Field Artillery Training: Observation 3

The manuals (Field Service Pocket Book and Field Artillery Training) provide the following tips to help spot troops:

  • Calvary raises a high, light cloud of dust
  • Infantry, a lower, denser cloud
  • Wheeled vehicles, “denser still, and broken” (1)

They also provide instructions to avoid being spotted because of dust: an officer may choose to march his troops in “a long detour to ensure concealment” (2). Gunners may need to water the ground in front of their gun to prevent dust from being kicked up and betraying their position, or “such material as raw hides, and sacking, [can be] pegged down” (3).

The manuals, of course, were written when warfare was expected to be mobile — before troop movement meant scurrying along trenches or clambering over the top into No Man’s Land, and before guns were dug into pits and left there for weeks.

Just try to find a photograph of the Western Front that shows dust, instead of mud.

mud flats belgium atlantic

(1) Field Artillery Training. HMSO. 1914. 384.
(2) Field Artillery Training. 284.
(3) Field Artillery Training. 234.

The image is from the the Atlantic‘s wonderful collection “World War One in Photos.”  This one, Bridge across Mud Flats in Flanders, 1918, is from the Library of Congress.

Copyright 2016. See “More about this project.”


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