Looking for "Vertical Slice" of Field Orders

Discussion in 'Higher Formations' started by Kimus, Mar 7, 2018.

  1. Kimus

    Kimus Member

    Hi everyone,

    I'm new to this forum, I've been reading it for a while but now I have a request and would like to know how to advance in my research:

    I would like to know how could I find a "vertical slice" of field orders.

    By vertical slice I mean the written orders issued to a Co (or Pl or Sec, the smaller the unit, the better) by its Battalion, and what this Bat received from the Bde, and following this sequence up to the division.

    From div orders we can see what its brigades where ordered to do, but not their subordinates (for that particular order).

    What should I look for in terms of reports? How could I find date-based and unit subordinate-based orders?
    Thanks in advance, and let me know where I could ask for more info on this subject.



    P.S. If this has been done before, please let me know. Also, I'm not focusing on any country/unit in particular.
  2. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    I'm not saying that your approach is impossible, but I do think it's going to be very difficult to find documentation below battalion level. Not only were such orders seldom preserved, at lower levels they probably never existed. I've read many times in infantry war diaries of the CO, Intelligence Officer & 2 i/c being summoned to Brigade HQ and a conference of company commanders being held on their return, but there's little trace in the archives of the latter and the orders on paper that I have seen for the former are sparse enough to suggest that the detail and emphases would have been communicated verbally.

    I do wish you the best of luck, however.
  3. Kimus

    Kimus Member

    Hi Charley,
    I understand, most certainly not the right approach...
    But what about this: what if I started from summary of events from War Diaries, to then go back as high as possible.

    For example:
    In the following War Diary from the 5th DCLI, on March 28, C Co was ordered to be prepared to move forward. I assume it was ordered by Bat HQ (?) which in turn had received an order from Bde HQ.
    Is this reasoning correct? Could I find this Bde and Bat orders?
    Even though Sec and Pl aren't in there, it would be good enough.
  4. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Certainly achievable--and it may well be revealing. I'm not formally writing up any findings at this stage, but I'm slowly building up the same 'slices' from Corps > Division > Brigade > Battalion via the War Diaries. I'd start with a larger action that is likely to be well-documented and then delve into the appendices to see what got filed.

    Certainly, I have multiple copies of the same order papers filed at brigade and battalion level, but--particularly if the battle went badly--such papers may have disappeared or been destroyed.
  5. Kimus

    Kimus Member

    Thanks, that's what I'll do!
  6. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    When you get hold of the diaries look at the attachments as well (F3) in the page posted above. Most regiments are likely to have their Divisional and Brigade orders attached and these will often describe a regiments tasks for particular operations. As Charley states a lot was down to verbal communications but some written orders do exist. The difficulty is to find them as the only way is ploughing through the diaries.
  7. idler

    idler GeneralList

    If you're not too concerned with being 'original', I recall a fair swathe of orders for some of 50 Div's units on D-Day in their May or June diaries.
  8. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake The Mayor of London's latest dress code

    Why do want to do this? Are you interested in looking at how orders are cascaded? Or is this a baseline for comparing how different armies plan?

    It has been done before.

    Its the sort of thing historians like to do to show the smoking gun of where it all went wrong. I have a modest collection of war diaries and orders for the artillery and supported arms for the Normandy battles of 1944 and the Somme in 1916.

    There is quite a bit of diligent research work involved. You will need to work your way around the archives

    If you want to do this yourself:-

    - Pick your army. It is easier for armies which issue a lot of written orders. German orders were often verbal and brief below divisional level, You want to research in a language you understand and in accessible archives.
    - Pick the action you want to study. There will be more documentation supporting a set piece battle, e.g. 1st day of the Somme or D Day, than for the 8th day of either battle. When hurrying and in the confusion of battle there may be short cuts in giving orders and much paperwork may be destroyed to save space. In Napoleon's time armies matched on their stomachs. C20th Armies consumed forests of trees and excreted bumf. The paperwork for one day's battle may, the next day, be used as lavatory paper or firelighters
    - Pick your research hypothesis.

    I have seen sets of orders used for a battlefield study of the attack on the lower Garigliano river in January 1944.
  9. Kimus

    Kimus Member

    It doesn't have to be original at all for now.
    I'll do some research regarding its brigades, thanks!

    Thank you, do you have any example of these F3 sections?


    Thanks for your answer,
    Yes, I want to know how orders cascaded or what "large" div orders ended up looking like to smaller units.

    Is this research published? Where can it be found?

    Also, I find this extract to suit my research:
    Extract from the 43rd Wessex Div HQ Log: 28 March 1945
    RHINE CROSSING 1945: The Rees bridgehead (30 Corps in operation 'Turnscrew')
    At the end of #102 post by Stolpi
  10. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    I guess the obvious is to look through the DCLI diaries that you have and see what appendices there are and what they contain. As I understand your question I see no other way than to study as many war diaries as you can to see what they contain.

    As you have no doubt seen this site contains a good number so it is about as easy as it is going to get. You might like to look at these:

    The appendices contain operational orders for 78th Division and also their 36 Inf Bde as well as notes and reports etc. It may help your quest.
  11. Kimus

    Kimus Member

    Thanks Tony! I didn't know about these diaries, I now have a lot of content to explore.

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