Making their mark: Canadian snipers and the Great War, 1914-1918.

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University of Windsor University of Windsor

Scholarship at UWindsor

Scholarship at UWindsor

Electronic Theses and Dissertations Theses, Dissertations, and Major Papers

1-1-1997

Making their mark: Canadian snipers and the Great War,

Making their mark: Canadian snipers and the Great War,

1914-1918.

1914-1918.

Leslie Parker Mepham

University of Windsor

Follow this and additional works at: https://scholar.uwindsor.ca/etd

Recommended Citation Recommended Citation

Mepham, Leslie Parker, "Making their mark: Canadian snipers and the Great War, 1914-1918." (1997). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 6918.

https://scholar.uwindsor.ca/etd/6918

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MAKING THEIR MARK: CANADIAN SN IPERS AND TH E GREAT WAR. 1 9 1 4 -1 9 1 8

By

Leslie P. M e p h a n i

A T h e s is

S u b m itte d to th e Faculty- o f G r a d u a te S tu d ie s & R e se a rc h th r o u g h th e D e p a r tm e n t o f H isto ry

in P a rtia l F u lfilm en t o f th e R e q u ire m e n ts for th e D egree o f M a s te r o f /W s a t th e

U n iv ersity o f W in d so r

W in d so r. O n ta rio . C a n a d a 1 9 9 7

1 9 9 7 L eslie P. M ep h a m

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Approved by:

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ABSTRACT

T h e a c tiv itie s o f th e s n i p e r o n th e W e s te r n F r o n t h a v e b e e n d is r e g a r d e d b y m a n y m ilita ry h is to r ia n s over th e d e c a d e s . T h e s n ip e r , d e sp ite th e la c k o f s c h o la rly re c o g n itio n , w a s a s c o m m o n to th e t r e n c h e s o f th e W e s te r n F r o n t a s a rtille ry , n o m a n 's la n d a n d m u d . W h ere t h e m ilita ry elite to u n d t r e n c h d e a d lo c k , th e s n ip e r to u n d c o n s is te n c y . Drawm p r im a r ily trom m ilita ry d o c u m e n ts a t t h e N a tio n al A rch iv es o f C a n a d a in O tta w a , th is th e s is e x a m in e s th e ta c tic a l n a tu r e of s n ip in g .

T h e p u rp o s e o f th is th e s is is to illu s tra te tw o p o in ts: f ir s t, t h a t sn ip in g in th e G r e a t W ar w a s a n e v o lu tio n a ry p ro c e ss ; s e c o n d , th a t th e s n ip e r w a s a c r i tic a l c o m p o n e n t o f t h e w a r e ffo rt o n th e W e s te r n F r o n t. T h is w o rk e x a m in e s th e e a rly o rig in s of s n ip in g in th e G r e a t W ar. fro m th e G e rm a n in itia tio n to th e A llied re s p o n s e . T h e fo rm a tio n o f s n ip e r s c h o o ls in F ra n c e a n d E n g la n d form ally in s titu tio n a liz e d sn ip in g in th e military" e s ta b lis h m e n t a n d m a r k e d a tu r n in g p o in t in s n ip e r d o c trin e . T h e s n ip e r 's a c ti v itie s in th e tr e n c h e s b e tw e e n 1 9 1 5 -1 9 1 7 a re e x a m in e d b e c a u s e tr e n c h w a r f a r e , th o u g h a m o u n tin g to d e ad lo c k fo r m ilitary e n g a g e m e n ts , w a s th e id e al b a ttle c o n d itio n fo r w e ll-a im e d rifle-fire. E q u a lly a c tiv e in o p e n w a rfa re , th e s n i p e r q u ic k ly b e c a m e a n in te g ra l p a r t o f th e o ffe n s iv e a n d p u r s u i t to M o n s in 1 9 1 8 . A n e x a m in a tio n o f aU th e a b o v e fa c to rs w ill d e m o n s tr a te th a t th e s n i p e r evolved tro m a r a n d o m c r a c k s h o t to f u ll-fle d g e d m a r k s m a n , c o m p le te w ith th e n e c e s s a r y e q u ip m e n t to c o n d u c t h is w o rk s u c c e ss fu lly . M oreover, th is g ro w th e n a b le d th e s n ip e r to c o n trib u te s u b s ta n tia lly to th e w a r effort a n d s u b s e q u e n t v ic to ry in 1918.

ill

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D ed ica ted to

P te. R ob ert M epham # 1 9 3 1 1 8

Sn ip er, 1 3 th B a tta lio n , CEP

* * *

R e p o rte d M issing in A c tio n

8 th O ctober, 1 9 1 6

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A ck n o w led g em en ts

F irs t a n d fo re m o s t, s p e c ia l t h a n k s to T o b i L e itc h - m y s o u l-m a te - fo r t a k i n g th e tim e to lis te n to m e b a b b le o n a b o u t a to p ic s h e k n e w n o th in g a b o u t. H e r re v is io n s a n d s u p p o r t h a v e b e e n i n s t r u m e n t a l in s e e in g t h i s p ro je c t to c o m p le tio n . To h e r I ow e th e m o st.

S p e c ia l c o n s id e r a tio n is g iv e n to D r. I. P e m b e rto n w h o a g re e d to b e m y a d v is o r d e s p ite b e in g s o c lo s e to r e tir e m e n t. I a m a ls o in d e b te d to t h e o th e r m e m b e rs o f m y c o m m itte e . P ro fe s s o r R. H o s k in s a n d D r. M. F ra n k lin , fo r t a k in g o n th i s t a s k a m id s t a ll o f th e ir o t h e r a c tiv itie s . W ith o u t t h e i r c o m m itm e n t, th is w o rk c o u ld n e v e r h a v e b e e n a c c o m p lis h e d .

F o r g u id a n c e 1 w o u ld lik e to t h a n k D r. B. M illm a n w h o w a s v e r y e n c o u r a g in g w h e n I s t a r t e d p u r s u i n g th is to p ic . H is p re lim in a ry s u g g e s tio n s s e n t m e in th e rig h t d ire c tio n s a n d a lth o u g h h e c o u ld n o t b e h e r e to a s s is t m e in m y re s e a rc h , h e w a s m o re t h a n w illing to h e lp fro m a d is ta n c e . Also, to Bill R a w lin g a t N ationed D e fen c e H e a d q u a r te r s w h o s e e x p e rtis e o n t h e RG9 files w a s m o s t h e lp fu l. He d i s c u s s e d th i s to p ic o p e n ly w ith m e a n d o ffere d a n u m b e r o f id e a s w ith w h ic h t o e x p a n d o n . H is b o o k S u rv iv in g T r e n c h W a rfa re w a s m o s t u s e f u l a n d s e r v e d a s m y “G r e a t W ar B ible" th r o u g h m u c h o f m y s tu d y . T h a n k s to Tim D u b e , a t th e N a tio n a l A rc h iv e s fo r p ro \d d in g in f o r m a tio n o n th e M a n u s c r ip t D iv isio n , for it w a s M G 30 E 2 t h a t w a s t h e b r e a k th r o u g h file in m y r e s e a r c h . Tim . w ho a n s w e r e d m a n y q u e s tio n s d u r in g m y s ta y in O tta w a, a ls o g r a n te d m e a c c e s s to a n e w ly -a rriv e d w a r d ia ry t h a t I u s e d in th is w ork.

I w o u ld a ls o lik e to t h a n k M a u re e n a n d t h e In te r- L ib ra ry L oan O ffice s ta f f in th e Leddy L ib rary for lo c a tin g so m a n y m a te r ia ls t h a t I th o u g h t w o u ld b e u n a v a ila b le . O f all th e r e q u e s ts I s u b m itte d , o n ly tw o w e re d e n ie d . M u c h a p p re c ia tio n , in a d d itio n , to th e s ta f f in th e R e a d in g a n d R e fe re n c e R oom s a t th e N a tio n a l A rchives in O tta w a . T h ey w ere p a t i e n t a n d u n d e r s ta n d in g w ith a s t u d e n t w h o k n e w litt l e a b o u t th e A r c h iv e s a n d w e r e m o re t h a n a c c o m m o d a tin g to m y r e q u e s ts .

L a st, b u t c e rta in ly n o t le a s t, th a n k s to m y frie n d s in G r a d S tu d ie s fo r m a k in g th e sch o o l y e a r a n e n jo y a b le o n e . S p e c ia l c o n s id e r a tio n to A ndy H all fo r re v is in g c h a p te rs , sh o w in g i n t e r e s t in m y to p ic , a n d d is c u s s in g id e a s w ith m e. a n d to R enee H illier for k e e p in g m e c o m p a n y a n d h e lp in g m e w ith id e a s d u r in g m y re s e a rc h in O tta w a . B e s t o f lu c k to a ll o f y o u in th e f u tu r e .

F o r th o s e o f y o u I d id n o t leav e room fo r m e n tio n , y o u k n o w w ho y o u a r e ... th a n k s !

L.M .

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

A b stra c t D e d ica tio n

A c k n o w le d g e m e n ts C h a p te r:

I.

II.

III.

IV.

V.

VI. B ib lio g rap h y V ita A u cto ris

I n tr o d u c tio n . S n ip in g B efore th e G r e a t W ar

S e ttin g th e S ta g e

S n ip e r T ra in in g

S n ip in g in T re n c h W arfare

S n ip in g in O p e n W arfare C o n c lu s io n . A fte rth o u g h ts

ui

iv

V

1

9

28

53

84

107

111 117

Vi

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LIST OF DIAGRAMS & ILLUSTRATIONS

B ritish & G e rm a n T re n c h S y s te m s 15

S n ip e r s c o p e s 2 4

U se o f C a m o u fla g e . F irst A rm y S n ip in g S ch o ol 4 6 T y p es o f T e le sc o p ic S ig h t 5 8 L o o p h o le-p late C o n s tru c tio n 6 3 “M ouse T r a p L o o p h o le“ 6 4 A D ead H u n S n ip e r in His N est 6 7 U se o f D u m m y H e a d s 7 3 S o u rc e s a n d C o u rs e o f F ro n t Line Intelligence 7 6 B a tta lio n In te llig e n c e 7 7 S n ip e rs in th e O p e n . F irst A rm y S n ip in g S c h o o l 8 8 “B eehive S n ip e r P o st" 8 9 B a tta lio n F o rm e d U p in th e T r e n c h e s R eady for th e A ss a u lt 9 6

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In tro d u c tio n

S n ip in g B efo re th e G reat War

A ny book o n th e G re a t W a r o f 1 9 1 4 -1 9 1 8 . w o u ld p ro v id e a g re a t d e a l o f in fo rm a tio n a b o u t th e im p o r ta n t f a c e ts o f th e c o n flic t. The g r e a t b a ttle s - th e M a r n e . 1 9 1 4 . V e r d u n a n d t h e S o m m e . 1 9 1 6 . V im y R id g e a n d P a s s c h e n d a e le . 1917. a n d A m ie n s. 1 9 1 8 - te n d to a b s o r b th e m a jo rity of th e s p o tlig h t. O th e r fa c to rs - tr e n c h w a rfa re , n o m a n ’s la n d , a rtille ry sh ellin g , a ir a n d n a v a l c o m b a t, g a s w a rfa re e tc . - te n d to be g iv e n a satisfV 'ing a m o u n t of a tte n tio n , a lth o u g h th e ir s c o p e a n d d e ta il v a ry b y s o u rc e . An h is to r ia n c a n e asily a c c e s s th e s e d e ta ils by p e r u s in g th e in d e x a t th e b a c k o f a g iv e n w ork. O fte n n e g le c te d fro m th e m a n y i n d e x e s is t h e s n ip e r ; h i s f u n c tio n , im p o r ta n c e , a n d m e th o d s . G r a n t e d , s o m e h i s t o r i a n s h a v e s o u g h t to d o c u m e n t th e a c tiv ity o f s n ip e r s b u t o n ly in a re fe re n c e o r tw o . a n d v ery ra re ly a r e th e se s p e c ia lis ts given a n y s c r u tin y . O f th e official h is to r ie s on th e C a n a d ia n E x p e d itio n a ry F o rc e (C E P ), o n ly t h a t o f F. D u g u id m a k e s a n y re fe re n c e to th e C a n a d ia n m a r k s m a n ; G.W .L. N ic h o ls o n ’s a c c o u n t n e g le c ts th e s u b je c t e n tire ly . O th e r C a n a d ia n h is to r ia n s - D e sm o n d M o rto n . P ierre B ert o n . J.L . G r a n a ts te in a n d D a n ie l D a n c o c k s to n a m e a few - h a v e p ro v id ed o n ly m e a g r e c o n s id e r a tio n o f t h e s n i p e r . O f c o u r s e , m a n y o f t h e ab o v e h is to r ia n s h av e ta k e n a b ro a d e r e x a m in a tio n o f th e w a r. a n d d e ta ils o f m in o r e n g a g e m e n ts a re b o u n d to b e o m itte d . Y et. so o b s c u r e a re t h e re fe re n c e s

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t h a t P a d d y G riffith c o n te n d s , “s n i p e r s a p p e a r to h a v e b e e n so s u c c e s s f u l In t h e ir u n d e r c o v e r a c tiv itie s t h a t th e y h a v e left v e ry few tra c e s in th e g e n e r a l lite r a tu r e o f t h e w a r .“ i N e v e rth e le s s , s n ip in g h a s a h is to ry o f its o w n . o n e t h a t d a te s b a c k b efo re th e G r e a t W ar.

T h e o r ig in s o f “sn ip in g " - o r a t l e a s t th e te r m “sn ip in g " - a p p e a r to h a v e com e fro m e ig h te e n th c e n t u r \ ’’ In d ia w h e re B ritis h A rm y o fficia ls fo u n d e n jo y m e n t h u n t i n g th e s n i p e , a lo n g -b ille d g a m e b ir d c o m p a r a b le to th e w o o d co ck . S m a ll in size, t h e s n ip e w a s a c h a lle n g in g ta rg e t for rifle m e n a n d r e q u ire d fine a n d p re c ise s h o o tin g s k ill In o r d e r to h it o n e . In m ilita ry te r m s , “sn lp m g " w a s firs t d o c u m e n te d in In d ia in 1 773 a s “s o ld ie rs p u t th e ir h a t s o n th e p a r a p e t fo r th e e n e m y t o s h o o t a t. a n d h u m o u r o u s ly called it s n lp in g .“ 2

T h e te rm " s n ip e r" , h o w ev er, d id n o t c o m e in to w id e s p r e a d u s e u n til th e e arly tw e n tie th c e n t u r y . C o n fin e d to th e A n g lo -d o m in a te d s e c to rs o f th e g lo b e d u r i n g th e n i n e t e e n t h c e n t u r \ \ “s n i p e r " o f te n p a r a ll e l le d t h e t e r m “s h a r p s h o o te r " . In fact, h is to r y b o o k s o f n in e te e n t h c e n tu r y N o rth A m e ric a , p a rtic u la rly t h e U n ite d S ta te s , fr e q u e n tly re fe r to th e la tte r . R e g a rd le s s o f th e tw o te rm s ' t r e n d s , th e y b o th Im p ly o n e fa c to r: a c c u r a te rifle fire.

E x a m p le s o f p re c is io n s h o o tin g in m ilita ry e n g a g e m e n ts d a t e a s fa r b a c k a s th e o rig in s o f th e t e r m itself. D u rin g th e e ig h te e n th c e n tu r y , ta c tic a l th e o ry a n d d o c tr in e w ere g r e a tly tr a n s f o r m e d b y th e I n d u s tr ia l R e v o lu tio n . 3 T h e im p a c t o f th e rifled m u s k e t a d d e d in c r e a s e d fire p o w e r to th e in d h d d u a l o n th e b a t t l e f i e l d a n d p e r m a n e n t l y c h a n g e d t a c t i c a l fo rm s . T h e rifle c o m p a n ie s o f th e N a p o le o n ic W a r s t h u s w e re th e f ir s t to b r in g a c c u r a t e m u s k e tr y to t h e b a ttle g r o u n d . A t th e s a m e tim e in t h e W e ste rn h e m is p h e r e , th e re b e llin g A m e ric a n s w e re b u s y r e f in in g th e i r o w n rifle s k ills . B ritis h m a r k s m a n s h i p w a s re la tiv e ly p o o r in t h e A m e ric a n W a r of I n d e p e n d e n c e . 1 7 7 6 -1 7 8 3 . s in c e v e ry little e m p h a s is w a s p la c e d o n ta r g e t p ra c tic e . In light

■> Paddy Griffith; Battle Tactios of the W estern Front. (London, 1994). p .73. 2 Adrian Gilbert: Sniper. (New York, 1994). p.xi.

3 Edward Hagerman: T he American Civil War and th e Origins of M odem Warfare. (Indianapolis, 1988). p.xi.

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o f th is in e p titu d e . G e n e r a l J o h n B u rg o y n e , b y 1777. h a d “fo rm e d a b o d y o f s h a r p s h o o t e r s b y s e le c tin g a g ro u p o f s o b e r , a c tiv e , r o b u s t m e n fro m e a c h re g im e n t." ■* T h e e x te n t o f t h e i r e ffe c tiv e n e s s r e m a in s u n d o c u m e n t e d . T h e A m e ric a n s , m e a n w h ile , h a d o rg a n iz e d t h e i r o w n b a n d o f m a r k s m e n b y th e 1 7 8 0 ’s a n d fu lly in te g r a t e d th e m in th e a t t a c k . In t h e B a ttle o f C o w p e n s . 1 7 8 1 . a s e m i - o r g a n iz e d u n i t o f s h a r p s h o o t e r s fro m G e o rg ia a n d N o rth C a ro lin a w e re p u t in to t h e fo rw a rd line o f a t t a c k .

T h e s h a r p s h o o t e r s in th e fro n t U ne in irr e g u la r fo r m a tio n w e re to ta k e c o v e r b e h in d tr e e s . T hey w e re to w ith h o ld t h e i r fire u n til th e a d v a n c e o f th e e n e m y w a s ^ t h i n fifty y a r d s , a n d t h e n to t a k e c a r e f u l a im a t t h e m e n w ith th e e p a u l e t s . A fter tw o volleys th e y w ere to r e tire slow ly, firin g a t wiU. a n d fall in to s p a c e s in th e s e c o n d Une o f m ilitia . 5

T h e B ritis h f o r c e s , u n d e r th e d ire c tio n o f L t. Col. T a r te lto n . a tte m p te d to c o u n te r a c t th e m a r k s m e n 's fire by c le a rin g th e m o u t w ith c a v a lr \\ T h e r u s h w a s sw ift a n d e n d e d a b r u p tly w h e n th e A m e ric a n c r a c k s h o ts " em p tied fifte e n s a d d le s ." ®

L e s s t h a n a h u n d r e d y e a r s la te r, s h a r p s h o o tin g w a s a g a in p r e s e n t in a n A m e ric a n c o n fU c t. n a m e l y th e C iv il W a r. 1 8 6 1 - 6 5 . T h e d e f e n s iv e b re a s tw o rk s a n d c o n s t a n t s k irm is h in g b e tw e e n th e B lu e a n d G ra y in te n s ifie d s h a r p s h o o tin g o n th e o p e n b a ttle fie ld s, p a r tic u la r ly a m o n g th e S o u th e r n e r s . C o n fe d e r a te s w ith a "sp>orting fra m e o f m in d " w ere k e e n ly a t tr a c t e d to lo n g - ra n g e s n ip in g a s th e d is ta n c e s b e tw e e n c o m b a t a n ts e x p a n d e d . ? C o n fe d e ra te s h a r p s h o o te r s a ls o fo u n d p le a s u r e in s n ip in g from b u ild in g s , a p ra c tic e th a t u s u a lly r e s u lt e d in th e b u r n in g do w n of t h e s tr u c t u r e . M a in ta in in g d is c ip lin e in th e U n io n A rm y , p a r tic u la r ly w ith t h e n e w r e c r u its o f 1 8 6 3 -6 4 . w a s a p ro b le m for m a n y o fficers a n d p u n is h m e n ts u s u a lly r e s u lt e d in b e in g tie d to a r a c k o r d r a g g e d b e h in d a b a tte r y w ag o n . T h e follow ing a lte rn a tiv e to th e s e d is c ip lin a ry m e a s u r e s w a s s o m e tim e s j u s t a s d is h e a r te n in g a s th e crim e:

4 Edward E. Curtis; T h e O rganization of the British Army in the A m erican Revolution. (N ew York. 1969). p.20.

5 Christopher Ward; T h e War of th e Revolution. (New York. 1952). p .757. 6 Ibid.. p.758.

7 Gerald F. Linderman; Embattled C ourage. (New York. 1987). p. 148. 3

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L y m a n d e s c r ib e d s o ld ie rs o f th e N in th C o rp s w h o h a d fled b a t t l e m a d e to w e a r “C o w ard " p la c a r d s a n d to s t a n d a t o p b a rre ls p la c e d o n th e U n io n f b r tif lc a tio n s a t P e te r s b u r g , t h e d e c is io n w h e t h e r th e ir s w a s a c a p ita l o ffen se a p p a r e n tly left to e n e m y s h a r p s h o o te r s .

8

P e r h a p s t h e m o s t i n t e r e s t i n g a c c o u n t o f C o n f e d e r a te s n ip in g c a m e a t S p o ts y lv a n ia in 1 8 6 4 w h e n M a jo r-G e n e ra l J o h n S e d g w ic k c h a s tiz e d h is m e n fo r c o w e rin g u n d e r e n e m y g u n fire . D is g u s te d a t th i s d is p la y o f b a ttle frig h t. S ed g w ick sto o d u p a n d s h o u te d to h is m e n . “"Why. w h a t a r e y o u d o d g in g for? T h ey c o u ld n o t h it a n e le p h a n t a t t h a t d is t- ’ - only to b e s h o t th ro u g h th e h e a d in t h a t in s ta n t." 9

N o rth o f th e b o rd e r, th e C a n a d ia n m ilitia w a s fo r c e d to d e a l w ith w ell h id d e n F e n ia n s h a r p s h o o t e r s in th e r a id o f 1866. 'o T h e F e n ia n s te n d e d to be b e t t e r t r a i n e d w h e n it c a m e to f ir e a r m s , a n d m a r k s m a n s h i p w a s o fte n lim ite d to a ra n g e o f 2 0 0 y a r d s . i ' In th e C a n a d ia n M ilitia, ta rg e ts e x c e e d in g 100 y a r d s w e re le ft fo r s h a r p s h o o t e r s s in c e th e r a n k a n d file c o u ld n o t b e re lie d u p o n to m a k e h its a t g r e a te r d is ta n c e s .

As th e G re a t W a r d re w c lo s e r to reality^, technology^ c o n tin u e d to h av e a p r o f o u n d e ffe c t o n f ir e a r m s d e v e lo p m e n t. F ire p o w e r, s p e e d a n d firin g d is ta n c e w e re a ll im p r o v e d in t h i s a g e o f m e c h a n ic a l d e v e lo p m e n t. T he U n ite d S ta t e s b y t h e 1 8 9 0 ’s h a d d e v e lo p e d a w e a lth o f rifle s; S p rin g fie ld s . R e m in g to n s a n d W i n c h e s t e r s . T h e B r i t i s h w e re e x p e r im e n t i n g w ith p ro to ty p e s o f th e E n fie ld a t th is tim e a n d in C a n a d a . S ir C h a rle s R o s s h a d c r e a te d th e R o ss Rifle b y 1 8 9 6 . R ifles fro m a r o u n d t h e w o rld w ere d is p la y e d a n d te s t e d a t n u m e r o u s s h o o tin g m a tc h e s , th e m o st w ell k n o w n b e in g B isley in E n g la n d . M a tc h e s a t th e “B isley S ch o o l" ty p ically d e te r m in e d th e q u a lity o f a s p o rtin g rifle a n d it w a s th e r e th a t th e R o ss e a rn e d its e a r ly re p u ta tio n .

B efore th e n in e te e n th c e n tu r y c o u ld d ra w to a c lo s e , a n o th e r w a r h a d

8 Ibid.. p. 173. 9 Ibid. p. 141.

10 Robert M cGee: T he Fenian R aids on the Huntingdon Frontier. 1 8 6 6 and 1 8 7 0 . (C anada. 1967). p .10.

11 Hereward Senior: T he Last Invasion of Canada. (Toronto. 1991). p .89 . 4

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d is tu r b e d th e p e a c e ; th is tim e in S o u t h A frica - th e B oer W a r. B y 1899. a fu lly e n tr e n c h e d s ty le o f w a rfa re b e g a n ; m u c h lik e th e A m e ric a n Civil W ar. th e B o e r W ar w a s a p re lu d e t o th e c o n d itio n s o f th e G re a t W ar. S n ip in g in th e B o e r W ar w a s m o re c o m m o n a m o n g th e D u tc h B o ers w h o se fo rtific a tio n s w e re s e t u p fo r rifle r e s ts . S o m e B o e rs e v e n u tiliz e d s m o k e le s s p o w d e r in th e ir rifles to lo w e r th e p o s s ib ility to b e in g d e te c te d b y th e B ritis h . 12 T h e

B o e r s w e re o fte n h ig h ly r e g a r d e d fo r th e ir m a r k s m a n s h i p a s o n e e ld e rly fellow , k n o w n b y t h e n ic k n a m e “G ra n d fa th e r" , e a r n e d re s p e c t a n d a d m ira tio n fro m th e B r itis h fo r h is m u s k e t r y s k ills , so m u c h r e s p e c t, in fa c t, t h a t s o ld ie r s w ho s a w h im in th e o p e n re fu s e d to fire a t h im . o R ifles, a t th is s ta g e o f d e v e lo p m e n t, w ere c o n s id e r e d le th a l (if in p ro p e r h a n d s ) a t d is ta n c e s u p to 2 0 0 0 y a r d s a n d th e B o e rs c o n tin u a lly re p e lle d B ritish a t t a c k s a t S p io n K op. C o le n so a n d M o d d e r R iv e r w ith s u c h p r e c is io n . M a r k s m a n s h ip a m o n g th e B o e r s w n s n o t a lw a y s a t its b e s t , h o w e v e r, a s C o l. O tte r , c o m m a n d in g th e C a n a d ia n c o n tin g e n t, w as s p a r e d th e fa te o f th e A m e ric a n S e d g w ic k a fte r a b u lle t s tr u c k o n ly h is c h in . '5 C a n a d ia n so ld ie rs, w ho w o u ld f ir s t d is p la y t h e i r s h o o tin g p o t e n t i a l in S o u th A fric a , w ere a ls o s k ille d in a c c u r a te rifle fire. In th e g u e rilla w a rfa re th a t d o m in a te d th e re m a in in g y e a r s o f t h e con flict, a s m a ll b a n d o f C a n a d ia n s o ld ie rs - m a r k s m e n a m o n g th e m - h e ld a p p ro x im a te ly 6 0 0 B o ers a t b a y w ith e x c e p tio n a l s h o o tin g sk ill a t Rooival.

1 9 0 1 . 16

C a n a d ia n s , w h o h a d le a r n e d to s e ttle th e h in te r la n d w ith s o m e d e g re e o f h u n t e r in s tin c t, p ro v e d to b e h ig h ly p ro fic ie n t in m u s k e try ’’ b y th e tim e o f w a r in 1914. T h e ir r e s p o n s e to th e B ritis h p le a for a s s i s ta n c e in a u tu m n .

1 9 1 4 . a t t r a c t e d m a n y c r a c k r if le m e n fro m t h e C a n a d i a n p l a i n s , i?

12 j. Castell Hopkins; South Africa and th e Boer-British War Volum e 2 . (Toronto, n.d ). p.573. 13 ibid.. p .597.

14 Bill Rawling; Surviving Tranch Warfare. (Toronto. 1992). p .9.

15 D esm ond Morton; “Colonel Otter and the First Canadian Contingent in South Africa. 1899-1900" Policv bv Other Means. Michael C ross & Robert Bothwell ed s.. (Toronto. 1972) p 110.

16 Hopkins; South Africa, p .795.

1 7 --- : “Canada in War Time”. T h e Detroit Tribune. (Sunday. D ecem ber 6. 1914). p 14 5

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U n fo rtu n a te ly fo r th e s e C a n a d ia n s , a s m e m b e r s o f th e B r itis h E x p e d itio n a ry Force (B E F) in th e e a rly go in g , g r e a te r e m p h a s is w a s p la c e d o n th e b a y o n e t in a r m y t r a i n i n g . T h e J a p a n e s e v ic to r y o v e r t h e R u s s i a n s i n 1 9 0 5 h a d c o n v in c e d th e B r itis h h ig h c o m m a n d t h a t th e b a y o n e t w a s t h e “d o m in a n t w e a p o n o f w a r “ d e s p it e t h e fa c t t h a t t h e s tr u g g le w i t h t h e B o e rs w a s c h a r a c te r iz e d b y m u s k e t r y fire , is T h u s , a s B r itis h a n d C a n a d i a n fo r c e s m a r c h e d to th e b a ttle f ie ld s o f F r a n c e a n d F la n d e r s , m a n y w e re f ir s t - r a t e rifle m e n b u t w e re d e n ie d th e o p p o r tu n i ty to s h o w th e ir s k ill in lig h t o f b a s ic tra in in g . If th e b a y o n e t c h a r g e w a s to b e t h e fir s t o r d e r o f a t t a c k o n t h e W e s te rn F ro n t, s n ip in g w a s g o in g to h a v e to w a it for th e o p p o r tu n i ty to s h o w its im p o r ta n c e in a w a r o f te c h n o lo g y a n d e n tr e n c h e m e n t.

T h e p u r p o s e o f th i s t h e s i s is tw o -fo ld ; firs t, it w ill d e m o n s t r a t e t h a t s n ip in g in th e C a n a d ia n C o rp s , a n d o n a g e n e r a l level, w a s a n e v o lu tio n a ry p ro c e s s in th e G re a t W ar. T h e c o n d itio n s c r e a te d b y t r e n c h w a rfa re e n a b le d th e s n i p e r to e m e rg e a s a u n iq u e s p e c ia lis t o n th e W e s te r n F r o n t - fro m a lo c a l C a n a d i a n c r a c k s h o t to fu ll-fle d g e d m a r k s m a n , c o m p l e t e w ith t h e n e c e s s a r y e q u ip m e n t to c o n d u c t h is w o rk in \d s ib ly a n d e ffe c tiv e ly . J u s t a s th e C a n a d i a n C o rp s le a r n e d fro m th e ir p re v io u s c a m p a ig n s a n d re fin e d th e i r ta c tic s , s o to o d id th e s n ip e r.

T h e s e c o n d o b je c tiv e o f th is w o rk is to re v e a l h o w m u c h th e s n i p e r c o n tib u te d to th e o v e ra ll w a r e ffo rt - d e s p ite th e la c k o f s c h o la r ly re c o g n itio n . M an y a m e m o ir a n d field m e s s a g e fro m t h e fr o n t w ill a t t e s t to th e sk ill a n d effect o f t h e s n i p e r (on b o th s id e s ) in t h e G r e a t W ar. W h e r e g r e a t g u n s , w hole b a tta lio n s a n d h ig h c o m m a n d fo u n d t r e n c h w a rfa re to b e a d e a d lo c k , th e s n i p e r d is c o v e re d c o n s is te n c y . In a ll f a c e ts o f w a r f a r e , t h e C a n a d ia n s n ip e r w a s p r e s e n t a n d effectiv e, m a k in g h im a s e s s e n tia l to th e w a r effort a s 1 8 -p o u n d a rtille ry c a n n o n s , a r m o u r e d t a n k s , a ttr itio n a l c o m b a t a n d m a c h in e - g u n s .

18 Rawling; Surviving, p .11.

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In th e n e x t c h a p te r , th e b a c k g r o u n d a n d o u tb r e a k o f w a r p re c e d e s th e a n a ly s is o f e a r ly s n ip in g . W h a t follow s is a s u rv e y o f G e rm a n s n ip in g , for it w a s th e e n e m y t h a t in itia te d th e a r t o f p re c is io n s h o o tin g in t h e G re a t W ar. M a n y B ritish a n d C a n a d ia n s o ld ie rs ’ “b a p tis m o f fire “ c a m e a t t h e h a n d s of a s k ille d B a v a r ia n o r P r u s s i a n a n d it w a s n o t u n til 1 9 1 5 t h a t m e a s u r e s w ere t a k e n to c o u n te r a c t th e s e p ro fic ie n t m a r k s m e n . At t h i s level, s n ip in g by th e C a n a d i a n c o n t i n g e n t w a s in its in fa n c y a n d it w o u ld r e q u ire m o r e fo rm a l tr a in i n g a n d k n o w le d g e o f f u n d a m e n ta l s to t u r n o u t a n e x c e p tio n a l s n ip e r. S u c h is th e s c o p e o f C h a p t e r HI - S n ip e r T r a in in g . T h e B ritis h w e re th e first to in a u g u r a te t h i s p r o g r a m , t h o u g h c o n v in c in g h ig h c o m m a n d o f s u c h a m e a s u r e w a s. a t tim e s , a d iffic u lt ta s k . T h e e x p e r tis e o f M aj. H . H e s k e th - P r ic h a rd . o f t h e B E F . s o o n v a u lte d s n ip in g in to a s e m i-o rg a n iz e d fo rm . The s u b s e q u e n t e s t a b l i s h m e n t a n d g r o w th o f C o rp s S n ip i n g S c h o o ls fin ally s ig n a lle d th e in s titu tio n a liz a tio n o f s n ip in g w ith in th e m ilita ry h ie ra rc h y .

O n ce t r a i n e d , th e C a n a d i a n s n i p e r p u t h i s s k ills to w o r k in th e tr e n c h e s o f th e W e s te r n F ro n t. C h a p te r IV. S n ip in g in T re n c h W a rfa re , th u s e x a m in e s th is a c tiv ity , fro m th e s e le c tio n o f a r m s a n d s n ip in g p o s t s to th e effe ct th e s n ip e r h a d o n th e fro n t. T h is s e c tio n re v e a ls th e e v o h d n g m a tu rity o f th e s n ip e r, fo r it w a s in th e m u d - la d e n tr e n c h e s o f F r a n c e a n d F la n d e rs t h a t th e m o d e m s n ip e r fo u n d h is ro o ts . A lth o u g h th e m a jo rity o f th e G re at W a r w a s fo u g h t a c r o s s th e s c a r r e d s t r i p s o f n o m a n ’s la n d , t r e n c h w a rfa re w a s n o t th e o n ly b a ttle f e a tu r e o n th e W e s te rn F ro n t. F ig h tin g in t h e op en d id o c c u r, t h o u g h le s s c o n s is te n tly s o . N e v e rth e le s s , th e t r u e m a r k s m a n m a d e effective u s e o f o p e n g ro u n d , w h e th e r a lo n e in th e v a s t r e a c h e s of no m a n ’s la n d , in t h e a d v a n c e o f a n o ffe n siv e o r in p u r s u i t o f t h e r e tr e a tin g G e rm a n A rm y in th e la s t 100 d a y s o f th e w ar.

T h u s , t h e ro le o f t h e s n i p e r in t h e G r e a t W a r. d e s p ite re m a in in g u n d o c u m e n te d u n til now . w a s a n im p o rtem t o n e. F ro m h is e a rly a p p e a r a n c e in th e tr e n c h e s o f 1 9 1 4 a n d 191 5 to c o m p le te fru itio n t y 1918. s n ip in g in th e C a n a d ia n C o rp s w a s a n e v o lu tio n a ry p ro c e s s . ’The a b ility o f th e s n i p e r to find

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a c o n s is te n c y in a ll fa c e ts o f th e G r e a t W ar r e v e a ls h is s ignific a n t c o n trib u tio n to th e w a r effo rt a n d . s u b s e q u e n tly , to v ic to ry o n 11 N o v em b er. 1 9 1 8 .

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C h a p te r II

S e ttin g th e S ta g e

W ith th e o u tb r e a k o f w a r in A u g u s t. 1914. th e n a t io n s o f E u r o p e s e t fo rth o n a jo u r n e y o f p o w e r, te c h n o lo g y a n d d e s tr u c ti o n . T he d e s ir e for g r e a te r p o w e r fertilize d te c h n o lo g ic a l p r o g r e s s b u t d e s tr u c ti o n w a s t h e e n d p ro d u c t. W hile th e re a r e h o r r o r s in a n y w a r. th e tria ls a n d trib u la tio n s o f th e G re a t W a r e x c e e d a ll o t h e r s , fo r n o o t h e r s o ld ie r w o u ld e v e r e n d u r e th e h a rro w in g e x p e rie n c e s o f tr e n c h w a rfa re .

T h is c h a p t e r s e t s th e s ta g e fo r t h i s d e s tr u c ti v e w a r. T h e w a r o f m o v e m e n t, t h a t w^as to b e o v e r by C h r i s t m a s 1 9 1 4 . q u ic k ly g r o u n d to a s te a d y h a lt a n d th e “d ig g in g in" of th e in f a n tr y e n s u e d . In th e s e firs t m o n th s o f th e t r e n c h d e a d lo c k , t h e A llies, it w ill b e a rg u e d , u n d e r w e n t a n e v o lu tio n w ith re g a rd to s n ip in g . B e c a u s e s n ip in g w a s a p riv a te p r a c tic e a m o n g a s m a ll n u m b e r o f s k ille d m a r k s m e n , it did n o t im m e d ia te ly a r is e fro m th e d e p th s of th e tr e n c h e s . T he e v o lu tio n a r y p r o c e s s , h o w e v e r, d id b e g in m t h i s in itia l p h a s e o f w a r. F irs t, a su m m ary ^ o f t h e e v e n ts - th e b u ild - u p o f h o s tilitie s , o u tb re a k o f th e w ar. a n d p u r s u i t to th e s e a - will p re c e d e th e e x a m in a tio n o f sn ip in g . T h is o v e iv le w w ill f u r th e r fa m ilia riz e th e r e a d e r wdth th e e x te n t o f th e tr e n c h c o n d itio n s o n t h e W e s te rn F r o n t in to th e y e a r 1 9 1 5 . T h e s e c o n d fo c u s o f th is c h a p te r is a n e x a m in a tio n o f G e rm a n s n ip in g in th e c o n flic t, for

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it w a s from t h e i r s k ille d h a n d s t h a t s n ip in g o rig in a te d in t r e n c h w a rfa re . T h e d o m in a n c e o f t h e G e rm a n s n i p e r se rv e d to t e a c h th e A llies o f th e d a n g e r s o f c a r e le s s n e s s in t r e n c h w a rfa re . F ro m th e n u m e r o u s c a s u a ltie s th a t m o u n te d in 1915. it w a s a h a r d le s s o n le a r n e d . Finally, w ith s o m e d e fe n s iv e m e a s u r e s in p la c e , th e A llied c o u n te r a c tiv ity w ill be a s s e s s e d , fo r it w a s th is re a c tio n in 1915 t h a t ig n ite d th e fu s e fo r o rg a n iz e d s n ip in g in th e B r itis h E x p e d itio n a ry F o rc e (B EF) a n d th e C a n a d a C o r p s in y e a r s to c o m e . I n s u m m a tio n , t h i s c h a p te r w ill r e v e a l t h a t th e f i r s t y e a r a n d a h a l f o f th e w a r w a s a le a r n in g p r o c e s s fo r t h e A llies, o n e t h a t in v o lv e d th e f ir s t fe ta l s ta g e s in d e v e lo p in g a c ritic a l s n ip in g u n it.

I

A re \d e w o f a n u m b e r o f g e n e r a l h is to rie s o n th e G r e a t W a r will re v e a l o n e o f tw o c o m m o n th e m e s a t th e i r b e g in n in g : s o m e e m p h a s iz e G e r m a n C h a n c e llo r O tto v o n B is m a r c k 's p ro c la im a tio n t h a t “s o m e d a m n foolish th in g " in th e B a l k a n s w o u ld ig n ite a E u r o p e a n w a r k o th e r s t e n d to fo c u s o n t h e b a lm y c o n d itio n o f th e w e a t h e r in th e s u m m e r o f 1 9 1 4 . 2 R e g a rd le s s o f w h ic h o n e is m o r e im p o r ta n t, b o th w ere c ritic a l fa c to rs in th e G re a t W ar. T h e fo rm e r p o in t lo o k s in to th e o r ig in s o f th e c o n flic t, s t a r t i n g w ith B is m a r c k h im se lf. F o llo w in g th e P r u s s i a n tr iu m p h o v e r th e F r e n c h a n d u n ific a tio n o f th e G e rm a n s t a t e s in 18 7 1 . B is m a r c k c re a te d a n e tw o rk o f a llia n c e s th a t k e p t th e new^ b a la n c e o f p o w e r in c h e c k .

B is m a r c k d id n o t e x p e c t th e F re n c h to lik e th e n e w o r d e r o f th in g s , a n d h e w a s rig h t. T h r o u g h o u t th e n e x t s e v e ra l y e a r s h e m a n a g e d to k e e p F r a n c e is o la te d : h e s e c u r e d a n a llia n c e w ith A u s t r ia , w h o m G e r m a n y h a d a ls o r e c e n tly d e fe a te d , a n d w ith R u s s ia , w h o h a te d A u s tr ia . F o r m o re t h a n a d e c a d e B is m a r c k s u c c e s s f u lly ju g g le d G e rm a n y . R u s s ia , a n d A u s tr ia in th e T h re e E m p e ro rs ’ L e a g u e. 3

T h e ris e o f K a is e r W ilh elm II e v e n tu a lly le d to B is m a r c k ’s fall, a n d w ith th e C h a n c e llo r w e n t th e s y s te m o f a llia n c e s . T h is w a s c o m p o u n d e d b y th e im p a c t

1 Daniel Dancocks; W elcom e to Flanders Fields. (Toronto, 1988). p.7.

2 D esm ond Morton; W hen Your Number’s Up. (Toronto. 1993). p. 1, J a m e s L. Stokesbury; A Short History of World W ar O ne. ((N ew York. 1981 ). p.11.

3 Stokesbury; Short History, p. 16-17.

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o f s u c h id e o lo g ie s a s n a t i o n a l i s m , p o l it ic a l a n d s o c i a l D a r w in is m a n d m ilita r is m w h ic h w ere r a m p a n t in th e n a t i o n s o f E u r o p e . T h e la tte r w a s p a rtic u la rly c ritic a l a s th e g ro w in g a rm s r a c e c o in cid ed w ith a d iv o rc e b e tw e e n th e m ilitary a n d d e m o c ra c y . T h a t is. m ilita ry c o m m a n d w a s ta k in g d ip lo m a tic m a tte r s in to t h e i r o w n h a n d s . T he p a s s iv e B is m a rc k a llia n c e s y s te m w a s re p la c e d b y a n a ggre s siv e o n e t h a t r e s u l t e d in two a r m e d c a m p s : B rita in . F ra n c e a n d R u s s ia in o n e. G e rm a n y , A u s tria -H u n g a r y a n d Ita ly in th e o th e r. By th e c o n c lu s io n o f th e fir s t d e c a d e o f th e tw e n tie th c e n tu r y . E u ro p e w a s a b re w in g p o w d e r k e g w a itin g fo r a s p a r k . A n d , j u s t a s t h e f o r m e r G e rm a n C h a n c e llo r h a d h in te d , t h a t s p a r k c am e fro m th e B a lk a n s in J u n e . 1914 w ith th e a s s a s s i n a tio n o f A u s tria n h e ir - a p p a r e n t. F ra n z F e r d in a n d . T h e d ip lo m a tic c h a o s t h a t e n s u e d p r e p a r e d th e C e n tr a l a n d Allied p o w e r s fo r w h a t w a s m e a n t to b e a “s h o r t w ar".

T h e s u m m e r o f 1 9 1 4 c o m m a n d s a s m u c h a t t e n t i o n a s B is m a r c k ’s n in e te e n th c e n t u r y p r e d ic tio n . At th e s a m e tim e p e o p le w e re e n jo y in g th e s u m m e r ’s h e a t , th e y w ere e a g e rly lis te n in g to th e r u m b lin g o n th e E u r o p e a n fro n tie r. T h e r e s p o n s e to a c o m in g w a r w a s a n e n t h u s i a s t i c o n e in C a n a d a . T h e v io la tio n o f B elgian n e u tr a li ty on A u g u s t 4 th . 19 1 4 b y th e G e rm a n A rm y le d to a B r itis h ( a n d c o n s e q u e n tly . C a n a d ia n ) d e c la ra tio n o f w a r. 4 T h e ill- fa te d “S c h lie ffe n P lan " w a s d e s ig n e d to in flic t a sw ift a n d d e c is iv e blow , s o q u ic k , in fa c t, t h a t th e K a is e r e n s u r e d h is m e n th e y w o u ld b e h o m e “b efo re th e leav es fell fro m th e tr e e s ." 5 T he b a lm y , d re a m y s u m m e r o f 14 s u d d e n ly b e c a m e a n ig h tm a r e of w ar.

In t h e re m a in in g fo u r m o n th s o f 1 9 1 4 . b o th C e n tr a l a n d A llied p>owers c o n d u c te d t h e o n ly o p e n w a r fa re th a t e x is te d o n th e W e s te r n F r o n t u n til th e s p r in g o f 1 9 1 8 . T h e G e r m a n s b a r g e d i n t o B e lg iu m w i t h e a s e a n d t h e m in is c u le B e lg ia n A rm y r e t r e a t e d to A n tw e rp . The F r e n c h m e a n w h ile , u n d e r th e g u ise o f P la n XVII. t h r u s t in to A lsace a n d L o rrain e o n A u g u s t 14 m a k in g

4 Dancocks: W elco m e, p.8.

5 Jay Winter & B laine Baggett: T h e G reat War and th e Shaping of th e 20th C entu ry. (New York, 1996). p.59.

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so m e m e a s u r e a b le g a in s t h a t w e re c h e c k e d b y a s u p e r io r G e r m a n a rtille ry c o u n te r - a tta c k . A s e c o n d F r e n c h a t t a c k in th e A rd e n n e s e ig h t d a y s la te r p ro v e d j u s t a s c o stly a s th e F r e n c h A rm y, o n ly th r e e w eek s in to t h e conflict, w a s s u d d e n ly c rip p le d .

In B e lg iu m , th e G e r m a n a d v a n c e w a s h a l t e d by th e s m a ll B ritis h E x p e d itio n a ry F o rce w h o h e ld o ff th e g ia n t a d v e r s a r y a t M ons w ith a c c u ra te m u s k e tr y a n d rifle-fire. 6 W h a t e n s u e d w a s a “ra c e to th e s e a " w h e re th e F r e n c h a n d B r itis h m o v e d to th e n o r th , o p p o s ite th e e q u a lly p e r s i s te n t G e rm a n s , try in g to o u t-fla n k th e o p p o n e n t. T h e ra c e c a m e to a n a b r u p t e n d a t th e B elgian to w n o f N ie u p o rt o n th e c o a s t o f th e N o rth S ea. O n e la s t effort by th e G e rm a n A rm y to b re a k in to F ra n c e w a s a g a in th w a rte d b y th e B ritish a n d F re n c h a t th e B a ttle o f th e M a rn e o n S e p te m b e r 7 th . E x h a u s te d by th e m o b ile r u s h th r o u g h n o r th e r n F r a n c e a n d F la n d e r s , b o th s id e s s e ttle d in to th e ir re sp e c tiv e p o s itio n s - g iv in g b ir t h to tre n c h w a rfa re .

T re n c h w a rfa re h a d e x is te d p rio r to th e G r e a t W ar. th e m o s t re c e n t e x a m p le b e in g th e B o er W ar in S o u th A frica a t th e tu r n of th e c e n tu r y . Prior to t h a t, tre n c h e s h a d e x iste d in th e A m e ric a n C ivil W ar th o u g h th e y w ere n o t a s c o m p le x a s th o s e o n th e W e s te r n F ro n t. M o reo v er, th e m ilita ry m in d s e t w a s t h a t i n s t a n c e s lik e t h e s e w e re a ty p ic a l a n d u n lik e ly to r e c u r . " N e v e rth e le ss, tr e n c h w a rfa re w a s a re a lity in F r a n c e a n d F la n d e rs a n d b o th s id e s w ere swift to e s ta b lis h a n e tw o rk o f w in d in g fu rro w s from th e N orth S e a to th e S w iss b o rd e r. T y p ical o f t h e B ritis h lin e w a s th e th r e e - tie r e d tr e n c h s y s te m : fro n t, s u p p o r t a n d r e s e r v e . At th e fo re w a s th e fro n t t r e n c h th a t w a s m a d e u p o f a fire a n d c o m m a n d lin e. T h e fire tr e n c h fro n te d n o m a n 's la n d , p ro te c te d b y b e lts o f b a r b e d w ire . C o n tin u o u s in le n g th , it zig-zagge d a lo n g th e fro n t a t in te rv a ls b e tw e e n 18 a n d 3 0 fe e t. 8 W ithin e a c h s trip , o r tra v e rs e , h u d d le d a g ro u p o f s o ld ie r s a v e ra g in g a d o z e n . B uilt fro m s a n d a g s . c o rru g a te d iro n a n d a n y o th e r d e b r is t h a t c o u ld b e fo u n d , th e fo rw a rd tre n c h

6---; “Rifles of the Great War". War M achine, no.86, n.d. p .1704-1705.

7 Tony Ashworth: Trench Warfare: T he Live and Let Live S ystem . (New York. 19801. p.1. 8 Ibid.. p.5.

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w e n t to a d e p th o f a p p r o x im a te ly s e v e n to te n fe e t. At th e v e ry b o tto m a t r e n c h m a t o r “d u c k b o a r d " r a n p a ra lle l to th e s lig h tly ra is e d fire -s te p . F ro m th i s la tte r p o s itio n th e s o ld ie r s “w e n t o v e r th e to p ". At th e to p o f th e tr e n c h la y th e “p a ra p e t" , th e m o s t fo r w a rd p a r t o f th e lin e fa c in g th e e n e m y . It o ffe re d th e s o ld ie r th e l a s t m e a n s o f p ro te c tio n , th o u g h b u l le ts v e ry o fte n p e n e tr a te d th e s a n d b a g s . O c c a s io n a lly , s a n d b a g s w ere filled w ith b ro k e n ro c k to s tr e n g th e n th e lin e, s B u ilt in to th e p a r a p e t w e re m a n y lo o p h o le s a n d p e ris c o p e s for o b s e r v a tio n o f t h e e n e m y Une. T h e fo rm e r b e c a m e p a rtic u la rly u s e f u l fo r th e s n ip e r . T he r e a r p a r t o f th e tr e n c h w a s k n o w n a s th e “p a ra d o s " a n d te n d e d to b e sU ghtly h ig h e r: a s a r e s u lt it w a s o fte n to m u p b y rifle a n d m a c h in e - g u n fire. “S a p s " , o r s m a ll a rtille ry o b s e r v a tio n a n d U s te n in g p o s t s s tr e tc h e d o u t in to n o m a n ’s la n d a t o d d a n g les.

C o n n e c te d by n a rro w e r c o m m u n ic a tio n tr e n c h e s , th e com m a n d tr e n c h w a s s itu a te d ro u g h ly 2 0 y a r d s to th e r e a r . F ollow ing a s im ila r p a t t e r n a s th e fire lin e, it w a s b e tte r fo rtified w ith d u g o u ts . la tr in e s a n d m a c h in e -g u n pxjsts. It w a s h e re th a t o fficers a n d s p e c ia U s ts (in c lu d in g s n ip e r s ) m o s t o fte n re sid e d . th o u g h so m e p re fe rre d to im p ro v ise :

H u m b le r s o ld ie rs c a r v e d th e m s e lv e s " fu n k h o le s" in th e t r e n c h w all a n d h u d d le d u n d e r 3 fo o t-b y -5 foot r u b b e r s h e e t s u n til d riv in g ra in s e n t v is c o u s m u d o o z in g o u t o f th e s a n d b a g s , a n d t h e w a lls g ra d u a lly c o lla p s e d . B y. 1 9 1 6 . m o s t tr e n c h e s h a d e n o u g h d u g o u ts to provide c ra m p e d , s m e lly s h e lt e r fo r e v e ry o n e , lo

T h e c o m m u n ic a tio n lin e s , m e a n w h ile , w e re m o s t fr e q u e n tly u s e d for tro o p m o v e m e n t, s u p p ly tr a in s a n d te le p h o n e c a b le s.

T h e s u p p o r t tre n c h , e x te n d in g b a c k so m e 7 0 - 1 0 0 y a rd s , o fte n h o u s e d r e lie f tro o p s , a n d s e r v e d , a t ti m e s , a s a p la c e o f s h e lt e r a f t e r a h e a v y b o m b a r d m e n t. It a ls o w o rk e d to p ro v id e a b a s e to r e -g ro u p fo r c o u n t e r ­ a t t a c k s follow ing a n e n e m y r a i d o f th e fro n t lin e . ' * M ed ic a l o ffic e rs a n d C o m p a n y H e a d q u a rte rs w ere o f te n s itu a te d a t th e s e lo c a tio n s a s w ell.

9 Maj. H. Hesketh-Prichard; Sniping in F ran ce. (London. 1920). p .33. 10 Morton. Number's Up. p. 122.

11 Ashworth: Trench Warfare, p.6.

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A t th e v e ry b a c k (4 0 0 -6 0 0 y a r d s ) lay th e re s e rv e lin e w h e r e b a tta lio n H e a d q u a r te r s a n d h ig h e r r a n k in g o ffic e rs c o n d u c te d th e ir lo g is tic a l w o rk . F u r th e r , it c o n ta in e d w h o le b a tta lio n s o f s u p p o rt tro o p s t h a t re lie v e d front line in f a n tr y a f te r a g iv e n p e rio d . J u s t b e h in d th e r e s e r v e lin e, a n d w ell o u t o f r a n g e o f s m a ll a r m s fire w a s th e a rtille ry , w h ic h o f te n p u lv e riz e d t h e e n e m y lin e s a t c a lc u la te d d is ta n c e s . >2

T h e G e rm a n lin e s , th o u g h s im ila rly p r o te c te d b y ro lls o f b a r b e d w ire. w e re s lig h tly d iffe re n t fro m A llied lin e s . T he fro n t lin e w a s fu lly g a rris o n e d w ith s u p p o r t a n d re s e rv e tr e n c h e s e x te n d in g b a c k s o m e 2 0 0 0 - 3 0 0 0 y a rd s . i3 M ore s o p h is tic a te d , fo rtifie d a n d c o n s id e ra b ly d e e p e r, th e G e r m a n s g ra d u a lly p e r f e c te d th e ir tr e n c h s y s te m , a w e lc o m e p rize fo r a c o n q u e r in g A llied force. • A n c h o rin g th e ir d e fe n c e s w e re s e v e ra l m a c h in e -g u n p o s ts , s o m e h o u s e d in c o n c r e te s h e lt e r s , s p r e a d a p p r o x im a te ly 8 0 0 y a r d s a p a r t. S i t u a t e d a b o u t 1 0 0 0 y a r d s from t h e fr o n t lin e , t h e y w ere th e m o s t d e a d ly f e a t u r e o f th e G e r m a n tr e n c h s y s te m . T h e d ia g r a m o n th e fo llo w in g p a g e o u t l i n e s th e tw o re s p e c tiv e tr e n c h n e tw o rk s .

M ore im p o r ta n tly , th e c o n d itio n s c r e a te d b y th e s e t r e n c h l i n e s a lo n g th e W e s te rn F ro n t w ere s u ita b le for s n ip in g . T he te r r a in , fro m t h e o p e n fields o f F l a n d e r s to th e r o llin g h il l s i d e s in e a s t e r n F r a n c e , p r o v i d e d a m p le o p p o r tu n ity for a c r a c k s h o t to t e s t h is skills.

T r e n c h life w a s d a n g e r o u s . E v e n in a q u ie t s e c to r, a t o u r o f th e f r o n t s e ld o m c o s t a b a tta lio n few er t h a n h a l f a d o z e n d e a d a n d w o u n d e d . S ig n s w a rn e d s o ld ie rs a b o u t s n ip e r s , a n im p o r t a n t c a u s e o f d e a th . >5

R ifle-fire w a s a m a in s ta y o n th e W e s te rn F ro n t a n d . a s th is a n d s u b s e q u e n t c h a p t e r s w ill sh o w , “s n ip in g w a s im p o r ta n t in th e w a r. for th e la y o u t of th e tr e n c h e s g av e s n ip e r s g o o d c h a n c e s to inflict m a te ria l a n d m o ra l lo s s u p o n th e e n e m y ." U n fo rtu n a te ly for th e B r itis h a n d C a n a d ia n fo rc e s , t h e v a lu e o f

12 Bill Rawling; Survivino Trench Warfare. (Toronto. 1992). p .27-28. 13 Ashworth: Trench Warfare, p .6.

14 W in ters Bagget: The Great War. p.91. 15 Morton: Number’s Up. p .126.

16 Ashworth: Trench Warfare, p .57.

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Machine-Gun Posts

British & German Trench Svst**™*»

Communication Trench tteck to Secondary oofaneiveposltioj

Strongpoints

Main Defensive Position

Woods

Ruins

Trench Mortars

German Front Line

Artillery O bservation & Listening P oets

No Man’s Land

A rtlllery Observation & Listening Poets

British & Canadian Front Line

^ Trench Mortars

Field Guns

Field Guns

Support Trenches

Communication T ranch

R eserve Trenches

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s n ip in g in t r e n c h w a r f a r e w o u ld f i r s t h a v e to b e l e a r n e d t h r o u g h th e c ro s s h a irs o f th e G e rm a n s n ip e r 's s ig h ts .

n

O n c e th e zig-zag p a t t e r n o f tr e n c h e s s c a tte r e d t h e ir w ay a c r o s s th e W e s te rn F r o n t, th e lo n g p r o c e s s o f “t r e n c h d e a d lo c k " b e g a n . H u d d le d in m a k e -sh lft d itc h e s a n d s e p a r a te d b y a m a n g le d b e lt o f te r r a in re fe rre d to as n o m a n ’s la n d , so ld ie rs o n b o th sid e s b e g a n to Uve a tro g lo d y tic lifestyle. O n a m in o r s c a le , a tte m p ts to b r e a k th e s ta l e m a te c a m e in th e form o f sh ellin g , tr e n c h m o r t a r s a n d g r e n a d e s w h ic h w e re fir s t in it ia te d b y th e G e r m a n s . S n ip e rs a ls o m a d e th e ir a p p e a r a n c e in th e t r e n c h e s o f th e W e ste rn F ro n t, a n o th e r in itia tiv e o f th e A llies’ e n em y - a n d “p ro v e d th e m s e lv e s to be m a s t e r s o f im p ro v isa tio n , a n d th e s p e e d w ith w h ic h th e y d e v elo p e d effective s n ip in g in th e a u tu m n o f 1914 w a s te s tim o n y to t h a t ta le n t." in fa c t, the fu tu r e - F irs t A rm y S n ip in g O fficer. M a jo r H . H e s k e th - P r ic h a r d a t t e s t e d th a t “it w a s th e G e rm a n s, a n d n o t th e B ritis h , w ho b e g a n s n ip in g , is B y th e e n d o f 1 9 1 4 . G e rm a n m a r k s m e n w e re e q u ip p e d w ith a n e s t i m a t e d 2 0 .0 0 0 te le s c o p ic s ig h te d r if le s a n d w ere u s i n g th e m w ith g r e a t e ffic ie n c y . M ore o f t h e s e fire a rm s c a m e b efo re th e y e a r ’s e n d a f t e r th e D u k e o f R a tib o r c o lle c te d a n u m b e r o f s p o r tin g rifles fro m a c r o s s G e r m a n y a n d s e n t th e m to th e fro n t. T h e s e rif le s , th e M a u s e r G e w e h r. o r “G e w ’9 8 " . w e re a m o n g th e m o s t a c c u r a te f ir e a r m s o n t h e W e s te rn F r o n t - p a r ti c u la r ly w h e n fitte d w ith telesco p ic s ig h ts . >9 T h a t th e G e rm a n s w e re fo r e r u n n e r s in th e d e v e lo p m e n t o f o p tic a l d e v ic e s f u r th e r e n h a n c e d th e p o te n tia l o f th e s e rifles. In c a p a b le h a n d s , th e s e fire a rm s w e re d e ad ly .

G e r m a n s n i p e r s d e v e lo p e d t h e i r s n ip i n g f i n e s s e q u ic k ly o n th e W e ste rn F r o n t, s u r p a s s in g t h e Allies i n s ta n tly in th is re g a rd . T heir in c ip ie n t s k ills w e re m a s t e r f u l , fo r a s o n e o f f ic e r n o te d , “w h e r e th e y w e re o u r

17 Adrian Gilbert; Sniper. (New York. 1994). p.42. 18 Hesketh-Prichard; Sniping, p.28.

1 9 ---; “R ifles of the Great War”, p. 1702 In fact. G ew 98 sniper rifles were o n e of th e first German rifles u s e d to pierce arm oured tanks at th e S o m m e This w a s d o n e by using blunt-end bullets that w ere ab le to puncture th e metal on impact.

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s u p e r io r s w a s in th e i r h u n t e r 's i n s tin c ts - th e y s tu d ie d th e ir p re y ." 2 0 M a n y G e r m a n m a r k s m e n w e re r e g u la r h u n t e r s o r w e re r e c r u ite d fro m th e F o r e s t G u a r d s a n d B a ttle P olice - in d iv id u a ls w ith e x c e p tio n a l s h o o tin g s k ills . 21

T h e s e la tte r r e c r u its w ere a ls o k n o w n to v e n tu re in to no m a n ’s la n d , a p la c e o v e r w h ic h m a n y a s n ip e r s o u g h t c o m p le te d o m in a tio n . O th e r s r e s o r te d to d is g u is in g th e m s e lv e s in s to le n u n ifo r m s o r F le m is h civilian c lo th e s , p r a c tis in g th e ir a r t w ith L u g e r a u to m a tic p is to ls o n lone B ritis h o r C a n a d ia n s o ld ie rs . 2 2

W h at m a d e p a r t o f th e G e r m a n s ’ s u p e rio rity so h ig h w a s th e ir m e th o d o f s n ip in g . A lth o u g h s h o o tin g fro m c o n c e a le d p o s itio n s w a s c o m m o n in t h e e a r ly p a r t o f th e w a r. G e rm a n s n ip e r s w ere q u ic k to u s e “lo o p h o le p la te s " , a p ro te c tiv e m e ta l s l a t e w ith a n op>ening fo r rifle s . B y 1 9 1 5 . m a n y o f t h e s e p l a t e s d e c o r a t e d t h e G e r m a n l i n e s , s o m e n o tic e a b le , o t h e r s c le v e r ly c a m o u fla g e d . 23 W ith a s m a n y a s 3 0 p la te s in th e lin e a t o n e tim e , th e A llies w e re o f te n le ft p u z z le d a s to t h e w h e r e a b o u t s o f th e d e a d l y G e r m a n c r a c k s h o t. A n o th e r fa c to r in t h e i r s u c c e s s w a s th e Linear n a t u r e o f th e f ir s t A llied tr e n c h l in e s . P e rfe c tly p la c e d s a n d b a g s a n d f la tte n e d w ith s h o v e ls . A llied p a r a p e ts m v ite d a G e r m a n s n i p e r ’s b u lle t tim e a n d a g a in . M o v e m e n t b e h in d th e s e lin e s w a s e a s ily d e te c ta b le for th e e n e m y b e c a u s e th e c o n to u r s o f t h e h u m a n b o d y a n d h e a d s t o o d o u t a g a i n s t th e e v e n p a r a p e t . N e v e rth e le s s , c h a n g e s to th e s e “te x tb o o k " sty le tr e n c h e s d id n o t c o m e u n t i l e a r ly 1916.

O r g a n iz e d a t c o m p a n y le v e l, th e G e r m a n s n ip e r s h a d b u t o n e o b je ctiv e - kill th e e n e m y . A n d t h i s th e y d id w ell, a d d in g m c e s s a n t n u m b e r s to th e A llied c a s u a lty ’’ lis ts . H e s k e th - P iic h a r d n o te d "in e a rly 1 9 1 5 we lo s t e ig h te e n m e n in a sin g le b a tta lio n in a sin g le d a y to e n e m y s m p e r s ." 24 it d id

n o t ta k e lo n g fo r B ritis h . C a n a d i a n a n d F r e n c h s o ld ie rs to l e a m o f t h e

20 n a g, RG9 III 0 3 /3 8 6 7 /1 0 7 /2 , “Lecture Given at N.C.O.’s S ch ool of Instruction. 2nd Army", p .4.

21 Ian Skennerton; T he British Sniper. (London. 1984). p.11. 22 Col. J.A.Currie: T h e R ed Watch. (Toronto. 1916). p. 163-164. 23 Hesketh-Prichard: S niping, p. 108.

24 Ibid.. p.2.

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d a n g e r s o f p e e r in g o v e r th e p a r a p e t. P te . W ill B ird o f th e 4 2 n d B n . r e c a lls th is p e r ilo u s activ ity ;

L a rs o n ...[w a s ] th rille d w ith th e fro n t lin e [and] w a n te d to k n o w h o w n e a r th e G e rm a n s w ere. I to ld him a n d h e s a id it s o u n d e d u n r e a l to h im . It h a d b e c o m e lig h t a s h e t a l k e d , a n d w h e n I p u t u p t h e p e r is c o p e it w a s s h o t a w a y b y a G e r m a n s m p e r. “T h a t fellow m u s t b e v e ry n e a r" , s a id L a rs o n . “Til ta k e a q u ic k look".

“D o n 't!" I y e lle d a n d g r a b b e d h is c o a t. H e s tr e tc h e d u p in s p ite o f m y p r o te s t. T h e b u lle t e n te r e d h is f o r e h e a d a n d w e n t o u t th e b a c k , b r e a k in g th e s t r a p o f h is h e lm e t a n d c a r ry in g it to t h e r e a r o f th e p o s t . I lo w e re d th e b o d y to th e t r e n c h flo o r a n d c o v e r e d th e fa c e w ith a c le a n s a n d b a g . 25

T h e s t r i k e o f a b u lle t h a d a d e v a s ta tin g e ffe c t o n e v e ry in d iv id u a l i n th e tr e n c h . S t r a y b u lle ts - o fte n fro m a d i s t a n t e n e m y m a c h i n e - g u n - w e re c o m m o n in th e tr e n c h e s a n d w h ile m a n y s o ld ie r s b e c a m e u s e d to it. o n ly th e fo o lh a rd y w e re v ic tim s. As M a g n u s H ood re c a lle d . “W h en y o u h e a r th e c r a c k . th e b u lle t h a s g o n e p a s t y o u . I t’s th e o n e y o u d o n ’t h e a r t h a t h its y o u .“ 2 6

T h e s n i p e r ’s b u lle t, h o w e v e r, ty p ic a lly r e a c h e d its ta r g e t. T h e s ig h t o f a c a r e le s s s o ld ie r, w h o re m a in e d e x p o se d for a m o m e n t to o lo n g , falling in th e th r o e s o f d e a t h h a d a c u m u la tiv e effect o f d e p le tin g tro o p m o ra le . In th e B ritis h t r e n c h e s , a y o u n g C h a rle s C a rrin g to n vividly re c alle d s u c h a m o m e n t:

A lm o s t a s w e a p p r o a c h e d th e s a m e s n i p e r fired a g a in fro m t h e v illa g e to o u r left, a n d a m a n c alled P r a t t d ro p p e d Uke a s to n e j u s t w h e r e th e c o rp o ra l h a d fa lle n . He. to o . h a d a s m a ll r o u n d h o le in h i s te m p le a n d th e b a c k o f h is s k u ll b lo w n aw ay . P r a tt w a s b e y o n d h o p e . H is h e a d w a s s h a tt e r e d : s p la tte r in g s o f b ra in la y in a p ool o f b lo o d u n d e r h im ; b u t. t h o u g h h e h a d n e v e r b e e n c o n s c io u s s in c e t h e s h o t w a s fired , h e r e f u s e d to d ie. A n old c o rp o ra l lo o k ed a f te r h im , h e ld h is b o d y a n d a r m s , w h ic h w r ith e d a n d fo u g h t feebly a s h e la y . It w a s o v e r tw o h o u r s b efo re h e d ie d , h o u rs o f J u l y s u n s h in e in a c r o w d e d s p a c e w h e re p e r h a p s a d o z e n m e n s a t in a d itc h t e n y a r d s lo n g a n d five feet w id e, re e k in g w ith th e sm ell o f b lo o d , w h ic h a ll th e tim e , a b o v e th e s o o th in g voice o f th e c o rp o ra l, a g u rg lin g a n d a m o a n in g c a m e fro m h is Ups. n o w h ig h a n d U quid. n o w low a n d

d r y ...27

I n s ta n c e s like th e s e c r e a te d tw o v e ry d iv e rs e e ffe c ts: o n o n e h a n d , it t a u g h t s o ld ie rs t o k e e p th e ir h e a d s d o w n , w hile o n th e o th e r, it in s tille d a f e a r t h a t

25 Will R. Bird: G hosts Have Warm Hands. (Toronto. 1968). p. 17. 26 Morton: N um ber's Do. p. 123.

27 Gilbert: S n ip e r , p.46.

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