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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

LOB - 'Left Out Of Battle'

Bob Chandler

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In researching the (tragically brief) career of a junior officer I have been advised that he would probably have been compulsorily 'LOB' in certain actions. Does this relate to the policy of leaving say 10% of a Battalion out of a particular action? I would be interested to know more about how this was carried out, i.e. was seniority involved etc. Thanks Charles

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You are right. In broad terms LOB meant that a (small) proportion of ususally experienced men were not taken into an attack. This group would be not only officers, but some NCOs and the like who would form the nucleus of the battalion should high number of casualties be sustained. I'm not sure if an actual percentage was involved, but it was a common practice.


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I have seen this in several operational orders. The most common proportion I have seen is 25% of officers and serjeants. I also remember one case where it was stipulated that one platoon of each company was to be left out, but that seems highly unusual.

There must have been considerable variation over time. For example, by the end of the war Canadian units, at least, seemed to leave quite a large proportion out. In that case, there seems to have been a deliberate policy to maintain a large establishment so as to permit battalions to fight battles continuously for a considerable time between reliefs.

Or so it seems to me.

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This is a fascinating subject

Who was left out – who was included

And why?

Len Sellers writing in his ‘Hood Battalion’ describes the orders issued just before the battle of Gavrelle- see page 231

“Orders were issued that, in the forthcoming attack, some ranks were to be left behind and assembled in the unit’s transport lines


Each battalion:

Second in Command

Each company:

Either company commander or second in command. Not more than two company commanders will go in with their companies, and only two officers in all

Each Battalion:

Two company sergeant-majors

One bombing instructor

Two Lewis gun instructors

Each Company:

One sergeant

One corporal

One lance corporal

One signaller

Each platoon:

One rifle-bomber

One scout and sniper

One Lewis gunner.”

Somewhere I have also seen some comments by Freyberg; it must either be Sellers’ book or in Captain Page’s on Asquith

where Freyberg speaks on the difficulties of higher command i.e.: who to leave out and who to include in a battle. As I remember the passage it runs something like

‘A weak officer may be included in an attack to replace one who must be left behind to help reform the battalion after the battle. The weaker officer will either flunk the test or he will grow into the job and go on to greater things.’

I am sorry that I cannot for the moment find the direct quote but I am sure that you get the drift. A Commander’s job was not an easy one, with life and death decisions to be made before every battle.


Michael D.R.

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From my Duty Done:

‘Battle Surplus’ or ‘Left out of the battle’ before an Assault

By 1917 the provision of a cadre on which to rebuild shattered battalions had been formalised. It comprised:

Commanding Officer or Second-in-Command

Company commander or Second-in-Command of each company [not more than two company commanders in the assault]

[Not more than 20 officers plus the Medical Officer to go forward]


Signallers 10

Runners 13

Gas instructor 1

Bombing instructor 1

Lewis gun instructors 2

Other specialist instructors 3

And additionally from each company

Sergeant 1

Corporal 1

Lance Corporal 1

Riflemen/bombers 4

Scouts/snipers 4

Lewis gunners 8

The sources differ slightly in detail. Those used comprise SS 135 OB/1 635 and Myatt.

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So the attractions of becoming a specialist were not just a bit of extra pay. That said, I suppose Lewis gunners would become particular targets when in action and being a signaller repairing line breaks under fire was not an appealing job. Neither was being a runner come to think of it !

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In broad terms LOB meant that a (small) proportion of ususally experienced men were not taken into an attack.  This group would be not only officers, but some NCOs and the like who would form the nucleus of the battalion should high number of casualties be sustained.

I have a war diary of a German unit which gives a totally different reason to leave men 'out of battle'.

In may 1918, shortly before attacking British trenches, the main reason for leaving soldiers behind is the number of children they have. Moral in this battalion (and others) was very low because of disturbing messages from home. And by picking out fathers with many children, the commanding officer showed he was mainly worried about the situation on the home-front. He just hoped to get as many fathers back home as possible, to help their suffering families.

According to his notes he had given up hope of Germany ever winning the war.

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  • 1 year later...

Hi all,

Resurrecting the post: The cadre.

In General Jack's Diary, on page 176, Jack talks about in accordance with Army Orders: 2IC, 2 Captains, 5 Subalterns, RSM, 2 CSMs and 10 others going to the transport lines. He also mentions that this came about due to the Somme.

Does anyone have the Order or the instruction for those Left out of the Battle? And its date? Grumpy mentions SS 135, however, I don't have this publication.

In advance, many thanks!


Tom McC

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In one case in the French army a division that went into battle left behind its baggage (naturally) and a lot of it was stolen. The general commanding then gave orders that in any subsequent battle three men were to be detailed to guard the baggage.

This was done, but later a new generral took over and didn't know about the order. When the division went nto battle three men were left to guard the baggage. The general found out and had them shot for cowardice.

In effect, they were shot for obeying orders. Google Montauville for the full story.

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  • 16 years later...




and the translation.....

The two soldiers Camille Chemin and Édouard Pillet of the 37th colonial infantry were shot near Montauville for desertion, but it was a misunderstanding. Indeed, the bags left by the infantrymen during a previous attack had been looted. The two men are designated to guard them in order to avoid theft during subsequent attacks. In June 1915, during an attack led by the new captain, he considered them missing at the front even though they were at the rear with the bags. The 37th RIC then moved and Chemin and Pillet reintegrated into the regiment. The colonel considered them deserters and the two soldiers were brought before a war council on August 4 and shot on August 5. These two soldiers shot for example will be rehabilitated in 19348.

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