Been doing some research for a project involving snipers in the First World War. Anyone even casually exploring this topic will run across the remarkable Maj. Hesketh Vernon Hesketh-Prichard.
Prichard was instrumental in developing British sniper technique and doctrine, turning the tables on the Germans, who dominated the trenches through most of 1915 with their sharpshooters armed with Mausers and good German optics.
Hesketh-Prichard was an author, conservationist, cricketer of notable ability, an explorer, and most of all, a big game hunter. His knowledge of fieldcraft and his grasp of the poorly-understood workings of telescopic sights made him an invaluable asset to the British and Canadian troops who were literally getting their heads handed to them by the superior German sniping program.
Hesketh-Prichard developed all kinds of doctrine, from concealment to spotting, and he developed tricks like using a dummy head hoisted above the trenches to draw and pinpoint fire.
By 1916, he had a thriving sniping school going, and the British sniping program dominated No Man’s Land. Counter-sniping capabilities developed under Hesketh-Prichard’s tutelage saved thousands of lives.
His book “Sniping in France” is a classic and it’s available on Wikisource.
The hunter had a keen appreciation of the nature of “The Scout.” He understood the sniper’s critical role as an observer and “scout” work was an integral part of his training program.
Though he was not a frontiersman, Hesketh-Prichard was close kin, and deserves to be considered a Frontier Partisan. Below is an excerpt of his treatise on The Modern Scout, which tips the hat to one of the great Frontier Partisans, Frederick Russell Burnham. The sense of continuity mixed with practical and technological adaptation appeals to me; it’s a guiding principle of Frontier Partisans:
IN all previous wars, the scouts and patrols have had their own special place. In this, the greatest of all wars, although there was much scouting done—far more than in any previous war— yet in many respects it was of so different a nature that a new era in these practices may fairly be said to have set in.
In former wars, the individual scout had far more chance. In the Boer War, for instance, Major F. R. Burnham, D.S.O., an American who held a commission in the British Army, made a wonderful name for himself, as did Dan Theron on the Boer side.
First and last, I suppose that Burnham was the greatest scout of our time. Physically a small man, he was amazingly well knit, and very strong, and his many feats of hardihood owed much to his compact and untiring build. His name will live on account of two feats—the first, his passing through the entire Matabele Army and shooting the M’limo, the witch doctor, who was responsible for the Matabele War ; and the second, his dash through the Boer lines, when he blew up the railway on the far side of Pretoria.
The first article of Burnham’s faith was absolute physical fitness, and his idea of physical fitness was much more rigorous than that of most athletes. It was not with him a matter of merely keeping his muscles of speed and endurance in good fettle, but —what is a much harder thing—the keeping of all his senses at their highest pitch of efficiency. Thus, apart from his hearing and eyesight, which were very keen, I have never met anyone else, except one Indian, who possessed anything like his sense of smell. He could smell a small fire in the open at an extraordinary distance, and he told me that this power had often been of the greatest value to him.
But Burnham was essentially, as a scout, the product of what may be called a savage, or extra-European War, and in this war there was no one on either side who had anything like the same opportunities of hand-to-hand work. Whereas it would perhaps be too much to say that the day of Burnham has passed for ever, yet it is true enough that a new generation of scouts has arisen, whose work, or much of it, has been of a very different nature. In open or semi-open warfare a scout may still be ordered to go by day or night, and find out if this or that village is occupied by the enemy, but once trench warfare sets in, and the battle fronts of the opposing armies stretch from the sea to Switzerland, the work of the scout undergoes great changes. His theatre of action is No Man’s Land, which comprises all the area between the two armies which are drawn up one against the other.
Hesketh-Prichard’s health was broken by the war, though the underlying problem may have been malaria contracted during his pre-war explorations. He did not live long past publication of “Sniping in France.” His doctrine would be revived during the Second World War and remains sound in many of its principles even today. Of course, Hesketh-Prichard would have embraced innovation, both in tactics and technology. A bridge between eras, Hesketh-Prichard was a pioneer of modern sniping and a great Frontier Partisan.