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Wartime Instructions to Guerilla Forces c 1939

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Military Instructions

By the Book!

Despite the advent of the twentieth century there were detailed regulations for the army, nothing was taken for chance and every army officer was expected to carry his book of regulations which laid down clear rules of what actions to take and in what situations it was possible to engage the enemy.

A new style of warfare

Guerilla tactics were a fairly new style of warfare, first seen in the actions of the Boers in South Africa at the turn of the century and later in the Russian and Spanish Civil wars. A group of men were commissioned by the British government to prepare rule books for these anticipated Guerilla forces, operating deep behind enemy lines. The authors faced fundamental problems in devising these books in that guerilla tactics involved informal abnormal actions and required a different type of guidance to the regular soldier their mission and one they succeeded at, was to produced rules that could be adapted to a huge variety of situations.

The text books!

Three pamphlets were written to train guerilla forces . "The Art of Guerilla Warfare" and "Partisan Leaders Handbook" by Sir Colin Gubbins and "How to use high explosives" by Sir Millis Jefferis. These pamphlets were distributed during the war throughout  Europe and South East Asia. They were translated into at  east sixteen languages reflecting the passage of the war- Burmese, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Malay, Norwegian, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, Slovak, Slovene and Thai. The pamphlets were published as "Crown copyright" but were never published in the United Kingdom and to my knowledge never have been.

Memorial to a French Resistance Hero
Credit: By Ji-Elle (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Surprise suggested

In the "Art of Guerilla warfare" the need for surprise was stressed and for the placing of small groups of men near the enemies weak points to that quick effective surprise attacks could be made. A guerilla was advised to plan his retreat before his attack and make use of all locally placed intelligence using weapons that were useful at short range as that is where they could expect the action to come from. Chilling advice was given for dealing with Informers- kill them and do it quickly!


The "Partisan Leaders Handbook" gave advice on leadership styles namely that of the British army. It's theory of sound leadership was "never tell anyone to do anything you cannot (or dare not) do yourself". This explains why many resistance leaders exhibited the style of "leadership from the front".

Explosive advice

The demolition handbook gave guidance tips for destruction. The pamphlet identified easy targets for the saboteur, a car, lorry of bus was suggested as a good target with explosives paced under the axles. Railway services could easily be disrupted by blowing tram line or railway line points and communications could be totally disrupted in an area by bowing the telephone junction box. A really useful tip was that if you were trying to disable for example, a fleet of lorries disable the same part on each lorry so that none of the lorries could be used as spare parts for the others.!

Distance Learning

These pamphlets were the equivalent of current day Distance Learning. The pamphlets provided the majority of training for Guerilla forces in Occupied countries and set examples of the type oc actions that could be taken by a resisting population.



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