Systematic training in judging distance required measured distances, marked out in hundred of yards, which the soldier studied until the distances were familiar. In addition, the distance from a given observation point to various landmarks was identified (540 yards to a water-tower, for example) and the soldier asked to observe the landmark and its apparent distance under differing weather conditions.
He was then tested on unfamiliar landmarks or at greater distances, where he was to judge the distance by “mental comparison with the distances with which he is familiar.” An explanation of how he arrived at his estimate was required, to prevent his merely guessing.
The Field Artillery Training Manual provides the following helpful information:
Under normal conditions:
- Movement of legs and arms can be distinguished at 1,000 yds.
- Individual men become vertical lines at 1,500 yards.
- Infantry and cavalry at 1,500 yards can be distinguished only by their mode of motion.
- At 2,000 yards infantry presents a thick line, cavalry a thicker line with a jagged top.
If his mental arithmetic was good, a soldier could also figure out the distance of a gun by observing the delay in seconds between the sight of flash and the sound of its report. Multipling the number of elapsed seconds by 370 gives the approximate distance in yards. Wind and atmospheric conditions would affect this observation.
Information in this entry is from Field Artillery Training. HMSO. 1914. 382-383
The image is of US Cavalry in the 1890s, taken from John Langellier, “Targeting Equality: Commemorating the 150th Year of the Buffalo Soldiers.” True West. History of the American Frontier. June 17, 2016