Home Forums WWII Company and Battalion Frontages

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  • #47191
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    What were the doctrinal frontages for infantry companies and battalions from the various nations in WW2? And is there any analysis on how strongly (or not) these were adhered to?

    #47192
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

     I would say it depends on the theatre.

     

    But FWIW  http://balagan.info/infantry-unit-frontages-during-ww2

     

     

    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

    #47193
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    I am sure you are right, but thanks very much for the info in the link.

    All the best

     

    #47194
    MartinR
    Participant

    Yes, but obviously it depended in mission, terrain etc. (and overall force density)

    e.g. a defended company locality may have occupied an area of 500 yards by 500 yards, but depending on the situation might be 2000 yards from its nearest ‘mutually supporting’ company – this was not atypical for quiet fronts in Russia, with the gaps covered by patrols and artillery co-located with the company strongpoints.

    My usual rule of thumb is roughly 1000 yards frontage and depth for a Western style battalion on the attack (so 500 yards per company, assuming 2 up), and maybe up to 2km x 2km on defence (again, assuming some depth).

    Massive variations in practice of course, with ludicrous troop densities on occasion – the amoured divisions in Goodwood were allotted 1000 yard frontages for their entire divisions, and some Russian Rifle Divisions were alotted 600m assault frontages.

    Doctrinally, Germans divisions were supposed to assault on a frontage of 4km  (both infantry and panzer, two regiments up) and their optimum defensive frontage was six km (again, either two regiments up, or three regiments side-by-side in WW1 style through throughput the full depth of the defensive zone). Again, irl defensive fronts of anything up to 40km were not uncommon (only achievable by stringing uot every sub-unit into a chain of outposts). iirc the longets defensive front I ever came across was the 29th Motorised Division at Elista which had the fun task of defending 300 miles(!) of fornt.

    In all cases sub-units, units and formations were deployed in depth, unlike the Napoleonic formations so beloved of wargamers.

     

     

     

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    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    #47200
    Jemima Fawr
    Participant

    Frontages could be astonishingly compressed.  1st Polish Armoured Division had around 500m-750m frontage at the start of Operation ‘Totalize’, hence their oft-criticised ‘charge’ at the start that was purely an attempt to obtain some manoeuvring room.

    When I took a professional British Army SNCO to Normandy with my tour group a few years back, he point-blank refused to believe the British deployment frontages at the battlefields of Breville and Herouville (both near Pegasus Bridge).  I had to show him the actual operational orders and war diaries before he believed me!

    Here’s my scenario for Herouville.  The problem here was that they were sandwiched in between the left flank of Operation ‘Charnwood’ and the Caen Canal:

    http://www.fireandfury.com/scenarios/herouville_hellfire_corner.pdf

    My wargames blog: http://www.jemimafawr.co.uk/

    #47203
    Patrice
    Participant

     http://balagan.info/infantry-unit-frontages-during-ww2

    “When in (Skirmish) Line the the men spread out in a ragged line. In attack the Russians kept 6-8 paces (5-7 m) between men (Sharp, 1998) and the Germans 5 paces (4 m) (Gajkowski, 1995). In defence a Russian squad covered a 40-50 m frontage, and a German squad 30-40 m.”

    That’s a bit different in some popular rules…

    http://www.argad-bzh.fr/argad/en.html
    https://www.anargader.net/

    #47206
    MartinR
    Participant

    And in “Infantry, Fieldcraft and Training’, section fighting positions are shown as roughly 50 yards square, with the three sections arranged in a triangle with around 100 yards between each section and interlocked arcs of fire for the Brens to cover the other sections in mutual support. In some of the earlier manuals the third ‘reserve’ section is designated as the one to provide mutual fire support for the adjacent platoon positions a couple of hundreds yards away within the company defended locality as part of the intial fire plan.

     

     

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    #168276
    Dave Beatty
    Participant

    It did depend upon the time, terrain, troops available, doctrine, attacking or defending and nationality. For example, a first echelon Soviet rifle division in June 1941 was expected to defend a 6 to 10 km front (https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/combat-studies-institute/csi-books/glantz2.pdf page 3) but shortages of troops led a division to often defend a sector 24 km wide. By the fall of 1942 a Soviet rifle division would defend a frontage of 8 to 15 km and by the fall of 1943 it had shrunk back to 6 to 9 km (page 13). A key factor in the evolution was vastly increased engineer and artillery support – in 1941 a division might expect to have almost no mines and 3 guns and mortars per km; in 1943 this increased to 1,700 antipersonnel mines and 1,500 antitank mines and 18 to 30 guns and mortars per per kilometer of front.

    #168309
    John D Salt
    Participant

    I did a bit of official research on this a while ago (all from easily available open sources, so nothing special). One thing that surprised me was how seldom tables of doctrinal frontages seem to be published. Most armed forces, I think, take the Prof. Joad/Connard Sage/Dave Beatty attitude of “it depends”; most of the material I found seemed to be US documents describing the doctrines of other armies, rather than armies describing their own doctrines.

    Pathetically thin pickings, especially once the data from before and after WW2 has been discarded, as shown by the low values of n. FWIW I found, for daylight operations in standard terrain, the geometric means of the figures given were:

    Battalion attack    557m   (n=9)
    Battalion defence  1252m   (n=5)
    Company attack      312m   (n=4)
    Company defence     592m   (n=4)
    

    These figures are slightly lower than the averages over the whole period covered (WW1 to date), as there seems to be a tendency for frontages above squad level to increase over time, more markedly for defence than for attack.

    On that showing, if you said a WW2 battalion is supposed to attack on a frontage of about 600m and defend twice as much, and company frontages are half the battalion ones, you would probably be less vastly mistaken than someone who believes that Ivor Novello is still alive.

    Martin Rapier’s figures are not enormously different, and have the virtue of being rounder.

    All the best,

    John.

    #171385
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    Just caught up on the additional replies to this one, many thanks. Was thinking of this in the context of ranges and board sizes for certain types of game.

    #171742
    OotKust
    Participant

    Heh heh, flashback -2

    >>In all cases sub-units, units and formations were deployed in depth, unlike the Napoleonic formations so beloved of wargamers. << Someone wrote.

    Our NZ ‘Official Histories’ have most of desert warfare infantry deployed 3 companies wide, one in reserve. That reserve was rotated based on previous exposure. Later in period (late ’42/ ’43) one entire company was ‘Left Out of Battle [LOB]’ to ensure a cadre existed in case of catastrophe and replenishment.

    The NZ Division was led of course by the extraordinary Lt.Gen Bermard Freyberg.

    cheers dave

     

    Blinking paint by numbers... bahhumbug!

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