Counter battery surveying

Discussion in 'Artillery' started by DavidW, Feb 2, 2019.

  1. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    I am seeking to learn about the role of Survey regiments, and am starting from a base knowledge of about zero.My time-frame is 1940 - 1942, theatre; Middle East.

    I want to know what is the minimum unit requirement to carry out effective counter battery surveying.

    It seems that there are three different survey units within a Regiment. "Survey" "Sound Reporting" & "Flash Spotting". The Regiments appear to be broken down into two Batteries, each with three Troops, and the Troops further broken down to Sections. Sections appear to be the smallest denomination.

    Would you need a Section of each denomination to be effective?

    Any information would be much appreciated.

    Kind Regards,
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2019
  2. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron


    The Survey Regiment was a Corps unit and came under the Corps Commander RA. There were two identical batteries, this organisation originating from the time when a Corps had two Divisions. Each battery had three troops, Survey, Sound Ranging and Observation.

    The general idea was that the troops would be distributed across the Corps front as the CCRA decided in order to give a complete coverage. All information would pass to a central plot at Corps. Here the location and types of all enemy artillery, as far as was known, would be plotted so that a counter battery plan could be prepared. Some of these were very large and complicated.

    It was not intended that sections should operate independently or that they should be formed into mixed groups, but all things are possible.

  3. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Thanks Mike.

    I have amended my synopsis above to reflect the extra detail you have added.

    Can I put forward a scenario, with a view to you explaining how it might be tackled? This may help my understanding.

    A hostile artillery regiment, is shelling a friendly fixed defensive position. The survey regiment is tied up with other more pressing duties, but is ordered to nonetheless undertake the identification of the location of the hostile. It must do so with the minimum disruption to it's more pressing duties. Therefore what is the likely composition of the smallest detachment that would be able to perform this task?
  4. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron


    My understanding is as follows:
    The various elements of the Survey Regiment report all enemy fire as a matter of course. The information is plotted at headquarters and a plot of all known enemy batteries is maintained. There would be no need for a mechanism for observing an individual enemy battery.

    The important thing is not the observation but the plotting of information. Bearings from several sources were used to pinpoint individual enemy batteries.

    I realise that this does not answer your question and may not be helpful.

  5. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Hi Mike.

    It is a help in improving my understanding the mechanics.

    Perhaps I am not asking the right questions!

    Wouldn't the elements of the Survey Regiment have to be spread incredibly thinly to report all enemy fires though?
    I imagined as there were so few Survey regiments compared to Artillery Regiments of friend or foe, that it would necessitate the selective observation on only the biggest or most troublesome HB?

    I don't understand how so few units can observe and plot the activities of so many, spread over so many miles of a typical front.

    Kind regards,
  6. idler

    idler GeneralList

    If you're triangulating positions over distances of miles you'd want baselines of equivalent distance. Having detachments too close to each other would be counter-productive. This is intuition, not known facts, speaking...

    The other side of the coin is that all units were supposed to submit shelling reports (SHELREPS) which no doubt made their way to the CB office for correlation with firing data. I suspect target and effect had a large influence on who was prioritised for retribution.
  7. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron


    Later in the war, in NW Europe in particular, there were small sound and radar locating units which could deploy rapidly to deal with mortars. These were not available at the time you are interested in.

    I have just seen Idlers post as I was writing this. Of course he is right in saying that troops were spread over considerable distances. A sound locating troop might have its microphones spread, in a line or an arc, over five to seven miles. This would give a good coverage since the maximum range was some 12 miles. An observation troop would cover a similar front. The further apart the posts are the more accurate the triangulation will be.

    None of these units could be deployed rapidly. A sound location troop could take twelve hours to place microphones, establish communications and most important, although not the most obvious, carry out a full and accurate survey. No data would be of use if the precise locations of the instruments was not known. The same would be true of the observation troop.

    Finally the survey regiment only supplied information on the location of enemy batteries. This information was used by corps and division counter bombardment staffs, who assessed priorities and assigned counter battery units.

    canuck likes this.
  8. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Thanks both.
  9. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place.... Patron

    You are in luck as the main Gunner Survey unit in the Middle East was the 4th (Durham) Survey Regiment. Its history is available on line here

    There is a book called Larkhill Wartime Locators

    I was hoping that Trux would turn his mind to documenting tghe establishment and equipment sclaes of some of the more unusual units in the British Army, like this selection from "Z Location" that originally appeared in Crusader Newspaper

    . Little Kn own units of the War Department.jpg
  10. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Thanks Sheldrake
  11. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

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