Assault in Line !

Gents with the memories of the Somme 1 July 1916, I would like to ask a question on a pure infantry matter.
In the 14-18 war British and "All" infantry attacked in massed line.
By later stages some of the German infantry had gone over to the Stormtrooper attack, smaller formations useing natural cover.
I am no expert but this seems to have been German method of Infantry assault in WW II.
The Russians still seemed to have used the Line Assault method as did the Chinese and N.Korean troops of ealy 1950's.
I have seen the documentry "Film" of El Alamain and watched the Brit infantry attacking in line.
In George Macdonald Fraser's autobiography of his days in Burma 1945 (The Border Regt) he tells of assauling jap positions, in company lines of platoons.
Even as late as the Dofar war in early 70's Brit led Omani infantry assaulted in company lines (the infamous battle for Shershitt caves).
I have no reason to suspect that this type of assault is current practice.
Is it ? Or when did it change ?
john the uninformed, seeking info


War Hero
Extended line for the assault phase was, I believe, pretty much the thing to do until the Falklands battles demonstrated otherwise.
how would you guys go about assulting a dug in enamy in a similar situation that the average tommie was faced in 1916?

no possiblty of flanking attacks very equal opposition etc
flatten it with arty roll over it with tanks warrior .If we didnt have a
superior force couldnt attck it
I don't know that assaulting in line was still en vogue in the 1970s though it certainly was in the 1960s when we were taught to assault in line, just before the "Charge" was ordered the call "Bullets!" was sounded, we fired a volley and charged. In the 1970s things changed and we taught the fight through during the assault phase using team work, fire and movement, onto the objective. The practice was still extant in the mid 1980s when I retired. From what I read of section (squad) and platoon actions in Iraq it appears still to be so.
felixthefox said:
how would you guys go about assulting a dug in enamy in a similar situation that the average tommie was faced in 1916?

no possiblty of flanking attacks very equal opposition etc
Contain the enemy and use the RN to starve his population to death like we did last time............ Sh1t that won't work we sold the RN last year, oh bugger,,,,, perhaps we'd just loose.
At least one reserve battalion commander on the first day of the Somme, seeing the carnage ahead, ordered his companies to assault in single file (better to avoid enfilading fire from flanking en. machine guns). Incorporating the lessons of the Somme, from late 1916 onwards British on line assaults increasingly remained on line only until effective enemy fire was encountered. Further progress was then achieved by platoon and section fire and manoeuvre. And it worked well. Infantry forming a simple combined arms team with artillery time and again proved capable of carrying forward German positions.

The difficulty the British Army faced (and also the German) was not the achievement of the break-in, but in the conversion of the break-in to a break-through of sufficient operational depth to make a difference.


Book Reviewer
In 1916 they didn't really have a choice. As Holmes and others point out, you can train Infantrymen fairly easily, and even PCs, but NCOs are another matter. The New Army simply did't have the skill to do much else, or at least that's what most Commanders considered.

By the end of WW1, and certainly by WW2, there was very littel assulting in line. It may have been taught, but pretty rarely used.

See Sydney Jary, "18 Platoon", for great examples.
I am not an infanteer, so my views must be taken with my lack of practical knowlage.
Assault in line must be a through back to the days of Wellington. I assume it allows better control of troops by Ncos in the line.
The Stormtroop type assault introduced by the German army in 1917-18 would require a much higher training standard for troopers and above all for Ncos and junior officers leading the attack.
In my limmited infantry training Fire and movement was what was emphasised. No movement without support fire and movement in quick rushes from and too cover, only after winning the Fire Fight !
Now if non inf where taught that, I asume that the pros would have sumthing better up their sleeve.
I am only asking about pure footslogging infantry and not mechanised warfare.
However, the Germans split their forces up into 3 rates.

Trench Divisions were the lame and lazy, very poor soldiers used to hold the Main Battle Zone

Attack Divisions were the normal troops who were used to counterattack penetrations.

Assault (Stormtroop) Divisions were used to spearhead their own attacks.

The British trained all their troops to the same standard.

Sapukay, than you for your excellent answer.
I have always considerd the Brit Army to be the Best Small Army in the world, easily punching over its nominal wieght. I said long ago on this board that the only real soldiers where Infantry and all the rest just support troops, as I was.
I do genuinly seek information and often wonder on the Whys and Wherefor's of why things are so.
From time to time we inherit indiferant peacetime leaders and it then cums down to Poor Bloody Tom doing his bit holding the fort, untill the system sorts it's self out.

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