One for the oldies - when did fire teams take over from rifle and gun groups?

#1
I was talking with an old mate recently and we got onto the subject of infantry stuff - I'd been reading a book about Arnhem and mentioned that the rifle group/gun group tactics developed during WW2 were basically the same tactics that I was taught at Bassingbourn in the late 70's, except using a GPMG rather than a Bren.

IIRC the idea of two balanced fire teams was kicking around at the time but I could not remember when the rifle/gun group was binned in favour of fire teams. I have seen one vintage pamphlet from the late 70's which does mention both systems as being permitted during a transitional period (presumably while the SA80 and associated bits and pieces were being developed) but the pam does not give any date for the switch from one to the other although I assume it would have been during the 1980's.

I just wondered if any of the old and bold had any memories of when the rifle/gun group was phased out and the fire team concept became prevalent in the infantry.

Rodney2q
 
#2
I think you will find it was immediately after, and as a direct result of experience gained, in the Falklands. There was all sorts of scenarios being banded about such as 2 X 4 man teams with a GPMG or LSW in each group. Then there was talk about making the GPMG a Platoon Weapon (Rather like the 2" Mortar) all dependant on Role, being Air Portable or Armoured.

The problem was the 'Old Style' of using the Gun Team to suppress an enemy Fire trench whilst the guys skirmished up to it went to rat shit if that trench had interlocking Arcs of Fire with supporting trenches (and lets face it, they all do)
 
#3
Certainly rifle group / gun group in '74.
 
#4
I think it came in after the Falklands, I was at IJLB just after the war and was told about it, but we still used the old gun group rifle group. I joined my first unit (2 Queen’s, Were you still with the Bn then) I Jan 84 in Londonderry, so it was not so relevant to our roll. We adopted the fire team system as soon as we returned to the UK. By time I did SCBC in 1986 it was well established.
 
#5
We were taught this on PCBC at Warminster in 1980.I believe we were the "guinea-pig"course
 

Brotherton Lad

LE
Kit Reviewer
#6
I did PCBC in '79 and it was still gun gp and rifle gp, but I was aware of fire teams before I handed the Pl over in 1981. I believed it was linked to the planned introduction of SA80 and LSW. There may even have been a conceptual link to the 4 man brick in NI, but that's just a guess.
 
#7
I echo comments of after the Falklands.

I remember sitting in the lecture theatre at Brecon listening to an LE Capt giving a talk on the importance of good section level tactics and the jist was that once comms broke down the platoons started taking more ground because lads took it upon themselves to break down into pairs and individual fire and manoeuvre.

As a talking point I'd suggest this is what the army does wrong. They find something that works in a particular theatre then rip up and rewrite the pam instead of just adding the new tactic to the old and encouraging free thinking at lower levels (I know) on an op by op, tour by tour basis.


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#8
Thanks all - looks like early 80's/post Op Corporate has it!

:)

Rodney2q
 
#9
I think it came in after the Falklands, I was at IJLB just after the war and was told about it, but we still used the old gun group rifle group. I joined my first unit (2 Queen’s, Were you still with the Bn then) I Jan 84 in Londonderry, so it was not so relevant to our roll. We adopted the fire team system as soon as we returned to the UK. By time I did SCBC in 1986 it was well established.
I'd left 2 Queens by them mate - transferred to Int in 1981. I ended up learning the fire team drills when I joined a TA recce regt in the 1990's after leaving the regular army.

:)

Rodney2q
 
#11
The problem was the 'Old Style' of using the Gun Team to suppress an enemy Fire trench whilst the guys skirmished up to it went to rat shit if that trench had interlocking Arcs of Fire with supporting trenches (and lets face it, they all do)
Wasn't that what the 3 to 1 superiority calculation was for though? A section took on a single enemy, A platoon took on a section, a company took on a platoon and a battalion took on a company etc etc hence if there were interlocking arcs of fire, it was obviously at least a enemy section and you manned up accordingly depending on the overall strength of the enemy.

Having left in late 77, I never encountered the different strategy but I do recall the LSW on a reservist call up day being introduced as the new section fire support weapon. I thought at the time that a magazine fed fire support weapon would find the GPMG a hard act to follow but I wasn't there to give the army my views. I was just collecting my £100, taxed of course.
 
#12
When we stopped having 'that' rifle and GPMG, and went to fire teams with equal firpower. 92 onwards?
 
#13
I think the answers above cover it comprehensively but in 1987 we were organised in fire teams with a GPMG and three SLRs in each one. Whether we would have had enough GPMGs to have mobilised like that I'm not sure but I do remember us getting a load delivered, crated up so maybe we would have done?
 
#14
I can throw some relevant light on this...

In the ACF the field craft and skill at arms syllabus included reference to 'gun groups' as in 'diamond formation advances with GG on the left....' This was in 1982... mind you they used to give us 37 pattern webbing too.

...so not much help then.
 
#15
Wasn't that what the 3 to 1 superiority calculation was for though? A section took on a single enemy, A platoon took on a section, a company took on a platoon and a battalion took on a company etc etc hence if there were interlocking arcs of fire, it was obviously at least a enemy section and you manned up accordingly depending on the overall strength of the enemy.

QUOTE]Exactly right, and, I believe is still the case. I think that part of the Fire Team approach was it allowed greater latitude during the assault. As I remember it, you would attack as a Section and at the last possible moment split into Teams to allow suppresive fire (at very close range) on the most dangerous enemy whilst one team neutralised the objective. Having done that, they would then provide suppressing fire whilst the other team assaulted the target that was being suppressed and so on. This was judged to be more effective than having a Gun team out at 300m and expect it to see and react to all threats.
 
#16
Agreed it was connected to the introduction of the SA80 and LSW to replace the wonder gun.

IIRC the single GPMG in a section represented about 70 % of the section's fire power. With the introduction of a more balance of fire power throughout the section the fire team concept makes more sense.
 
#18
My 2p is that Op Corporate was the point when the army started talking about fire teams. I think that's the time when the infantry gave serious thought to how to fight through an assult.

The gun group/ rifle group was being taught in the early 1980s and dates from the battle drills developed in WW2, and assumed a 3:1 superiority to be established. Hence the reason for training to fight scattered pockets of enemy rather than the Red Horde. Arguably the scattered pockets was not badtraining for an army whose main enemy would be outnumbered terrorists durign the post war period.

I don't think there was ever any detail or drill practiced for the mechanics of fighting through the objectives, whether by a rifle group in a section attack or by the assult sections in a platoon attack. The reality of facing a real enemy in the Falklands in defensive positions and not "scattered pockets of enemy resistance" forced a lot of thinking. 2 Para's plan at Goose Green for a 16(?) phase attack was one man's way to approach the problem.

Maybe the infantry did this at the School of Infantry, but it certainly wasn't' being practiced. I was an FOO to 13/18H as ex enemy for the QOH training for the first post war Op Corporate deployment - about july 1982. The final attack was ludicrous "charge" in line abreast on a line of Foxes manned by a US recon unit on some form of exchange with 13/18H. At the time it looked woefully futile as a tactic given that these chaps were about to deploy to a theatre where they might actually have to perform a company attack. Post Falkland presentations had lots of discussion and lessons learned about fire and movement from trench to trench in the fight through. The balanced fire teams may have been presented by the commando (42?) which took LMG as well as GPMG.

For what its worth the Section and Platoon attacks developed by the battle schools of Home forces after Dunkirk was criticised in WW2. An ex chief instructor of the battle schools visited Sicily and wrote back to say that the ideas worked if ever implemented properly but 1) no platoon ever had 40 men, they usually had 24. 2) Of these men one third could be relied on to fight andone third to try to run away. 3) a single Bren was too unreliable to trust with the lives of the assult group. He recommended fighting the platoon as a big fighting patrol with all the LGMs as a gun group under the platoon Sergeant with the officer commanding all of the assault troops.
 
P

Prefect

Guest
#19
I was on a mixed Royal Anglian, Fusilier & Queens Regiment JNCO Cadre at Bassingborne in 1988 and they were still teaching Gun Group and Rifle Section to us then. On normal exercises it largely depended on who was teaching you. PSIs tended to be more up to date and taught the fire teams thing long before TA SNCOs caught on.

Back at Bn I quite liked it, being a gunner under the old system I didn't have to run as much and certainly got away without all that pepper pottiing nonsense. At least until I realised that being a signaller was even easier.........
 
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