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British & Commonwealth Snipers


Guest longrangesniper
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Guest longrangesniper

I'm trying to establish which British and Commonwealth units actively employed snipers - either at Battalion, Brigade or Division level. Some CO's frowned on the whole activity whilst others were very keen. Any details of individuals, sniper sections, pictures, gallantry awards for sniping, etc would be most appreciated. I have been researching the subject for the last 9 years and getting info out of the Regimental Museums is almost impossible. Ultimately I will write a book.

Many thanks

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I think there has been threads before on this very topic. Billy Sing was one of the famous Australian snipers of WW1. 5th Light Horse and then 31st Battalion.

http://www.australian-armour.com/billy_sing.htm

http://www.lighthorse.org.au/Pershist/billsing.htm

Rgds

Tim D

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The Swansea Bn (14th Welsh) had trained snipers and I think these were later formed into a Wels Division 'group' - disbanded in 1918 I think. The committee set up to help form the original Swansea Bn certainly bought telescopic sights for it and there was a 'Bn Sniping Officer'.

Bernard

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gallantry awards for sniping,

The idea that gallantry awards were made for sniping is a strange one to me. By definition, sniping is a long range, non-confrontational and lonely occupation: far from safe, but unlikely to attract the close attention by a superior officer that was necessary for a commendation.

I also wonder if there is a lack of feed-back from museums because there is not much to say. Any unit not deeply committed to 'live-and-let-live' employed snipers in the front line: not called as such at the beginning of the war. The activity was as ncessary as, and analogous to, artillery counter-battery firing, because the Germans were highly organised and tended to leave specialist snipers in one sector so that they deveoped local knowledge.

Later in the war, the activities of the pre-war Battalion Scouts were merged into scouting/ observing and sniping sections, as much to gather intelligence as put down enemy snipers.

Because sniping is nowadays seen as a bit different, there is a tendency to look for drama where little existed. It was a lonely activity, boring for 99% of the time and terrifying [and often unrewarding] for the remainder.

Finally, there is reputed to have been a substantial minority of officers who viewed the activity as distasteful. I have never seen any first hand evidence. A good unit understood where its duty lay. I doubt if many of the rank of Lt Col. or below who did trench duty regarded sniping as other than a necessity of war in certain locations. In this respect, sniping complemented aggressive patrolling, attempting to dominate, the first by day, the latter by night.

I take it you have Hesketh Pritchard on your bookshelf?

Good luck with the book.

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gallantry awards for sniping,

The idea that gallantry awards were made for sniping is a strange one to me. By definition, sniping is a long range, non-confrontational and lonely occupation: far from safe, but unlikely to attract the close attention by a superior officer that was necessary for a commendation.

Most snipers worked with a spotter i.e. a witness and primarly from positions in or just in front of the front line. The officers also knew where there snipers were and what they were up to hence the awards. Many snipers worked from hides in no mans land as well in order to get a shot but the image of the lone soldier wearing a piece of mobile scenery and waiting for 24 hours without moving to get a shot off belong to the current special forces bods.

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Happy to be corrected IF you can tell me which awards were specifically to snipers deployed as you describe. Gallantry at 200 yds is quite difficult to verify, I suggest. Patience, yes. Courage, yes. Diligence, yes. But gallantry?

As MMs do not come with a citation, you will need, I suppose, DCMs to sustain your case. I await be proven wrong with interest [and will then file the reference carefully!]

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Mate,

The only medals seen other then Pte Sing in the aussie army was for as you state that the men had been grouped into the scouting, sniper and intell.

Reading most records sniping seems to have little on it after we left Gallipoli and went to France.

S.B

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Happy to be corrected IF you can tell me which awards were specifically to snipers deployed as you describe. Gallantry at 200 yds is quite difficult to verify, I suggest. Patience, yes. Courage, yes. Diligence, yes. But gallantry?

As MMs do not come with a citation, you will need, I suppose, DCMs to sustain your case. I await be proven wrong with interest [and will then file the reference carefully!]

Billy Sing's citation/s:

http://www.awm.gov.au/database/awm28/frame...2/139P1&page=30

http://www.awm.gov.au/database/awm28/frame...2/139P2&page=27

TD

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I seem to remember reading somewhere,Snipers were organised on a Battalion basis,commanded by an Officer.

They also used special ammo,in some cases.

I have a relation who i haven't done much on,and he was a battalion Sniper,and won the MM in 1918,with the West Yorks.

I think the award was given for his work as a runner,but it does mention his good use of his rifle on the day.

One of the UK digital stations(slips my mind at the moment which one)is showing a series about Snipers and Sniping.

I will sort out which one and let you know.

Will no doubt be repeated.

All the best.

Simon.

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Afternoon all,

I to have heard of snipers being used by the RMLI in Gallipoli.My grandad once mentioned before that his father was used in that role and was cold shouldered by his comrades.I believe though that they were used for a specific target when necessary rather than trained for that role.

Was there a specific flash,badge,chevron or title that was used to identify their skill?

Regards,

Simon.

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Was there a specific flash,badge,chevron or title that was used to identify their skill?

Regards,

Simon.

Not in the Great War, but in any case would not have been worn in the line for obvious reasons. The only known instance is an unknown design issued by the Liverpool Scottish, price 3 1/4d. A rather contrived crossed rifles with telescopic sights did appear in the 1950s or thereabouts for the Guards, and a really unprepossessing crossed rifles with S above was sanctioned for official use in 1942. Once again, I don't fancy many got outside the country worn on a sleeve.

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The idea that gallantry awards were made for sniping is a strange one to me. By definition, sniping is a long range, non-confrontational and lonely occupation: far from safe, but unlikely to attract the close attention by a superior officer that was necessary for a commendation.

Pte Henry 'Ducky' Norwest of the 50th Bn Canadian Infantry was awarded the MM and Bar for work as a sniper. As MM recommendations to Canadians have survived, perhaps any Canadian members with access to them can supply them for Norwest. He was killed on the Somme in 1918:

Name: NORWEST

Initials: H

Nationality: Canadian

Rank: Private

Regiment: Canadian Infantry (Alberta Regiment)

Unit Text: 50th Bn.

Age: 30

Date of Death: 18/08/1918

Service No: 435684

Awards: MM and Bar

Additional information: Son of Mrs. Genevieve Norwest, of Sacred Heart, Alberta.

Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference: A. 30.

Cemetery: WARVILLERS CHURCHYARD EXTENSION

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5th Battalion A.I.F

REPORT BY INTELLIGENCE OFFICER.

Period Under Review 22/23 – 29/30 April 1918.

Since this unit took over this sector consolidation has been carried on opposite all our front line posts.

During the first two days of our tour the enemy exposed himself rather rashly, which greatly added to the benefit of our snipers who secured several hits.

The number of hits are claimed as under on the Bn front:-

2nd day 22 3rd day 12 4th day 7 5th day Nil

This proves that we have obtained control of all enemy snipers.

Control of No Mans Land has been maintained throughout and liaison patrols have maintained lateral communication.

Observation has been keen and our Artillery has been put on to several targets.

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Hi,

Would you not then look to soldiers who had marksman crossed rifles on their sleeves as possible snipers ? Was this badge worn on uniforms whilst on active service or was it removed for this same reason? I have a picture off my great grandad with the crossed rifles on his sleeve.I can certainly understand why it it would have but then you could say that all officers should have taken their pips,bars and caps off as they were one of the main targets for snipers.

Regards,

Simon.

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Could I randomly comment on some of the preceding remarks.

Crossed rifles denoted a Marksman and not necessarily a sniper. About one infantry man in ten would be a qualified marksman and they would be in the pre war battalions and TF (they would have fired their annual range course). Very few of the New Army and conscripts would qualify for marksman has they never fired their full rifle course.

Where 'No Mansland' was wide a sniper would operate out in no mans land with or without a spotter and would earn any decorations coming his way. Being alone, avoiding enemy patrols and 'searches by fire'. is not for the faint hearted not quite the same as firing from a armoured position in your own lines. But never the less if he accounted for a number of the enemy then he had more than done his job as an infantryman.

Sniper were equipped with a special rifle the P14 with scope of course. The ammunition for long range, accurate shooting was .303 8Z Greenspot (from the greenspot stamped on the cotton bandolier).

Arnie

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Arnie,

Thanks for the reply.

My suggestion wasn't whether the crossed rifles meant they were snipers but the fact that as there were very few trained snipers they would look upon the marksmen to perform that role.If they did this would they still have the crossed rifles on their sleeve or would they remove them from their combat uniform.

I totally agree with your comment about the sniper earining his rewards.It would have been a lonely role at times and I am sure his feats changed the direction of some actions.He certainly deserved what ever decorations earnt and like all soldiers very brave.

You mentioned the rifle used is there a picture / example anywhere of this that you know off.I wasn't aware of this rifle, was it a complete new design or was it based on the Lee Enfield or other rifle.Thanks for this I will certainly add this too my inventory.

Many thanks again.

Simon.

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If a sniper had worn any insignia it would have been the same insignia as worn by scouts.

Battalion snipers were supposed to be drawn from qualified battalion scouts and have in all likelihood have attended any one of the Army level "Scouting Observation and Sniping Schools".

There was no set number of Snipers in a Battalion as snipers were also trained to fire over open sights. Most engagements are far closer than most would assume. In October of 1915 Rifles fitted with telescopic sights were issued on a scale of 4 per Battalion or 3 per Cavalry Regiment (GRO1222) by October 1917 the scale in an Infantry Battalion had increased to 5 per Battalion (GRO 2669). This did not include any privately acquired sighted rifles.

Rifles could be any of several types to include P14, SMLE and even the Ross to a certain degree. In 1915 rifles were primarily fitted with Neill's or Martin's sight's, Also Lattey's Lens sights were in use. By 1917 SS195, which describes sniper training and tactics, lists the Aldis, Aldis No.4, Aldis Purdey, Aldis Holland and Holland, Periscopic Prism Co sight, and Winchester Sight as the primary sights in use, but there were others.

Joe Sweeney

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Joe,

Many thanks this is certainly an interesting subject.

Would any of this information, scout etc be on the individuals service records or would it have been kept off.

As a novice I've learnt alot already,

Simon.

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In the original question you stated that you were trying to establish which units actively employed snipers.

Here is a quote from the Australian official history;

"In the three weeks following April 8th (1918) the snipers of the 2nd Division claimed to have hit 127 Germans. By then the Germans showed themselves so little that the average number of hits daily had fallen from 7 to less than 3."

I think it would be easier to establish which unit C.O.s didn't encourage sniping. They would have to be a very small minority.

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If a sniper had worn any insignia it would have been the same insignia as worn by scouts.

Hmmmmmm! I think the actuality on the ground was more complicated and less regulated than suggested here. Otherwise, for example, why did the CO of the Liverpool Scottish invent a [mystery] badge for snipers?

The pre-war Scout was required to be a good shot [as he was to be fit, able to map-read, able to be trusted when detached etc] but he was NOT required to be a marksman.

I am well aware that the Scouting/ Sniping/ Observing/ Intelligence functions became intermingled, often under a subaltern, but for snipers employed per se as snipers to wear the fleur-de-lys is a jump of reasoning too far for me.

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Happy to be corrected IF you can tell me which awards were specifically to snipers deployed as you describe. Gallantry at 200 yds is quite difficult to verify, I suggest. Patience, yes. Courage, yes. Diligence, yes. But gallantry?

As MMs do not come with a citation, you will need, I suppose, DCMs to sustain your case. I await be proven wrong with interest [and will then file the reference carefully!]

LB,

Citation dated 16/5/18:

428355 L/Cpl. (A/2nd Cpl) Christopher Hurst, 423rd (West Lancs) Field Company, Royal Engineers T.F.

"At Mesplaux Farm during the operations from the 9/15th April 1918, he displayed great courage and enterprise as a sniper. He constantly went right forward and got into places from where he was able to shoot numbers of the enemy although incurring heavy rifle and machine gun fire by so doing"

The recommendation was for the MM which was subsequently awarded.

regards,

Ken

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If a sniper had worn any insignia it would have been the same insignia as worn by scouts.

Hmmmmmm! I think the actuality on the ground was more complicated and less regulated than suggested here. Otherwise, for example, why did the CO of the Liverpool Scottish invent a [mystery] badge for snipers?

The pre-war Scout was required to be a good shot [as he was to be fit, able to map-read, able to be trusted when detached etc] but he was NOT required to be a marksman.

I am well aware that the Scouting/ Sniping/ Observing/ Intelligence functions became intermingled, often under a subaltern, but for snipers employed per se as snipers to wear the fleur-de-lys is a jump of reasoning too far for me.

I would suggest that in all likelihood that if a sniper had any type of insignia it might be that of qualified scout because they were recommended to be drawn from the scouts of a battalion. Did not intend to say that a sniper by virtue of being a sniper wore the Fleur Dy Lys.

The wearing of the Fleur Dy Lys in a wartime photo could not only indicate that the soldier was a scout but could also be a sniper and probably the only and closiest visual indication one would get.

The doctrine found in SS195 is a good read.

Why did the commander of the Liverpool Scottish invent a mystery badge ? Why not?

Joe Sweeney

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Joe, revisiting my notes, they read: "diary Lt Col JR Davidson Liverpool Scottish 26/7/1916, expenditure badges for Snipers, Scouts and Bombers £1..19..0.

I do not have access to the original. Unless you subscribe to ONE badge for all three specialisms [which would hardly distinguish longe range snipers from close range bombers, and rather defeat the purpose of a distinguishing badge] it looks as if the good Lt Col had a clear distinction in his mind and wanted the men to wear distinctive badges.

However, Liverpool Scottish [?!] apart, I do not disagree with your supposition that the wearing of a scout fleur-de-lys might, in some units, signify that he was a scout employed as a sniper.

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Hi Longrangesniper

The 6/K.S.L.I.'s sniping officer was 2nd Lt. Lutener, who was killed whilst sniping on 6th April 1916. The Regimental History records

"This young officer had organized and trained the battalion snipers to a very high standard of efficiency, and his good work was brought to the notic of the Corps Commander, Lord Cavan, who ordered the other units composing the corps to work on the lines adopted by him. under his highly-trained snipers the companies holding the front line enjoyed a greater measure of security"

on finding that one of his best snipers was unable to account for a German sniper, who had bagged three men, took his place, and was shot through the head as he opened the shutter in the shield. All I can say is that the German sniper must have had one hell of a shot.

Annette

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