Orders issued to a reconnaissance battalion or its patrols normally contain,
in addition to the mission, the following:
• Departure route
• Information concerning adjacent reconnaissance units
• Sector boundaries or direction of operation.
• Phase lines.
• Instructions for transmission of reports and codebooks.
• Location of immediate objectives whose attainment is to be reported.
• Instructions regarding air-ground liaison.
• Time of departure, route, and objective of the main force.
• Return route including alternative
Objectives are clearly defined, and nothing is allowed to interfere with the patrol’s main purpose. “If enemy forces are met, action should be avoided unless the force is so weak that it can be destroyed without diverting the patrol from its main task”. Manuals from the period encouraged these small aggressive tactics. Yet in reality well-disciplined crews would avoid engagements altogether, which would in so doing alert the enemy to their presence.
When a motorized reconnaissance unit expects contact with the enemy, it advances by leaps and bounds. The length of bounds depends on the cover the terrain offers as well as on the road network. As the distance from the enemy decreases, the bounds are shortened; the patrol may be reinforced with either self-propelled guns or occasionally with tanks, as is the case of one notable GD engagement. A patrol is never split up, but in open country distances between cars may be as much as 100 to 200 metres, depending on the cover provided by the terrain. In the case of wheeled reconnaissance vehicles roads are utilized as for as long as possible and habitually different routes for the advance and the return are employed. Engineers and motorcyclists may be attached to the patrol to deal with roadblocks and demolitions. At roadblocks, procedure dictates that the leading car opens fire. If fire is not returned, men quickly dismount and go forward to attach tow-ropes to the roadblock. If necessary, the patrol dismounts and proceeds with machine guns to reconnoitre on foot. While scouting woods, a favourite German ruse is to drive the leading car towards its edge, halt briefly to observe, and then drive off rapidly in a faint, hoping to draw enemy fire that will divulge the enemy positions.
When the reconnaissance battalion commander sends out his patrols their distance in front of the battalion usually depends on the situation, the terrain, and the range of the signal equipment, but as a rule they would not more than an hour's travelling distance (about 30 km) ahead of the battalion and the patrol will be equipped for missions lasting one to two days only. The battalion serves as the reserve for the patrols and at the same time as an advance message centre (Meldekopf), collecting the messages and relaying them to the rear parent formation. A typical armoured reconnaissance patrol unit could be comprised of armoured cars, armoured half-tracks and or motorcycles, but the exact composition depends on their mission, the situation and availability of vehicles in the battalion. Motorcycles are often employed to fill in gaps and intervals, thereby thickening the reconnaissance net. Historically German Reconnaissance Battalions were heavily influenced from the outset by their ‘Hussar’ cavalry background. Their order of battle contained all the elements, which were present in the cavalry brigades predating the Great War, but reflected in a modern expression. Instead of horses there were armoured cars; in place of footsore jaegers there was a motorcycle machine-gun element; vehicle-drawn howitzers and anti-tank guns had replaced the horse artillery; and the assault pioneers, concerned mainly with bridging, were also now mechanised.
Sectors of responsibility were assigned to each reconnaissance battalions with boundary lines separating adjacent units if this was necessary. It should be noted that units as a rule avoided using main roads as boundary lines because these were likely avenues of approach by the enemy since roads often naturally follow more negotiable terrain, so defining the sectors in such a way that main roads fall within the reconnaissance sectors and that bad ground or in hospitable features act as the border area as these are less likely avenues of attack, thus requiring reduced resources for observation. The width of a sector may be determined by the situation, the type and strength of the reconnaissance battalion, the road network, and the terrain. But in general, the width of a sector assigned to a motorized reconnaissance battalion would not exceed 40 km.