In preparing for an
attack, an infantry battalion or infantry regiment in the Canadian Army
developed a set procedure during the 20th Century in able to provide all
participants with confidence in their ability to complete the mission.
An Orders Group (or
"O-Group") was the name of an informal conference at which orders were passed
from a commander to their subordinates. War Diaries from the Second World War
also refer to "Huddle Red" and "Huddle Green."
Officers holding an Orders
("O") Group in front of a Sherman tank of The Governor General's Foot
Guards, Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands, 6 November 1944. (LAC Photo)
probably of the 48th Highlanders of Canada, at an "O" (orders) group
during manoeuvres, England, ca. 1941.(LAC Photo)
was a military term used by the Canadian Army to denote the starting
positions for friendly units for an operation, such as an attack on enemy
positions. The term was replaced with Line of Departure (LOD) some
time after the Korean War.
speaking, the start line is that point at which the attacking element
crosses from friendly-held ground into unsecured ground. This is not to be
confused with the Assembly Area, where friendly forces are
collected, or the Forming Up Point (FUP), which is the secure area
in which the attacking force prepares for an attack. Once ready, the force
leaves the assembly area, may conduct a passage of lines, and crosses the
executed plan would include the Start Line (or LOD) being secure from
enemy observation and direct fire, but in actual practice, this was
sometimes not the case, causing delays. In some cases, fighting would have
to take place in order to secure the Start Line before the actual
operation could commence.
Assembly Areas and FUPs were of necessity physical features on the
ground whose occupation in time was variable, the SLs were to some
extent the opposite. They might be the line of a hedge or a stream but
they could equally be a tape laid down beforehand. Their purpose,
however, was of crucial importance to the accurate launching of an
attack. An attack was timed from the start line. When the first troops
crossed it, that was H-Hour: anything which took place beforehand was
called H-minus and afterwards H-plus. Phased movements and artillery
fire tasks were geared to H-Hour. The easy identification of the SL was
therefore its most important function wince movement within a precise
programme demanded accurate time keeping. And since troops had no need
to stop on the SL it was not a necessity that it should be out of sight
of the enemy, as was so essential with the Assembly Area and FUP. It had
also to be aligned at 90 degrees to the axis to impart correct
The term "passage of
lines" refers in miitary terms to a tactical enabling maneuver in which one unit
moved through another unit's positions with the intent of moving into or out of
enemy contact, generally as part of a larger operation. Commanders might conduct
a passage of lines to continue an attack or conduct a counterattack, and would
so so when their unit could not, for whatever reason, bypass another unit's
position. A passage of lines involved a transfer of responsibility for an area
of operations between two commanders, at a time determined either by higher
commanders or mutually by the unit commanders themselves.
In a military
operation, the Forming Up Point (FUP) (also seen as "Forming Up Place") was a
pre-designated area in which friendly troops were assembled in preparation for
that operation. This location was closer to the front line than the Assembly
Area. In general, this is a secure area, free from observation by enemy troops
if at all possible. Troops would then launch their attack from the FUP, crossing
the Start Line on the way to their objectives.
explains what an Armoured Regiment did in the FUP in the Second World War:
Infantry, traveling either in half-tracked armoured carriers or walking,
joined the tanks in the FUP and there memorized tank recognition marks and
finalized communication arrangements...from this moment onward the danger of
being hit by shell fire was omnipresent, for there was always the possibility
of enemy artillery bringing down speculative fire on possible forming up
places, picked from the map, in the hope of disrupting the beginning of an
expected attack. Hence the selection of FUPs was a matter for inspired
judgment. It was unwise to enter areas that were too obviously suitable for
the purpose: on the other hand it was useless selecting a place that did not
fulfill the demands of accessibility, that was too cramped or from which the
exits were so poor as to prevent quick deployment to the next tactical bound -
the Start Line (SL).2
The Assembly Area
was a pre-designated location in which troops/vehicles marshalling for an
attack were collected. For an Armoured Regiment in the Second World War, this
area would generally be from as far away as a few miles to as close as 3,000
yards to the front line.3
In the Assembly Area, final adjustments to weapons and vehicles, and topping
up with fuel after the approach march, took place while planning went on.
The regiment might stay in this location for a day or more, or perhaps just
a few hours, but once the next move forward began to the Forming Up Place,
in ground just out of sight of the enemy, halts would be shorter and
sometimes avoided altogether.4
Time of the Attack
terminology, D-Day was used to designate the starting date of an operation
during the Second World War. A specific time would be designated by H-Hour. This
convention was widely used in the Second World War, and the start of most major
operations was referred to as D-Day; for example D-Day for the invasion of
Sicily as 10 Jul 1943. The invasion of Normandy however, became synonymous with
the term, and often is used today to refer specifically to the landings in
Normandy on 6 Jun 1944. During the First World War, the standard terminology for
the start of an operation was Z-Day, with the starting time referred to as Zero
The following extract comes from an
operations order of 8th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 16th Irish Division:
FOR THE BATTLE OF MESSINES
8th R. INNISKILLING FUSILIERS.
OPERATION ORDER No.103 - 4.6.17. BY LIEUT.COLONEL T.H. BOARDMAN,D.S.O.
Referring to days -
"Z" Day is the day on which
operations take place.
One day before "Z"..............................."Y" day.
Two days before "Z".............................."X" day.
Three days before "Z"............................"W" day.
Four days before "Z"............................."V" day.
Five days before "Z"............................."U" day.
Days before "U" day will be
referred to as "Z" minus 6, "Z" minus 7, "Z" minus 8 etc.
(a) One day after
Two days after "Z"........"B" day.
Three days after "Z"......"C" day.
Days after "C" day will be referred to as "Z" plus 4, "Z" plus 5, "Z" plus
(b) Referring to hours on "Z"
day. Zero is the exact time at which operations will commence and times
will be designated in hours and minutes plus or minus from zero, even if
they encroach on "Y" day.
(c) In making reference to
times before and after which operations will take place symbols + or - are
not to be used. The word plus or minus is to be written in full. In
referring to times before of after Zero Hour, the words "Zero
plus........." or "Zero minus......" must be inserted, so as to prevent
possible confusion with clock time.
During the Second World War, the term
D-Day replaced "Z" Day. "Zero Hour" was replaced by "H-Hour".
Counting down to or up from D-Day was
accomplished by adding "plus" or "minus" and a figure afterwards. In Normandy,
for example, with 6 Jun 1944 being "D-Day", "D plus 2" refers to 8 Jun and "D
minus 2" refers to 4 Jun, etc.
Left Out of Battle
Left Out of Battle
(LOB) was a concept developed during the First World War and utilized
extensively by the Canadian Army during the 20th Century.
A system was
developed that allowed for infantry battalions to be rebuilt in the case of a
disastrous battle; if heavy casualties resulted from an action, key personnel
could be used as a cadre to reform around.
Before a major
action, these key personnel would be designated Left Out of Battle. If a company
commander led his company in an attack, his second in command would be left
behind at "B" Echelon. The system was instituted at all levels; if the CO was in
action, the second-in-command would be LOB. Individual rifle sections would
sometimes also designate one or two riflemen LOB.
Casualties, too, dictated how many
men could be put into a particular action.
First World War
An infantry battalion in the CEF
usually left 108 men LOB in any given action.
2 sergeants major
32 men, including 33% of
signalers and runners; bombing, gas, Lewis Gun instructors, and "other
instructors in special work"
each of 4 rifle companies
16 soldiers (4 from each platoon)
any other officers and personnel
as designated at the commander's discretion5
On The Objective
Once on the
objective, reorganization could occur. In the Second World War, the Canadians
found that the Germans very often pre-registered their own positions so that as
soon as they were lost, they could drop mortar fire onto them with accuracy - so
men moved off the objective to reorganize a short distance away. Each platoon
would take stock of ammunition and casualties, replenish, and most important -
dig in, because the Germans rarely let a position go without counterattacking
immediately, the idea being that the attacker was most vulnerable when
In a set piece attack, the attacking force might be relieved in place, or it
might have another battalion of the same brigade (or company of the same
battalion) "pass through", and they would fight for the next objective. In the
meantime, the ground was prepared for defence. In addition to the physical task
of digging in or improving positions (in the First World War this would involve
reversing the trench, adding a sandbagged parapet and fire step to the back of
what was the Germans' trench). This might involve "christening the ground" -
identifying landmarks on the horizon, for example, so as to call out target
indications rapidly in the event of an attack. Range cards, defensive fire
plans, liaison with the FOO, all might take place as part of this.
Friendly units would need to contact flanking units, lay signal wire to new
command posts, and send out carrying parties to bring up rations and ammunition
and water, not to mention sleeping gear/packs/greatcoats since this equipment
would be shed during the day and probably needed at night.
The Company Sergeant Major would need to establish a new casualty point, POW
point, and would need to find out where the Regimental Aid Post was located for
the battalion. He would organize new ammunition dumps with the regimental and
company quartermaster sergeants, and the platoon commanders would be briefed on
where everything was, including command posts for the companies. They would then
have to filter that information down to the men in the rifle sections so that if
someone was hit or sent back as a runner to pass on information or get more
ammunition, he knew where to go.
And then there were patrols - contact patrols, to find neighbouring units;
fighting patrols, usually section or even platoon sizes, to go make trouble and
keep the enemy off balance; recce patrols - 2 or 3 men sent off to find
information. All the while an infantry unit was in the line, patrolling was a
In the Nijmegen Salient, some units were in positions for days at a time, and
entire units rotated through the same positions for several weeks. A simple
trench might get very elaborate, with straw obtained from local barns to form a
floor; an old door could be used to build overhead cover - protection from rain
more than anything; a direct hit on your trench would still kill with the
concussion and a near miss might still turn insides to jelly.
Kenneth. Tank Tactics (Almark Publishing Co. Ltd., London, UK,
1976) ISBN 855242507 pp.29-32
Ibid, p. 29
Ibid, p. 28
Love, David W. A Call to
Arms: The Organization and Administration of Canada's Military in World War
One (Bunker to Bunker Books, Calgary, AB, 1999) ISBN 1894255038