The Squad, Whistle, and Hand Signals
How to properly communicate in the field can make the difference between a successful movement and one that is doomed from the start. Below are key ways to communicate while on the ground or mounted in a vehicle.
How you move and communicate at an event is critical. Take time to learn and do it correctly.
In any army, the basic unit is the squad. The German Army calls its squads “Gruppen.” The Gruppe is structured to provide maximum flexibility under a wide variety of situations. The average size varies between 8 and 18 men. The basic unit structure is as follows:
Gruppenführer – He is the leader of the squad. His duties include looking after the squad members and making sure that all weapons are functioning and that ammunition supplies are adequate. During combat, he is responsible for the coordination of rifle fire and the direction of fire from the light machine gun crew. In addition to the basic field gear, he carries an MP40 with pouches, binoculars, compass, whistle, sunglasses, flashlight, and map case.
Truppführer – He is the assistant squad leader. His duties include leading the rifle section, taking over if the Gruppenführer is incapacitated, grenade preparation and expenditure, and keeping in contact with platoon HQ and other sections. In addition to his basic field gear, he carries binoculars, a flashlight, and sunglasses.
Light Machine Gunner #1 – He fires the LMG and is responsible for it’s maintenance. His special equipment includes a LMG with drum, MG tool kit, pistol, flashlight, and sunglasses.
Light Machine Gunner #2 – He assists in the firing and maintenance of the LMG as well as looking after the ammunition. He helps set up the gun for action, and takes his position to the left of the gunner. In addition to his regular gear he carries one spare barrel case, four snail drum magazines, one ammunition box with 300 rounds, one spare sling, pistol, and sunglasses.
Light Machine Gunner #3 – He is responsible for keeping track of ammunition preparation and expenditure. In combat his position is to the rear of the gunner. He inspects the snail drums and ammunition to make sure it is all in good working order. In addition to his basic gear he carries a 98k rifle, a spare MG barrel with case, two ammunition boxes with 300 rounds each, and one spare MG sling.
Riflemen – The backbone of the squad. In addition to their rifles, they sometimes use special equipment such as grenade launchers, sniper scopes, anti-tank weapons, explosive charges, and smoke grenades. They carry the standard German Army field gear plus some of the previously mentioned special weapons.
The Open Order
This is one of the most important sections for field service! Learn this!
There were two basic formations for the open order. The Schützenreihe or Indian line, and the Schützenkette, or skirmish line.
The Schützenreihe was used to move the squad across terrain before small arms combat was actually joined. The men were front to back, with the squad leader in front, followed by the MG gunner, and the assistant squad leader at the end. The interval in this formation was called Abstand and was five paces unless otherwise ordered.
There were two ways to get the squad into a skirmish line. If the squad was to keep moving but the leader wanted all his men to be able to use their weapons, he would order Schützenkette. The MG gunner, his assistant, and the grenade launcher grenadier form the center of the line. The first half of the riflemen then fan out to the right of the MG, the second half fan out to the left. (The actual division was left up to the squad leader) The assistant squad leader winds up on the left of the line. The formation would then keep moving, and always dresses itself on the MG. The interval in this formation was called Zwischenraum and was five paced unless otherwise ordered.If the squad leader wanted his men to take up stationary positions in preparation for opening fire, he would spread out both of his arms along the line he wanted his men to occupy and order Stellung! The MG gunner selects a suitable spot for his team, and the first half of the riflemen fan out right, the second half left, again, forming up on the MG. All the men take cover in these positions and prepare to open fire.
Important: It is vital that every man can see the men on either side of him. Close up the interval in the woods or thick
The command to reassemble is “Sammeln!”, and the squad reassembles in Reihe formation.
There are other methods to initiate these formations other than verbal commands. At present, the new recruit need only know verbal commands, but the other three methods are; hand signals, light signals, and whistle signals.
Arm and Whistle Signals
The German Army recognized the importance of communication, both audible and silent, during combat operations. The following diagrams should assist the recruit in learning the basics of squad communication during combat