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Old 25 Sep 17, 17:30
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MikeMeech MikeMeech is offline
Gunnery Sergeant
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Clacton-on-Sea
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While what we would now call 'Strategic' and 'Operational' Intelligence was of immense use the 'Tactical' level of intelligence was also very useful and of more immediate use to the troops on the ground. Intelligence gained from aerial photos has been mentioned previously but the aeroplane was used to gather all sorts of 'Information' useful for Intelligence purposes. In the RFC/RAF it was the Corps Squadrons that gathered useful material as well as their artillery spotting etc. This role was actually included in SS131 'Co-operation of Aircraft with Artillery', the December, 1917 has it on page 45 'IX-Intelligence and Reports'. The nature of information was of two kinds; 1. Intelligence regarding the enemy's artillery, this included the location of batteries and observation stations, Activity of batteries and occupation of positions, Areas shelled by hostile batteries. 2. General intelligence, this included New works and trenches of every description, Movements on roads and railways, Location of dumps, billets and camps. The latter would be reported to the Branch Intelligence Officer (BIO) on the squadron while the artillery intelligence would be reported to the artillery liaison officer on the squadron. This information would not only be gathered on artillery patrols but also on 'Flash' patrols (looking out for flashes from enemy artillery) and 'Trench' or 'Line' patrols.
Of more immediate use to the troops was information gathered by the Counter Attack Patrol (CAP) machine during a battle. The Corps squadron would have a series of machines up all day to watch out for enemy counter attacks or their forces building up to undertake one. The CAP had been one of the tasks of the Contact Patrol (CP) machine during 1916, however, undertaking both tasks with one machine was asking a lot so during 1917 these tasks were gradually allotted to different machines (originally the term 'Special Contact Patrol' was often used). In minor engagements one aircraft could, if necessary undertake both tasks, however, for most battles it was separate. On spotting an enemy counter attack building up the aircraft would warn the infantry, by 1918 this was usually a red parachute flare dropped from the direction the counter-attack was coming (other methods were also used), the CAP machine would also wireless for artillery to fire on the enemy and/or undertake an attack with its bombs and machine guns on the enemy. In modern terms this could be classed as the 'STA' part of 'ISTAR', Surveillance and Target Acquisition. After August 1918 the CAP and CP machines could also send wireless calls to bring in more air support, via the Central Wireless Station and the newly introduced Central Information Bureau, on targets suitable for bombing and machine gunning. This was basically almost 'real time' use of intelligence on the battlefield. Although weather was always the biggest enemy for use of aircraft during WW1 and even later wars.

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