The vanguard (also called the advance guard) is the leading part of an advancing
military formation Military organization or military organisation is the structuring of the armed forces of a State (polity), state so as to offer such military capability as a military policy, national defense policy may require. In some countries paramilitary f ...
. It has a number of functions, including seeking out the enemy and securing ground in advance of the main force.


The vanguard derives from the traditional division of a
medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...

army into three '' battles'' or ''wards''; the Van, the Main (or Middle), and the Rear. The term Vanguard originates with the medieval French ''avant-garde'', i.e. "the advance guard". The vanguard would lead the line of march and would deploy first on the field of battle, either in front of the other wards or to the right if they stood in line. The makeup of the vanguard of a
15th century The 15th century was the which spans the years () to (). The term is often used to refer to the 1400s, the century between 1400 and 1499. In , the 15th century includes parts of the , the , and the . Many technological, social and cult ...
army is a typical example. This consisted of *a contingent of foreriders, from whom a forward detachment of scouts was drawn *the main body of the vanguard, in which there traveled civil officials and trumpeters to carry messages and summon the surrender of towns and castles, and *a body of workmen under the direction of the Master of Artillery whose job it was to clear obstacles which would obstruct the baggage and artillery travelling with the main army. In an English force of the period, the foreriders of the vanguard would be accompanied by the harbingers, whose job was to locate lodgings for the army for the following night.

Forward detachments

World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
, the
Red Army The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army,) frequently shortened to Red Army, was the army and air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (Russian SFSR or RSFSR; rus, links= ...
began forming ''ad hoc'' vanguard formations called forward detachments ''(peredovye otriady)'', from army, corps and divisional units. Forward detachments brought together the mobile (motorized or mechanized) elements of the parent formation to play an exploitation role once a breakthrough of the German lines occurred. A rifle division, for example, might mount one or two battalions of infantry on trucks, with motorized antitank guns and motorized artillery in support.David M. Glantz, ''Colossus Reborn'', University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2005, pp. 110, 119

See also

Vanguardism In the context of the theory of Leninist Communist revolution, revolutionary struggle, vanguardism involves a strategy whereby the most class consciousness , class-conscious and politically "advanced" sections of the proletariat or working class, ...
, Lenin's political theory *
Medieval warfare Medieval warfare is the European warfare of the Middle Ages. Technological, cultural, and social developments had forced a severe transformation in the character of warfare from Classical antiquity, antiquity, changing military tactics and the rol ...
Forlorn hope A forlorn hope is a band of soldiers or other combatants chosen to take the vanguard The vanguard (also called the advance guard) is the leading part of an advancing military formation. It has a number of functions, including seeking out the ...

Forlorn hope
Front line A front line (alternative forms: front-line or frontline) in military terminology is the position(s) closest to the area of conflict of an armed force's personnel and equipment, usually referring to land forces. When a Front (military), front (an ...
Avant-garde The avant-garde (; In 'advance guard' or 'vanguard', literally 'fore-guard') are people or works that are experimental, Wikt:radical#Adjective, radical, or unorthodox with respect to The arts, art, culture, or society.John Picchione, The New A ...


{{Authority control Military tactics Military terminology