The Mystery of the Origin of the Stonk
MajGen RDP Hassett CB CBE and Brig J Burns DSO MBE BSc
The origin of the stonk is clouded in mystery. The Royal Artillery Journal of July 1952 and July 1953 discusses the origin of the "Stonk", claiming that it dated back to the Winter of 1939 when the artillery was struggling with the slowness caused by the new regimental organisation. An indoor exercise was set up by the General Staff involving the support of an immediate counter attack to restore a break in the line, the guns being already in position and fully surveyed. At that time the "Quick Barrage" had not been invented. Times were noted to establish how long it took from the receipt of orders until the gun programmes were complete.
The resultant time was so great that as support for an immediate counter attack the plan was unacceptable. A fire plan with a series of concentrations instead of the barrage was then tried but the response time was little better. The outcome was to devise a standard regimental concentration or more precisely a standard distribution of fire with reference to a given point. Such a concentration could be ordered by a single map reference from which each gun would have a clear range distribution. No trace need be issued, no action required at regimental or battery headquarters. It was given the name "Stonk" as a portmanteau word for standard concentration.
The RA Journal described the original 1940-1941 version of the Stonk as being a square of 300yards by 300yards, each battery covering a linear frontage of 300 yards, with the batteries echeloned plus and minus 100 yards from the centre point. 56 London Division adopted the Stonk and took the procedure to the Middle East.
The New Zealand version of the origin of the Stonk is somewhat different. 'Legend' has it that during their discussions on the adoption of the New Zealand proposals for the application of artillery fire in 1942, Brigadier Weir and Brigadier Stanford, the Commander of 13 Corps Artillery were searching for a short name for the Regimental Linear target. Weir suggested a play on the name Stanford and came up with 'STAN-K" which was quickly and circumspectly modified.
The probability is that the Stonk, as used in the latter part of the war post Alamein was devised by Brigadier Weir. With its dimension of a 600 yards linear regimental target based on a centre point and bearing of the axis it was substantially different from the original version. It would be fair to attribute the other innovations of Murder and Rumpus to Brigadier Weir On balance however the credible explanation of how the name came to pass must lie in its origin as a "portmanteau" word for "Standard Concentration".
The technique was used post Alamein for the definition of Defensive Fire Tasks in support of the infantry in static positions. They were also used in depth on some occasions ahead of the line of the barrage. There were no set rounds to be fired as the number of rounds was nominated each time the stonk was called for. Each stonk was given a codename or number. Stonks were generally pre planned in the sense that they were nominated and recorded and it was unusual for them to be initiated on the spot. In the post Senio period they were occasionally used by the medium guns as a means of covering an area where German tanks had been seen.
OPs could initiate Stonks but there is no record of the technique ever being used as part of an observed fire programme. There were no specific reports made after the Stonk, as it was just a routine fire control procedure. The Stonk was used extensively in Korea with a number of other variations including an anti aircraft weapon suppression programme. It could be said that the introduction of the stonk procedures ie Grid Reference and Bearing was the forerunner of Target Grid procedure introduced post war as a means of controlling fire.