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Section 35.--ATTACKING ENEMY PILLBOXES AND FORTIFICATIONS
135. General.--Enemy static defences may consist of row of pillboxes covered by deep belts of wire, minefields, and anti-tank ditches. Although these obstacles look formidable at first sight, they can be dealt with if careful preparation is made beforehand.
Enemy pillboxes are often concrete, very strong, with steel doors, surrounded by wire belts as much as 50 ft. deep. His minefields, usually consist of anti-tank mines and anti-personnel mines mixed in the proportion of four to one.
- Strong static defences can only be successfully tackles by mixed groups of sappers or pioneers and infantrymen. If infantrymen alone are used, they will usually lack the requisite skill with explosives. Sappers or pioneers alone will not have the requisite armament for infantry fighting.
- If surprise is possible, the attack should be made silently at night. Failing surprise, intensive covering fire from all weapons (especially anti-tank weapons) directed at the loopholes of the pillboxes should be used. Fixed lines may be necessary if this fire is to continue accurately through smoke and darkness.
- Cover by smoke or darkness is essential to success.
- The fire on pillboxes must be directed at their loopholes as these are the most vulnerable points.
- A simultaneous attack on several neighbouring mutually supporting pillboxes will give the best chance of success. Each post will then be pre-occupied with its own troubles and will fail to give adequate enfilade fire in front of its neighbours. The enemy has a system by which, on the S.O.S. signal being given, anti-tank guns are rushed to cover any breach. If several breaches have been made this plan may go wrong.
- A drill, and very careful rehearsals (if possible using a model), will be necessary.
137. Attack on a strong point containing a pillbox.--An operation of this nature must of necessity be deliberate. This statement implies that time will usually be available for reconnaissance and to train and rehearse the assault teams. The following can therefore be no more than a guide to the type of tactics to be employed. The detail will vary with every operation.
- One pillbox, one platoon.
- Divide the platoon as follows:--
- No. 1 section and platoon H.Q.--fire section
- No. 2 section--Bangalore and cut-off section (with P.I.A.T.).
- No. 3 section--Pillbox clearing section.
A minimum of four sappers or pioneers should be added to No. 2 section to operate the Bangalore torpedo and pole charges.
139. Drills (See Fig. ix)
- The fire section opens heavy fire, the 2-in. mortar putting down smoke.
- No. 2 section with attached pioneers moves forward keeping to as wide an angle as possible from the fire section (90 degs. is ideal but this will rarely be possible). the men with the P.I.A.T. should be sent farther to a flank and the P.I.A.T. used against the pillbox. The pioneers carry up the Bangalore sections, place them in position, throwing smoke grenades to thicken up the smoke, and withdraw to cover. The pioneer N.C.O. lights the fuse and withdraws.
- On the bursting of the Bangalore, No. 2 section rushes through the gap and takes up a position beyond the pillbox, killing any enemy it may find in trenches around the pillbox. The pioneers follow, placing their pole charges up against the loopholes and then join No. 2 Section. Note that in crossing the wire it is safe to assume that the Bangalore torpedo will have exploded most mines in the immediate vicinity and all mines in the actual furrow blown by the torpedo.
- On the bursting of the pole charges, No. 3 section enter the pillbox and clear it, using grenades. If the pillbox has a steel door this can be blown off its hinges by the use of sticky bombs.
- The platoon consolidates and the pioneers widen the gap in the wire and mark it with tapes.
140. Points to remember
- The Bangalore torpedo will clear a 20-ft. gap in wire and a narrower path through most minefields.
- Pole charges are ineffective against the walls of strong pillboxes. They must be on or near the loopholes so that they can kill the occupants by blast, and enlarge the loopholes.
- No. 74 and 75 grenades are useful for this work and three or more tied together make an excellent pole charge. (NOTE.--Only one should be primed.)
- Thin belts of wire can often be dealt with easily without the use of explosives.
- Covering fire with so much smoke about must be very carefully controlled. Hence the necessity for fixed lines.
- If flame throwers are used, they should go in immediately after the explosion of the Bangalore torpedoes.
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