Technique of This Warfare.
[Made Public Oct. 9.]
Wednesday, Sept. 30, merely marked another day’s progress in the gradual development of the situation, and was distinguished by no activity beyond slight attacks by the enemy. There was also artillery fire at intervals. One of our airmen succeeded in dropping nine bombs, some of which fell on the enemy’s rolling stock collected on the railway near Laon. Some of the enemy’s front trenches were found empty at night; but nothing much can be deduced from this fact, for they are frequently evacuated in this way, no doubt to prevent the men in the back lines firing on their comrades in front of them.
Thursday, Oct. 1, was a most perfect Autumn day, and the most peaceful that there has been since the two forces engaged on the Aisne. There was only desultory gunfire as targets offered. During the night the enemy made a few new trenches. A French aviator dropped one bomb on a railway station and three bombs on troops massed near it.
The weather on Friday, the 2d, was very misty in the early hours, and it continued hazy until the late afternoon, becoming thicker again at night. The Germans were driven out of a mill which they had occupied as an advanced post, their guns and machine guns which supported it being knocked out one by one by well-directed artillery fire from a flank. During the night they made the usual two attacks on the customary spot in our lines, and as on previous occasions were repulsed. Two of their trenches were captured and filled in. Our loss was six men wounded.
Up to Sept, 21 the air mileage made by our airmen since the beginning of the war amounted to 87,000 miles, an average of 2,000 miles per day, the total equaling nearly four times the circuit of the world. The total time spent in the air was 1,400 hours.
There are many points connected with the fighting methods of either side that may be of interest. The following description was given by a battalion commander who has been at the front since the commencement of hostilities and has fought both in the open and behind intrenchments. It must, however, be borne in mind that it only represents the experiences of a particular unit. It deals with the tactics of the enemy’s infantry:
The important points to watch are the heads of valleys and ravines, woods—especially those on the sides of hollow ground—and all dead ground to the front and flanks. The German officers are skilled in leading troops forward under cover, in closed bodies, but once the latter are deployed and there is no longer direct personal leadership the men will not face heavy fire. Sometimes the advance is made in a series of lines, with the men well opened out at five or six paces interval; at other times it is made in a line, with the men almost shoulder to shoulder, followed in all cases by supports in close formation.