Learning Curve, The Great War
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Transcript: Source7
Extracts from the reports of Major General Sir Henry Rawlinson on aspects of warfare, 1914-15
(Catalogue ref: PRO 30/57/51)

Source 7a

We have been undertaking mining operation[s] to a limited extent but now that the Anglesey Siege Engineer Company has arrived with a lot of miners from Lancashire we shall be able to make good progress – the only mine we have yet dug had the desired effect of making the enemy cease his sap. Small night raids against the enemy's sap heads by parties dressed in white night things had the best effect on the same where they were quite invisible – The 7 Div are good at these minor enterprises and the 8 Div though green are learning the tricks of the trade – The young officers we have taken out of the ranks of the Artists are doing first class with the regular bat[talion] and the cry is "give us more of them"

[Sap: A trench dug out into no man's land near to the enemy, with the sap-head often used as a listening post.
Artists: Originally, the Artists Rifles was a volunteer corps and was made up of artistic people. In 1908, it became the 28th Battalion of the London Regiment and became part of the Officers Training Corps in 1915.]

Source 7b-c

These Germans can fight and whatever may be said about their second line troops they know their work and are no mean opponents. They have thought everything out to the last detail and when it comes to this trench fighting which none could have foreseen with any certainty they produce a trench mortar and hand bombs which are decidedly better than anything that either we or the French have so far been able to make. When last Friday night I managed to capture some 500 yards of their trench line, at two different points, they attacked the Scots Guards and W. Yorkshire Reg with hand bombs and succeeded in driving them out of the captured trenches back again to our own line. These bombs have quite an important explosion and if they fall in the trench as they frequently do they either kill or wound any men who happen to be between the two traverses The German Pioneers are specially trained to use them and after crawling up the narrow communication trenches, they throw these bombs with great accuracy and rapidity. They also have a trench mortar something that the Japs used which sends a good big high explosive shell some 150 to 200 yards. If it falls in the trench which it seldom does it makes a great mess of it, if it falls near (within a few yards) of the trench its concussion shakes in any part that is unrevetted. We are in bad need of an answer to these weapons.

[Traverses: A pair of right-angled bends in a trench Revet: To fortify a bank or a wall]

Source 7d-e

The chief facts, that have come out most prominently and which constitute the chief lessons of this are, firstly the accuracy and smashing effect of the art[iller]y fire, and secondly the success of the bomb throwers in grenadier companies as we call them. They really did excellent work in the trenches and hunted the Germans out of whole lengths of trench until they stumbled on a machine gun which they could not deal with successfully. The German Machine Guns are admirably handled. They push them back and forward and choose their positions most skilfully, indeed more than half our casualties have been due to the fire of machine guns. They are most difficult to discover even when firing and are usually so placed as to be displaced from the front so that our guns cannot knock them out. So far we have not been able to find a satisfactory antidote to them but we hope that with rifle bombs fired at point blank range, and light trench mortars carried forward with the attack we may in future be able to cope with them better than in the past. The art[iller]y, which was admirably handled by Gen Holland VIII Div and Uniacke army the groups of heavies, did really effective work. The 9.2 & 6" How[itzer]s were the most effective and accurate guns we had for "Grand Mama," as we have named the 15", had some difficulty in getting her shells to burst. I was told that 17 of the 27 shots she fired, failed to explode!!! We are looking forward to the arrival of the 8" and 12" Howitzers. They are the guns that will help us most if they are really accurate but they must be able to put their shells within 5 yards of a trench in order to knock out the defenders.

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