Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sailors Training For Land Battles, 1915

These pictures show recruits at Norfolk’s St. Helena Naval Training Station, 1915.  The sailors are conducting a series of drills and mock battles for the public.  For much of its early history, the Navy frequently assembled Sailors from the ship’s company and a ship’s Marine detachment into armed landing parties.  By World War I, the Navy was training sailors at shore installations in the latest doctrines in small arms tactics.    The Sailors operating under guidelines set for by the Landing Force and Small Arms Tactics manual.  First published in 1905, the manual closely followed the U.S. Army’s Infantry Drill Regulations.  Among other pieces of advice, the Navy’s manual provided instructions on how to climb a wall as a group, how to handle unarmed mobs, and how to clear a street riot.   With the onset of World War I, the Navy updated the manual and renamed it the Landing Force Manual.  It remained in print through the 1950s.
Sailors in these pictures are using the Lee Straight Pull Rifle (formally known as the “Lee Rifle, Model of 1895, caliber 6-mm”).  Though the Navy had adopted the more modern Winchester Springfield rifle by 1915, the Lee Rifle was still being used by training platoons.  The artillery gun is believeved to be a 3-inch field gun.
St. Helena Naval Training Station was located in the Berkley section of Norfolk, across the Elizabeth River from Norfolk Naval Shipyard.  The Navy stood up the facility in the 1890s as a boot camp for Navy recruits.  The facility was soon considered to be too small to accommodate the thousands of new recruits needed for World War I.  By 1917, the recruits were moved to the new Naval Operating Base Hampton Roads (modern-day Naval Station Norfolk). 

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