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Some reconnaissance thoughts, and Carrier platoon recon SOP

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The kind of tactical-level recce that is possible in your usual CM scenario tends to be hasty and ad hoc.

Clearly, the main objectives in the recon phase of a CM battle would be to find enemy positions, and in particular enemy assets - Armour, AT Guns and ATGM's in the modern titles.

Armour is easy to spot, as are planned fortifications (whether they should be is a different argument). The real difficulty comes in spotting a well sited anti-tank asset, which tend to be quiet, and have no reason to give themselves away.

Relying on eyeballs and binoculars to spot the enemy works well if they are moving - e.g., in meeting engagements and defensive positions - but is less effective if the enemy are static and you are planning an attack. In this "passive" sense, the right positions are those overlooking likely lines of advance, with decent concealment, and sticking short arcs on the scouts to hold their fire. Recon vehicles in this case are mostly used to move the scouts up to a defilade position, where they can dismount and sneak forwards. Clearly, the extra mobility can be extremely useful here, both for deep deployment, and getting out of there when things start getting hairy.

A recon team with access to radios and in good C2 is very important, since half of their purpose is to clue in the player to the enemy dispositions, and the other half is to give the TacAI a hand, by passing around spotting information.

The problem with the above is that this passive option doesn't help with finding quiet, static assets, such as AT guns.

It seems to me that the active options available are to use recon by fire, or to actively infiltrate likely positions ("recon by face", if you like). Both will expose the scout team to danger, and both will need a plan for extraction. Dedicated recon teams tend to have disproportionate amounts of firepower (especially SMG's), so clearly they are equipped to win fire superiority in a close ranged, limited engagement, with presumably the intent of breaking contact as soon as possible (e.g., sprinting back to the vehicles).

The element that actually makes contact shouldn't be alone - a supporting scout team should be in close contact at all times, to spot whatever the first blunders into. This second unit might also carry the radio set, or a third unit may be needed for that communication.

What I'm currently musing is how sensible active infiltration could be. Recon by fire is certainly a good idea, but it does mean revealing the scout's position, so they'll have to relocate. Actually trying to sneak up to within 100m or so of the enemy seems extremely risky, but I'm not sure if there's a better way to uncover hidden AT guns and the like (and clearly, not spotting that 88 in the woods and losing a platoon of Shermans is more of a risk than losing a recon team or two).

So... the carrier platoon in Commonwealth units.

Carrier platoons are versatile, odd things, but one of their functions is recce, embedded at the battalion level. That means that C2 sharing is easy, since they already exist as part of the existing command structure. A carrier platoon is three carrier sections, and an HQ.

A carrier section is three carriers, with a huge amount of firepower. Dismounted, they carry three Bren guns, a two inch mortar and a PIAT (so, approximately the same firepower as an entire platoon of rifles), and have 9-10 men in the section, with organic access to tracked transport, some limited armour protection and some extra ammunition.

Only the HQ unit of the section has binoculars and a radio set, so the section has to keep in close contact, and can't wander off.

I think that one section should be sufficient for a given recon task. Multiple sections can be employed, but they will likely be independent of each other.. 

This means that I think the SOP for any kind of active recon - or recon in contact generally, would be something like:

(HQ - Bren, 1st team - Bren/Mortar, 2nd team Bren/PIAT)

- HQ unit has a covered arc to hold fire.

- 1st and 2nd teams advance a little, or recon by fire, and end up making contact. 1 is spotting whilst 2 is moving, and the HQ is spotting for both.

- Break contact drill (possibly every time). 1st and 2nd team lay down suppressive Bren fire, with the mortar laying smoke on the target. The HQ unit is relaying spotting data up the chain.

- Once the smoke has developed (probably inside of a minute), the HQ unit starts suppressing with their Bren, allowing both teams (one at a time) to extract to somewhere out of LOS (probably back to the carriers), followed by the HQ team themselves.

That seems like a decent use of their capabilities to me - their comparative lack of radios and optics, coupled with disproportionate firepower and cross-terrain mobility.

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"...the extra mobility can be extremely useful here, both for deep deployment..."

I love the sneaking around recon aspect when a scenario allows for it.  But, nearly all CM2 maps are too small for effective use of recon vehicles.  CM1 was much better in that regard as it became more common to see 8Km x 4Km maps.


"...Only the HQ unit of the section has binoculars..."  Always amazes me in a late WW2 setting.  Brits are SO stingy.

Edited by Erwin
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In WWI the Allies found themselves almost entirely dependent on German optical glass, and therefore critically short until Bausch & Lomb redressed the balance through heroic efforts.


In WW2 the deficiency was more qualitative.  Zeiss had revolutionized optics with coatings in the 1930s - but that edge doesn't seem to have lasted past 1943. Some good tidbits below for those interested, especially the stuff about T34 sights surprising Aberdeen testers:  





I can't find a reference, but I would expect Britain still had a limited domestic optics industry in 1939, and with the total loss of Continental supplies found herself having to make do with less here, as in so many other areas. Hardly a matter of choice or neglect.

I'm sure this topic has been treated in these forums too, btw, but I am getting weary of the new Search function missing stuff I know full well is there.

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37 minutes ago, LongLeftFlank said:

I'm sure this topic has been treated in these forums too, btw, but I am getting weary of the new Search function missing stuff I know full well is there.

Yes, the on-forum search doesn't work for some reason. But usually Google finds what I'm looking for. In this case, these two threads:





Edited by Bulletpoint
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