Friday, 25 May 2012

1936 training War Game

Paul Reed sent me a link to a 1936 film showing a war game .

Actually the game is a training aide for artilllery crews and forward observers. First you use the terrain model to teach map reading, then you use it to teach forward observation officers how to direct battery fire by radio or land line.

The observer is shown the map, with multiple targets; they have to prioritise the fire targets. They call up a fire mission, then work out the type of target, the grid of the target,the angle of the target relative to the oberver and then adjust the fire. e.g. 'Fire mission, infantry in open (i.e. use airburst), grid 12345678, direction 1206 mils (mils are a military form of degrees used for bearings).' The artillery fire a single round, the observer then adjusts the fire to the left/ right, then extends or drops the fire until on target. Then the artillery fires for effect.

The hard job is actually the soldier underneath the table who indicates the shell hits by putting up smoke through the cloth model. They have to be able to work out grid references back to front (think about it).

A very similar model was still used by the Gloucerster Regiment, in the British Army Tidworth Garrison in 1984. The British army used to train all soldiers to be artillery observers, not just the designated forward observation officers. This clearly worked in the Falklands war in 1982, were one private soldier got on the radio net and successfully walked the artillery on to the Argentinian positions.

The 1936 model is also being used by the gun crew to practise laying the gun on target (correct angle, elevation). Interestingly enough, the British Army has just adapted the VBS 2 computer game to practise direct fire with an actual 105mm gun. The crew seen a wall mounted projection from the game, they then lay (= point) the real gun on target and the effect is seen in the game. This work was carried out by Wiltshire College in the UK. The college is now being paid to put PC screens onto the viewing ports of real miliary vehicles. The real crew operate the controls of the vehicle and the vehicle then moves in the game. Clever stuff and very cheap compared to traditional simulators. The magic moment in the Wiltshire college story must have been the look on the chief executives face when he discovered his students had a real piece of artillery in the classroom.


  1. And I used it!

    "One round - spotting"....

    "Up two-hundred, one round - spotting"....

    "On target, thirty rounds - fire for effect!"

  2. Presumably not in 1936... The British Army training systems has carried on with this this method until fairly recently.

  3. Note the convoy driving past Stonehenge at 0:20 into the film.