In this lesson, we will look at patrol harbours, sometimes known as platoon harbours. In particular we will look at the triangular harbour, ideal for use by a platoon wishing to; create a base from which to mount further operations, give security which they conduct administration after long periods of activity, or to act as a rendezvous before or after movement into enemy infiltrated areas. While we see why the triangular harbour is ideal for platoon strength formations, it can also be used for smaller groups. The benefits that a triangular harbour area bring are:
- It provides all round defence (ARD)
- With light machine guns mounted on the corners, there are always two guns capable of covering each side of the triangle. This is called mutual support.
- With the platoon headquarters located in the centre of the triangle, this allows for easy command and control of the platoon.
- The simple and compact layout enables efficient administration, such as replenishing rations or ammunition.
A well rehearsed Platoon should be able to occupy a harbour area in silence. The process adopted by a formation in their approach to patrol harbour forms part of their Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs). There can be many variations, and what is explained here is only one option.
Video Lesson Part I
Part I Summary
- A triangular harbour has a number of benefits:
- All round defence
- Mutual support
- Ease of command and control
- Ease of administration
- There are 5 stages or phases to a patrol harbour:
- Clearance Patrols
- Work Routine
Phase 1: Selection
- An area must be chosen considering the following:
- Good routes in and out
- Good cover from view from the air and ground
- Easily defended from enemy attack
- Good communications with neighbouring forces and Company HQ
- Away from sites of human habitation to avoid accidental discovery
- Access to fresh running water
- Avoid obvious positions
- Avoid any known previous enemy positions
- Avoid natural routes for people or animals
- Avoid roads, tracks or paths
- Avoid wet areas
- Avoid slopes and valleys where water can collect
- Information on the selection of a patrol harbour can come from maps, aerial images, previous patrol reports, or from reconnaissance patrols.
- A platoon is a formation led by a Platoon Commander, of the rank Lieutenant. It is made up of three sections (1 Section, 2 Section, 3 Section) each led by a Corporal Section Commander.
- The Platoon Commander is assisted by a Platoon Sergeant, and each Section Commander has a Second in Command (or 2IC) who is a Lance Corporal.
- Each section has 8 members in it.
- The Platoon has a Headquarters consisting of a Platoon Commander, Platoon Sergeant, a Signaller and a runner (this persons role is as a messenger, but they also provide protection to the Platoon HQ).
- A Platoon based on 3 sections and the HQ will have 28 members.
Phase 2: Occupation
- The Platoon will patrol in an Order of March (OOM) which will be; 1 Section, HQ, 2 Section, 3 Section.
- When the Platoon is near the patrol harbour site, they will break track and form a snap ambush. This will be in the form of a triangle to provide ARD. The snap ambush will allow the Platoon to ensure they were’t followed, and provides security while the Platoon Commander completes their final recce of the site.
- The Platoon Commander recce party will consist of:
- Platoon Commander
- 1 Section IC
- 2 Section IC
- 3 Section IC
- In the snap ambush, the Platoon Sergeant is left in charge of the Platoon, while the Section 2ICs are responsible for their sections.
- On the recce, the Platoon Commander will be doing the following:
- Checking the suitability of the site they have chosen
- Conducting a radio check to ensure they have clear communications
- Identifying the 6 o’clock position to become the established route in and route out from the harbour
- Establishing an outline track plan, and allocating each section their arcs
- The Platoon Commander will call for the remainder of the Platoon to be brought forward. The runner and one of the Section Commanders from the recce will return to the snap ambush and guide the Platoon in, all at once, in single file, through the 6 o’clock position.
- When they enter the harbour area, each section will be met by their Section Commander who will guide them along the track plan, allocating basha positions and arcs of fire.
- Each member of the Platoon will remove their bergans or patrol packs, lie them on the ground, and get into a fire position covering the arcs allocated upon occupation. These are their “stand to” positions. A Platoon that is “stood to” is at high alert.
Video Lesson Part II
Part II Summary
Phase 3: Clearance Patrols
- Two person patrol to clear the arcs of fire from each section, often led by the Section Commander of 2IC along with another member of the Section.
- Depart from the neighbouring section apex, returning through their own.
- Patrol out to the limit of sight and sound to ensure the full arc is covered.
- There clearance patrol will report to the Platoon Commander if:
- Signs of enemy activity are spotted
- There are routes that an enemy may possibly approach from
- Any previously unidentified obstacles, or ground features
- Possible locations for an Emergency Rendezvous (ERV) in the event the Platoon has to evacuate the patrol harbour
If it is close to last light or it is already dark, the Platoon Commander may wish to delay clearance patrols until the next day; but only if the Platoon will remain in the harbour.
Phase 4: Sentries
- Sentries are the Platoon early warning for enemy approach.
- At night, sentry positions will be at the apexes of the harbour, and will be double manned.
- During daytime, sentries will be pushed out further to the limit of sound to minimise distractions from the harbour. An inner sentry can be posted during daytime at each apex, to act as a link with the outer sentry position.
- Communication between the sentries and harbour is by a communications cord or comms cord. This is a silent way of signalling the approach of an enemy. This will be laid as soon as the work routine phase starts.
Phase 5: Work Routine
- Prepare Platoon stand-to positions in front of each Section position.
- A track plan or path will be established to allow silent movement around the harbour.
- Pairs establish their shelters and build their bashas. These are typically erected just before last light, and will be packed away before first light, or lowered during daylight if the weather conditions are bad.
- It’s important that the Platoon know what their orders are to call a “stand to” or open fire to defend the harbour.
- The Platoon Commander will establish a routine that will include:
- Cleaning weapons
- Personal admin (washing)
- Resupply of water, food, ammunition