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A patrol harbour is used to provide security to a patrol when it halts for any extended period of time. This could be to avoid detection by enemy forces, to form a secure base from which to mount further operations, or to provide security for an administrative halt.

Patrol HarboursThere are two types of patrol harbours that can be used: linear and triangular. The most common form of harbour that is used is the triangular platoon harbour, and that is what this article will deal with.

The triangular platoon harbour ensures that:

  • Security is provided by LSW gunners at each corner of the triangle, and that an attack from any side can be defended against with at least two LSW gunners.
  • The command and control element is clear and easy to maintain, with a platoon headquarters in the centre of the harbour.
  • Administration of the platoon is easy, with a small, compact, shape and clearly defined structure.

Triangular Platoon Harbour Drills

The procedure for moving into a triangular platoon harbour can be divided into five distinct phases: the selection of the harbour site, it's subsequent occupation, clearing the area of enemy threat, maintaining security with sentries, and beginning the administrative and work effort.


A platoon harbour must be sited appropriately, and numerous factors must be considered in doing so.

This can be done through a number of methods, all relying on different forms of intelligence. This could be using a map, an aerial photograph, or directly on the ground. Ideally, as many different forms of intelligence would be used to build up a thoroughly accurate picture of the ground. Then, the following issues must be considered:

  • Mission: The mission must be considered in the siting of a harbour. Both the location and nature of planned operations must be considered.
  • Cover: There should be dense vegetation, to provide cover from both the ground and the air. Forests are ideal. 
  • Security: The location must be easily defendable. 
  • Resources: There must be a source of water nearby, however the possible proximity of other people (both enemy forces and civilians) to water sources must be considered.
  • Communications: There must be reception for communications from within the harbour area. Sometimes, it is not possible to check this until physically inside the area itself.
  • Access: There must be easy routes into the harbour, as well as out of it in case of attack.

However, take care to avoid obvious positions, areas and geographical features which may be used as routes or tracks, established routes such as roads and paths, and areas that are wet, boggy, or excessively steep.


Once a location has been chosen, there is an established drill for the occupation of the platoon harbour, which goes as follows:

The platoon will first ensure there are no enemy forces following them. The platoon will halt short of the area, and lay a snap ambush along their route of travel. If this is triggered by an enemy patrol, the location is potentially compromised, and the platoon will move on.

Assuming there is no contact with the enemy, the platoon commander and his reconnaissance group will enter the potential harbour site. The platoon sergeant will remain with the main body, in command. The reconnaissance group is comprised of:

  • Platoon commander
  • Platoon commander's runner
  • Platoon signaller
  • Section commanders
  • Section LSW gunners

The platoon commander will designate a platoon HQ, and mark the positions of 12, 4 and 8 o'clock on which the LSW gunners will be sited. They then occupy these positions. Meanwhile, the platoon signaller will ensure that reception is available from the position. This is vital to the harbour, and without it the harbour site must be moved. The platoon commander will then set the sides of the triangular harbour, and section commanders will locate individual sites for their section along these.

The runner will then return to the main group, and bring in the platoon in single file in the order of 1, 2, and 3 section. They will be met by their section commanders, who will show the section to their individual sites, and designate arcs of fire. Section commanders should be sited centrally within the section to ensure control, however they should also be able to see the platoon commander and their section 2i/c.

Layout of a Platoon Harbour

Grey arrows mark LSW positions, one chevron marks the section 2i/c, and two chevrons mark the section commander. The red diamond marks the platoon HQ.


Clearance Patrols

Once the harbour has been occupied, the surrounding area must be cleared to ensure it is safe, and clear of enemy threat.

The section commander or 2i/c will move out from their neighbouring LSW position. They move to the limit of visibility, and move along the front of their section, ensuring that they clear all of their arc. They then return through their own LSW position. During the patrol, the following is looked for:

  • Signs of recent enemy activity
  • Possible approach routes
  • Obstacles
  • Streams and dominating ground
  • Possible locations for an emergency rendezvous (ERV) point 


Once clearance patrols have been posted, security must be maintained through the posting of sentries.

Sentries should be posted to the limit of sound, out of the LSW position of each section. This ensures that they are able to detect enemy before the enemy can hear the platoon, and therefore act as early warning of a possible enemy threat. Communications should be established between the sentry position and the LSW position, and this is normally done with communication cord.

Sentries are posted in pairs, and take staggered duties. With this method of rostering, one sentry can fetch the next whilst the other remains on duty. This reduces the chance of a sleeping sentry, as well as breaking up the duty. 

There is more information on the duties of sentries here.

Work Routine

Once sentries have been posted, the basic security of the harbour has now been ensured. Work can then begin to strengthen the harbour, and the platoon can move into administration.

  • The harbour can be strengthened by digging shell scrapes for individuals, preparing stand-to positions, clarifying fields of fire, and fortifying of sentry positions.
  • The track plan should be created, with string or cord running round the length of the harbour to mark it. Knots should be tied at each basha site. The track should then be cleared of twigs, branches, and other obstacles. Remember possible obstacles at different heights - for example branches and twigs that could cause injury.
  • Communications within the harbour should be established from sentry positions to the LSW gunners and/or to the section commander, as well as from the section commanders to the platoon commander.
  • Shelters must be erected at last light, and removed before first light. However, in poor weather the platoon commander may choose to erect them at other times.
  • The platoon commander will oversee the operational routine and planning. He will deal with future taskings for patrols and further operations, and brief section commanders accordingly. A platoon ERV will be sited, and orders for the defence of the harbour will be issued.
  • The platoon sergeant will oversee the administrative routine. He should ensure supplies are available, and arrange for latrines to be dug and water supplies sited. 
  • Section 2i/cs should establish sentry rosters, and ensure sleeping, feeding, and weapon cleaning arrangements are made.

Maintaining Security

This is the responsibility of the platoon commander, and he must ensure that the harbour area remains protected and secure.

  • Sentries should be correctly posted and briefed on their duties. They should have methods of communication with their section
  • All round defence must be maintained.
  • Good battle discipline must also be maintained: the area must be camouflaged, with no light, noise, or smells coming from the harbour. Webbing and weapons should be carried at all times, and all items of kit that are not in current use must be packed away.
  • The harbour must remain compact and tightly grouped.
  • Clearance patrols should be sent out at first and last light on each day of occupation.
  • Movement around the harbour must be done along the track plan, and patrols should enter and exit the harbour in the same place and using the same method.

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