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ORGANIZATION AND TACTICAL EMPLOYMENT

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Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 247 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ORGANIZATION AND TACTICAL EMPLOYMENT 2 Although machine-gun tactics are still somewhat indefinite, at least there are well-marked tendencies which have a close relation to the general tactical scheme or doctrine adopted by each of the various armies as suited to its own purposes and conditions. For many years before the South African and Manchurian wars, the machine-gun had been freely spoken of as " a diabolical weapon before which nothing could live," but this did not contribute much to the science of handling it. Most military powers, indeed, distrusted it—actuated perhaps by the remembrance of the vain hopes excited by the canon d balles. It was not until the second half of the war of 1904-05 that the Japanese, taught by the effective handling of the Russian machine-guns at Liao-Yang, introduced it into their field armies, and although Great Britain had provided every regular battalion with a Maxim-gun section some years before the Boer War, and a Volunteer corps, the Central London Rangers (now 12th bn. London Regiment) had maintained a (Nordenfeldt) gun section since 1882, instruction in the tactics of the weapon was confined practically to the simple phrase " the machine-gun is a weapon of opportunity." More than this, at any rate, is attempted in the drill-books of to-day. One important point is that, whether the guns are used as an arm, in numbers, or as auxiliaries, in sections, they should be free to move without having to maintain their exact position relatively to some other unit. It was in following the infantry firing lines of their own battalion over the open that the British Maxims suffered most heavily in South Africa. Another of equal importance is that the machine guns must co-operate with other troops of their side in the closest possible way; more, in this regard, is demanded of them than of artillery, owing to their mobility and the relative ease of obtaining cover. A third factor, which has been the subject of numerous experiments, is the precise value of a machine-gun, stated in terms of infantry, i.e. how many rifles would be required to produce the fire-effect of a machine-gun. A fourth—and on this the teaching of military history is quite definite—is the need of concealment and of evading the enemy's shrapnel. These points, once the datum of efficiency of fire has been settled, resolve themselves into two conclusions—the necessity for combining independence and co-operation, and the desirability of Mercury's winged feet and cap of darkness for the weapon itself. It is on the former that opinions in Europe vary most. Some armies ensure co-operation by making the machine-gun section an integral part of the infantry regimental organization, but in this case the officer commanding it must be taught and allowed to shake himself free from his comrades and immediate superiors when necessary. Others ensure co-operation of the machine-guns as an arm by using them, absolutely free of infantry control, on batteries; but this brings them face to face with the risks of showing, not one or two low-lying gun-barrels, but a number of carriages, limbers and gun teams, within range of the enemy's artillery. ' At San-de-pu 1905 the Japanese machine-guns (Hotchkiss) sustained damage averaging, i extractor broken per gun, i jam in every 300 rounds. It should be mentioned, however, that the machine-gun companies were only formed shortly before the battle. 2 In field operations only. For siege warfare see FORTIFICATION
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