The Info List - Defensive Fighting Position

A defensive fighting position (DFP) is a type of earthwork constructed in a military context, generally large enough to accommodate anything from one man to a small number of soldiers.


1 Terminology 2 History

2.1 Tobruk

3 Modern designs 4 See also 5 Notes 6 References 7 External links

Terminology[edit] Tobruk
type positions are named after the system of defensive positions constructed, initially, by the Italian Army at Tobruk, Libya. After Tobruk
fell to the Allies in January 1941, the existing positions were modified and significantly expanded by the Australian Army which, along with other Allied forces, reused them in the Siege of Tobruk. A foxhole is one type of defensive strategic position. It is a "small pit used for cover, usually for one or two men, and so constructed that the occupants can effectively fire from it".[1] It is known more commonly within United States Army
United States Army
slang as a "fighting position" or as a "ranger grave". It is known as a "fighting hole" in the United States Marine Corps, a "gun-pit" in Australian Army terminology, and a "fighting pit" in the New Zealand Army. In British and Canadian military argot it equates to a range of terms including slit trench, or fire trench (a trench deep enough for a man to stand in), a sangar (sandbagged fire position above ground) or shell scrape (a shallow depression that affords protection in the prone position), or simply—but less accurately—as a "trench". During the American Civil War
American Civil War
the term "rifle pit" was recognized by both U.S. Army and Confederate Army
Confederate Army
forces. A protected emplacement or concealed post in which one or several machine guns are set up is known in U.S. English as a machine gun nest.[2] History[edit]

An Indian Wehrmacht volunteer in a Tobruk
DFP along the Atlantic Wall, 1944

During the fighting in North Africa (1942–43), U.S. forces
U.S. forces
employed the shell scrape. This was a very shallow excavation allowing one man to lie horizontally while shielding his body from nearby shell bursts and small arms fire.[3][4] The slit trench soon proved inadequate in this role, as the few inches of dirt above the soldier's body could often be penetrated by bullets or shell fragments. It also exposed the user to assault by enemy tanks, which could crush the man inside a shallow slit trench by driving into it, then making a simple half-turn.[5] After the Battle of Kasserine Pass
Battle of Kasserine Pass
(early 1943), U.S. troops increasingly adopted the modern foxhole, a vertical, bottle-shaped hole that allowed a soldier to stand and fight with head and shoulders exposed.[4][6] The foxhole widened near the bottom to allow a soldier to crouch down while under intense artillery fire or tank attack.[4] Foxholes could be enlarged to two-soldier fighting positions, as well as excavated with firing steps for crew-served weapons or sumps for water drainage or live enemy grenade disposal. Tobruk[edit]

German VK 3001H prototype turret mounted on "Tobruk" at Omaha Beach, June 1944

protecting the entrance to the bunker that now houses the Channel Islands Military Museum. This turret from a Renault R35
Renault R35
was originally employed on a Tobruk
at Saint Aubin's Fort, Jersey.

The Germans used hardened fortifications in North Africa and later in other fortifications, such as the Atlantic Wall, that were in essence foxholes made from concrete. The Germans knew them officially as Ringstände; the Allies called them "Tobruks" because they had first encountered the structures during the fighting in Africa.[7] Frequently, the Germans put a turret from an obsolete French or German tank on the foxhole. This gave the Tobruk
enhanced firepower and the gunner protection from shrapnel and small arms. Modern designs[edit] Modern militaries publish and distribute elaborate field manuals for the proper construction of DFPs in stages. Initially, a shallow "shell scrape" is dug, much like a very shallow grave, which provides very limited protection. Each stage develops the fighting position, gradually increasing its effectiveness, while always maintaining functionality. In this way, a soldier can improve the position over time, while being able to stop at any time and use the position in a fight. Typically, a DFP is a pit or trench dug deep enough to stand in, with only the head exposed, and a small step at the bottom, called a fire step, that allows the soldier to crouch into to avoid fire and tank treads. The fire step usually slopes down into a deeper narrow slit called a grenade sump at the bottom to allow for live grenades to be kicked in to minimize damage from grenade fragments. When possible, DFPs are revetted with corrugated iron, star pickets and wire or local substitutes. Ideally, the revetting will also be dug in below ground level so as to minimise damage from fire and tank tracks. The revetting helps the DFP resist cave-in from near misses from artillery or mortars and tank tracks. Time permitting, DFPs can be enlarged to allow a machine gun crew and ammunition to be protected, as well as additional overhead cover via timbers. In training, DFPs are usually dug by hand or in some cases by mechanical trench diggers. On operations, explosives, especially shaped charges ("beehives"), may be used to increase the speed of development. Developing and maintaining DFPs is a constant and ongoing task for soldiers deployed in combat areas. For this reason, in some armies, infantry soldiers are referred to as "gravel technicians", as they spend so much time digging. Because of the large expenditure in effort and materials required to build a DFP, it is important to ensure that the DFP is correctly sited. In order to site the DFP, the officer in charge ("OIC") should view the ground from the same level that the intended user's weapons will be sighted from. Normally, the OIC will need to lie on his belly to obtain the required perspective. This ensures that the position will be able to cover the desired sector.

US Marines digging 'fighting holes' near the Iraqi border, 2003.

US Navy Seabees digging 'hasty scrapes', 2003.

US Navy Seabees near completed fighting position, 2003.

US Navy Seabees constructing a defensive machine gun position during training, 2010.

US Navy Seabees with a completed defensive machine gun position during training, 2008.

US Navy Seabees completed defensive machine gun position during training with camouflage netting and timber supports, 2010.

See also[edit]

Pillbox (military) Sangar Spider hole Shell scrape Tett turret Trench warfare All-around defense/Perimeter defense Entrenching tool


^ Bundessprachenamt. Militärisches Studienglossar. Englisch. Teil I, A-K. Hürth, 2001, p. 580. ^ "machine-gun nest". Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 22 February 2018.  ^ Brown, Albert S. "Anzio: Jan-May 1944". World War II Memories of Staff Sergeant Albert S. Brown. Dogface Soldiers Memoirs.  ^ a b c Westrate, Edwin V. (1944). Forward Observer. New York City: Stratford Press. pp. 46–47.  ^ Westrate, Edwin V. (1944). Forward Observer. New York City: Stratford Press. p. 115.  ^ Westrate, Edwin V. (1944). Forward Observer. New York City: Stratford Press. p. 77.  ^ Zaloga, Steven J. D-Day Fortifications in Normandy (Osprey Publishing Ltd.) ISBN 1-84176-876-6 p.21


Westrate, Edwin V. (1944). Forward Observer. New York City: Stratford Press. 

External links[edit]

U.S. WWII Newsmap, " Foxholes are Life Savers", hosted by the UNT Libraries Digital Collections

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Ancient history

Abatis Agger Broch Burgus Castellum Castra Castros Circular rampart City gate Crannog Ditch Defensive wall Dun Faussebraye Gatehouse Gord Hillfort Limes Oppidum Palisade Pincer gate Promontory fort Rampart Ringfort
(Rath) Refuge castle Schwedenschanze Stockade Sudis Trou de loup Vallum Wagon fort
Wagon fort
(Laager) Vitrified fort

Medieval history

Advanced work Albarrana tower Alcazaba Alcázar Arrowslit Barbican Bartizan Bastion Battery tower Battlement Bent entrance Bergfried Bretèche Bridge castle Bridge tower Butter-churn tower Caltrop Castle Chamber gate Chartaque Chashi Chemin de ronde Chemise Cheval de frise Citadel Coercion castle Concentric castle Corner tower Counter-castle Curtain Drawbridge Enceinte Embrasure Flanking tower Fortified buildings (church, house) Ganerbenburg Gate tower Gabion Glacis Guard tower Gulyay-gorod Gusuku Half tower Hoarding Inner bailey Keep Kremlin (Detinets) Landesburg L-plan castle Machicolation Merlon Moat Motte-and-bailey Murder-hole Neck ditch Outer bailey Outwork Peel tower Portcullis Postern Reduit Ringwork Quadrangular castle Shell keep Shield wall Toll castle Tower castle Tower house Turret Wall tower Bailey (or ward) Watchtower Witch tower Yett

Modern history

18th century and earlier

Abwurfdach Bastion Blockhouse Breastwork Canal Caponier Casemate Cavalier Counterguard Counterscarp Couvreface Coupure Covertway Crownwork Device fort Entrenchment Flèche Gorge Hornwork Lunette Orillon Ostrog Place-of-arms Polygonal fort Presidio
(Spanish America) Punji sticks Ravelin Redan Redoubt Retrenchment Sandbag Scarp Sconce Schanze Sea fort Station Star fort Tenaille

19th century

Barbed wire Barbette Border outpost Bunker Coastal artillery Gun turret Land mine Martello tower Outpost Trench warfare Sangar Wire obstacles

20th century

Admiralty scaffolding Air raid shelter Anti-tank trench Barbed tape Blast shelter Blast wall Border barrier Buoy Bremer wall Concertina wire Defensive fighting position British "hedgehog" road block Czech hedgehog Dragon's teeth Electric fence Fallout shelter Fire support base Flak tower Hardened aircraft shelter Hesco bastion Main Line of Resistance Revetment Sentry gun Spider hole Submarine pen Tunnel warfare Underground hangar

By topography

Cave castle Hill castle Hill fort Hillside castle Hilltop castle Island castle Lowland castle Marsh castle Moated castle Promontory fort Ridge castle Rocca Rock castle Spur castle Water castle

By role

Coercion castle Counter-castle Ganerbenburg Hunting lodge Imperial castle Kaiserpfalz Landesburg Lustschloss Ordensburg Refuge castle Toll castle Urban castle

By design

Bridge castle Circular rampart Concentric castle L-plan castle Motte-and-bailey castle Quadrangular castle Ringfort Ringwork Tower castle

See als