Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Armed Scouting: Part 2 of 4

We continue on with William Henry Waldron's 1916 manual on Scouting and Patrolling. This section is very close to verbatim with only a little editorializing.  Those with even a little bit of training will find a few of his points amazingly elementary.  But the fact that he felt he needed to state them implies that he found soldiers who did not know them.  And if the far more rural population of the early 20th century did not know them, it would be a good idea to remember when giving instructions, that most people today won't know them either.

I am tempted to add a few additional items to the advice, but will hold off.  The intention is not to make this an all inclusive how-to manual, but to give an idea of how people did scouting back when unit size and density was lower, there was no radios, and often a lot more territory needed covering.

Finding your way
In difficult country such as deep woods, broken mountains, and ravines, it is useful to make your own landmarks for finding your way.

Blazing a Trail
 This may be accomplished by breaking small branches of trees, by blazing or cutting slices of bark from trees, piling up a few stones at selected places along your route, tying long grass into a knot, or drawing a distinct line across any trails that you did not follow.  Such marks may also serve as guides to any others coming along your track.
A great assistance in finding your way in a strange country are landmarks or prominent features of any kind such as distant hills, towers, conspicuous trees, the line of railways, rivers, etc.  Thus on starting on a reconnaissance, if you see a prominent mountain to the northward of you it will serve as a guide without referring to a compass or to the sun.  If you start from a church or other prominent building, it will be a guide or landmark for making your way back again later.  When you pass any conspicuous object like a withered tree, a broken gate, a strangely shaped rock, keep it in mind so that should you have to return that way or want to send instructions to others who may want to find their way along that rout, you can do so by following the chain of landmarks.  On passing such landmarks, look back and see what their appearance is from the other side.
It is important to keep in mind that others may be scouting you.  Keep in your mind an idea of how your potential opponents might go about their work.
To avoid capture, avoid tunnel vision on your objective.  Keep an eye to both the rear and flanks.  You need to keep in mind your eventual line of retreat.  As a general precaution, do not retreat along the line by which you came in.  As your reconnaissance progresses, make a selection of alternative lines of retreat and consider at each stage which of these lines is for the moment the most available,, and how in an emergency you would reach it, so that if surprised you may instantly turn in the right direction with a rough plan of escape already in your mind.  The danger of surprise is the hesitation it usually causes, and if met confidently, it loses much of its effect.
[My note: Note that even in normal civilized activities, in a surprise disaster setting (say a building fire) people usually head for the exit by which they entered the building rather than the closest.  Interviews of survivors of these types of events show that they have a propensity to think about how to get out any building that they enter.  They develop a map of where they are at any moment.]
Your security will depend upon your ability to recognize and estimate possible dangers. You must see the enemy before he sees you, and as an aid to accomplishing this, you should size up the situation from his point of view in order to make an estimate of where you will find him.  As you advance, you should note the places where the enemy is most likely to be found either as an outpost or lookout position. You should be on the alert for every movement from that direction, for it is by that means that the presence of life is most easily detected.  If your suspicions be directed to some definite locality, you should at once make up your mind to a line of action between two courses: either make the place the immediate objective of your reconnaissance or avoid it altogether.  Any middle course is accompanied by risks that are unnecessary to take.

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