A PIONEER BATTALION. ITS DUTIES IN THE FIELD. By Captain G. Patterson. Prior to the present war a Pioneer Battalion was not part of the estab- lishment of the British Army, but the Indian Establishment allowed for that unit. The technical work of a division was carried out by the Engineer Field Coys., of which there are three per division (i.e. one per brigade). It was found that owing to the peculiarities of the war of trenches, it was impossible to cope with the work required. The late Lord Kitchener first saw the advantage of having strong mobile bodies of technically trained men, who could construct work cited by its own officers. This was not always the case with Engineer Companies, who are not sufficiently strong to construct work of a large nature, and had to call on Infantry working parties to do the work under their supervision. This method was found unsatisfactory, as the Infantry were usually holding the line, or at- tacking enemy positions, and, conse- quently, could not always be relied on to do work which is quite as neces- sary as their own, but requires a cer- tain amount of skill and labor. Again, it was considered that a unit doing its own work, under its own officers, would become more efficient, and have an esprit-de-corps, which would mate- rially assist it in its own sphere, which could not be expected of isolated parties from Infantry, working under an engineer officer or N.C.O. So the Pioneer Battalion came into being. Like all reforms, the forming of a Pioneer Battalion, until its role became known, caused a lot of com ment, often not too favorable. The general idea seemed to be that a Pioneer Battalion would be a glorified Sanitary Section, and that its duties would mainly be cleaning up after other units, salving stores, and general scavengers, and many semi-amused, semi-slighting remarks were made, when the order was issued for Aus- tralian Pioneer Battalions to be form ed, but in place of slighting remarks there is now unstinted praise, and, like "The Village Preacher," by Oliver Goldsmith. "Those who came to scoff remained to pray." The work of a Pioneer Battalion has two phases-one in an attack, another in defence. In an attack where enemy positions are taken, it is of vital im- portance that the captured positions are at once consolidated. The Infan- try are busy digging themselves in and repelling the inevitable counter attack, and cannot give the time to preparing of roads for guns, ammuni- tion, water, etc., to be brought up. So a Pioneer Battalion (there is one to every Division) gets busy, and among its tasks are the following:-Construc- tion of strong posts, corduroy roads, mule tracks, light tramways, com- munication trenches, bridging ex- pedients over streams and shell-torn and mined roads, arranging and regu- lating water supply, providing and erecting direction posts and signs, formation of engineer dumps for the supply of revetting stores, etc., for the front line, repairing captured dug- outs and making them suitable for Company, Battalion, or Brigade Head quarters, and any other necessary job. The enemy usually shells lines of communication, immediately behind the line, heavily during a "stunt" (i.e. fight), and, consequently, the casual- ties of a Pioneer Battalion, while not as heavy as those of assaulting troops, are very severe, and, unfortunately, a large percentage result in loss of life or permanent disablement. In Defence the role of the "SOUVENIRS," as we are sometimes jocularly called, is different. It some- times happens that the enemy has a numerical advantage, and decides to force the issue. Then Pioneers may be called in to act as fighting-troops, and assist to repel the attack. If this is not necessary, they con- struct new lines and erect wire en- tanglements, mine roads and bridges, assist in moving guns, etc. Pioneers are trained as fighting troops, and have the same organisa- tion as such, viz., Bombers, Machine Gunners, Signallers, etc., and each man is trained in the use of his rifle and bayonet, and can use them both with good effect. Artillery and Infantry usually take very heavy toll of the enemy, but usually a Pioneer Battalion or an Engineer Coy. carry on under heavy shell fire, and cannot return the doubt- ful compliment, and many admiring comments have been made by the above-mentioned units at the way the "Souvenirs" and "Ginger Beers" stick it under adverse circumstances. At times, however, they have their "day out." For instance, at Bullecourt, in the early part of 1917, when the enemy was attacking very heavily, Pioneer rifles and machine guns inflicted severe casualties. In other ways the Pioneers have also proved their worth. For instance, in the above-mentioned stunt, and again at Ypres in 1917, one battalion earned great praise for its work in taking forward ammunition, and as stretcher-bearers, and many a brave Infantry man owes his life to the valuable services of the Pioneers on these occasions. These facts should tell what a Pioneer Battalion is, what its duties are, and how it does them. It has made good: it has come to stay, and is now recognised as an essential and extremely useful member of an army in the field.