Friday, July 27, 2012

What is a conscript army like?

In your post-apocalyptic settings, we do from time-to-time see ad hoc military units thrown into action.  They also show up as dragooned units taking part in an invasion of the United States.

How good are these units?  Against regular troops, not very good at all.  You here a fare amount of laughter at the expense of some countries as to the "bravery" of their troops in battle.  In World War 2 the Italians tend to take it on the chin.  Why did these units fight so badly?

Typically these armies come from very hierarchical backgrounds, or at least a very hierarchical military culture.  Punishments are severe and there is no talking back to the officers.  There is a great distance between the officers and the men that they are in charge of.  

We have already discussed and his experience at the blowpipe rocket launcher demonstration,  we will again go to Armand and his experience in the Falklands.  Note that when he mentions the Ghurkas, they  are a traditional elite mercenary unit from Nepal that have a long standing history of survviing with the British Army.  They are one of the "elite" units included in some of our earlier discussions, and were famous for using a curved short sword, and for preferring not to take prisoners.  They have been described as the best light infantry in the world.

Topic: How Many Companies in Argentine Regts (Falklands)?
Armand, TMP Discussion Boards
Glad you had enjoy my poor experiences at war my friends.
I had a privilege to be at first line as witness of the most important combats there because I was appointed to the Communication Co of my Regiment because I know english (ha!ha! many here think otherwise)and "hear" a lot of good info.
Also, when I was pointed to the "movil Co" had to be at "Two Sister" as an advance guard, then when we literaly had to run from there I return to my original position at "Mount Longdon" and when our enemy broke our lines there, the remnats of my unit fly to "Tumbledown" were we made our last stand with our friends of the Marine Infantry.
About the "bloopers" of the Argentine Army, the list is incredible large.
Only some I remember here.
1st. When we arrived to the Islands our equipment was in large bags as the WW2 US Marines used. No backpacks for the infantry!. Do you know how it was to carried that long, heavy and uncomfortable bags 15 kmts?
And at rapid trot?
Half of my Company went sick only when we arrived to… nowhere!. In an open space without tents or tools.
Yes, there were one WW2 shield for each four platoons which of course broke before the first fox-hold was made.
You had to asked yourselves: So, how the Argentines made their defense positions?
Answer: Stealing material from Puerto Argentino (Port Stanley)of course!. But be aware if they caught you!.
Directly to be staked on the ground.
Do you imagine what was to be staked as in the XIX° Century Indian frontier on a ground so fluid with strong winds and temperature under 0°?
And of course only with your shirt (from summer weather).
My fellow officer, the medic, inform me that from each 12 men who go to be staked, only one can return to the lines and in a very bad state of health.
2nd. Ammo and practice.
You are at war and you had only fired one round (of five bullets) so you ask for more to practice.
Answer: NO.
They only give us ammo 24hrs before the combat began and not much of them. Many soldiers had to fight only with the three magazines they had when they arrived to the islands.
3rd. Food and cleaning.
Food? What was that? Some poor WW2 German kitchens for 200 men when they had to feed 800. Meat? Bread? Vegetables? NEVER. Only soup and some potage or stew if you were lucky enough with some floating things that better never know what they were!
So… you had to steal again or kill some sheep to survive.
Water? Well, a very old tractor came everyday from Port Stanley with a tank. But it was soon destroyed by the British Air force, so you had your canteen for one or two days only.
And you had to be shaved!
4th Your weapons.
Anyone knows that you had to perform the diary maintenance of your weapons, especially in a climate so inhospitable.
[Tools] for that?
Your handkerchiefs (if you had carried one from your house) and some kitchen oil.(stolen of course, or bought to the cooks)
Of course, 80% of the conscript never tried. They were more worried to eat, drink or withstand the intense cold who broke your bones.
Same for the heavy weapons. That's why half of the mortars never fire and the MAGs had some problems with the ammo (locked very often).
5th Medical care.
Only the "doctor" of the Regiment were near. I'm talking about the soldiers-doctors, those who came to made the military service and finished they career and were raw conscripts. The professional-doctors were at Puerto Argentino enjoying good food and privileges.
There were not a single male nurse. That task belongs to the most useless soldiers, administrators, gunners without gun and other light wounded.
6th. Intelligence.
We were all time inform about how the war was (big smile).
The intelligence was so good that 24hrs before the fall of the 12° Regiment at Goose Green they still said that the English never came, that they were afraid of us, that they had lost half they fleet, etc.
Suddenly!. It changes and began the tales of the devil "Gurkhas" and what would be our fate in their hands.
That day all the officer with the rank superior to lieutenant decided to retreat to Port Stanley for "instructions for the superiority". Our Captain left the place with our only jeep and never return. From four Captains only one remain with our Regiment.
Some seniors NCOs take the same path some minutes after.
Well, there is some examples to how the argentine infantry was training before and on the field at the Falklands (Malvinas), so the anecdote of the "blow pipes" not took my atention. It was a funny day.
Ah!. About the simulators that were mention, maybe had been used by "veteran" units of the Argentine Army. Half our Army was veteran and in good training as the Mountain troops, the Marines, Commandos, old units as the Grenadiers of San Martin, etc, but the units in Malvinas were mostly conscripts, so easy expendables.

Note that the Argentine brass had not thought that the British would fight for the islands, so they kept the elite units home to face off any threat from their traditional enemies on the mainland. 

Historically, ad hoc militia units frequently are about as effective these the story above describes, but when they are volunteers they can sometimes rise to the occasion and put up a spirited fight if they are not required to maneuver too much.  In our Revolutionary War, you go from the extremes of the Battle of Camden (disaster)  to The Battle of Stone Mountain (victory over regular troops), all in one campaign.


Anonymous said...

Small unit leadership is the key with militias. But if that leader is KIA or WIA, the unit will probably run away. The Venicians fighting in Constantinople 1453(?) is a good example.

Also in combat w/professionals you're fighting for you teammates. In a militia, you would rarely fight and one might lose it if you see your next-door neighbor Joe's brains splattered about.

I managed to pick up "The Last 100 Yards" by HJ Poole. Sorta expensive unless you're active duty. Not sure why. Trying to keep it out of terrorists' hands? I do have more 3 days worth of food stored.

Once I find time I'm reading this 400 paged 8"x11" sized doorstop.


russell1200 said...

I have "The Last 100 Yards".

It has some interesting thought exercises, but in total I think it is very overated. It is one big opinion piece without a lot of analysis to back it up. It also assumes that you have the backing of the U.S. artillery and air power.