Writer Nicholas Rankin explores the emergence of the deadly 'force reducer' that is the sniper.
Writer Nicholas Rankin explores the emergence of the deadly 'force reducer' that is the sniper. From the muddy fields of Flanders to the ruins of Stalingrad, the sniper emerged as a powerful, unseen threat. In the age of mass destruction, the singular act of killing became a tactical necessity and a psychological terror. At first the British, being potted in their Flanders trenches, regarded it all as somehow not very British but very soon the tactics of sniping - of stalking, hunting and destroying German snipers and opposing soldiers became a new and deadly sport. Gentleman adventurer Hesketh Pritchard transformed the understanding and tactical deployment of snipers in the British army. In Stalingrad, the sniper became the model shock worker. They were exhorted to 'Kill a German today' amongst the ruins of the symbolic city where hand-to-hand fighting against overwhelming forces became a terrifying reality. Soviet snipers like Vasily Zaitsev became folk heroes with their hundreds of 'sticks' or kills celebrated in the Soviet press. But in wars where few ever saw their enemy up close, let alone pursued them like quarry, what was the cost to the sniper in the shadows as they squeezed the trigger and ended another life?