Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The Volunteer Force (2) - By the Book

The creation of the Volunteer Force in 1859 led to a huge upsurge of interest in matters military in England, especially as it followed on from the Crimean war and various hostilities on the continent. To meet this interest publishers rushed to produce books, and fortunately for us some are available for free on the internet.

Rifles and volunteer rifle corps,
By Llewellynn Frederick W. Jewitt

A rather opinionated overview of the whole subject, but he does go into considerable detail about the various rifles and pistols available, amongst other things. He uses the Derbyshire Volunteers as an example. Well worth checking out.
For example

The Adams Revolver (Made by Mr Robert Adams, 76, King William street, London Bridge)

The revolver patented by Mr. Adams is one of great beauty and immense power, and, for all purposes where a revolver can be of service, is as effective as any arm well can be. The whole frame, which includes the barrel of the pistol, is made of one single piece of iron of the best quality which can be procured. When we say of one piece of iron, we mean it literally; it is neither welded or jointed in any way, but cut out of one solid mass of metal; it is, therefore, as firm at the angles as in any other part, and as strong as metal can make it. Having been cut to the required form, and worked up and rifled, it thus becomes more safe and more firm than if made in several pieces, and held together only with bolts.

There is a detailed discussion of the mechanism, which allowed firing without separately cocking the hammer each shot.

There can be no doubt that for a revolver to be really valuable in case of emergency, it ought not to require separate cocking for each discharge; for, although this can be done with great rapidity and ease with the thumb, it is a loss of time which in many instances might be fatal. This is clearly shown in the following letter which we have had shown to us:—

"Sir,—In these days of warfare, any invention of improvements in fire-arms should he patronised and assisted, and with that view I write you this letter. I had one of your largest-sized Revolver Pistols at the bloody battle of Inkermann, and by some chance got surrounded by Russians. I then found the advantages of your pistol over that of Colonel Colt's, for had I to cock before each shot I should have lost my life; but with yours, having only to pull the trigger, I was able to shoot four Russians, and thereby save my life. I should not have had time to cock, as they were too close to me, being only a few yards from me; so close that I was bayoneted through the thigh immediately after shooting the fourth man. I hope this may be of service to you, as I certainly owe my life to your invention of the Revolver Pistol.—I have the honour to be your obedient servant, "J. G. Crosse, 88th Regt.

This was very much a commercial enterprise, and there are also some wonderful adverts...
Of course the new volunteers would need instruction, and two drill books are also available.

Drill and rifle instruction for the corps of rifle volunteers
Col Sir D Lysons 1860

This goes into immense detail into the various drills and manoeuvres the troops would need to learn. There is only space for a few snippets here....

Firing would be in 2 ranks. The men of a file must always work together; both men should never be unloaded at the same time; they will fire alternately, commencing with the front-rank man. On broken ground the volunteers must take advantage of all cover, and when advancing or retiring they will run from one place of cover to another, the two men of each file keeping together and taking care not to get in the way of other files. When moving, the loaded man should always be nearest to the enemy.

Preparing for Cavalry.
When the square is to prepare for cavalry, upon the word Ready, the first and second rank will sink down at once upon the right knee, as a front and rear rank kneeling, in the manner prescribed when at the capping position, and at the same time they will place the butts of their rifles on the ground against the inside of their right knees, locks turned uppermost, the muzzle slanting upwards, so that the point of the sword will be about the height of a horse's nose ; the left hand to have a firm grasp of the rifle immediately above the lowest band, the right hand holding the small of the butt, the left arm to rest upon the thigh about six inches in rear of the left knee. The third and fourth ranks will make ready as a front and rear rank standing. Muzzles of rifles to be inclined upwards. The standing ranks will fire by files, and the kneeling ranks in volleys by word of command. When the sides of the square are less than four deep, the front rank only will kneel.

In this manner dispersed parties may be formed to resist an attack of cavalry in an open country, either in one or more squares, according as they may be more or less dispersed ; each square consisting of any number of men. Every man will run to the nearest rallying point, but the larger the square the safer it will be.

A battalion may send out any number of companies to skirmish, according to its strength, and the extent of ground that is to be covered; each company that is sent out to skirmish must have a company in support, as a general rule about 200 yards in rear of its centre ; the reserve should always be composed of at least one-third of the whole battalion; it will be placed at about 500 yards in rear of the centre of the skirmishers.
When a line of skirmishers composed of several companies advances or retires, it will move by the centre of the whole line, except while inclining to a flank, when it will move by the flank to which it is inclining.
The directions already given for the movements of the skirmishers and supports in case of the approach of cavalry, are equally applicable to the companies of a battalion ; the reserve will advance on the first alarm, and form square when necessary ; the captains must as far as possible form their squares so as to flank each other.
When required to assemble, the skirmishers will at all times form first on their supports, after which they may both be brought in, and formed at quarter distance in rear of the reserve.
Relieving Skirmishers. When skirmishers have suffered considerable loss, when they are fatigued by continued rapid movements, or when their supply of ammunition is getting low, it will be advisable to relieve them. The most convenient method of effecting the relief is to order the support to extend and relieve its skirmishers. When retiring, the successive relief of the skirmishers by supports, is the most effectual manner of keeping an enemy in check. The officer commanding a support should therefore be constantly on the look-out for good positions, in which he may extend his men with advantage, such its a bank, a ditch, a wall, or such like cover.
After relieving, the new skirmishers must hold their position until ordered to continue the retreat.
Reinforcing, or extending a Line of Skirmishers Any part of a line of skirmishers may be reinforced, by throwing forward the supports or part of them, in the same manner as they are thrown forward when relieving skirmishers, but on joining the old line, both will remain and skirmish together, dividing the distances. A line of skirmishers may be diminished by calling in any portion of them, who will retire in the same manner as skirmishers are brought in when relieved. In this case, the remaining skirmishers will divide the space left by those who have retired.

Bugle Calls.

The following bugle sounds may occasionally be substituted for words of command when skirmishing, but the voice is less liable to-error, and commands can be passed down an extended line with great rapidity by the supernumeraries.
One G- sounded on the bugle denotes the right of the line; two G's the centre ; three G's the left. The G's, preceding any sound, denote the part of the line to which it applies ; for instance, two G's before the extend signify to extend from the centre; one G followed by the close, to close to the right; one G followed by the incline, to incline to the right ; three G's followed by the wheel, to wheel to the left.

Formation of an Advanced Guard on a Road.
When a column is marching along a road, the advanced guard will be composed of one or more companies, divided into four parts or sections; the two rear sections (under the command of the senior officer) will form the reserve in front of the column ; the second section from the front will form a support 200 yards in front of the reserve, under command of the third senior officer ; the leading section will be 100 yards in front of the second section, and will detach a corporal and two files 100 yards to its front and two files to each flank, 100 yards from the road and about 50 yards more retired than the corporal's party.
The senior subaltern will accompany the leading section. The detached files must carefully examine all houses, enclosures, &c. within their reach ; but should more distant objects present themselves, patrols must be detached from the second section for their particular examination.

Single files of communication will be placed between the different divisions of an advanced guard, and also between its reserve and the head of the column. The distance between the two latter must be regulated by circumstances; but it will generally be about 500 yards during the day and about 300 during the night.
In open country an advanced guard is simply a line of skirmishers, with a support, and, if necessary, a reserve.

Instructions for mounted rifle volunteers
Colonel Sir D Lysons, 1860

There is a lot about horse drill, so again here are just some snippets.

When mounted rifle volunteers assemble on horseback, they are not to be regarded as cavalry to be occasionally dismounted, but as infantry mounted in order to move quickly.

The idea is to use one rank when mounted, two when skirmishing....

I Object of Skirmishing.
The principal duty of mounted rifle volunteers on active service would be to hinder and embarrass the march of the enemy by unexpected attacks on his flank and rear at a distance from the main body of our troops, where it would be unsafe, if not impossible, for infantry to act, unsupported, without the aid of horses.

II . Horses not to be exposed.
Mounted volunteers should never expose their horses to fire unless it is positively unavoidable. If their advance and intention is discovered by the enemy before they commence to fire, the object of their attack will probably have failed, and the sooner they retire the better.

III. Safety of Mounted Volunteers
By keeping at long range from the enemy's infantry the volunteers can at any moment take to their horses and gallop away in perfect safety, let the enemy be ever so numerous. Should they be followed by the enemy's cavalry, an intelligent officer, by a judicious use of the banks and ditches and other natural obstacles, and of his superior knowledge of the country, may bid defiance to a superior force.

IV. Intelligence required in Skirmishing.
It is not possible to lay down distinct rules for the movements of skirmishers of any description, least of all for the skirmishers of a corps of mounted rifle volunteers. Much must depend on the knowledge of the officers, and also on the personal intelligence of every individual in the corps.

V. Trumpet or Bugle Sounds
The trumpet or bugle should seldom be used, as the enemy will probably understand the sounds as well as the volunteers. The skirmishers must be accustomed to move by sign or signal; and, above all, to take advantage of the nature of the ground.

VI. Skirmishers and their led Horses.
The volunteers who remain with the horses must conform to all the movements of the skirmishers as far as they can without exposing their horses to fire, always bearing in mind that it is their business to place the horses in the most favourable position for the skirmishers to remount when forced to retire ; should the mounted party be concealed from view, the officer in charge of such party must remember to place one man where he can be seen by the dismounted men, in order that the skirmishers may know where to find their horses.

VII. Linking Horses.
It may under some circumstances be found practicable to link all the horses together, leaving only the flank man of subdivisions or sections to take care of them. This, however, should only be done when the skirmishers are certain to have plenty of time to remount, and when there is no danger of their horses being attacked by the enemies' cavalry. It must, however, be remembered that under these circumstances the horses will be immoveable.The method of linking must depend on the nature of the horse appointments of the corps.

VIII. Remarks on Assembling.
As sizing is of little importance in their case, it is recommended that mounted volunteers should be encouraged to choose their own associates as neighbours in the ranks. Four men should agree, for the purpose of riding to drill together, to meet at a common point. They should choose one as guide for the day, and march according to his word of command in fours, files, or single files, paying attention to dressing or covering. This practice will accustom the horses to work together. It will also teach small parties of skirmishers the habit of looking to each other, both for support in firing and for holding each other's horses.

Sword Drill
There is an extensive chapter on sword drill, though how well Volunteers would fare against say, Chasseurs d'Afrique or hussars is extremely debatable. Anyway, here is an example....

The greatest attention should at all times be paid to maintain the proper position and balance of the body, from which, by too great an exertion in delivering a Cut or Thrust, the horseman may be suddenly thrown, and thereby lose the advantage of his science in the use of his Sword, by the natural efforts which he must make to regain his seat; nor should he fail to have every confidence and dependence upon his Guard, without trusting to his avoiding the attack of an opponent by turning or drawing back the body to escape from it.

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