Handy War Guide for My Company: Handy Company Commander’s Guide

Handy War Guide for My Company: Handy Company Commander’s Guide

André Godefroy Lionel Hanguillart
André Godefroy Lionel Hanguillart

Author: Hanguillart, André Godefroy Lionel
United States. Army — Officers’ handbooks
Siege warfare
Handy War Guide for My Company: Handy Company Commander’s Guide


Preface 5
Part I.
Trench Life and Trench Warfare
Taking over the Trenches 11
Care and Improvement of the Trenches 14
The Watch from the Trenches 17
Patrolling 22
Interrogating Prisoners 25
Devices to draw the Enemy’s Fire 28
An Attack, the Repulse 32
The Counter-Attack 34
Precautions against Enemy’s Artillery 36
Use of Trench Artillery 37
Field Artillery Cooperation 39
Daily Schedule 41
Turning over the Trenches 43
Out of the Trenches 44
Topical Questions on Part I 46
Part II.
French Infantry Combat Principles.
Open Warfare 53
The Approach 55
Precautions against Silent Artillery 58
Crossing a Bombarded Zone 59
Use of Woods as Shelter 64
To Cross a Crest 65
The Fire Attack 69
Precautions against Cavalry 65
The Termination of the Approach 67
Use of Machine Guns 71
The Company Supports 72
The Companies in Support 73
The Charge and the Pursuit 73
Attack of a Wood 75
Attack of a Village 76
Attack of a Defile 77
Night Attacks 77
Defense of Woods 80
Defense of a Village 81
Defense of a Defile 82
Night Defense of a Position 83
The Counter Attack 83
Topical Questions on Part II 86
A Division Front in Trench Warfare.
The Trench System
The Back Areas

Printed in the United States of America
150 Lafayette Street
New York City


The first part of Captain Hanguillart’s little book “Petit Guide pratique de Guerre pour ma compagnie” has been incorporated in the new manuals of instruction published for the young recruits of the French army by the official military publishing house “Librairie Militaire Berger-Levrault,” the editors of the “Annuaire officiel de l’Armée.”[A]

Its special value comes from the fact that it was written at the front and is wholly based on the orders which Captain Hanguillart drew up for the instruction of his own company and tested repeatedly through actual experience.

Thus its very omissions are significant.

The text as it stands represents essentials.

Its every paragraph is a unit of tried advice.

It embodies the practical data that has secured results.

It sums up the cautions that have saved lives.

In the second part, Captain Hanguillart has merely reproduced the French Infantry Combat principles long published in the official manual for the instruction of platoon leaders.

In presenting this little work, no claim is made that it is adequate to the complete instruction of company commanders.

Its obvious supplements are such works as: Colonel Paul Azan—The War of Position.
The Army War College—Translation of the French Manual for Commanders of Infantry Platoons.
Cole and Schoonmaker—Military Instructors Manual.
Major J. A. Moss—Manual of Military Training.
U. S. A. Infantry Drill Regulations.

Captain Hanguillart’s book should be carefully compared with these. But because of its peculiar origin it has for the officer a value not possessed by other books on this subject.

It gives what a company commander actually found essential.

Furthermore, it corresponds to the booklets published in France which are placed in the hands of every recruit.

Every officer should have full knowledge of his specialty, but every private should understand the essential concerns of his officers so as to appreciate orders the more readily.

The army of democracy should be an intelligent thinking army.

Such little books have helped to give the French poilu his famed self-reliance and resourcefulness.

It is the hope of the publishers that this translation may help to do the same for his American comrades.

The publishers also believe that the book offers just the information needed by civilians to follow intelligently reports of military operations and of life at the front.

The editor has felt it his duty in rearranging the loose notes of Captain Hanguillart to respect scrupulously the text, though, at times, the best way to do so was through a free translation.

The paragraphs have been numbered and questions and diagrams added to facilitate assimilation.


Cambridge, Mass.


[A] Cf Chapuis. Instruction théorique et générale du soldat pour la période de guerre. 27e édition, January 1917.

Part I.

Trench Life and Trench



1.—Leaving Billets.

The battalions of a Brigade occupying a given sector of the front are billeted when out of the trenches, in the villages closest to their sector. Cf. appendix.

When their turn comes to relieve the battalions in the trenches, the officers in charge should have the following instructions carried out:

2.—On the day before the relief make sure:
That the rifles, bayonets, etc., are in good condition.
That the ammunition and reserve rations are supplied.
That the equipment of every man is complete.
That all officers and N.C.O.’s watches are set to division time.

3.—On the day of the relief, one hour before departure:
Have rifles stacked and equipment laid out outside the billets.
Make sure that nothing is left behind, that premises are cleaned, all rubbish burnt, and latrines filled.
Have rifles loaded and with the safety lock turned to the safe.
Assign an energetic N. C. O. to act as file closer of each platoon to prevent straggling.
Call the roll and have it duly forwarded to the company commander.
4.—On the way to the trenches:
If under fire, have units march at proper intervals (Cf. par. 117ff.)
Adopt marching order best suitable to avoid blocking the road.
At night do not allow smoking.
Exact silence when nearing the trenches.
Take special precaution at all times to maintain constant communication between units, especially at night and when crossing woods.
If enemy aeroplanes appear, stop and keep out of sight as much as possible. (Cf. par. 120.)

5.—On reaching the trenches:
The relief should be completed in silence—without hurry.
Carefully ascertain the orders of the battalion relieved.
Check up and assign to each unit the supplies taken over.
Requisition at once additional supplies and ammunition wanted.
Each platoon should be assigned its special duties, the duty roster drawn up for all sentry and patrol duties, details, etc.
Have all the men locate the enemy trench as they come on duty and give them the range.
Inspect the dugouts and assign them.
Forbid all digging under the parapet.
Inspect the latrines. Give strict order that small amount of dirt be thrown in after use and that lime be sprinkled in daily.
See that the men are provided with ammunition.
Communication should be insured between the various units to the right and left and with the rear.


Investigate the work under way for the improvement of defense and prepare plans for further work if necessary.
Obvious improvements are: making additional communication trenches, repairing or completing shelters, listening posts, mining tunnels, wire entanglements.
7.—Ammunition shelters:
See that there are a sufficient number of shelters for rifle ammunition, grenades, rockets and other supplies.
8.—Loopholes and Parapet:
Ascertain the conditions of all the loopholes and have them repaired if need be. (They should cut the parapet diagonally and be concealed in every way possible with vegetation, branches, and the opening blocked when not in use.)

Have all damages to the parapet and to the ground underneath quickly attended to.
See that in each section there are small ladders to permit of easy access to the top of the parapet.
See that means are provided to fire above the parapet in case of an attack.
Attend carefully to the drainage. Have the trench bottom kept convex with small gutters on either side running into pits lined with gabions. If trench bottom is lined with board walks, keep it in repair. Have water pits emptied if necessary.
Have latrines kept in perfect sanitary order.
Have them filled up and others dug if need be.
Have all rubbish collected and carried out.
11.—Precautions against capture of fire-trench.
Prepare for the obstruction of the communicating trenches in case the enemy should capture the fire trench: Have piles of sand bags above the entrance of each trench ready to be dumped into it. Have chevaux de frise lined up on one parapet of the trench and all held up in such a way by a single wire that when the wire is cut they will fall into the trench. Mines can also be prepared to blow up the trench when invaded. The communicating trench between the fire trench and the listening post should be covered with barbed wire screens or be tunnelled.


12.—Trench Warfare an outpost duty.

Trench warfare, the inevitable form of modern warfare, is a continuous series of outpost duty. Hence it is based wholly on eternal vigilance. The patrols correspond to the scouts; the listening posts to the sentinels; the firing trench to the outguards; the cover trench to the supports. The safety of the sector depends entirely on the vigilance of the advanced elements and the rapidity with which supports and the reserves can be summoned.

Watching is thus the fundamental duty in trench warfare.

The following points should be kept in mind:


13.—Number of men in the fire trench.

There must be as many sentinels in each section as is necessary to cover completely the sector to be watched, no more, no less, each sentinel being given the exact limits (such as tree, copse, post, etc.) at each end of the line he should watch.

14.—Fix bayonets.

The men on duty should have bayonets fixed as, in case of a possible surprise, they are needed for defense. Otherwise too, fixing bayonets would be an indication to the enemy of an impending raid.


15.—Observation of open terrain.

When the terrain opposite is open country, the necessary observation may be done by the smallest possible number of men. Fire only, if any of the enemy are sighted. Then, have two rounds fired, then three. But keep fire under strict control. (If enemy continues to approach. Cf. par. 52 ff.)

16.—Observation of covered terrain.

When the terrain is covered (high brush wood, copses, trees, etc.) a sharpshooter in each section should fire occasionally into the trees, etc., which may be observation or sharpshooters’ posts but this should not be overdone.


17.—Double sentinels.

Post double sentinels in each section, each man watching in turn, the other resting but within call.


They should refrain from making the least noise so as to hear and not be heard.

19.—No firing when fired upon.

There should be no firing when the enemy fires since when the enemy fires, he does not advance.

20.—Look and listen.

They should keep a sharp lookout but listen even more attentively.

21.—In the listening posts.

Sentinels in the listening posts should listen especially for the noise of crushed branches, stirring leaves, slight noise of arms or utensils.

If enemy is detected, these sentinels should hasten back to fire trench to give the alarm quietly so that the enemy may be surprised.

They should fire only if they are themselves caught unawares.

Listening posts should not be too numerous, about two per battalion.

If there are no listening posts, patrols should be sent out to favorable spots especially at sundown and before sunrise.

22.—Enemy sighted or heard, fire.

If the night is clear and the terrain is open, proceed as during the day: If the enemy is sighted or heard, fire in short volleys. In case of doubt throw grenades with the first volley.

23.—Otherwise no firing.

Otherwise, absolute silence should be observed. No firing whatever.

24.—Unless night is dark.

If the night is dark, to avoid surprise, keep up firing: One man per section should fire in turn, from time to time varying the direction.

25.—Digging by enemy.

If digging by the enemy is reported, cease firing. Have it located, throw bombs followed by volleys. Notify sappers for counter mining.

26.—Watch for light of enemy’s fire.

If enemy fires, note where light appears.

27.—Posting of sharpshooters.

Locate sharpshooters in advantageous posts behind the trenches (trees, etc.). Have them fire into the enemy’s listening posts and into the enemy’s trench, especially wherever light appears. These posts should not be occupied during the day.


Send out patrols, stationary or mobile.


29.—Functions of Patrols.

The aim: to supplement the work of the listening posts and of the sentinels through more forward observation. To discover the movements and the operations of the enemy. To locate his emplacements.

To keep in close touch with the enemy so as to take advantage of his possible weaknesses: lack of watchfulness, of ammunition, of sufficient troops. To verify, repair and complete advance defences. To get the exact range of enemy’s positions. To bring back prisoners.

30.—Time to patrol.

Patrols should be on duty through the night but be specially watchful before sunrise.

31.—Assignment of patrol duty.

N. C. O. and men should be assigned to patrol duty by roster or as volunteers. In the former case, if there is reason to think that a patrol has not done its best to secure information, the same men should be sent out again.

32.—Sentinels should know about patrols.

Neighboring companies should be notified of the departure, route and probable time of return of patrols. If several patrols are sent out at the same time they should know one another’s itinerary.

33.—Dress and equipment of patrols.

The men (3 to 5 commanded by N. C. O.) should carry no impediments and their dress should not interfere with ease of movements: sweaters should be worn instead of overcoats. The woolen cap or comforter should be worn as they cover most of the face. Slits should be cut for the ears that hearing be not interfered with. The helmet should always be worn over comforter. Also dark gloves to hide the hands. No equipment save the rifle, the bayonet fixed or carried in the hand, (no bayonet scabbard), a few hand grenades.

34.—Method of advance.

Patrols should crawl forward or advance by short dashes, silently, stop often and for long periods, listen intently.

35.—Under flare light.

If the enemy sends up lighting rockets (flares) or fires volleys, lie flat on the ground until he stops.

36.—Against an hostile patrol.

If a small hostile patrol approaches, do the same, throw a stone or two so as to turn its attention away and take advantage of this to surprise it. If men of enemy’s patrol give the alarm, kill them—lie flat on ground during enemy’s volleys which will follow. Then strip bodies of distinctive uniform badges, and search for papers, etc. Otherwise bring men back as prisoners.

37.—Need of initiative.

Patrols should exercise initiative, take advantage of circumstances, in devising ways of bringing back the greatest possible amount of useful information.


38.—Information from prisoners.

One of the chief aims of patrolling is to bring back prisoners from whom information may be gathered.

39.—Its use by General Staff.

The General Staff is interested to know the nationality, the division, the age, etc. of prisoners captured in a given sector.

40.—Its use by company commander.

But these are of little value to the battalion or company commander. Hence, when possible, they should ask the prisoners questions more pertinent to the organization of the enemy sector opposite:

41.—Questions to ask.

How strongly are your various lines held?

Where are the C. O. Post and the officers’ dugouts?

When and by what routes are the reliefs made, how often and on what days and at what time. Ask the same questions for the fatigues.

At what time are rations brought or served?

What is the actual muster of the company?

How many regular army officers, how many reserve officers? What do the men think of their officers?

How many advanced posts? How many men in each, by day and by night? Do they have grenades and how are they relieved?

How many men are sent out on patrol, how often, at what time, by what route coming and going? How are they dressed and armed? What are their instructions?

What does the enemy know about our own patrols?

Are snipers placed in trees during the day and at night? If so, what trees are used. What parts of our sectors can they see?

Are they planning any raids? Do they anticipate raids by us?

What work are they carrying on during the day and at night?

Have they any idea of our own activities?

What is the nature and the location of their accessory defences?

What is the location of

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