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1960's Combined Arms Tactics


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Specifically in the British Army but interested generally too...

 

Looks like there were reforms in the mid '70s that increased flexibility to assign infantry companies and tank squadrons to HQ's within a brigade, and this developed further in the 80s with the concept of the battlegroup and even down to 'teams' with individual elements of companies and squadrons being combined. My question is how was combined arms managed prior to this? Or was it not at all? Was the brigade group the lowest level integration of tanks and mech inf?

 

Apologies if this is the wrong subforum, seemed to fit under 'employment' of AFVs.

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I cant really answer this one either. I too have read that combined arms battalions were common in the 1980's, though Ive also read that, as far as infantry, they prefer to fight pure from the 1990's onwards.

 

I suspect what you are really look at up to the 1970's is a continuation of WW2 tactics. Certainly logistics was handled in the same way that it was in the Western Desert, of so I read from John Hackett. Its not unreasonable to suppose the teeth arms fought the same way.

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Thanks Stuart, a continuation of WW2 tactics does seem likely as from what I can tell (from here http://www.kerynne.com/games/BritishInfantryBrigadeGpTOE.html and 'The British Army In Germany..." - Watson & Rinaldi 2005) the brigade stucture doesn't seem way different... Then I realised I know nothing of WW2 combined arms tactics either.

 

Would the brigade HQ be able to request sub-units from the batallions to perform actions? Or would the brigade HQ only deal with batallion level control and let batallion leaders perform smaller actions independently? As a civvy I clearly have no idea how the chain of command actually works. Hollywood has let me down.

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ill be honest, I know relatively little of what went before the 1970's. Im more familiar with what they changed to, rather than from. For example, the tank regiments became type 74's, so they could dole out a tank company to every battlegroup that wanted one. It proved unworkable because at the same time they disolved Brigade level operations, and developed a field force, something of a halfway house between a Division and Brigade operations. It didn't work very well so they brought back brigades.

 

I think in WW2 Battalions were operated mainly pure. The reason why I think this, the Tank Brigades had infantry units that were mounted in Lorries. Its hard to see that operating them in battlegroups with tanks would have ended well, and in fact in the Arnhem operation, I heard one veteran talking about American paratroopers riding on the rear deck of his Churchill.

 

Chris Werb would probably answer this question better than I.

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Specifically in the British Army but interested generally too...

 

Looks like there were reforms in the mid '70s that increased flexibility to assign infantry companies and tank squadrons to HQ's within a brigade, and this developed further in the 80s with the concept of the battlegroup and even down to 'teams' with individual elements of companies and squadrons being combined. My question is how was combined arms managed prior to this? Or was it not at all? Was the brigade group the lowest level integration of tanks and mech inf?

 

Apologies if this is the wrong subforum, seemed to fit under 'employment' of AFVs.

Morning,

 

Up until the mid/late 80s the British used battle groups built on an armoured regiment or mechanized infantry battalion, with armoured squadrons/mech inf companies exchanging troops/platoons to form combat teams. I don't know when this started, nor do I know how the farce of eliminating the brigade level in the late 70s until the early 80s affected the task organisation of units. This changed in the late 80s with battle groups based on armoured regiments/inf battalions remaining, but squadrons and companies being swapped instead of troops and platoons. This led to company/squadron groups being used at sub-unit level instead of combat teams. At all times, battle groups had artillery batteries and engineer squadrons attached, as well as other supporting elements.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Best,

 

Greg.

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Thanks Stuart, a continuation of WW2 tactics does seem likely as from what I can tell (from here http://www.kerynne.com/games/BritishInfantryBrigadeGpTOE.html and 'The British Army In Germany..." - Watson & Rinaldi 2005) the brigade stucture doesn't seem way different... Then I realised I know nothing of WW2 combined arms tactics either.

 

Would the brigade HQ be able to request sub-units from the batallions to perform actions? Or would the brigade HQ only deal with batallion level control and let batallion leaders perform smaller actions independently? As a civvy I clearly have no idea how the chain of command actually works. Hollywood has let me down.

The brigade HQ instructs its subordinate units to detach sub-units to other units. It would never issue orders to sub-units, only to its subordinate unit HQs. This has always been the case.

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Specifically in the British Army but interested generally too...

 

Looks like there were reforms in the mid '70s that increased flexibility to assign infantry companies and tank squadrons to HQ's within a brigade, and this developed further in the 80s with the concept of the battlegroup and even down to 'teams' with individual elements of companies and squadrons being combined. My question is how was combined arms managed prior to this? Or was it not at all? Was the brigade group the lowest level integration of tanks and mech inf?

 

Apologies if this is the wrong subforum, seemed to fit under 'employment' of AFVs.

Morning,

 

Up until the mid/late 80s the British used battle groups built on an armoured regiment or mechanized infantry battalion, with armoured squadrons/mech inf companies exchanging troops/platoons to form combat teams. I don't know when this started, nor do I know how the farce of eliminating the brigade level in the late 70s until the early 80s affected the task organisation of units. This changed in the late 80s with battle groups based on armoured regiments/inf battalions remaining, but squadrons and companies being swapped instead of troops and platoons. This led to company/squadron groups being used at sub-unit level instead of combat teams. At all times, battle groups had artillery batteries and engineer squadrons attached, as well as other supporting elements.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Best,

 

Greg.

 

That was probably the introduction of Warrior, so armoured infantry battalions now had the fire power they used to depend on tanks to provide. It made sense at that point to concentrate the tanks together.

 

Thinking on, its interesting to look at what the British infantry had as infantry carriers that I think gives some indication of the doctrine that must have been used. First off they had lorries, which in now way could you realistic create a battlegroup with tanks, other than perhaps riding the infantry on them. Then you had the Humber Pig, which was armoured ok, but had very limited cross country mobility. Then you had Saracen, which was much better cross country mobility, but it was still a wheeled vehicle with limited firepower. Then you had FV432, which had mobility that could keep up with chieftain and limited firepower.

 

If I was a guessing man, I would suggest that doctrine evolved over this time as the mobility of the infantry carriers improved. But we shouldnt get carried away and assume they suddenly with FV432 had the ability to romp across the battlefield as a combined arms group. I dont think we really had that ability till we introduced warrior and it had the firepower and mobility to achieve that. I suspect (and this is me guessing again) we didnt really play around with combined arms battaliions till Saracen, and it would have been limited till we got FV432. But that is a pure guess on my part.

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I cant really answer this one either. I too have read that combined arms battalions were common in the 1980's, though Ive also read that, as far as infantry, they prefer to fight pure from the 1990's onwards.

 

I suspect what you are really look at up to the 1970's is a continuation of WW2 tactics. Certainly logistics was handled in the same way that it was in the Western Desert, of so I read from John Hackett. Its not unreasonable to suppose the teeth arms fought the same way.

Only light role infantry tend to operate as pure infantry battalions, although they would still have artillery and engineers in support. Mechanized/armoured infantry battalions still operate as combined arms battle groups.

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Specifically in the British Army but interested generally too...

 

Looks like there were reforms in the mid '70s that increased flexibility to assign infantry companies and tank squadrons to HQ's within a brigade, and this developed further in the 80s with the concept of the battlegroup and even down to 'teams' with individual elements of companies and squadrons being combined. My question is how was combined arms managed prior to this? Or was it not at all? Was the brigade group the lowest level integration of tanks and mech inf?

 

Apologies if this is the wrong subforum, seemed to fit under 'employment' of AFVs.

Morning,

 

Up until the mid/late 80s the British used battle groups built on an armoured regiment or mechanized infantry battalion, with armoured squadrons/mech inf companies exchanging troops/platoons to form combat teams. I don't know when this started, nor do I know how the farce of eliminating the brigade level in the late 70s until the early 80s affected the task organisation of units. This changed in the late 80s with battle groups based on armoured regiments/inf battalions remaining, but squadrons and companies being swapped instead of troops and platoons. This led to company/squadron groups being used at sub-unit level instead of combat teams. At all times, battle groups had artillery batteries and engineer squadrons attached, as well as other supporting elements.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Best,

 

Greg.

That was probably the introduction of Warrior, so armoured infantry battalions now had the fire power they used to depend on tanks to provide. It made sense at that point to concentrate the tanks together.

 

Thinking on, its interesting to look at what the British infantry had as infantry carriers that I think gives some indication of the doctrine that must have been used. First off they had lorries, which in now way could you realistic create a battlegroup with tanks, other than perhaps riding the infantry on them. Then you had the Humber Pig, which was armoured ok, but had very limited cross country mobility. Then you had Saracen, which was much better cross country mobility, but it was still a wheeled vehicle with limited firepower. Then you had FV432, which had mobility that could keep up with chieftain and limited firepower.

 

If I was a guessing man, I would suggest that doctrine evolved over this time as the mobility of the infantry carriers improved. But we shouldnt get carried away and assume they suddenly with FV432 had the ability to romp across the battlefield as a combined arms group. I dont think we really had that ability till we introduced warrior and it had the firepower and mobility to achieve that. I suspect (and this is me guessing again) we didnt really play around with combined arms battaliions till Saracen, and it would have been limited till we got FV432. But that is a pure guess on my part.

Morning Stuart,

 

You're certainly correct in that doctrine evolves as new equipment enters service. The company/squadron group concept does seem to have coincided with the arrival of Warrior, but was also applied to mech inf battalions equiped with FV432. Clearly there were tactical differences with the application of the doctrine given the differences in firepower and protection between armoured inf and mechanized inf.

 

FV432 was used in combined arms battle groups. Its mobility was fine for operating alongside Chieftain, but not for Challenger. I would guess that the combat team way of task organising sub-units coincided with the arrival of FV432.

 

Best,

 

Greg.

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An important thing to note is that while there has never been a lack of innovative military thinking in modern British history, as names like Julian Corbett, J. F. C. Fuller and Basil Liddell Hart suggest, Britains pre-1989 Armed Forces did not appreciate this central idea behind the term "doctrine", intended not just as the formal publication of military concepts, but as an institutional culture of conceptual thinking on the nature of conflict and the best conduct of warfare.

 

Traditionally, British officers did not care about intellectual debate and felt deep reluctance towards any formal writings. At best, some sort of doctrine existed as tactical instruction manuals. However, they were considered to be something for the classroom but irrelevant in the field. Operational experience was handed down informally, often by word of mouth, through generations of officers. It remained compartmentalised within the militarys various groupings. In the absence of formal statements on the overall role of the British Armed Forces, a common starting point for the study of conflict did not exist. In such an organisational culture, innovation was left to coincidence, largely steered by what was already known or physically available. Tactical command initiative was devolved and lower-level commanders (NCOs and junior officers) were empowered to make decisions based on the tactical situation at hand.

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. I get the impression the problem the Army had was doctrinal of a strategic level, not at the tactical level.As you say Tactical initiative was fine by NCO's and lower ranked officers, the problem came when it came to do anything at the divisional level and above. There is an exceptionally good book by Anthony Cordesman IIRC, called 'Cold War, Hot Peace', which suggest the army didnt really have a strategic or operational doctrine at all before 1981. No, not all the way through its history! The idea for WW3 as best I can tell was walk backwards very slowly, sort of recreating the thin red line with Chieftains and FV432's. Nobody was much in love with it, nobody was in a mind to change it.

 

it seems that around 1981 we got a new Commander of BAOR called Bagnall, and at that point all previous history went out the window. He didnt just develop operational concepts, but he basically put the army on counteroffensive doctrine, that he later expanded to all of NORTHAG. The only snag was the fuel and the ammunition, but as far as operating a corp, it was a done deal. The success of 1 UK Division in Desert Storm was largely down to this.

 

I dont think there was as much of a problem at the lower levels. If you think back to army history, the building block has always been the battalion, and in many of the out of area operations they did, they didn't really have much else to support them. So as far as battalion level doctrine, I think we were fairly good to go. That may have left us uncertain of cross attachments, but again, if you look at the Korean war, integration of higher level elements with Battalions always seem to work ok. Im thinking of the heavy mortar battery (170 IIRC) that fought at the Imjin, that acquitted themselves well.

 

Well, its just a personal opinion. I think there was two armies. One of the below brigade level, the one of the Divisional and above. The one below Brigade I think was pretty good. I think to be charitable the one above brigade level lagged, and I dont believe this was a hangover from the wide horizon reforms.

 

 

Completely agree though, the real strength of the army was on its NCO's and junior officers.

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I'm sure it was Rommel who made a comment to the effect of "you British have excellent doctrine, if only you read it!"

Edited by GJK
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Specifically in the British Army but interested generally too...

 

Looks like there were reforms in the mid '70s that increased flexibility to assign infantry companies and tank squadrons to HQ's within a brigade, and this developed further in the 80s with the concept of the battlegroup and even down to 'teams' with individual elements of companies and squadrons being combined. My question is how was combined arms managed prior to this? Or was it not at all? Was the brigade group the lowest level integration of tanks and mech inf?

 

Apologies if this is the wrong subforum, seemed to fit under 'employment' of AFVs.

Morning,

 

Up until the mid/late 80s the British used battle groups built on an armoured regiment or mechanized infantry battalion, with armoured squadrons/mech inf companies exchanging troops/platoons to form combat teams. I don't know when this started, nor do I know how the farce of eliminating the brigade level in the late 70s until the early 80s affected the task organisation of units. This changed in the late 80s with battle groups based on armoured regiments/inf battalions remaining, but squadrons and companies being swapped instead of troops and platoons. This led to company/squadron groups being used at sub-unit level instead of combat teams. At all times, battle groups had artillery batteries and engineer squadrons attached, as well as other supporting elements.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Best,

 

Greg.

 

Thanks for the input. Watson & Rinaldi seem to suggest the cross functional combat teams were part of the 70's reorganisation and the deletion of brigades.

 

 

Thanks Stuart, a continuation of WW2 tactics does seem likely as from what I can tell (from here http://www.kerynne.com/games/BritishInfantryBrigadeGpTOE.html and 'The British Army In Germany..." - Watson & Rinaldi 2005) the brigade stucture doesn't seem way different... Then I realised I know nothing of WW2 combined arms tactics either.

 

Would the brigade HQ be able to request sub-units from the batallions to perform actions? Or would the brigade HQ only deal with batallion level control and let batallion leaders perform smaller actions independently? As a civvy I clearly have no idea how the chain of command actually works. Hollywood has let me down.

The brigade HQ instructs its subordinate units to detach sub-units to other units. It would never issue orders to sub-units, only to its subordinate unit HQs. This has always been the case.

 

Thank you this is very informative.

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Thanks. :) I had already seen most of those, again they are mid 70s onwards though.

 

Centurion, Conqueror and Chieftain all had infantry telephones so it seems there was at least some recognition of tanks and infantry fighting together.

Edited by FLOZi
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Having looked into this a bit more, I have remembered reading that 7th Armoured Division and 11th Armoured Division both paired armoured regiments and infantry battalions in the Second World War. This appears to have been a divisional decision rather than doctrine. By the time of the Normandy landings, each armoured brigade within an armoured division contained a motorized infantry battalion mounted in half-tracks. The doctrine called for one company to be attached to each armoured regiment.

 

Given this, and what we've discussed about the 70s onwards, I think it is reasonable to assume there was formal all-arms task organisation in the 50s and 60s.

 

Best,

 

Greg.

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Thanks. :) I had already seen most of those, again they are mid 70s onwards though.

 

Centurion, Conqueror and Chieftain all had infantry telephones so it seems there was at least some recognition of tanks and infantry fighting together.

 

Those are also useful in NBC situations to talk to the crew inside the tank, when radios are silent.

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Having looked into this a bit more, I have remembered reading that 7th Armoured Division and 11th Armoured Division both paired armoured regiments and infantry battalions in the Second World War. This appears to have been a divisional decision rather than doctrine. By the time of the Normandy landings, each armoured brigade within an armoured division contained a motorized infantry battalion mounted in half-tracks. The doctrine called for one company to be attached to each armoured regiment.

Given this, and what we've discussed about the 70s onwards, I think it is reasonable to assume there was formal all-arms task organisation in the 50s and 60s.

Best,

Greg.

Thinking on, there was a lorry mounted brigade in the division, and I think there was a backtrack mounted battalion in the tank brigade. Which would explain their presence at Villers Bocage.

 

I must hit the books, it's been too long since I refreshed my memory.

Edited by Stuart Galbraith
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British Armoured Bde late 44 and 45 usually had 3 Armoured Rgt & 1 Motor btn (IIRC) - may have ToE somewhere

 

also Lorried Infantry Bde - 3 more or less normal btn

 

then there was 79 Dvn supported infantry units that had kangaroos attached as needed

 

the Guards Armoured (and maybe 11 Armoured) that theoretically had Armoured Bde and Lorried Bde but ended up with 4 Armoured/Infantry groupings - both battalions in this case as the Guards are a tad eccentric

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How would the tanks and troops typically be deployed within those brigades though?

The motor battalions were mounted in half tracks, with one company attached to each armoured regiment. The lorry-mounted infantry battalions from the armoured division's infantry brigade typically travelled on the decks of the tanks until the start line before dismounting to carry out their tasks.

 

When Kangaroo APCs began to be used, they appear to have been used on an ad hoc basis. For example, during Op TOTALIZE in Normandy the Canadians (who followed British doctrine and were part of 2nd British Army) mounted the normally lorried infantry in Kangaroos which followed the tanks. The official history is worth a read (https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/Canada/CA/Victory/Victory-9.html). The difference between the Second World War and the early Cold War is that the APCs did not belong to the infantry battalions, they were attached on orders of higher headquarters.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Greg.

Edited by GJK
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How would the tanks and troops typically be deployed within those brigades though?

The motor battalions were mounted in half tracks, with one company attached to each armoured regiment. The lorry-mounted infantry battalions from the armoured division's infantry brigade typically travelled on the decks of the tanks until the start line before dismounting to carry out their tasks.

 

When Kangaroo APCs began to be used, they appear to have been used on an ad hoc basis. For example, during Op TOTALIZE in Normandy the Canadians (who followed British doctrine and were part of 2nd British Army) mounted the normally lorried infantry in Kangaroos which followed the tanks. The official history is worth a read (https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/Canada/CA/Victory/Victory-9.html). The difference between the Second World War and the early Cold War is that the APCs did not belong to the infantry battalions, they were attached on orders of higher headquarters.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Greg.

 

Exactly the sort of details was hoping for, thanks, and a great read. If possible I'd like to know more about how sub unit attachments worked and if it operated in a similar way in other nation's forces?

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