Given that I am not particularly familiar with armoured warfare, I would like to present a tactical problem to the forum. (Note: This has also been posted on the RAC sub-forum)
You are commanding a squadron of 15 tanks. You are tasked to break through to a base 12 miles north of you, which is under siege. Two miles up the single-track road (ie 10 miles from the base which is your destination) is a 200-vehicle convoy, all soft skinned, carrying a composite infantry battalion, put together at very short (about 12 hours) notice. They too, have been ordered to fight through and break into the base. Their column is in trouble, as in the hills overlooking the road are three regiments of enemy infantry. The column has good air cover, but after dark, the air will have to return to base.
Upon reaching the column, darkness is about four hours away. The convoy commander asks you to spread your tanks through his convoy in pairs, so supporting the length of its column as it proceeds up the road.
(1) Do what he asks? (Due to a command snafu, and due to the desperate nature of the situation, you are not under his direct orders, though he does, in fact, outrank you)
(2) Ignore his request, and instead mass all your armour at the head of the column?
(3) Something different to (1) and (2)?
I am an author. I won't disclose the actual history at this point, as I would like to you to come at this problem from a fresh perspective. (I will reveal it in a couple of weeks, if people are interested.) However, the situation above is not hypothetical.
Any informed comments would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance for any serious posts.
What is the countryside like? What is the going in the hills? Who is your enemy?
I am not a modern soldier and my service ended 20 years ago and my interests are in military history.
The old books on these sorts of problems suggest that you should be clearing the hills and not blasting a way up the road. I have just been reading "The Pattern of War " by Francis Tuker - fopr a staff ride in Italy. He served as a junior officer in Burma in 1914-18 and commanded the 4th Indian Division in North Africa and Italy.
In the mountains, the primary arm of manoeuvre is the light infantry. It is therefore essential that that arm of manoeuvre shall be given the highest possible mobility and the power to carry its fighting weapons and the whole of its fighting strength to the point at which it can turn a position. In saying this I do not argue that it is not possible to use the tracked weapon of manoeuvre in mountains. In the wider field, if one presses along on many routes, there is often one that will in the end yield to armoured pressure. Once that happens and the road opens, then a whole army can be forced forward rapidly through the pass and down on to the plains which are the only objective of mountain fighting, for down there on the plains is everything that supplies the army which opposes one.
To be frank, you already have more info on enemy strenght then the commanders did at the time. There was no real idea of enemy numbers - many members of the taskforce were not even sure of the nationality of the enemy they were facing. Air recce the day previous noted nine road blocks on the road; a couple of small vehicle convoys had been shot up on the road the day previous. Tank commander had little or no idea of enemy AT capabilities, though he probably assumed they had mines, box mines (IEDs, if you prefer) and possibly pole charges and/or rocket launchers.
By the time the tanks reach the column on the road, all that is clear that:
The enemy are in strength in the hills
The enemy have mortars on high ground
The enemy have MGs on high ground
The convoy is taking casualties, but there is no time to clear the high ground with infantry
Low, rolling hills, not passable to armour. In some areas, the hills slope right down on the road. In other parts of the road, the hils are about a mile back from the road.
The whole landscape is covered in snow; the temperature after dark is -25 degrees.
Another key tactical point: There are drainage ditches along each side of the road, and a few thatched hamlets.
All soft skinned - trucks, jeeps, etc. The column do have recoilless guns, light mortars and medium MGs, but not mounted - ie to be fired, they have to be removed from the vehicles and deployed on the ground.
1945 vintage (ie have to stop to shoot; no infra-red sights, etc)
FYI, the tank commander and the convoy commander are of different (but allied) nationalities.