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Tactics for neutralising pill t


dah

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Currently reading (& enjoying) a book on 3rd Ypres/Passchendaele.

 

Missing from the book.....is any specific detail of how the allies dealt with the interlocking  pill boxes in the German ' defence in depth'. The boxes seem not to have been particularly vulnerable to pre-advance artillery fire....and apparently a significant % of the 60-odd VCs awarded were for individual gallantry associated with overcoming pill boxes.

 

Was there a prescribed/trained technique for this?

 

I can imagine possible scenarios (eg  use of smoke, directed Lewis gun fire to distract from outflanking manoeuvres) but presumably with danger of being thwarted by covering fire from nearby pill boxes. Allied tactics and training (of all or specialist troops?) must have been developed to deal with this difficult issue.

 

Anyone know the detailed allied tactical approach?

 

David

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I have just read two books on the subject and am wading through a third.  I have come to the conclusion that although they were supposed to be put out of action by the preliminary bombardment, it never actually happened and the only way to decommission them was by acts of personal and group heroism.  

 

Pillboxes do seem to be the single biggest factor in causing multiple machine gun deaths at 3rd Ypres.

 

Hazel

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21 hours ago, dah said:

Currently reading (& enjoying) a book on 3rd Ypres/Passchendaele.

 

Missing from the book.....is any specific detail of how the allies dealt with the interlocking  pill boxes in the German ' defence in depth'. The boxes seem not to have been particularly vulnerable to pre-advance artillery fire....and apparently a significant % of the 60-odd VCs awarded were for individual gallantry associated with overcoming pill boxes.

 

Was there a prescribed/trained technique for this?

 

I can imagine possible scenarios (eg  use of smoke, directed Lewis gun fire to distract from outflanking manoeuvres) but presumably with danger of being thwarted by covering fire from nearby pill boxes. Allied tactics and training (of all or specialist troops?) must have been developed to deal with this difficult issue.

 

Anyone know the detailed allied tactical approach?

 

David

Hi

 

Yes, there were tactics to deal with strongpoints, lessons learnt in 1916 appear in documents, such as SS 143 'Instructions for the Training of Platoons for Offensive Action' from February 1917.  The use of Lewis Guns, rifle bombers and bombers is included and all this tends to be up-dated in later editions and as equipment is added and tactics changed.  The use of smoke, in various forms, is common for much of the war.  A single book that is useful is 'Battle Tactics of the Western Front - The British Army's Art of Attack 1916-18' by Paddy Griffith, but delving into the contemporary documents may be better for serious study of the development.

 

Mike

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  • 2 weeks later...

Many thanks for responses.

 

Mike Meech.....I've now 'Kindle-sampled' your recommendation of 'Battle tactics of the Western Front' and liked it it sufficiently to purchase the full version thereafter. Even if it doesn't answer my question about 3rd Ypres pill boxes, it is educating and stimulating my appreciation of many aspects regarding the learning curve through which the BEF went.

 

Great recommendation.

 

Many thanks,

 

David 

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  • 4 months later...

"The history of the 9th (Scottish) division" has details of the tactics used by said division during the battle of the Menin Road in September 1917. 

 

It basically involved the creeping barrage 'dwelling' on fortified strong points while the main barrage advanced allowing attacking parties to outflank the boxes and attack them from the rear. I believe there is an online copy of the book somewhere. 

 

I'm on my phone now so can't give any more details. Hope this helps a bit. 

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Here you go, pages 254 - 261 (Note - the page number 254 differs from the page number of the book due to the way it's been uploaded)

 

http://lib.militaryarchive.co.uk/library/divisional-histories/library/The-History-of-the-9th-Scottish-Division/HTML/index.asp#/254/

 

You will need Flash player installed though.

 

Hope this is of some use to you!

 

 

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Here are some extracts from SECOND  ARMY. FURTHER  NOTES  ON  OPERATIONS, 26th Sept. and 4th Oct., 1917. (The document is dated 12 October 1917.)

 

Tactical.

2.  Stokes Mortars pushed forward with the attack were found of value on at least two occasions when strong points had to be captured. On the two occasions referred to, bursts were obtained just outside the door of the dug-out and the inmates then surrendered. Direct hits on the dug-out itself had no effect.

 

Equipment.

2.  Very little use was found for Mills’ Grenades except to bomb an occasional “pill box.” One bomb per man would appear sufficient in the present form of fighting.

3.  Hales rifle grenades were found very useful, especially where the enemy used machine gun fire from the roof of a dug-out or “pill box.”

 

Chris Henschke

 

 

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When the Canadian Corps moved to The Salient late in October 1917 a number of general instructions were issued about the expected German defenses.  I am attaching a snippet from the War Diary of the 1st Canadian Division.  By this time there was no actual front line in this area.  The German defenses were in outposts scattered about concrete "pill boxes".  These pill boxes were constructed for shelter only;  the garrisons would emerge after the barrage had passed and set up their machine guns in nearby sections of trench or in shell holes.  So far as I can judge from the Diaries on the units involved the attacking infantry followed the principle of bypassing the pill boxes and coming around from the rear.  When the advance followed closely behind a good barrage this seemed to work well.

 

 

div1pass.jpg

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