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Pre-war British infantry standard for marksmanship

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by Riter, Apr 2, 2020.

  1. Riter

    Riter Member

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    What was the standard for marksmanship in the pre-WW II (but post WW I) British Army? For the Rifle Brigade, "A Rifleman was expected to hit at least five bulls and four inners out of ten at five hundred yards, and to fire at ten rounds a minute. Failure meant encouragement to apply for transfer to another unit."

    Was the King's Royal Rifle Corps held to the same standard? How about an (non-rifle designated) infantry unit?

    Taken from Gregg's Rifleman.
     
  2. harolds

    harolds Member

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    I started a similar thread in June 2016. The only response I received on the actual request said that the Paras were supposed to be able to hit an 8 inch bullseye 10 out of 10 times at 400yds. The only thing about this and the standard above is that I have a hard time believing them. Using standard rifles and regular ball ammo, it would be a miracle if anyone, anytime, could make those standards. I've done a lot of shooting and most shooters I know would have a hard time hitting 8" targets at those ranges with scoped hunting rifles that are much more accurate than run of the mill service rifles. Most military rifles of that era that I have shot would keep their shots into the chest area of a man at 200 meters but that's about all.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2020
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  3. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Be aware that this standard is largely irrelevant for WW2. The British army was massively expanded in 1939 almost to the same scale as between 1914-1916. It imagined war as mechanised and based on all ams co-operation. It did not have the same emphasis on marksmanship. Understandably skill at arms was a key part of the Rifle Brigade's ethos. Army Training memorandum No31 dated 19 April 1940 included a set of questions for all junior officers. There were 36 questions on administration and training and 19 on anti gas precautions for all arms. There were 30 specific to the infantry. Only one of these concerned small arms training and it was as follows

    4. Have all your platoon passed their T.O.E.T (The Tests of Elementary Training ) for the weapon with which they are armed, and are the results recorded?

    This was not a range test but of weapons handling and aiming without firing.

    If you want to read about British pre WW2 small arms training there is an excellent set of pamphlets here Small Arms Training Manuals There are annual range tests for each weapon in volume 2 and in the 1940 publication vol 1 pam 18 .
     
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  4. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ..good call...I totally agree hitting an 8 inch target at 400/500 yards is very difficult with a military weapon with iron sights
    ...I was in the USMC and here are our target dims below..much bigger than 8 inches
    ...the front sight of the M16A1/A2 covered at least half [ if not more] of the 40 x 20 black at 500 yards!!...so you had to have complete discipline .....I usually hit 10 out of 10 at 500 yards...but it was prone position and we had lots of time-.....but look at the dims on the B target/500 yds--much bigger than 8 inches...it was 40 x 20....with an eight inch target, I'm guessing the front sight would totally cover it ?

    ...now---I hit 10 out of 10 in the black at 500 yards--but most of the impacts were nowhere near center--they were all over the black.....we could tell where we hit because after each round, the target pullers [ I think we called them that, I forget ] would place a colored marker where our last round hit ..I specifically remember my rounds being all over the black---maybe 1 near center....I think I remember it because I did get 10 out of 10 at 500.....I missed black probably at the 300 yard line--smaller target, ''rapid'' fire/kneeling [ I think? ] ...kneeling was always more ''uncomfortable
    ..I'm trying to remember or google the exact positions for each range.....500 was definitely prone ...

    ..for the A target at 200 yards I could hit bull'seye 10 out of 10 standing!--with tight sling...

    out of 250 rounds, I missed [ the big ] bull'seye 14 times...I remember because I have the letter I sent home to my parents about the Rifle Range with a score of 236 out of 250
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2020
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  5. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Until the Germans invade the Czech March the Brits under Chamberlain lived ' Peace in your time.' Not much time to arm really?
     
  6. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ..they still trained, I'm sure
     
  7. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    But not preparing for war. Then you recruit all forces possible and train for war.
     
  8. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ..
    ....I think there is a difference between a country preparing for war and troops training in peacetime .....depends on how the troops were training ...were they?
     
  9. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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  10. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    I expect the regular army kept up a good standard of training. The main training issue would be the reserves/Territorial Army and then the expansion of the army when events like Czechoslovakia made war imminent.
     
  11. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    There were several constraints on the peacetime British training during the period 1919-1939.

    1. There was a shortage of money for the Army which was third in the order of priorities behind the air force and navy. The treasury allocations for military spending until 1933 was that there would not be a war for at least ten years. At the end of the 1920s the great depression resulted in the British public sector taking a 10% pay cut. See Invergordon mutiny.

    2. The Army was kept busy in its main function of imperial policing. It was engaged in military operations across the globe. In Russia, (1918-1921), Turkey 1918-23, the North West Frontier (semi war footing through out the period), Counter insurgency in Ireland 1918-1923, Palestine counter insurgency operations against Arab insurgents objecting to the influx of Jews. (1931 onwards). Maintaining public order in the United Kingdom in 1919 and 1926. The army was also engaged in ceremonial duties to impress the locals with the trappings of British Rule. The garrison at Poona( Puna) had largely ceremonial functions, a bit like London District. They spent a lot of time preparing Durbahs and parades. (Montgomery who had written Infantry Training volume II (Operations) and trained his battalion to a high standard trained in Palestine and Egypt was caught out when his battalion moved to Poona. The GOC was also an author of a training manual - IT Volume I (Ceremonial). Montgomery knew very little about foot drill. There are a whole set of Monty anecdotes about his time in command there and the brushes he had with the Garrison staff)

    3.The Cardwell system divided the infantry into regiments of Usually two battalions. One battalion would be fully manned for on service overseas. The second would be in the UK, but5 at a very reduced strength. It would supply drafts of men for the overseas battalion.

    4. The military syllabus was simpler inn the years before the first world war than the second. Before 1914 infantry were trained in musketry and bayonet fighting. Tactics was a matter for officers. After WW1 Infantry needed to be trained in a wider variety of weapons, rifle and bayonet, light machine gun, grenade, pistol, machine gun, mortar, anti-tank rifle and anti-tank gun. Here is an extract from

     
  12. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    You chaps need to download and read this manual which cover the annual classification courses carried out https://vickersmg.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/1924-uk-satvol2.pdf
    Not the easiest of document to browse, but Appendix I has the annual classification courses and the scores needed to be a marksman, class or a 1st ,2nd or ,3rd class shot. The classification shoot took with 60 rounds over a series of practices with points awarded for how close to the bull. Maximum score was 215 with a marksman awarded to firers scoring over 140 and anyone below 90 a 3rd class shot.
    There probably are records somewhere of the statistics of the proportion of each class of shot in each battalion.

    The allowance of ammunition for infantrymen varied from 150-500 rounds per man per year depending on their unit, class of shot and year of service. Artillery and other corps were allowed 55 ropunds per man per year.

    It isn't quite a fair comparison. It is far easier to shoot accurately with modern weapons than the old .303 calibre weapons used in the first half of C20th
     
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  13. harolds

    harolds Member

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    You shot well then! That little 55 grain bullet is very prone to wind deflection and drop at those long ranges. I too shot the M16-A2 but in the army we shot at pop-up silhouette targets from 50 out to 300 or 350 meters. If you hit the target then it would fall back down but if you missed it stayed standing. You were scored by the number to targets you knocked down. They would pop up at random ranges, either singly or in close bunches of 2-3 representing crew served weapons.

    The US Army also was trying a new type of close-range shooting training called "Quick Kill". This was during the Vietnam war where the VC would pop up from a camouflaged spider hole and spray your unit with AK fire before he was cut down. Trying to take proper aim in such a situation is too slow and damn near impossible anyway. So the army came up with a type of instinct shooting, almost like using a shotgun. We started training with Daisy BB guns (no, really) where we got to be able to shoot a dime-size plastic disk thrown in the air. One member of the cadre demonstrating the technique shot an asprin tablet out of the air with the BB gun! The "final exam" was walking down a trail and having a pop-up target come up at 20-30 meters and you had to hit it in 1 second or less.
     
  14. Riter

    Riter Member

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    Another book I read was by a man who joined the pre-war Territorial Army as a Guardsman. He had some training, but no musketry instruction. His battalion was suddenly sent off to the Continent as a labour battalion. Only then did they begin to receive some range time. The entire battalion was provided with one Bren gun. He was one of the fortunate ones to be evacuated at Dieppe.
     
  15. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Even this odds do not forget the only harbour taken was Cherbourg. Do you feel lucky?
     
  16. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ..that was our Known Distance Course...we also had pop up courses/etc......I think I remember using BB ''guns'' or something one time..I think that was for quick shooting training
    ...I was in mortars and we had something called the 1000 inch ''system'' [ I think we called it that-? ] ..the mortars had some kind of compressed air attachment that would fire a small projectile not very far .....it was for training anywhere or near the barracks without using live ammo/etc

    ..yes, we had to be very aware of wind speed and direction when firing the M16s....like I said, at 500 yds, my rounds were all over the black....I was one of the better shooters in my company...I think because I was better disciplined
    ..but we snapped in for a week and did the KD course for 4 days before qualification day, so we knew our rifle's idiosyncrasies/etc
     
  17. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ..what are the critical points in your link regarding our points?
     
  18. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ....so it sounds like they were training ....?
    ....I thought I read where some US units in Korea and Japan after WW2 were poorly trained/etc ...not that it would've helped when the NKs came down
     
  19. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ..probably....they had a ''long'' history of wars/conflicts
     
  20. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    The story in the Book sounds almost true. A bit may have been lost in translation as it should not have been possible to join the Territorial Army as a Guardsman. The Household Division was entirely composed of Regular soldiers. The part about being sent to France with rifles and no musketry training rings very true. The War Minister ordered that the TA should be doubled, each unit became two. The National Service act of brought a large number of soldiers into the Army. Lots of soldiers, but not enough artillery pieces, wireless sets, anti tank guns or AA Guns to form balanced formations, or the time to train them.Two divisions, the 12th and 23rd were formed of infantry only as "Labour Battalions" and destroyed when they were sent to stop Guderian's Panzers. A lucky few escaped. (or unlucky if they subsequently died) A friend of mine's father was taken prisoner and spent five years in a camp.

    Their story is at the extreme end of the point of my first post on this thread.
     

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