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    John D Salt

    Re-reading Charles Scheffel’s splendid book “Crack! and Thump”, I was reminded that he (Scheffel) had been trained, unusually, for a US officer, in British infantry tactics, from which his big three highlights seemed to be — 1. Get yourself a batman 2. Learn to judge ranges by crack and thump 3. use two-man slit trenches. None of these, it seems, were part of US infantry training at the time. The reason given for the two-man trench was to prevent the sense of psychological islolation caused by individual foxholes, as in US practice. This reminded me of two other references to such an effect. First, either Kubala & Warnick or Kushnick & Duffy, possibly both, in their paper on measuring suppressive effects, report that it is harder to suppress men in a four-man trench than a two-man one. Second, Tony Jeapes, either in his book “Operation Oman” or a piece for Army Training News, and again possibly both, recommended a four-man rather than a two-man trench because he thought it provided better psychological support.

    This set me wondering how WW2 national dotrines varies as to the best number of men to fit into a hole in the ground. The US Army seems to have favoured individual foxholes; the British 2-man slit trenches; and as for everyone else, I’d be guessing. It’s obvious that this is the sort of thing that could well be determined by the experience, taste and social predilictions of individuals, but I’m wondering if there was much variation in national dotrines on the topic. I’m fairly confident there must have been published guidance for almost all armies on the rather tedious business of digging holes in the ground, partly because fortification is an ancient and respectable art, and partly because staff officers need to be crammed with information along the lines of how many men with picks and shovels will be required to complete an excavation of 36 cubic feet in an hour in thick loam. Wargamers (including me) don’t seem to bother with this much, because it hasn’t got tanks in it (unless it’s an anti-tank ditch, which is much bigger).

    So, does anyone have any published sources on national doctrines for men-per-hole?

    And can anyone think of any wargames rules where the number of men in a fighting hole makes any difference in terms of morale or activation?

    All the best,


    Guy Farrish

    Handbuch-Feldbefestigungen des deutschen Heeres 1939-45 (1998) – not an original but a reprint of a 1944 manual with pics and added notations – 2 man foxholes. (schützenloch)


    From peering at the various translations and diagrams in Chris Sharps “Soviet Infantry Tactics”, a squad foxhole  position consists of half a dozen foxholes including one for the LMG and one for the SL, so two man foxholes. This also chimes with the section on combat outposts.

    The expectation was that very rapidly this would become a section trench (squad trench position), and that the lucky human moles would then dig an alternate squad trench plus an overhead covered position, all linked with communication trenches. The company commander then expected them to dig exactly the same set of positions as dummies within the company defence sector. So, I really don’t know if the foxhole position was purely temporary, and that normally they be in a nice comforting trench.





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

    Guy Farrish

    Yes, the German ‘foxholes’ are part of a more integrated squad position which in turn can be expanded into part of a larger widerstandnest.


    As for wargames reflecting this – I can recall playing Vietnam games that rewarded crew served weapons and larger groups of soldiers for morale but can’t recall having played WW2 games that reflect the benefits of numbers in fighting holes/improvised field fortifications. I’m sure someone in WD must have done this at some time but without digging through tons of Nuggets and correspondence I’m going with a tentative ‘don’t remember’.


    “And can anyone think of any wargames rules where the number of men in a fighting hole makes any difference in terms of morale or activation?”

    Several rules I have used have given a morale benefit for being in hard cover – which is then further defined.  None that I recall specify a greater benefit the more figures that are in that cover.  I can see such a rule leading to some ‘gamey’ situations though.  In any game with a prepared defence being assaulted I can see the defender announcing that all their trenches are two-man, or whatever level of occupancy gives the greatest morale benefit.  I mostly play at battalion/brigade level so it’s a moot point for me.



    I’ve seen various rules sets where either cover and/or supporting friendlies provide a morale benefit, although nothing so specific as that.  I think the closest I’ve seen is units in coherency being easier to activate and/or more effective than units that are isolated, which suits the overall effect without trying to be too specific.

    Guy Farrish

    In Greg McCauley’s ‘Buckle for Your Dust’ Vietnam rules, he has a combat effectiveness section of the firing routine – the number of men attempting to fire is cross referenced with the combat value of the troops, and the situation, to give you the number of eligible troops who do actually fire. (aimed at reflecting ‘friction’ and SLA  Marshal type reticence in firing in a more explicit way than simply tweaking combat effectiveness numbers).

    He suggests that where is any dispute about which troops can fire out of the total tested, the crew served, support and heavy weapons fire first. I would think that the situation could be tweaked to improve the chances of those in multi occupancy foxholes firing if one wanted to reflect this in the game.

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