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Remembered Today:

Sniping in France 1914-18


Robert Dunlop

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

Snipers. (ISBN 1874622477)

A gem of a book. Shades of 'Enemy at the Gates'. It is the story of the Hesketh-Prichard and the SOS (Scouts, Observers and Snipers) schools that he set up for the BEF. He describes the origins of sniping in the need to regain control of the trenches from the German snipers. HP had a background in hunting and he took up a crusade to develop British snipers. He goes into the details of their training, the methods used by snipers to detect and kill their enemy. Some of his personal anecdotes are fascinating, such as the stalking of a German sniper with many kills to his name. Eventually, HP got him by getting a colleague to open the loop hole of a snipers lair, with the colleague standing away from the hole. The German fired at it. In the cold air of the morning, the gas discharge from the rifle showed up. The

German sniper was in a turnip field, wearing turnip tops on his head. Once HP had located him, HP manouvered round until he shot him. That night a patrol went out to gather the body.

Another interesting fact was the insistence of officers that sandbag trenches have perfectly flat tops. This meant a head bobbing up was easily seen. The Germans had messy looking trenches with irregular surfaces. Much easier to pop up your head and not been detected.

As the sniper war was gradually won (defined as the absence of German targets, either sniper or other soldiers), snipers were used increasingly for observing, often linked to artillery. During offensive actions, they were detailed with knocking out machine guns and artillery crews. The former was done by shooting the machine gun itself with armour-piercing bullets, as well as picking off the crews.

I would heartily recommend this book, though it is not for the faint-hearted.

Robert

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