A Better Rifle at Halloween

The main trouble with long range individual (as opposed to volley) aimed fire is seeing the target well enough to adjust, and accurately determining the range.
That is what they used Volley fire. You had them line up in rows however wide and then have Volley Fire, 1st rank target 1300yrds, Aim, Fire, 2nd Rank Ditto, etc etc as long as needed. Basically bullet dispersion at that range will lead to some hitting targets but also some being near misses.
23rd September 1914, Flobecq

It started in an aid post, an Unteroffizier came in leading another NCO who had been hit in the face, the wound was bleeding profusely. A shrapnel ball having struck the man on the cheek, shattering the zygomatic bone, it had then transferred some kinetic energy to his left eye which ruptured, as the ball then passed laterally through his skull, severing his tongue and then pulverising the jaw. Despite this permanently disfiguring injury the man was otherwise unharmed, the Unteroffizier and he, had been friends for years and the sight of his comrade so gruesomely injured had caused him to disobey the order that the wounded were to be left were they feel for the ambulance service to recover. Instead, this NCO had led his blinded and bleeding comrade back towards the town and the aid post.

None of the men who were marching towards the guns tried to stop him, or any of the other walking wounded or their “helpers” who were heading in the opposite direction.

All the men were hungry, they had been on short rations for a few days now, never plentiful with the damage to the Belgian railways the food situation had worsened dramatically. There was some meat, wounded and exhausted horses, any livestock not already gleaned by the advancing army all of them were butchered for stew by the commissary units. But it was not enough so the men tightened their belts and marched on. Even the savaging they had taken attacking at Ath, Sottegem and Leuze-en-Hainaut had only dented their morale, they retained their pride as German soldiers and had faith in their leadership.

The advance to contact was going badly, with no artillery support available. Few of the heavy guns had managed the retreat, with the tractors running out of fuel and the horses exhausted by the labour of hauling their burdens on little or no feed. Many guns had simply been abandoned often after desultory attempts to disable them. The gunners who had lost their guns or drivers whose wagons were empty were now being gathered by the officers into ersatz battalions, they would join the attack on the British line. Their only hope of staying out of a prison camp was to brave the British guns and their deadly riflemen.

Whilst the infantry were still operating under orders without demur, the specialists often older men with more training and in their minds more value were less biddable at this point. These men were still gathering at Flobecq, the First Army command was also keen to preserve their skills for future employment when the encirclement was broken and First Army could be withdrawn through the gap.

As the unteroffizier lead his sobbing, retching comrade towards the aid post at Flobecq he noticed that the scene was changing, the Feldgendamarie were present in greater numbers. He had never been a fan of the “chained dogs” with their medieval gorgets indicating their role as the armies police, he had had run ins with them in the past and he was keen to avoid contact now. Especially as he was aware that technically he was now a deserter, the penalty for which was savage.

He finally made it into the aid post, his comrade now more than anything, a burden, the man having collapsed from the pain and blood loss and the unteroffizier carrying him on his own back for the last few hundred metres. He was filthy, covered in blood and who knew what other horrors had coated him as the British shells had turned so many men into bloody gruel.

It was at the entrance to the aid post, where the first shocking indignity occurred, the surgeon performing triage on seeing the head wound, snapped don’t bother bringing him in here, he is dead man already, the unteroffizier tried to argue protesting “he is my friend”. The doctor exhausted by his own endless labour over the harvest of men maimed and mutilated by shot, shell, bayonet and even for some poor souls who had been routed by a troop of hussars, swords, was unsympathetic “they are all someone’s friend, somebody’s son”. Then he noticed the unteroffizier was from an infantry unit, “what are you doing here, you should be at the front”. Raising his voice, he shouted “coward, you have used this man as an excuse to flee your duty” turning to the military policeman nearby he said “arrest this man”. This accusation of cowardice was the final straw, the unteroffizier had marched and fought across Belgium, he didn’t need some doctor sitting safe in a cellar thousands of metres back from the front line to call him a coward. It was clear that he was not alone, some of the wounded men shouted at the doctor that no man who faced the British rifles and lived should be called a coward.

It was at this moment that the military policeman blundered, he drew his pistol and told the unteroffizier he was under arrest for desertion and cowardice. The wounded men shouted at the chain dog, “leave him be” “he is one of us” there were many men crammed into that cellar, most were badly wounded but enough were able to shout, the situation was getting out of hand, the military policeman was already nervous. He looked at the soldier, he looked at the wounded men, he had his orders “you come with me, I don’t care what these bastards call me, you are a deserter and you will drop that man now and come to the guardhouse, the Oberst will deal with you pig”, one of the more lightly wounded men, an older NCO a Feldwebel by his rank badges, stood up he spoke “you chain dog, put that pistol down before I feed it to you”, then speaking to the unteroffizier he said “your mate is dead or will die, the surgeons are swamped they can do nothing, put him over there and go back to the front boy”. The policeman was a stubborn man, a reservist from Prussia he was not going to let anyone speak to him like that, they would respect his authority, he turned on the Feldwebel, “you can join the unteroffizier, you are under arrest” it was at this point that things went badly wrong.

Another soldier, half maddened with the pain of his own wound, a missing foot that would doom him to a life of poverty, struck the policeman with the butt of a rifle he had been using as crutch, the policeman convulsively pulled the trigger. A bullet stuck the feldwebel in the head, the enraged soldier with the rifle then shot the chain dog.

Pandemonium ensued, men shouting and shooting in the dark, the walking wounded immediately began streaming out of the cellar, shouting they are shooting the wounded they shouted. One soldier nearby, a socialist agitator who was unhappily attached to an ersatz battalion, shouted “down with the war, let us not die under British guns”, he was shot down by an officer trying to nip the incipient anarchy in the bud, the officer was in turn was shot by another man. The chaos spread rapidly, many men taking the opportunity to slip away from Flobecq to surrender, but gradually military discipline and habits of obedience restored order. The First Army was shaken and much of it was unwilling, but it was not yet ready to yield.
Thinking ahead
23rd September 1914, Ghoy.

C Squadron 12th (Royal) Lancers had re-joined the main regimental position at Ghoy, the withdrawl had gone swiftly with the squadron mounting up and trotting down the road from Ogy to Ghoy, the truck carrying that had carried the RGA signallers was loaded with wounded, most of them RGA men returned in there officers car, but some were travelling back on the limbers of the 13 pounder guns. The RGA men having taken over the horses of the wounded and dead, the RGA subaltern was bouncing along on one of the Lancers horses looking most uncomfortable. The Squadron commander commented not unkindly on his riding style, prompting the young officer to note that they hadn’t done as much riding at Woolwich as might have been required at Sandhurst. The two men then discussed the performance of the 60 pounder and how to improve liaison between the cavalry and the artillery, the RGA officer mused about perhaps using some type of wireless in a truck or wagon that could signal back to the battery or regiment. But both agreed that being able to call indirect fire onto an enemy position was immensely valuable.
In his book on the Indian wars [1], Churchill describes very long range individual rifle fire (of the order of a mile) as if it was a standard tactic. That was late 1880s so there was plenty of time by 1914 (and other wars) to learn from the experience.
The long ranges may have reflected the reality of fighting in the valleys where you have to shoot at the enemy at long range or give them the opportunity to fire undisturbed at your own troops.
But then again, there was considerable emphasis on aimed single shot fire at long range, with magazine fire reserved for a crisis (it's referenced at Omdurman for example in the context of how serious the situation had got).

[1] it's a couple of years since I read it. Errors are possible.
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The same actions with different endings. Defeat. Retreat and rout are more difficult.
There has not yet been a rout of the Germans on anything except local scale, I was trying to demonstrate the sort of event that could cause a collapse of discipline but conditions didn’t lead to it spreading. But the first army is in a very bad position. I like the way@fester uses short vignettes to illustrate the story and I have shamelessly borrowed it. Although my Keynes has had a worse time of it.
Just had a reply on shooting the Lee Enfield in the London Scottish in the 50s it was at 100 250 500 and 1000 yards. Epsom college shot the same course at Bisley for the schools contest.
The same actions with different endings. Defeat. Retreat and rout are more difficult.
Withdrawal was always difficult. One exercise they had us practice it. We got so fed up so when it came to the last one we had a "Jack-up" and refused to carry it out. A "Jack-up" is a time honoured tradition in the Australian Army where a mutiny occurs but as all ranks act on their own without leaders a Mutiny cannot be officially declared and so no disciplinary action can be called. They had to sent trucks for us. Shame really. Morale can break down very easily and ill-discipline is just a step away in an military force.
Withdrawal was always difficult. One exercise they had us practice it. We got so fed up so when it came to the last one we had a "Jack-up" and refused to carry it out. A "Jack-up" is a time honoured tradition in the Australian Army where a mutiny occurs but as all ranks act on their own without leaders a Mutiny cannot be officially declared and so no disciplinary action can be called. They had to sent trucks for us. Shame really. Morale can break down very easily and ill-discipline is just a step away in a military force.
Interesting, can’t you just be charged with failure to follow lawful orders / conduct prejudicial to military discipline?
Later in the war, no, the Germans would not notice and British would not even try. But this is 1914, the Germans will still be pretty bunched, and the British will use their pre-war doctrine. It was actually done not so much as to cause casualties as such but try and get them to go to ground (making a nice artillery target).
It is sometimes referred to as harassing fire, and it's still a thing.
I do feel like you've missed an opportunity to 'wink-wink-nudge-nudge' and say the British unit wreaking this havoc on the Germans is equipped with the new rifle.
An Army Marches
23rd September 1914, Lessines.
The Army Service Corps driver was sitting in the cab of his lorry, he had been called up from his pre-war job as a delivery driver for Pears Soap company. The truck he was driving had been called up from Hazelhurst & Sons and still smelt faintly of the coal dyes used to colour their soaps, rather than the more pleasing fragrance which infused his old vehicle.
Mostly now all he could smell was the stink of war, he had been driving from the rail head at Mons up and over the ridge line to Ath and then from there on to Lessines. His current cargo was boxes of rations, mainly maconochie stew and hard tack, he was sharing the road with a variety of other vehicles, primarily horse drawn wagons carrying up ammunition but also ambulances and other motor vehicles. There were also a number of staff cars of one sort or another, the most senior officers proceeded by motor cycle outriders or even in one case a troop of cavalry.
There was a railway line that existed between Ath and Mons but it had been badly damaged by the fighting over the last month and it would be at least a week before it could be restored to limited operation. The Royal Engineers were labouring mightily to restore the rail link, as it would enable rapid movement of supplies along the entire line between Ghent and Mons. The next dual tracked line was much further back running through Lille and Tournai and it had been even more badly damaged by the fighting, it would have to be restored as well. But for now, the supplies needed to keep the German First Army trapped would have to travel over rutted roads in northern France and Belgium.