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Section 36.--HOUSE CLEARING
141. General.--Field craft does not apply to the open country alone. It must also be used in villages and towns. Villages and towns will most probably be by-passed by the leading troops and will later be cleared by troops following up behind and specially detailed for the purpose. The clearance of buildings may be a costly undertaking and it will end in disaster unless every man knows what he is doing and how to do it. A drill is therefore essential.
142. Probable enemy defensive measures
- All main streets will probably be barricaded or will have road blocks, but the barricade or road block, once captured, may provide cover for the fire section.
- It is probable that the outer perimeter of the village or parts of it will be strongly held. It is the task of the covering groups referred to below to reply instantly to any fire that may come from houses of this kind, also to watch the roof tops which are a favourite hiding place for enemy snipers.
- It is a common German practice to defend the ground floor of a house strongly, retreating to the top story once an entry has been forced. A careful method of approach to the ground floor is therefore essential (see drill below.)
- Wire netting is often put over windows to deflect grenades. This should be carefully looked for.
- Doors will probably be locked or barricaded. If so, the door must be knocked down or blown open; otherwise entry must be made through a window, or by blowing a hole in a wall.
- In a defended room the enemy may erect a corner barricade. this can be easily be improvised with furniture, and it will be grenade proof. Do not therefore jump to the conclusion that because your grenade has burst in a room all the enemy in that room have been killed. Look out for these barricades and have another grenade ready to throw behind them.
- the enemy sites his machine-gun and rifles well back from windows or holes in walls. Therefore enter the room at top speed.
- In a defended village only certain selected houses will be defended. These will be the ones that occupy tactical positions (e.g., to cover crossroads). But every house on your line of advance must be searched from attic to cellar as you go along, for it is fatal to leave a house behind you occupied by the enemy. In conducting your search, when dealing with terraced houses look out for "mouseholing," the system by which the enemy makes holes in walls from house to house so that he can move down a terrace unhindered. This mouseholing may be in the cellar or concealed behind cupboards.
- It is unlikely that you will encounter booby traps in a defended village. Modern booby traps are so ingenious and can be so cleverly concealed that the enemy would find them of great hindrance to his own men. Booby traps should be looked for in a village which has been abandoned by the enemy. It is possible, however, that even in a defended village, houses which are not themselves defended may have been booby trapped.
- Buildings will always, if possible, be cleared from the back garden and yards, because these provide the best covered line of approach. Any enemy driven through the house out into the main street will thus be caught by the fire of the fire sections. When approaching the rear of buildings clear all outbuildings, sheds, and cover, before you get to the main building itself. Never leave any uncleared building or outbuilding behind you. Make sure that your rear is clear before you move on.
- On entering buildings the ideal is to enter from the top and work downwards. If, as generally happens, you have to enter from the ground floor, all efforts should be made to get to the top floor at once and to clear the house from the attic downwards. An enemy driven up higher and higher in a large building may become more offensive as he is driven into a tighter corner and to a better fire position. An enemy driven downwards towards cellars is getting continuously into a worse fire position. It is easier to throw a grenade downstairs than to throw upwards and it is very likely that an enemy driven downwards will feel tempted to escape into the main street. In a house which is very strongly defended it may not be possible to rush straight to the attic, though it should be attempted. If the attempt fails, there is no alternative but to work slowly upwards by careful fire and movement.
144. Section drill for clearing a house
- Clearing group:--
- Section commander.
- First entry man.
- Second entry man.
- Look-out man.
If the house is large, the clearing group maybe increased by withdrawing individuals from the covering group, platoon H.Q., or another section.
- Covering group:--
Duties of the covering group
- The Bren group with the remainder of the riflemen under the section second-in-command.
- To cover all possible fire positions which command the approach of the clearing group.
- As far as possible to cover the flank exits, in order to prevent enemy movement to or from the house.
- To provide smoke and deception as required.
Action by clearing group
- The section commander and bomber take up intermediate positions from which to direct and cover entry men towards the point of entry.
- Entry men approach the point of entry at best speed according to cover available. Their means of entry will depend on the type of defences, and may be either through a door or window, or other aperture, or through a hole made by the use of suitable demolition equipment. At the moment before entering a room, it may be advisable to search it by fire (machine carbines, grenade, etc.) and follow up at top speed before any inmates have had time to recover. On gaining an entrance entry men get quickly away from the point of entry and stand with their backs to the wall covering the rest of the room and any doors.
- Section commander and bomber follow up entry men (as a result of observation or on signal from the latter).
- All four move out of the room in the order: section commander, bomber, first entry man, second entry man.
- The look-out man remains at the entry, watches for signals, and acts as liaison with the covering group and with platoon headquarters. The remainder aim at getting to the top of the house as quickly as possible, leaving the second entry man near the entrance of the room to cover any stairs and passages. This is the ideal method, but it will not be possible if the staircase is strongly defended or heavily obstructed.
- The covering group follow up and if so ordered by the section commander enter the house as soon as the entry group have completed their entry. They will assist the second entry man in covering points from which the enemy may approach and, under the section second-in-command, will be prepared to help search the house or to provide fire outside the house.
- The house is searched downwards from the top, the first entry man opening the door of each room in turn, and providing protection against enemy approach to the landing or head of the stairs. The section commander enters each room first at speed and turns quickly with his back to the wall. The bomber throws grenades as ordered by the section commander, and generally acts as the section commander's assistant and escort. If it is not possible to search the house from the top downwards, the section will secure the ground floor as a firm base and will clear upwards floor by floor, using fire and movement.
- The section commander shouts or signals that the house is clear.
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