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´╗┐Title: Some Principles of Frontier Mountain Warfare
Author: Bird, W. D. (Wilkinson Dent)
Language: English
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(Late Professor at Indian Staff College.)

Hugh Rees, Ltd., 119, Pall Mall, S.W.


The saying that there is no new thing under the sun, is as applicable
to military affairs as to those of everyday life, for it is fully
admitted that the principles underlying all strategy and tactics,
whether of mountain or other warfare, are immutable.

But though the principles of strategy and tactics are unchanging,
organisation, formations, and minor items of procedure, must be
continually amended to meet ever varying circumstances, and, in
addition, each campaign possesses special characteristics demanding
further modifications.

There are, in fact, no invariable rules in the conduct of war, and
whilst formalism is harmful in all matters, in military operations it
is disastrous.

An army relying on an established code of rules will often defeat
itself in their application, and even if this disaster is avoided, the
enemy will soon become aware of the methods in vogue, and will so frame
his tactics as most advantageously to counteract them.

Each problem, great and small, each set of circumstances, must,
therefore, be considered on its merits, principles must be applied
in the solution, not rules, and strategy, tactics, organisation,
equipment, and other matters, arranged accordingly.

It is in this spirit that the problems of Indian Frontier warfare
should be approached.


The strength and organisation of a force destined to undertake
operations against the transborder clans of the Indian frontier is
naturally conditioned by the physical features of the area, by its
fertility, and by the numbers, character, organisation, and armament of
its inhabitants.

It has been truly said that in war every available man should be
employed, for one can never be too strong, but this aphorism is always
qualified by the number of men that can be fed in the district which is
to form the seat of war. The problem of the numbers to be used against
the Pathan tribes is, therefore, by no means easy of solution, for, as
a great French King said of Spain, in mountainous countries possessing,
as does the Indian borderland, few natural resources, but inhabited by
a hardy though scanty population, large armies risk starvation, small
are in danger of defeat.

The tribesmen of the North West Frontier are brave, and inured to
fatigue and hardship, a considerable number have been trained in our
Indian army, and these have some knowledge of tactics, and acquaintance
with British methods.

The clansmen possess no artillery, but in other respects are fairly
well armed, and owing to the cheap sale of rifles and ammunition in
Afghanistan, are daily becoming more formidable in this respect. They
suffer, however, from two grave military faults, lack of discipline
and cohesion, and at present would, it is believed, be unable to mass
against any one of several columns invading their fastnesses.

They would, more probably, be content merely to defend their own
valleys and homesteads, rather than attempt to defeat, in detail, the
divided forces of an invader operating from exterior lines.

It would seem, then, that in a campaign in the Indian borderland,
British troops would be justified in undertaking a concentric invasion
from several localities.

Certain advantages may also be claimed for this policy.

The road space occupied, in these pathless regions, by a large force
moving on one line, is so great, that, as was demonstrated in Sir W.
Lockhart's advance from Shinawari, in 1897, the rear of the column
will be several days' march behind the leading troops. In these
circumstances, not only will risk of defeat in detail be even greater
than in the case of concentric invasion--for small columns can better
exercise mutual support, than can a large force moving in a restricted
valley--but the length of the convoy train, and the seeming strength
of the force, will be a direct temptation to the tribesmen to avoid
battle, and have recourse to guerilla warfare.

Besides, if small columns are employed, the whole country will be, in
the first instance, over-run, and the enemy may, on account of the
apparent weakness of the various detachments, take heart of grace and

This, after all, is what is most desired, for the aim is always to
attain rapid and decisive victory, and so end the campaign.

An argument against convergent invasion is, that since it may be
necessary to use more than one line of communication, not only will the
employment of larger numbers be necessary, but more transport animals,
the provision and care of which really constitutes the main difficulty
in frontier warfare, will be required.

This drawback may, however, be mitigated by opening only one line of
communication, along the easiest route, the other detachments moving as
flying columns, until the heart of the district is reached, when their
surplus animals can be transferred to line of communication duties.


In deciding the strength of a column for an expedition against the
North West Frontier tribesmen, the first requisite, having regard
to the foregoing considerations, is so to limit numbers, that, in
the topographical conditions likely to be met, the force can, as an
entirety, make a march of reasonable length, let us say eight or ten
miles. Assuming that the column will move at an average rate of about
two miles per hour, that, in order to avoid risk of disaster, it is,
as a rule, desirable for the main force not to march before dawn, and
to be in camp by dusk, and that ten--twelve hours of daylight are
available, it is clear that the road space occupied must not, for a ten
mile march, exceed ten to fourteen miles. That is to say, the numbers
that can fulfil this condition on a narrow track, amount to about 4500
fighting men, carrying three days' rations on the person, and five
days' on transport animals.

Suppose that four such columns are destined to invade the Afridi Tirah.

The Afridis are said to possess 25,000 to 30,000 fighting men, and if
it be assumed that two-thirds of these have breech loading rifles,
and that the whole mass is unlikely to attack any, one, or even two
columns, the largest hostile gathering that a British detachment may
expect to meet is 6000-8000 men, of whom 4500-5500 may be well armed.

A column of 4500 disciplined troops need not therefore fear reverse.

The composition of a column is regulated by the topography of the area
of operations, but the following example will show how the allotment of
troops may be determined.

As basis for calculation a mixed brigade[1] organised for independent
action may be taken. To these troops may be added a squadron of
Silladar cavalry, if the country is suitable to its action, and a
mountain battery, which, together with the infantry, form a handy force
of the three arms.

But the column is still weak in infantry, on which the brunt of the
fighting will necessarily fall, and possesses no technical troops for
road-making, etc.

Both requirements may be fulfilled by the addition of a pioneer
battalion, or, since some hold that sappers and miners are more
economical than pioneers, a battalion, of British infantry, or of
Gurkhas, and a company of sappers and miners may be included.

It now only remains to give the troops an ammunition column, the
necessary staff, certain additional medical, and administrative
details, and the force--one infantry brigade organised for independent
action, one squadron, one mountain battery, one British battalion, one
company sappers and miners, etc.--will be complete, and adequate for
its purpose.


[Footnote 1: 1 British infantry battalion; 3 Native infantry
battalions; 1/2 British field hospital; 1-1/2 Native field hospitals; 1
Field post office; Brigade supply column.]


A body of troops moving in an enemy's country is liable to be attacked
at any time, and from any direction, and must, therefore, always take
measures for the protection of its front, flanks, and rear.

In warfare in civilised and highly developed countries, when the
enemy's object is rather to defeat the fighting force than to harry the
convoy, and when troops can march on broad frontages, the protection
given by bodies of cavalry with horse artillery, flung far to front and
flanks, and supported, if necessary, by infantry, is usually adequate.

But when the line of march leads along a single file track, winding
through narrow valleys, and over rugged mountains, when the column,
compared to its strength, occupies an inordinate length of roadway, and
is therefore especially vulnerable to flank attack, and when the enemy,
or at any rate a portion of his warriors, prefer plunder of baggage to
pitched battles, other measures to safeguard the force must be taken.

Flankguards can rarely make their way over the steeply scarped hills
enclosing the North West Frontier valleys, and since the advanced guard
can, in such conditions, effect no more than the clearance of the
valley in which it is moving, it becomes necessary to adopt a sedentary
form of protection for the flanks of the force. This consists of
picquets, posted along the route, in localities commanding approaches
to the roadway, or from which the enemy can fire on the column.

These picquets, together with the advanced and rear guards, secure the
movement of the remaining troops; they are, as a rule, found by the
units composing the advanced guard, and withdraw under the supervision,
and if necessary with the assistance of the rear guard.

The order of march of a column, in border, as in other campaigns, is
conditioned by the proximity, strength, and probable action of the
enemy, by the topography of the district to be traversed, by the
object to be attained, and by the composition of the force.

The first duty of the staff officer to whom is confided the drafting
of orders for a march, will therefore be, by personal observation, and
from intelligence and other reports, to find out as much as possible
of the country, and of the enemy's dispositions and probable tactics.
Armed with this information he will be in a position to arrange the
order of march of his column according to the circumstances of the case.

When the enemy, for instance, is in force in the vicinity, and his
actions, such as throwing up of entrenchments, harassing camp in
large numbers, imply that he will offer vigorous resistance to the
advance, it is probable that the baggage and supply column will be best
parked, under sufficient guard, either in the camp, or in some other
locality easy of defence, whilst the remainder move off, in preparatory
formation for action.

If the clansmen are reported to be inclined to dispute the advance in
force, but are some distance from the camp, the most suitable order of
march may be deduced as follows.

The enemy being in strength, the column should move in compact
formation, and deliberately, the advanced guard being pushed only so
far forward as to secure the troops from surprise, and as few road
picquets sent out as may be, in order that the fighting force may be
reduced as little as possible.

The method of posting and withdrawing picquets will not materially
differ from that which will be described later.

The tribesmen being known to be in force and prepared to resist, it
follows that the bulk of the fighting men must be at the head of the
column; and as the advanced guard will be near the remainder, it need
be only sufficiently numerous to insure that the duties of protection
are adequately performed.

Suppose the tribesmen five miles distant, and that, as a rough basis
for calculation, two companies can secure about one-and-a-half to two
miles of roadway; then about three companies will be required for

If three companies be added for other purposes, the advanced guard
infantry should be of sufficient strength.

The advanced guard will require a proportion of technical troops for
road making and repair, and for this purpose two companies of pioneers,
or the bulk of a company of sappers and miners may be allotted.

Cavalry are not, it is considered, in place with an advanced guard
moving in an enclosed and intricate country, nor, since the main body
will be close behind, need any special medical details be included.

Whether artillery should be allotted is a more open question. In favour
of placing guns with the advanced guard, it can be argued that they
may be of assistance in clearing the hills to be occupied by picquets
or vanguard; against their inclusion it may be urged that artillery
ammunition will necessarily be scarce, owing to the difficulty of
carriage, and should only be employed when an advantageous opportunity
for inflicting loss occurs, but that advanced guard commanders are
prone to make too much use of their guns.

On the whole, when the advanced guard is not far from the main body, it
would seem that the inclusion of guns in the former is unnecessary.

The organisation and order of march of the main body may be as under.

It is clear that the numbers available for action will be those left
over after suitable deduction has been made for baggage and rear
guards. These, therefore, must first be allotted.

Light duty men, officers' servants, cooks, etc., should suffice to
secure the regimental transport, and for policing the drivers, but
the supply column, hospitals, and reserve ammunition, require special
escorts, and perhaps one company each may be adequate for the two first
mentioned, and one or two companies for the ammunition.

The strength and composition of the rear guard is the next item, and
this is regulated by its function of supervision of the retirement of
the picquets.

Such being the case, it appears that, in no circumstances, should
a large force be detailed as a rear-guard. There is not space in a
narrow valley for a strong rear-guard to manoeuvre, so that it will
merely afford the enemy a good target, without corresponding advantage;
besides, the rear-guard can, if necessary, be continually reinforced by
incoming picquets.

A rear-guard, then, should rarely include more than four companies of
infantry, and in the circumstances under consideration, may be weaker.

Though cavalry may be useful for the delivery of a counter-attack, the
horses afford an easy mark, whilst its presence with the rear-guard may
cause the enemy to keep to the hills instead of descending into the
valley, where they will be more vulnerable. Cavalry, it seems, should,
therefore, not be added to the rear-guard infantry.

Mountain guns may be of assistance to picquets in distress, or in the
delivery of a counter-attack, but they should, both for their own
security, and to prevent waste of ammunition, be kept well back. In
the present case the rear-guard is not likely to be harassed, so no
artillery need be included.

A rear-guard does not require technical troops, but some hospital
riding mules, etc., may be allotted for rapid transference of wounded.

The total deductions from the fighting force of the column will
therefore be:--

  _Advanced Guard._ Six companies Infantry, bulk of one company S. and

  _Escorts, etc._ Three or four companies Infantry.

  _Rear-guard._ Two or three companies, with machine guns.

In all about one and a half battalions, one company sappers and miners.
There remain three and a half battalions, one mountain battery, one
squadron, and the administrative services, at disposal.

The order of march of the main body can now be dealt with.

Perhaps half a battalion may move in front, then the mountain battery,
which should not require a special escort, next the three battalions.

After these may follow the reserve ammunition, the hospitals, the 2nd
line transport with B. echelon 1st line transport[2] of all troops,
except the advanced and rear-guards, and then the supply column.

At the tail of the main body may move the B. echelon of the advanced
and rear-guards, so as to be readily available in case any troops
belonging to either are obliged to bivouac outside camp; and finally,
since they are unlikely to be able to undertake effective pursuit, may
come the cavalry, so as to be at hand in case they are required to
assist the rear-guard to counter-attack, by charging any tribesmen who
have ventured into the valley.

Though B. echelon 1st line transport of the advanced and rear-guards
is placed at the end of the column, it is considered that all troops
should be so equipped that they can be independent of camp and
transport for at least two, and better still, for three days. It is
a lesser evil to carry an extra, but in some degree decreasing load,
even if it prejudices mobility, than to starve, or run undue risk of
sickness from cold and damp.

The next case to be considered will be when the enemy is not in great
force, and is more likely to harass than to seriously resist the
advance of the column.

In such circumstances, the main objects will be to complete, as rapidly
as may be, the proposed march, whilst inflicting on the enemy, should
he give the opportunity, the greatest possible loss.

Since the distance is to be quickly traversed, and because a road
picquet takes some time, even as much as an hour, to secure and
establish itself on a hill, it follows that, unless risk is to be run
of the march of the main body being delayed, the advanced guard must
precede the main body by at least one hour, and may even move off in
the twilight which precedes dawn.

This settled, the composition of the advanced guard may be dealt with.

If it is proposed to make a ten mile march, then, calculating from the
data previously mentioned, about one battalion will be sufficient to
picquet the roadway. To this force some four companies may be added,
so as to leave a good margin for securing the camp site, and for
unexpected contingencies.

Technical troops will, as before, be required, and as the advanced
guard will be some way from the main body, a section of mountain
artillery may be included. Neither cavalry, nor special medical units,
seem necessary.

The composition of the advanced guard may, therefore,
be:--one-and-a-half battalions infantry, one section mountain battery,
the bulk of one company sappers and miners.

As already stated, before deciding on the order of march of the main
column, the deductions to be made for escort and rear-guard duties must
be fixed.

Light duty men, etc., should suffice to secure the regimental
transport, three companies to safeguard the reserve ammunition,
hospitals, and supply column, whilst the mountain battery hardly needs
a special escort.

In respect of the rear-guard, in the case under consideration it is
possible that the picquets may be harassed as they withdraw, the
strength of the rear-guard may, therefore, amount to four companies of
infantry, with machine guns, and one section mountain artillery, with
some ambulance riding mules, etc., in addition.

The total deductions, for purposes of protection, from the fighting
force of the column, therefore, amount to:--infantry, two battalions
three companies; artillery, two sections; sappers and miners one
company; and there remain, for disposal, infantry, two battalions five
companies, artillery, one section, cavalry, one squadron, besides
various administrative units.

No serious opposition being expected to the march of the column, the
comfort of the troops may be considered in regulating the order of

As before, and for the same reasons, the cavalry, and the B. echelon
1st line transport of the advanced and rear-guards, and of the
picquetting troops, may march at the tail of the main body.

It should hardly be necessary to place, in addition, a body of infantry
at the end of the column, but, if desired, the remaining four companies
of the battalion furnishing the rear-guard may move immediately in
front of, or behind, the cavalry. The rest of the fighting force
can march at the head of the main column, followed by the reserve
ammunition, hospitals, B. echelon 1st line transport, with the 2nd line
transport, and then the supply column.

In circumstances where little or no resistance is expected to the
forward movement of a column, but serious opposition to the withdrawal
of picquets, and to the march of the rear-guard, the following
modification will be necessary in the order of march just dealt with.

The strength, composition, and time of march of the advanced guard need
only be altered by the deduction of, say, one section of sappers and
miners, and perhaps, too, the withdrawal of the mountain guns.

The escorts, etc., of the non-fighting portions of the main column may
remain as before suggested, as may the strength and composition of the

The order of march of the main column will, however, require
transposition somewhat as follows:

Since the principal opposition will take the form of pursuit by the
enemy, the bulk of the fighting troops should move in rear of the main
column, so as to be in position to undertake the offensive if required.

The units may, therefore, march as follows:

Two companies of infantry; the supply column; the B. echelon 1st line
transport, (except, of the advanced and rear-guards,) with the 2nd line
transport; the hospitals; the reserve ammunition; B. echelon 1st line
transport of the advanced and rear-guards; the rest of the infantry,
less four companies; the remainder of the artillery; one section of
sappers and miners, the cavalry, and finally four companies.


[Footnote 2: 1st Line transport is usually divided into two echelons
A. and B. The former includes ammunition reserve, intrenching tools,
water, signalling and medical equipment. The latter blankets, rations,
and cooking pots, etc.]


Speaking generally, the procedure followed by an advanced guard may be
somewhat as follows:--

Both on account of considerations for its own security, and because
hills will thus be more rapidly secured, it is desirable that the
positions to be occupied by road picquets should, so far as it is
practicable to do so from the valley, be decided some time before
the main guard arrives opposite the various localities. It is also
understood that considerable latitude is allowed to the picquet
commander as to the position occupied, and that he is at liberty either
to demand reinforcement, or to return redundant men to the advanced
guard, as occasion may demand.

The advanced guard may move in the following order.

First a vanguard of one or more companies, preceding the remainder by
about half a mile, and adapting its formation to the ground.

Then the mainguard, at the head of which should be the advanced guard
commander, his staff officer, the battalion commander of the unit
furnishing the leading company, and the company commander.


As the troops march up the valley, the advanced guard commander should
decide what localities are to be held, and in what strength. He should
issue his orders to the battalion or company commander, as the case
may be, when the picquets should move direct to their positions.
Meanwhile, the staff officer should make, in sections, a rough sketch
of the positions occupied by the various picquets, which should be
numbered consecutively as they move out, the sections of the sketch
being sent, as completed, to the officer commanding the rear-guard.

In addition, to insure that no picquet is overlooked by the rear-guard,
a double sentry, with a paper showing the number of its picquet, should
be placed in the roadway beneath the height occupied, and it is the
duty of the picquet commander to keep in touch with this sentry post.

In this manner the roadway should be picquetted, until the locality is
reached where the column is to halt, when the advanced guard commander
should take the usual measures for the security of the camp, for
safe-guarding the water supply, etc.

It has been suggested that an advanced guard should be divided into
two portions, advanced guard, and the picquetting troops, each under a
separate leader, the object being to free the advanced guard commander
from the work of picquetting, so that his whole attention can be
devoted to tactics. The advanced guard is to clear the hills, which are
then to be occupied by picquets.

This system does not appear sound, for it necessitates two men doing
the work of one, and, in practice, the advanced guard usually either
meets with little or no resistance, or with such serious opposition
that picquetting is in abeyance.

Each picquet, when it reaches the position selected by its leader,
should intrench, taking especial care to provide head cover, so that
the enemy may not be easily able to observe the moment of its final

Before the last troops of the main column have quitted camp, the
rear-guard commander should have arranged his force in a series of
successive positions, calculated to enable the units to mutually
support one another's retirement, as well as to assist, if necessary,
the withdrawal of picquets.

The guns should, for reasons already given, be kept well back, and this
system of successive positions should be continued throughout the march.

It is, of course, understood that the main column keeps contact with,
and regulates its march by that of the rear-guard.

It is sometimes advocated that the camp picquets should, before the
column marches off, be relieved by the rear-guard, with the object of
enabling the picquets to rejoin their units.

This arrangement does not appear advantageous. The troops detailed for
the relief of the picquets will probably have to move out in darkness,
and over an unknown area, and though, if the enemy advances during
the relief, he will be opposed in double strength, should his attack
be delivered later, units who do not know the ground will be placed
in positions they will not be able to defend to the best advantage.
Besides, the men composing the rear-guard, whose functions are in
any case sufficiently arduous, will be involved in additional and
unnecessary fatigue.

The withdrawal of picquets may be carried out on the following

When a picquet commander sees, or receives reports that the rear-guard
is approaching, he should send the bulk of his picquet to a position,
previously reconnoitred, on the lower slope of the hill, and in the
direction of the line of march of the column, whence the retirement of
the remainder can be covered by fire.

Whilst on the hill, and especially as the time for withdrawal
approaches, the men of a picquet should be careful not to show
themselves, in order that the enemy may not, by counting heads, be able
to divine that retirement has been begun. Similarly, the men left on
the hill to the last, should, above everything, avoid exposure.

When the picquet commander sees the rear-guard commander, who will
usually be with the last troops, and whose presence will be shown
by a flag, is opposite his post, he should give the signal for the
evacuation of the hill top, on which the men should creep back, and as
soon as they are below the sky line, run down the hill to a position
beyond that of their covering party. The withdrawal should then be
continued according to the accepted principles, until the whole picquet
has reached the valley, when its leader should report to the rear-guard
commander, receiving orders whether the picquet is to proceed to the
main column, or to join the rear-guard.

The rear guard commander should have previously called in the road
sentry post marking the locality held by the picquet, and the map
furnished by the advanced guard will have been of assistance in
identifying its position.


It is contended that the withdrawal of a picquet rests, except in
special circumstances, entirely with the picquet leader. He is the man
on the spot, and can best judge when the retirement should commence.

The rear-guard commander should rarely attempt to regulate the actions
of the picquets, of whose situation he cannot have adequate knowledge,
but should exercise general supervision, ready to afford assistance if

At times picquets may be able to support one another's movements, but,
as a rule, a picquet will be too fully occupied with its own affairs to
be able to render assistance to its neighbours.

The above outline of a withdrawal presupposes that hostile pressure is
not unduly severe.

If the enemy venture to close with the rear-guard and picquets, it is
submitted that an immediate counter-attack should be delivered, the
main body being halted.

To lose so golden an opportunity of inflicting loss on a volatile foe
seems on the one hand unwise, whilst, on the other, it is surely both
undignified and demoralising to permit savages to hunt British regulars
into camp.

The delivery of a counter-attack is accompanied by some risk, and its
success will depend on the aptitude of the rear-guard commander for
stratagem, for, if loss is to be inflicted, the enemy must, as a rule,
be trapped.

Simple ruses which suggest themselves are, either to attempt to attract
the tribesmen into the low ground by a bait of ammunition or transport
animals, the cavalry, guns, and part of rear-guard, infantry being
previously concealed in positions from which they can take advantage
of any mistake the enemy may commit, and the retirement of picquets
stopped, as soon as the attack is delivered. Or, two or more picquets,
which have been previously reinforced by troops moving along concealed
lines of advance to the hill tops, may feign retirement, and attack the
tribesmen as they follow over the crest line.

If stratagem fails, the column should halt and drive off the enemy, a
proceeding which should be repeated until he is taught that to follow
up British troops is neither profitable nor advantageous.


Success in war depends in some degree on adaptation of tactics to local
conditions, and it is therefore clear that, to attain rapid success
against the inhabitants of the North Western Frontier, a knowledge
of their tactics is required, and that, whilst the British aims are
pursued with unswerving determination, their probable movements must be
met and defeated.

The tribesmen, like most savages, are only really formidable when
one is running away from them. They fight well in positions strongly
fortified, and with flanks secure, but, being without the discipline
or cohesion to meet envelopment, are much influenced by pressure
against their flanks.

Pathans are fearful of artillery, and do not, as a rule, seriously
resist a determined advance, preferring the easier and less dangerous
enterprise of harassing the retirements which they believe are an
inevitable corollary to forward movements; or of attacking isolated
detachments, whose operations they have observed from their hill-tops.

They are suspicious of ambuscades, except when excited in pursuit, and
are not prone to accept battle unless surprised.

Like other people, they shoot well when not themselves under effective
fire, and, when shooting into a valley, where the strike of the bullet
can be observed, their fire is accurate. On the other hand, owing to
their relatively defective armament, and to lack of ammunition, tribal
fire as a rule lacks volume.

The tribesmen skirmish well, and move quickly over their hills, but
rarely, except when engaging a small force, or by night, attack in
mass. On the other hand, they often crowd their defensive positions
with men.

They are said to dislike being overlooked by their opponents, and
therefore do not care to attack up hill, but will, at times, try to
rush a detachment, with the object of capturing rifles and ammunition.

The fact that a proportion of the men possess only inferior fire-arms,
renders possible resort to shock tactics, especially when roused to a
pitch of fanaticism.

Pathans are partial to night operations, probably because they believe
that there is little fear of interference after dark. Their enterprises
are usually on a small scale, but night attacks in force, are possible.
Their inadequate clothing, and the cold of the early morning, however,
usually forces them to seek shelter as the night wears on.

From the above description it will be seen that British troops, so long
as they observe the ordinary principles of war, have nothing to fear
from the tribesmen. But it is to be remembered that, unless stratagem
is intended, the offensive is the general rule in tribal warfare, for
the enemy construes a defensive attitude as a sign of fear, and becomes
correspondingly elated.

The composition of forces despatched on reconnaissance and minor
punitive expeditions requires careful consideration. Columns composed
of men drawn from many different infantry units are inherently weak, so
that, in all operations, complete units, so far as they are required,
should be employed, cavalry being added when local conditions are
favourable. Artillery will generally be necessary, as well as a
proportion of technical troops, but the strength of columns should,
within limits of safety, be low, in order to insure mobility, and
to encourage resistance. The military value of the enemy must not,
however, be underestimated.

The main object of all operations is to quickly attain a decisive
success. To this end the tribesmen must be induced to stand and fight
with the purpose of inflicting casualties on them.

It is to be remembered that the enemy can, less easily than the
British, afford losses, especially of arms. Commanders, without being
prodigal of their men's lives, need not, therefore, be afraid of
incurring casualties, especially when there is likelihood that the
enemy will suffer loss to at least an equal extent. If the tribesmen's
losses are heavy, those of the British troops will probably be
considerably less. Close fighting is all to the advantage of trained

As has been stated, the clansmen will rarely commit themselves to
battle in conditions favourable to the British, unless they can be
outwitted or surprised. Night operations may, therefore, frequently
be necessary, having special regard to the fact that, from their hill
tops, the enemy will overlook all manoeuvres. As the natives are not
often abroad in the early morning, surprise, at dawn, will not present
unusual difficulties.

The enveloping form of tactics, when the enemy is attacked both in
front and flank, is as effective in tribal as in other warfare. But,
owing to the topographical advantages enjoyed by the tribesmen, it will
be necessary to hold them closely in frontal attack, and so distract
their attention from outflanking movements. This may be possible, for
they fight with confidence when behind cover. Mere frontal attack
is likely to be at once costly and ineffective; hence, if neither
envelopment, nor night operations, are practicable, resort may be
had to such stratagems as a feigned retirement, or bait of transport
animals, to tempt the Pathans from their hills.

Though the possibility of tribal counter-attack, by shock, must not be
lost sight of, the British advantage in training and armament should
enable a central general reserve to be dispensed with, the object being
to so dispose the troops as to insure envelopment.

Good information and staff work, and a sound system of
inter-communication, will, moreover, if all ranks are imbued with the
spirit of mutual support, go far to insure success.

Commanders, especially of small forces, should remember that hesitation
will be quickly observed by the enemy, but a bold front, and ready
stratagem, will soon cause him to lose heart.

When a post or isolated detachment requires assistance, aid can often
be most rapidly and effectively given by application of such indirect
pressure as will tend to divert the enemy's attention.

In minor tactics, whilst taking every advantage of the cover afforded
by features of ground, troops must beware of seeking shelter in
hollows or nullahs, places which will, assuredly, have been marked
by the enemy's riflemen, so that their occupation will rarely escape

In attack, infantry units, whilst securing their flanks, should advance
up salients, taking care to afford one another mutual fire assistance.
Supports and local reserves should be pushed as near to the firing line
as the shape of the ground will permit; but, at times, reserves may be
able to effectively support the troops in front by covering fire, from
suitable positions, behind, or on the flanks of, the line of advance.

Fire should be reserved until units have closed on the enemy, the
object being to prevent the early evacuation of a position, after
having caused a few casualties at long range.

As the enemy's fire, though likely to be accurate, will probably lack
volume, resort need not be had to widely extended formations.

To gain ground, and when assaulting, the procedure outlined in the
training manuals requires no modification.

Artillery should be handled with discretion, and should be on its guard
against the tendency to open fire whenever a target is seen. Its aim
should be not to evict, but to hold the enemy to his sangars, and to
inflict loss when he retreats.

The steep forward slopes of hills will enable fire to be continued
until the infantry has closed on the tribesmen, but oblique, rather
than frontal fire should be employed.

It is, of course, important to insure close inter-communication between
infantry and artillery.

In tribal, as in other warfare, unless the enemy is completely
enveloped, efficient pursuit is necessary to set the seal on victory.
Pursuit can, at first, probably be best undertaken by the enveloping
wings, artillery co-operating to head the enemy off in the required
direction, whilst the cavalry press forward.

A portion of the artillery should, therefore, move with the outflanking
wings, keeping as near as possible to the firing line.

Pathans, familiar with the country, and confident that they have
everything to gain, and but little to lose by such tactics, favour the
harassing of troops as they withdraw from heights, or along valleys.
Though it may be taken as a maxim that there will be no pursuit if
the enemy has, in any recent fighting, been adequately punished, the
conditions may have been such that casualties could not be inflicted.

In these circumstances, the clansmen must surely not be permitted to
embarrass the British movements, and must be convinced that pursuit is
both dangerous and unprofitable.

Mere counter-attack, when the enemy is not surprised, is likely to lead
to no advantage, but a few skilfully laid ambushes will soon discourage
his zeal for pursuit. Should he, however, persist in following up the
troops, counter-attack should at once be made, and the retirement
discontinued. The enemy, it is to be remembered, will, as a rule,
offer the greatest opportunity of inflicting loss when he follows up a
retirement, and, in such operations, the aim must be rather to cause
than to avoid casualties.

All withdrawals should be pre-arranged and systematic, flanks being
securely held, and the principle of mutual support observed. But
formalism must be avoided, and procedure must never be permitted to
become so stereotyped that the enemy will be able to confidently
anticipate the movements of the troops.

Men must beware of entering nullahs, or depressions of any kind,
until the further edge has been secured; and, when on a hill top, the
provision of such cover as will conceal the head-dress is of importance.

Transport animals should be clear of the fighting troops before
retirement is begun.

If the object is to slip away from the enemy, the retirement should be
made at a time when movement is not expected.

When a valley is to be swept in course of punitive operations, an
adequate force should be left to secure the entrance, if the column is
to leave by this route.

Troops, as has already been suggested, should, in respect of
ammunition, food, and warm coats, be independent of transport animals,
and it should be understood that units are always to be prepared to
remain for the night away from camp. The men should be trained to
economise water, which is often scarce across the border.

Ammunition and rifles being the main objects of tribal ambition,
special care should be taken to prevent them from falling into the
enemy's hands.

Against the North West Frontier clans, the offensive, as usual, is
normally the best defensive, but it may sometimes happen that small
British forces are temporarily obliged to act on the defensive.

In such circumstances, it is to be expected that the enemy will adopt
the tactics, common amongst savages, of seeking the flanks of the
troops, both to avoid fire, and to obtain the advantages of enfilade.
It follows, then, that defensive measures should include all round
protection, whilst a relatively large reserve should be kept ready to
attack the hostile levies, as soon as any portion comes within charging

Experience tends to prove that a compact body of even a section, if
well entrenched and supplied with ammunition, has nothing to fear from
Pathans, especially when the British leader is animated by the proper
spirit of timely offensive.


It is desirable for a column escorting a large baggage train--and this
is essentially the predicament of civilised troops engaged in frontier
mountain warfare--to be collected in camp before nightfall, otherwise
the enemy may be given unduly favourable opportunities of employing
harassing methods.

But it does not result that the situation of troops unable, for any
cause, to reach camp, is at all desperate.

Strong and compact forces adopting the usual precautions, can probably,
in many, if not in most cases, march in safety after nightfall, but
small detachments and baggage can rarely do so without undue risk.
These, then, should always park and intrench towards nightfall,
wherever they may find themselves, when they will have little to fear,
for experience, as has been stated, tends to show that even a section,
securely intrenched, and with ample ammunition, can hold its own
against heavy odds.

The form of camp, and the nature of the protection adopted, depend, as
usual, on the topography, and on the character of the enemy.

A common method is to place transport, etc., within a perimeter
occupied by the fighting troops, but this arrangement is by no means
invariable, and it may be convenient to form two or more camps, or to
separate transport from fighting troops.

The camp will, as a rule, be located in proximity to water, that is to
say in a valley, and in such circumstances, if it can be sited well
under one of the enclosing ranges of hills, protection from sniping
will be afforded from this direction, though the overhanging heights
must be securely held.

Sometimes a small basin is available for the bivouac, and in this case,
the troops can, to a great extent, be secured from this favourite
tribal device of firing into camp after nightfall.

As is the case in all war, the measures taken for the security of a
camp include a system of picquets, and in frontier expeditions these
are placed all round camp, either on the level, or on any commanding
heights, within, at any rate, effective rifle range.

Picquets may be pushed even further forward, but when so situated, must
be numerically strong, as they are liable to be rushed, though more for
the sake of capturing their arms, than with the object of inflicting
loss. No picquet should be of less strength than one section, all
should be intrenched against attack from any direction. Their bearing
from camp should also be taken, and they should be in signalling
communication with the main body, so that assistance may be requested
and despatched when necessary, or warning given of the approach of the
enemy in force.

Bombs should be useful adjuncts to picquet defence, in case the enemy
should succeed in forming a lodgment near the sangar.

Though a sedentary system of picquets may discover the presence of a
large hostile body near camp, and may, in some degree, check sniping,
the latter evil cannot, by this means, be completely prevented.
Tribesmen, especially since they are aware that the British rarely risk
troops, other than picquets, outside the perimeter, will often creep in
and snipe from the area between the picquets and camp.

There seems, however, no valid reason why sniping should be passively
tolerated, when it can probably be effectively combated by placing,
in certain localities between the camp and picquets, small patrols of
picked men, provided with grass shoes, whose duty will be to stalk and
bayonet venturesome marauders.

Against this proposal it has been argued that the British, and
especially the European soldiers, are unfit to cope, by night, with
tribesmen, inured from childhood to move silently in darkness over
rough ground. The contention is considered to be inadmissible, for
though there is, and must be, risk in stalking snipers, picked British
soldiers are surely now, as formerly, more than a match for Pathans,
in all circumstances when the numbers are fairly even.

The form of intrenchment, if any, excavated round the bivouac, is
conditioned by the character of the enemy.

If he is prone to adopt shock tactics, and to attempt to rush the camp
under cover of darkness, a ditch to check his charge, backed by a
parapet with head cover, will be the most favourable form of defence.

But if he is partial merely to harassing methods, such as firing into
camp, the perimeter defences should be calculated to mitigate their
effects, by providing, for all troops, trenches well traversed, and
with parapets both to front and rear.

If both forms of attack are possible, parapets with trench and ditch
should be made, the trench, or ditch, being first dug, according as a
charge or sniping is most to be feared.

Naturally units protected by high ground on one or more flanks, need
only make cover so as to secure themselves from the directions from
which fire can be delivered.

Only infantry should hold the perimeter of a camp, machine guns being
placed at the angles, and the defence of each confided to one unit,
divided responsibility not being permissible.

Supports may, if necessary, be located in intrenchments behind the
perimeter, and a homogeneous body of about half a battalion, allotted
as reserve, and given a bivouac near that of the column commander.

In case of attack, the duty of cavalry soldiers is to stand to their
horses, of artillery to man their guns. To neither, therefore, in
normal circumstances, should a portion of the perimeter be confided,
and both should be placed within its circumference.

At the same time, guns should be so disposed, in pits or epaulments,
that they can sweep ground across which attack is most likely to be
made; or they may be laid so as to search localities where tribesmen
may collect prior to delivering an assault.


The protection of a line of communication is secured by combination
of passive and active measures, though the latter are of the greatest

Passive measures include the provision of fortified staging posts,
linked up by a series of road picquets, and supplemented by escorts to
convoys. The active defence is by means of flying columns.

Roughly speaking, it may be said that about 100 men per mile suffice
for all protective purposes, and it is assumed that the responsibility
of a staging post commandant extends half way to the posts on either
side of his own.

The garrison of a staging post must be of sufficient strength, and of
suitable composition, to secure the convoys halting there for the
night, to furnish them with police escorts for the next day's march,
and, if road picquets are found from the post, to supply these also.

Road picquets can either be sent out each day from staging posts,
can be permanently located in a succession of blockhouses, or can be
semi-permanent, that is to say can be supplied from a series of minor
posts connecting staging centres. In each of the above cases the same
number of men will be required.

The first method, by concentrating the troops each evening, makes for
their general security, but, since picquets must daily, and at fixed
hours, move to and from their places, a good deal of fatigue will be
imposed on the men, and there will, in addition, be some risk of minor
disasters to individual picquets, which may be ambuscaded. Moreover,
since the convoys cannot march until the picquets are in position, and
as picquets cannot be risked outside the post before sunrise and after
sunset, the hours available for the movements of the convoys will be a
good deal curtailed.

Under the second alternative, a weak cordon is formed, portions of
which cannot, owing to the topography, easily render one another
support in case any picquet is attacked in force. On the other hand, no
time will be wasted in posting and withdrawing picquets.

The third system is a compromise between the two already mentioned,
and seems, on the whole, to be the most advantageous. If three or
four relatively large posts are placed, in dangerous localities, such
as valley junctions, between staging centres, there will be little or
no risk of their capture by the enemy. Since the picquets necessary
to watch, by day, the area between the posts, will have but short
distances to traverse to reach their positions, the time available
for movement of convoys will not be curtailed; and as the ground
intervening between two posts will, in some degree, be overlooked
from them, there will be less chance, than under the first method, of
picquets falling into ambuscades.

The efficiency of the protection of a line of communication depends,
however, on the active, not on the passive measures for its security.

Active defence is maintained by flying columns, of strength and
organisation suitable to the character of the enemy and the nature of
the country. To these columns is confided the protection of certain
areas, an end attained, not by inactivity, for the troops should be
continually on the move, so that the enemy can never be certain when
and where to expect them, but by a vigorous and energetic offensive
in whatever directions an efficient service of intelligence reports
hostile gatherings.

The enemy's movements and projects must, in fact, be anticipated,
rather than countered when in course of execution.


When considering what steps are to be taken for the defence of a post,
large or small, the maxim that the offensive is the best defence must
be ever prominently before the mind.

It follows that the first step, after a site has been selected, the
water supply secured, and the usual measures for security taken,
should be to set apart as many men as possible for offensive purposes,
including reconnaissance. In other words, the strength of the reserve
should be calculated from these premises, having due regard to the
number of nights in bed required by the whole garrison; and the reserve
should not be such men as may be left over after the requirements of
passive defence have been fully satisfied.

The next item should be the selection of a keep or citadel, where
stores and ammunition can be placed, and where hospital, headquarters,
and a central signalling and communicating station can be located.

In this keep may be placed machine or other guns, if available, so
arranged that they can sweep approaches to the post, and also, if
possible, protect with fire the flanks of picquet stations.

It will now be time to allocate, generally, the troops destined for
guard and picquet duty.

These arrangements may be primarily made from the interior of the
post, its safety being the first consideration, though for reasons of
sanitation the more space that can be given to troops and convoys the

Picquets having been roughly allotted, the plan of defence should be
regarded from the enemy's point of view, and the necessary changes
made; and, finally, the bearings of the picquet positions should be
taken from the keep, and routes to them cleared, in case they should
require reinforcement by night.

It should only be necessary to keep picquets at their full strength
in night-time. By day the bulk of the men could fall back into the
interior of the post, an arrangement which would at once facilitate
water and food supply, and would also be advantageous from a sanitary
point of view.

The next duties will be to deal with the general sanitation of the
post, and especially of the rest and convoy camps, to mark out the
latter, and to secure their policing.

As time goes on, the post commandant can arrange for improved
communication between the keep and picquets, as well as throughout the
interior of the enceinte, sign posts being erected and the water supply

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Transcibers note:

One instance of "defensive" has been changed to "defence."

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