Instruction of the Grenadier Group
Instruction of the small grenadier group was the basis of grenade fighting. Collective drill of the grenadiers focuses on two major factors. First, on teaching any group of grenadiers (and particularly the first group of every section) how to prepare a grenade fight and how to move into that kind of fighting rapidly, as soon as circumstances permit it. Second, on teaching how to carry out a raid by means of grenades. As a rule, the men in a grenadier group are divided for combat operations into: lanceurs ("throwers"), pourvoyeurs ("ammo-suppliers"), and aides ("aissistants"). Each grenadier must be able to play any one of these roles at a moments notice.
Since its formal constitution in mid-1916, the grenadier group was composed of a 7-man squad commanded by 1 corporal, the team leader. There were 2 grenadier squads in each company. Their dispostion was the following:
However, the squad could also fight in two teams of three grenadiers each (1 lanceurs, 1 pourvoyeur, 1 aide), one lead by the corporal and the other by the most energetic grenadier of the squad. On more important missions (such as taking an extensive strong-point), the group would often be commanded by a sergeant or grenadier officer. Sometimes a group would be assembled of all the grenadiers in the company or battalion. In such a case, the objective would be divided by the grenadier officer into separate, carefully chosen points. The group would then be divided up into detachments of 4-8 grenadiers, which would carry out their own separate, smaller fights against their specifically assigned objectives.
ROLE OF THE GROUP LEADER
The group leader (whether it be a 3-man team, 7-man squad, or a large 50-man detachment) conducts the grenade fight. He places his men according to their abilities, arranges them so as to avoid crowding in the trenches, organizes the relief of lanceurs and pourvoyeurs, and supervises the resupply of grenades. The group leader quickly seizes all opportunities for gaining ground. If advance becomes impossible, he keeps himself ready to fight for every foot of ground while multiplying the number barricades. The grenadier officer, being the commander of a more numerous group, has two essential tasks: reconnoitring the objective and arranging the groups or detachments, and assuring the supply for these detachments. It was the latter of these two tasks that required more energy, intelligence and iniative.
ROLE OF THE INDIVIDUAL GRENADIER IN A GRENADE FIGHT
The lanceurs must have their hands absolutely free so as to handle their grenades without difficulty. They therefore carry their rifle slung during the fight. However, lanceurs are not required to take their rifles when the fight is not to be pushed on too far, as in the carrying out of a raid. For their defense they are armed with a pistol and a trench knife.
The pourvoyeurs assure the continual supply of grenades to the lanceurs and replace disabled lanceurs. They are equipped in the same manner: rifle (slung), pistol and knife.
The aides are chosen from the most energetic and determined men. They must be good shots and skilled in the use of the bayonet. Their task is to maintain the security of the lanceurs. In a frontal attack out in the open, they advance on either side of the lanceurs and protect them with their fire. In the trenches, they precede the lanceurs and scout all the traverses and turnings, ready to stop any enemy counter-attack. They try to report the bursting points of the grenades, help to correct the fire, and warn the group leader as soon as it possible to advance. When progression becomes impossible, they advise their group leader. Without waiting for orders, they immediately construct a barricade of sandbags and whatever material they can put to use, and place themselves behind it, ready to fire. Lastly, in street fighting, they watch the doors and windows especially.
Apart from the exception of limited objective operations, such as a raid, all grenadiers must keep their rifles with them. This was particularly important in larger assaults, when the supply of grenades could not be assured and a grenadier would have to rely on his rifle to continue the fight.
Group exercises take place on a prepared ground. The men learn how to quickly split into aides, lanceurs and pourvoyeurs, and how to conduct himself in each of the combat circumstances described below. The men must always work in the greatest silence and ask questions or give orders by signs and gestures. It is far more important to have groups of ordinary grenadiers who are used to working together, than to have a few talented individuals. It must not be taken for granted that a man well-versed individually in the instruction of the grenade will function well in a group, as well. Grenadiers must be well-trained as a group and must be kept together in the same team when going into combat. Apart from training exercises, the grenadiers remain with their respective sections.
FORMATION OF GRENADIER GROUP GOING INTO COMBAT
The grenadier group uses the normal method of advance of patrols and recon parties. The group leader takes a position which he can best conduct his men. The aides are arranged in advance and on the flanks of the group in order to scout ahead and to protect the other grenadiers in case of an encounter with the enemy. While marching in the open, these groups advance in skirmishing order. The aides are distributed throughout the line and particularly on the flanks, so as to support the grenadiers. In case of an encounter with the enemy, the assistants scouting ahead fall back into line.
For more information on hand grenades, see the Tactical Use of the Hand Grenade page.