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Historic Trentham, 1914-1917: The Story of a New Zealand Military Training Camp, and Some Account of the Daily Round of the Troops within Its Bounds

Training Infantry

page 80

Training Infantry

The stride-stride of the Infantry
Is a stirring sound to hear.
Hats off to the Infantry,
And give the boys a cheer !
They're going forth to battle now,
They're fighting far away;
And which of you will follow them
And which of you will stay ?

The training of the New Zealand Infantry Reinforcements is divided into two stages, namely (1) the preliminary training of officers and n.c.o.'s, and (2) the training of the reinforcement as a whole.

During the first period of training, which consists of a twelve weeks' course, the officers and n.c.o.'s carry out all the work in which they will have to instruct their reinforcement later on, the object of the course being to turn the officers and n.c.o.'s into efficient instructors.

The preliminary course includes drill, musketry, bayonet-fighting, engineering, map-reading, attack and defence, out-posts and other field work. In addition, instruction is given in details of law and administration.

Elementary drill is taught during the first two weeks, and the officer or n.c.o. begins to learn how to march and how to handle his rifle. In the next four weeks he begins to master elementary drill movements and the correct fire positions. He also learns how to give fire orders and to control the fire of his men, and at the latter end of the sixth week he fires a course of musketry on the range. Bayonet-fighting commences in the third week, and an hour is devoted daily to this important branch of training throughout the remainder of the course. Physical training also starts in the third week, half an hour being devoted daily to this subject for the remainder of the course.

The seventh and eighth weeks are devoted to platoon and company training. The object of platoon training is to fit the man to take his place in the company when it carries out company training. Thus, for example, each man receives individual instruction in the duties of a sentry, so that when his company is carrying out outpost duties later on he knows what to do should he be posted as a sentry.

Platoon training consists of the following subjects:—The drill of the attack, defence, outposts, advance guard, etc. In the attack drill the officer page 81or n.c.o. learns first how the company moves in the attack under the enemy's artillery fire. He then learns the various methods of extending when the enemy's rifle and machine-gun fire necessitate a more open formation. He next learns how the line advances by means of rushes so as to avoid casualties. He is then shown how a firing-line is reinforced, and how it reorganises on the arrival of the reinforcements. Next he is shown the method of fixing bayonets under fire and the necessity for carrying the rifle in a special manner when the bayonet is fixed. The final stage of the attack has now been reached, and the class of officers and n.c.o.'s is shown how to carry out the charge and how to re-form rapidly afterwards. Practice is next given in the advance from 600 to 200 yards, one platoon carrying this out while the remainder watch and criticise. Lastly, the company is formed up in artillery formation and the extensions, which were carried out previously by sections working independently, are now carried out by the company as a whole. This completes the attack drill.

Drill in the defence is carried out on similar lines, the various phases of the defence being dealt with in turn.

Outpost drill consists of instruction in sentry duties, piquet duties, patrols, and the method of throwing out a covering party. In carrying out sentry duties each officer or n.c.o. in turn acts as a sentry and learns first what a sentry must know. Next he learns how to handle any situation which may arise, such as the approach of a flag of truce, a deserter from the enemy, an inhabitant, or any enemy's patrol. Lastly, he learns what action to take if the enemy attacks. Having mastered the duties of a sentry by day, he then is practised in carrying them out as if it were dark.

Instruction is next given in piquet duties. A portion of the class is posted as a piquet and, in the hearing of the remainder, told off to its various duties. The work of an outpost patrol is next carried out, culminating in a patrol being given a definite task and situations being created which the patrol leader has to use his initiative to cope with. The remainder of the class watch the operations, which are made more real by the use of blank cartridge.

Instruction in advanced guard drill is divided into two stages. The company is first formed up as a vanguard, so that every one may see the composition of and the distances between the various portions. The action of each portion, as the enemy's resistance is encountered, is then practised. Thus, for example, the leading portion—the point, consisting of an n.c.o. and four others—is placed out in full view of the remainder of the class. The point is fired on, and the action of the n.c.o. in command is seen and criticised.

page 82

This completes the principal subjects taught in platoon training.

Company training then commences, the class of officers and n.c.o.'s acting as a company. The main subjects are the company in the attack, the company in defence, the outpost company, and the vanguard company. All these exercises are carried out on new grounds, so as to train officers and n.c.o.'s in the use of ground. Where the exercise requires it, a few of the class are detailed to act as the enemy and blank cartridge is used.

At the end of the eighth week the class is marched out for an all-night bivouac, when all the officers and n.c.o.'s receive instruction in cooking in the field, the choice and protection of the water-supply, sanitation, pitching bivouacs, etc. Day and night outposts are practised. Finally a night march is carried out under tactical conditions. This entails the loading of the baggage, the cleaning of the bivouacs, the withdrawal of the outposts, and training generally in moving quietly and secretly under cover of darkness.

The last month of the training of the class is devoted principally to the education of the officers and n.c.o.'s in the responsibilities of their positions. The ninth week is occupied in military law and administration generally, and particularly in that part of it which is experienced in their ordinary daily routine. It includes the method of dealing with military offenders and the principles of military justice and discipline. During this week the responsibilities of their positions are impressed upon members of the class by lectures on the customs and traditions of the service.

The tenth week is chiefly devoted to instruction in military topography. This begins with map-reading and the use of the compass, and is followed by practical schemes in a compass march, the reconnoitring of a line of advance with the compass, the enlarging of a map, and the plotting of the result of the reconnaisance on it. Finally the officers make a sketch of an enemy position from their own front-line trenches. During this week advanced instruction in musketry is also carried out.

The eleventh week is spent in tactical instruction in lessons learnt from the present war. Field engineering and entrenching are also carried out, when the class has the opportunity, also, of working in a system of model trenches. At the end of this week the officers and n.c.o.'s are given a few days' leave before plunging into their tasks of imparting to a new reinforcement the knowledge they have acquired.

The training of the troops occupies sixteen weeks in normal circumstances. During the first two weeks they are trained without arms, and in the succeeding three weeks they are taught elementary drill and musketry instruction. Bayonet - fighting commences with the fourth week, and is carried out for half an hour daily throughout the course of training, physical page 83drill being also a permanent feature of the training. The following three weeks are devoted to drill and musketry instruction and firing of Table A—the recruits' course of musketry.

The ninth, tenth, and half of the eleventh weeks are a series of drill, individual training, and musketry instruction. At this stage the draft; is given leave till the end of the twelfth week, and on returning to camp the thirteenth week is devoted to platoon training. During the fourteenth week, the company training, which the platoon training leads up to, is gone through. The week culminates in a march over the Rimutaka Hill and one all-night bivouac, followed by day and night outposts, a night march, and an attack at dawn. The march into camp follows, and the fifteenth week is taken up by the firing of Table B—the trained soldier's course of musketry.

During the remainder of the time instruction is given in administrative work, with a little trench warfare and ceremonial work, and an inspection of the draft is made by His Excellency the Governor.

In the case of earlier reinforcements the whole of this training in infantry work was carried out at Trentham, but now that there are two camps the work is divided between them. Throughout the training, on an average, two hours a week are devoted to night drill and elementary night training, the duties of sentries by night and of patrols, and the work of entrenching by night. Towards the end of the course the time given to night work is increased up to six hours a week.