By this I mean that some men hold tightly and some men hold loosely, and there may be a difference at a hundred yards of six inches in the shooting of the same rifle in different hands. To hand over the rifle as " trench stores," in which case it would be shot by different men of different battalions, was simply to do away with the accuracy which formed its only asset. But to return to the examination of German prisoners. One point cropped up over and over again, and this was the ease with which German snipers quite frankly owned that they were able to distinguish between our officers and men in an attack because, as one said naively : " the legs of the officers are thinner than the legs of the men.
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By this I mean that some men hold tightly and some men hold loosely, and there may be a difference at a hundred yards of six inches in the shooting of the same rifle in different hands. To hand over the rifle as " trench stores," in which case it would be shot by different men of different battalions, was simply to do away with the accuracy which formed its only asset. But to return to the examination of German prisoners.
One point cropped up over and over again, and this was the ease with which German snipers quite frankly owned that they were able to distinguish between our officers and men in an attack because, as one said naively : " the legs of the officers are thinner than the legs of the men.
In there were very few loopholes in the British trenches, whereas the Germans had a magnificent system. I used, therefore, to have a couple of sandbags filled with stones and rubble placed as inconspicuously as possible on the top of the parapet. No ball will pierce a sandbag full of stones, and it Was thus that one got the opportunity of a good look at the German trenches without fear of receiving a bullet from either flank.
At this time the efforts to camouflage our loopholes were extraordinarily primitive—indeed, concealment was nearly impossible in the form of parapet then in use. Many of our units took an actual pride in having an absolutely flat and even parapet, which gave the Germans every opportunity of spotting the smallest movement.
The parapets were made of sandbags beaten down with spades, and it is not too much to say that along many of them a mouse could not move without being observed by the most moderate-sighted German sniper. It was curious how some few commanding officers stuck to these flat parapets in the face of all casualties and the dictates of common-sense, even after the High Command had issued orders upon the subject.
At a later date a trial was instituted, and proved that in spotting and shooting at a dummy head exposed for two and four seconds over a flat parapet, the number of hits was three to one, as compared with the same a exposure when made over an imitation German parapet. The German trenches were deeper, with much more wire in front, and from our point of view looked like the course of a gigantic mole which had flung up uneven heaps of earth.
Here and there stood one of those steel boxes, more or less well concealed under a heap of earth, from which set rifles fired all night. Here and there lay great piles of sandbags, black, red, green, striped, blue, dazzling our eyes.
It was said that the Germans used the pink and red ones to look round, because they approximated to flesh colour, but this was no doubt apocryphal. But what was not apocryphal was the fact that the Germans had a splendid parapet behind which a man could move and over which he could look with comparative impunity, whereas we in this respect gave heavy hostages to fortune. There was one protection which was always sound, and which could be put into immediate operation, and that was to teach our men to hang as many rags as possible upon our wire, and wherever else they could in the region of our parapet.
These fluttering rags continually caught the German eyes, which were drawn by the movement of the rags in the wind. It is possible that, if the truth were recognized, those simple little rags saved many a life during the course of the war.
Of course, there were battalions in which attempts had been made to remedy these defects, as there was one type of officer whom one occasionally came across.
This was the soldier who had done a certain amount of stalking, or big-game shooting, and it is not too much to say that wherever there was such an officer, there were usually two or three extra telescopes and telescopic-sighted rifles, and various well-concealed posts from which to use them.
The Intelligence report, which was each day forwarded to Brigade, was also full and accurate. Indeed, the truth of the matter forced itself upon me, as I spent day after day in the trenches. What was wanted, apart jrom organization, was neither more nor less than the hunter spirit. The hunter spends his life in trying to outwit some difficult quarry, and the step between war and hunting is but a very small one. It is inconceivable that a skilled hunter in a position of command should ever allow his men to suffer as our men sometimes did in France.
It was all so simple and so obvious. The Canadian Division and, later, the Canadian Corps was full of officers who understood how to deal with the German sniper, and early in the war there were Canadian snipers who were told off to this duty, and some of them were extraordinarily successful.
Corporal, afterwards Lieutenant, Christie, of the P. He had spent his life hunting in the Yukon, and he simply turned the same qualities which had brought him within the range of the mountain sheep to the downfall of Fritz the Forest Guard. In the long monotony of the trenches during that bleak winter of , the only respite besides work which was possible to our soldiers was the element of sport and excitement introduced by sniping and its more important and elder sister, observation.
Sniping in a dangerous sector—and there were many of these— was really neither more nor less than a very high-class form of big game shooting, in which the quarry shot back. As to danger, there are in Africa the lion, the elephant, the buffalo and the rhinoceros, and though the consensus of instructed opinion agrees that in proportion more hunters come back feet foremost from lion hunting than from the pursuit of the three other forms of dangerous game, yet I suppose that no one would dispute that the German sniper, especially when he is supported on either flank by Kamaraden, was far more dangerous in the long run than any lion.
In sniping, as the movement grew and sections were formed, one relied to an enormous extent upon the skill of the section to which the individual sniper belonged. A really first-rate man in a bad section was thrown away. First-rate men under a moderate officer were thrown away, and, worse than all, a good section under a good officer, who were relieved by the slack and poor section of another battalion, often suffered heavy casualties through no fault of their own.
Thus, the Royal Blankshires, who have an excellent sniping organization, build half-a-dozen skilfully-hidden posts for observation and sniping purposes. All kinds of precautions, which have become second nature, are taken to prevent these posts being given away to the enemy.
The telescopes used are carefully wrapped in sandbags, their sunshades carefully extended lest the sun should, by flashing its reflection upon the object glass, give away the position. The loopholes in dry weather are damped before being fired through, and, most important of all, no one but the CO.
If anyone else enters them there are for him heavy penalties, which are always enforced. The result is that the Blank-shires have a good tour of duty, lose no casualties to enemy snipers, and get splendid detail for their Intelligence reports.
They are relieved, however, by the Loamshires. The CO. He has a way of saying that sniping will " never win the war. But the Loamshire sniping section is a pitiable affair. They take over from the Royal Blanks. He is the real thing, and he dreams of his job in the night. I never let my fellows use the one in Sap F until the sun has worked round behind us. They took us a fortnight to build. The curtains that kept the loopholes dark had been turned back. The result was as might have been expected.
The watching German, who had suffered from those posts without being able to locate them when the Blankshires were in the trenches, now spotted them, rang up their guns, and had them demolished, not without casualties to the Loamshires. So the work was all to be done again—but no sooner does the keen Blankshire officer build up a post than the slack Loamshire officer allows it to be given away.
It is now a case for the Royal Blanks CO. Such were the difficulties of the keen officer when the opposite number of the relieving battalion was a " dud. To obtain success, real success, it was necessary that his should be a labour of love. He must think and dream of his work at all hours and all times, and it was wonderful how many came to do this. In the battalion the Intelligence and Sniping officer had always a sporting job, and if he suffered in promotion as do nearly all specialists in any great Army yet he had the compensations which come to an artist in love with his work.
There were at this time one or two other factors in the situation to which I must allude in order that the reader may understand the position as it was then. The enemy had an immense preponderance in trench weapons such as minenwerfer. The result was that a too successful bout of British sniping sometimes drew a bombardment. The activity of snipers was therefore not always welcome to short-sighted officers, who distinctly and naturally objected to the enemy riflemen calling in the assistance of the parapet-destroying engines of war, in which, they so outclassed us.
Soon, however, it was realized that the state of things obtaining while the German held the mastery of aimed rifle-fire could not be permitted to continue— the casualties were too great—and I will now give some account of the instruction and experience in the trenches that went on while we were attempting to capture the sniping initiative from the enemy. II Towards the end of October, , I was ordered to report to the 48th Division, then holding a line in the neighbourhood of Hebuterne.
I was to proceed to Divisional Headquarters behind Pas, and was there ordered to Authie, where a number of officers were to come for instruction. This instruction was, as usual, to be divided between the back areas and the front line.
I had applied for the services of my friend, Lieut. Gathorne-Hardy, an experienced shot, and skilled user of the telescope, who had been many shooting trips in different parts of the world with me and others. At Authie we at once settled down to work ; the officers going through a course which need not be detailed here. Suffice it to say that the telescopic-sighted rifles of all the battalions in the Division were shot and corrected, and various plans which we had formed for the destruction of German snipers were rehearsed.
On the third day arrangements were made by Division as to which trenches we were to visit, and after duly reporting at Brigade Headquarters in a dug-out in Hebuterne, we proceeded upon our way. It is not an easy thing to instruct five or six officers in the line in sniping—the number is too large—so as soon as we entered the trenches I divided my class into three parties, and assigned to each an area in which to look for German snipers, Gathorne-Hardy and I going from one group to another.
At the point at which we entered the front line trenches, our line was a little higher than that of the enemy, so that the initial advantage was certainly with us, and almost at once G. Gathorne-Hardy spotted a German sniper who was just showing the top of his cap at the end of a sap. He was about three hundred and fifty or four hundred yards away, and though we watched him for half-an-hour, he gave no target. So we moved on. Examining the enemy line was enthralling work, as he had, even at that time, begun his campaign of skilled concealment, and was apt to set periscopes in trees, and steel boxes in all sorts of positions.
To spot and actually place these upon the map was as important a duty of the sniper as killing the enemy by rifle fire. For, once discovered, such strong points and emplacements could be dealt with by our artillery. But to return. After spending a couple of hours examining the enemy line, we got into a disused trench and crawled back to a little bit of high ground from which we were able to overlook a group of poplar trees which grew between the lines, and which were said to be the haunt of a very capable German sniper.
Nothing, however, was to be seen of him, though we could clearly make out the nest he had built in one of the trees and, on the ground, what appeared to be either a dead man lying in the long grass or a tunic. While we were here a message came down to say that No. At the time of which I write the Germans were just beginning to be a little shy of our snipers on those fronts to which organization had penetrated, and it was clear that the time would arrive when careful Hans and conscientious Fritz would become very troglodytic, as indeed they did.
We had, therefore, turned our minds to think out plans and "ruses by which the enemy might be persuaded to give us a target. We had noticed the extraordinary instinct of the German Officer to move to a flank, and thinking something might be made out of this, we collected all our officers and went back to the place where G. A glance showed that he was still there.
I then explained my plan, which was that I should shoot at this sentry and in doing so, deliberately give away my position and rather act the tenderfoot, in the hope that some German officer would take a hand in the game and attempt to read me a lesson in tactics. On either flank about yards or so down the trench I placed the officers under instruction with telescopes and telescopic-sighted rifles, explaining to them that the enemy snipers would very possibly make an attempt to shoot at me from about opposite them.
I then scattered a lot of dust in the loophole from which I intended to fire, and used a large. The sentry, of course, disappeared, and I at once poured in the whole magazine at a loophole plate, making it ring again, and by the dust and smoke handsomely giving away my own position. I waited a few minutes, and then commenced shooting again. Evidently my first essay had attracted attention, for two German snipers at once began firing at me from the right flank. At these two I fired back; they were almost exactly opposite the party under instruction, and it was clear that, if the party held their fire, the Germans would probably give fine targets.
As a matter of fact, all that we hoped for actually happened, for the exasperated German snipers, thinking they had to deal only with a very great fool, began to fire over the parapet, their operations being directed by an officer with an immense pair of field-glasses.
At the psychological moment, my officers opened fire, the large field-glasses dropped on the wrong side of the parapet, as the officer was shot through the head, and the snipers, who had increased to five or six, disappeared with complete suddenness. Nor did the enemy fire another shot.
He was also a keen cricketer and played for Hampshire as a fast bowler from until , the year prior to war. Hesketh-Prichard periodically appeared in print with stories of his various travels, as well as producing works of fiction Don Q being written in partnership with his mother, published in and filmed with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Entering the Army with no illusions regarding the native British talent with regard to sniping Hesketh-Prichard immediately set about improving what he regarded as its deplorable standard. As a measure of the lamentable condition of British sniping he subsequently wrote in Sniping in France: "It is difficult now to give exact figures of our losses, suffice to say that in early we lost eighteen men in a single battalion in a single day to enemy snipers.
The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review. Well-written: a the prose is clear and the spelling and grammar are correct; Yes. Because I am not as familiar with British English grammar, I have assumed that any eccentricities to my eyes are variations from American English. Factually accurate and verifiable: a it provides references to all sources of information, and at minimum contains a section dedicated to the attribution of those sources in accordance with the guide to layout; Yes.
Where Black rules white; a journey across and about Hayti
His nickname was "Hex", which he would bear throughout his life. They returned to the mainland that the boy might be educated at a prep school in Rugby. He passed the preliminary exam, though he would never practice as a solicitor. He spent the sea-time on the trip writing or planning plots. Heron" and "E.