To 16 Fd Regt in Korea

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Patrol DFs

The original 16th Field Regiment as seen from the front-line trenches

Korea, March 1953

by SB Matthews MBE ED

To Tales from the Trails

One spin off of the Australian's and New Zealander's ability to work together was the development of patrol DFs (defensive fire tasks). These were based on the techniques of calling for standard artillery defensive fire tasks. The reference points were well out in no-man's-land, being requested by the infantry when required and marked on separate overlays to avoid confusion. It was important that the reference points could be easily recognised by the infantry patrols on the ground in the dark, even if they could not be seen from the Kiwi artillery's OP.

Routes to and from our objectives were invariably preplanned. So a few minutes spent identifying likely ambush traps and memorizing a short list of code names was worthwhile insurance. Patrols usually did not roam 'the Valley' at random. All were preplanned and based on areas chosen according to the tactical situation, or the need for intelligence information, which influenced the tactics of both sides.

Each Platoon Commander had patrol DF overlays of the Battalion's patrolling area of responsibility. Once he had been briefed for his night patrol, the leader would place the applicable overlay on his map and commit to memory the DFs most likely to be of use in the event of a clash. APPLE, PEAR, BANANA, PEACH, ORANGE, might be the nicknames in one area. Domestic animals names, such as CAT, DOG, HORSE, COW, DONKEY were bound to be names in another. ROSE, DAISY, PANSY, LILY, DAHLIA could be on an overlay of another small area. An experienced patrol leader would commit to memory only those which he thought he might need.

If a patrol leader had a clash he could not handle with his own resources, the drill was to pull back out of range and ask for a patrol DF. Some of the time it might be a well known and calibrated feature. Other times it might be close to one of the memorised landmarks which the Gunners had already registered. Within two minutes of a request for supporting fire including any adjustments, the ranging shells would arrive. If further corrections were needed they would be radioed back again and 5 rounds gunfire would arrive on to the enemy patrol. This would swing the odds more than a little in our favour and in some cases enable the Australian patrol to counter-attack.

The adjustments were of course most important, both for the initial request and for correcting the fire. I believe the 'Observer to Target' method of calling for fire and ranging grew out of the Korean war. But we in the infantry had no knowledge of it at that time. We did however have an arrangement with the Kiwi gunners enabling us to correct on a North/South line.

Bruce Matthews
May 2000
During the Korean War, Lt (later Maj.) Matthews was a NZer seconded to 3RAR.

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