire, was in the 
line. We obtained from the old German trenches 
a number of the large steel plates from behind which 
the German snipers were wont to shoot, and these I 
took home with me to England, for I had obtained a 
week's leave before taking up my new duties. 

I proceeded to try on these plates all kinds of rifles, 
from the Jeffreys high velocity .333 to heavy elephant 
guns of various bores, and was delighted to find that 
the bullets from the .333, as well as the elephant guns, 
pierced them like butter. Here, again, Colonel John 
Buchan came to my assistance, and obtained for me a 
fund, to which Lord Haldane, Lord Glenconner and 
Lord Finlay kindly contributed the money, and which 
enabled me to purchase the necessary rifles. Later 

9 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

on, Mr. St. Loe Strachey, the editor of The Spectator, 
continued to keep up my fund, which really was of 
incalculable value to us, and out of which everything 
from dummy heads purchased at Clarkson's to foot- 
ball jerseys for the splendidly-appointed Sniping 
School, which finally eventuated, were purchased. 

At length I was free of my work at G.H.Q., and 
went down to the Third Army, where I was attached 
to the /th Corps, the 4th Division, and the loth and 
1 2th Infantry Brigades. 

It would be out of place to describe in detail the 
days that followed. Suffice it to say that very early 
in the proceedings it became clear that snipers must 
always work in pairs, one man shooting and one man 
finding the targets with the telescope. The regula- 
tion issue of the latter was at the time, I think, about 
eight telescopes per battalion, and these were used by 
the Signallers, but Lord Roberts' Fund, administered 
with extraordinary energy by Mr. Penoyre, came to 
the rescue, and soon a certain number of telescopes 
dribbled down into the 4th Division line. As to the 
heavy and armour-piercing rifles, they did their work 
exceedingly well, and no doubt caused a great surprise 
to the enemy. 

One day I obtained leave to go to Amiens, where I 
visited the French Camouflage Works, and found to my 
delight that they had made a number of papier-mache 
models of the heads and shoulders of British soldiers. 

10 



THE GENESIS OF SNIPING 

Of these I was able to purchase a large quantity, and 
had no longer any need to buy in London, where the 
heads were rather theatrical properties than the real 
thing. The uses to which the heads were put were 
varied. They were, in these early days before they were 
too much advertised (for they afterwards became an 
issue in our Army), most useful in getting the enemy to 
give a target. It was also possible, by showing very 
skilfully the heads of Sikhs or Ghurkas in different parts 
of the line, to give the German Intelligence the im- 
pression that we were holding our line with Indian 
troops, and I have no doubt they were considerably 
worried to account for these movements. 

One day I received orders from Army Headquarters 
telling me that Colonel Langford Lloyd, D.S.O., 
had now started a telescopic-sight school in the loth 
Corps area, and ordering me to go there and to colla- 
borate with Colonel Lloyd in a book upon sniping and 
telescopic sights. I went and found a splendid school 
running, in which the instruction in telescopic sights 
was rapidly correcting these rifles in the loth Corps. 

I had the opportunity at Colonel Lloyd's school of 
learning a great deal that I did not know about tele- 
scopic sights, and many other matters in which Colonel 
Lloyd is a past master. He listened with great in- 
terest to the various ruses, of which there was now 
quite a long list, that we had employed in the trenches. 

We wrote our pamphlet on sniping and telescopic 

ii 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

sights, a pamphlet which, owing to a change in the 
Army Command, was never published, and shortly 
after my visit to Colonel Lloyd I received the intima- 
tion that my trial time with the Third Army had been 
successful, and that steps would now be taken to get 
me placed permanently upon its strength. In the 
meantime, I went from brigade to brigade, burning 
with eagerness to make organized sniping a definite 
fact. The instruction took place both in and out of 
the trenches, and during the course of it we had many 
interesting experiences. As soon as people began to 
talk about sniping as a new and interesting subject, 
our arrival in the trenches became rather trying, 
as we were certainly looked upon as something in the 
light of performing animals who would give some 
kind of a show of greater or less interest. But the 
Higher Command soon put a stop to this, and thence- 
forward we were allowed to plough our lonely furrow. 

It would be difficult to describe the various days 
spent in the trenches, or the duels that took place 
there ; but each one threw fresh light upon sniping and 
showed the enormous extent to which it might be 
developed. I will make some reference to these days 
in later chapters. 

As I have stated, snipers always worked in pairs, 
one observing, the other shooting, and soon we found 
that the notes kept by the observer were invaluable 
from an Intelligence point of view. If a line was 

12 



THE GENESIS OF SNIPING 

well covered with snipers' posts, nothing could happen 
in the enemy line without our snipers' observers re- 
porting it no work could be done, no alteration in 
the parapet made. Successful observation was, in 
my experience, first obtained in the loth Brigade, 
commanded by Brigadier-General Hull,* by the 2nd 
Seaforth Highlanders. They had an extraordinarily 
keen Commanding Officer, who provided his men 
with good telescopes. 

We now began all through the 7th Corps to start 
sniping sections consisting of trained snipers and 
observers, and the success of the movement grew very 
rapidly. The German began to cower in his trenches, 
and as time wore on our casualties grew less and less. 
My life at this time was an extraordinarily interesting 
and strenuous one. Moving from brigade to brigade, 
I would often find splendid arrangements for testing 
the telescopic sights, and as often none at all. A horse 
before breakfast, on which I would set forth to find a 
range, followed by an hour in the Pioneer's shop, 
pasting up targets made out of old Daily Mails on to 
frames the snipers of the brigade paraded at nine 
o'clock, the march to the improvised range, shooting 
the telescopic sights at the target, and after dark a 
lecture in some barn, was often the order of the 
day. 

I think in these early days that I was exceedingly 

* Afterwards Major-General Sir A. Hull, K.C.B. 
13 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

fortunate in having something definite to show. The 
telescopic sights were often very much out of shoot- 
ing, and no one understood the cure. I think many 
thought for the first time that there was something in 
this sniping movement when a sniper missed the target 
three times running at 70 yards, and a little later, 
after his rifle had been manipulated, scored three bulls 
on end. 

One thing that struck me was the extraordinary 
interest taken by all Brigade Commanders in every 
detail of the work. I do not say, nor do I think, that 
at the beginning they looked on my coming with 
unmixed favour. Once I walked into a Brigade Head - 
quarters, and while waiting in the passage heard a 
voice say : 

" Who is this blighter who is coming ? " And then 
someone gave my name. Then a voice said : " Plays 
cricket, doesn't he ? " 

I could not help laughing, but as I say, in the very 
early days every Brigade Major and G.O.C. had to be 
converted to a belief in sniping. Often and often 
the Brigade Commanders would spend hours on the 
first day at the range, and I think that without excep- 
tion when they saw the incorrect rifles being made 
correct, they once and for all decided in my favour. 
On my second visit to these Brigades, I was almost 
always made the guest of the Brigadier-General and 
received with a kindness so great as to be really over- 

14 



THE GENESIS OF SNIPING 

whelming. Things, in fact, were going very well 
indeed for the work which one hoped would soon 
spread through the whole B.E.F., for to my delight 
one day I received a letter from Major Collins, then 
G.S.O.2 to the Second Army, whom I had informed 
of my appointment as sniping expert, to say that 
General Plumer was starting an Army Sniping School 
in the Second Army, and asking for any notes I might 
have. 

But one morning while shooting on the range I 
heard that Sir Charles Monro and his staff had gone 
to Gallipoli. I had been so keen on my work that I 
had not pushed the matter of getting my appoint- 
ment regularized, but now I realized that its tenure 
might become very insecure. Indeed, as a matter of 
fact when I did raise the question I was informed by 
G.H.Q. that if I did not keep quiet I should be recalled. 

In 1915, the Third Army was far and away the best 
sniping Army in France. There was hardly an in- 
correct sight in the loth or jih Corps, and scores of 
officers and hundreds of men had been through courses 
at Colonel Lloyd's loth Corps School, or with me. 
It was while I was with one of the Infantry Brigades 
of the 37th Division that I received a letter which gave 
me immense pleasure. It was to the effect that Lieut.- 
General Making, the Corps Commander of the nth 
Corps in the First Army, wished to borrow me, so 
that I might lecture on sniping to his Corps, and go 

15 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

through their telescopic sights. Here was a splendid 
chance of carrying the work outside my own Army. 

About this time I was attached to the Third Army 
Infantry School, then just formed under its first and 
very capable Commandant, Brig. -General R. J. Kentish, 
D.S.O. I lectured there on sniping and started a range 
and demonstrations, but I found myself lecturing to 
Company Commanders, whereas I ought to have been 
doing so to sniping officers, in order to get the best 
results. The Company Commanders liked, or appeared 
to like, the lectures, but, in the Army phrase, it 
was " not their pidgin," and I soon felt that I should 
do better work nearer the line. 

From the school, however, I journeyed up into the 
First Army area, and went through the sights and ful- 
filled my engagement with the nth Corps. I think 
these days as the guest of the various Corps Com- 
manders of the First Army for I was passed on from 
the nth Corps to the 3rd, and from the 3rd to the 
ist were the best days I had in France, for the extra- 
ordinary keenness in the First Army was very marked. 
It was here that I had to go through the ordeal of 
having to lecture to the Guards Divisional Staff and 
Snipers at nine o'clock in the morning. In lecturing, 
even on an interesting subject like sniping, it has 
always seemed to me much easier to be successful in 
a warm room at five o'clock rather than in a cold 
one at nine. 

16 



THE GENESIS OF SNIPING 

After finishing with the First Army and correcting 
some 250 telescopic sights, I went back to the Third 
Army Infantry School. Here I found that the Army 
Commander of the Third Army, Sir E. H. H. Allenby, 
had applied for my services for the Third Army, and 
had received the reply that these could be granted 
provided I relinquished the staff pay I was receiving 
and was willing to accept instead the lower rate of an 
Infantry Captain. This, of course, I agreed to do. 
Evidently, however, there was some further hitch, 
for I received no pay for the next eight months, nor 
did I dare to raise the question lest I should be sent 
back to G.H.Q. 

I remember one General saying to me upon this 
question, not without a smile, " You are not here 
officially, you know, and any Germans you may have 
killed, or caused to be killed, are, of course, only un- 
officially dead." 

I will conclude this chapter with a letter that I 
wrote in November, 1915, which gives my impressions 
at that date. 

MY DEAR 

Since I have been with the 3rd Army, I have had 
an Officer from every battalion in the 7th Corps 
through my course. These Officers in their turn 
train snipers, and so the thing. permeates quickly and, 
I think, with really good results. 

I 7 2 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

Sniping seems to me to be the art of 

I. Finding your mark. 

II. Defining your mark. 

III. Hitting your mark. 

With regard to No. i, it is absolutely essential that 
the use of the telescope should be taught from the 
stalking or big-game point of view. If we had one 
Officer teaching it in every battalion of our Army in 
France, we should kill a lot of Germans, and not only 
this but the task of Intelligence Officers would be 
greatly facilitated. With four good telescopes on 
every battalion front, very little can happen in the 
enemy line without our knowing it. There are a good 
many telescopes in France. 

With regard to defining a mark. It is here that 
telescope sights help us, but telescope sights in the 
hands of a man who does not thoroughly understand 
them are utterly useless. I have had a great many 
through my hands, and in every ten I have had to 
correct about six after they have been in the trenches 
a short time. I wish every battalion had an Officer 
who could correct and shoot telescopic sights. It is 
very important that he should be thoroughly know- 
ledgeable, because a rifle barrel must not have too 
many shots fired through it. With a new barrel a 
good shot can nearly always get a 3-inch group, but 
after 600 or 1000 shots have been fired through the 

barrel the group becomes more scattered. It is 

18 



THE GENESIS OF SNIPING 

therefore necessary that the man who regulates the 
rifle behind the trenches should be able to do so with 
as few shots as possible. 

Another point is, that men must be trained to 
understand and believe in their telescopic-sighted rifles. 
One Brigade I had for instruction, on the third day of 
instruction with 16 snipers shooting, got 17 hits on a 
model of a human head at 430 yards in the first 21 
shots. Some of the rifles used by these men had been 
6 or 8 inches off at 100 yards until regulated. In all 
they got 27 hits in 48 shots on the head, shoulder hits 
not counted. 

Also I have been having Officers through a regular 
course. I give them first of all 20 objects, such as 
models of heads of French, British and German 
soldiers, periscopes, rifle barrel, pickaxe, fire lighted, 
etc. These objects are shown for fifteen seconds each 
from a trench, and those under instruction have to 
write a list of what they can see with a telescope from 
600 or 700 yards away. It is wonderful how quickly 
they come on. After a short time they can spot the 
colour of the pieces of earth thrown up from the trench 
under observation. Then I give them a hillside to 
examine. On this hillside I place a couple of objects 
which are easy to find, perhaps the heads of a French- 
man and an Englishman. I also put in two carefully 
concealed loopholes, which they usually fail to find. 
This teaches thoroughness of search. 

19 2* 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

The construction of loopholes is most important. 
In this we are behind the Germans. There is one 
form of double loophole, which I am keen to see more 
universally adopted. The plate is placed in the para- 
pet, and two feet behind it a second plate is placed in 
grooves along which it will slide. Not once in a 
hundred times does the German at whom one is shoot- 
ing get his bullet through both loopholes. 

The drainpipe loophole is also very good. If put 
in at an angle, it is very difficult for a German to 
put a bullet down it. In fact if the drainpipe is put 
in low in the parapet, the brave Hun has to come clean 
over the top of his own parapet to shoot down it at all. 
I am also keen on teaching our fellows to open loop- 
holes sanely. I usually lie in front watching, and it is 
rarely that, if I shot straight, I should not be able to 
kill or wound nine of every ten men who open them. 
Loopholes should, of course, be opened from the 

side, and a cap badge exposed before they are looked 
through. If the German does not fire for 75 seconds, 
one may conclude that it is fairly safe. These little 
simple-sounding precautions can save so many lives. 

I cannot help feeling that sniping, even in these 
days of many specialists, should be organized and im- 
proved. My aim has always been to work in with 
battalions. Some are better than others, naturally so, 
but always without exception I have found them very 

keen on improving sniping. 

20 



THE GENESIS OF SNIPING 

The use of snipers in attack is another point. If 
you have a man who can hit a model of a human head 
once in every 2 shots at 400 yards and I will under- 
take to get most men up to this standard who can 
shoot decently we shall kill some machine gunners 
in our next advance. Also when a German is shoot- 
ing at our troops coming down a road through an 
aperture made by the removal of a brick from a wall, 
as they have often done, how useful to have a fellow 
who can put a bullet through the aperture. 

Of course no telescopic sight should ever be touched, 
except as far as moving the focussing sleeve goes, by 
anyone who does not understand it thoroughly. When 
the [object-glass becomes dirty or fogged with wet, 
snipers often unscrew it. Unless they put it back in 
its exact original position, they of course alter the 
shooting of the rifle hopelessly. They also unscrew the 
capstan heads, which are for the lateral regulation of 
the sighting. I have seen telescopic sights which were 
30 inches out at 100 yards, or about 25 feet at 1000 
yards. These things would be impossible under a 
keen sniping Officer. 

One thing I am certain snipers can do. They can 
make it very hot for the enemy's forward artillery 
observing Officers. If when the enemy shell our 
trenches, one can get on the flank, one can often spot 
a Hun Officer observing. The thing to do then is to 
lay a telescope on through a drainpipe loophole near 



21 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

by. If you pack in the rifle on to a bed of sandbags 
so that the pointer of the telescopic sight rests just 
under the place where the Hun pops up, it is possible to 
take aim and fire the rifle in from two to four seconds. 
It is very important that the man who is to shoot 
should look through the big telescope and get a map 
of the trench opposite into his brain. Our telescopic 
sights magnify about 3% and one can often make a 
successful shot by shooting six inches or a foot left 
or right, or above or below a white stone or some 
prominent object in the opposing parapet, even when 
you cannot define the Hun's head very clearly through 
the sight. 

I have seen this done. It is a very good sign when 
the Hun's fieldglasses fall on the wrong side of the 
parapet. 

Another thing to which we might give attention is 
the use of decoys. I have had some made for me by 
the French. 

I am quite convinced if I were asked to give the 
Germans the impression that we had been relieved by 
Sikhs, Gurkhas or Frenchmen, that I could do so, so 
wonderful are the models made for me by the French 
sculptor. It is impossible to tell them from the real 
thing if skilfully exposed at 100 yards, unless the light 
is very strong, and at 300 and 400 yards it is quite 
impossible. 

In fact as long as trench warfare lasts, I believe much 

22 



THE GENESIS OF SNIPING 

can be done in many small ways, if desired. But 1200 
or 1500 telescopic sights in the hands of trained men 
and four times as many optical sights, if full value is 
got out of them, might along our line shorten the German 
army of many a valuable unit before the spring. 

Again and again battalions report two, three or four 
Germans shot by their snipers in a single day ; if you 
reduce these claims by half or even if each battalion 
snipes but one Hun a day and this is an absurdly 
low estimate where adventitious sights are skilfully used, 
the loss to the Germans would be great. 

I have received the most kindly welcome possible 
from everybody, and in many cases, almost in all, the 
Corps have been asked to let me go back to give further 
instruction. All Brigadiers are very keen indeed to 
get a high standard of sniping, and many of them feel 
that to do this is almost impossible unless the snipers 
are trained to their rifles until their belief in their own 
powers of hitting a mark, however small, becomes fixed. 

As I think of sniping all day and often dream 
about it at night, I could write you a lot more on the 
subject, of which I have only touched the fringes. If 
we organize sniping, we can get solid and tangible 
results by killing the enemy and saving the lives of our 
own men. Only those who have been in a trench 
opposite Hun snipers that had the mastery, know what 
a hell life can be made under these conditions. 

I don't think the Germans are better snipers than 

23 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

our men, except that they are more patient and better 
organized and better equipped. I have found out a 
good deal about the German sniping organization, but 
this is too long to go into now. I have said nothing 
of piercing and blowing in German plates with heavy 
and .333 rifles. You can shut up their sniping very 
promptly for a time in this way. 



CHAPTER II 

THE SNIPER IN THE TRENCHES 



F N my last chapter I attempted to give some history 
of the small beginnings of organized sniping, and I 
will now turn to the actual work of sniping in the line. 
Sniping, which is to be defined in a broad way as 
the art of very accurate shooting from concealment or 
in the open, did not exist as an organized thing at the 
beginning of the war. The wonderful rapid fire 
which was the glory of the original expeditionary 
force was not sniping, nor was it, beyond a certain 
degree, accurate. Its aim was to create a " beaten 
zone " through which nothing living could pass ; and 
this business was not best served by very accurate 
individual shooting. Rather it was served by rapid 
fire under skilled fire-control. But when we settled 
down to trench warfare, and the most skilful might 
spend a month in the trenches without ever seeing, 
except perhaps at dawn, the whole of a German, and 
when during the day one got but a glimpse or two of 
the troglodytic enemy, there arose this need for very 

25 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

accurate shooting. The mark was often but a head 
or half a face, or a loophole behind which lurked a 
German sniper, and no sighting shot was possible 
because it " put down the target." The smallest of 
big game animals did not present so small a mark as the 
German head, so that sniping became the highest and 
most difficult of all forms of rifle shooting. At it, 
every good target shot, though always useful, was not 
necessarily successful, for speed was only less necessary 
than accuracy,and no sniper could be considered worthy 
of the name who could not get off his shot within two 
seconds of sighting his target. 

So much for the sniper in trench warfare, of which 
a certain clique in the Army held him to be the pro- 
duct. The officers who believed this prophesied that 
when warfare became once more open, he would be 
useless. This proved perhaps one of the most short- 
sighted views of the whole war, for when it became our 
turn to attack, the sniper's duties only broadened out. 
Should a battalion take a trench, it was the duty of 
snipers to lie out in front and keep down the German 
heads during the consolidation of their newly-won 
position by our men, and were we held up by a 
machine-gun in advance, it was often the duty of a 
couple of snipers to crawl forward and, if possible, 
deal with the obstruction. 

I am here, however, going ahead of my narrative, 
but I want early in this book to state definitely that 

26 



THE SNIPER IN THE TRENCHES 

the sniper is not, and from the first, as I saw him, never 
was meant to be, a product of trench warfare. In modern 
war, where a battalion may be held up by a machine- 
gun, it is invaluable to have in that battalion a 
number of picked shots who can knock that machine- 
gun out. For this purpose in some of our later attacks 
a sniper carried armour-piercing ammunition, and 
did not shoot at the machine-gunners, but at the 
machine-gun itself. A single hit on the casing of 
the breech-block, and the machine-gun was rendered 
useless. 

In the Army there has always been in certain 
quarters a prejudice against very accurate shooting, 
a prejudice which is quite understandable when one 
considers the aims and ends of musketry. While 
sniping is the opportunism of the rifle, musketry is its 
routine. It would obviously never do to diminish 
the depth of your beaten zone by excess of accuracy. 
But this war, which, whatever may be said to the 
contrary and much was said to the contrary was 
largely a war of specialists, changed many things, and 
among them the accurate shot or sniper was 
destined to prove his extraordinary value. 

But a great deal that I have said in the foregoing 
paragraphs only became clear later, and at the moment 
of which I am writing, September and October, 1915, 
the superiority lay with the Germans, and the one 
problem was to defeat them at a game which they had 

27 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

themselves started. For it was the Germans, and not 
the British, who began sniping. 

That the Germans were ready for a sniping cam- 
paign is clear enough, for at the end of 1914 there were 
already 20,000 telescopic sights in the German Army, 
and their snipers had been trained to use them. To 
make any accurate estimate of how many victims the 
Hun snipers claimed at this period is naturally im- 
possible, but the blow which they struck for their side 
was a heavy one, and many of our finest soldiers met 
their deaths at their hands. In the struggle which 
followed there was perhaps something more human 
and more personal than in the work of the gunner or 
the infantryman. The British or Colonial sniper 
was pitted against the Bavarian or the Prussian, 
and all along the front duels were fought between men 
who usually saw no more of their antagonists than a 
cap badge or a forehead, but who became personalities 
to each other, with names and individualities. 

Only the man who actually was a sniper in the 
trenches in 1915 can know how hard the German 
was to overcome. At the end of 1914 there were, 
as I have said, 20,000 telescopic sights in the Ger- 
man Army, and the Duke of Ratibor did good work 
for the Fatherland when he collected all the sporting 
rifles in Germany (and there were thousands of them) 
and sent them to the Western front, which was 
already well equipped with the military issue. Armed 

28 



. w 




The Sniper's End. 



THE SNIPER IN THE TRENCHES 

with these the German snipers were able to make 
wonderfully fine shooting. Against them, lacking 
as we did a proper issue of telescopic-sighted rifles, 
we had to pit only the blunt open sights of the service 
rifle, except here and there where the deer stalkers 
of Scotland (who possessed such weapons) lent their 
Mannlichers and their Mausers. But for these there 
was no great supply of ammunition, and many had 
to be returned to their cases for this reason. 

At this time the skill of the German sniper had be- 
come a by-word, and in the early days of trench 
warfare brave German riflemen used to lie out be- 
tween the lines, sending their bullets through the 
head of any officer or man who dared to look over 
our parapet. These Germans, who were often 
Forest Guards, and sometimes Battle Police, did their 
business with a skill and a gallantry which must be 
very freely acknowledged. From the ruined house 
or the field of decaying roots, sometimes resting their 
rifles on the bodies of the dead, they sent forth a 
plague of head-wounds into the British lines. Their 
marks were small, but when they hit they usually 
killed their man, and the hardiest soldier turned sick 
when he saw the effect of the pointed German 
bullet, which was apt to keyhole so that the little 
hole in the forehead where it entered often became 
a huge tear, the size of a man's fist, on the other side 
of the stricken man's head. That occasional snipers 

29 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

on the Hun side reversed their bullets, thus making 
them into dum-dums, is incontrovertible, because 
we were continually capturing clips of such bullets, 
but it must also be remembered that many bullets 
keyholed which were not so reversed. Throughout 
the war I saw thousands of our snipers' bullets, and 
I never saw one which had been filed away or other- 
wise treated with a view to its expanding upon impact. 
At that time in the German Army there was a 
system of roving snipers ; that is, a sniper was given a 
certain stretch of trench to patrol, usually about half- 
a-mile, and it was the duty of sentries along his beat 
to find and point out targets for him. This informa- 
tion I got from a prisoner whom I exa-mined soon 
after I went down to the trenches. Indeed, I used 
to go any distance to get the chance of examining a 
prisoner and so learn something of the German 
organization. One deserter gave quite a lot of in- 
formation. He had the Iron Cross, and was a 
sergeant. One of the scenes that always remains 
with me is the examination of this man on a 
rainy, foggy night by the light of a flaring smoky 
lamp in the room of an estaminet just behind the 
lines. As time went on it became very difficult 
for a German prisoner to lead me astray with wrong 
information. There were so many questions to which 
one got to know the answers, and which must be more 
or less common knowledge to German riflemen. The 

30 



THE SNIPER IN THE TRENCHES 

demeanour of prisoners was very diverse. Some 
would give no answers brave fellows these, whom we 
respected ; others would volunteer a good deal of 
false statement ; others yet again were so eager to 
answer all questions that when they did not know 
they made a guess. But one way and another, through 
them all I gained an immense amount of information 
as to the German sniping organization. 

It would appear that the telescopic-sighted rifles in 
the German army were served out in the ratio of six 
per company, and that these rifles were issued not 
to the private soldiers who shot with them, but to 
N.C.O.'s who were responsible for their accuracy, 
and from whom the actual privates who used the 
rifles obtained them, handing them back at given 
intervals for inspection. In the top of the case of 
each German telescopic sight were quite short and 
very clear instructions, a very different matter to 
the conditions obtaining upon our side, where very 
often, as I have before stated, the man using the 
telescopic sight knew nothing about it. 

On one occasion I had gone down on duty to a 
certain stretch of trench and there found a puzzled- 
looking private with a beautiful new rifle fitted with 
an Evans telescopic sight. 

" That is a nice sight," said I. 

" Yessir." 
I examined the elevating drum, and saw that it 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

was set for one hundred yards. " Look here," I said, 
' you have got the sight set for a hundred. The 
Hun trenches are four hundred yards away." 

The private looked puzzled. 

" Have you ever shot with that rifle ? " I asked. 

" No, sir." 

" Do you understand it ? " 

" No, sir." 

" How did you get it ? " 

" It was issued to me as trench stores, sir." 

" Who by ? " 

" The Quartermaster Sergeant, sir." 

Certainly many a German owed his life in those 
earlier days to the fact that so many of the telescopic- 
sighted rifles in the British Expeditionary Force 
were incorrectly sighted to the hold of the men 
using them. By this I mean that some men hold 
tightly and some men hold loosely, and there may be 
a difference at a hundred yards of six inches in the 
shooting of the same rifle in different hands. To hand 
over the rifle as " trench stores," in which case it 
would be shot by different men of different battalions, 
was simply to do away with the accuracy which formed 
its only asset. 

But to return to the examination of German 
prisoners. One point cropped up over and over 
.again, -and this was the ease with which German 
snipers <juifce frankly owned that they were able to 

32 



THE SNIPER IN THE TRENCHES 

distinguish between our officers and men in an attack, 
because, as one said naively : " the legs of the officers 
are thinner than the legs of the men." There are 
hundreds and hundreds of our officers lying dead in 
France and Flanders whose death was solely due to 
the cut of their riding breeches. It is no use wearing 
a Tommy's tunic and a webbing belt, if the tell-tale 
riding trousers are not replaced by more common- 
place garments. 

In 1915 there were very few loopholes in the British 
trenches, whereas the Germans had a magnificent 
system. In early days when I used to be told at 
Brigade Headquarters that there was a German 
sniper at such and such a map reference, and I was to 
go and try to put him out of action, I very rarely 
found a loophole from which I could reconnoitre 
him, and as every German sniper seemed to be sup- 
ported on either flank by other German snipers, 
looking for him with one's head over the top of the 
parapet was, if made a continual practice, simply a 
form of suicide. I used, therefore, to have a couple 
of sandbags filled with stones and rubble placed as 
inconspicuously as possible on the top of the parapet. 
No ball will pierce a sandbag full of stones, and it 
was thus that one got the opportunity of a good look 
at the German trenches without fear of receiving 
a bullet from either flank. 

At this time the efforts to camouflage our loopholes 

33 3 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

were extraordinarily primitive indeed, conceal- 
ment was nearly impossible in the form of parapet 
then in use. Many of our units took an actual pride 
in having an absolutely flat and even parapet, which 
gave the Germans every opportunity of spotting 
the smallest movement. The parapets were made 
of sandbags beaten down with spades, and it is not 
too much to say that along many of them a mouse 
could not move without being observed by the 
most moderate-sighted German sniper. It was curi- 
ous how some few commanding officers stuck to these 
flat parapets in the face of all casualties and the 
dictates of common-sense, even after the High Com- 
mand had issued orders upon the subject. At a 
later date a trial was instituted, and proved that in 
spotting and shooting at a dummy head exposed for 
two and four seconds over a flat parapet, the number 
of hits was three to one, as compared with the same 
exposure when made over an imitation German 
parapet. 

Over on the other side of No Man's Land the Ger- 
man trenches presented a quite different appearance 
from ours ours being beaten down, as I have said, 
until they made as clear a line as a breakwater. The 
German trenches were deeper, with much more wire 
in front, and from our point of view looked like the 
course of a gigantic mole which had flung up uneven 
heaps of earth. Here and there, a huge piece of 

34 



THE SNIPER IN THE TRENCHES 

corrugated iron would be flung upon the parapet, 
and pinned there with a stake. Here and there stood 
one of those steel boxes, more or less well concealed 
under a heap of earth, from which set rifles fired all 
night. Here and there lay great piles of sandbags, 
black, red, green, striped, blue, dazzling our eyes. 
It was said that the Germans used the pink and red 
ones to look round, because they approximated to 
flesh colour, but this was no doubt apocryphal. But 
what was not apocryphal was the fact that the Germans 
had a splendid parapet behind which a man could 
move and over which he could look with comparative 
impunity, whereas we in this respect gave heavy 
hostages to fortune. 

There was one protection which was always sound, 
and which could be put into immediate operation, 
and that was to teach our men to hang as many 
rags as possible upon our wire, and wherever else they 
could in the region of our parapet. These fluttering 
rags continually caught the German eyes, which were 
drawn by the movement of the rags in the wind. 
It is possible that, if the truth were recognized, those 
simple little rags saved many a life during the course 
of the war. Of course, there were battalions in which 
attempts had been made to remedy these defects, 
as there was one type of officer whom one occasionally 
came across. This was the soldier who had done a 
certain amount of stalking, or big-game shooting, and 

35 3* 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

it is not too much to say that Wherever there was such 
an officer, there were usually two or three extra tele- 
scopes and telescopic-sighted rifles, and various well- 
concealed posts from which to use them. The In- 
telligence report, which was each day forwarded to 
Brigade, was also full and accurate. Indeed, the truth 
of the matter forced itself upon me, as I spent day 
after day in the trenches. What was wanted, apart 
jrom organization, was neither more nor less than the 
hunter spirit. The hunter spends his life in trying 
to outwit some difficult quarry, and the step between 
war and hunting is but a very small one. It is in- 
conceivable that a skilled hunter in a position of com- 
mand should ever allow his men to suffer as our men 
sometimes did in France. It was all so simple and so 
obvious. The Canadian Division and, later, the 
Canadian Corps was full of officers who understood 
how to deal with the German sniper, and early in 
the war there were Canadian snipers who were told 
off to this duty, and some of them were extraordinarily 
successful. Corporal, afterwards Lieutenant, Christie, 
of the P.P.C.L.I., was one of the individual pioneers 
of sniping. He had spent his life hunting in the 
Yukon, and he simply turned the same qualities which 
had brought him within the range of the mountain 
sheep to the downfall of Fritz the Forest Guard. 

In the long monotony of the trenches during that 
bleak winter of 1915, the only respite besides work 

36 



THE SNIPER IN THE TRENCHES 

which was possible to our soldiers ,was the element of 
sport and excitement introduced by sniping and its 
more important and elder sister, observation. Sniping 
in a dangerous sector and there were many of these 
was really neither more nor less than a very high- 
class form of big game shooting, in which the quarry 
shot back. As to danger, there are in Africa the lion, 
the elephant, the buffalo and the rhinoceros, and 
though the consensus of instructed opinion agrees 
that in proportion more hunters come back feet fore- 
most from lion hunting than from the pursuit of the 
three other forms of dangerous game, yet I suppose 
that no one would dispute that the German sniper, 
especially when he is supported on either flank by 
Kamaraden, was far more dangerous in the long run 
than any lion. 

In sniping, as the movement grew and sections were 
formed, one relied to an enormous extent upon the 
skill of the section to which the individual sniper 
belonged. A really first-rate man in a bad section was 
thrown away. First-rate men under a moderate officer 
were thrown away, and, worse than all, a good section 
under a good officer, who were relieved by the 
slack and poor section of another battalion, often suf- 
fered heavy casualties through no fault of their own. 

Thus, the Royal Blankshires, who have an excellent 
sniping organization, build half-a-dozen skilfully- 
hidden posts for observation and sniping purposes. 

37 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

All kinds of precautions, which have become second 
nature, are taken to prevent these posts being given 
away to the enemy. The telescopes used are care- 
fully wrapped in sandbags, their sunshades carefully 
extended lest the sun should, by flashing its reflec- 
tion upon the object glass, give away the position. 
The loopholes in dry weather are damped before being 
fired through, and, most important of all, no one 
but the C.O., the sniping officer, and the snipers and 
observers are allowed in the posts. If anyone else 
enters them there are for him heavy penalties, which 
are always enforced. The result is that the Blank- 
shires have a good tour of duty, lose no casualties to 
enemy snipers, and get splendid detail for their 
Intelligence reports. 

They are relieved, however, by the Loamshires. 
The C.O. of this Battalion does not believe very 
much in sniping. He has a way of saying that 
sniping will " never win the war." He has, it is true, a 
sniping section because, and only because, his Brigadier 
and his Divisional General are keen about sniping, 
and continually come into the trenches and inquire 
about it. But the Loamshire sniping section is a 
pitiable affair. They take over from the Royal 
Blanks. 

" These are jolly good observation posts," says the 
Royal Blanks sniping officer. He is the real thing, 
and he dreams of his job in the night. " But one has 

38 




From n drawing f>ii] 



OUTSIDE THE SNIPERS' POST. 
" Shut the loopholes. I'm coming in." 



\_Ernftt Jll ail-leu. 



[To face p. 38. 



THE SNIPER IN THE TRENCHES 

to be a bit careful not to give them away. I never 
let my fellows use the one in Sap F until the sun 
has worked round behind us." 

" Aw right oh ! " says the Loamshire opposite 
number. 

" One has to be a bit careful about the curtains 
at the back of those loopholes in Perrier Alley. The 
light's apt to shine through." 

" Aw right oh ! " says the Loamshire officer. 

" We are leaving our range-cards." 

Aw right oh ! " 

So the keen Royal Blanks officer and his keen section 
go out into rest billets, and do not visit the trenches 
again till they come back to take over from the 
Loamshires. 

" Well, how are the posts ? " asks the Royal Blanks 
officer, cheerily. 

" Pretty rotten ; they were all busted up the first 
day." 

" Damn ! They took us a fortnight to build." 

" Well, they are busted up all right." 

" Did your fellows give them away, do you think ? " 

" Oh, no ! " 

Now, as a matter of fact, the moment the Royal 
Blankshires were out of the trenches the Loamshire 
snipers, who knew no better, had used the O.P.s for 
promiscuous firing, and the posts which had been 
so jealously guarded under the Blankshire regime 

39 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

had been invaded by Loamshire officers and men in 
need of a view of the German trenches or of sleep. 
The curtains that kept the loopholes dark had been 
turned back. The result was as might have been 
expected. The watching German, who had suffered 
from those posts without being able to locate them 
when the Blankshires were in the trenches, now 
spotted them, rang up their guns, and had them 
demolished, not without casualties to the Loamshires. 
So the work was all to be done again but no sooner 
does the keen Blankshire officer build up a post than 
the slack Loamshire officer allows it to be given away. 
It is now a case for the Royal Blanks C.O. to take up 
with the Loamshire C.O. 

Such were the difficulties of the keen officer when 
the opposite number of the relieving battalion was a 
" dud." 

Conscientiousness is a great quality in an officer, 
but in the Sniping, Scouting and Observation Officer 
something more was needed. To obtain success, 
real success, it was necessary that his should be a labour 
of love. He must think and dream of his work at 
all hours and all times, and it was wonderful how many 
came to do this. In the battalion the Intelligence 
and Sniping officer had always a sporting job, and if 
he suffered in promotion (as do nearly all specialists 
in any great Army) yet he had the compensations 

which come to an artist in love with his work. 

40 



THE SNIPER IN THE TRENCHES 

There were at this time one or two other factors 
in the situation to which I must allude in order that 
the reader may understand the position as it was then. 
The enemy had an immense preponderance in trench 
weapons such as minenwerfer. The result was that a 
too successful bout of British sniping sometimes drew 
a bombardment. The activity of snipers was there- 
fore not always welcome to short-sighted officers, who 
distinctly and naturally objected to the enemy rifle- 
men calling in the assistance of the parapet-destroying 
engines of war, in which they so outclassed us. 

Soon, however, it was realized that the state of 
things obtaining while the German held the mastery 
of aimed rifle-fire could not be permitted to continue 
the casualties were too great and I will now give 
some account of the instruction and experience in 
the trenches that went on while we were attempting 
to capture the sniping initiative from the enemy. 



ii 

Towards the end of October, 1915, I was ordered 
to report to the 48th Division, then holding a line in 
the neighbourhood of Hebuterne. I was to proceed 
to Divisional Headquarters behind Pas, and was there 
ordered to Authie, where a number of officers were 
to come for instruction. This instruction was, as 
usual, to be divided between the back areas and the 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

front line. I had applied for the services of my friend, 
Lieut. G. M. Gathorne-Hardy, an experienced shot, and 
skilled user of the telescope, who had been many shoot- 
ing trips in different parts of the world with me and 
others. At Authie we at once settled down to work ; 
the officers going through a course which need not be 
detailed here. Suffice it to say that the telescopic- 
sighted rifles of all the battalions in the Division 
were shot and corrected, and various plans which we 
had formed for the destruction of German snipers 
were rehearsed. 

On the third day arrangements were made by Divi- 
sion as to which trenches we were to visit, and after 
duly reporting at Brigade Headquarters in a dug-out 
in Hebuterne, we proceeded upon our way. 

It is not an easy thing to instruct five or six officers 
in the line in sniping the number is too large so as 
soon as we entered the trenches I divided my class 
into three parties, and assigned to each an area in 
which to look for German snipers, Gathorne-Hardy 
and I going from one group to another. 

At the point at which we entered the front line 
trenches, our line was a little higher than that of the 
enemy, so that the initial advantage was certainly 
with us, and almost at once G. (for so I shall 
refer to Capt. Gathorne-Hardy) spotted a German 
sniper who was just showing the top of his cap at 
the end of a sap. He was about three hundred 

42 



THE SNIPER IN THE TRENCHES 

and fifty or four hundred yards away, and though we 
watched him for half-an-hour, he gave no target. So 
we moved on. Examining the enemy line was en- 
thralling work, as he had, even at that time, begun his 
campaign of skilled concealment, and was apt to set 
periscopes in trees, and steel boxes in all sorts of posi- 
tions. 

To spot and actually place thes upon the map was 
as important a duty of the sniper as killing the enemy 
by rifle fire. For, once discovered, such strong points 
and emplacements could be dealt with by our artil- 
lery. 

But to return. G. and I, after visiting the sec- 
tions, acted together as shooter and observer. 
After spending a couple of hours examining the 
enemy line, we got into a disused trench and crawled 
back to a little bit of high ground from which 
we were able to overlook a group of poplar trees which 
grew between the lines, and which were said to be the 
haunt of a very capable German sniper. 

Nothing, however, was to be seen of him, though 
we could clearly make out the nest he had built in one 
of the trees and, on the ground, what appeared to be 
either a dead man lying in the long grass or a tunic. 

While we were here a message came down to say 
that No. I group had seen a party of nine Germans, 
and had wounded one of them. No. 2 party had not 
been successful. 

43 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

At the time of which I write the Germans were 
just beginning to be a little shy of our snipers on those 
fronts to which organization had penetrated, and it 
was clear that the time would arrive when careful 
Hans and conscientious Fritz would become very 
troglodytic, as indeed they did. We had, therefore, 
turned our minds to think out plans and ruses by 
which the enemy might be persuaded to give us a 
target. We had noticed the extraordinary instinct 
of the German Officer to move to a flank, and thinking 
something might be made out of this, we collected 
all our officers and went back to the place where 
G. and I had spotted the Hun sniper or sentry at the 
end of the sap. A glance showed that he was still 
there. 

I then explained my plan, which was that I should 
shoot at this sentry and in doing so, deliberately give 
away my position and rather act the tenderfoot, in 
the hope that some German officer would take a hand 
in the game and attempt to read me a lesson in tactics. 

On either flank about 150 yards or so down the 
trench I placed the officers under instruction with 
telescopes and telescopic-sighted rifles, explaining to 
them that the enemy snipers would very possibly make 
an attempt to shoot at me from about opposite them. 
I then scattered a lot of dust in the loophole from which 
I intended to fire, and used a large .350 Mauser, which 
gave a good flash and smoke. As the sentry in the sap 

44 




- 



C^j 


TELESCOPIC SIGHT: 







THE SNIPER IN THE TRENCHES 

was showing an inch or two of his forehead as well 
as the peak of his cap, I had a very careful shot at 
him, which G., who was spotting for me with the glass, 
said went about twelve inches too high. 

The sentry, of course, disappeared, and I at once 
poured in the whole magazine at a loophole plate, 
making it ring again, and by the dust and smoke 
handsomely giving away my own position. I waited 
a few minutes, and then commenced shooting again. 
Evidently my first essay had attracted attention, for 
two German snipers at once began firing at me from 
the right flank. At these two I fired back ; they were 
almost exactly opposite the party under instruction, 
and it was clear that, if the party held their fire, the 
Germans would probably give fine targets. As a 
matter of fact, all that we hoped for actually happened, 
for the exasperated German snipers, thinking they had 
to deal only with a very great fool, began to fire over 
the parapet, their operations being directed by an 
officer with an immense pair of field-glasses. At the 
psychological moment, my officers opened fire, the 
large field-glasses dropped on the wrong side of the 
parapet, as the officer was shot through the head, and 
the snipers, who had increased to five or six, disappeared 
with complete suddenness. Nor did the enemy fire 
another shot. 

It should be borne in mind, in reading the above, 
how great a plague were the skilled German snipers to 

45 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

us. One of them might easily cause thirty or forty 
casualties. Later in the war we had, on our side, 
many a sniper who killed his fifty or even his hundred 
of the enemy. Besides, as I have pointed out, in these 
early days of trench warfare the continual attrition 
caused by German snipers was very bad for moral. 

At a later date we found a means by which we were 
able at once to find the position of any German 
sniper. For this purpose we used a dummy head 
made of papier-mache. 

The method of using was as follows : When a 
German sniper was giving trouble, we selected a good 
place opposite to him, and drove two stakes into our 
own parapet until only about a foot of them remained 
uncovered. To these we nailed a board on which was 
fashioned a groove which exactly fitted the stick or 
handle attached to the dummy head. This stick was 
inserted in the groove and the dummy head slowly 
pushed up above our parapet. 

If the enemy sniper fired at and hit the head, the 
entry and exit of the bullet made two holes, one in the 
front, and one in the back of the hollow dummy head. 

The head, immediately on the shot, was pulled down 
by whoever was working it in as natural a manner as 
possible. The stick on which it was mounted was then 
replaced in the groove, but exactly the height between 
the two glasses of a periscope lower than the position in 
which it was when shot through. 

46 




From a dratfiny by] 



[Ernest Blnikley. 



Spotting the Enemy Sniper. 



\_ToJ 'ace p. 46. 



THE SNIPER IN THE TRENCHES 

Now all that remained to do was to place the lower 
glass of the periscope opposite the front hole in the 
head, and apply the eye to the rear hole and look into 
the periscope, the upper glass of which was above the 
parapet. 

In this way we found ourselves looking along the 
path of the bullet, only in the opposite direction to that 
in which it had come, and, in the optical centre -of the 
two holes, would be seen the German sniper who had 
fired the shot, or the post which concealed him. 

Once found he was soon dealt with. 

In trials at First Army Sniping School, we were 
able by this invention to locate sixty-seven snipers out 
of seventy-one. 

Some of those who wanted to give the dummy head 
a specially life-like appearance, placed a cigarette in 
its mouth, and smoked it through a rubber tube. 

It is a curious sensation to have the head through 
which you are smoking a cigarette suddenly shot with 
a Mauser bullet, but it is one that several snipers have 
experienced. 

After the incidents last described, we went up 
towards the flank, where the 4th Division lay along- 
side the 48th. It was in this Division that the 2nd 
Seaforth Highlanders had just played a delightful trick 
on the enemy. Someone in the battalion had ob- 
tained a mechanical stop, one of those ticking bits of 
mechanism which are made with a view to saving the 

47 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

employment of a human " stop " at covert-shoots. 
This particular stop was guaranteed to tick loudly for 
hours. 

The Seaforths were facing the Germans across a 
very wild piece of No Man's Land. One night some 
adventurous and humorous spirit crawled out and 
placed the " stop " about sixty yards from the German 
parapet, and then set it going. The Germans at once 
leaped to the conclusion that the tick-tick-tick was the 
voice of some infernal machine, which would, in due 
time, explode and demolish them. They threw 
bombs, and fired flares, and officers and men spent a 
most haggard and horrible night, while opposite them 
the Scotsmen were laughing sardonically in their 
trenches. The whole incident was intensely typical 
of the careless and grim humour with which the Scot- 
tish regiments were at times apt to regard the Hun. 

Another battalion at a much later date, when the 
Germans had become very shy, and mostly spent their 
off-duty hours in deep dug-outs, had the brilliant idea 
of preparing a notice board on which was printed 
in large letters and German : " Bitter Fighting in 
Berlin," and then, in smaller type, some apocryphal 
information. This notice it was their plan to raise, 
having first posted their snipers, who would be sure to 
obtain shots at the Huns who attempted to read the 
smaller lettering with their field-glasses. I do not 
think, however, that this plan was ever actually carried 



THE SNIPER IN THE TRENCHES 

out. This was fortunate, since, though ingenious, the 
idea was not sound, as it would inevitably have led to 
a heavy bombardment of the trenches in which the 
notice was shown, and the game would not have been 
worth the candle. 

To continue, however, with our day. Late in the 
afternoon, no Germans having shown themselves since 
the shooting of the officer a heavy bombardment 
broke out on the right flank, and we hurried in that 
direction, as experience had taught me that the 
German Forward Observation Officers often did their 
spotting for the guns from the front-line trench on 
the flank of the bombarded area. 

Sure enough, we soon picked up one of those large 
dark artillery periscopes, shaped like an armadillo. 
It was being operated by two men, as far as could be 
seen. One of them wore a very high peaked cap, and 
was at once called " Little Willie ; " the other had a 
black beard. The nearest point to which we could 
approach was more like five than four hundred yards, 
and though we waited till dark, Little Willie did not 
show more than his huge cap peak and an inch or two 
of forehead. As evening fell, we went out of the 
trenches without having fired, as soon after our arrival 
the bombardment had ceased, and Little Willie never 
gave a good target, and the bearded man had dis- 
appeared. I did not wish to disturb the German 
F.O.O.'s in their post ; as, now that they were dis- 

49 4 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

covered, arrangements could be made to deal with 
them when next they were observing. 

The opportunity occurred three days later, when, 
after a very long vigil, an officer shot Little Willie, 
and the same evening a Howitzer battery wiped out 
the post for good and all. 

As, when Little Willie met his end, he was just in 
the act of spotting the first shots for his battery, which 
had opened on our front line trenches, his death pro- 
bably saved us some casualties, for it temporarily 
stopped the activities of his guns. 

It was not only the number of the enemy that our 
snipers shot that was so important. It was often the 
psychological moment at which they shot them that 
gave their work an extra value. 

In the autumn of 1915 there came high winds 
following frosty nights. It was clear that a heavy fall 
of the leaf would take place on the following days. I 
therefore asked, and obtained leave from the 4th 
Division, to which I was at the time attached, to drop 
instructional work, and instead to go into the trenches 
in order to spot enemy snipers and artillery observa- 
tion officers' posts. On my way down I called at 
Headquarters, where I was told that a very trouble- 
some sniper was operating at Beaumont Hamel. This 
man had killed a number of our fellows. He was 
supposed to live in a pollarded willow, one of a row not 
very far from Jacob's Ladder, which will be remem- 



THE SNIPER IN THE TRENCHES 

bered by all who were on that front in 1915. There 
was on that day a certain amount of mild shelling of 
the communication trenches, but before the advent 
of gas-shells this rarely caused trouble in the daytime, 
except to those who had to repair the breaches. On 
the day in question I was alone with my batman, who, 
I can say, without fear of libel, shot better than he 
" batted," for he had been chosen because he was a 
marksman. Arrived in the front line, we at once set 
about trying to locate the sniper. As a rule, in such 
a case, the enemy one seeks is taking a siesta, but this 
was not so now, for as soon as I looked over the parapet 
a bullet, striking low, knocked some dust into my eyes. 
At this point, you must understand, our trenches were 
shaped like an arm, with a crooked elbow, the crook or 
turn of the elbow being at the bottom of a hill. In 
front lay Beaumont Hamel, where in the German 
lines when I arrived a soldier had hung out his shirt 
to dry. Between us and Beaumont Hamel lay a wild 
piece of No Man's Land, with some dead ground on 
the Beaumont Hamel side, and at the bottom of the 
hill the row of willows from which the sniper was 
supposed to operate. 

As these willow trees were out of sight from the 
place where I had been fired at, I did not put down 
that shot to the sniper, whom we will call Ernst. In 
this I was probably wrong, as transpired later. 

All that morning we tried to locate Ernst, who had 

5i 4* 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

four more shots at me, but all that I had learned at 
the end of it (when I imagine Ernst went off for a 
well-earned siesta) was that he was a good shot, as 
though obviously some distance away, he had made 
quite good practice. We most carefully examined the 
pollarded willows, and spotted one or two good snipers' 
posts, especially one at the bottom of a hedge, but as 
far as Ernst was concerned he had all the honours. 

The next day I was occupied all the morning with 
an enemy artillery O.P. which was destroyed by 
howitzer fire, and it was not till after lunch that I 
could turn my attention once more to Ernst. 

This time I began at the bottom of the hill. There 
were no loopholes, so it was a case of looking over, and 
almost at once Ernst put in a very close shot, followed 
again by a second which was not so good. The first 
shot had cut the top of the parapet just beside my 
head, and I noticed that several shots had been fired 
which had also cut the top of the sandbags. Behind 
the line of these shots was a group of trees, and as they 
stood on slightly higher ground I crawled to them, 
and at once saw something of great interest. In 
the bole of one of the trees a number of bullets had 
lodged, all within a small circle. Crouching at the 
base of the tree, and with my head covered with an 
old sandbag, I raised it until 1 could see over the 
parapet fifty yards in front, and found at once that 
the line of these shots, and those which had struck the 

52 



THE SNIPER IN THE TRENCHES 

tree behind my head, were very nearly the same, and 
must have been fired from an area of No Man's Land, 
behind which it looked as if dead ground existed on the 
enemy's side, and probably from a large bush which 
formed the most salient feature of that view. 

I then went back to the trenches, and warned all 
sentries to keep a good look-out on this bush 
and the vicinity. Very soon one of them reported 
movement in the bush. With my glass I could see a 
periscope about three feet above the ground in the 
bush, which was very thick. Being certain, as the 
periscope was raised so high, and as it had only just 
been elevated, that it was held in human hands, I 
collected half a dozen riflemen and my batman, and 
giving them the range, and the centre of the bush as 
a target, ordered them to open fire. On the volley 
the periscope flew backwards and the activities of 
Ernst ceased forthwith. 

It was this experience of looking along the path of 
the enemy's bullets that led directly to the invention 
for spotting enemy snipers, which I have described 
earlier in this chapter. 

No one can deny that Ernst was a gallant fellow, 
lying out as he did between the lines day after day. 
Whether he was killed or not who can say, but I should 
think the odds are that some bullets of the volley found 
their billet. At any rate, sniping from that quarter 
ceased. 

53 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

I have now given enough description of the work and 
training which was going on at that time in the Third 
Army in the line. The aim and end of all this work 
was the formation of sniping sections in each battalion, 
consisting of sixteen privates with two N.C.O.'s 
under an officer. 

I had realized that my whole problem turned upon 
the officer. If I could succeed in obtaining fifteen 
or twenty officers who would be simply fanatics in 
their work, it was . perfectly clear that the sniping 
movement would spread like wildfire throughout the 
Army. Already we had got together an immense 
amount of detail concerning the German sniping 
organization, and had begun not only to challenge his 
superiority, but also to enforce our own. It is won- 
derful what can be done in a single week by sixteen 
accurate shots along the length of line held by a 
battalion. You must understand also that the success 
of the German sniping rested largely upon the deeds 
of certain crack snipers, who thoroughly understood 
their work, and who each one of them caused us heavy 
casualties. The first work to be done in the trenches 
was the organized annihilation of these skilled German 
snipers, and I think this was the easier in that they 
had it their own way for so long. 

As time went on, the reports from the brigades 
were very good ; one Brigadier* even going so far as to 

* Later Major-Gen. Sir Guy Bainbridge, K.C.B. 
54 



THE SNIPER IN THE TRENCHES 

wire me : " Only one Hun sniper left on my front. 
Can you lend me your elephant rifle ? " In this 
particular brigade the Brigadier informed me that 
he had not lost a man through enemy sniping in four 
months. 

Sniping, I think, or let us say the sniping campaign, 
may be divided into four parts. During the first, the 
Germans had the mastery. During the second, our 
first aim was to kill off the more dangerous German 
snipers and to train our own to become more formid- 
able. The third was when the Germans had fairly 
gone to ground and would no longer give us a chance. 
The idea now was to invent various ways in which to 
induce them to give a target, and the final period came 
at a much later date, when great battles were being 
fought, and the work of sniping was beginning to 
merge into that of scouting, and snipers were being 
trained in great numbers to deal with the new situations 
that were arising every day as the Germans altered 
their tactical plans of defence. 



55 



CHAPTER III 

EARLY DAYS WITH THE I ITH CORPS AND FIRST ARMY 

nnOWARDS the end of 1915 my services were 
again borrowed by the First Army, this time 
to take a class of Sniping and Intelligence officers 
through the course of sniping and observation which 
was already in operation in the Third Army, and also 
to lecture to a G.H.Q. Intelligence Class on the 
Observation and Intelligence side of sniping a big 
subject. 

I went up the long road through Doullens, Prevent 
and St. Pol, which I had traversed so many times 
from the days when it was impassable with French 
soldiers before the Battle of Loos to the quieter times 
which had now dawned. During the war one had 
very few relaxations of any kind. Shooting was for- 
bidden, games were difficult for the unattached 
Ishmaelite to obtain, and often for long periods it was 
impossible to get any change of thought. The long 
drives to all parts of the line held by the British Army, 
which were part of my work, were, therefore, exceed- 
ingly pleasant by contrast. Wherever there was a 

56 



EARLY DAYS WITH THE XI. CORPS 

battle I used to try and get to it at the earliest possible 
moment, in order to have the opportunity of examin- 
ing the German trenches, for as time went on sniping 
became more and more scientific, and the Germans 
were always starting some new method which had to 
be countered. One of the most important points was 
to obtain specimens of each issue of their steel plates, 
in order to experiment on them with all kinds of 
bullets. 

But to return to the First Army Class. We were 
allotted a curious range on the outskirts of the town of 
Bethune, then a thriving community, which had 
been hardly shelled at all, although well within the 
battle area. Our rifle-firing took place under cover, 
and each target appeared through a series of holes cut 
in a number of brick walls which crossed the range 
at right angles. The noise in the room of the cottage 
which formed the 2OO-yards firing-point was deafen- 
ing, but as the weather was both wet and cold 
head-cover had its advantages. 

The class which assembled consisted of a picked 
officer from each Division, twelve in all. Some I 
lost sight of afterwards, but two, at least, of this class 
rose to command their battalions, and one was awarded 
the double D.S.O., another the M.C. and Bar, and 
several more single decorations. 

In order that the class might be taught the manipu- 
lation of telescopic sights, all the rifles of the 1st Corps 

57 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

which were fitted with these sights or with optical 
sights were sent down, together with the snipers who 
shot them, in order that the rifles might be tested for 
accuracy. As at that time there had been no real 
organization or instruction in the use of adventitious 
sights in the Corps, it is not to be wondered at that 
most of these were incorrect. Of the first eighty, 
fifty-nine were quite valueless until regulated, and we 
were hard put to it to correct them as party after party 
arrived. 

At length a party of Scottish Rifles came, every one 
of whose weapons was entirely correct. They were 
under the command of a young officer who, when the 
trial of his men's rifles was over, saluted and said to 
me : 

" Will I stay and help you with the other rifles, sir ? " 

" Do you understand telescopic sights ? " 

" Yes, sir." 

" Have you done much shooting ? ' : 

" Yes, sir." 

" Won anything ? " 

" The King's Prize, and the Scottish Open Cham- 
pionship, and the Caledonian Shield, sir." 

" What is your name ? " 

" Gray, sir." 

That evening Corps Staff was rung up and Gray 
was straightway appointed Corps Sniping Officer. 
Suffice it to say, that in a few weeks the German 

58 



EARLY DAYS WITH THE XI. CORPS 

snipers had been dealt with in a way that must have 
amazed them. 

Later on, Gray's Division moved into the nth Corps, 
where I have always thought that sniping on some 
sectors reached its high-water mark as far as the year 
1916 was concerned. Afterwards he became my 
assistant at the nth Corps School, and later at the 
First Army School. He finally proceeded to the 
U.S.A., with the rank of Major, to spread the light 
there. In this he was most successful, receiving the 
thanks of the Divisional General to whose Division he 

X 

was attached for the extraordinary efficiency of his 
work. In my experience of sniping officers in France, 
two are outstanding, and he was one of them. The 
other was Major O. Underbill, 1st K.S.L.I. 

Our class on that queer range in Bethune lasted a 
fortnight and was instrumental in getting me a bout 
of sick leave ; for when, as part of the instruction, we 
had to make a trench and build into it various posts 
such as snipers use, we found ourselves working in an 
extremely noisome atmosphere. As far as we could 
make out, the greater part of the town drainage seemed 
to be at no great distance under the ground in which 
we had to dig. The result was a bout of trench 
fever. The time I spent at home was not, however, 
wasted, as I was able to collect large numbers of 
telescopes and get the various courses for sniping 
instruction written down, which was useful, as I was 

59 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

continually receiving applications for a syllabus from 
units outside the Third Army. 

When I returned to France I was again attached to 
the Third Army, but not to the Infantry School, who 
had secured the services of Captain Pemberthy during 
my absence. This very capable officer did splendid 
work for the Third Army. Instead, I went down the 
line and resumed my old work of instructing brigades 
and battalions. I also went to the Indian Cavalry 
Divisions. 

At this time, I remember, volunteers who possessed 
a knowledge of the fitting of telescopic sights were 
asked for in the 7th Corps. The result was exceed- 
ingly typical. One private, who sent in his name, 
stated that he was well acquainted with telescopic 
sights and their fittings, having been for four years 
employed by Messrs. Daniel Fraser of Leith Street 
Terrace, Edinburgh, the well-known firm of gun and 
rifle makers, whose work on telescopic sights stands so 
deservedly high. The staff who unearthed this appli- 
cant did not continue to congratulate themselves on 
having produced exactly the article wanted, when, 
through a letter to Messrs. Fraser, it transpired that, 
though it was quite true that the man had been 
employed by them, the position that he had held in the 
firm was that of errand boy, and that his knowledge of 
telescopic sights was consequently not one which 
they felt they could confidently recommend. 

60 



EARLY DAYS WITH THE XI. CORPS 

During these days I went back to many of the 
brigades to which I had been attached six months 
previously. The casualties among snipers had not 
been very heavy and we had fairly obtained the upper 
hand. At this period troops were massing for the 
Battle of the Somme, in which the Third and Fourth 
Armies took part. The use of the telescope was now 
a matter of immense interest, as Intelligence wanted 
all the facts they could get about the enemy, and 
consequently instruction in glass-work for battalion 
and brigade observers became more and more sought 
after, and I trained many observers for Major-General 
Hull, G.O.C. 56th Division. Just at this period, 
however, there was a change in my fortunes, and I 
was ordered to proceed to the First Army, to the 
command of which Sir Charles Monro had just suc- 
ceeded after his wonderful performance in Gallipoli. 
I therefore left the Third Army area and went by rail 
to Aire-sur-Lys, in order to report to First Army 
Headquarters, which was situated in that town. 

It would be absurd to deny that I was very glad to 
be attached to the First Army, where the keenness 
which I had seen on my visit at Christmas time to the 
various Corps Commanders was glorious. Arriving 
at Aire I reported to the Town Major, and was 
allotted a room in the hotel called " Le Clef d'Or." 
Here I was eating my dinner when the Town Major 
came across and wanted to know if an officer of my 

61 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

name was present. He said that a car was waiting 
outside, and that I was to go direct to the Army 
Commander's chateau to dine and stay the night. 

The next day the Army Commander questioned me 
very closely about sniping, and about all that had 
occurred with regard to it since he had seen me last: 
He then informed me that I was to be attached to the 
nth Corps, and that my orders were the same as they 
had been under him in the Third Army to make 
good shots, and as many of them as possible 

The nth Corps, since my previous visit, had started 
a sniping school, where they were putting through five 
officers and twenty men on short courses. The school 
was situated on the far side of the Forest of Nieppe, 
near a place called Steenbecque. I was ordered to 
make this school my headquarters. It was in charge of 
Lieut. Forsyth M.C. of the 6th Black Watch. A 
more curious and picturesque-looking spot for a 
school it would be hard to imagine. The headquar- 
ters were in a little Flemish farmhouse, kept by an 
exceedingly close-fisted family, and the range, which 
had firing points at one, two, three and five hundred 
yards, was neither more nor less than a long sloping 
cornfield. A most satisfactory point about the range 
which was an excellent one was that it was within 
two hundred yards of headquarters, so that after 
parade hours were over an immense amount of volun- 
tary work was done upon it. It was here that we first 

62 



EARLY DAYS WITH THE XI. CORPS 

began to tend towards the really much longer and more 
detailed course of instruction which we afterwards 
amplified to a vastly greater extent at First Army 
School, as soon as the courses were lengthened to 
seventeen days' duration. 

From the first it may be said that the men and 
officers who came upon all these courses were extra- 
ordinarily keen. They liked sniping, and still more, 
observation, because they felt that here, at last, in 
the great impersonal war, was an opportunity for 
individual skill. The more imaginative of them 
realized also the enormous possibilities of the trained 
observer. In other chapters I will give several 
instances of the observation of small details which 
have had consequences of the most far-reaching nature. 
I think that this feeling of the ever-present possibility 
of the opportunity of being able to do a big thing 
formed part of the fascination of the S.O.S. courses 
S.O.S. in this case meaning, " Sniping, Observation 
and Scouting," and not " Service of Supply," as it 
does in the American Army. 

It has been said, and truly, that soldiers are pretty 
destructive, but the fajct remains that hundreds of 
privates, N.C.O.'s and officers went through their 
shooting courses in the Steenbecque cornfield, which 
was traversed in all directions by narrow paths, and 
yet it was difficult to find any downtrodden ears of 
corn. Our one difficulty was that at one of the firing 

63 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

points the corn grew up and obscured the targets. 
It had, therefore, to be cut to the area of about ten 
yards. I do not know what the claim sent in by the 
farmer was for this damage, but as far as claims were 
concerned nothing was ever missed by the Flemish 
peasant. 

Although it was my Headquarters I used only to 
spend the first two days of every course at the school ; 
the other days I passed attached to various divisions 
and brigades, and in this way became conversant with 
the trench line of the Corps along the whole length 
of which I inspected the snipers' posts. The 3 3rd 
Division, who were holding the line opposite Violaines 
and the Brick-stacks, had had a tremendous duel with 
the German snipers. This line has always been a 
difficult one from the sniper's point of view, as the 
Germans had, unfortunately, the best of it as to posi- 
tion. The Brick-stacks made ideal sniping-posts, 
and there were many other points of vantage which 
were very much in their favour. It shows, however, 
what a first-class sniping officer can do when it is 
realized that the 33rd Division who, when they went 
into the trenches, found the, Germans very much in 
the ascendant, soon reduced them to a more fitting 
state of mind. 

It was here that Gray the sniping officer in ques- 
tion had a trying experience. One day while 
making his tour of duty, an officer told him that there 

64 



EARLY DAYS WITH THE XI. CORPS 

was a sniper who was causing them trouble. Gray 
asked where he was, and was led without words to the 
part of our trench opposite which the German sniper 
was supposed to lie. Gray, being signed to do so by 
his guide, looked over, only to be saluted at about 
ten yards' range with a bullet which whizzed by his 
ear. 

" That's him," said the officer delightedly. " I 
knew he was pretty close. But what am I to do ? 
He shoots if one tries to spot where he is." 

" Have you never heard of the sniperscope, you 
? " demanded Gray. 

" By Jove, the very thing ! " cried the officer, and 
it was not long before the German sniper was reduced 
to impotence. 

But to return to the nth Corps School. Work 
there was certainly strenuous. There was nothing to 
do in the village and nothing to do in Morbecque. 
The nearest place of relaxation was Hazebrouck, 
and Hazebrouck was out of bounds. The result was 
that having an interesting course with plenty of rifle 
shooting competitions, together with occasional mild 
cricket and football, officers and men were able to 
concentrate upon the work in hand, and certainly 
their shooting improved with amazing quickness. 

About this time the 33rd Division moved south, 
and Lieut. Gray was attached to the School, where he 
soon left the impress of his personality and methods. 

65 5 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

One of the difficulties that we had always found in 
the First Army was due to the fact that our trenches, 
as far at any rate as the Neuve Chapelle-Fauquissart 
area was concerned, were very shallow, and, indeed 
we lived rather behind breastworks than in trenches. 
To make loopholes in these breastworks was ex- 
ceedingly difficult, but Gray invented a system 
which we christened " Gray's Boards " which fairly 
met the case. Thus, if he wished to put in a concealed 
iron loop-hole plate, he first of all cut a square of wood 
of exactly similar size. In this he fashioned a loop- 
hole to correspond with the loophole of the iron 
plate. He then wired the wooden plate on to the iron 
plate, and having rolled and stuffed a number of sand- 
bags in exact imitation of the parapet in which he 
wished to insert his loophole, he tacked these with a 
hammer and tacks upon the wooden board. The 
whole loophole was then built in at night. These 
loopholes of his were rarely discovered, and they had 
also the added advantage that if a bullet struck them 
it did not ring upon the iron plate, as it had to pierce 
the wooden board first, so the posts were never given 
away by sound. 

It was at the nth Corps School that we first con- 
structed exact imitations of German trenches and 
German sniping posts ; in fact, in one way or another, 
a great deal of pioneer work was put in there, and the 

school prospered exceedingly. 

66 



m 








EARLY DAYS WITH THE XI. CORPS 

The chief reason, I think, for the success of the 
school was the great personal interest taken in it by 
the Corps Commander, Sir R. Haking, who would 
come out from his headquarters at Hinges and inspect 
the school at frequent intervals, as did also Brigadier- 
General W. Hastings Anderson, then B.G.G.S. of 
the Corps. We were inspected in July by the Army 
Commander, and from time to time officers from 
other theatres of war and from other armies visited us. 

In a meadow near the school was a small pond, full 
of fish, which it was the ambition of Gray and myself 
to catch. There was only room for two fishermen at 
a time, and only on one occaHon was a fish caught. 
This we gave to the farmer who owned the pond, 
and I presume he ate it, for he was up at Headquarters 
early the next day inquiring for a " medecin ! " 

Still, nothing could be more delightful than after 
three or four strenuous days, on each of which one 
walked perhaps eight or ten miles of trenches, to sit 
before that funny little pool in the French meadow, 
and forget there was a war. 

At the time of which I write, the Corps which 
formed the First Army were the nth, the 1st and 
the 4th. The 3rd had gone to the Battle of the 
Somme. The 1st Corps had a sniping school, which, 
at a later date, reached an extraordinarily high pitch 
of efficiency under Captain Crang and the late 
Lieut. Toovey, the author of " The Old Drum 

67 5* 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

Major " and well-known Bisley shot. It was a party 
commanded by Captain Crang which went into the 
Portuguese trenches, where it was reported the 
Germans were showing themselves rather freely, and 
made a big bag. The 4th Corps also had a good 
school, but they soon moved out of the Army to the 
south. In fact, when I first went there, the system 
in the First Army was that which I had always advo- 
cated, to have Corps Schools of sniping and observa- 
tion. The difficulty, of course, was that there was 
still no establishment, and that sniping schools did 
not officially exist. This was quite a common thing 
in the war, for when ^ first went to the large Third 
Army Infantry School, with a score of instructors, a 
large staff, and a couple of hundred N.C.O. and officer 
pupils, it did not exist officially. 

While I was at the nth Corps School, the War 
Office at last officially acknowledged my existence 
as a sniping-officer to the extent that I received my 
pay, which had been withheld for several months. 

After various tours of inspection and work with 
other Army Corps, I was ordered by the Army Com- 
mander to form an Army School of Sniping. Greatly 
rejoicing, Gray and I borrowed a car from the Army 
and set out to search through the broad lands of the 
Pas de Calais. These were delightful days, but 
search as we would, it was exceedingly difficult to 
find any place in the area of the First Army which 

68 



EARLY DAYS WITH THE XI. CORPS 

would suit our purpose. It was all too flat. I 
remember that we once very nearly decided upon a 
queer little hill, not very far from Hinges, called 
Mont Bernenchon, but luckily we went on further 
and at last came to the village of Linghem. Above 
the village on a high plateau lies an old civilian range 
backed by a large rifle butt. The plateau on which 
the range is situated is of considerable extent, and 
upon its slopes (it was July) bloomed heather and 
gorse. 

" Why," said Gray, " the place is trying hard to be 
like Scotland 1 " 

The plateau gave us a range of eight hundred yards 
and plenty of room for playing fields, which the 
Army always consider to be absolutely necessary to 
the well-being of a school one reason, I think, 
that the health of our men was so good. 

Having decided that here was the ideal place for 
our projected First Army Sniping School, Gray and 
I were disgusted to see the fresh tracks of a motor- 
car. It was quite clear that somebody else had 
discovered and had an eye upon our find. We did 
not even wait for a cup of coffee at the local estaminet 
but got on board our car and went full speed to Army 
Headquarters, where we informed the Staff that we 
had decided upon our location, and were told that 
as no one else had applied for it, it should be ours. 
We were only just in time for as we afterwards dis- 

69 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

covered the Royal Flying Corps had decided to 
apply for it. 

All's well, however, that ends well, and a little 
later on we left the nth Corps School with great 
regret, and set forth on a lorry for Linghem to found 
the First Army Sniping School. 

Often afterwards I used to go across to see how 
things were getting along at the dear old nth Corps 
School. The last time I was there, before it was 
taken over by a Second Army formation, it was a 
wintry day with snow falling. I must say that I 
was glad that I had never been attached there during 
winter, for what had been a smiling cornfield was 
now a sea of yellow and glutinous mud. The little 
becque or stream which ran between our stop-butt 
and our targets had overflowed, and Lieut. Hands, 
who had succeeded to the command of the school, 
was urging some one hundred and fifty odd German 
prisoners to reconstruct the stop-butt itself. The 
scene really might have been upon the German 
" Eastern Front." 



70 



CHAPTER IV 

THE FIRST ARMY SCHOOL OF SCOUTING, OBSERVATION 
AND SNIPING 

r I ^HE First Army Sniping School was formed 
1 for the purpose of training officers, who 
might act as Instructors in the various Corps Schools, 
Brigades and Battalions throughout the Army. 

The system of Corps Schools was, as I have said, 
peculiar to the First Army, who, for the next year 
and a half, turned out three snipers to any other 
Army's one. Further, the First Army School became 
recognized throughout the B.E.F. as the training 
place of observers with the telescope. Indeed, at 
a later date, we were overwhelmed with applications 
from Corps and Divisions in other Armies who wished 
to send observers for a course. This was especially 
the case before any big movement, and we might 
almost have guessed where an advance was con- 
templated by the applications for the training of 
observers by the units concerned. 

However, all this occurred at a later date, and I 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

must pick up my narrative when we left the nth 
Corps School in the lorry. Those who were to start 
the First Army School got aboard after an early 
breakfast. They were only six in number, Lieut. 
Gray, Armourer Staff-Sergeant Carr, Private Fen- 
some (an extremely capable and skilled carpenter), 
myself and two batmen. We took with us all the 
spares we could obtain from the nth Corps School 
as well as a lot of sniping kit belonging to Gray and 
myself. 

As we rode through the country in the direction 
of Aire we passed a huge desolate camp which, I 
believe, had once been inhabited by Australians. 
No doubt it had boasted a guard at one time, but it 
had now fallen into sad disrepair, the Flemish 
peasantry having appropriated all the stoves and 
most of the wooden walls. A little further on we 
came upon two or three Armstrong huts standing 
in a field adjacent to the deserted camp, and as these 
were in better preservation, and we had no Armstrong 
hut of our own, it seemed a pity to leave them for 
the French, so we set to and took one down and 
loaded it on the lorry. This was, no doubt, a very 
wrong thing to do, but when you have no " estab- 
lishment," you can have no conscience either, or, at 
least, if you allow yourself such a luxury you will find 
that your job becomes impossible. 

Presently we rolled into Aire over the canal bridge, 

72 



THE FIRST ARMY SCHOOL OF S.O.S. 

which was afterwards destroyed by long-range guns, 
and in Aire we made the little purchases which are 
necessary for the formation of officers' and men's 
messes. We then passed through the old town by 
the Cathedral. Army Headquarters had moved away, 
and there was now only the Town Major and one or 
two A.S.C. columns in possession. On the far 
side of Aire we took the Lambres and St. Hilaire 
Road, and passed on through the level country. As 
we turned off through Lambres, we saw, rising in 
front of us, the high ridge which formed the plateau 
on which our school was to be situated, and not long 
afterwards we rode into the village of Linghem. The 
lorry then went round and disembarked our Arm- 
strong hut upon the plateau, where we at once 
erected it, and a fortunate thing it was that we did 
so, for that night there were some heavy showers 
of rain which would have destroyed a good deal of 
our kit, and more especially our target-paper and 
dummy heads, had we not put them under proper 
shelter. 

And now, I think, began one of the most inter- 
esting periods which I spent in France. Various 
fatigue men were added to the Staff, and a working 
party from the Army Service Corps was sent up. 
We were rather amused to see that the men of this 
working party, who had been well behind the line 
for at least a year previously, thought it quite an 

73 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

adventure to come up to the school. When they 
rolled up their sleeves for digging, we noticed, too, 
that their arms were white, forming in this a great 
contrast to our fatigue men. It was necessary to 
dig trenches, make stop-butts, build snipers' posts 
and observation posts, and all this hard work the 
A.S.C. working party tackled with extraordinary 
energy. We put up goal-posts, and they had a game 
of football each evening. Several of the A.S.C. 
party, I believe, were professional football players of 
repute. 

But it would be tedious to describe the growth of 
the school step by step. Suffice it to say that, begin- 
ning with a class of a dozen to fifteen officers, who 
were dealt with by two officer instructors, our classes 
grew until we had twenty-five officers and forty or 
fifty N.C.O.'s at each course. But the actual teach- 
ing was only one side of the work of the school, for 
it was soon thoroughly known throughout the Army 
that if any Division, Brigade or Battalion wanted its 
telescopic sights tested, or if any individual sniper 
found himself shooting incorrectly, all that had to 
be done was to apply to the First Army Sniping 
School. The divisional snipers came up in 'bus- 
loads, and single snipers often came on foot. This 
continual testing of rifles kept Armourer Staff- 
Sergeant Carr busy both on the range and in his 
armourer's shop. Fortunately, as well as being an 

74 




c/i 

Q | 

c/i o 

E 

u. ^ 

1 



O u 

- 



THE FIRST ARMY SCHOOL OF S.O.S. 

excellent armourer, Sergeant Carr was also a shot 
of no mean order, having shot in the King's Hundred 
at Bisley. 

The school had not been long in existence before 
the Canadian Corps came into the Army. They 
were then holding the line which they afterwards 
immortalized opposite the Vimy Ridge, and we were 
at once struck at the school by their great energy 
and keenness. There is no doubt that as a sniper, 
scout or intelligence officer, the Canadian shows the 
greatest initiative, and during the long period, well 
over a year, which they remained in the Army, our 
school was voluntarily visited by two Canadians 
for every one Britisher. They were most extra- 
ordinarily helpful, too, and if ever I wanted the 
services of some Canadian officer for a particular 
purpose, they were almost always granted, and not 
only that, but he was on the spot within a few hours 
of my application. 

At first the greater part of our teaching dealt 
with sniping, but as time went on the curriculum 
was much extended. Map reading, intelligence 
work, the prismatic compass, the range-finder, in- 
struction on crawling, ju-jitsu and physical drill 
were all added. In addition to these, we had con- 
tinual demonstrations of the effect of all kinds of 
bullets, both -British and German, on the armoured 
steel plates used by us and by the enemy. We formed 

75 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

a museum, which became quite famous, and in which 
were various exhibits of German and British sniping 
paraphernalia. We also had many photographs, and 
again and again officers who had been through the 
course at the school sent up contributions. It was 
said that anyone going through the museum could 
really gain a very good idea of the development of 
sniping during the war, and this was by no means 
an exaggeration. 

I soon found that the officers and men who came 
to the school were really in need of a clear mental 
change, and this we attempted to provide by giving 
long hours to games. 

For many months the school was " unofficial," 
but at last, on the 24th November, 1916, more than 
fifteen months after I had begun serving as a sniping 
officer, we were granted a " provisional establish- 
ment." Up to this time, it was terribly hard to 
keep the school running, not to speak of the Corps 
Schools, which were its offshoots. The real difficulty 
was that when each division moved, all its personnel 
moved with it, and thus it came about that, seven 
weeks after the First Army School was started, Lieut. 
Gray's division moved out of the Army, and he 
was recalled to it ; in spite of applications from 
Headquarters that he might be allowed to remain 
and continue the good work he was doing, this was 
refused, and he went down to the Somme to be 




s 

11 



.S 

ll 



i 



Sen 



81* 



8 . 



2"o 

:i 

s s 



I 



Jil 



THE FIRST ARMY SCHOOL OF S.O.S. 

made officer in charge of trolleys, or sports, or some 
such appointment. The mere fact that he was a 
King's Prizeman and perhaps the best shot and the 
most capable sniper in the B.E.F. made not one 
whit of difference. All these qualities are, no 
doubt, of the highest use in an officer in charge of 
trolleys ! 

On Gray's departure there set in for me a very 
strenuous time, for at the same moment the Com- 
mandant of the nth Corps School was also spirited 
away. I found an officer who had been through the 
course at the First Army School to take his place, 
and at the same time it became necessary to find a 
Commandant for the 1st Corps Sniping School. I 
had at this time no assistant myself, and was dealing 
with a class of fifteen officers, as well as sometimes 
as many as fifty snipers, who came up from the line 
for a day's instruction. My N.C.O.'s, however, 
stepped nobly into the breach, and Armourer Staff- 
Sergeant Carr took over the explanation of telescopic 
sights work which lay entirely outside his duties. 
At that time there were ten or fifteen patterns of 
these sights in the Army, and each officer on the 
course had to learn to manipulate every one of them. 
In fact, the course was a pretty stiff one, and, over- 
worked as I was, it was difficult to be certain how 
much knowledge the officer students carried away 
with them, so I started an examination paper on the 

77 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

last day, which was of a very searching nature. The 
full marks were a hundred, and this paper was con- 
tinued until the school closed down after the Armis- 
tice. Again and again we had classes, the least 
successful member of which obtained seventy-five of 
the hundred marks. 

During the period in which I was alone after 
Lieut. Gray's departure, an officer attended the 
school who became my assistant, Lieut. N. Hands, 
of the nth Warwickshire Regiment, I had great 
difficulty in obtaining his services, but finally his 
General exchanged a month of them for some lectures 
on Sniping by me. As I was taken in a car to and 
from the lectures and as they were to be given after 
parade hours, it did not interfere with my work 
this was a very pleasant arrangement, but Hands had 
not been with me long when there was another 
upheaval at the nth Corps School. The 6ist 
Division left, and Lieut. Benoy, who was in charge 
of the school, left with it. So Hands went across 
and took over the nth Corps School. He afterwards 
proceeded with the nth Corps to Italy, where he 
was awarded the Military Cross, and did fine work. 

However, after another period of running the 
school alone on Hands' departure, Army Headquarters 
sent me Second Lieut. Underhill, of the ist K.S.L.L 
Underhill had been wounded at Ypres, and came out 

for instructional duties. The story of his being sent 

78 



THE FIRST ARMY SCHOOL OF S.O.S. 

to the school is an amusing one, in the light of after 
experience, for he was the most tremendous worker 
that I have ever known. He arrived at Army Head- 
quarters at eight o'clock in the morning, and two 
hours later, feeling unhappy at still having nothing 
to do, he went to the G.S.O.i, and asked if he could 
not be put to work. The G.S.O.i, who was my 
very good friend, seeing from his papers that Under- 
hill had passed through Hythe, and was stated to be 
competent as an instructor, sent him out to me, and 
thus it was that I at last obtained a permanent assis- 
tant, and a better no man could have had. Our 
establishment was still only a tentative one, and 
it was not until some months later that we were 
allowed the two extra officers and four extra 
N.C.O.'s, and the dozen scouts and fatigue-men, 
who made up our staff. 

Underhill had, by that time, been promoted to 
Temporary Captain, for good services, and became 
Adjutant, and Captain Kendall, of the 4th Warwick- 
shire Regiment, who, after a course at the School, 
had become attached to the Royal Flying Corps as 
Intelligence Officer, took over the intelligence duties 
and map reading at the school. Lieut. W. B. Curtis, 
of the 3 ist Canadian Infantry, became scouting 
officer : he had had nearly two years' experience 
between the lines, and had been decorated on three 
occasions. 

79 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

Our N.C.O.'s, too, were the very pick of the Army. 
There was Armourer-Staff Sergeant Carr, Sergeant 
Slade, of the Essex Yeomanry, Sergeant Hicks, of the 
1st Rifle Brigade, and Sergeant Blaikley, of the 
Artists' Rifles. All these N.C.O.'s became in time 
amazingly proficient at their work. I have never 
heard a more clear exposition of the compass than 
that given by Sergeant Hicks, who, while one squad 
was firing, would sit down under the bank with the 
other, and explain to them all the mysteries of the 
magnetic North. 

The physical training of the school was in the 
hands of Sergeant-Major Betts (Coldstream Guards), 
one of Colonel Campbell's magnificent gymnastic 
staff. 

Sergeant Blaikley, who had drawn for Punch from 
time to time, was invaluable as an artist, and it was 
he who drew our Christmas card " Der Sportsmann " 
depicting a German gassing stags on a Scottish 
deer forest. This picture, which was very widely 
circulated, certainly obtained the flattery of imita- 
tion, as the same idea was used in most of our comic 
papers a month or two afterwards. 

Captain Kendall was a trained surveyor, and an 
artist of no ordinary merit. Whatever conundrum 
was brought up by officers and a great many were 
brought up Kendall, in his own department, was 
certainly unassailable. 

80 



THE FIRST ARMY SCHOOL OF S.O.S. 

Besides the officers and sergeants, we had another 
member of the staff who did splendid work. This 
was Corporal Donald Cameron of the Lovat Scouts. 
Lord Lovat had visited the school, and had expressed 
his satisfaction at the way in which we were teaching 
observation and the use of the telescope. I asked 




Chri9tma Card (1917) of the Firtt Army School of S.O.S. 
Drawn by Ernest Blaikley. 



him if he could get me a really good stalker to assist 
me, and he very kindly promised to do so. As one 
of his own men could not come, he sent me Corporal 
Cameron, who showed the greatest keenness, and had, 
I think, a peculiar affection for the last man over 
the stile. If ever there was a weak member in learning 
the compass, Cameron would seek him out and explain 

81 6 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

it. The results were wonderful, and certainly saved 
several privates from failure. Cameron, when I 
asked him his age on his joining, gave it as " offee- 
cially forty-one." He was a very skilful glassman, 
and as such was of continual assistance to me. I 
remember one day when we were trying some aspirant 
reinforcements for Lovat Scouts Sharpshooters, and 
were looking through our glasses at some troops 
in blue uniforms about six thousand yards away, 
most of the observers reported them as " troops in 
blue uniform ; " but Cameron pointed out that they 
were Portuguese. His reasoning was simple. " They 
must be either Portuguese or French," said he, " and 
as they are wearing the British steel helmet, they 
must be Portuguese." 

On my establishment, when it finally came along, 
there were apportioned to me three scouts among the 
eleven privates to the services of whom the school 
was entitled. I remember these eleven privates 
parading for the first time, and I remember also 
attempting to pick out, with Capt. Underhill, the 
three " scouts." One of the scouts was a Salvation 
Army musician, an excellent fellow, but quite unfit 
for his duties. Another was an ex-barber of the White 
Star line, and the third had for years been unable 
to break into a double. As the work of scouts with 
an Army School is of supreme importance, since one 
uses them to personate the enemy in scouting schemes, 

82 




THE FIRST ARMY SCHOOL OF S.O.S. 

the employment of such men as these was quite im- 
possible. Good fortune here, however, came to 
our aid, for some performing scouts from G.H.Q., 
who were giving demonstrations, came to demonstrate 
to us, and were afterwards attached to the school. 
These were boys under nineteen, and the thcee I 
kept ended up as past masters of their work. By 
Armistice Day they had been at the school for some 
eighteen months, were first-class shots, knew every 
detail of the course, and could pass an examination 
equal to any officer. At the physical training and ju- 
jitsu, which they had almost every day, they were 
really young terrors. In fact, I remember a com- 
mercial joy-rider who was visiting the school, and whom 
I was showing round, on seeing two of the boys doing 
ju-jitsu, saying with infinite tact : " 'Ere, where do 
you live when you are at 'ome ? I'll keep clear o' 
your street on a dark night." 

I might add that all three boys were accomplished 
Association football players, so that we always had a 
really first-class centre forward, left wing and half- 
back upon the premises. Our Association team, for 
so small a unit, was thus a very strong one, though 
it might have been much stronger had not so many 
of the older members of the staff been wounded. 

I think the only other member of the staff that I 
need mention is Sergeant Foster of the Canadians. At 
a later date, it became our duty to train the Portu- 

83 6* 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

guese Army in sniping and shooting, and Sergeant 
Foster spoke a kind of Portuguese. 

I have given at full length this account of the 
officers and N.C.O.'s of the school, because whatever 
efficiency the school obtained was founded upon their 
selection. Whenever it was possible to do so, it was 
always a standing order that between courses, when 
we sometimes had from two days to a week free, all 
instructors should go to the line. For this purpose, 
arrangements were made with different battalions to 
receive them. This kept the school in touch with 
the progress of events. 

I have often regretted that I did not keep a Visitors' 
Book at the First Army Sniping School, for certainly 
enormous numbers of visitors came to us. Outside 
the officers of the B.E.F., of whom several hundred 
visited the school, we had attaches and missions of 
various allied and neutral powers Japanese, Rou- 
manian, Dutch, Spanish, American, Italian, Portuguese, 
Siamese and Polish officers, as well as large numbers 
of journalists, from whom, when they were not our 
own accredited correspondents, I used to conceal a 
good deal of the more secret parts of our work. One 
day, however, on being informed by the officer-in- 
charge of the correspondents that they were perfectly 
safe, and that I could show them anything, I showed 
them a small new invention by which we were able to 
spot the position of German snipers. I carefully warned 



THE FIRST ARMY SCHOOL OF S.O.S. 

them that it was not to be written about, but about 
three months later I saw a large and glaring article 
describing the visit of one of these journalists to the 
school. The description of the invention could have 
been of little interest to the great public which he 
served, but it was there, carefully set out. This was 
the only case of a definitely-broken promise of this 
nature which I came across during the war. Our 
own correspondents, Valentine Williams (afterwards 
Captain Valentine Williams, M.C.), Philip Gibbs, 
Beach Thomas, Perry Robinson, H. M. Tomlinson, 
Prevost Battersby, Percival Phillips, and others who 
came after I left G.H.Q., were welcome and trusted 
throughout the whole Army. 

The feeling in the Army against the Press for there 
certainly was, at one period, such a feeling is really 
very often a rather stupid pose adopted by the younger 
officers, who usually copy some downright senior ; but 
it will always remain as long as journalistic mistakes 
are made and that will be as long as wars last. 

Outside the members of the staff, we had help from 
time to time from various officers who were attached 
for short periods of duty. Among these was Major 
A. Buxton, D.S.O., of the Essex Yeomanry, who took 
two classes of Lovat Scouts in observation. He was, I 
believe, the only officer who was habitually successful 
in catching trout in the French streams. Second 
Lieut. C. B. Macpherson of Balavil, a true expert 

85 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

with the telescope and map, was also attached to the 
school for a time. He came out at the age of sixty- 
two with his splendidly trained group of Lovat 
Scouts Sharpshooters. 

Another officer who was temporarily attached to the 
staff was Capt. T. B. Barrie of the Canadian High- 
landers. He first came to the school on a course, and 
was afterwards lent to me by the Canadian 4th Division. 
Shortly after his first visit to the school he gained 
two M.C/s in a fortnight, both in raids, in one of 
which he penetrated six hundred yards behind the 
German line. There can have been few more gallant 
officers in France, and his death later in the war was 
a matter of deep regret to all who knew him. 

One day Major-General the Hon. W. Lambton, 
commanding the 4th Division with which I had begun 
my sniping duties in 1915, came to the school. His 
division was then in one of the other armies, but he 
wished to have observers trained, and sent up a 
party under Lieut. Kingsley Conan Doyle, of the 
Hampshire Regiment, the son of Sir Arthur Conan 
Doyle, and one of the best observation officers we 
had at any time. Conan Doyle possessed an extra- 
ordinary facility for teaching and was most successful 
with one or two classes of Lovat Scouts which he took. 
He went back to his Division, was promoted to Captain, 
and acted in charge of the Divisional Battle Observers 
in the big battles of 1917. It is tragic to think that 

86 



THE FIRST ARMY SCHOOL OF S.O.S. 

when the order came out for all medical students to 
return to complete their studies Capt. Conan Doyle 
went back to England ; there he contracted influenza 
and died. This has always seemed to me one of 
the saddest things in the war to have gone through 
so much, to have rendered such good service, and 
finally to be struck down by the horrible influenza 
germ instead of the German shells among which 
he had walked about so unconcernedly. 

I have now given you a somewhat rambling account 
of the formation, and of those who were chiefly 
connected with the early days, of the First Army 
Sniping School. On the very day on which it was 
founded, Sir Charles Monro left France to take up 
his appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the Forces 
in India. Sir Richard Haking succeeded to the tem- 
porary command of the Army, and as it happened was 
the very first visitor who ever came to First Army 
School. He told us that the King was coming almost 
at once into the Army area, and that he wished Gray 
and myself to go back to the nth Corps School to 
prepare for a Royal Inspection. This we did, but 
unfortunately the King was held up in Bethune by 
shelling, so that there was no time for him to visit us. 
We greatly regretted this, as a Royal visit would have 
been of enormous value to sniping at that time. 

One visitor who came to the school was of peculiar 
interest to me. This was my old friend Sir Arthur 

87 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

Pearson, who arrived accompanied by his son, whom 
I had last seen at the Boys' Cricket classes at Lord's 
when he was first in the running for the Eton Eleven, 
of which he was afterwards Captain. He was now 
an officer in the R.H.A. Sir Arthur Pearson went 
over the whole school and asked me many questions. 
Though he could not, of course, see the loopholes 
and all the rather technical work which I explained to 
him, it was perfectly amazing to realize the way 
in which he gripped it in its essentials. I think that 
he knew more about sniping, scouting and observa- 
tion after the hour or two he spent at the school 
than I have known other men gather in a week. 

The only ladies who visited us were Mrs. Humphry 
Ward and her daughter. It was terrible weather 
when they came and the little path which led up to 
the range, and which was really more or less the bed 
of a stream, had become a glacier of ice several feet 
in thickness. On the range the wind was blowing 
exceedingly cold, and few worse days could have 
been picked for a visit. I remember Mrs. Ward 
saying to me that she thought sniping the terrible 
and ruthless killing of men with weapons of precision 
one of the most dreadful sides of the war. I 
pointed out to her the life-saving side of sniping, 
and how many hundreds and probably thousands of 
British officers and men were alive at that moment 
who, if it were not for our snipers, would have 

88 



; /.^-Vv* ' :'j 

mm l\ 




< JS 



ii 



THE FIRST ARMY SCHOOL OF S.O.S. 

been killed by the Germans. Mrs. Ward quite saw 
the force of this argument and wrote a most admirable 
account of her visit to the school. I saw this in 
proof, but when it appeared the censors had clearly 
cut out a certain amount. Why they had cut it 
out no one could ever tell. We had at that time a 
good number of snipers' robes of painted canvas at 
the school. The Germans had somewhat similar 
robes and both sides knew that the other was using 
them ; but the British Censorship would never allow 
any mention of these robes. You might mention 
something really important, some new invention, 
or the effect of some new bullet, or any other matter 
which would be of real assistance to the Germans, 
but these robes were the one thing which seemed to 
interest the Press Censorship. Speaking as an Officer- 
in-charge of a very technical branch of work, I can 
only say that the Censorship was at times just like 
an ostrich hiding its head in the sand. 

Mrs. Humphry Ward went over the whole school, 
and I must say that her questions probed our work 
more deeply than those of the average sight-seeing 
officer who visited us. 

Apart from visitors who came for various purposes 
to see the school, we had also several officers who 
came on duty. Among these was Col. the Hon. 
T. F. Fremantle, now Lord Cottesloe. Lord Cottesloe 
knew more of telescopic sights and rifle shooting than 

89 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

did any of us at the school, and there can be no doubt 
whatever that his visit was of the greatest assistance 
to us. With him came Lieut. -Col. Robinson, who 
was in charge of the manufacture of telescopic sights 
at Enfield, and who did so much to assist us in a 
hundred different ways. I never had the opportunity 
of visiting the school in England of which Lord 
Cottesloe was the Commandant, but I had many 
officers and men who had received a sound grounding 
there. 

Lieut. -Col. P. W. Richardson, the well-known 
Bisley shot, also visited the school. He was interested 
in sniping from the very earliest days, and was pro- 
bably the first officer to advocate schools for the 
teaching of shooting with telescopic sights. 

One evening after the school had been running 
well over a year I was sitting by the mess-room fire 
when a couple of officers wfcre shown in. Both 
were wearing Burberrys, so that I was not able to see 
their rank, but both were very young-looking. One 
of them said : " We looked in to have a talk to you 
about schools, for we are going to start one. What 
we want to know is, how this school manages to get 
everyone who comes to it so damned keen on their 
job ? " 

I pointed out that we had a really interesting subject 
to teach, and enlarged upon the great theory that I 
always used to hold that you did not want to have 

90 



THE FIRST ARMY SCHOOL OF S.O.S. 

officers on a course too near a big town. If you have 
a good subject to teach, and can teach it intelligently, 
you ought to be able to interest them enough in the 
course to keep their minds at work, especially if you 
have at least two hours' games for those who want 
them every afternoon. If you are near a big town, 
it means dinners and sweet champagne, and other 
things which do not conduce to accurate shooting. 
Our school was rather more than four kilometres 
from Aire, and no one was allowed to go there without 
a pass. A pass could be had by any officer for the 
asking, but I found that, once the course got its grip, 
except on Sunday, Aire was very little visited. 

My two visitors then ran through the curriculum 
of the school with me, and as the room was hot, re- 
moved their Burberrys. I then realized how great 
a compliment had been paid to the School, for both 
were regular soldiers of long service as I could tell 
from their decorations and medals and high rank. 
Presently, they went, and I never saw them again, 
nor did I learn their names, but we always thought 
that their visit was about the highest compliment 
ever paid to the First Army School of S.O.S. 

One point that certainly struck us in our first 
coming to Linghem was the delight of the inhabitants 
in getting a permanent school quartered in their 
village. This, of course, meant prosperity to them. 
They had previously had one or two battalions, and 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

there was still a large notice affixed on one of the 
houses, " Billet Officer," but when we came they 
had had no British soldiers for the last six months. 
We were welcomed with open arms. White wine 
which started the war at 90 centimes was 1.50 a 
bottle. Eggs, fruit, and everything else were cheap. 
When we left in 1918, that same white wine was 
10 francs a bottle, and even a potato was hard indeed 
to come by. 

We owed much to the courtesy of the Secretary 
to the Maire, M. Huart, who smoothed away every 
kind of difficulty. That occasional difficulties should 
arise is natural enough, but the French were for the 
most part extraordinarily kind. Here and there, of 
course, one came across difficult people, as for instance, 
the determined lady who, when a Portuguese class 
was quartered in the village, finding that they drank 
no beer at her estaminet for the Portuguese do not 
drink beer, and the lo-franc vin blanc was rather 
beyond them refused to allow them to draw water 
at her well, although it was the only decent one in the 
village. I had an interview with the lady, at which 
she wept copious floods of tears, and said that the 
Sergeant who had reported the matter to me was a 
diable, who had always disliked her from the first 
day that he saw her. But she ultimately, of course, 
had to give in, under threat of having a permanent 

guard placed upon the well. 

92 




b 6 



"I 

X 
H & 



THE FIRST ARMY SCHOOL OF S.O.S. 

I have often marvelled how little friction there 
really was between us and the French. If a French 
Army were quartered in England in the same way that 
we were quartered in France, I do not for a moment 
believe that our people would show towards them the 
same kindness and consideration which we received 
from the French. 

When Gray and I had spent seven very strenuous 
weeks at the Army School we were both granted 
eight days' leave. Immediately on our return we 
were inspected by Sir Henry Home, the new Army 
Commander, who came out many times afterwards. 
It was always a matter of pride to the School to have 
some new thing to show to the Army Commander. 
On one occasion Lord Home inspected some Lovat 
Scouts whom we were training as reinforcements for 
our Army Groups, and after this an order came through 
to us to hold ourselves ready to train all reinforcements 
for Lovat Scouts throughout the B.E.F. How much 
Lord Home did to encourage and help the School 
no words can describe. 

At this time also, or a little later, Major-General 
Hastings Anderson was appointed Chief of Staff at 
First Army Headquarters. 



93 



CHAPTER V 

SOME SNIPING MEMORIES 

"t yl THEN first I came into the First Army area the 
main point which struck me was the difference 
between the trenches where my work now lay and 
those of the Third Army. The Third Army had, of 
course, taken over from the French, and their trenches 
were really in the nature of deep ditches, without 
any vast amount of sandbags. Sometimes these 
trenches extended through a clayey formation, but 
more often they were in chalk. This chalk made 
front line observation in the bright sunlight some- 
what trying, as there was always a dazzle in the rays 
reflected from the white background. In the Third 
Army area also the ground was rolling, and it was 
nearly always possible to obtain some kind of a position 
of vantage behind the parados. For this purpose I 
had had a special portable loophole made, shaped 
something in the form of a wide triangle, but the back 
shutter of which slid along in grooves. This back 
shutter was made of steel and formed a very fine 
protection, as even if an enemy sniper put a bullet 

94 




a. j 
z V 

c/j c 
UJ v 

! 



SOME SNIPING MEMORIES 

through the front loophole, the bullet was stopped 
by the sliding shutter behind, unless, that is, the shot 
happened to be fired a twenty to one chance along 
the exact line in which one was looking through the 
two loopholes. A good many of these loopholes were 
used in the Third Army, but I found that conditions 
in the First Army rendered them of no great value. 

The First Army were holding from just south of 
Armentieres down to Vimy Ridge, and subsequently 
it held almost to Arras, but at this time their lines 
did not stretch so far south. All the northern part 
of their trench system was in an absolutely flat plain, 
where trenches were shallow owing to the presence 
of water at no great depth underground, and were 
really much more in the nature of breastworks. In 
most places it was useless to go out behind the parados, 
as the ground was so low that you got no view. This 
refers, at any rate, to all the northern line, after 
which we entered the coal region, where posts could 
be dug in the slag-heaps and in the ruins of shelled 
buildings. As a rule, to put a post in a shelled 
building in the northern part of the line was simply 
to court disaster, as these buildings, where they 
were near enough to the line to admit of sniping, were 
continually shelled and sprayed with machine-gun 
bullets. But further south buildings were more 
common and might be made use of. As a rule, 
however, I found that the placing of sniping posts in 

95 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

either buildings or trees was a mistake. For once 
such posts were discovered by the enemy he had little 
difficulty in ticking them off on his map and de- 
molishing them. Of course the same was true of 
posts in more open ground, but these were much 
harder to spot and it is better to be shelled in the open 
ground than in a house where you are liable to be 
hurt by falling bricks, etc. 

The problem then that the First Army line pre- 
sented was an interesting one, and I have always 
thought it much the most difficult line to organize 
for sniping of which I had knowledge. 

Having learned my work in the trenches of the 
Third Army I found that in the First Army I had 
first of all to unlearn a great deal. The problem was 
essentially different, but after a year's experience, 
during which practically every portion of the Front 
was visited, one collected a great number of ruses and 
plans. Still at first to put a concealed loophole into 
the Fauquissart or Neuve Chapelle breastworks was 
a really difficult problem, which indeed was only 
solved when, as I have explained in an earlier chapter, 
" Gray's Boards " were invented. These were im- 
mediately successful, and from the time that they were 
first used, it was easier to make a good loophole in 
the breastworks than in any other part of our line. 

There were here and there, all along the Army front, 
what may be known as " bad spots," that is, places 

96 



SOME SNIPING MEMORIES 

where, through some advantage of ground, the enemy 
dominated us. In such places our snipers had to 
redouble their efforts, and even then the enemy 
remained a thorn in our sides. There were other 
places, of course, where we had an equivalent advan- 
tage, and there we were soon able to force the Germans 
to live an absolutely troglodytic existence. In fact 
orders were published in the German army on some 
fronts, that when a man was off duty he was to remain 
in a dug-out. 

Of course the greatest difficulty that we had was 
the continual movement of divisions. A division 
would just be settling down comfortably and getting 
its sniping into good order, when it would be ordered 
to depart to another Army, and the incoming division 
would almost always succeed in giving away some of 
the posts. This was a necessary evil, and could not 
be helped, but the advent of a single really bad sniping 
division gave an immense amount of extra work. 
It was exactly as if a party of really capable sportsmen 
were shooting an area for big game, or, better still, a 
Scottish deer forest. Imagine these sportsmen re- 
placed by careless and ignorant tourists. The ground 
would inevitably be maltreated, the wrong beasts shot, 
corries shot when the wind was unfavourable, and all 
the deer stampeded onto the next forest. Of course in 
this case the deer did not stampede, but plucked up 
courage and shot back. 

97 7 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

This condition of things was of course impossible to 
remedy, but we were luckier than other Armies, since 
our southern wing was formed by the Canadian Corps, 
who had the same trenches for fifteen months, and 
who never changed their divisions. In this Corps 
many of the reliefs worked beautifully, the incoming 
and the outgoing sniping officers being thoroughly in 
accord with each other. Major Armstrong, a well- 
known British Columbian big-game shot, was Corps 
Sniping Officer, and there was no keener. 

Of course it must be understood, as I have tried to 
explain before, that in writing this book I realize that 
my point of view is an exceedingly narrow one, and 
that I look at everything from the point of an officer 
whose business it was to consider sniping, observation 
and scouting of paramount importance. We were 
continually getting new snipers who took the places 
of those who had either become casualties, or had 
been put to other work. New snipers were nearly 
always optimistic, and it was quite a common 
thing for them to think that they were doing the 
enemy much more damage than was really the 
case. A conversation has been known to run as 
follows : 

" Morning, you two " 

" Good morning, sir." 

" Anything doing ? ' 

" Smith got a 'un this morning, sir." 

98 



SOME SNIPING MEMORIES 

" Good. How do you know ? " 

" He give a cry, threw up his hands and fell back." 

Now this may have been correct, but, as a matter 
of fact, continued observation showed that a man 
shot in ordinary trench warfare very very rarely 
either threw up his hands or fell back. He nearly 
always fell forward and slipped down. For this 
the old Greek rendering is best, " And his knees were 
loosened." 

We soon found that a very skilled man with a tele- 
scope could tell pretty accurately whether a man 
fired at had been hit, or had merely ducked, and this 
was the case even when only the " head of the target " 
was visible ; but to be certain of his accuracy, it was 
necessary that the observer should have had a long 
experience of his work, coupled with real aptitude 
for it. The idea of how to spot whether a German 
was hit or not was suggested by big-game shooting 
experiences. An animal which is fired at and missed 
always stands tense for the fraction of a second before 
it bounds away, but when an animal is struck by the 
bullet there is no pause. It bounds away at once on 
the impact, or falls. Thus, a stag shot through the 
heart commences his death rush at once, to fall dead 
within fifty yards, whereas a stag missed gives that 
tell-tale sudden start. 

In dealing with trench warfare sniping a very 

99 7* 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

capable observer soon learned to distinguish a hit from 
a miss, but there were naturally many observers who 
never reached the necessary degree of skill. A reason 
once advanced for claiming a hit was that the Germans 
had been shouting for stretcher-bearers, but a question 
as to what was the German word for stretcher-bearer 
brought confusion upon the young sniper, whose 
talents were promptly used elsewhere ! 

But taken long by broad the accuracy of the in- 
formation given by snipers was really wonderful. 
On one occasion the snipers of the 33rd Division 
reported that two Germans had been seen with the 
number 79 upon their helmets. This information 
went from Battalion, through Brigade, Division and 
Corps, to Army, who rather pooh-poohed the 
snipers' accuracy, as the 79th, when last heard of, had 
been upon the Russian front. Within a day or two, 
however, the Germans opposite the battalion to which 
these snipers belonged sent a patrol out of their 
trenches one misty morning. The patrol fell in with 
our scouts, who killed two and carried back the 
regulation identifications. These proved the sentries 
to be correct. 

It was in the same Division that in ane tour of duty 
the snipers reported the cap-bands of the Germans 
opposite as : (i) brown ; (2) yellow ; (3) white. 
This again raised a doubt as to their accuracy ; 
the matter was interesting, as it seemed possible that 

100 



SOME SNIPING MEMORIES 

the trenches had been taken over by dismounted 
Uhlans. But before long the snipers were once again 
justified. A prisoner was taken, who acknowledged 
that the men of his unit had, under orders, covered 
the state badges on their caps with strips of tape 
wound round and round the brims. Prior to putting 
on this tape, he said, many of his comrades had dipped 
it in their coffee. 

It is only fair to say that the sniping officer of the 
division in question was Lieut. Gray, and the ex- 
ceeding skill of the officers and men under him may 
fairly be laid at his door. 

There was in the trenches a very simple way of 
testing the accuracy of the sniper's observation. The 
various German States, Duchies or Kingdoms all 
wore two badges on their caps, one above the other, 
the higher being the Imperial badge and the lower 
the badge of the State. Thus, the Prussian badge is 
black and white, the Bavarian light blue and white ; 
the Saxon, green and white. These badges or, to be 
more correct, cockades, are not larger than a shilling, 
and the colours are in concentric rings. A series of 
experiments carried out at First Army School by the 
Staff and some of the best Lovat Scouts proved that 
these colours were indistinguisable with the best 
Ross telescope at a distance of more than 150 yards, 
except under the most favourable circumstances. 
So if ever a sniper (who, of course, knew what troops 

101 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

he was faced by) reported the colours of cockades 
when more than 150 yards from the enemy, it was at 
once clear that his imagination was too strong to admit 
of his useful employment with an observer's telescope. 

Another great duty of snipers was the blinding of 
the enemy. Thus, if the Germans bombarded any 
portion of our front, their artillery observers almost 
always did their work from the flank, where very often 
from the front line or from some other point of 
vantage they spotted and corrected the shell bursts 
of their gunners. On such occasions our snipers 
opposite both flanks of the bombarded area broke the 
periscopes of the German observers, and thus often 
succeeded in either rendering them blind, or forcing 
them to take risks. 

When Germans retaliated and shot our periscopes, 
we had a number of dummies made, and by taking 
the entry and exit of the bullet through the back and 
front of these, we were able to spot many posts from 
which the Germans were firing. The result was that 
the enemy suffered casualties. It is, in fact, not too 
much to say that in these ways we were able from very 
early days to place the position of any sniper who 
troubled us, and, once placed, there were many methods 
by which the man could be rendered harmless. 

Another point that was not without interest was 
the fact that occasionally, and apparently for no 
reason, the Germans sighted their rifles by firing at 

102 



SOME SNIPING MEMORIES 

marks upon our parapets. If they did this in a high 
wind, it might have been possible that they were 
trying to get the correct wind allowance to put on 
their rifles ; but as they often did it, and it happened 
all along the line on a still morning, we felt we must 
seek some other explanation. Collaboration with 
Intelligence proved that this orgy of rifle sighting 
seemed to coincide with the relief by one battalion 
of another in the trenches. It was one of the many 
little straws which showed which way the wind was 
blowing. 

The psychology of the different races of snipers 
was always interesting. The English were sound, 
exceedingly unimaginative, and very apt to take the 
most foolish and useless risks, showing their heads 
unnecessarily, and out of a kind of unthinking optimism. 
Nor did the death of their comrades cause them to 
keep their heads down, except in the particular place 
where a man had been killed. Unimaginativeness is 
a great quality in war, but when one is playing a very 
close game, in which no points can be given away, 
between skilled antagonists as we were doing in 
sniping, one sometimes wished for a little less wooden- 
headed " bravery " so-called and a little more 
finesse. 

The Welsh were very good indeed, their 38th 
Division keeping a special sniper's book, and their 
sniping officer. Captain Johnson, was very able. I 

103 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

think that in early 1918, the snipers of this Division 
had accounted for 387 Germans in trench-warfare. 

The Canadians, the Anzacs, and the Scottish 
Regiments were all splendid, many units showing an 
aggressiveness which had the greatest effect on the 
moral of the enemy. Of the Australians I had, to 
my deep regret, no experience, but they always had 
the name of being very good indeed. 

The Americans were also fine shots, and thoroughly 
enjoyed their work, but my experience of them lay 
simply in teaching at the school, and I never had the 
opportunity of seeing them in action. 

Of the Germans as a whole one would say that, 
with certain brilliant exceptions, they were quite 
sound, but rather unenterprising, and that as far as 
the various tribes were concerned, the Bavarians were 
better than the Prussians, while some Saxon units 
were really first-rate. 

I remember once being in the trenches at Ploeg- 
steert Wood, where the Saxons were against us, and 
our fellows were talking about them being " good old 
fellows." All the same, it did not do to show the 
breadth of your forehead to the " good old fellows," 
for they were really admirable shots. Somehow or 
other this idea of the " good old fellow " rather stuck 
in my mind, and I used to picture Fritz the sniper 
as a stout and careful middle-aged man, who sat in 

-his steel box with a rifle, took no chances, and carried 

104 



SOME SNIPING MEMORIES 

on his work like a respectable tradesman. This idea 
of the fat bearded sniper, however, was not supported 
by the telescope, through which I saw some of the most 
desperate and bedraggled-looking snipers that one 
could wish to see. Those who sometimes got outside 
their own lines were, however, I think, rather the 
" wild boys," and after we got rid of them the Germans 
fell back upon a kind of sober rifle fire which made up 
the main bulk of their sniping. 

One point that was noticeable was the good 
focussing powers of the German snipers of certain 
regiments, who shot very well before dawn and to- 
wards dark. In the very crack Jager regiments, such 
regiments as were, I suppose, recruited from Rominten 
or Hubertusstock districts, where the great preserves 
of the Kaiser lay, and in which were a large percentage 
of Forest Guards, this was very noticeable. But for 
long distance work, and the higher art of observation, 
the Germans had nothing to touch our Lovat Scouts. 
This is natural enough when one comes to consider 
the dark forests in which the German Forest Guards 
live, and in which they keep on the alert for the 
slightest movement of deer or boar. Mostly game is 
seen within fifty or seventy yards, or even closer, in 
these sombre shades, and then it is only the twitching 
of an ear or the movement of an antler lifted in the 
gloaming. Compare the open Scottish hills. It was 
the telescope against the field-glass, and the telescope 

105 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

won every time. In fact, in all the time I was in 
the trenches, I never saw a German telescope, whereas 
I saw hundreds and hundreds of pairs of field-glasses. 

Now the best field-glass cannot compare with the 
telescope. Anyone who has tried to count the points 
on the antlers of a stag will know this. I had a great 
deal of difficulty in convincing some of our officers, 
who were used to field-glasses, of this fact, but there 
was near by the place at which I was quartered in 
early days the carved figure of a knight in armour 
standing on the top of a chateau. This knight had 
very large spurs, and I would ask student officers to 
try and count the rowels with their field-glasses. They 
never could do so. I would then hand them one of 
my beautiful Ross glasses, and there always came the 
invariable question, " Where can I get a glass like 
this ? " 

The telescope sight, of course, made accurate shoot- 
ing in the half-lights very much easier, and indeed for 
some valuable minutes after it had become too dark 
to use open sights the telescope sights still gave a 
clear definition. At night they were invaluable. 
With a large telescope sight which magnified five 
times, and which was very kindly lent me by Lady 
Graham of Arran, several of us succeeded in making 
a six-inch group on the target at a hundred yards by 
moonlight, and even by starlight once we made a 
two and a half-inch group. I tried hard to get an 

1 06 



SOME SNIPING MEMORIES 

issue of somewhat similar sights for night firing 
authorized, for when you think of the large amount 
of coming and going which continues all night behind 
an occupied trench, there is no doubt that plenty 
of targets are always presenting themselves. Even 
the Government issue of telescopic sights were quite 
useful at night, but their effect would have been 
many times increased had it been possible to fit them 
for this purpose with a large object glass. 

On both sides thousands upon thousands of lives 
were saved by wind, since it was not easy to judge its 
strength in the trenches, and as the targets aimed at 
were usually only half a head, the very smallest error 
of judgment resulted in a miss. Once a bullet had 
whizzed by a German's ear within a few inches, a 
second exposure of the head was rarely made in the 
same place. 

Trench sniping was, in fact, as defined by Colonel 
Langford Lloyd, " the art of hitting a very small 
object straight off and without the advantage of a 
sighting shot." 

At a certain spot in our lines not very far from 
Auchonvillers, known to fame as " Ocean Villas," a 
German sniper had done fell work. It is hard to say 
how many British lives he had taken, but his tally was 
not small. He lurked somewhere in the mass of 
heaps of earth, rusty wire and sandbags which there 
formed a strong point of the German line. There 

107 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

were twenty or thirty loopholes from which he might 
be firing. The problem was from which of these did 
his shots actually come ? The Germans had a trick 
of multiplying their loopholes in this fashion. Many 
steel plates were shoved up on the parapet in the most 
obvious positions. These were rarely shot through, 
but they were certainly sometimes us~-d. The Ger- 
man argument must have been that if you have thirty 
loopholes, it is thirty to one against the particular 
one from which you fire being under observation at 
that particular moment. 

On our side there was no loophole whatever cover- 
ing the area in which this German sniper worked, 
and any attempt to spot his post had perforce to be 
done over the top of the parapet. As he was simply 
waiting and watching for people to look over, it was 
only a very hurried and cursory glance that could be 
taken. At length, however, the Hun was located by 
an officer, in the vicinity -of two enormous steel plates 
set near the top of his parapet. 

As I have said, there was no loophole upon our 
side, so orders were given that one should be put in 
during the night right opposite to those two big 
plates. The next morning it was hardly light when 
the German sniper shot into our new loophole, which 
was at once closed. The trap was now ready, and the 
officer whose duty it was to deal with the matter went 
one hundred yards down the trench to the right 

108 



SOME SNIPING MEMORIES 

flank, while an assistant protruded the end of a black 
stick which he happened to have in his hand, keeping 
at the same time well to the side. At the same moment 
the officer on the flank shot at the right hand of the 
two big plates once, and then again. The bullets 
rang aloud upon the plates, and the German sniper 
at the second shot betrayed himself. Thinking as he 
did that the shots were fired from the open loophole 
opposite to him, he fired at it, and the gas from his 
rifle gave away his position. The two big plates were, 
of course, dummies, and he was firing almost from 
ground level, and from an emplacement cleverly 
concealed by a mass of broken wire. The loophole 
was now shut for a moment or two, and then once 
again opened, the officer on the flank having moved 
to a position where he could command the German 
sniper's loophole. His cap had fallen off. He had a 
bald head. Once found, and unaware of the fact 
the sniper was soon dealt with. 

One could relate very many such incidents, but they 
are rather grisly. Sooner or later nearly eveiy trouble- 
some German sniper met his fate. 

But the duty of the sniper changed as the war 
went on. At first his job was to dominate the German 
snipers, destroy their moral, and make life secure for 
his own comrades. At the same time there was his 
Intelligence work. Later, as the warfare became more 
open, he proved his value over and over again in attack, 

109 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

When a trench was taken, it was his duty to get out in 
front and (lying in a shell-hole) to keep the enemy 
heads down while his companions consolidated the 
newly-won position. When an advance was held 
up by a machine-gun, it was the sniper's business to 
put it out of action if he could, and the list of V.C.'s 
and D.C.M.'s, as well as thousands of deeds of nameless 
men, prove how often he was successful. In the last 
advance of the Canadian Corps, their very skilled 
sniping officer, Major Armstrong, told me that a single 
sniper put out of action a battery of 5.9 guns, shooting 
down one after another the German officer and men 
who served it a great piece of work, and one 
thoroughly worthy of General Currie's splendid Corps. 
But the machine-gun was the sniper's special target. 
Once, of course, a machine-gun was spotted, or moved 
in the open, a single sniper was quite capable of 
putting it out of action. In fact, the sniper's duties 
were legion. He had to be a really high-class shot, a 
good and accurate observer, and a good judge of 
distance, wind and light. Suffice it that in the more 
open warfare many a sniper killed his fifty Germans 
in a single day, and whether as a rifleman or scout, he 
bore a part more perilous than that of the rank and 
file of his comrades. If you who read this know a man 
who served his year or two in the sniping section of his 
battalion, you know one whom it is well that you should 

honour. 

no 



SOME SNIPING MEMORIES 

A position which was much used by German snipers 
is supposed to have been trees. This was the theme 
of many pictures in the illustrated papers, but as a 
matter of fact a high tree makes a wretched sniping 
post, and I rarely allowed one to be used on our side. 
The Germans, however, did extensively use the 
pollard willows which were so common a feature on 
the First Army front. We did not use them, as I have 
said, but we found that the German sense of humour 
appears to be much tickled by seeing, or thinking he 
sees, a Britisher falling out of a tree, and when our 
sniping became very good, and the enemy consequently 
shy of giving a target, a dummy in a tree worked by a 
rope sometimes caused Fritz and Hans to show 
themselves unwisely. 

When the sniping was of high class on both sides, 
all kinds of ruses were employed to get the other side 
to give a target. But one had to be very careful not 
to go too far in this sort of work or trickery, lest a 
minenwerfer should take his part in the duel. 

From time to time wild geese crossed the trenches 
in the winter, and their appearance was usually a 
signal for a -fusillade in which every rifle and machine- 
gun that could be brought to bear on both sides took 
part. Very rarely was one brought down, though it 
is possible that along the whole front in the years of 
war a dozen may have been killed. One in particu- 
lar, on a wild and stormy evening, was shot by the 

in 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

British and fell in the German lines. The enemy the 
next day hoisted a sign on which was painted in 
English the words : "So many thanks ! " which was 
indeed hard to bear ! 

There is another incident into which birds also came 
which occurred on the Brick-stacks front of the First 
Army. It was when our sniping had reached its high- 
water mark in the nth Corps. Not very long before 
we had been dominated on this front, but the 33rd 
Division had put all that right. 

One day Lieut. Gray was coming down the 
trenches on a tour of inspection, when he found a 
private soldier with five partridges lying before him 
on the fire step. 

" How did you get them ? " said Gray. 

" Shot them, sir." 

" Yes, but I mean how did you get their bodies ? ' : 

" Crawled out, sir, and picked them up." 

" By daylight, and in full view of the Germans ? ' 

" Yes, sir. It's all right, sir ; they never shoot 



now." 



Gray gave the private in question a good dressing- 
down, but the incident was not without its signifi- 
cance. 

One day in 1915 I was knocking about on the top of 
Hill 63 with a telescope. The edge of Ploegsteert 
Wood abuts upon this hill, and as I came up I saw an 
old cock pheasant walking about. At that moment a 

112 



SOME SNIPING MEMORIES 

shell burst very close to him. He was not hit, but he 
was certainly very much dazed, for he stood stupidly 
watching the fumes rising from the cavity, and had it 
not been for the strict orders concerning game and 
the probable arrival of more shells I could easily have 
captured him ; but after a few moments, during 
which he sat with his feathers all fluffed out, he 
gathered himself together and disappeared into the 
nearest thicket. 

I was always very much afraid all through the war 
that, having started poison gas, the Germans might 
start using shot guns loaded with buckshot for work 
between the trenches. Had they done so, patrolling 
would have become a horrible business ; but I suppose 
that they were restrained by the fact either that such 
weapons are not allowed by the Geneva Convention, 
or that the British Isles have such a supply of shot 
guns and cartridges that the advantage would not 
remain long upon their side. As it was, things were 
much more satisfactory, for there was plenty of ex- 
citement out in No Man's Land, what with machine- 
gun bullets and rifle fire, without the added horror of 
a charge of small shot in the face. 

I have touched on the work of observers in the front 
line in this chapter, but it will be more fully considered 
in the next upon the subject of Observation, to which 
this side of the sniper's work really belongs. 

113 8 



CHAPTER VI 

AN OBSERVER'S MEMORIES 

A S I have already said, when sniping was started 
in the B.E.F., we owed our fairly rapid and cer- 
tainly very definite success in the task of dominating 
the Hun to a single factor. Whereas the German 
sniper usually worked alone, we put up against him two 
men, one of whom, " A," used the telescope and kept 
a close watch for " targets " upon a good sector of 
the enemy's line, while " B," his comrade, used 
the rifle and shot at the " targets " which " A " found. 
The result was that at a hundred points along the line 
you could daily hear a conversation such as this : 

A." Black Sandbags left two feet 'alf a 'Un's 
'ead showing. D ! he's down ! " 

B. " Hope he'll come up again." 

A." He's up ! " 

B. (Fires). 

A. " Close shave six inches high bad luck, ole 
son ! " 

114 



AN OBSERVER'S MEMORIES 

Now the total result of the above passage was in all 
probability not only that a German in the trench 
opposite had been fired at and missed, but that " A," 
the telescope man, had seen certain details which 
might prove of interest. These details " A," at once, 
as a matter of routine, entered in his log book. He 
enters the time 11.18 a.m. let us say. The place is 
C3d.25-85 on the squared map. So far all was simple ; 
but the next entry as to what he had seen was impor- 
tant. A Hun's head, or a yellow-bearded Hun, or 
an ugly Hun, meant nothing; but a Hun wearing a 
Prussian cockade, or a Hun wearing a helmet with 
No. 119 on the cover these things were of impor- 
tance, and soon, under instruction, sniper-observers 
gave up reporting black-bearded Germans who 
leaned over the parapet, and realized the value of the 
all-important game of identification. They entered 
besides the details already given, a note of the action 
taken and the result : In the case we have imagined, 
" Fired one shot missed." 

It will be further understood that a sniper's observer 
(and do not forget that the observer's work is much 
the more trying, and that " A " and " B " change 
places every twenty minutes to rest the observer's 
eyes), saw a great many things happen in the enemy 
lines which did not come under the heading of " tar- 
gets." Earth being thrown up usually meant work in 
progress. The occurrence was, of course, noted down 

115 8* 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

in the log book, with a map reference at which it took 
place and the spot, if worth while, bombarded with 
trench mortars. Or the observer might spot a 
machine-gun emplacement, or locate a mincnwcrjer. 

But it will be seen that the possibilities are endless, 
and as the war went on the snipers provided a mass of 
detail, much of which was confirmed by raids and 
identifications taken from prisoners or from the dead, 
and very little could happen near the enemy's front 
lines without our Intelligence being at once aware 
of it. 

An interesting question which arose was whether a 
sniper should enter deductions as well as facts in his 
reports, and this question was often asked me. The 
reply was that he should invariably do this provided 
he marked his deductions very clearly as such. 

The most brilliant piece of deduction that I came 
across was that of an officer in the Royal Warwick- 
shire Regiment, and it had a remarkable sequel. At 
one point of a supposed disused trench, a cat was ob- 
served sunning itself upon the parados. This was 
duly reported by the observant sniper, and in his 
log book for three or four days running came a note of 
this tortoise-shell cat sunning itself, always at the same 
spot. 

The Intelligence and Sniping Officer of the bat- 
talion, on reading his entries, made his deduction, to wit, 
that the cat probably lived near by. Now at that part 

116 



AN OBSERVER'S MEMORIES 

of the British line there was a terrible plague of rats, 
which was probably at least as troublesome upon the 
German side. So our officer deduced that the cat 
was a luxury, and that this being so, it had most cer- 
tainly been commandeered or annexed by enemy 
officers and probably lived in some enemy officer's 
headquarters possibly a company commander's dug- 
out. 

Some aeroplane photographs were next taken and 
studied, with a result that an enemy headquarters was 
discovered, located and duly dealt with by one of the 
batteries of howitzers which made a speciality of such 
shoots. 

I give the full details of this incident in a later 
chapter. In fact, in trench warfare there was a great 
deal of scope for deduction. 

At one time, before the Germans received the large 
numbers of light machine-guns which were issued in the 
later stages of the war, their heavier weapons were 
mounted in fixed posts, which were very carefully 
concealed. Sometimes these guns fired a burst at 
night, and we invented a way in which it was possible 
to locate them. We had a large tin structure, shaped 
like an oblong box and made of three walls of tin, each 
some inches apart. This was mounted on straight 
square sticks fixed at either end of the box. These 
iticks fitted into grooves which were nailed on boards 
set into the parapet, and after dark were run up until 

117 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

the tin box was above the parapet. Should it in this 
position happen to catch even one bullet of a burst of 
fire, as an enemy machine-gun sprayed our trench, 
it was only necessary to slide down the legs through 
the grooves, and to place a periscope in front of any 
hole the machine-gun bullets had made. In this 
way the observer found himself looking down the course 
along which the bullet had come, direct at the spot 
from which it was fired. 

This was rather a clumsy and very uncertain device, 
but it was used in a dozen other forms. Had it been 
invented earlier, before the issue of light machine- 
guns which I have referred to above, it might have 
been quite valuable, but it came too late, and was 
soon discarded. 

To spot a hostile machine-gun emplacement was one 
of the most valuable services a front-line observer 
could render, since of course a single machine-gun 
can hold up an attack and inflict great casualties. 
Therefore, when a machine-gun emplacement was 
spotted it was not necessarily put out of action at once, 
but its map reference was noted and sent to Intelli- 
gence, where it was filed, and action taken by the 
divisional artillery at the correct time, usually just 
before a raid or an attack. 

On the nth Corps front in 1916 our troops were 
continually making raids, and there was a great deal 
of competition as to who should make the most success- 

118 



AN OBSERVER'S MEMORIES 

ful. The result was that the enemy was kept contin- 
ually upon the jump. The Germans were allowed 
very little sleep during those months. 

One night they decided to try and regain the lost 
initiative, and a German raid was turned on, which, 
however, did not meet with great success ; in fact, 
things began to be critical for the raiders, and the 
German Company Commander in charge came out into 
No Man's Land to see for himself what was amiss. 
There in No Man's Land he was killed by our men, 
and from his body a map was taken on which the 
position of no less than eighty machine-gun emplace- 
ments was marked. At first it was thought that the 
map on which these eighty emplacements were de- 
scribed might be a fake intended to mislead us, but on 
comparing it with the emplacements discovered during 
the previous weeks it was found that no fewer than 
forty-two of the eighty had been spotted and ticked 
off, though as yet no serious action against them had 
been taken. 

Such a chance never comes twice, and a few nights 
later the gunners blew up all the machine-gun em- 
placements while the South Wales Borderers went 
across and raided the German trenches. To such a 
tune was the raid carried out that, though a record 
number of prisoners were brought in, the raiding party 
suffered hardly any loss themselves. 

More than one officer in the war must have found 

119 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

himself in a dreadful position when captured by the 
enemy with important maps of his own lines in his 
pocket. Carelessness, darkness, or misadventure might 
each or any of them be responsible, but bad as was the 
lot of the ordinary prisoner, how much worse was that 
of one whose capture had given valuable local informa- 
tion to the enemy ! It is too painful a subject to pursue. 

Many people seem to think that all observation is 
now done from aeroplanes, but this is absurd. The 
airmen can spot hostile concentrations and do in- 
valuable work in a hundred ways, but, as the war went 
on, more and more was it recognized how necessary 
was the ground-observer, for he looked at the enemy 
from a different angle, and his reports were often 
of the highest value. 

Once the Germans started a new and large form of 
periscope, and we ceased destroying them at once 
the moment a clever observer found that with the 
telescope he could read the reflection of the numbers 
on the shoulder straps of the Germans who used them, 
thereby allowing us to identify the opposing unit 
with both comfort and ease. 

It was perhaps natural enough that when a sniper 
first won his way into the sniping section of his bat- 
talion, he should desire to shoot rather than to observe, 
yet, as a matter of fact, the observer's was, in my 
opinion, the post of honour. It was very hard work 

too, especially in summer time, and more especially 

120 



AN OBSERVER'S MEMORIES 

still in the chalk country. Some of the happiest 
days of our lives were spent with the Ross telescope, 
either watching the German lines from the front 
trenches or from some observation post further back 
overlooking the wide areas that lay behind them. 
On many occasions one became so interested that 
meals were forgotten, as the telescope searched and 
waited for the artillery observers' observation posts. 

Such a one there was at Beaumont Hamel. It 
was in the autumn of 1915, and the leaves were falling, 
which is the best time of all for spotting the posts 
of enemy observers. Right back in the village was 
a building which, though it had been heavily shelled, 
still stood in a fairly commanding position. A direct 
hit had at some previous time smashed a jagged hole 
under the eaves through which one could see a beam 
stretching across. It was the presence of this beam 
which first drew attention to the spot, for it seemed 
strange that the shell should not have carried it away. 
It looked, indeed, as if it had been placed there after- 
wards ; but it was a little back in the room behind, 
and it was difficult to tell whether the shell might 
not have left it intact. 

In the morning, when the light was bad owing to 
the position of the sun, it was very hard to spot the 
shell hole, and the beam was invisible, but one day 
when the light was very good in the afternoon, the 
glass revealed five bricks standing on this broken beam. 

121 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

Natural enough but not quite so natural when the 
next day the five bricks had changed their position. 
On the first day four had been lying along the beam 
at full length and one was set upon its end. On 
the second day a second had adopted the erect 
position. 

Late in the afternoon of that clear day the officer 
who had observed and who was taking interest in the 
five bricks saw through his 3O-power glass a German 
hand moving the bricks and the light glint on a pair 
of German field-glasses levelled amongst them. 

The second shell from our gunners removed for ever 
that post of Beaumont Hamel. 

That was one side of the game. 

The other was when your own post got given away 
as it sometimes did usually by the flash of a glass 
in some unskilled hands, by aeroplane photographs, 
or by some idiot approaching the post when the light 
allowed of good observation from the German line. 
Then the first news you had of it was the arrival of 
the German shells. Followed either the decision 
to stick it, or the climb, during the later stages of the 
war in a gas mask, down the ladder and a dash for the 
nearest dug-out. 

Once on a certain famous ridge riddled with our 
observation posts, I can remember finding a path 
leading to every post clear in the new fallen snow, 
and a German aeroplane imminent overhead. Now 



122 



AN OBSERVER'S MEMORIES 

supposing that plane happened to be a photographic 
plane, as it most probably was, the whole of the 
posts would be given away as clearly as if we had 
sent a map across with them marked upon it. 

I can remember how we made false trails in little 
parties, and never did soldiers double at a faster pace I 
A fall of snow helped us a great deal as far as aeroplane 
photographs were concerned, and no doubt the 
Germans also, but even at such times the German 
flying man did not come much over our lines. 

There was another post which we used for a long 
time, the only road to which lay along a disused 
trench in which were several deep shell holes. As 
this trench was full of a kind of thick dust or mud 
according to the weather, and as the whole length 
of it had to be passed over by crawling there was 
great fear that the trails of the observers would one 
day be photographed from the air. At one point, 
therefore, an entrenching tool was left with which 
each observer obliterated his trail as far as he could. 
One becomes very careful in these small details when 
one's life hangs upon the issue. 

Perhaps the most remarkable observation posts 
used during the war were three famous ones in the 
French lines. At one point there was a slight rise 
in front of the French position and above the German. 
Both trenches cut across the Paris road, and exactly 
upon the top of the rise between the trenches where 

123 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

the observation was best stood a milestone on which 
was stated the number of kilometres to Paris. 

This milestone the French photographed. The 
photograph was sent to the Camouflage Works, where 
an exact copy of the milestone, with the number of 
kilometres printed on it, was made in steel, but with an 
observation eye-slit covered with gauze. Then one 
night a French party crept out and removed the real 
milestone, putting in its stead the camouflaged one. 
A tunnel from the trench was next dug, and for many 
months inside that harmless-looking milestone a pair 
of keen French eyes noted much of interest that 
happened in the German line. 

In another case, a huge dead, yellow-bearded Prus- 
sian lay, on a point of vantage, staring at the sky. 
He, too, was photographed and copied, and from the 
hollow shell, clothed in his uniform, another observer 
fulfilled his duty. A dead horse likewise was replaced 
and used. 

In fact, the romance of observation was endless, 
forming, as it did, one of the more human phases of 
the world-war, for here, at least, an observer's life 
was often dependent upon his own skill. Observers 
often lay in full view, their lives depending upon 
quiescence and their art of blending with the back- 
ground. 

When, at a later date, there was an issue in the 
British Army of sniping robes for the use of snipers 

124 



AN OBSERVER'S MEMORIES 

and observers robes which tallied with any back- 
ground and were ornamented with all kinds of dazzle 
painting there was a tendency to send snipers and 
observers out in front. As a rule I think this was a 
mistake, for the hours out in front from dawn to 
dark were very long, and the observer had to keep 
upon the qui vive for too long a period. Also the 
smallest movement would give him away, and he was 
rarely in a position to use his telescope over any large 
area. Freedom of movement is necessary to the 
observer, and as to the sniper, I always felt that it 
was wrong to send him out except on a definite 
quest, for the man behind the trench is always in a 
superior position to the man who is lying on open 
ground without any chance of escape. 

So far I have dealt with what is known as front 
line observation ; but besides this we have to con- 
sider the very wide subject of back area observation. 
The sniper's duty is to watch the enemy's front and 
support lines. The brigade observers, if any and 
keen brigades were always sending them to be trained 
and the divisional observers working from posts 
on their own support lines, or from some point of 
vantage far behind, watched the areas lying at the 
back of the enemy fighting lines as far as the glass 
could see. 

To some of the Army Corps were attached the 
Lovat Scouts Sharpshooters. This name turned out 

125 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

in a way really a misnomer, for the Lovats were found 
to be so invaluable with the telescope that they 
were in many cases forbidden to use the rifle. Many 
Corps also had groups of observers formed from 
their Corps Cavalry. Besides these we had the 
F.O.O.'s and Artillery observers who, however, do 
not come within the scope of this chapter as their 
work is so largely for the guns. 

In order to understand fully the tremendous mass of 
work done by observers, you must realize that behind 
the lines the Major-General, the Corps Commander, 
the Army Commander and the Commander-in- 
Chief himself are all blind. Their brains direct the 
battle, but it is with the eyes of Sandy McTosh that 
they see. And nobly through the war did Sandy 
do his part. It is from him and his officers that the 
blind General behind learns how the battle goes 
that the brigade have gained their first objective 
that the th are held up by wire that at Nz6, 
C4-3 at least six German battalions are massing 
for a counter-attack. In the Vimy Ridge battle did 
not Lieut. Whamond and Sergeant Fraser observe, 
and did not the guns they warned break up, a mighty 
counter-attack before ever it was launched ? 

The duty of the battle observer is to obtain the in- 
formation as to how each phase of the battle goes, 
and then to get that information back to where it 

should be of value, 

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AN OBSERVER'S MEMORIES 

The battle observer's post or, rather, his series of 
posts, in an advance, may begin in an observation 
post, proceed forward to a series of shell holes and 
finish in a wrecked German lorry stranded upon some 
convenient slope. He will use the telephone. His 
runners who take back his reports when the tele- 
phone wires are cut by shell fire will escape on one 
occasion almost unshot at ; on the next gas shells 
will pursue them with positive malignancy. The 
observer cannot observe in his gas mask, so that gas 
shells are his particular enemy, and in many of the 
later attacks the Germans at once drenched all possible 
observation posts with gas. 

But, as I say, the observer is the eye of the High 
Command. Far away a General and his Chief of 
Staff are looking at a map. An orderly enters and 
hands over a flimsy to the Chief of Staff. He reads 
out the message. The General gives a sigh of relief. 
He knows now that the danger spot is behind the 
remnants of the gallant battalions of the 38ist Brigade. 
Sandy McTosh has made " siccar " he has seen 
he has verified he has got his report back. Those 
eyes, trained on the hill among the deer, may have 
had their share, and that no small one, in the making 
of history. 

Battle-observing was the blue ribbon of observation. 
Although the first battalion of Lovat Scouts went to 
Gallipoli, and later to Salonica, only coming to their 

127 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

true work in France in 1918, yet since 1916 this 
splendid regiment was represented there by the Lovat 
Scouts Sharpshooters whom I have referred to above, 
and of whom nine groups, each about twenty strong, 
and each under an officer, were attached to a certain 
Army Corps. Every man of these groups was a picked 
stalker and glassman, and they were used largely 
for long range observation. 

It fell to the First Army Sniping School to train 
their reinforcements. Keener men never lived, nor 
more dependable. I remember once a Zeppelin 
was reported as falling in the enemy back areas some 
six or seven thousand yards behind the German line. 
This report was made by divisional observers, but it 
was promptly denied by the Lovat Scouts, who stated 
very gravely that there was a difference between a 
Zeppelin and a half deflated balloon ! 

Lovat Scouts Sharpshooters were trained at Beauly 
in map-reading, compass work, etc., and first came 
out in separate groups. A little later Lieut. -Colonel 
Cameron of Lochiel arrived in France to co-ordinate 
their work. At this time their raison d'etre was not 
always apparent to the units to which they were 
attached, and some of them were put on to observe 
for enemy aeroplanes, in which work their skill was 
rather thrown away. But this was largely put right 
by Lochiel, whose work was invaluable. Later they 

were under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Grant, 

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AN OBSERVER'S MEMORIES 

and towards the end of the war, as I have mentioned 
above, the First Lovat Scouts were brought home 
from abroad to take up their true work of observa- 
tion, just the whole period of the war too late. 

At first they were quarantined for a time, as most 
of them were suffering from malaria, and from then 
onwards tremendous efforts were made to train the 
whole regiment in the higher forms of map-reading. 
It is, I believe, a fact that it was only on Novem- 
ber nth, the day of the Armistice, that the order 
finally came through from the War Office which settled 
the establishment of the Lovat Scouts with the 
British Expeditionary Force. 

The Lovat Scouts were intensely and rightly proud 
of their regiment and its work. Once I received 
orders to train forty foreigners as Lovat Scouts, and 
called up an old Lovat and told him so and ordered 
him to make certain arrangements. 

" Yes, sir," said he and saluted. 

One of my officers was lying behind a hedge ob- 
serving, and on leaving me the old Lovat walked 
down this hedge soliloquizing. He did not see the 
officer, who, however, overheard his soliloquy. It 
ran thus : 

" Forty Englishmen to be trained as Lovat Scouts ! 
Abominable ! Preposterous ! and it can't be done ! " 

The 1st Corps had a splendid system under which 
the Lovat Scouts attached to it worked. It possessed 

129 9 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

a grand group under Lieut. Whamond, M.C., 
whose equal at his work I never saw in France. The 
system was this : Scouts from the group were avail- 
able on application to the Corps Intelligence Office. 
Thus, if a battalion had been ordered to raid the 
enemy trenches, the Commanding Officer of that 
battalion could indent for some Lovats to go and 
make a reconnaissance of the enemy wire for him. 
Or if a Divisional Commander thought the enemy 
activities increasing, he could obtain some special 
pairs of Lovats to watch the part of the line he con- 
sidered threatened. The group, in fact, were at the 
service of all units in the Corps, and the result was 
that when they were applied for, their assistance 
was fully valued, and they went always to a definite 
job. 

Various scouts from this group used to come up 
to First Army School of S.O.S. to recoup, for, 
during the long drawn out operations in front of 
Lens, the continual use of the glass was very trying. 

A story, probably apocryphal, was always told 
in the 1st Corps concerning a gigantic corporal of the 
Lovats who stood six feet five inches in height, and 
was certainly one of the strongest men in the Army. 
He was talking with his companion for the scouts 
worked in pairs when his conversation was overheard 
by some men of a new formation. As the Lovats 
were speaking Gaelic, these men at once jumped 

130 



AN OBSERVER'S MEMORIES 

to the conclusion that they were listening to German, 
and demanded an instant surrender. 

The night was dark, but, as the story goes, it was 
not the new formation who brought back the Lovats 
as prisoners, but the Lovats who brought back the 
new formation. 

The final arrangement in the B.E.F., which never 
took effect, allotted groups of Lovat Scouts to each 
Division. At each Army there was to be a Major 
in charge on the Headquarters staff, and a captain 
at the Corps ; but, as I have said, this system had 
hardly begun to operate when the war ended. 

In training glassmen, one wonderfully soon realized 
how impossible it was to teach any man to use his 
telescope skilfully who had not been accustomed to 
it from early youth. Every soldier can, of course, 
be taught which end to look through, and how to 
focus, and such details, but these men who began 
late in life never got the same value from their glasses 
as did the gillies and the stalkers, arid from the point 
of view of accuracy they were in no way comparable. 
The truth, that to use a stalking telescope well needs 
just as much time, practice, and natural gift as first- 
class shooting, was soon recognized, and would-be 
observers were sent to the First Army School from 
all over the B.E.F. But work on them as we would, 
they never averaged anything like the Lovat standard. 

It sounds a bold statement to make, but the Lovats 

131 9* 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

never let one down. If they reported a thing, the 
thing was as they reported it. Certainly the men 
who follow the red deer of Scotland proved themselves 
once again in this war to possess qualities which, let 
us hope, will never pass from the British race. 

As ammunition grew plentiful, and observation 
more and more adequate, it naturally became less 
and less healthy for the German to move about in 
his back areas in daylight. Thus, one day, two 
officers happened to be in an observation post which 
was connected with the guns, when out of a wood 
some thousands of yards behind the German line 
emerged three figures. The light was beautiful, 
and as the figures came nearer and nearer one of the 
officers began to take an interest. 

As a rule, that observation post did not ring up the 
guns unless a party of Germans over half a dozen 
in number was seen, but presently the officer at the 
telescope spoke. 

" I say ? " 

" Yes." 

" Get on to Stiggins " (the code name of the 
battery). " Tell them three Hun officers with blue 
cloaks lined with light blue silk, blucher boots and 
shining swords, will be at the cross-roads at Hi 6, 
45.5 in about five minutes. Tell them they are 
probably Prince Eitel Fritz and Little Willie. I will 
give the word when to let them have it." 

132 






AN OBSERVER'S MEMORIES 

Through the glass could be clearly seen it was 
afternoon, and the sun was in a perfect position 
the nonchalant way in which those three arrogant- 
looking Hun officers stared about as they approached 
the cross-roads. 

Then, in due course, the observing officer said : 
" Now " and a moment later the shells passed over 
the observation post with a sound as of the tearing 
of silk, and the three " princes," blue cloaks and swords 
were flying at all angles as they dashed back from the 
cross-roads, only to run into another shell burst. Two 
fell the other made good his escape. It was never 
learned who they were. 

Another incident. One very misty day two officers 
were in an observation post looking out over the huge 
devastation of the Loos salient. They were not in 
an artillery, but in an Intelligence observation post, 
which, however, was linked up with the guns. Sud- 
denly the mist thinned, revealing far behind the 
German lines, 7,000 yards away, a number of figures 
engaged in harvesting. 

" Ring up ' Compunction,' ' said one officer, 
" and tell them that sixty Huns are working on the 
corn at U22, A45.7O." 

" By God, cancel that," cried the other, whose 
eyes were still on the telescope. " There are women 
among them." 

They were French women, with a sprinkling of 

133 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

Bavarian or Prussian soldiers. The long distance 
observer saved lives, even behind the Hun lines, as 
well as took them. 

-Sometimes it was the observer's duty to watch a 
single German for days at a time, not for the sake of 
watching a particular man, ^but because the man 
happened perhaps to be a sentry on the particular 
piece of line which was under observation. 

I remember watching a German sentry in this way, 
or, rather, seeing him from time to time from the 
Monday to the Thursday. He never gave an oppor- 
tunity for a shot, though periodically he used to 
peer quickly over the parapet and as quickly sub- 
side ; but one got quite used to his routine. His 
dinner was brought him at his post, where he seemed 
to remain for very long hours. Once a friend, who 
was engaged in painting a notice, seemed to come and 
sit and talk with him. The sentry himself was an 
exceedingly young German, and I should say an ex- 
traordinarily bad sentry. He sometimes used to 
shoot at us if we gave him provocation, but he was an 
appallingly bad shot. He was so exceedingly young 
that I was very glad that I had not a rifle with me, 
for when at last he did give a chance it was the Com- 
pany-Sergeant-Major, who cared not if he was young 
or old, who did what was necessary. 

There were certain observation posts in or outside 
the British lines from which no shot was ever allowed 

134 



AN OBSERVER'S MEMORIES 

to be fired, lest the post should be betrayed, so valu- 
able were they for observation. From one you could 
see at close range a German mounted military police- 
man he was not always mounted directing the 
traffic. You could almost see the expression on the 
faces of the Huns. 

At another point an observation post which was 
linked up with the guns had a long distance view of 
a straight road near a ridge running behind the Ger- 
man lines, along which even in daylight Huns were 
wont to move in small bodies. 

One day an officer and a corporal were in this post, 
when the corporal drew the attention of the officer 
to a single figure moving along the road. By deduc- 
tion it was that of a German officer, for every now 
and again he would meet little parties of troops coming 
along the road in threes and fours, not enough to shoot 
at. 

" Sir," said the corporal, " the officer stops each 
lot and kind of seems to inspect them. I expect he 
is a disciplinarian.*' 

The officer smiled. 

Some little distance further on he knew a point 
on the road was registered by our guns. Before 
the officer came to this he gave the word along the 
telephone to fire. As the shells approached the 
Hun officer hurled himself to the ground, from which, 
after the smoke cleared from a very nice shot, he was 

135 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

not seen to rise. But the chances are he crawled away. 
If not, the German Army was certainly short of an 
officer of " push and go." 

Of course the difference between the really skilled 
observer and the makeshifts who sometimes had to 
act in their places came out in a very marked degree at 
the longer ranges. The latter did not understand the 
telescope, and were never able to focus it so as to get 
the best results. In fact, when happenings were 
quite clear to anyone used to the telescope, these 
men were all at sea and could not distinguish much. 

Anyone who was a real artist with the telescope 
was, of course, always trying different glasses and dif- 
ferent magnifications. Apart from the telescopes 
which I had purchased with Mr. St. Loe Strachey's 
invaluable fund, the Lady Roberts fund sent me 
out a number of very high-class glasses of all magnifica- 
tions, and after a great deal of experimenting we 
came to the conclusion that during all the morning 
hours, when the sun was facing us, we should do best 
for all our work with a lo-power magnification, 
whereas, of course, when the sun went round behind 
us, higher-powered glasses gave better results. Still, 
it was very rare indeed that it was worth while to 
pull out the 3o-power stop. Glasses even of the 
same magnification vary to an amazing extent. Some 
are what may be called sweet, that is, easy and restful 
for the eyes to look through. Others, of perhaps 

^ 



AN OBSERVER'S MEMORIES 

exactly similar type and by the same maker, are hard 
and unsatisfactory. Most of the Lovat Scouts 
brought out their own glasses, nearly all Ross's indeed, 
I never knew of any glass to compare with those made 
by this maker. 

There was one duty of back area observers which 
was always interesting, and this was watching 
enemy railway crossings. All these crossings were, 
of course, registered by our guns, and it was the duty 
of the observer to keep a good look-out on them, 
and when a train stopped in the station, and con- 
sequently a good deal of traffic was held up on either 
side of the railway crossing, he would ring up the 
guns. A few well-placed shells would then wreak 
havoc upon the enemy. 

A system which was extraordinarily clear and in- 
teresting was adopted by one Corps. This Corps 
had, let us say, five posts manned by observers. All 
these posts were linked up with artillery. Back at 
Corps, stretched on an enormous table, was a large 
map, on which, of course, the five observation posts 
were marked. The observers in the posts sent in 
their daily diary of observation, and when anything 
in it was of importance, it was entered on this large 
map. Thus, we will call the posts Tiger, Lion, 
Leopard, Puma and Jaguar, the names by which they 
were known. Everything observed from Lion was 
entered in red ink, everything from Tiger in violet, 

137 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

and from the others also in different coloured .inks. 
It was thus possible at a single glance to tell exactly 
what had been seen during the past week from each 
post. Of course sometimes two posts observed the 
same thing, but only on the extreme limits of their 
area of observation. 

A good observation post was a great asset, and sore, 
indeed, were the observers if it was given away. There 
was one such post on a certain front which lay within 
six hundred yards of the enemy's front line. This 
post had been used, and had remained undiscovered 
for four months. One day there was some change 
in the arrangement of Corps, and a smart young staff 
captain arrived at the post and stated that he had 
orders to take it over from the observers. 

Luckily the observer officer, who shall be nameless, 
was in the post, and he is reported to have addressed 
that staff captain as follows : 

" There are two ways, sir, in which this can be done. 
The one v/ould be if you were to bring me a written 
authorization from the head of Intelligence in my 
Corps, telling me to deliver up the post. That would 
be the proper and official way. The other would be 
to throw me out. Which are ye for ? " 

As the speaker was over six feet high, and had to 
pass most doors sideways, he remained in unmolested 
possession of that post. 

One lingers over observation, because it was so 

138 



AN OBSERVER'S MEMORIES 

intensely interesting. During the long and weary 
period of trench warfare, when one saw so few Germans 
in the ordinary course of events, it was delightful 
to be able to go and look, with the help of a Ross glass, 
into their private life. Many and many a time did 
officers say to me that one of the things they most 
desired and would most enjoy would be to go for 
a short tour behind the German lines and see what 
it all looked like. I quite agreed with them, but by 
the use of the telescope we were able to visualize 
a great deal of the German common task and daily 
round. 

One early morning, when I was at First Army 
Sniping School, it became necessary that a recently- 
joined N.C.O. who had just come out from England, 
should be what Archibald Forbes' German general 
called " a little snooted." Almost as soon as it was 
light we went down to the line and crawled up through 
a wood which overlooked the German lines. This 
wood would have been an almost ideal place -for ob- 
servation, and, indeed, there were two or three ob- 
servation posts there, but, as usual, some incoming 
division had wanted some of the material which went 
to the making of these posts and had torn it from them, 
thus giving them most royally away. The result 
was that the woods were by no means a health resort, 
as one never knew when the Germans would start 
shelling them. 

139 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

That summer morning, however, the sun had risen 
clear and bright, throwing for a short period of time 
some kind of illusion over the sad and war-worn 
landscape for really after two or three years in France 
one began to feel a horror of broken masonry and the 
ugly distortion of war. Very rarely was a scene 
beautiful, on that part of the front at any rate, but 
on this morning there was a tang in the air, and it 
was good to be alive. With our telescopes, as soon 
as we reached a point of vantage, we were able to see 
various slight movements in the German lines. It 
was a curiously peaceful movement fatigue parties 
moving about carrying large pots full of cooked 
rations. In front of us and at no great distance there 
was a little rounded hummock, which had obviously 
been strengthened with concrete. Two men came 
up to this, bearing two large pots slung upon a pole 
between them, and shortly afterwards four more 
arrived. All went into a concrete fort which was 
too large to be a pill-box. I suggested to an officer 
who was with me that the place ought to be shelled, 
but he laughed and said : " They have tried it a 
couple of times, but the shells have simply bounced 
off. And now they have the place safely registered 
on the map, and if we come to advance in that quarter 
we should put some howitzer on to it which would 
do the work properly." 

Some of these German strong posts certainly did 

140 



AN OBSERVER'S MEMORIES 

need heavy guns to deal with them. No doubt 
there is a great satisfaction in having an absolutely 
safe hole into which to creep when artillery fire begins, 
but it is doubtful whether it is good policy to make 
too good arrangements of this kind. Many Germans 
no doubt saved their lives by going down their deep 
dug-outs and into their concrete pill-boxes, but many 
more, as is common knowledge, when our men came 
over, stayed down too long and were bombed to 
death. 

But to return. Lying on that hillside in the early 
morning has always remained, for no particular 
reason, one of my most vivid memories in the war, 
probably because there was no shelling on either side, 
and one had for once the opportunity of watching 
the enemy moving peacefully about his tasks. 

One point that struck me very strongly was the 
appearance of the Germans, who were certainly 
very much less smart than our men. The little round 
caps which the privates wore always reminded me of 
a cook's cap, and if the French steel helmet was 
a thing of beauty and the British certainly not, the 
German was hideous beyond words. The colour of 
the German uniform was splendid, and very difficult 
to pick up. 

When in a back area observation post, one was often 
watching both Germans and British, and there is 
no question at all that the British were much easier 

141 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

to see than the Germans. This was not because 
khaki was a bad colour to blend with backgrounds, 
but because the tops of the British caps were all of 
so much larger area than the German. The flat- 
topped caps which so many of the British at one time 
wore were simply an advertisement of their presence, 
and even the soft caps, for wearing which officers 
were arrested when on leave by conscientious A.P.M.'s, 
were too wide. Any flat surface worn on top of the 
head is certain to catch every bit of light, and a flash 
of light means movement, and draws the observer's 
telescope as a magnet draws metal. 

The ideal army, could I clothe it, would wear a 
very curious shape of cap, with certainly an uneven 
outline. 

But I do not need to labour this point. You have 
only to look at the photographs contained in this 
book to see what a terrible handicap a definite outline 
is. ' 

There was one incident of observation which, 
although it did not happen often, gave one a distinct 
feeling of importance. Most shelling done by the 
Germans was on registered cross-roads and such- 
like spots, and" always when they saw a body of men 
of any size they would, of course, shell it. But the 
observer, who usually went into his post rather late 
as in the early morning observation, owing to the 
mist and the position of the sun, was impossibL 

142 



AN OBSERVER'S MEMORIES 

often received the honour of a special shelling all 
to himself. This was not the usual chance shelling, 
as that, as I have said, was always done upon the roads, 
and very often the observer made his way by foot- 
paths or across the open ground. 

I think the Germans often suspected observation 
posts, and they paid a compliment to observers by 
shelling all those who moved in their neighbourhood. 



143 



CHAPTER VII 

THE CURRICULUM AND WORK AT FIRST ARMY 
SCHOOL OF S.O.S 



I^HE making of a good shot in a course of seventeen 
days is no easy matter. The First Army School 
of Sniping was, as I have said, founded for the in- 
struction of officers and N.C.O.'s who should, in their 
turn, instruct, and all who came to it were supposed 
to be already " good shots." As a matter of fact 
the standard was wonderfully high, and we very 
rarely had a hopeless case. Did such a man put in 
his appearance, there was only one thing to be done, 
and that was to send him back to his battalion. 

Yet although a great mass of good material came 

to us, we were nearly always able to improve every 

student's shooting by 30 or 40 per cent. It is won- 

derful what can be done in seventeen days if both 

J:he class and the instructors are working in unison. 

Each class used to begin with an inspection of 
rifles, followed by a lecture on care and cleaning, at 
which the value of the polished barrel was taught 

with no uncertain voice. 

144 



THE CURRICULUM AND WORK 

There were many difficulties in the way of teaching 
shooting with telescopic sights, when the issue of 
these was so limited as it was in France. Many times 
officers who ought to have known better advocated 
the shooting away of a mass of ammunition through 
telescope-sighted rifles at ranges of five or six hundred 
yards. It was hard to make these officers realize 
that the sole value of a telescopic rifle lay in its extreme 
accuracy, and that if the rifle were continually fired 
through, the barrel would become worn, and the best 
shot in the world, were he using it, would find his 
group spreading ever more widely upon the target. 
It was necessary, therefore, that the happy mean 
should be struck, so every officer and N.C.O. who 
came to the school was ordered to bring with him 
two rifles, one of them with open sights, and until 
a man had proved that he could shoot really well 
with open sights, he was not allowed to touch a 
telescopic-sighted rifle. 

As a matter of fact, anyone who can make good 
shooting with the ordinary service rifle will find very 
little difficulty in improving his marksmanship when 
he is promoted to a telescopic sight. 

One of the greatest difficulties that we had the 
difficulty which literally haunted the whole of in- 
struction in France, was the fact that the telescopic 
sights were set, not on top, but at the left-hand side 
of the rifle. This caused all kinds of errors. The 

145 10 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

set-off, of course, affected the shooting of the rifle, and 
had to be allowed for, and the clumsy position of the 
sight was very apt to cause men to cant their rifles, 
and some used the left eye. Worse than all, perhaps, 
in trench warfare was the fact that with the Govern- 
ment pattern of telescopic sight, which was set on 
the side of the rifle, it was impossible to see through 
the loopholes of the steel plates which were issued, 
as these loopholes were naturally narrow ; and looking 
into the telescopic sight, when the muzzle of the 
rifle was pointing through the loophole, one got nothing 
but a fine view of the inside of the steel plate and the 
side of the loophole. Why the telescopic sights were 
set on the sides of the rifles was never definitely or 
satisfactorily explained, but it was always said that 
it was done so that rapid fire should be possible. 
I believe the decision was taken in the War Office, 
and if this is true, and the sight was set on the side 
for this reason (and one can see no other reason why 
it should have been so set) then surely whoever 
was responsible can have had no knowledge whatever 
of the use of telescopic sights. 

To take a telescope sight off a rifle occupies not 
two seconds of time, and to think that a sniper could 
or would ever do rapid fire through a telescope sight, 
or need to load with a clip, shows nothing short of 
incredible ignorance. At any rate, the Germans 

made no such mistake, though they made many others. 

146 



THE CURRICULUM AND WORK 

Nevertheless, the sights came out to us in this 
form, and by the time that representations had been 
made from high quarters in France asking that tele- 
scope sights should be set on top of the rifle, an altera- 
tion was impossible, as it would have thrown out all 
the factories who were engaged in the manufacture 
of these weapons. But once again, many a German 
owed his life to the original decision. 

To take a concrete instance. One day I was down 
in the trenches and watching No-Man's-Land with 
a telescope. There was a sniper beside me who 
had one of my rifles, a Mauser, which had a telescope 
sight on the top, and with which he was able to fire 
through his loophole. It was very early in the morn- 
ing, and the light had not strengthened, when a work- 
ing party of Germans appeared who had been working 
under cover of some dead ground. They had but a 
few yards to go to regain their own trench. The 
sniper who was next to me got off a shot, but two of 
the snipers armed with the Government weapons 
a little farther along, who were waiting at loopholes, 
found that neither of them could bring their rifles 
to bear at the extreme angle at which the Germans 
were disappearing. Both ran out from their posts 
to try and get a shot over the top, but they were, 
of course, too late. 

This is only one instance of a thing that was always 
happening. As we could not get the sights altered, 

147 10* 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

the First Army and the nth Corps arranged that 
their workshops should cut special sniping plates with 
large loopholes for the use of snipers armed with 
telescope sights. But even so it was always un- 
satisfactory, and the sight on the side of the rifle had 
a very circumscribed field of view when used from 
behind cover. 

In order to show how little telescope sights were 
understood, it was, I think, in July, 1916, that Lieut. - 
Colonel P. W. Richardson came out to France to 
lecture on telescopic sights. On his departure he 
sent in a report to G.H.Q. as to the inaccuracy of 
these sights. Colonel Richardson intended to draw 
attention only to the inaccuracy, for there is no man 
who is keener on these weapons or who knows their 
value better ; but the authority into whose hands 
the report fell read it quite differently, and a month 
or two afterwards there came down to Brigades, 
and indeed to all our formations, the question from 
G.H.Q. as to whether it would not be well to abolish 
telescopic sights altogether, especially as " economy 
was now so urgent." The answers that went back 
to that question from G.O.C.'s were couched in no 
hesitating language, so that our telescope sights were 
not taken away. Had they been taken away, the 
German would once again have attained his sniping 
superiority, and there would be many a man now 
alive and enjoying life who would never have left 

148 







*.j 

Q = 

J! 



81 

I Q 

Kj 






J 



C/5 o 

a: a 



THE CURRICULUM AND WORK 

the endless series of trenches which we were yet 
destined to defend or capture. 

But to get back to the course at the school. Our 
aim was to create good shots in as short a time as 
possible, and not only must they be good shots, but 
they must also be quick shots. After finding out 
errors in the ordinary way by grouping, we eschewed 
as far as possible shooting at targets ; the round 
black bull on the white ground was very rarely used, 
and all kinds of marks were put up in its place. The 
head and shoulders was the most efficacious target, 
and practice was further carried on at dummy heads 
carried at walking pace along trenches. In fact, 
where such appliances as we had at the school 
are lacking, it is far better to allow snipers to shoct 
at tins stuck up on sticks than to permit them to become 
pottering target shots. 

Speed was always the essence of sniping, and it was 
wonderful how, after short practice at the disappearing 
head, the men began to speed up. Competition was 
encouraged to the limit, and on every course a picked 
team of men shot against a picked team of officers. 
Those who were chosen for these matches were those 
who obtained the highest scores during the course. 
Further, a number of prizes were offered, and com- 
petition for these was -/ways keen. Sometimes we 
had the Canadians and Colonials shooting against 

what they called the " Imperials," and sometimes 

149 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

the representatives of the Scottish regiments shot 
against the English. 

One thing we always made a point of, and that 
was to take up every shooter to his target and show 
him exactly what he had done. A man with a tele- 
scope who spots each shot takes infinitely more interest 
in what he is doing than does a man who merely 
has results signalled to him, but going up to the 
target is the best method of all. 

After eight days with the open sight, those who 
were considered worthy passed on to practise with 
the telescopic. One of our great difficulties was that 
the telescopic sights were so much wanted in the line 
that it was hard to call them away for courses ; but, 
as a matter of fact, many battalions seemed to keep 
a telescopic sight which they always sent on the 
course. It was generally a bad one, but this did not 
much matter, as we were continually having snipers 
sent up with the rifles they were actually using, 
in order that they might shoot them at the school. 
Thus a man might come on a course, and if he got 
a good report, might be back at the school within a 
week with a telescope sight which he was thence- 
forward to use and which we were asked to regulate 
to his hold. 

But I do not want to go too far into this. question 
of shooting, and it will not be necessary to say more 
than that of every hundred students who came to 

150 



THE CURRICULUM AND WORK 

a course, somewhere about seventy-five went back as 
quite useful shots. We had many, of course, far above 
the class of " useful," and sometimes the competition 
for the champion shot of the classes was extraordinarily 
keen. Considering the very small bulls and the 
continually moving targets, the scores made' at the 
school reflected great credit upon the students. 

But though there was a great deal of shooting at 
the school there were many other subjects also in 
which students were instructed. One of these was 
observation. The way that this was taught was 
exactly the same that I had used from the earliest 
days of 1915. Two trenches were dug at a distance 
of three or four hundred yards apart, and one of these 
trenches was an exact imitation of a piece of German 
line. Those who were to be taught observation 
were put with their telescopes and note books in the 
other trench, while a couple of scouts dressed in 
German uniforms showed themselves at certain points 
of the German trench, and generally attempted to 
produce the exact happenings that would occur 
were those under instruction watching an actual 
piece of German line. Thus at one point of the 
trench earth would be thrown up, and five minutes 
later at another a man in a helmet carrying a pick 
would pass along. Here and there a loophole would 
be opened, and so on. The observation class kept a 
look-out upon the German trench, and noted down 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

in their note books the time and place of all that 
happened therein which they were able to observe. 
As far as possible, every member of the class was given 
a telescope of equal power, and it was an extraordinary 
thing to see how while some men sent in excellent 
reports, others seemed to be quite incapable of accurate 
observation. 

Besides teaching the use of the telescope for front 
line work, this system gave a very useful practice 
lesson in the art of reporting things seen. Sometimes 
the officers of the staff or the Lovat Scouts attempted 
to crawl out of the German trench without being seen, 
and on one occasion two Lovat battle observers who 
were resting at the school crawled clean round an 
officer class unseen, and took them in the rear. This 
is an easy enough thing to do when the ground is 
favourable, but our trenches had been very carefully 
sited, so that there were at least three or four spots 
in which a man crawling was well within view, and 
in passing across these he had to exercise the most 
infinite care if he wished to obtain success. 

At night time these two trenches were used for 
another purpose that of teaching patrolling. Be- 
tween them was a strip of typical No Man's Land 
with shell holes which we spent a whole day blowing 
up, wire, old uniforms in fact, everything to make 
it as like the real thing as possible. After I left the 
school, Major Underhill had the bright idea of putting 

152 



THE CURRICULUM AND WORK 

out in this No Man's Land a number of imitation 
German dead. In the pockets of these " dead " 
were soldbuchs that is, the German pay-books and 
various other identifications which it is the duty of 
scouts to collect and send to H.Q. I think there can 
be very little doubt that the conditions under 
which patrols worked and practised at First Army 
Sniping School approached the real in a very high 
degree. For instance, all our work was in com- 
petition, very often the officers against men, or Colonials 
against the World. Sometimes the defenders were 
supplied with pistols and Verey lights, which they 
fired off just as do the Germans. The attacking 
patrol carried with it small pegs with the patroller's 
name marked upon them. These pegs they stuck 
into the ground at the most advanced or important 
point which they attained. 

A certain amount of teaching of patrolling was 
done in the daytime by the use of night glasses. 
These were the invention of Major Crum, of the 
King's Royal Rifles. On the sunniest day, once one 
had put on one of these pairs of goggles, one could 
not see more than was possible on the darkest night, 
and there is no doubt that a great deal was learnt by 
watching in daylight the kind of movements that a 
man must make at night. 

Experience of scouting in No Man's Land showed 
that our patrols were most often spotted at the 

153 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

moment of leaving or returning to our own trenches, 
and great stress was laid on the proper way in which 
to get in and out of a trench. Another dangerous 
moment for the patrols was when they made a turning 
movement. The man who crept out with care and 
skill was apt to rise to his knees as he turned, and if 
a Verey light happened to be in the air at that moment, 
he was thus apt to give the whole show away. 

There were many other subjects taught at the school 
into which I need not go, for those interested will 
find them all set out in the appendices, but special 
stress was always laid upon marching on compass 
bearings by night It was an amazing thing how few 
officers really understood the prismatic compass, and 
indeed, how high a percentage of them did not possess 
a compass worth understanding. The advent of the 
gas mask, or box-respirator, added new difficulties to 
training, for it was necessary to carry out a good deal 
of our work under gas alarm conditions. 

At least once on every course we had a scouting 
scheme. For this, the N.C.O.'s and men were told 
off in small parties, each under an officer, and were 
given a certain line to hold. They were to report 
all details of a military nature which they saw, all 
transport, etc. Some of our staff scouts were sent 
out early in the day, and were ordered to try and make 
their way back unseen through this line, and the staff 
instructors used to go out and see what they could 



THE CURRICULUM AND WORK 

of it. This scouting scheme gave great individual 
play to the fancy of the officer in charge of each party, 
and many of them used it to the full. 

For some reasons a story was started that I had once 
gone right along the road which was the line that was 
being held disguised as a French peasant. I had never 
'done anything of the kind, but the keenness to spot 
me when I did go round was always a matter of 
amusement. 

The training of observers at the school, as distinct 
from the front line telescope work which I have 
described, was always extraordinarily interesting. I 
give in Appendix A the exact course the Lovat Scout 
reinforcement observers were put through. We were 
exceedingly lucky in having at the school so many 
first-rate glass-men, so that it was possible to get ahead 
with teaching the telescope very fairly quickly. Some- 
times through pure ignorance a young observer, or 
an observer new to his work, would think he knew 
a great deal more than he actually did. It was only 
necessary to put him down for five minutes beside a 
Lovat Scout for him to rise a much wiser and less 
lelf-sufficient man ! 

Another branch of long-distance observation was 
the building of properly concealed observation posts, 
and by the time the school left Linghem, the plateau 
was honeycombed with posts looking in every direction. 

Very early in the school's career, a model sniper's 

155 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

post was built, and all along one series of trenches 
we had model loopholes. One point that I always 
found when visiting the real trenches was that nearly 
all loopholes were made with three iron plates in the 
form of a box. This s-hape of loophole very much 
circumscribes the angle of fire. The true way to 
make a loophole is to set the two flanking plates at 
an angle of at least forty-five degrees, so that the field 
of fire may be enlarged. 

One of the most important object lessons which 
we used to have was to send a sniper into the model 
trenches with orders to fire from different loopholes 
in turn. The rest of the class then watched the loop- 
holes, and gave opinions as to which one the shot had 
come from. It takes a considerable amount of skill 
to fire from a loophole without giving away your 
position by the gas which comes from your rifle 
muzzle. These demonstrations also taught the snipers 
how in the dry weather the dust round the mouth 
of a loophole will invariably give it away, and how in 
cold weather the smoke will hang a little. 

Lectures on aeroplane photographs were another 
side of our work, and one which was undoubtedly 
very necessary. All the school trenches and, indeed, 
the whole school and plateau and the woods around 
it had been photographed from the air. Each 
officer or N.C.O. student was provided with a photo- 
graph, and went over the actual ground, Captain 

156 




FIRST ARMY SCHOOL S.O.S. 

Showing effects and importance of light and shade. 



THE CURRICULUM AND WORK 

Kendall accompanying them to explain all details. 
In this way a practical knowledge of what trenches 
looked like from the air was gained. 

The demonstrations showing the use of protective 
colouring and the choice of backgrounds always 
interested the classes very much. Often the whole 
class arrived within twenty yards of a man lying 
within full view without being able to spot him. 
On one occasion during a big demonstration, one of 
the staff was lying out in a coat of the colour and 
contour of sandbags on top of a trench, and the whole 
party of staff officers were all round him without 
having spotted his whereabouts. When I pointed 
him out a foreign officer who was present, and who 
evidently did not understand me, thought I was 
referring to an object a little further on, and in order 
to see it better he actually leaped on to the camouflaged 
man ! 

As a matter of fact, this protective colouration 
scheme business can very easily be overdone, for the 
man who lies out in the open is at the mercy of the 
changes of light and shade. What is an absolute 
protective background at eleven o'clock may become 
quite useless at twelve. But it was necessary to teach 
it to a certain extent, as in open warfare the observer 
and the scout have to obtain safety by concealment 
rather than by cover from fire. 
Another of the most useful lessons at the school 

157 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

was undoubtedly the practical one of judging distance. 
On the average I think students were worse at distance- 
judging than at any other subject, but a little practice 
made an enormous difference. 

The ruling idea of the School was to make sniping 
as simple as possible, and jor this purpose nothing was 
ever used in building a post or loophole which could not 
be obtained at once in any trench in the British Army. 
There were many very elaborate loopholes which could 
be indented for from the Special Works Park R.E. 
(Camouflage), but I do not think these were successful 
unless they were put in by specially selected officers, 
for in sending indents to the Special Works Park, 
Commanding Officers usually forgot to mention the 
background and the kind of earth in which their 
trenches were dug. 

A demonstration that used always to interest the 
class exceedingly was one which showed the effect 
of different forms of ammunition on various kinds of 
loophole plates, British and German. Some time in 
1917 the Germans produced an armoured mask for 
snipers. This was of steel, and of great weight and 
thickness, and indeed it looked as if no bullet could 
possibly go through it, so much so that one of my 
officers volunteered to put it on and let someone 
have a shot at him. This I, of course, refused to 
countenance for a moment, and lucky it was, for the 
first shot went clean through the armoured head- 

158 



THE CURRICULUM AND WORK 

piece. Anyhow, I should imagine, whether the shot 
pierced the vizor or no, the man in it must almost 
certainly be stunned by a direct hit. 

Although when first I became a sniping instructor, 
I used to have some firing practice at five and six 
hundred yards, when I went to the First Army School 
I gave this up. The chances of hitting a German head 
at six hundred yards with a telescope sight, if there is 
any wind blowing at all, are not great, for, as I have 
repeatedly said, a sighting shot is not possible, and I 
came to the conclusion that continual popping 
away with telescopic-sighted rifles at six hundred yards 
simply wore out their barrels. After all, a rifle only 
lasts at its highest efficiency for, in certain cases, as few 
as five hundred rounds, and every shot taken through 
a telescope-sighted rifle shortens the life of the barrel. 
We, therefore, until warfare became more open, 
never went back further than four hundred yards, and 
our greatest difficulty was to teach the snipers to appre- 
ciate the strength of the wind. The system by which 
wind must be taught to snipers must be both very 
accurate and very simple, for some of the best snipers 
who came to the school had difficulty in making 
calculations. Usually we found that the best way to 
begin to teach wind allowance was to take the man up 
on the range, and for one of the staff to demonstrate 
against the stop butt. The class all had telescopes, 
and the puff of dust gave away the exact point at 

159 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

which the bullet struck. This system had the further 
advantage of teaching snipers what a distance of two 
feet looks like at three hundred yards. But in- 
dividual practice is the only way to learn wind- 
judging. 

At the school we gave six different strengths of 
wind, gentle, moderate, fresh, strong, very strong, 
and gale, and it was, of course, in the judging of the 
gentle, moderate and fresh, that the difficulties lay. 
Our range had this advantage, that it was a good one 
on which to teach wind allowance by letting the men 
practise for themselves, for there was almost always 
a wind blowing. 

Night firing and observation by moonlight, as well 
as many other schemes which the reader who is in- 
terested can see for himself in the curriculum which 
is set out in the appendix, took up the rest of our 
time ; but, from the very earliest days, the moment 
the day's work was over we used to adjourn for games. 
At first we used to play rounders and baseball of a kind. 
Later we made a rough golf course of three or four 
holes ; but as soon as we got our Establishment and 
the school increased in size, games became a matter of 
great importance, and, as usual, football was by far 
the most popular. We had throughout a very good 
Association team, and sometimes were able to play 
two elevens on Saturday afternoons, and all the other 
days there were pick-up sides and punt-about. 

160 



THE CURRICULUM AND WORK 

In summer we played some cricket matches, and 
were never beaten, though once, one lovely summer 
evening, we adjourned for dinner at the end of our 
opponents' second innings having fifty runs to get 
to win. When we came out to get the fifty it was 
so dark that we only pulled it off by one wicket. 

In June, 1917, there was a conference of sniping 
officers at Boulogne, and here I first met the Com- 
mandants of the S.O.S. Schools of the other armies : 
Lt.-Col. Sclater, D.S.O. (2nd Army), Major Pem- 
berthy (3rd Army), Major Michie, D.S.O. (5th Army) 
and the Major commanding the School of the 4th 
Army. All the above are well-known throughout the 
B.E.F. for the splendid work they did. 

One point which we always tried to impress on all 
who came to the school was the vital necessity for 
snipers and observers to take immediate action when 
anything unusual and not normal was seen. I give 
the following instance to illustrate this essential. 

One da'y I had been ordered to visit a certain bat- 
talion in order to go round their sniping posts and 
to look over their telescope sights. As through some 
mistake their telescope sights were in the line, I 
had to use my own rifle to demonstrate with. 

At this time I was shooting with a .350 Mauser, 
which, of course, carried special ammunition, and 
after the lecture, as there was still some light left, 
I wandered up to the line through the darkness of a 

161 ii 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

large wood. Here there was a railway cutting, across 
which our trenches and those of the Germans opposing 
us lay. My batman was carrying my rifle, and I de- 
scended into this cutting, where we had a post. The 
Germans, at a distance of about 250 yards, had 
also a strong post across the cutting. Four or five 
privates were keeping a look-out upon the German 
line, but none of them had telescopes, and the moment 
I used mine I saw a German officer who was standing 
up and giving directions. I at once took my rifle 
only to find that my servant had left the cartridges 
behind. 

Although I could see the German officer quite 
clearly through the telescope of the rifle, it was 
getting so dark that I could not pick him up with 
the open sights of one I borrowed, so that an accurate 
shot was out of the question ; but with the telescope 
I was able to get an inkling of what he was doing. 
Very obviously, he was superintending the placing 
of a trench mortar into position with which to bom- 
bard the post in which I was ; for I could see quite 
a movement of men, and earth was being continually 
thrown up. 

It rapidly grew quite dark, and I went back and 
reported the matter to the proper authority. Now 
the proper authority was, I thought, not very much 
interested, and although I put the case very strongly, 
and said I was sure the minenwerfer would bombard 

162 



THE CURRICULUM AND WORK 

our post next day, it appeared from subsequent 
events that he took no action, nor did he ring up the 
guns and ask them to demolish the German minen- 
werfer that night as I begged him to do. The result 
was that shortly afterwards our post was demolished, 
with loss of life. 

There is no doubt that on that evening the star 
of the German officer was in the ascendant, for had 
I had a cartridge, the chances were enormously against 
his ever having left the trenches alive, as I had the 
range from the map and knew the shooting of my 
rifle to an inch. 



163 n* 



CHAPTER VIII 

WILIBALD THE HUN 

[This and the following chapter are representative of the two sides of 
sniping i.e. shooting and observation. The incidents occurred.] 

" \A/ rHO ' VE 7 u got there ? " 

** " Mr. Harrison, sir ; killed, sir." 

A short, red-haired officer ranged up alongside 
the stretcher, turned back the blanket, and somewhat 
hurriedly replaced it, 

" Damn those pointed bullets," he said, speaking 
in a detached kind of way and half to himself. His 
mind was working already on its problem. 

" Where did it happen ? " 

" Caisson Trench, sir. That sniper Wilibald." 

" When ? " 

" Just after nine, sir." 

" Anyone with him ? " 

" Sergeant Small, sir." 

The officer turned, and the stretcher-party resumed 
its way. He stood watching them for a little, his 
thoughts roving from the horrible way in which a 
pointed bullet, fired from a rifle with a muzzle- 

164 



WILIBALD THE HUN 

velocity of 3,000 feet a second, will at times keyhole, 
to the deeds and too-haunting personality of Wilibald 
the Hun. British troops have throughout the war 
given names to any German sniper whose deeds 
lent him a personality. Fritz is generic ; but once 
let a Hun impress himself by skill, and he is christened. 
Thus we have known Adolfs, Wilhelms, Old Seven- 
trees, Bluebeard, and a hundred others. At first, 
thanks to the Duke of Ratibor, who collected all 
the sportsmen's telescopic-sighted rifles in Germany 
and it is proof of German far-sightedness that a 
vast percentage of them took the military cartridge 
the Hun sniper took heavy toll against our blunt 
open sights. Later, things happened, and the plague 
was stayed ; but in the days of this incident the Hun 
and the Briton were still striving unevenly for mastery. 

The officer turned at length, and walked slowly 
down the trench till he came to company head- 
quarters. A second-lieutenant, standing at the en- 
trance to the dug-out, was unloading a rifle. 

" Hullo, Bill," said the officer. " Whose rifle ? " 

" My batman's." 

" What have you been doing with it ? ' : 

" Wilibald shot Jack Harrison through the head. 
I " 

" Don't," said the red-haired officer shortly. 

" Why not ? " 

" Have you ever shot with that rifle ? " 

165 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

" No." 

The red-haired officer raised his eyes wearily. 

" Wilibald's bag is big enough already. Wilibald 
sits over there " he indicated the German position 
with a swinging movement " in some hole or 
other as snug as a bug in a rug, with a telescope 
sighted rifle w r hich he knows to the inch. You 
go and look for him with a rifle you don't know to a 
yard. You fool ! " 

" All right, Red. We know your hobby. Only 
we wish you'd deliver the goods." 

" Meaning Wilibald ? " 

" Yes. Wilibald is becoming a public nuisance. 
He's got nine of us, including an officer and an N.C.O., 
and he's got more than a dozen of the West Blanks 
who relieve us. He's . . . Damn ! that's him." 

A shot had rung out, followed by an ejaculation. 
The two officers hurried along the trench to where 
in a bay a consequential private was pouring iodine 
into a sergeant's cheek. Three or four other privates 
were talking excitedly. 

" It come from the 'Un trench." 

" It didn't. It come from the trees in the spinney." 
. " That's right. The fifth tree." 

" Naw. The sixth." 

" Garn ! " 

Red, with a word, broke up the group, and addressed 

the sergeant : 

166 



WILIBALD THE HUN 

" Hullo, Small. What's happened ? " 

" I was takin' a spy, and Wilibald 'ad a drive at me. 
Clipped my cheek, 'e did," said Small, in the aggrieved 
voice of the N.C.O. whose dignity has been touched. 

" Then, for God's sake, don't take a spy, Small, 
until you learn how to do it without offering a target. 
Let's see your cheek. Only a scratch. That's lucky. 
Now, did you see where the shot was fired from ? " 

" Beyond that it come from the left flank, I did not, 
sir. I- 

" All right. Go and get your cheek bandaged." 

As the sergeant saluted and went off down the 
trench, Red, having ordered the observers to keep 
a good look-out upon the enemy trench, took off his 
cap, and, fixing it on his stick, told Bill to raise it 
slightly above the parapet until the badge of a famous 
regiment glinted in the sun, while he watched. 

Nothing happened. 

Red laughed. 

"Wilibald's not a dasher," said he. "He's a 
regular Hun. Probably has some rule about not firing 
unless he can see half the head he's aiming at. * Shoot 
to kill ' is his motto. Useful man, Wilibald. I 
wonder if his company commander appreciates him." 

After passing along the trench and warning its 
garrison not to give unnecessary targets, Red went 
a round of his observers. They were stationed at 
loopholes and in O.P.s. 

167 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

" Keep a good look-out, and try to spot Wilibald 
if he fires again. The light will be pretty good 
when the sun works round behind us." 

" Which part of the trench do you think he is in, 
sir ? " asked a lance-corporal. 

" Don't know ; perhaps not in the trench at all. 

Some of the Royal shires thought he was in the 

spinney, and some thought he was in the willow-trees. 
He got twelve of them. He must be dealt with." 
" Yes, sir," said the lance-corporal optimistically. 
It was four o'clock in the afternoon when Red, 
having passed down an old disused trench in the 
rear of the British position, crawled cautiously out 
behind the parados. Here was an area seamed with 
shell holes, each half-full of green, scummy water, 
little piles of rotting sandbags, rusty wire, nettles, 
and coarse grass. About fifty yards behind the 
front line a heavy shell had fallen almost on the top 
of the almost imperceptible rise which culminated 
at that point. This shell hole was Red's objective, for 
from it he could, he knew, get a fair view of the Ger- 
man trenches. It was not a safe place to visit in the 
morning, when the sun was behind the German lines, 
and everything in the British stood out clearly to their 
Zeiss glasses ; but in the afternoon the position was 
reversed, and the Hun observers were in their turn 
looking into the sun. 

To this place Red made his way. It was long 

168 



WILIBALD THE HUN 

before the days of snipers' robes of canvas, painted 
yellow and green and black, which for such work would 
have been useful, though the earlier patterns, cut 
like a greatcoat, were difficult to crawl in. Later 
a pattern of overall shape was issued, which gave 
free play to the knees ; but, as we say, such issues 
were not yet " available." 

At length, Red reached the shell hole, and slowly 
made a place for his telescope among the clods of earth 
upon the crater-lip. Then he bent himself to a careful 
study of the scene. 

The line of the German trenches was marked in 
white, for it was a somewhat chalky country, with 
here and there loophole plates sticking gauntly up 
on the top of the parapet. To these Red gave no 
attention. Many of them were dummies ; the 
danger-spots, he knew, were set lower ; often upon 
the ground level,, where, through some gap in the 
rusty wire, the German sniper's eyes watched cease- 
lessly for a " target." Very carefully Red examined 
the German trenches. Well he knew their appearance. 
One by one he picked up the familiar landmarks ; here 
a machine gun emplacement, there a suspected sniper's 
post. All was quiet. Once a sentry fired, and the 
bullet hummed like a bee high above him. Next, 
Red turned more to the business in hand the loca- 
tion of Wilibald. No easy business, since there was a 
great divergence of opinion. He had been located so 

169 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

often ; in a sniping-post by the black sandbags for 
at one point in the Hun trenches there were a number 
of black sandbags ; the Germans used all colours on 
that front. Red turned his glass on that point. Yes, 
there seemed to be a post there, but there was nothing 
to prove that it was tenanted. Then he tried the 
spinney ; but neither the third tree nor the fifth 
yielded up any secret. Then the ruined house or 
hovel ; after that, the wide expanse of No Man's Land. 
As he watched, Red remembered the words of the 
Corps Commander : " There is no No Man's Land. 
It must be our land right up to the enemy trenches." 
That was an ideal to live up to. But stare now as 
he would, and as he continued to do for an hour, he 
saw nothing, could see nothing of Wilibald. Broken 
wire, shell holes, sandbags, pulverized bricks and 
mortar, men lying in queer positions, men whose 
ragged tunics the evening wind stirred strangely, 
men who would never move again. 

All Red's life he had been apt, in moments of ten- 
sion, to recur to a phrase which made a kind of 
background to his thoughts, and now he found himself 
repeating : 

" Exiled and in sorrow far from the Argive Land." 

He turned round and glanced at the sun. It was 

sinking red, like a cannon-ball. Then he turned for 

a last look at No Man's Land and the Hun positions. 

Nothing stirred. Far away on the right, a mile or 

170 



WILIBALD THE HUN 

two away, a machine gun sounded like a rapidly worked 
typewriter. A bat flew and turned above the British 
trench fifty yards in front of him. Red crawled back. 

In the trench he met his brother officer Bill. 

" Hullo, Red. Any luck ? " 

" No." 

Bill laughed. 

" Wilibald's some man." 

Red nodded. 

That evening at mess Wilibald formed the topic 
of conversation. The Colonel spoke of him very 
seriously. 

" He must be a splendid shot," said he. " He 
puts it through the loophole in the post in Bay 16, 
two shots in three at least, so Carpenter, of the Blank- 
shires, was telling me. Said he supposed he'd got 
one of those big Zeiss telescopic sights which magnify 
four times. Shooting with 'em must be as easy as 
falling off a log." 

" Yes, sir," said Red. 

It was a full hour before dawn that the chill woke 
Red in his dug-out. His thoughts switched at once 
on to the subject of Wilibald. The man had taken 
over twenty British lives. He pictured him waiting 
at his loophole, his bearded cheek pressed to the 
stock of his rifle. A fine shot, no doubt Carpenter 
had said that he put two shots out of three into the 
loophole of Bay 16 sniping-post . . . Good shooting. 

171 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

. . . Dashed good. It was cold, though ! The 
first cold morning. By Jove ! 

Red had an idea. He rose and dressed hastily, 
his dressing consisting of little but pulling on his 
boots and tunic. He took his telescope and made 
his way along the dark trench until he came to Bay 16. 
A figure was leaning against the side of the post. 
Red realized that it was Corporal Hogg, a N.C.O. 
of sound sense. 

" Corporal 1 " 

" Yes, sir ! " 

" Anyone in the Post ? " 

" No, sir. You told me not to have it manned at 
night, lest the flash should give it away." 

" Quite right. Now listen. I want the loophole 
shut. As soon as it is light enough to shoot at 
5.15 say I want you to open it cautiously. Open 
it from the side, in case Wilibald got that ? ' : 

" Yes, sir." 

" Understand. Loophole to be closed till 5.15 
a.m. Then to be opened by you cautiously, and 
from one side. I shall be out in the shell hole behind 
the parados." 

Half an hour later Red crouched in the shell hole, 
his telescope discarded, since its field of view was 
too narrow. In front of him lay his watch, which 
he had synchronized with that of Corporal Hogg. 
The hand marked 5.11. The moments passed. Red's 

172 



WILIBALD THE HUN 

heart was beating now. He glanced a last glance, 
a very hurried glance at his watch. It was past the 
fourteen minutes ! Hogg would be opening the 
loop-hole. 

Bang! 

A shot had rung out. From the garden or what 
was once the garden of the razed house, not seventy 
yards distant, a little wisp of gas floated away to the 
cold morning star. Very cautiously Red wrapped a 
bit of sandbag round his telescope, and pushed it 
on the little plot of turnips. 

At first he saw nothing. 

Then he was aware of some turnip-tops moving, 
when all the rest were still. A moment later he had 
made out the top of Wilibald's head, garlanded with 
turnip-tops, and the upper part of Wilibald's large 
German face. This, then, was the explanation of 
the accurate shooting and the long death-roll. Wili- 
bald had been firing at short range. 

Red felt it was almost uncanny. 

Hitherto, in trench warfare, as far as daylight was 
concerned, the Huns had seemed to him almost an 
abstraction, creatures apparent to the sense of hearing 
certainly, but troglodytes who popped above ground 
for only a passing moment, and then only to dis- 
appear. But this man, not one hundred yards 
away. . . . 

Red withdrew into the shell hole, and quickly 

173 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

mapped out his course. He must at once get back 
to his own trench. To do so meant a crawl over what 
must be the skyline to Wilibald, and consequently a 
point Red could hardly hope to pass unobserved. 
Red marked a thistle. It was there that he would 
come into view. He would remain so for about ten 
yards. Of course, could he once regain his own 
trench he could take steps to deal with Wilibald, but 
at present the Hun held the better cards. Red 
smiled grimly when he thought of his crawl to the 
shell hole of the previous evening. To the sun, 
which was shining straight into Wilibald's eyes, he 
most certainly owed his life. Now that sun was 
behind Wilibald. . . . Red started. As he neared 
the thistle, his heart beat fast and quick. He passed 
the thistle. He felt very like a fly crawling over 
an inverted plate while someone with a fly-trap 
waited to strike. He was crawling straight away now. 
The thistle was behind him. Another four yards 
two one still Wilibald did not fire, and with a deep 
sigh of relief Red hurled himself into the disused sap 
and safety. 

Later the C.O. was speaking. 

" So Wilibald's gone west ? " 

" Yes, sir." 

" How did you spot him ? >: 

" The cold woke me. I have noticed how the gas 
from a rifle hangs on chilly days. Wilibald forgot 

174 



WILIBALD THE HUN 

that. He had a shot at the loophole of No. 16 Bay 
Post, and I was watching, and spotted him. He was 
lying out in the turnips, about seventy yards from our 
line. He had turnip-tops fixed round his cap, and 
lay in a hole he'd dug. He must have come out before 
dawn and gone back after dark. He was a pretty 
gallant fellow, sir." 

The C.O. nodded. 

" D d gallant," said he. 

" I thought, sir, if you'd no objection, I'd take a 
patrol out and fetch him in for purposes of identifi- 



cation.' 3 



So Wilibald was brought in. His cap, some letters 
in his pocket, and his shoulder-straps were forwarded 
to Brigade ; but his rifle, beautifully fitted with a 
Zeiss telescope sight, which had taken over twenty 
British lives, turned its muzzle east instead of west, 
and began to take German lives instead. 



175 



CHAPTER IX 

THE CAT 



two snipers of the Royal Midlandshires, 
the shooter and the observer, were comfort- 
ably in their post. The shooter was longing for a 
cigarette, which regulations forbade lest the enemy- 
two hundred yards away should see the smoke 
issuing from the concealed loophole ; but the observer, 
Private William Entworth, was studying the parapet 
opposite. 

Suddenly he spoke : 

" Line of water-tower. Red sandbag. Left. 
Two feet." 

Saunders' eyes picked up the water-tower in the 
distance, ranged to the parapet, found the red sand- 
bag, then swung to the left of it. Yes, something 
moving. He cuddled the stock of his rifle, and 
brought the pointer in the telescope to bear. Then 
slowly he began to squeeze the trigger. 

" Don't shoot." 

176 



THE CAT 

Entworth was only just in time. 

" Why not, ole son ?" 

" It's only a cat." 

" A 'Un cat ! 'Ere goes." 

" Come off it. If you get shootin' cats outer this 

post Mr. NowelPll Besides, it's rather a nice- 

lookin' cat. Tortoiseshell colour. We 'ad one in 
Ferrers Street 'e reminds me of. ... There, 'e's 
climbin' up on the bloomin' parados, curlin' round and 
goin' to sleep just as if there wasn't no war. Shall I 
enter 'im ? " 

" Wot's the good ? " 

" Dunno. Shows we was awake. 'Time 11.25 Ac. 
Emma. Cat (tortoiseshell) at K 22.^35.45. Action 
taken : None.' " 

So wrote Private Entworth with laborious pencil. 
As he finished a voice sounded outside. 

" Who's in there ? " 

" Private Entworth. Private Saunders." 

" Shut the loopholes. I am coming in." 

" Well, seen anything ? " questioned Mr. Nowell, 
the Sniping and Intelligence Officer of the Battalion. 

4 They've been working on the post at K.22. 
0.85.60." 

" Seen any Huns ? " 

" Only a cat, sir. I've entered it in the log-book. 
It's sunning itself on the parados now, sir. Line of 
water-tower. Red*?sandbag." 

177 12 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

" Yes, I have it," said Nowell, who had taken the 
telescope. 

" Shall I shoot 'im, sir ? " 

" Why should you ? " 

" 'E probably kills rats and makes life brighter- 
like for the 'Un, sir, by so doing. There's a glut o' 
rats on this sector, sir." 

" The cat looks very comfortable. No, don't 
shoot, Saunders. Entworth, give me that log-book." 

The officer turned over the pages. 

" I wonder if anyone has ever seen that cat before ? 
Hullo, yes. Private Scroggins and Lance-Corporal 
Tew two days ago in the afternoon. Here's the 
entry : ' 3.4 pip emma K. 22. .35. 40. Cat on 
parados.' ' 

Howell's eyes showed a gleam of interest. 

" Note down whenever you see that cat," said he. 

" Yes, sir." 

" And keep a bright look-out." 

" Yes, sir." 

Once more the loopholes were shut, and Nowell, 
lifting the curtain at the back of the Post which 
prevented the light shining through, went out. 

His steps died away along the trench-boards. 

" Think we'll see it in ' Comic Cuts ' " (the universal 
B.E.F. name for the Corps Intelligence Summary). 
"'At K.22.C.3545, a tortoiseshell-coloured he- 
cat.' I don't think ! " said Saunders. 

178 



THE CAT 

" Shouldn't wonder. The cove wot writes out 
' Comic Cuts ' must 'a bin wounded in the 'ed early 
on. Sort o' balmy 'e is." 



ii 

Meantime we must follow Mr. Nowell down 
the trench. He was full of his thoughts and 
almost collided round a corner with a red-hatted 
Captain. 

" Sorry, sir," said he, saluting. 

" Righto ! my mistake. Can you tell me where 
I shall find the I.S.O. of this battalion ? " asked the 
Staff Officer. 

" My name's Nowell, sir. I am the Sniping and 
Intelligence Officer." 

" Good. I'm Cumberland of Corps Intelligence." 

Nowell looked up with new interest. He had 
heard of Cumberland as a man of push and go, who had 
made things hum since he had come to the Corps a 
few weeks back. 

" Anything you want ? " continued Cumberland. 
" You've been sending through some useful stuff. I 
thought I'd come down and have a talk." 

Nowell led the way to his dug-out. He had suffered 
long from a very official Corps Intelligence G.S.O., 
whom Cumberland had just replaced. Under the 
old regime it never really seemed to matter to the 

179 12* 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

Higher Intelligence what anyone in the battalion 
did, but now Cumberland seemed to take an interest 
at once. After a quarter of an hour's talk Cumber- 
land was taking his leave. 

" Well," said he, " anything you want from Corps, 
don't hesitate to ask. That's what we're there for, 
you know. Sure there isn't anything ? " 

" As a matter of fact there is, but I hardly like to 
ask you." 

" Why not ? " 

" It's such a long shot, sir." 

" Well, what is it ? " 

" I'd like aeroplane photos taken of K.22 squares 
C. and D. opposite here. New photographs, sir." 

Cumberland was about to ask a question, but looking 
up he caught the slight flush of colour that had risen 
in Nowell's face. 

" Righto," he said easily. " We rather pride our- 
selves on quick work with aeroplane photos up at 
Corps. I'll have the squares taken to-morrow morn- 
ing if visibility is pukka. And the finished photos will 
be in your hands by five o'clock. Good afternoon." 

Cumberland strode along the trench, and Nowell 
stood staring after him. 

" Never asked me what I wanted 'em for," he 
muttered. " Taken in the morning ; in my hands by 
afternoon. Why, in old Baxter's time such efficiency 
would have killed him of heart-disease. Well, let's 

180 



THE CAT 

hope that cat's playing the game, and not leading a 
poor forlorn British Battalion Intelligence Officer to 
make a fool of himself," 



ni 

The next afternoon the aeroplane photos duly 
arrived, together with a note from Cumberland : 

" DEAR NOWELL, 

" Am sending the photographs of K.22.C. 
and D. taken to-day, also some I have looked out of 
the same squares which were taken six weeks ago. It 
would appear from a comparison that a good deal of 
work has been put in by the Hun round C. 3.5. It 
looks like a biggish H.Q. I have informed C.R.A. 
who says it will be dealt with at 3 pip emma to-morrow, 
1 8th inst. 

" C. CUMBERLAND, 

" Capt. G.S." 



IV 

It is five minutes to three on the following day, and 
the bright sun which has shone all the morning has 
worked round behind the British position. 

In the morning two gunner F.O.O.'s have visited 
the trenches, compared certain notes with Mr. Nowell, 
and gone back to their Observation Posts on the higher 

181 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

ground. Nowell himself has decided to watch events 
from the O.P. in which was laid the first scene of this 
history. He hurries along to it, and calls out : 

" Who's in there ? " 

" Private Saunders. Private Entworth, sir." 

" Shut the loopholes. I'm coming in." 

He goes in. 

" Move along, Entworth, and I'll sit beside you on 
the bench and observe with my own glass. Get yours 
on to the spot where the cat was. Got it ? Right. 
Two batteries of 6-inch Hows, are going to try and 
kill that cat, Entworth, in a minute and a half from 
now. Zero at three o'clock. Nice light, isn't it ? " 

At these words of Nowell's several thoughts, mostly 
connected with his officer's sanity, flashed through 
Entworth's rather slow brain, but long before they were 
formulated Nowell rapped out : 

" Here they come." 

Sounds just like half a dozen gigantic strips of silk 
being torn right across the sky were clearly audible 
in the Post. At the same instant through the watching 
glasses heaps of earth, tin, a stove-pipe, were hurled 
into the air. There were other grimmer objects, too, 
as the shells rained down. 

Fifteen minutes later, Mr. Nowell having gone, 
Private Entworth was speaking, though his eye was 
still glued to his glass. 

" Direct 'it right off and right into a nest of 'Uns. 

182 



THE CAT 

There was 'ole 'Uns and bits of 'Uns in the air, I tell 
yer, Jim Saunders. Loverly shooting, 'twas ! I 
doubt there's anything at 0.35.45. left alive. There is, 
tho' ! By there is ! There goes that ruddy- 
coloured cat over the parados like a streak, and what *o ! 
for Martinpunch ! " 



And finally an extract from " Comic Cuts," the 
Corps Intelligence Summary of the next day : 

" A cat having been observed by our snipers daily 
sleeping on the parados of a supposedly disused enemy 
trench at K. 22. 0.3.4. ^ was deduced from the regu- 
larity of its habits that the cat lived near-by, and 
owing to the fact that the German trenches at this 
point are infested by rats probably in a dug-out 
occupied by enemy officers. Aeroplane photographs 
were taken which disclosed the existence of a hitherto 
unlocated enemy H.Q., which was duly dealt with by 
our Artillery." 



CHAPTER X 

THE TRAINING OF THE PORTUGUESE 

AX THEN first we saw the Portuguese troops upon 
the roads of France, we did not dream 
that it would fall to our lot to train them in sniping, 
scouting and observation, but it did so fall, and after 
one or two Portuguese officers had been attached 
to the school for instruction, we were suddenly 
ordered to take an entire Portuguese class. This 
was the first of three or four, and we usually had 
eight officers and forty N.C.O.'s and men at a 
time. 

The Portuguese were equipped largely, as is known, 
by the British, and had served out to them our short 
service rifle. In the Portuguese Army they use the 
Mauser, so our rifle was new to all ranks, and had to be 
carefully explained. 

Of course, the great difficulty in training Portuguese 
troops lay in the necessity for the use of interpreters. 
One of my N.C.O.'s was able to talk Portuguese, 
which was of great assistance, and from time to time 

184 



TRAINING THE PORTUGUESE 

an English-speaking Portuguese officer was attached ; 
but for the most part none of the officers and men who 
came to the school could speak a word of English, and 
tjie result, as I say, was that we had to carry on through 
interpreters. 

In one of the first classes there was a Portuguese 
sergeant who was extremely capable, and very keen on 
his work. As a mark of appreciation I gave this ser- 
geant, when he went away, a very nice telescope. About 
three weeks later the sergeant, who had spent the inter- 
vening time in the trenches, turned up at the school 
and said that he wished to speak to the Commandant. 
He said that he had come to thank me again for the 
telescope, as it had enabled him to spot a concentra- 
tion of some fifty Germans, on to whom he had 
successfully directed artillery fire. He had taken the 
trouble to walk out quite a number of miles at 
least ten or twelve to inform me of his success. 
Poor fellow, he was afterwards badly gassed, and 
when I last saw him was in a very bad way. He 
was a most useful man as an observer, as he 
had been the master of some small coasting 
craft which used to sail up and down the coast 
between Lisbon and Setubal, and had knowledge of 
instruments. 

Considering that the Portuguese troops did not know 
anything about our rifle, they really came along very 
quickly in shooting. One of the classes was at the 

185 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

school when we were informed that the Portuguese 
Corps Commander and Staff and various British 
G.S.O.'s would come over to see a " demonstration " 
two days before the course ended. The demonstra- 
tion included shooting at dummy heads exposed for 
four seconds five rounds ; application on a 6-inch 
bulls-eye at two hundred yards ; an attack upon a 
position, and a demonstration of the work of scouts. 
As soon as the Portuguese troops realized that they 
were to be inspected at the end of the course, there 
was a tremendous competition among them to get 
into the shooting team, and when the day arrived 
the eight who were picked obtained 34 hits out of 
40 shots on the dummy head. At the 200 yards 
application the team scored 208 out of a possible 
224. This shows how quickly shooting can be 
taught when both men and instructors are all out for 
success. 

The greatest difficulty we had was training Portu- 
guese as observers ; for none of them had used a 
telescope before, and it was very difficult to make 
them realize its possibilities. Of course, I am here 
talking of the private soldiers. The officers in their 
observation often made excellent reports, and de- 
veloped the greatest keenness on the work. There 
was one thing which occurred, owing to my attempting 
to speak Portuguese myself, which always struck me 
as not without its humorous side. 

186 



TRAINING THE PORTUGUESE 

I had been attempting to point out to a squad of 
Portuguese scouts the elementary fact that when you 
were looking through a bush, or through roots or grass, 
it was sometimes well worth while to put a leaf or two 
into your cap. I sent them off to do this, keeping 
with me a few of their number to observe the value of 
the experiment. The rest went over the brow of the 
hill, and were away for some period of time, so 
long that I was just going to see what was hap- 
pening when suddenly a bush, followed by several 
other trees, began to move slowly over the hill ! 
I found that the squad, not quite understanding 
my instructions, had cut down small trees with 
their large knives, had bound them upon their 
backs, and in the shadow of these were advancing 
upon me ! 

A part of their training upon which the Portuguese 
were extraordinarily keen was patrolling in No Man's 
Land. Usually at the school we used to begin this 
as soon as it was dark, often in summer, therefore, as 
late as eleven o'clock at night. After two or three 
hours' patrolling the Portuguese always still wanted to 
continue, and once they got out into our large imita- 
tion No Man's Land it was not easy to get them back 
again. 

At one time, when we had a class of Portuguese, 
to whom we had been teaching patrolling, an officer 
and sergeant, who were making a round of Sniping 

187 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

and Infantry Schools, to give demonstrations on 
patrolling, turned up at the school. The Portuguese 
held the trench while the demonstrators set out to 
show them the way in which a reconnaisance patrol 
should be conducted. I was lying beside the Portu- 
guese trench, and at once realized that something 
was afoot. Presently one of the Portuguese officers 
came up, and said, " Our men say that they hear 
them and can capture them." I told them to go 
ahead, and do it. 

Well, that patrol developed. A battle was going 
on at the time in the north, and all the plateau was 
lit with the flashes of the guns and the flares of the 
Verey lights, which the Germans kept firing into the 
air. For a long time there was silence. The Portu- 
guese, who had had several days at the school and 
were learning well, had sent out a strong patrol, 
which very skilfully worked round and surrounded 
the hostile reconnaissance. I do not know what 
happened in No Man's Land, but the sergeant 
who was doing the demonstration, and who was a 
ju-jitsu expert, famous in pre-war days in the music 
halls, was captured and carried in by the Portuguese. 
There must have been a considerable scrap, for the 
sergeant was too stiff to come on parade next day ! 
The Portuguese were much pleased at their success, 
and almost immediately afterwards they went back 

to the line, where a German patrol of eleven carne 

188 



TRAINING THE PORTUGUESE 

out against them. The Portuguese tried their sur- 
rounding tactics with such success that they killed 
eight and captured three. 

One day I was asked by the Portuguese Corps 
commander to attend a review of the Portuguese 
Army, which was being held at Marthes, some six 
miles from my Headquarters. When the time for 
the march past came, I saw the forty observers we 
had trained go by under their officers as a separate 
unit, each with a large white " O " sewn upon his 
sleeve. 

The great difficulty was to obtain telescopes for 
these observers, for the demand was, all through the 
war, vastly in excess of the supply. The G.S. 
(General Service) telescope used by signallers in the 
British Army was, I believe, afterwards issued to 
the Portuguese troops, and this was a quite good 
enough glass for the purpose. 

Another part of our training which the Portuguese 
troops took with enthusiasm was the physical train- 
ing and ju-jitsu. 

Sometimes when we had mixed classes, it was 
very difficult indeed, as all lectures had to be re- 
peated in Portuguese, and the ordinary daily morning 
talks on the care and cleaning of the rifle, the stalking 
telescope, or on the work of snipers in attack and 
defence, which usually took from thirty to forty 
minutes, used to tail out, as each sentence was 

189 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

translated, into a matter of an hour and a half and 
even two hours. 

But I think that, on the whole, the Portuguese 
troops really enjoyed their time at the school, and 
I remember our taking the field at Association foot- 
ball with a good sprinkling of them in our team. 



IQO 



CHAPTER XI 

THE MODERN SCOUT 

T N all previous Wars, the scouts and patrols have 
had their own special place. In this, the 
greatest of all wars, although there was much scouting 
done far more than in any previous war yet in 
many respects it was of so different a nature that a 
new era in these practices may fairly be said to have 
set in. 

In former wars, the individual scout had far more 
chance. In the Boer War, for instance, Major 
F. R. Burnham, D.S.O., an American who held a com- 
mission in the British Army, made a wonderful name 
for himself, as did Dan Theron on the Boer side. 

First and last, I suppose that Burnham was the 
greatest scout of our time. Physically a small man, 
he was amazingly well knit, and very strong, and his 
many feats of hardihood owed much to his compact 
and untiring build. His name will live on account 
of two feats the first, his passing through the entire 
Matabele Army and shooting the M'limo, the witch 
doctor, who was responsible for the Matabele War ; 

191 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

and the second, his dash through the Boer lines, when 
he blew up the railway on the far side of Pretoria. 

The first article of Burnham's faith was absolute 
physical fitness, and his idea of physical fitness was 
much more rigorous than that of most athletes. 
It was not with him a matter of merely keeping his 
muscles of speed and endurance in good fettle, but 
what is a much harder thing the keeping of all 
his senses at their highest pitch of efficiency. Thus, 
apart from his hearing and eyesight, which were very 
keen, I have never met anyone else, except one Indian, 
who possessed anything like his sense of smell. He 
could smell a small fire in the open at an extraordinary 
distance, and he told me that this power had often 
been of the greatest value to him. 

But Burnham was essentially, as a scout, the 
product of what may be called a savage, or extra- 
European War, and in this war there was no one on 
either side who had anything like the same oppor- 
tunities of hand-to-hand work. Whereas it would 
perhaps be too much to say that the day of Burnham 
has passed for ever, yet it is true enough that a new 
generation of scouts has arisen, whose work, or much 
of it, has been of a very different nature. In open or 
semi-open warfare a scout may still be ordered to go 
by day or night, and find out if this or that village is 
occupied by the enemy, but once trench warfare sets 
in, and the battle fronts of the opposing armies stretch 

192 



THE MODERN SCOUT 

from the sea to Switzerland, the work of the scout 
undergoes great changes. His theatre of action is 
No Man's Land, which comprises all the area between 
the two armies which are drawn up one against the 
other. 

The Corps Commander of the nth Corps, Sir R. 
Haking, would never allow the use of the word " No 
Man's Land." " There is no such place opposite my 
Corps," he would say. " All the land right up to the 
edge of the enemy's parapet is our land, and we have 
got to have control of it." 

I believe I am right in stating that about seven 
out of every ten raids undertaken on the First Army 
Front in 1916 were the work of the nth Corps, 
and they had long held the record in the number 
of prisoners taken in a single raid. 

The work of the scout was, of course, to dominate 
the enemy in No Man's Land, and to this end he 
was continually patrolling it during the hours of 
darkness. Little, as a rule, is done by daylight, 
though Gaythorne-Hardy, who was Intelligence 
Officer of the 4th Battalion of the Royal Berkshire 
Regiment, and whom I have referred to before, in 
order to investigate the German wire under Hill 63, 
near Messines, decided, after looking at the ground 
with a telescope, to crawl out by day. The German 
lines were some three hundred to four hundred yards 
away. The season was summer, and the grass long. 

193 *3 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

In winter, crawling between the lines was almost 
impossible, owing to lack of cover. 

The officer in question, accompanied by a corporal, 
crawled right up to the enemy wire, and got all 
information and a complete plan of the ground and 
obstacles. It was a task upon which any but a skilled 
hunter of big game, as my friend is, might easily have 
given himself away. To crawl across three hundred 
yards of open ground, with hundreds of German eyes 
watching for any movement, and bent on investigating 
any suspicious spot with a machine-gun, calls for 
courage and good nerve. This officer, however, had 
examined his route, decided to make the attempt, and 
he came back successful. He said it was no more 
difficult than stalking a deer. He was awarded the 
Military Cross, and the corporal is now a sergeant 
with the D.C.M. 

But not much was done in No Man's Land in day- 
light. Snipers lay out in it, and sentries watched 
it, and both sides sent a deal of lead across it, but 
when night fell, it became tenanted, and scouts and 
patrols crawled out into it and sometimes never 
came back. The aim, of course, was always domina- 
tion, and in order to gain domination many strange 
things were done. 

For instance, there was the " Silent Death," as it 
was called, invented by the Canadians, who, under 
cover of darkness, crawled out into No Man's Land 

194 




iwing by-] 



[Ernest MnU 



Night-work in No Man's. Land. 



THE MODERN SCOUT 

every night, and lay there awaiting the advent of a 
German patrol. If such came, it was attacked hand 
to hand with trench daggers, and its members killed 
as silently as possible. This soon made the Germans 
very shy of taking their evening crawl, when so many 
of them who had gone over the top vanished into 
the darkness and were never heard of again. 

At length the Germans almost gave up patrolling 
in that sector, and one of my officers who used to 
be in charge of a " Silent Death " party has often 
told me how dull and chilly were those long and 
weary waits in the frost or the rain, waiting for Huns 
who never came. 

In trench warfare, No Man's Land was the cockpit 
of the war. Some sections of it were more favourable 
than others for action, but every evening and every 
night a great number of British used to go out in 
front. When one first went out, it seemed almost 
certain that one must be killed. There was a spas- 
modic sputter of fire from machine-guns, but as 
an actual matter of fact, moving about in No Man's 
Land was much safer than it seemed. 

At first our patrols were very haphazard, and you 
could sometimes hear a private roaring out that a 
patrol was out, and that it would return at. such 
and such an hour to such and such a point. This 
was giving away things with a vengeance to any 
Germans who spoke English, and it sounds almost 

195 13* 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

impossible that it should have been done yet it was 
done, and not in isolated cases only. 

I do not think that scouts ever got very far into 
the German lines ; at any rate, during the con- 
tinuance of trench warfare. To do so was well- 
nigh impossible, and behind the German battle-front 
the place of the scout was taken by the spy or secret 
service agent. 

But to return to No Man's Land. There was a 
certain sergeant who got a D.C.M. for removing a 
trench board. A raid was projected by us, and, as 
usual, a careful rehearsal had been gone through. 
The scheme was to attack a certain sector of enemy 
trenches about two hundred yards long. This length 
of trench had to be blocked off at each end, so as 
to prevent assistance coming to the enemy down the 
trench from either flank. 

Two parties were therefore told off to capture and 
hold the two points, which were to be the limits of 
our raid. Both parties went over, the northern 
party arriving in strength, but the southern had 
casualties from machine-gun fire, and finally only 
the sergeant and one private arrived in the enemy 
trench. Here the private was killed before the 
enemy fled, and there was only the sergeant to form 
the block and keep off the reinforcements which 
were sure to come. 
.The sergeant, however, was a man of resource, 



THE MODERN SCOUT 

and he swiftly removed the duck-board from the 
trench draining well a large sump hole, or pit, 
which lay between him and the path taken by the 
retreating Germans. The trenches are often drained 
by pits of this kind, dug in the middle of the right- 
of-way, and bridged by a duck-board laid across 
them. In these pits there collected a mass of liquid 
mud as thick as glue. The sergeant removed the 
duck-board, and relaid it eight or ten feet on his 
side of the mud-hole. Then he went round the 
corner of the next traverse, and waited to see what 
would happen. 

Meantime, the main raiding party had got to 
work, and soon enemy reinforcements came rushing 
along the trench towards the sergeant. Seeing the 
duck-board ahead of them, they mistook the position 
of the mud-hole, and in they crashed. Soon the 
hole was as full of men as is a newly-opened tin of 
sardines. Next the sergeant opened fire upon them. 
The whole raid was a glorious success. Prisoners 
were taken, and German dug-outs blown up a 
result that could hardly have occurred had it not 
been that the sergeant had the sense and acumen 
to remove the duck-board ; thus, by a very simple 
action, holding up quite a mass of reinforcements. 

There is another raid story, for which I do not 
vouch, but which was firmly believed in the First 

Army. 

197 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

All enemy movement was watched by aeroplanes, 
and photographed and reported. As the war went 
on, the science of aeroplane photography progressed 
enormously. It is hardly too much to say that the 

.rmans could not deepen a trench without our 
'mowing it almost at once. We never made a raid 
or, at least, need never have made one without all 
who were going over, even down to the private 
soldier, having the opportunity of studying photo- 
graphs of the trenches where their work lay. 

The Germans, of course, did the same, but in a 
1; mited degree, as their aeroplanes did not dare to 

me over our lines in the way that ours crossed 
t, eirs. 

Once, when the Germans were contemplating a 
raid, their Flying Corps succeeded in taking photo- 
graphs of that portion of our trenches which was to 
be attacked. With the help of these photographs, 
the German Command caused to be built an exact 
replica of the trenches which they intended to raid. 
They did this at no great distance behind their lines, 
with a view to rehearsing the raid just as a play is 
rehearsed in a theatre. We, of course, often did the 
same. 

But to continue. One of our aeroplanes hap- 
pened to pass over just as the Germans were having 
a daylight rehearsal, and, noticing the concentration 
of troops and the new workings of earth, a photo- 



THE MODERN SCOUT 

graph was taken. This photograph was, of course, 
sent in the ordinary routine to Army Headquarters. 

The Army possessed an extremely capable aeri?l 
photography expert, who soon made his deduc^io^r., 
and as he, of course, possessed the photographs Qi",) o 
entire front line system of the Army, it was not Ic^pg 
before he had identified that piece of it which the 
Germans had copied, and on which they were medi- 
tating an attack. 

There was only one object which could lead them 
to practise attacks upon so short a length of line. 
A raid was clearly in contemplation. The exjjf t 
informed the General Staff of his discovery, anc 
General Staff informed those who were man j;i ng 
the threatened area. Preparations were made and 
precautions taken, and, sure enough, the Germans 
came over, to meet about as hot a reception as 
even modern war can provide. 

As I say, I do not know if this story is apocryphal 
or not, but if it is, others about our aeroplane photo- 
graphy and its amazing efficiency were common talk 
in the Army. 

Psychologically, going out into No Man's Land in 
the dark, especially if you are alone, is a distinctly 
eerie business. I really have no right to write much 
about it, as I was only out in front on a few occasions. 
On one, I remember, I was more frightened than I 

hope ever to be again. Although the story is 

199 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

personal, as it is against myself there can be no 
harm in telling it. 

I had gone out to a cottage which stood in No 
Man's Land. It was pretty dark, and a wild night, 
and there was, of course, a chance that some German 
might be in the cottage, which, though heavily 
shelled, was not entirely smashed. 

After listening for a while and hearing no sound, 
I went in, and on the ground floor there was nothing 
but the usual mass of rubble and brick. A ladder 
led up to the second floor, and I climbed up this 
and began to tip-toe across the floor. One got a 
good deal of light from the star-shells which were 
thrown up by the Germans, but in a particularly dark 
moment I suddenly felt my left leg go from under 
me. I thought that it had been plucked away by 
some crouching Hun, or else that I had been hit by 
some missile in fact, never did thoughts come 
quicker or more confusedly ! What had really hap- 
pened was that I had put my leg through the floor, 
and had got rather a heavy jar. But anything more 
disagreeable than that moment I have never 
experienced. 

Of course, it is only one of the little incidents that 
are the hourly lot of those who go out into No Man's 
Land, but one's nerves are on these occasions strung 
up to a very high pitch. 

But, as I say, my experience of No Man's Land was 

200 



THE MODERN SCOUT 

really so small as to be negligible, for when I was in 
the line I was sniping or observing all day, and you 
cannot do that and work at night also. 

Crawling out into No Man's Land in daylight is a 
very different business, and if there is reasonable cover, 
it is to my mind more satisfactory to crawl out then, 
when your life depends on your own skill, than to crawl 
about in the dark over the bodies of men who have been 
dead for weeks, and when Chance of the blindest kind 
absolutely rules the game. 

Now, of course, when a patrol is sent out the report 
handed in should be in a definite and generally accepted 
form, giving the composition of the patrol. 

I can perhaps explain my meaning best by referring 
the reader to the appendix on Patrols, at the end of 
this book. 

Of course, patrolling in No Man's Land is only 
one small part of a scout's duties, and when the war 
became more open there were many opportunities for 
scouts. 

One point that struck me as being exceedingly 
valuable was the proper delivery of messages by run- 
ners. Major Crum used to demonstrate this by a 
small piece of acting which was extraordinarily well 
done, in which an object lesson was given as to how 
not to deliver a message, and how a message should 
be delivered. In moments of excitement many men 
become somewhat prolix, and it is of the utmost 

201 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

importance that they should be taught to get their 
message into the fewest and clearest possible words. 

A question that arose as the war went on was the 
definition of the duties of a sniper and a scout. It 
was held in some quarters that a sniper and a scout 
were two quite different men, who had in view two 
entirely different objects. The sniper, those who 
held this view said, was a man whose first duty was 
offensive action against the enemy, whereas a scout's 
duty was not to fight, but to obtain information. We 
at the school could never see it in this light, for there 
must be occasions when a scout must fight to get his 
information back, or indeed, to obtain it, and it seemed 
futile that in the morning a man should ask himself, 
" Am I to-day a sniper or a scout ? " 

I would not refer to these opinions had they not been 
rather widely held. 

A modern scout must know a great many things 
so many that it is almost impossible to detail them all, 
and for this reason a scout's work changes with the 
conditions under which he is working. 

But I do not think that for a long time sufficient 
use was made of modern science in the equipment of 
the scout. A scout may, in a single two hours of his 
life, be a sniper, an observer, and the old-fashioned 
scout who has to go out to find out things at close 
range. He has to be essentially an individualist 

capable of seeing and seizing his opportunity. He 

202 



THE MODERN SCOUT 

must be a man of instant decision, who understands the 
value of cover and background, who possesses that 
quality which is very often born in men, a sense of 
direction. 

His training was exceedingly difficult, and unless 
he had a natural aptitude, no amount of teaching 
was of any real practical value. Think what a differ- 
ence it makes to a Commanding Officer to have in 
his battalion a certain number of men, however few, 
whom he can send out to obtain information, and who 
are so accurate and so dependable that he can always 
act upon their reports. There are hundreds of such 
men in the Lovat Scouts, but then, of course, the 
whole trend of their lives is towards observation, 
skilled movement, and accuracy. The man who has 
spent twenty years on the hill, and who has counted 
the points on a thousand stags, who knows the differ- 
ence between every track that he sees in a corrie, and 
who is never far from his telescope, is, when he goes 
to war, simply carrying into another sphere the normal 
activities of his life. 

And yet there should be no difficulty in training a 
number of scouts in every battalion, but the ideal 
scout, or rather the ideal scout section, in a regiment, 
should be looked up to. Their immense value should, 
be realized, and due credit and honour given to them 
for their skill. "The scouts of a battalion should be 
the pick of that battalion, and the fact that a man has 

203 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

attained the rank of scout should be signalized by his 
receiving extra pay and extra consideration. 

As long as war lasts it will be necessary to find out 
what is in the enemy'' s mind, and this is so important, 
that those who prove themselves capable of discovering 
and of giving warning of what is about to occur, should 
be objects of admiration and respect to all their com- 
rades. 

Of course there is another point which struck one 
most strongly, and this was the examination of prison- 
ers. 

It may well be that a man cannot help being taken, 
whether through wounds or otherwise, but it is 
of the first importance that he should give away 
nothing to the enemy. For this reason, as scouts and 
anyone who has anything to do with any kind of In- 
telligence work are always put through a much more 
rigorous examination if they should be captured, we 
were very strongly against badges for scouts. 

Let us take the ordinary Tommy. If he is captured, 
unless it unfortunately happens that he knows of some 
imminent move that is to be made, there is very little . 
danger of his giving away anything, for the simple 
reason that he knows so little. But a scout is another 
matter. He knows all the posts in our line ; he knows 
something of the system by which the various offshoots 
of Intelligence work are being operated, and as he has 

been trained to observation of detail and deduction, 

204 



THE MODERN SCOUT 

he is a man who, if he can be got to speak, will reveal 
things of great value to the enemy. 

The only two questions that a prisoner need answer 
are his name and regiment, but many and sinister are 
the tricks by which he may be beguiled. 

A British officer who is supposed to have special 
knowledge is, let us imagine, captured by the Ger- 
mans. He is wounded, and is taken up to the Head- 
quarters of a German Division. He is examined, and, 
of course, gives away nothing. Now what happens ? 
Very possibly a German officer comes to him and says : 
" Herr Captain, we deeply regret that there is no room 
for you in the officers' quarters in the Hospital. We 
trust that you will not object if you are put in a room 
with a British N.C.O." The officer, of course, says 
he does not object, and he goes into the room. There 
he will find a British N.C.O. heavily bandaged and lying 
groaning upon his bed. It is inevitable, if they are 
two or three days together, that conversation will 
take place between them. The so-called British 
N.C.O. is, however, simply a decoy. He is not 
wounded at all, and his business is, by clever questions, 
to extract certain information which the British officer 
is supposed to possess. 

Again, when men were taken prisoners, very often 
into the guard-room in which they were confined 
would be thrown another Britisher, bleeding and 
wounded, who would raise a tremendous outcry and 

205 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

declaim upon his wrongs. The newcomer, as a matter 
of fact, often was only a clever actor coached to his 
part, who was simply put into the guard-house to 
ferret out information. 

These are not isolated incidents, but a commonly 
accepted policy in the German Army. After all, it is 
natural enough, for a little bit of information may win 
a battle, and it was certainly held among our foes that 
the end justified the means. 

But as the war went on, and these things came to 
knowledge, it needed some very clever work on the part 
of the Germans to obtain information from those who 
had been warned. Of course, as long as the world 
continues there are, one supposes, men who will under- 
take work of this kind, whether for money or urged on 
by some other motive. The motive may be good 
even. The decoy may be actuated by a really high 
form of patriotism. But not often. For the most 
part he is one of those men who have a touch of the 
traitor in them, and who are in some way perverted 
in their minds. 

Of course to be a decoy back at Divisional Head- 
quarters is a safe and probably a paying job, but it is 
one which must always leave a very nasty taste in the 
mouth. 

So much for German methods of interrogation. 

When we took German prisoners, they were very 

often in a state of pitiable fright, for they had been 

206 



THE MODERN SCOUT 

absolutely fed by their officers with stories of the most 
circumstantial nature of the habitual brutality of 
the British to their prisoners ; and yet it was a fine sight 
to see a German prisoner, obviously afraid to his very 
bones, and yet absolutely determined to give away 
nothing. One really laboured under an almost in- 
controllable impulse to go and shake such a man by 
the hand. After all, courage of the lonely sort is 
surely the most glorious thing that we can hope to 
witness, and whether it is displayed upon our side or 
upon the other, one feels the better for having wit- 
nessed it. 



207 



APPENDICES 



APPENDIX A 

THE following is a programme which has given 
excellent results when training Brigade, Divisional, 
Corps Observers and Lovat Scouts Observers. 

1st Day. Lecture. Maps and Conventional Signs. 
Practical. Comparison of Map with the 

Ground. 
Setting Maps. 
Location of points by drawing 

rays. 
2nd Day Lecture. The Stalking Telescope. 

Practical. Front Line Observation with 

Reports. 
Instruction and Practice in 

reading. 

Map co-ordinates. 
Judging Distance. 
3rd Day. Lecture. Contours, gradients, slopes, 

etc. 
Practical. Pegging out contours on the 

ground. 
Long Distance Observation 

with Reports. 
Judging Distance. 



211 



14' 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

4th Day. Lecture. The Prismatic Compass. 
Practical. Taking Bearings. 

Working out mutual visibility 

problems. 

Concave and convex slopes, 
drawing slopes. 

5th Day. Lecture. The use of the protractor. 
Practical. Plotting Bearings. 

Re-section problems. 
Long distance Observation 
with Reports. 

6th Day. Lecture. Scales. 

Practical. Road Traverse. 

Filling in conventional signs 

and contours. 

Long Distance Observation 
with Reports. 

7th Day. Lecture. Use of Scouts and Observers 

in Attack and Defence. 
Practical. Marching to Map co-ord- 
inates. 

Selection of positions for Ob- 
servation Posts. 
Front Line Observation with 
Reports. 
212 



APPENDIX A 



8th Day. Scheme. 



gth Day. 



loth Day. 



Lecture. 
Practical. 



Lecture. 
Practical. 



nth Day. Practical 



1 2th Day. Practical. 

1 3th Day. Practical. 
1 4th Day. 



Bringing in the use of Ob- 
servers in Open Warfare. 

Construction and conceal- 
ment of Observation Posts. 

Taking Bearings with 
Compass. 

Front Line Observation. 

Locating of points by drawing 
rays. 

Compass March (by Day). 

Aeroplane Photographs. 

Comparison of photos with 
the ground. 

Re-section problems. 

Handing over and relief of 
Observation Posts. 

Using Telescope as Director. 

Long Distance Observation 
with Reports. 

Use of Director Board. 

Making and plotting a Road 
Traverse. 

Making a Road Report. 

Compass March (by Night). 

Enlarging Map and con- 
structing scales. 

Work with Director Board. 

Recapitulation and Examina- 
tions. 
213 



APPENDIX B 

GENERAL COURSE AT FIRST ARMY S.O.S. SCHOOL 

(From this the Battalion I. O. can frame Pro- 
grammes of work to suit any period of Rest.) 

The following lectures are given during the Course, 
and are attended by all students except in the case of 
No. II, which is attended by the officers only. 

1. Care of Arms and Grouping. 

2. The Enfield 1914 pattern Rifle. 

3. The Stalking Telescope. 

4. General lecture on Map-reading. 

5. Patrolling and Scouting. 

6. Elevations and Wind. 

7. The construction of Sniping and Forward 

O.P.'s. 

8. General lecture on Telescopic-Sighted Rifles. 

9. Duties of Scouts, Observers and Snipers in 

Attack and Defence. 

10. Front Line Observation and Reports. 

11. Duties of the Bn. Intelligence Officer. 

12. Aeroplane photos, with Lantern Slides. 

214 



APPENDIX B 

13. General Musketry Lecture. 

14. Bayonet Training (by Supt. P. and B. T. 

First Army). 

(Note : Nos. 13 and 14 are given on two evenings 
during the last week of the Course.) 

In addition to the above and to the Programme, 
the officers go thoroughly into such subjects as : 

1. Map-reading and Field Sketching. 

2. Use of Prismatic Compass. 

3. Enlarging Maps and interpolation of Contours. 

4. Panorama Sketching. 

5. Adjustments and care of Telescopic sights. 

6. Methods and principles of Instruction. 

7. Organization and Training. 

8. Practical study of Ground. 

Practical work is also given to all students in the 
following subjects at night : 

1. Patrolling. 

2. Marching on Compass Bearings. 

3. Concentration Marches with and without 

Box Respirators. 

4. Siting and construction of Posts. 

5. Night Firing, and the use of Field Glasses and 

Stalking Telescopes on suitable nights. 
215 



SNIPING JN FRANCE 

It will be seen that the two Sundays have been 
omitted ; on these days the Range is open to all ranks 
for voluntary shooting under a qualified Instructor. 

Instruction in the use of Armour Piercing S.A.A., 
Disguising, Methods of Instruction, Practice in 
Map -reading, Taking Bearings, etc., etc., goes on con- 
tinually while students await their turn to fire. 
1st Morning. General talk on the objects of the 
Course and discipline during. 
Thorough examination of open- 
sighted rifles for defects. Demon- 
stration of Grouping and Hold- 
ing. Grouping at 100 yards, 
followed by analysis of faults 
and correction of rifles where 
necessary. 

Afternoon. Lecture : Care of Arms and Group- 
ing. (Practical) Observation on 
a German Trench with reports. 
Criticism of Reports. 

2nd Morning. Lecture : The Stalking Telescope. 
(Practical) Repetition of failures 
in Grouping practice. Applica- 
tion at 200-300 yards. Observa- 
tion of single shot strike. 
Afternoon. Practical Observation. 

(a) On German Trench. 

(b) Open Country. 
216 



APPENDIX B 

3rd Morning. Lecture : The Enfield 1914 pattern 
Rifle. (Practical) Judging Dis- 
tance up to 600 yards. Snap- 
shooting at 1 00-200 yards, 4 
seconds' exposure. Application at 
200 yards. Hawkins position. 

Afternoon. Practical Map-reading on the ground 
and long distance observations 
with Reports. 

4th Morning. Lecture : General lecture on Map- 
reading. (Practical) Application 
at 400-500 yards. Application 
at unknown range (within 400 
yards). 

Afternoon. Demonstration : Use of Ground 
and Cover. (Practical) Practice 
in selecting, attaining and con- 
structing hasty observation posts 
for open warfare. Cover from 
view rather than Cover from 
fire to be specialized in. 

5th Morning. Lecture : Patrolling and Scouting. 
(Practical) Application at 300 
yards. Snapshooting at 100 and 
200 yards. 3 seconds' exposure. 
217 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

Afternoon. Demonstration of Camouflage and 
its uses. (Practical) Scheme : 
Snipers are given an area of 
ground in which they must es- 
tablish posts utilizing the material 
found on the spot for disguise. 
Observers select posts from which 
they can command the above 
area. The snipers will fire blank 
from the posts they have selected 
at any observers who expose 
themselves ; also endeavour to 
give the map-reference of their 
targets. The observers endea- 
vour to locate and give map- 
references of the snipers' posts. 

6th Morning. Lecture : Elevations and Wind. 
Demonstration : Building in 
battens for and spotting enemy 
snipers ; actual practice in above 
each student to locate at least 
two snipers. (Practical) Snap- 
shooting combined with move- 
ment ; students endeavour to ad- 
vance unseen from 500 to 100 
yards. Targets representing 
enemy heads appear at odd places 

and intervals in the butts. 
218 



Afternoon, 



8th Morning. 



Afternoon. 
9th Morning. 

Afternoon, 
loth Morning. 



APPENDIX B 

Demonstration : Building in and 
use of Night Firing Boxes. Actual 
practice in above. Observation 
on a German trench, the appear- 
ance of which is altered by 
moving sand-bags, loopholes, etc., 
with reports. 

Lecture : The construction of For- 
ward and Sniping O.P.'s. (Prac- 
tical) Patrolling with the use 
of Night Firing Goggles. Prac- 
tice in the correct use of cover 
and in keeping touch. Applica- 
tion practice at unknown range. 

Practice in marching by day on 
Compass bearings with and with- 
out Box-respirators. 

Lecture : General lecture on tele- 
scopic sighted rifles. (Practical) 
Zeroing of telescopic sighted 
rifles. 

Complete the zeroing of rifles. 
Long distance observation. 

Lecture : Duties of scouts, obser- 
vers and snipers in attack and 
defence. (Practical) Grouping 
at 100 yards with Telescopic 
sighted rifles. Practice in scout- 
ing in Open Country, with re- 
ports. 
219 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 



Afternoon, 



nth Morning. 



Afternoon, 



1 2th Morning. 



Afternoon, 



Scheme : Making " Good " woods 
and enclosed country with scouts 
and snipers. 

Lecture : Front line observation 
and reports. (Practical) Ap- 
plication at 200 yards with tele- 
scopic sighted rifles. Snap- 
shooting at 100-200 yards, 3 
seconds' exposure. 

Concentration march. Students 
are put into four parties, each 
representing a platoon. They are 
given a map co-ordinate at which 
they must concentrate at a given 
time. Signals representing Gas 
Alarm are given, when all students 
put on their box-respirators and 
continue the march. 

Lecture : Duties of the Bn. In- 
telligence Officer. (Practical) 
Application at 300-400 yards. 
Observation on a German trench. 

Scheme : To demonstrate the use 
of Scouts and Snipers as a pro- 
tective advanced screen to In- 
fantry in open or semi-open war- 
fare. 
220 



1 3th Morning. 



APPENDIX B 

Lecture : Aeroplane Photos, with 
Lantern Slides. Practical study 
of aeroplane photographs on the 
actual ground depicted in the 
photo. 

Examinations in Long distance and 
Front line observations. 

Oral examinations. Mutual In- 
struction. Written examination. 
Examination of note-books. Com- 
petition shoots. 

Note : The above programme is only given as 
a guide ; changes in sequence must often occur 
through inclemency of the weather. 



Afternoon, 
and l6th. 



221 



APPENDIX C 

THE following are the rough notes used for some 
of the Lectures given at the FIRST ARMY SCHOOL of 
S.O.S. in France. 



PART I 

CARE OF ARMS, GROUPING AND RANGE PRACTICES : 

It is essential that the Sniper shall have a 
really clean rifle if he is to obtain the extreme 
accuracy that is required of him. By a clean 
rifle I mean a rifle in the cleaning of which not 
only have all the normal precautions been taken, 
but, in addition, the bore has received a very 
high polish. This high polish is of great import- 
ance to accurate shooting, and to be efficient 
as a Sniper you must be far more accurate than 
the average Service Shot. Hence the necessity 
for going rather deeply into Care of Arms. 
222 



APPENDIX C 

AVOIDABLE CAUSES OF INACCURACY : 

OILY BARREL I 

Is a great cause of inaccuracy, as the resistance 
offered to the bullet in its passage down the bore 
is varied, and thus the shooting of the rifle 
becomes inconsistent. 

OILY BREECH I 

This prevents correct " seizing " in the breech, 
and tends to lead to a blow-back. If a blow- 
back occurs there is a loss of driving power, 
muzzle velocity is decreased and accuracy is 
lost. 

CORDWEAR : 

Is caused by misuse of the pull-through, and 
usually occurs at the muzzle, but in cases of 
extreme negligence it may be found in the cham- 
ber. When it occurs at the muzzle, gases escape 
through the cord groove as the bullet is leaving, 
thus forcing it in the opposite direction. If 
in the chamber, it is a source of weakness, and a 
burst chamber may be the result. 

FIXING THE BAYONET I 

Musketry Regulations inform us that with the 
"S.M.L.E." the effect of fixing the bayonet 
is to throw your shot 18 inches high at 200 yards' 

range. This is because the extra weight slows 
223 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

down the vibration, and thus converts a negative 
into a positive jump. Hence, as a Sniper, you 
will fire without your bayonet fixed. 

(Note : From tests carried out at this First 
Army School of S.O.S. it would appear that 
Musketry regulations greatly over-estimate the 
effect caused by fixing the bayonet.) 

HOLD : 

Unless the Sniper reproduces the same hold 
for each shot and when he rests his rifle rests it 
always at the same point (for preference the 
middle band), his shooting can never be con- 
sistent. 

AMMUNITION : 

Different makes of S.A.A. give slightly dif- 
ferent elevations on the target. This is because 
the Powders burn at different rates, thus slightly 
altering the jump. 

WARPED WOODWORK I 

The fore-end is fitted so as not to influence 
the barrel when firing. The barrel must be able 
to lie perfectly straight as each shot leaves it. 
If the fore-end is warped (and warped fore-ends 
are common) the barrel will be unable to lie as 
was intended, and erratic shooting will result. 
224 



APPENDIX C 

CAUSES : 

I. Wet entering between the barrel and the 

fore-end. 
2: Unequal dryness such as caused by rifle 

lying in hot sun or in front of fire. 

3. Dry woodwork. 

4. Twisting of wood through insufficient 

seasoning before use. 

PREVENTION OF I 

Oil all woodwork daily, ensuring that the oil 
penetrates between the hand-guard, fore- 
end and barrel. 

CURE OF : 

Armourer refits fore-end. 

SOME UNAVOIDABLE CAUSES : 
NICKELLING OR METALLIC FOULING : 

Is really an obstruction in the bore caused by 
a portion of the envelope of the bullet becoming 
brazed on the surface of the bore. It is a cause 
of great inaccuracy, and its presence should always 
be looked for. When found, it must be removed. 
This should be done by an Armourer. 

EROSION : 

Is the gradual increase in the size of the bore, 

and is caused through the heat generated by the 
225 15 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

gases slightly fusing the metal. The gases 
rushing over the metal carry away minute par- 
ticles of the steel. This is the factor which 
decides " The Life of the Barrel " for purposes 
of real accuracy. 

DRIFT : 

Is the continual deviation of the bullet in the 
direction of the rifling. About one minute, 
i.e., one inch per 100 yards, must be allowed for 
this at the longer ranges in sniping. 

OTHER DEFINITIONS : 
SUPERFICIAL FOULING I 

The fouling that appears in the bore im- 
mediately after firing. It is then quite soft 
and easily removed, but if allowed to remain, 
it becomes hard, difficult to remove and, by 
attracting moisture from the air, begins the 
rusting process. 

INTERNAL FOULING : 

Fouling that actually gets below the surface 
of the metal when firing ; this gradually sweats 
its way to the surface and should be removed 
as it appears. 

(Note : If cleaned with really boiling water, 

the pores are reopened, internal fouling is re- 
226 



APPENDIX C 

moved, and thus the cause of sweating is done 
away with. The Barrel must, however, be 
dried immediately, or the cure will be worse 
than the complaint.) 

CORROSION : 

Is the black pock-mark or indentation left in 
the bore after removing rust. 

CLEANING RODS I 

Finally it is suggested that a cleaning-rod 
properly used is better than a pull-through : 
each Battalion is authorized to hold 32 of these 
Rods on Charge. (See G.R.O.'s 512, 540 and 
2,094.) 

GROUPING AND RANGE PRACTICES : 
It must be understood that Grouping with the 
Open Sights is a definite test of (a) the rifle, 
and (b) the man. 

Grouping is a practical system of locating 
faults, and it is of the utmost importance that 
such faults, having once been located, should at 
once be corrected. It should also be clearly 
understood that a man's average group at a given 
range, i.e., 100 yards, will (except for the error 
of the day) be the measure of his capacity at all 
ranges. For instance, if his average at 100 

yards be a 3-inch group, his best standard will be a 
227 15* 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

6-inch group at 200 yards, 9-inch group at 300 
yards, 1 2-inch group at 400 yards, and so on. 

Unless this fact is clearly understood, we shall 
have our men making shot corrections when actu- 
ally shooting up to standard, and if this is done, 
consistent shooting can never be obtained. 

LESSONS TO BE LEARNT FROM A GROUP : 

1. If a man makes a vertical group it is fairly 
safe to assume that he is making one of the follow- 
ing errors : 

(a) Varying amount of fore- sight taken. 

(b) Varying point of Aim. 

(c) Not restraining his breathing when 

trigger-pressing. 

2. If he makes a lateral group his error will be 
usually found among the following : 

(a) Incorrect centreing of fore-sight. 

(b) Varying point of Aim. 

(c) Bad let-off. 

3. If he gets a good group, but wide of the 
aiming mark, it will be safe to assume that his 
rifle is throwing wide and should be corrected at 
once by alteration of fore-sight. For this reason 
the Armourer or other qualified person should 

be present when grouping is being carried out. 
228 



APPENDIX C 

4. If a man's shots are widely scattered, it 
will be necessary to carry out the Analysis of 
faults, i.e. : 

R. Test Rifle. 

A. Test Aim. 

T. Test Trigger-pressing. 

S. Test Sight. 

You should by this time have discovered the 
fault, but remember it is of no use having found 
it unless you can cure it before proceeding 
further. 

5. If the rifle be correct the point of Mean 
Impact should be 5 inches above the point of Aim. 
If incorrect the fore-sight should be altered. 
The following can be got on indent for this 
purpose. 

Cramp R.S.L.M.E. 

Supply of fore-sights in nine different heights. 

RANGE PRACTICES I 

Nothing definite can be laid down on account 
of the lack of uniform targets, ranges, etc., but the 
following hints may be of value : 

I. If a liaison be cultivated between Battalion 
Sniping officers in the Brigade, it will be easy to 
improvise a Range and Target for the use of the 

Battalion in rest. 

229 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

2. When in divisional rest it is usually possible 
to find a Range ready for use in the Training 
Area. 

3. Excellent work and all Zeroing can be done 
on even a 3<D-yard range by the really keen officer. 

4. Training in shooting should be carried 
out with an Open and not a Telescopic sighted 
rifle, which should be kept for : 

(a) Snapping Practice. 

(b) Shooting in order to Zero. 

(c) Killing the enemy. 

It is important that the barrels of these rifles 
should not be worn out in practice shooting. 

5. All training should be made progressive 
and where possible competitive. 

6. The first essential is extreme accuracy, after 
which the Instructor must coach up for rapid 
snapshooting, the ultimate standard being looked 
upon as the ability to get off a really good shot 
under two seconds. 

7. Always start with a Grouping Practice 
and eliminate faults as they are discovered. 

8. Re zero Telescopic sighted rifles : to ascer- 
tain that they have maintained their correctness 
each time you are out of the trenches, and arm 
only your best shots with these rifles. 

9. Improvise cover on the Range and make 

230 



APPENDIX C 

all Snipers' fire practices under as near as possible 
Service Conditions. 

10. Although normally he will not fire Rapid, 
keep your sniper efficient in this valuable art. 

11. You may at any time become a casualty, 
therefore train your N.C.O.'s to carry on in your 
absence. 



PART II 



PATROLLING AND SCOUTING 

PATROLS AND PATROLLING : 

The importance of patrolling cannot be exag- 
gerated. It is a means of keeping in touch with 
the enemy and of obtaining much valuable 
information. 

In open warfare we must patrol day and night. 
In trench warfare, observation to a great extent 
does away with patrolling by day. We should 
always look upon the ground between the hostile 
armies as being ours, and should make it so by 
patrols. This gives our men a greater sense of 
security, and also has the effect of destroying 
the enemy moral. 

Patrolling is looked upon by some as being 
particularly dangerous work. This is not so 
if patrols are carefully carried out by trained 

men. 

232 



APPENDIX C 

Training beforehand is essential ; to send out 
untrained men in a haphazard manner is worse 
than useless. 

No patrol should go out except for a distinct 
and definite object. 

TYPES OF PATROLS IN TRENCH WARFARE 
RECONNAISSANCE PATROLS 

Are the work of scouts who go out on some 
specific mission. Numbers should be as small 
as possible. A party of two or three will pro- 
bably obtain the best results. 

FIGHTING PATROLS 

Should consist of Lewis gun and gunners, 
bombers and scouts. Strength 1015. Object 
to disperse enemy working parties, to engage 
enemy patrols, to obtain identifications. 

Note : It may often be necessary to com- 
bine these patrols ; the Fighting Patrol 
going out to form a screen in rear, while 
the Reconnaissance Patrol pushes forward 
to complete its task. This has the effect 
of giving the Reconnaissance Patrol con- 
fidence, of assisting them to pass back 
any casualties they may suffer, and, in 
fact, provides them with an Advanced 
233 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

Headquarters from which they carry out 
their reconnaissance. The system is par- 
ticularly useful, and, in fact, necessary, 
where a great distance separates the oppos- 
ing lines. 

PROTECTIVE PATROLS 

Should consist mainly of Bombers, and are 
used in front of our wire, or between Isolated 
Posts. Numbers depend on circumstances. Ob- 
ject : Protection of our line from surprise 
attacks. 

OPEN WARFARE 

It is not necessary here to classify definitely. 
The Reconnoitring Patrol should always be 
prepared to fight. In fact, all Patrols, at all 
times, should be fully organized self-contained 
fighting units. Numbers depend on conditions, 
but Scouts will be largely used. 

TRAINING : 

The general principles of training both for 
Trench and Open Warfare are a thorough training 
in the following : 

1. Map Reading. 

2. Compass Work. 

3. Reports. 

234 



APPENDIX C 

4. Use of Ground and Cover. 

5. Reconnoitring through Periscopes and 

by means of Aeroplane Photographs 
and Maps by day, the ground over 
which patrol must pass at night, 
and selecting the best method of 
approach. 

6. Actual Patrolling by day and night. 

7. Keeping touch. 

FORMATIONS : 

Nothing definite can be laid down, as, of 
necessity, formations will vary with the pre- 
vailing conditions. It is essential, however, that 
all formations shall be so simple as to ensure that 
they can be maintained even on the darkest 
night and when working over very rough 
ground. 

The Lewis gun, when it forms a part of a 
Patrol, must be well protected and in such a 
position as will enable it to be used at a moment's 
notice. 

The Officer or N.C.O. in charge should always 
lead the Patrol, and there should be a Second- 
in-Command, whose position should be in the 
centre and rear of the Patrol ; he will specialize 
in keeping the men in their proper places and 
maintaining touch. 

235 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

EQUIPMENT : 

The rifle often hampers movement, particu- 
larly when crawling, but it is essential that both 
this and fighting order be carried when patrolling 
in open warfare. In trench warfare it should 
usually be sufficient to carry the rifle, a bandolier 
of S.A.A., the web belt with bayonet and 
scabbard attached, a bomb in the pocket and a 
compass. Steel helmets should not be taken, 
the cap-comforter being worn instead. 

If necessary to fix the bayonet, such as when 
rushing an Isolated Post, it should be fixed with 
the scabbard still on ; both bayonet and scabbard 
should be well oiled ; the scabbard can then be 
taken off quietly just prior to the rush. 

INSTRUCTIONS TO BE GIVEN I 

Before going out personnel should be given : 

1. All known information ; 

2. An opportunity to examine by day 

through periscope, by aeroplane 
photographs and maps, the ground 
to be covered at night. 

3. The object of the patrol. 

4. The pass-word. 

Everything that is liable to give information 
236 



APPENDIX C 

or identification, if captured, must be carefully 
collected before the party goes out. 

All men in the Garrison and battalions on right 
and left must know when the patrol is out, and 
also the pass-word. 

The patrol leader, both on leaving and return- 
ing, will himself pass the word along to this effect. 
This is very important. He cannot forecast 
how long he will be away, or the point at which 
he will return, therefore, the trench garrison 
must be prepared to receive him at any time or 
place. 

GENERAL I 

Patrols often give themselves away by leaving 
their own trench in a careless manner. The 
firing of rifles and lights should continue as usual 
when a patrol is out, but in such a manner as 
not to interfere with the patrol. Two patrols 
should never be sent out on the same front at 
the same time, as this only leads to their mistak- 
ing each other for the enemy. Often, the 
most suitable time for patrolling is when the 
weather conditions are very bad. In addition 
to taking precautions against Verey lights, 
men on patrol can often take advantage of 
their brightness to obtain the information 
required. 

237 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

A FORM OF PATROL REPORT : 

PATROL REPORT 



Blankshire Regiment. 
Night of !2-i3th/6/i7. 
Ref. Map Sheet 54 S.E.I. 



Composi- 
tion. 


Time and 
Point of 
Exit. 


Object. 


Information gained 
and action taken. 


Time and 
Point of 
Return. 


i Offr. 
and i 
o/Rk. 
Lt. Tew 
Pte. Dew. 


ii p.m. 
Trench 
Willow 
Walk. 


To report on 
enemy wire from 
High Command 
Redoubt to No 
Man's Cottage 


Gap in wire at Points 
No. i A5a65-75 
2 A5b2o.35 
3 A5d85-87 
Width in Gaps : 
i about 4 yards. 


2 a.m. 
Trench 
Willow 
Walk. 
A6a 95 .87 








^ 5J ^ ,, 










3 3 
Average depth of 










wire 10-15 yds- 
General condition : 










High, barbed, and 
fairly strong. 





Handed in at 3 a.m. 
Date : 13/6/17. 

(Sgd.)'R. G. A. TEW, Lieut., 

Blankshire Regiment. 

N.B. These headings, etc., are given as a guide. 
They will vary according to the nature of the infor- 
mation required, and the circumstances under which 
the Patrol is working. 



238 



PART III 



THE STALKING TELESCOPE 

Apart from the regular issue of G. S. Tele- 
scopes, there are now in the B.E.F. about 40,000 
or 50,000 more or less high-class telescopes. 
These have been obtained from all kinds of 
sources, from deer-stalkers, yachtsmen, etc., 
and the care and use of these glasses has become 
a matter of great importance. 

CARE AND CLEANING I 

The first thing to remember is that the lenses 
of all telescopes are made of very soft glass, and 
that this glass is polished to a very high degree. 
A few scratches on the outer surface of the object- 
glass will negative the value of the best telescope. 
When the telescope is first taken from its case, 
a light film of dust will usually be found to have 
formed on the object-glass. This should be 
239 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

flicked off with a handkerchief, and if any polish- 
ing is necessary, it should be done with a piece 
of chamois leather or well-washed piece of four- 
by-two ; this cleaning material should be free 
from grit, and should be carried in a pocket or 
in the pay-book, where it will be kept clean. 
Over 50 per cent, of the telescopes in use, in or 
about the front line, have been scratched more 
or less badly, owing to the neglect of this simple 
precaution. 

Special attention should be paid to the clean- 
ing of the objective lens, which is liable to become 
covered with dust owing to its position in the 
telescope and the opening and closing of the 
draws. 

Never on any account touch the glass with the 
finger or thumb. If the glass be allowed to get 
damp, fogging will result. To cause the fogging 
to evaporate, remove object-glass and eye-piece, 
lay the telescope out in the sun or in a warm 
room. Never permit the metal work to get 
hotter than the temperature of your hand, 
otherwise, the Canada Balsam (which is used to 
join the concave and convex lenses in the object- 
glass of all high telescopes, except the G.S.) 
will melt. If the draws get wet, they must be 
thoroughly dried and slightly lubricated. The 
same applies to the sun-shade. When an officer 
240 



APPENDIX C 

is inspecting telescopes, he should inspect the 
cases also. In screwing tubes or cells into place, 
great care must be taken not to damage the 
threads. It is often as well to turn the screw the 
wrong way with a gentle pressure ; the threads 
will then come into correct engagement, and a 
slight click may be heard. 

THE GENERAL SERVICE TELESCOPE 
As has been stated above, Canada Balsam is not 
used between the lenses of the object-glass of 
the G. S. telescope. When a G. S. Telescope 
has been taken to pieces, the only difficulty 
experienced in assembling it again will be 
in the replacing of the lenses forming the 
object-glass. To do this two rules must be 
remembered : 

1. The convex lens is always the nearest 
to the object, and, therefore, must be 
replaced first. 

2. On the side of the lenses forming the 
object-glass an arrow-head will be found cut 
into the glass. 

Before the lenses are put back the arrow- 
head must be completed, and the middle of 
the arrow must be allowed to slide over the 
barb or raised line in the cell. 

241 16 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

RULES FOR USE : 

1. Always extend your sun-shade (more O.P.'s 

have been given away by the light shining 
upon the object-glass of telescopes than 
in any other way). 

2. Always mark your focus by scratching a 

circular ring on the focussing draw. 
(This will allow you to focus your glass 
correctly and quickly before putting it 
to your eye.) 

3. Always pull out or push in the draws of 

your telescope with a clock-wise circular 
motion, and keep them slightly lubri- 
cated. 

4. Always carry your telescope slung on your 

body. If you take it off and let it travel 
in a lorry or car the jolting will almost 
certainly ruin it. 

5. Always use a rest when observing. 

6. When looking into the sun, make a sun- 

shade nine inches or a foot long, to fit 
on the short sun-shade of the telescope. 
This will give you great assistance when 
the sun is over the German lines. It is 
a trick borrowed from the chamois-hunters 
of the Pyrenees. 

7. Remember that when there is a mirage you 

will get better results with a low than 
242 



APPENDIX C 

with a high power of magnification. 
Conditions in France are more suitable 
to a magnification of under than over 
twenty-five. Excellent work can be done 
in the front line with a glass that magnifies 
only ten times. If the high-power eye- 
piece is used for any special purpose when 
reconnaissance is finished, it should be 
replaced by a low-power eye-piece. 
8.. When searching a given sector of ground or 
trench divide it into " fields of view " 
work slowly allowing each field to over- 
lap. Never leave any suspicious-looking 
object without having ascertained what 
it is and why it is there. 

9. Slight movement is more easily detected 

if you do not look straight at the object. 
Always look a little left, right, high or low. 
Keenest vision is at the edges of the eye., 
This particularly applies to dusk or dawn. 

10. When your object is found, consider : 

(a) Distance. 

(b) Shape. 

(c) Colour. 

(d) Size. 

(e) Position. 

Use each detail to check other details ; 
243 16* 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

for instance, if you can distinguish the 
state cockade upon a German cap you may- 
be certain that you are not more than 
two hundred yards distant. 

11. Do not forget that good results can be 

obtained on clear starlight or moonlight 
nights, by the use of night-glasses or 
telescopes, especially if working in con- 
junction with a Lewis or Vickers Gun. 
Generally speaking, the bigger the object- 
glass and the lower the magnification 
the better will be the results obtainable at 
night. 

12. In trench warfare a really good glass-man 

working from our front line by day can 
make a most valuable wire reconnais- 
sance. 

13. Remember that the conditions of visibility 

are constantly changing ; an object which 
is indistinct at eleven o'clock may become 
quite clear at eleven-five. 

14. Always be ready to avail yourself of natural 

conditions. The visibility after a rain- 
shower is almost always good ; it shows up 
wire and gaps in the wire, paths, ground 
traversed by patrols, etc. The best 
season for " spotting " O.P.'s is autumn, 

when the leaves fall and the grass withers. 
244 



APPENDIX C 

15. It is a good thing to disguise the whole of 
the telescope by use of sand-bags or other 
material around it. Great care must 
be taken to ascertain that such disguise 
is kept free from dust or grit. 



245 



PART IV 

FRONT LINE OBSERVATION AND REPORTS 

Remember that straws show which way the wind 
blows, and that apparently trivial information may 
be of great importance if considered in correct per- 
spective. For instance, three small parties of Germans 
seen in front of a battalion sector is not an item of 
much interest, but if such parties are seen by all 
or most of the observers on a divisional front, enemy 
movement of importance is indicated, so include every- 
thing observed which is of the slightest importance. 

Remember that your report passes through the 
hands of the Battalion Intelligence Officer, and by 
him the information it contains is passed on to 
Brigade, thence to Division, and so on. During the 
whole of this process, the information is weighed, 
sifted, and compared over and over again. Hence, 
that which really proves to be of no importance will 
be eliminated, while that which is of value will reach 
those to whom it may be of use. 

Remember that you are in close toucfr with the 

246 



APPENDIX C 

enemy, and that you, and you only, are responsible 
for the observation of his forward area. You must 
not rely upon the Divisional or Corps Observers to 
do this work for you. 

When taking over a post for the first time you 
must study the ground carefully and get to know 
the exact location of all prominent objects. Then, 
in a few days' time, you will be capable of giving 
map locations of targets without bearings. 

It is of little or no use to look for movement until 
you know your front by heart, the GOOD observer 
is the man who can almost see the co-ordinates lying 
on the ground. In this way some of the Lovat Scouts 
can give the map references of a moving object as it 
moves, without a glance at the map. 

The best times of the day for you, as a front-line 
observer, are dawn and dusk. Ration parties, working 
parties, reliefs, etc., are all waiting to move forward 
at dusk, and much good work can be done by picking 
up these targets and reporting them to the Artillery. 
The same or similar parties can often be seen returning 
at dawn, particularly after a night during which our 
harassing fire has been heavy. 

Again, a misty day although the definition ob- 
tained through your telescope is not so clear as usual 
is often excellent for observation of the enemy's front- 
line system, as, on such days, through a false sense of 

security, trie enemy often shows himself in concealed 

247 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

posts, etc., which he would never give away by care- 
lessness during clearer weather. 

Always note time (signal time) and map co-ordi- 
nates of anything observed. 

If anything of importance be seen, such as abnormal 
movement, suspected reliefs, etc., report them at 
once. Don't wait until you come off duty. 

All targets should be reported as soon as possible 
to the Artillery. 

If there are any Artillery O.P.'s in your vicinity, 
they should be visited, as the occupants can often 
assist you by " placing " objects, the exact location of 
which you yourself are doubtful about. The Ar- 
tillery Observers should be shown all tracks where 
movement has been observed to enable them to get 
a gun trained on to them. 

All new enemy work must be followed closely and 
its object, if possible, ascertained. 

Take a pride in extreme accuracy, let a direct 
statement represent fact, but do not hesitate to include 
information of which you are not quite certain. You 
must, however, never fail to indicate clearly the degree 
of accuracy or certainty which you yourself feel. Useful 
words for qualifying your statements are as follows : 
Possibly ; 
About ; 
Probably ; 

Approximately, etc., etc. 
248 



APPENDIX C 

Remember that your duty is rather to observe and 
report your observations than to interpret what you 
see. At the same time, give personal impressions. 
These may start a new line of thought in the minds of 
those who read your reports ; also, if two or three ob- 
servers, from different points, think that they have 
seen a certain thing, then there is at least a strong 
probability that a foundation existed for their belief. 

Realize that your observation is part of a huge net 
which is continually trawling the whole enemy world 
for information, and see to it that not even the smallest 
fry slip through the meshes for which you are per- 
sonally responsible. 

For purposes of actual observation a rough log- 
book must be kept in the sniping or observation post. 
In this book everything seen should be noted as it 
occurs. From it each evening the information must 
be set out under suitable headings, and your report 
rendered to the Battalion Intelligence Officer. Cus- 
toms vary in battalions, but the following list of 
headings may help you in this matter : 

OPERATIONS, ENEMY : * 



No. and Calibre of projectiles 

2. 1 .M. s. Y d f 

3. Grenades J 

4. A. A. Guns . . Activity. 

5- M- G - Fire) Methods and Targets. 
6. Rifle Fire j 

249 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

MOVEMENT, ENEMY I 

1. Aircraft. 

2. Trains. 

3. Transport. 

4. Men actually seen. 

5. Indication of movement (periscopes, loop- 

holes, etc.). 

6. Patrols. (Seen, heard or encountered.) 

(Note : Time and place must always be 
given.) 

BATTALION INTELLIGENCE REPORT TO BRIGADE : 

The subject matter forming this falls naturally 
under the following main headings : 

1. Operations. (Enemy.) 

2. Movement. 

3. Work. 

4. Signals. 

5. General Intelligence. 

6. Weather. 

Under these six main headings are the follow- 
ing sub-headings : 

WORK, ENEMY I 

(a) Changes visible in enemy line. 
250 



APPENDIX C 

(b) Working parties seen or heard. 

(c) New wire observed or reported by patrols. 

SIGNALS, ENEMY I 

(a) Flash lamps. } ^ ,, , . . , , 

/L\ \7 r i: rull description of and any 

(b) Verey lights. > 7 
) v ' T> 1 apparent results. 

(c) Rockets. J 

GENERAL INTELLIGENCE : 

Information of a doubtful or uncertain nature, 
general impressions, etc. 

WEATHER : 

(a) General conditions. 

(b) Light and visibility during the day. 

(c) Wind, its strength and direction. 

In some Brigades, reports on our own operations, 
particularly observation of our own Artillery and T.M. 
fire are required in the Battalion Intelligence Reports, 
but this is a mistaken policy. 

A FORM OF OBSERVATION REPORT. 

OBSERVATION REPORT 

No. of Post (Map Ref.) : Teapot Post N33C55.90 

Sheet i;A N.E. 

Time on Duty : 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. 
Date : 20.6.18. 

251 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 



Observers on Duty, Name, Rank and Regt, 
H. Smith Pte. 

G. Shaw , L/Cpl. 

Wind: Gentle S.W. 

Visibility : Fair. 



Time. 


Map Ref. 


Event. 


Remarks. 


7.30 a.m. 


Ms 9 d45.35 


i German 


Ptes. carrying Probably work- 






N.C.O. and 


wood, corru- ing on entrance 






14 Ptes. 


gated iron and to dug-out at 








sandbags. M39C78.65* 








Wearing caps 








with red 








bands. Badges 








not visible. 


845 a.m. 


Over trench 
at 


Enemy Aero- 
plane Pilot 


Opened fire on Enemy prob- 
trench. Flying ably suspects 




M28c36.o3 


and i other. 


low, about 700 concentration 








feet. Flew off in this area. 








in S.W. direc- 








tion. Not 








fired on by our 








men. 


(Changed 


over 9 a.m.) 




Observer Shaw. 
Writer Smith. 


9.15 a.m. 


030340.92 


Horse trans- 


15 wagons, 4 Possibly am- 






port. 


horse, all very munition or 








heavily loaded, heavy material. 








moving N. on Had difficulty 








Vitry-Douai in ascending 








Road. slight hill. 



Relieved at 10 a.m. 
Handed in at 10.15 a.m. 



Observer : Shaw 
Writer : Smith. 

(Signed) H. SMITH, 
G. SHAW. 



252 



PART V 

SOME USES OF SCOUTS, OBSERVERS AND SNIPERS IN 
ATTACK, DEFENCE AND OPEN WAREFARE 

It is difficult to lay down any hard and fast rules on 
this subject, as so much depends upon the prevailing 
conditions. The following notes should therefore 
be looked upon as tentative hints or suggestions. 

To commence, it is well to remember that these 
men, in addition to being fully-trained soldiers, have 
received specialist training in such subjects as map- 
reading, obtaining and reporting information, scout- 
ing, accurate shooting, etc., therefore their value to 
the Company Commander, whether in Attack or 
Defence, in trench warfare or in open warfare, has 
been enhanced, and he should keep this in mind when 
making his dispositions. 

Prior to attack on any given objective, the Scouts 
and Observers can obtain much valuable information ; 
in fact, the actual plans for local attack will often depend 
upon the information so obtained. 

253 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

The following are some of the points that should be 
ascertained either by direct observation or patrolling 
or both : 

1. Location of enemy M.G.'s and strong points. 

2. Whether the enemy is holding his line con- 

tinuously or by isolated posts ; if the 
latter, the location of each post should, 
if possible, be ascertained. 

3. If our wire-cutting operations have been 

successful, and the location and width 
of the gaps. 

Vigorous patrolling should take place for some time 
prior to attack, to ensure that the enemy is driven out 
of " No Man's Land," thus enabling us to " jump off " 
from a point as near as possible to the enemy line. 

The Snipers can, by making each enemy periscope 
and loophole a target, render the enemy to a great 
extent blind in Front Line Observation. Before the 
actual assault has commenced, our snipers can be 
established in shell holes in " No Man's Land " from 
which they can command any known machine-gun 
emplacements. They should always carry a few rounds 
of armour-piercing S.A.A., and should look upon the 
breech casing of the gun as their target rather than 
the gunners. (Your good sniper will appreciate the 
fact that one hit on the breech-casing of a machine- 

254 



APPENDIX C 

gun with armour-piercing S.A.A. will definitely put 
the gun out of action, as it ruins the vital portion, i.e., 
" the recoiling portion " of the gun.) 

After the objective has been gained, the snipers 
should push forward beyond our new line and establish 
themselves in shell holes or in old trenches. From 
these positions their fire will be of great value in con- 
junction with the Lewis gunners in keeping down the 
enemy during consolidation. 

The Scouts should be able to fill in the dispositions 
of the troops and maintain touch with flanking units ; 
they should form part of exploiting patrols, locate the 
enemy's new positions and ascertain their attitude, i.e., 
whether they are demoralized and retiring in disorder 
or whether they are under control and likely to counter- 
attack. 

The Observers must be in a position from which they 
can watch the whole of the attack, and must be pro- 
vided with a means of communication whereby they 
can constantly report upon the situation. After the 
objective has been gained they can push forward and 
locate enemy machine-guns and battery positions ; 
this will be comparatively easy as, if the enemy is put- 
ting up a fight, machine-guns, etc., will be advertising 

themselves. 

The Brigade and Divisional Observers will also be 
in positions from which they can follow the whole of 
the attack, and will constantly report its progress. 

255 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

They should particularly watch for any massing of 
enemy troops in the back areas for counter-attack. 

IN DEFENCE : 

The Snipers can be of great value in defence, and 
should be given a definite " battle station." If the 
attack be delivered in daylight, the snipers' special 
task should be to pick off the leaders, and members 
of machine-gun and jlamenwerjer detachments. 
If the enemy succeed in occupying our trenches 
the snipers must have in readiness alternative 
posts that command stretches of our trenches ; 
they will thus be in a position to inflict heavy 
losses upon the new occupants. In this way 
and by working in conjunction with Bombers, 
they can do much to prevent the enemy from 
establishing himself. 

The Observers can, in defence, find out much 
valuable information, and the good observer can 
usually foretell an enemy attack by carefully 
watching for the following signs of offensive 
operation : 

1. Construction of new T.M. emplacements. 

2. Registration of new T.M.'s. 

3. Increased artillery registration. 

4. Bridging of trenches. 

5. Cutting of wire. 

256 



APPENDIX C 

6. Additional dressing stations instituted. 

7. Signboards erected. 

8. Unusual amount of movement in back 

areas. 

9. Increased aerial activity. 

10. Reconnaissance of front by enemy officers. 

OPEN WARFARE : 

In open and semi-open warfare it is essential 
that observers push forward from one post to 
another. They must keep in touch with the 
attack, with flanking units and with headquarters. 

The most important duties of scouts and snipers 
will be reconnaissance. By pushing forward as an 
advanced screen to cover the advance, they can 
collect much valuable information and, if cor- 
rectly organized, can get such information back 
quickly to the officers whom it concerns. The 
following are some of the things upon which they 
should report : 

1. Where the enemy are, and if holding a 

continuous line or isolated posts. 

2. Condition of roads, etc. 

3. Best approaches for Infantry, Machine- 

guns, Artillery, etc. 

4. Any obstacles such as rivers, etc., and the 

best means of negotiating them. 
257 J 7 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

5. Places which are exposed to fire. 

6. Any topographical features from which 

the enemy can be commanded. 

In fact, there is no limit to the amount of use- 
ful information that scouts and snipers can obtain. 
They can also be of extreme value in working round 
and cutting off isolated posts. They may also 
form a thin but effective firing-line that can delay 
considerably a small counter-attack, and thus 
enable their unit to complete the, of necessity, 
hasty preparations for holding its gains. 



258 



PART VI 

THE ENFIELD 1914 PATTERN "SNIPER'S RIFLE" 

As each battalion now holds three of these rifles on 
charge for sniping purposes (G.R.O. 3567) it is essential 
that your snipers shall understand the main differences 
between this and the R.S.M.L.E. 

It is as well to understand at once that a far higher 
degree of accuracy can be obtained from the Enfield 
1914 than from the R.S.M.L.E., and this is the reason 
why it has been issued to snipers. The higher degree 
of accuracy is due to two main causes : 

1. The rifles so issued have been specially selected 
from thousands of other rifles of the same 
pattern, on account of their accuracy, after 
severe and exhaustive tests. 

2. The rifle is fitted with an aperture or peep 
sight, which, as will be readily acknowledged by 
most expert riflemen, possesses a great advantage 
over the open U or V backsight. It is therefore 

unnecessary to focus the backsight, and the blur 
259 17* 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

which is unavoidable when aiming with the 
open U or V backsight is entirely absent with 
the aperture or peep sight. 

The following are the main differences which must 
be noted and thoroughly understood in order to get 
the best results from the new rifle. 

THE SIGHT 

The rear of the body is made in the form of a 
bed in which the sight should always lie when not 
in use. In this position the aperture battle sight 
can be used if desired, but it should seldom be 
necessary for the sniper to use this sight. The 
battle sight is actually sighted to hit on the 
aiming mark at about 400 yards' range. 

The sight leaf is hinged on to the sight bed 
and is raised to an angle of about 90 from the 
sight bed for use. There are in all four positions 
in which it will rest. (See diagram I.) 

1. At an angle of about 45 from the sight 

bed ; this is the most convenient posi- 
tion for " sight setting." 

2. At an angle of about 90; this is the posi- 

tion when in use. 

3. At an angle of about 135. 

4. At an angle of about 180. 

The two last positions have been made 
260 



APPENDIX C 

possible so as to avoid damaging the 
sight by accidentally knocking it, if 
raised against undergrowth, etc., when 
skirmishing. 

Note: The bolt lever must not be raised and 
drawn back when the sight is in No. 4 position, as 
if this is done the battle sight is sheared off. 




ELEVATION 

The elevation is obtained by raising a slide on 
the leaf. This slide carries the aperture, and, 
when set, is held in position by a spring-catch 
adjustment on the right of the leaf. The leaf is 
graduated from 200 to iioo yards in hundreds of 
yards, and from 1 100 to 1650 yards in fifties. The 
reading line is situated in the centre of the slide, 
261 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

and care must be taken to point out this fact 
clearly, otherwise men are apt to take readings 
from the top or bottom of the slide. 

FINE ADJUSTMENT 

The sight is fitted with a fine adjustment in 
the form of a worm screw with a milled head. By 
rotating the milled head clockwise we raise the 
elevation, and by turning it anti-clockwise we 
lower it. The top of the milled head is marked 
off into three divisions, each of which is equivalent 
to one minute of angle, which is about i" per 100 
yards of the range. Thus at 100 yards it would 
equal i" rise, or fall, on the target ; at 200 yards 2" ; 
at 300 yards 3", and so on. A reading line is 
marked on the top of the sight leaf to enable these 
minute adjustments to be made. (See diagram.) 

The advantage of a fine adjustment screw on 
this principle lies in the fact that, without 
alteration of foresight, the rifle can be zeroed 
with exactness in a vertical sense, for any in- 
dividual hold, thus : If a man, when zeroing 
his rifle at 100 yards' range, finds the point of 
mean impact to be 3 inches low, or high, he has 
only to remember that he must first reproduce on 
his backsight the range for which he is firing, 
and then add, or subtract, 3 minutes of eleva- 
tion, i.e., by giving the milled head one com- 
262 



APPENDIX C 

plete turn or revolution in the required direc- 
tion ; he will then have his correct zero for 
that particular range. (Note : Before starting 
to zero at 100 yards, he must raise the sight to 
200 yards, and then take off 3 minutes ; this is 
equivalent to setting his sight to 100 yards 
(which is not marked). With the sight so set, 
the " point of mean impact " should be li 
inches to 2 inches above the point of aim.) 

In addition the fine adjustment can be used 
to overcome the difficulty of not having the 
sight calibrated to read to fifties at the closer 
ranges. By memorizing the following table, 
the sniper will have no difficulty in adjusting his 
sight to 250, 350, 450 yards, and so on : 

To raise from To Add to Column I. 

200 yards 250 yards I minute 

300 350 if minutes 

400 450 2 

5 55 2 * 

600 650 3 

The table has not been taken further, as 600 
yards is the limit of " individual effort." 

LATERAL ZERO 

If there should be a lateral error when zeroing, 

the foresight should be moved as in the 
263 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

R.S.M.L.E., except that the cramp is made to 
fit over and through the foresight protectors, 
and, as there is no nose-cap to remove, it is a 
simpler operation. 

AIM, HOW TAKEN 

Diagram 2 will illustrate far better than a 



line. 




Sights-. 3 - 

Enfwid!9!VR$e. 

word picture how aim should be taken. The 
main thing is to look through the aperture, and 
not at it. The foresight will be centred in the 
aperture, and the tip of it placed at 6 o'clock 
in the ordinary way. (Note : It will be found 
that with very little practice the eye will in- 
stinctively centre the foresight, and that aim- 
264 



APPENDIX C 

ing, with this sight, will in reality simply be the 
action of holding the tip of the foresight on to 
6 o'clock.) 



THE MAGAZINE 



The magazine holds five rounds only, and is 
constructed in such a manner as to permit the 
magazine platform to rise and engage the face 
of the bolt-head when the magazine is empty. 
This advertises the fact that " re-loading " is 
necessary. At the same time, it prevents giving 
practice in " rapid manipulation of the bolt," 
unless the " Depressors magazine platform," or 
a coin such as a franc (which will serve the 
same purpose) be used to hold down the 
platform, thus enabling the bolt to pass freely 
through the bolt-way when the magazine is 
empty. 

It is of simple construction, consisting of 
three parts only : the platform, the spring and 
the bottom plate. To remove : press the- point 
of a bullet into the hole that will be found in 
the bottom plate, in front of the trigger guard, 
then push downwards and in the direction of 
the trigger; this releases the spring and allows 
the magazine to be removed and cleaned. To 
replace : reverse the above process. Care must 
be taken when loading to ensure that the charger 
265 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

is placed vertically in the charger guide ; if 
allowed to lean forward the first cartridge will 
foul the padding of the magazine, and loading 
will become difficult. 

There is little possibility of a jam if the bolt- 
way, the breech and the magazine are kept 
clean. 

SAFETY DEVICES 

1. The Safety Catch. This is similar to the 
R.S.M.L.E., but is on the opposite side, *.*., 
the right side of the body. If the thumb piece 
is turned over to the rear, it performs two actions. 
(a) Rotates the half-moon on the eccentric 
stem until it engages in the recess in the cocking 
piece, thus preventing the cocking piece from 
going forward if the trigger be accidentally 
pressed, (b) Pushes forward the locking bolt 
plunger until it is engaged in the locking bolt 
recess in the bolt lever, thus preventing the 
rotation of the bolt. 

2. Bolt Lever. This when turned down, *'.*., 
when the breech is closed, fits into a recess in 
the body of the rifle, and ensures that the bolt 
cannot be blown back, even should the resisting 
lugs give way. 

3. The Safety Stud. This is in direct com- 
munication with the sear, and is constructed 

266 



APPENDIX C 

in such a manner as to ensure that the sear 
cannot be depressed without the safety stud 
rising. On the under side of the bolt is a recess, 
which comes immediately over the safety stud 
when the bolt lever is turned fully down. It is, 
therefore, impossible to press the trigger, which 
depresses the sear, until the bolt lever is fully 
turned down and the action sealed. 

GAS ESCAPES 

Of these there are three. On the right 
of the hood ; on the under side of the bolt, 
one in front and the other in rear of the ex- 
tractor ring. They perform the same duties 
as the gas escapes in the R.S.M.L.E., except 
that the one in front of the extractor ring pre- 
vents air-pockets which would act as brakes 
from forming. 

PULL OFF 

This is slightly different to that of the 
R.S.M.L.E., the first pull being from 2 to 3 Ibs., 
and the second from 5 to 6 Ibs. The first pull 
is comparatively long, and it is necessary to 
obtain, by practice, the correct " trigger 
squeeze " before firing the rifle for the first time. 

CARE AND CLEANING 

In order to take full advantage of the rifle, 
267 



SNIPING IN FRANCE 

it is essential that it be kept absolutely clean ; 
the following parts should receive special 
attention : 

The Bore. This should always carry a high 
polish. 

The Sights. Must be kept free from oil, 
and the aperture free from fluff. 

The Hood. Must always be free from oil 
and dirt, as it contains the recesses in 
which the resisting lugs work, and if dirt 
be allowed to gather there, the shock of 
discharge cannot be evenly taken on both 
sides, and accurate shooting under these 
conditions is unattainable. 

The Breech. Must be kept clean and free 
from oil by means of the stick which is 
provided for the purpose. 

The Bolt. Must be kept free from oil, 
and must be the correct one for the rifle, 
i.e., must carry the same number as that 
shown on the hood and on the sight leaf. 

Gas escapes. Must be kept free from oil 
and dirt. 



GENERAL. 

The rifle is issued specially as a sniping rifle, 
and although a bayonet is issued with it, it should 
268 



APPENDIX C 

not be used for bayonet fighting practice. The 
woodwork of the rifle must on no account be 
cut down, and as, when it is issued, it is correctly 
zeroed to suit one man's hold, it should not be 
transferred to another man without re-zeroing 
it to suit his particular hold. 



THE END 



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