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Remembered Today:

Trench Raid ammunition question


Steven Broomfield

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In mid-January 1918, the Carabiniers (6th DG) undertook a raid on a German trench, with the (successful) objective of taking a prisoner. In the scheme planning the raid, it was obviously the intention for the men involved to travel light. As part of this, rifles were to have 5 rounds in the magazine (none in the breech), with the safety catch 'back'. What interests me is the additional instruction that 5 rounds were to be carried in the jacket pocket.

 

Now, I understand why the round in the breech thing thing was there - to prevent accidental discharge - but why carry five rounds in the magazine (which holds ten), and five in the pocket? Why not all ten in the magazine?

I can only assume this would keep the rifle lighter and easier to handle in a trench fight: is that it, or is there something else?

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Possibly using the bayonet and the butt rather than firing the rifle in a trench - possible to shoot two or three people at once including some of your own in a relatively confined space. Rifles could well have been fired  only for covering fire on exit if needed.

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I, too, am puzzled. They were still carrying the "weight" of these 5 bullets - in their pockets, rather than in the magazine. If it held 10 rounds without one in the breech, even with the safety back, then there'd only be the click if the trigger was pulled once by mistake..... So why not have them already loaded rather than fumble in a pocket?

The only advantage would be that, if pinned down they might be able to take ammo from a dead or wounded comrade, but it would be just as easy to take the magazine from their rifle, or better yet, use their rifle if out of ammo yourself.

I'd have preferred the men to be travelling light without rifles, after all in a trench a rifle bullet could easily pass through several men, your own included, as pointed out above.

Have some riflemen to screen the attack and withdrawal, but leave the raiders armed to the teeth with trench fighting close quarters weapons, and the cover party with the long range stuff.

.... but then I'm an armchair warrior...... and don't know the answer to the question!

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It is my understanding that the five rounds in your pockets is to actually discourage the primary use of the rifle.

The last thing you want is some clown firing at the Hun five feet in front of him, with your two mates behind him.

Trench raids are up close and personal, bombs are used around traverses to ensure splinters do not return at you.

Everything else is hand held weapons - nasty!

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Just 5-rounds in the magazine was the standard 'load' for both 55 and 57 Divisions at all times, including planned attacks- numerous directives in divisional documents relating to this and I've not seen anything suggesting the appropriate load for raids was altered. I too have wondered about this, but considered it may be to do with long-term weakening of magazine springs, causing mis-feeds if 10-rounds loaded? In my days, it was always policy to only load the magazines of SMG and LMG with 28-rounds instead of the 30 that the magazines could hold for that very reason. Remember reading the report on the failure of the PPK carried by Princess Anne's bodyguard when that attempt was made to kidnap her in the 70's. This concluded that the magazine spring had seized as the rounds hadn't been removed from the full magazine for a considerable time and consequently, the top round wasn't fed into the chamber. Soldiers in the Great War did not have the luxury of being able to rotate magazines as only one was issued per rifle. Stipulations as to which pocket items, such as spare ammo etc. were stored, were (and are) standard, as it made it quicker to source said items from casualties.

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If I have the correct unit this raid was on the night of 16/17th January, 1918 at Bank Trench. Not sure if it helps at all, but, The 2nd Dismounted Cavalry Division Order No 9, 16th January 1918 says "The raid will be a silent one, without any Artillery or T M preparation, if possible. "

 

 

Mike

temp Raid.JPG

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I was led to believe that a deliberate lack of ammunition on trench raids was so the attacking men went forward, rather than taking up static firing positions in "no mans land". Earlier marks of the SMLE and CLLE Rifles had a magazine "cut off" to make the rifles single shot (if anything was up the spout) and the men were in trouble if the "cut off" was opened. The magazine "cut off", along with the volley fire sights, were removed during the War to speed up/ease the manufacture of the SMLE (The SMLE No1 Mk III became the SMLE No1 MkIII*).
A revolver; Mills bomb; trench club; bayonet or trench dagger would probably be more useful when raiding.

Sepoy
 

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8 hours ago, Skipman said:

If I have the correct unit this raid was on the night of 16/17th January, 1918 at Bank Trench. Not sure if it helps at all, but, The 2nd Dismounted Cavalry Division Order No 9, 16th January 1918 says "The raid will be a silent one, without any Artillery or T M preparation, if possible. "

 

 

Mike

temp Raid.JPG

 

It was: I am impressed!

 

Thanks, everyone. It all makes sense now.  I wish I'd copied the report on the Bavarian prisoner they took. Absolutely hilarious.

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