One of my more regular correspondents recently mentioned that he had brought a copy of “Crash Combat” and was finding it a “great read”. This is always nice to hear. He is in Australia and this reminded me of the Australian connection that the book has. Readers will know that the concept of the book was indirectly inspired by a section in John Vader’s “Battle of Sidney”. I thought I had already made that passage the subject of a blog. Turns out that I never got around to it, so here it is.
…editor whose reporter named Murray as his source. He was taken to the GOC, General Maitland, who at once asked, “Well, Brains, what's the big secret?” Colonel Murray, forever to be known as “Brains”, explained his theory:
“In a situation like the one existing now in the country, there no time for special training to deal with all the conditions which are likely to be presented to the infantryman. To begin, the fittest men must be chosen and every part of boredom in training must eliminated. There is no need, for example, to learn how to salute, since nobody salutes at the front except the peace-time men who can,t drop the habit. Naming the parts of a Bren or Vickers is a waste of time: tell a man which part may cause a blockage, show him how to clear it and he will be as efficient as an instructor. Retire the fire and brimstone sergeant-majors until the war is over and replace them with sergeants who know how to give simple orders in simple teams which will get their meaning across. Take out all the "snarlers" and "bludgers" — there is no time to make them into soldiers. Send them to dig holes.
When men choose their own leader they are usually right and recruits should be allowed to choose their corporals, the section leaders. Then send them out to live in the bush for two days, to cook their own food and make their way to certain points by a certain time. They have to learn how to stay alive both fending for themselves and avoiding enemy fire. On their first or second day — as soon as possible — give them trenching tools and tell them that in, say, ten minutes, machine-guns will be firing live bullets across the ground where they are standing: they'll learn that to stay alive they must dig quickly, and when the bullets fly over their heads they'll get a quick and impressive example of the value of cover. Also within the first couple of days give them rifles and targets — without bothering about rifle ranges — and let them get the feel of the Lee Enfield. As many practice rounds as possible should be issued to them so that they can be confident that they can actually hit a man at a hundred yards, for that is about the distance where most men are accurate and anything further be left to the good shots.
They should all fire the Bren, Vickers, Owen and Thompson guns, and if possible let them see an anti-tank and bigger pieces fired so they'll know what slow and cumbersome things they are to move about when the infantr’ call for their support. Any farmers who have driven tractors should be made members of Bren-gun carrier crews, either as drivers or as gunners who can drive in an emergency. On the third or fourth night send them on night exercises. Most of them will get lost but they will learn the importance of control, identity and perhaps how darkness can be used to an advantage.
If there are no commanders of the new battalions being formed who will accept these ideas then anybody, whether sergeants, junior officer, who has the will and ability to adopt this system should be promoted to battalion leadership. Cut out drill al- together. On long route marches and training exercises they will soon learn to march in step for the convenience it offers, and when they march they will also know that it is easier to march in ranks Of two or three than in straggling lines. Australians have a good instinct for soldiering — both in attack and defence —and the best way to bring it out is to teach them how to use a gun. I certainly believe that the majority could, with the right leadership in platoons and companies, be made into soldiers in one week.”
(From Major-General Murray’s Australia Invaded.)
Murray’s ideas were readily accepted by General Maitland: field commanders were instructed to follow detailed training systems for new recruits as well as transport supply, artillery and other non-infantry units who could be used as infantry in an emergency. The response was most encouraging. When battalions, freed from parade ground bull and dull repetitive lectures, were given a greater opportunity to release the men’s initiative and show in field exercises a more dashing spirit. The AIF battalions were surprised to find themselves being challenged in these exercises by militia battalions whose previous conduct was careless and indifferent. The new mood of the Australian Army was to prove as important as the material help from Britain and America, for in the long run it would be militia and ATF infantry who would be standing against the invader.