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 (1914-1918) WWI Battles    
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anemone
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Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/23/2017 8:23:31 AM
The Battle of Mount Sorrel took place between Hill 60 at Zwarteleen and Hooge. Much of the ground was wooded, as it is again today. The eastern edges of Armagh Wood and Sanctuary Wood lay on a crest line, topped by the heights of Mount Sorrel and Tor Top.
The latter was alternatively named Hill 62, as it rose to 62 metres above sea level, some 25-30 metres higher than the shallow ground at Zillebeke and on towards Ypres.
Once on the crest line, an occupying force enjoyed excellent observation over the Ypres salient, the town itself, and the approach roads, railways and tracks. This important tactical location was the target for a German attack.

Second Army (Plumer)
XIV Corps (the Earl of Cavan)

20th (Light) Division
Canadian Corps (Byng)
1st Canadian Division
2nd Canadian Division
3rd Canadian Division


NB' Almost 8000 Canadians casualties in this fiercest of battles.Did the Germabs hold the whip hand ????



Historical Data
[Read More]

Map
[Read More]

Regards

Jim
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George
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/23/2017 8:53:01 AM
Jim, I am unfamiliar with the term "whip hand". I can probably guess but I would like to hear what you mean by it.

Does it mean that they had an advantage or were in control?

If so, clearly they were until counter attacked and pushed back to where they began, at great cost to the Canadians and British.

Before we go on, what was the purpose of creating and maintaining the Ypres salient? Was there something critical about the geography that would compel the British to expose troops on 3 sides? Why not even out the line?


Cheers,

George

George
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/23/2017 8:58:55 AM
The Canadians were just completing the creation of the Corps and British Gen. Julian Byng was in command.

There is no doubt that the Canadian position was overrun initially. The German bombardment and subsequent attack caused the Canadians to lose all of the ground that they held. They were overwhelmed.

The counter attack however was conducted at night (memory??) and it was a hand to hand, bloody business.

The Ypres Salient existed and if the Germans had seized the high ground on the Canadian sector there was a danger that the salient would be overrun.

We like to think that he Corps was beginning to show its mettle in that counter attack though it was an extremely costly affair.

anemone
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/23/2017 9:10:33 AM
"Does it mean that they had an advantage or were in control?" Yes it does George-the implication of the saying in this case-"is a group having the most power"
At Ypres-The Germans,as usual held the high ground which was arc shaped; and the British were constantly trying to dislodge them-hence a salient and Yes- they were in constant danger of coming under enfilade fire-this all started in 1914 and continued "ad nauseam". Haig being smitten with Ypres above all other points of attack.

Regards

jim
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anemone
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/23/2017 9:36:15 AM
As you point out the salient was the problem,part of ehich which the Canadians tried to secure; but were forestalled by a very heavy German artillery barrage.

Yes-the Canadian Corps commander, Sir Julian Byng, was determined to retake the lost ground and attacked, after a heavy artillery bombardment, during the early hours of 13 June. In this major set-piece battle, the Canadians bloodied but unbowed- did show their mettle and drove back the Germans; and recaptured much of the lost ground; but at great cost to themselves.

Regards

Jim
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George
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/23/2017 11:19:52 AM
Not just in this battle but look at the names of the towns and cities in and around this salient. The number of men who died in this bump out is astounding.



This map shows some key geographic points that influenced the Battle of Mount Sorrel.

You can see Hill 62 and Observatory Ridge. Hill 62 is also called Tor Top.





If the Germans held that position, they would command the southern portion of the Ypres Salient. The British feared that the salient would then collapse.

German preparations

The Brits and Canadians should have known that something was up but they appear to have been fooled.

The Canadians sent out patrols and there were reports of German activity in creating saps around the high ground. Saps are unmanned trenches being pushed into no man's land. They would be used to advance troops when the battle started.

The Germans were also sapping around Mount Sorrel. Something was about to happen.

The RFC flew over the German lines and noted exact replicas of the Canadian position and of course the Germans had been practising the upcoming attack.

But there were no reports of more German troops being moved into the area. Nor did they. The attacked with what was already there.


Death of Major- General Mercer

Major-General Mercer was the CO of the newly formed CDN 3rd div.

He and the CO of British 8th Brig. , Brig.-Gen. Williams decided to recce the area of Hill 62 and Mount Sorrel on the night of June 1, 2. There had been a lull in German bombardment. The Canadians and Brits didn't know why but it seems that the Germans were busy cutting wire in No-Man's-Land and were not detected.

So the men headed out on this patrol and then the heavy bombardment started. They happened to be in the area of the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles, who took the brunt of the attack in the initial stages.

This was a very heavy bombardment and one that impressed the Canadians and British.


Quote:
"All agreed that there was no comparison between the gun-fire of April and of June, which was the heaviest endured by British troops up to that time."
. (Lord Beaverbrook as noted in canadiansoldiers.com)

During the 4 hour bombardment, Major-General Mercer was hit by shrapnel as he lay on the ground suffering from a broken leg and shattered ear drums. He died.

Brit. Brig. Williams was taken prisoner by the initial assault troops.

The position of the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles disappeared under the bombardment. Trenches collapsed.

There was a leadership transfer but it took hours to effect and the 3rd Div was required to defend without direction.

FOO's were all killed and so counter battery artillery was ineffective. All communications lines were cut by the bombardment.

It was quite disastrous.



Quote:
"It is fitting to stress that here too the Canadians did not surrender, but at their guns defended themselves with revolvers to the last man."
. (source: German regimental historian)

When the Germans exploded 4 mines near Mount Sorrel, the main part of the attack ensued.

Here is a brief account


Quote:
n bright sunlight the grey-coated figures advanced in four waves spaced about seventy-five yards apart. Afterwards Canadian survivors spoke of the assured air and the almost leisurely pace of the attackers, who appeared confident that their artillery had blotted out all resistance.
All was methodically planned. The men in the first line had fixed bayonets and carried hand grenades and wire cutters. Those who followed were equipped with entrenching tools, floor boards and sandbags. As they flowed over the flattened trenches along Mount Sorrel and Tor Top they encountered only small, isolated bands of survivors from the 1st and 4th C.M.R. who could offer little effective resistance. There were brief episodes of hand-to-hand fighting with bomb and bayonet, and where sheer numbers were not sufficient to overcome resistance, the enemy used flame projectors. The machine-guns of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and the 5th Battalion (1st Division) - on the left and right flanks - raked the attackers. Though they inflicted substantial casualties they could not halt the advance. It remained for the 5th Battalion Canadian Mounted Rifles holding a series of strongpoints immediately behind the 1st and 4th battalions to check enemy attacks on the east and south-east sides of Maple Copse with rapid and accurate fire. Exploiting along Observatory Ridge, the Germans captured three strongpoints and overran a section of the 5th Battery C.F.A., killing or wounding all the gunners. Of this incident a German regimental historian was to write: "It is fitting to stress that here too the Canadians did not surrender, but at their guns defended themselves with revolvers to the last man."


This was the only time that the guns of the Canadian Corps fell into enemy hands.

The 4th CMR experienced the greatest losses with an 89% casualty rate. Of 702 officers and OR, 626 were KIA or wounded.


Other Canadian units stepped in to fill the breach and to stop the Germans from going any farther. That was costly too.

Cheers,

George



Phil Andrade
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/23/2017 11:39:17 AM
What a great rendition, George, thanks !

This, I'm convinced, was a piece of Verdun moved a couple of hundred miles
to the north west.

Falkenhayn stipulated that the method used at the Mill on the Meuse could be deployed elsewhere wherever or whenever it might prove efficacious.

In this case, a lodgement in a crucial part of the salient was bound to provoke hasty and costly counter attacks, lending the operation an attritional justification.

Also, reliance on intensive bombardment and careful husbandry of manpower smacks of the Verdun model.

Note the reference to use of flamethrowers....another feature that resembles the Verdun fighting.

Canada did what she does so well...fight to the death.

Regards,Phil
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anemone
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/23/2017 11:56:06 AM

Quote:
Byng ordered 1st Canadian Division commander Major-General Arthur Currie to organize a careful attack against the German positions at Mont Sorrel and Tor Top. Due to the casualties suffered during the unsuccessful counterattack of 3 June, Currie regrouped his stronger battalions into two composite brigades.

Four intense bombardments of thirty minutes each were carried out between 9 and 12 June in an effort to deceive the Germans into expecting immediate attacks, which did not transpire. For ten hours on 12 June all the German positions between Hill 60 and Sanctuary Wood were shelled unremittingly.

Particular attention was given to the Canadian Corps flanks, from which enfilade machine-gun fire might be expected. The following morning, the Germans were subjected to an additional 45 minutes of heavy artillery bombardment, before the assaulting troops advanced behind a generated smoke screen.

The Germans are believed to have been taken largely by surprise as they offered little resistance and the Canadians were able to take approximately 200 prisoners. With the exception of the trenches at Hooge, the Germans fell back to their original lines and in a little over an hour the assault was over.

On 14 June, the Germans launched two counterattacks which were repulsed, after which they advanced their trench to within 150 metres (490 ft) of the Canadians but made no further assaults.
Wikipedia

Regards

Jim

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George
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/23/2017 2:42:44 PM
I was just doing a little more reading on the initial attack and it seems that the Germans could have pushed farther but for the lack of an officer with the authority to exploit successes.

The Germans had pushed the Canadians back all across the line except for a 600 yd section in front of Sanctuary Wood (see map posted earlier)

That area was held by Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry which is a storied CDN regiment but as I recall, during WW1 it fought with British Corps and was not part of Canadian Corps. I should really check on that but memory may serve well.

Anyway they held out despite having one of the forward companies overrun. PPCLI poured fire into the flank and rear of the advancing Germans and despite great losses, they stopped them. The Germans actually retreated during the night. I don't know why?

PPCLI had 400 casualties including 150 dead. They lost their CO who was killed.

Now it seems that the Germans were ordered to advance 600-700 yards from the start line. It was clear that with reinforcements they could have rolled up PPCLI who were on the left flank of the Canadian Corps.

But they didn't take advantage of the weak situation that the Canadians found themselves in.

Apparently, German documents indicated that there were no officers available who could have authorized the troops to continue to advance.

That seems strange to me. Why would they not exploit success? The could have run to Ypres if they had shown initiative.

I cannot find a record of any loss of senior officers who could have ordered the troops to continue. Instead the Germans followed the orders in the battle plan and I know that sounds like an all too stereotypical depiction of the German soldier.



Quote:
Under orders issued before the attack the Germans dug in 600-700 yards west of their former line, though short of "the position to be occupied in the most favourable case". Their formation histories, reporting the road to Ypres open, regret the brake upon exploitation applied in advance by the command. Fortunately for the Canadians no German officer had the initiative to exceed instructions and capitalize on success. Pressure to the north against the weakened defenders might well have rolled up the Canadian left wing, which had been so gallantly held by the Patricia company backed by The Royal Canadian Regiment at Hooge.


This was a very fortunate development for the Canadian and British troops. They were able to consolidate and Gen. Byng immediately organized a counter attack.


George

Phil Andrade
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/23/2017 2:46:32 PM
In my post, I ventured opinion and interpretation which might well be wrong.

Jim, my dear old friend, you've just slapped down a chunk of Wikipedia and left it at that.

That's a bit of a let down for those of us who seek exchange of ideas.

I know you mean well.

Regards, Phil
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"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

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George
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/23/2017 7:02:48 PM
Phil, in your previous post you mentioned "careful husbandry of manpower" in reference to the management of German troops at Verdun and then again at Mount Sorrel.

Does that mean attacking with smaller numbers initially? Is that what you meant?

Cheers,

George

Phil Andrade
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/23/2017 7:16:39 PM
A rather generalised point, George: it's my impression that the Verdun method entailed relatively small numbers of men and unprecedented quantities of shells expended in the attack.

It's my assumption that this was replicated by the Germans at Mount Sorrel.

Regards, Phil


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George
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/23/2017 7:31:40 PM
Yes it seems that it was Phil. The Germans did not transfer extra units to the battle at Mount Sorrel.

One of the reasons that the Canadians and British were somewhat surprised was that they already were aware of the German units opposing but were looking for extra forces to move in as a signal that an attack was imminent. I do not know whether past experience with the Germans had made them complacent when they assessed the numbers opposite.

I am not as knowledgeable about the Verdun battle as you are Phil, so it is interesting to note that they were duplicating tactics in subsequent battles.

Thank you for that.

You know I was thinking of other battles in which the British and Commonwealth forces attacked with too few troops to have a chance at success.

example: The final phase of the attack on Lens, at the end of the attack on Hill 70, the Canadians actually committed small numbers to the effort.

It was costly and they did not drive the Germans out of Lens. But the artillery support evident at Hill 70 was not available for Lens.


Why did the Germans introduce the tactic at Verdun? Were they anticipating that the artillery would create so much damage that they would not need as many troops? Perhaps they were learning that the battles of attrition were not sustainable.

Cheers,

George

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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 4:52:15 AM
I apologise for yesterday's splurge of Wiki-I was somewhat distracted by the morming's event.That said I feel that I must say something about Douglas Haig's abiding obsession with Ypres and it's Salient.He was forced into the Somme bloodbath by te French- where he destroyed the flower of British manhood in useless attacks on what was considered key points- without a hint of remorse and could he stop -no he could not-only winter and the mud stopped him on the Ancre. He did not want to fight at Arras in 1917-still hankering after Ypres.

Coming back to Mount Sorrel where Haig handed the Canadians an impossible task of holding a portion of high ground in the Salient-it failed right from the start and the Canadians sustained heavy casualties.The loss of a Divisional and Brigade General whilst carrying out a reconnaissance mission was a glaring error-this was a task for a seasoned captain/major-so why I ask-was it pressure from above Bing via Haig???These were losses that should never have happened.Did Haig pull them out -only when wanted for his other Armageddon-Passchendaele. See "Why 3rd Ypres"

Regards

Jim
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Phil Andrade
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 5:01:18 AM
George ,

Supposition governs my comments regarding the methods used at Mount Sorrel by the Germans and their similarities with Verdun.

The comparison seems plausible....it's as if the attack against the Canadians is following the same formula.

Conservation of manpower was a major determinant of German strategy; to try and reconcile this with retaining initiative was the challenge that Falkenhayn sought to surmount.

I see Verdun as the main exemplar of this, and such local but very fierce battles such as Mount Sorrel as " dragon's teeth " which helped to amplify and consolidate the attritional effect of German strategy.

There had also been an attack against the British in the Vimy sector a month or two earlier which bore the same hallmarks.
Regards, Phil
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"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

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Phil Andrade
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 5:10:27 AM
Jim,

Many thanks for your gracious conduct: I was worried that I had been harsh, and it's great to see you sally forth with some opinions.

My response would be to suggest that this affair at Mount Sorrel did not emanate from Haig's insistence, but from a violent and very fierce aggression on the part of the Germans.

We must not forget that German forces were active and aggressive all the time in the first half of 1916.

They sprung 500 mines against the British alone in that period.

Regards , Phil
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"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

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anemone
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 5:50:30 AM
Thank you Phil-your post makes me ask-why were the Canadians deployed on and around Mount Sorrel; and I hasten to add- I do not know the answer- other than it was a "local operation" ie. an attack by the Germans to retake this high ground and the Canadian riposte.

Regards

Jim
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George
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 6:53:31 AM

Quote:
Thank you Phil-your post makes me ask-why were the Canadians deployed on and around Mount Sorrel; and I hasten to add- I do not know the answer- other than it was a "local operation" ie. an attack by the Germans to retake this high ground and the Canadian riposte.

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Jim, perhaps you could explain your question. Are you asking why the Canadians in particular were placed in the position that they were at the Ypres Salient?

I had never pondered the question before. The Corps was almost complete as four divisions and the Canadians wanted to remain together.

I just assumed that they were taking their place in the line just as all of the British, French and Austrians and whomever were protecting the salient.

However, you have given me food for thought. The Canadian Corps was blooded and had shown that they could fight though not near as well as they would in battles the next year. The Corps had made mistakes and paid the price and shown bravery in the process as well.

Is it possible that the Canadians were assigned a section of the salient that was less likely to receive an attack? I am just blue skying here. The main British build-up was not in the Mount Sorrel area. Am I correct on that statement?

The area at Mount Sorrel was considered important by both sides because of the high ground. That is why the Germans wanted it. They owned all of the other high ground in the salient except that. But neither side had committed large numbers of divisions to the area.

The Germans only committed three divisions to this localized battle and I do know that they wanted the British to send reinforcements to Mount Sorrel and that would compromise Haig's build-up near the Somme.

Cheers,

George

anemone
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 7:35:42 AM

Quote:
Is it possible that the Canadians were assigned a section of the salient that was less likely to receive an attack? I am just blue skying here. The main British build-up was not in the Mount Sorrel area. Am I correct on that statement?

The area at Mount Sorrel was considered important by both sides because of the high ground. That is why the Germans wanted it. They owned all of the other high ground in the salient except that. But neither side had committed large numbers of divisions to the area.


Surely a contradiction of terms George; however I think the Canadians were yherer- because the Germans wanted to regain that piece of high ground and the Canadians would fight to the last man-well almost-to ensure that they did not succeed.I do believe that if ever DH wanted a tough job done- he buttered up the Canadian leadership.I freely confess that I am no admirer of DH- because he used men like chess pieces and never ever considered the possible cost-he was a cold scheming man.

However the Germans were pushed off the Mount Sorrel and Tor Top ridge, and the Canadians had most successfully executed their first deliberately planned attack on the Western Front. A combination of excellent staff work and planning, brilliantly executed artillery work in poor weather and the formidable courage of the Canadian infantry, had saved the day.


Regards

Jim
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George
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 8:38:25 AM
Hmm Jim. Thanks for your comments and praise for the Canadians.

But I must remind all that in April of 1916, the Canadians and the British had a rough go at St. Eloi. The plan to seize ground as I recall was sound but there were no plans to consolidate and hold. The Canadians felt that they were hung out to dry and scapegoated by the British for the failures of St. Eloi.

Canadian historians agree that there were problems at the Battle of St. Eloi though they do not concur with the blame for failures being handed to the Canadians.

My point however is that the Canadians were not yet the superior fighting Corps that distinguished itself in 1917 and 1918.


Cheers,

George

Michigan Dave
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 8:50:19 AM
George, or Jim,

Would you say as far as the Allies go this was mostly a Canadian Operation?

Thanks,
MD
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anemone
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 8:54:30 AM
I most sincerely take your points George-obviously they were still fresh and green to some extent;officers of General rank do not as a rule do recon work.I have read a bit about the St Eloi Craters; and I too thought that the Canadians were not treated fairly- because of poor planning-someone had to "carry the can"-it was the Canadians!! I think latter day historians are aware of this contretemps.


Regards

Jim
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George
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 9:34:50 AM
St. Eloi was a poorly planned and poorly executed affair. General Alderson eventually pulled the Canadians out after heavy losses.

It was he who went about looking for a scapegoat. He had been ordered to investigate and find someone to blame by Plumer.

The Canadians had relieved the British who were mud covered and all with the 1000 yard stare that exhausted soldiers adopt.

British miners had mined underneath the St. Eloi battlefield and when the mines blew, dozens of small and a few massive craters were created.

The rains came and created a battle field that rivalled anything found later at Passchendaele, though on a smaller scale. It may have been worse.

The Canadian position was untenable. Men were drowning in the craters.

Neither officers nor men knew where they were on the battlefield. Lines and trenches had been destroyed by the mines.

Objectives were craters which were numbered. So it would be, "take crater 4, for example. There were not aerial photos. Original maps were useless because the mines had altered the geography.

Communications were eliminated by German shells. The men didn't even know which crater they were in. Often the Germans were in the crater that they were supposed to occupy but no-one knew that. There was a failure of command and control which should have been predicted I think.


I know that this is a thread on Mount Sorrel but the Canadians through Major-General Turner had protested that to commit men to this battlefield was criminal. He was right but the British had a belief that ground occupied was ground never to be surrendered even if it made sense.

Turner had already been in the bad books of Alderson for events in 1915. He was a brave soldier but probably not the best man for the job.

So Haig ordered heads to roll and he told Plumer to find them and he in turn, passed the task to Alderson.

Alderson was actually sympathetic to Major-General Turner's plight. I think that he agreed with his assessment of the foolishness of the attack at St. Eloi.

So Alderson asked Turner to blame the failure on Brig. Ketchen. Plumer wanted both gone. So Alderson told Turner that he could save himself if he placed the command failure on Ketchen.

Turner may not have been a great officer but he was honourable and in a loud verbal fight with Alderson, he told Alderson that it was his fault for sending them in and for not withdrawing them when the situation was hopeless. Alderson had described Turner in battle as "brave to a fault."

Turner reminded Alderson that Kechen had crawled through the mud to get to the position of his men to assess the situation.

Anyway, the Canadian government got involved and told Haig that their man Turner and Ketchen would not be the scapegoats. Minister of Defence, the perhaps insane Sam Hughes was insistent that Canada would decide where the problem was. That brought in Max Aiken, Lord Beaverbrook and he went to bat for the Canadian side.

So in the end, it was Alderson who lost his job.

The Canadian division (2nd) did not do well in this battle. I am not sure that any division could have but to characterize it as anything but a failure would be a lie. Some very good men died in the mud and slop of the St. Eloi craters.

But I want to emphasize that I don't believe that 2-3 months after the St. Eloi debacle that the British had such a high opinion of the Canadian Corps that they would entrust them with a critical position in the line. Just speculating of course.


Cheers,

George

anemone
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 10:16:18 AM

Quote:
Turner finally called off the battle. This was of no help to the 100 men defending C6 and C7. Their position had been targeted by 150 mm shells, striking at the rate of four per minute. Only 11 of them returned to allied lines, with just one uninjured. By the end of the Battle of the Craters, 900 Germans, 1,000 British and 1,347 Canadians had been killed or wounded. All sides ended up where they started.
Battle of St Eloi

So whether by bad judgement; or a nasty move by someone for retribution to fall on the Canadians-the Canadians got the German's much coveted Mount Sorrel area-which proved such a "hot potato", Byng now running the show; with Currie in the wings- as GOC 1st Canadian infantry Division.

Regards

Jim
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George
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 11:42:15 AM
Major-General Turner survived by dint of political interference. And he set about to fire a number of battalion commanders so we see that the blame just continues down the line.

Battalion command was a precarious position especially in the first two years of the war. Much of the training and the battlefield direction was in the hands of the commander. Later of course, the lowliest private would understand his objectives.

Of the 179 men who had commanded a Canadian battalion for longer than one month, fully 1/3 were killed or maimed or no longer fit for battle.

When Turner was saved, he immediately sought to "correct" the command problems.

Turner had requested to fall back at Festubert and again, now at St. Eloi. He would never be the first Canadian Corps commander.

But I can see that stubborn Canadian nationalism resulting in the refusal to cashier a lesser commander could put the troops in danger.

I can also see that the Brits had to learn that when dealing with the Canadians, it was necessary to consult with them before changes in command were effected and that did happen eventually.

BTW, heads also rolled in Plumer's HQ. His Major-General, general staff and a corps commander were "degummed" as it was known by Canadians and I think the Brits too.

The Canadians were embarrassed by the defeat at St. Eloi. They had lost the ground that the Brits had taken when the mines were blown.

The Canadians were appalled at the state of the British position when they moved in. There was no position. On the other hand, the Brits had been receiving the same sort of treatment from the Germans that the Canadians would soon receive.

The Brits were spent and could do no more. They had done little to consolidate their position because they were just trying to survive.

It was hell. Men were vomiting in the craters because subsequent artillery fire would shatter an already dead body in the crater and spray the men with body parts.

The Brits were spreading the word that the Canadians were "slackers" and what could they say. 2nd Div had lost the ground taken by the Imperials.

That was a fact. They were well beaten.

But Plumer and Alderson should have recognized the futility of trying to maintain this hell hole and should have pulled the troops back to consolidate in an area in which a defence was at least possible.

There I have given my rant. Back to Mount Sorrel.


Cheers,

George


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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 12:04:48 PM
Degummed -From the French "Degomme"-"To move out of the way."

Now where were we-It was suggested that the next counterattack be carried out with the infantry available,but with a particularly large emphasis placed on the artillery.

The additional artillery units went to work hampering German consolidation, by shelling their front and support lines; and seeking out hostile batteries.

The Germans sprung a surprise on the Canadians by exploding four large mines under trenches of the 2nd Canadian Division covering the spur at the eastern outskirts of the ruins of Hooge and a company of the Canadian 28th (North West) Battalion was wiped out in the explosions.

Regards

Jim
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George
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 12:27:44 PM
Actually the French verb is dégommer. It is used in several different contexts most of which apply to the military situation.

Unseat, shoot down (a concept), take out (as in remove from a position)

Interesting how the English speaking troops would pick up on a French word and begin to pronounce it in an anglicized manner.

"You just got degummed".


I recall that the French word for a pencil eraser is "la gomme". How appropriate.

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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 12:38:57 PM
The much vaunted Herbert Plumer, commander Second Army, later Lord or Viscount Plumer of Messines, was very nearly sacked by Haig in the earlier part of 1916.

Haig was upset because he felt that Plumer had not maintained the defences in his sector adequately.

I think it's worth mentioning this, because the fine reputation bestowed on Plumer has overshadowed his earlier failures, which Haig was quick to perceive.

The fighting which we've been discussing - especially the St Eloi business - exposed the flaws in the British command ; Haig sent Plumer the brilliant staff officer, Harington, who was very much the architect of later successes.

I think Haig was rather irritated by the paens that were bestowed on Plumer : he actually blurted out You'd never have heard of him if I hadn't sent him Harington ! ...this was a long time later, perhaps in 1918.

More to the point, we might cite Mount Sorrel and the earlier fighting at St Eloi and Vimy as illustrative of how aggressive the Germans were, even though they were supposedly on the defensive for much of the time.

It's wrong to think that Haig and co sat in chateau miles behind the lines, and planned massive and futile offensives at leisure.

Their own men were being knocked about badly by the Germans, in actions just like the ones we're discussing. It's significant that Haig wanted rid of Plumer because of insufficient defensive preparation .

In the event, Haig decided to let Plumer off with a final warning, which, along with the advent of the brilliant Harington, worked the necessary magic.

Regards , Phil



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anemone
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 1:04:36 PM
I accept what you say Phil that Haig rebuked Plumer for not maintaining his defences adequately in his sector- because I cannot refute it; but Herbert plumer was one the best Generals of the Great war.He was loved by his men and inspired confidence in all his officers. His masterstroke at Messines was unmatched.At war's end he was promoted to Field Marshal and given a baronetcy plus a £30,000 grant.He became governor and CinC Malta.The Harrington story is true; but only if he managed to make a successful plan to retake Mount Sorrel.

Regards

Jim
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George
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 1:21:22 PM
Hang on now, wasn't it Plumer who was too slow in reinforcing success, overly cautious, at Messine.

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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 1:44:06 PM
Aye-- but who said it George- If it was Haig- how did He come to that conclusion.??? He never visited the front line all the time that he was CinC

Plumer does stick out as a bit of a hero because of the sheer method of his approach. He’s also clearly helped by a very good staff team.

His chief-of-staff, Charles ‘Tim’ Harrington, was also a very meticulous planner and its one of those instances where one can see that to get things right in a lot of modern warfare, its actually all about the bureaucratic processes.

If the planning is correct, have the right staff in place and used in the right way, then hopefully the soldiers will have that military dream of ‘the walkover’.

Regards


Jim
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scoucer
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 1:46:00 PM

Quote:
Actually the French verb is dégommer. It is used in several different contexts most of which apply to the military situation.

Unseat, shoot down (a concept), take out (as in remove from a position)

Interesting how the English speaking troops would pick up on a French word and begin to pronounce it in an anglicized manner.

"You just got degummed".


I recall that the French word for a pencil eraser is "la gomme". How appropriate.
--George


A theme worthy of a thread of it own. Both of my grandfathers used anglacized french terms that they brought back from FRance, some have passed into everyday language and nobody knows the origin. San Fairy or San Fairy Ann - it doesn´t matter - from the french " Ca ne fait rien".
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George
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 2:09:25 PM

Quote:

Quote:
Actually the French verb is dégommer. It is used in several different contexts most of which apply to the military situation.

Unseat, shoot down (a concept), take out (as in remove from a position)

Interesting how the English speaking troops would pick up on a French word and begin to pronounce it in an anglicized manner.

"You just got degummed".


I recall that the French word for a pencil eraser is "la gomme". How appropriate.
--George


A theme worthy of a thread of it own. Both of my grandfathers used anglacized french terms that they brought back from FRance, some have passed into everyday language and nobody knows the origin. San Fairy or San Fairy Ann - it doesn´t matter - from the french " Ca ne fait rien".

--scoucer


Yes indeed. And it wasn't just French terms picked up by English and Commonwealth and American troops.

Napoo is some sort of bastardization of the French "il n'ya plus" - no more, there isn't any more.

Of course we know of the tendency of English speakers to mispronounce French words. Ypres became "Wipers".

Cushy as in a cushy job came from Arabic I think. Khush means pleasure.


It is interesting the way language is modified and soldiers seem to be pretty creative.

George

George
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/24/2017 2:41:01 PM

Quote:
George, or Jim,

Would you say as far as the Allies go this was mostly a Canadian Operation?

Thanks,
MD
--Michigan Dave


Hi Dave,

The Canadian Corps was part of the British Army. In many battles, they could be the lead but fighting in a British Army meant logistical and artillery support for the Canadian Corps.

There are plenty of battles where the Canadian Corps excelled and yet there may have been British units attached to the Canadians.

The Canadians resisted aggressively at any attempt to break up the 4 division Corps and to send them piecemeal into more British battles.

Some of the battles of 1915 and 1916 led the Canadians to believe that they were better off to be masters of their own fate so much as that was allowed in the command structure. Sometimes relations between the Canadian Corps and the British could be strained when the Canadians resisted an assignment or made special request to prepare.

Canadian nationalism was on the rise. Remember we were only 50 years old as a quasi-autonomous Dominion within the British Empire. Ties to Britain were strong.

WW1 and the success of the Corps increased the intensity of those feelings. Even Canadian soldiers who were British born were proud to declare themselves to be Canadians.


The Battle of Mount Sorrel became a "Canadian" battle by virtue of the fact that the Germans attacked in the section of line on the Ypres salient that was defended by the Canadians.

So yes we tend to call this a Canadian battle and based upon the casualties, why not. Although British casualties were as high think. I need to check that.

It is sometimes difficult to explain the relationship between Canada and Britain in 1914-1918. So soldiers would be proud to serve the Empire but at the same time, they wanted it acknowledged that they did so as Canadians. They wanted to see themselves as different and as they became more successful, the Canadians weren't shy about tooting their own horns. They thought that they were the best.





anemone
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/25/2017 4:18:30 AM
Casualties

The German 26th Division lost 3,436 men killed, wounded or missing, the 27th Division and Reserve Regiment 11 had 1,389 casualties and the 117th Division had 940 losses.

Canadian Corps casualties from 2–14 June were 8,430.

Regards

Jim
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Phil Andrade
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/25/2017 5:01:48 AM
Thanks, Jim, looks like the Germans inflicted roughly fifty per cent more casualties than they received.

Bearing in mind the tactical advantages they enjoyed: surprise, intense artillery support and mine explosions, along with the flawed counter attacks deployed by the defenders, the figures testify to stern and effective Canadian resistance.

There's another theme we might consider: The Crown Prince Ruprecht of Bavaria was antagonised by the Prussian clique that was running the war, and sought to mount offensives that put Bavarian influence to the fore.

I don't know this, but I suspect it.

In the meantime, I'll refer to CWGC database for Canadian deaths in Belgium during the period of this battle.

Regards , Phil

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Phil Andrade
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/25/2017 6:13:16 AM
A bit of research into the casualties:

Canadian, as officially returned:

Confirmed dead: 1,126

Wounded: 5,267

Missing: 2,037

Total: 8,430

CWGC commemorates 2,733 Canadian dead in Belgium 2-14 June 1916.

The difference between the official return of killed and The CWGC figure implies that many - indeed, most - of the missing were dead.

The Germans reported 5,765 casualties:

1,223 killed, 3,982 wounded and only 560 missing.

Perhaps half of their missing were dead.

I wonder how many Canadian prisoners were taken unwounded, and how many were left dying in enemy hands.

Regards, Phil
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anemone
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/25/2017 6:42:26 AM

Quote:
Between 2 June and 14 June 1916, the Canadian Corps lost a total of 73 officers and 1053 other ranks killed; 257 officers and 5010 other ranks wounded; 57 officers and 1980 other ranks missing, a total of 8430.

German losses recorded were 32 officers and 1191 other ranks killed; 71 officers and 3911 other ranks wounded; 6 officers and 554 other ranks missing, a total of 5765. It is generally believed that German methods of reporting wounded differed and that losses were about the same on both sides.

The Long Pong Trail

Regards

Jim
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Phil Andrade
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/25/2017 6:55:15 AM
That argument about the wounded being under reported in the German returns is wheeled out whenever it suits those who wish to use stats to distort the outcome.

It's clear from the much greater number of Canadian missing that they sustained heavier loss than the Germans

The German report is very candid about the casualties: in fact, sixty per cent of them are attributed to just one division.

The Canadians fought this battle at a disadvantage, and did well to inflict as many casualties as they did.

Do you agree, Jim ?

Regards, Phil
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anemone
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Re: Battle of Mount Sorrel--2-13 June 1916
Posted on: 3/25/2017 7:14:30 AM
I most certainly do Phil-I thought they were magnificent in adversity; and fought "tooth an nail"against great odds- to achieve the objective set them
As to the German casualty caveat-it is overplayed- vis a vis -their wounded

Regards

Jim
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