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 (1914-1918) WWI Battles    
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George
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 11:59:12 AM

Quote:
Why, I wonder, did the Canadian casuaties at Vimy include such a high proportion of dead ?

You would think that in a well planned and successfully executed operation - and Vimy was as good an exemplar of that as any - the recovery of wounded and the medical care they received would reflect the success by dint of a lower proportion of fatalites.

For some reason, it seems that an unusually high proportion of Canadians who were struck down in that battle were either killed outright or failed to survive their wounds.

George - I apologise for raising this again : it was you, after all, who brought it to our attention.

Of all Canada'a principal battles of the Great War - Second Ypres, Mount Sorrel, Vimy, Lens, Passchendaele and the Hundred Days, Vimy appears to stand preeminent in regard to percentage of fatalities among total casualties.

This is something that I need to check ; it doesn't look right.

Regards , Phil
--Phil andrade



Don't apologize Phil. I defer to you on any discussion of the data regarding casualty rates. I would like to know the answer too.

3,598 dead out of 10,602 Canadian casualties. (source: Veterans Affairs Canada). So of the casualties, nearly 34% were killed.

That does seem high in comparison to other battles though I cannot explain it.

We know the Germans had occupied the ridge from October of 1914 and "Fortress Vimy" would not be an out of place description.

Every inch of the approaches to the ridge could be riddled with MG and artillery fire. Every possible position was mapped and ranged.

In all the praise given to the Canadian Corps, it is not often noted that April 9, 1918 was the bloodiest day in Canadian military history. We are told that the casualty rate at Vimy Ridge was actually twice that experienced by the CDN 2nd Division at the bloody battle of Dieppe in WW2.

Historian Tim Cook notes that the types of wounds received were ghastly and he notes that while some studies play down the influence of the bayonet on casualty lists, at Vimy, there was considerable hand to hand combat and the bayonet was used liberally.

Soldiers who survived ghastly wounds arrived at the RAP with cloth and mud in the wound. Many became septic.

Somewhere I have data on the number of wounded at Vimy who never fought again but died months later of wounds. These men are not counted in the fatality totals for the 4 day battle.

I do have Cook's division by division analysis of Vimy and the infantry pressed on even as men were falling all around them.

From Hill 145 and the Pimple, the Germans could rake a good deal of the battle field if not all and the 4th and 3rd divs were closest to those positions.

As well, I have seen comments made that the removal of wounded at Vimy was not as efficient as in subsequent battles. There were a lot of stretcher bearers but they were being killed by German fire too.

The terrain and the sloppiness of it made transport difficult and slow.

As well, many men with serious injuries were left to die in the craters if it was felt that they could not survive.

The Canadians took a lot of prisoners and even sent them back unguarded in small groups. But the prisoners soon realized that the second wave troops were disinclined to let them walk. So the Germans volunteered in droves to carry wounded Canadians to protect themselves.

But removal of wounded was not as efficient as it would be at say Hill 70 when those operations were smoother. Of course, removal of wounded as assisted greatly by the use of the narrow gauge push trams and rail cars at Lens.

So I do not have a real answer to why the death count was disproportionate.

Every soldier was wonderfully well trained using the relatively new bite and hold tactics that the British adopted.
The lowliest private knew every objective and battle accounts indicate that the men pressed on even without NCO's or officers to direct them.

It would be impossible to suggest that ineffective training and inexperience had anything to do with the death toll.

It was a brilliant victory but a lot of good men were killed, especially on day one.

I will keep looking Phil to see if anyone has written a piece on the number of killed vs wounded at Vimy Ridge.

Cheers,

George

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 12:02:10 PM
Better check Jim. I checked back and I believe that your "what are you on about" post may have something to do with Jim Cameron's post.

If not it makes no sense in the "last word" sequence of posts.


anemone
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 12:15:08 PM
Have looked back-Jim Cameron was echoing your quotation George-which I had answered
---------------
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George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 12:34:19 PM
Enough please Jim. The problem is that you persist to cut and paste and especially from wiki. I said my piece and you said yours.



Phil andrade
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 1:12:30 PM
George,

When seeking a final " arbiter" in the question as to how many British and Dominion soldiers died - and where, and when - the CWGC fits the bill.

Almost invariably, the number of deaths commemorated in the registers of the CWGC exceeds the number reported in the official unit returns.

This is because the CWGC includes deaths from all causes, including the missing who were subsequently declared dead....those being the fatalites that so often went " off the radar " in the official reports of killed, wounded and missing.

My research into the CWGC data bears out my suspicions regarding the inordinately high ratio of fatalities implicit in the figure of 3,598 Canadian killed 9-12 April 1917.

The figure revealed by my search is 3,259 Canadian deaths commemorated in France in that period. I checked the figure for Belgium, too : it might well be that Canadian wounded were moved north and died in hospital in Belgium....but there were only two deaths there.

My suggestion is that the figure of 3,598 included deaths in the Vimy sector after April 12th : did fighting splutter on there for some time ?

At Passchendaele, where fighting was murderous and conditions unspeakable, 15,600 Canadian casualties included just under four thousand deaths....just about one quarter.

In view of this, a 34% ratio for Vimy is hard to account for ; I would refuse to dismiss the authoratitive work of the Canadian Veterans' Affairs, but I reckon that they're using different criteria for compiling numbers of fatalities. Maybe the 10,600 casualties allude to the period 9-12 April, while the 3,598 dead pertain to a significantly longer period. It is, of course, quite probable that a significant number of Canadians who were wounded in those four days died of their wounds later, and are counted as " killed" in the VA reckoning.

Using my method of checking CWGC data against official casualty returns, Mount Sorrel shows a higher proportion of fatalities than Vimy....which is what we might expect, given the tactical disadvantage that the Canadians struggled with as they were caught by surprise.

Regards , Phil

---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 4:21:11 PM
Thanks Phil.

I can only say that the figure that I quoted for deaths at Vimy is repeated in most government publications and agencies.

There is of course a possibility that everyone is repeating information that had been reported once and that becomes gospel.

I do know that the Corps was receiving heavy casualties during the preparation phase for the battle but I'm pretty sure that those were not included in the battle casualties.

As well, during the lead up the Canadians were raiding heavily.

e.g. On the night of Feb. 28/Mar. 1, a large raid on Hill 145 took place involving 1700 men, all ranks. These were 4th division men, the division that would attack Hill 145 on April 9.

The raid was a disaster. 697 casualties and 2 battalion commanders killed.

The Canadians engaged in raids every night from Mar. 20 onward for two weeks duration. 1400 casualties during that period.

But I am sure that none of those figures appeared in the final tabulation for the actual battle.

And I mentioned that the deaths from wounds that occurred months after Vimy were not included in the casualty reports; that is, the death vs wounded reports were not altered.

Anyway I decided to check the Canadian Army Official History and found this:


Quote:
Canadian casualties in the two days' fighting totalled 7707, of which 2967 were fatal.

To these must be added the 13th British Brigade's losses on Easter Monday—approximately 380. Up to midnight on 9-10 April, about 3400 German prisoners had been counted; and more were still coming in.


Further action on April 12 to seize The Pimple led to further losses.

Again from the official history:


Quote:
With the completion of this limited exploitation the Battle of Vimy Ridge ended. In six days the Canadian Corps had advanced some 4500 yards and seized 54 guns, 104 trench mortars and 124 machine-guns. It had inflicted severe losses on the enemy, capturing more than 4000 prisoners. The victory had been gained at a cost in Canadian casualties (for the period 9-14 April) of 10,602 all ranks—3598 of them fatal. From His Majesty King George V came a message of congratulations to Sir Douglas Haig: "Canada will be proud that the taking of the coveted Vimy Ridge has fallen to the lot of her troops."


And so we see that the oft quoted figures for wounded and dead seem to have come from the official history.

EDIT: Note that the official historian extended the time period of the battle to April 14. I recall that the Canadians sent a small number of troops in pursuit to a village beyond the ridge and they were mostly shot down by the retreating Germans. Exactly when, I cannot recall.

Phil, perhaps you can explain the discrepancy between the official history and the CWGC data. It's much more in your bailiwick than mine, for sure.

Cheers,

George


Phil andrade
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 5:28:31 PM
Thanks for your reply, George ; and I have to say that, in studying your citation , I've seen something significant that pretty well explains the discrepancy.

The official history you cite alludes to the period 9 -14 April. My CWGC date criterion had been 9-12 April, because that's the time span in the Wiki article.

The CWGC figure for 9-14 April is 3,619 ( 3,259 for 9 - 12 ) : there is now a degree of harmony, tempered by surprise on my part that the Vimy fighting was so much more fatal to those who were hit than other battles which are themselves notorious.

Those two extra days in April account for a difference of several hundred ; the 13th and 14th of April were clearly deadly. It reminds me that, while Canadians captured Passchendaele on 10 November, the 11th and 12th cost them many lives. The capture of an objective is one thing ; holding it under fire for a couple of days longer adds significantly to the toll.

I think that you've correctly emphasised how the open ground provided the Germans with a very deadly field of fire.

And, come to think of it, I ought to have remembered that in the spring of 1915, the French suffered terrific casualties there in April and June : in excess of 100,000, of whom thirty five thousand were said to have been killed .....a ratio very similar to that recorded by the Canadians a couple of years later.

Thanks for bearing with me in this.

Regards , Phil


---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 7:47:27 PM
It is interesting Phil. Now I must research a bit to find out what the Canadians were doing in the two days after the Germans had retreated from Vimy Ridge about three miles across the Douai Plain.

Cheers,

George

George
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/27/2017 8:20:42 PM
OK, the Canadians were still active to April 14.

I do not have the casualty lists but they did move east from the ridge.

On April 13, CDN 1st and 2nd divisions advanced to the Lens-Arras railway.

The 3rd division reached a line between the villages of Petit-Vimy and Vimy, both of which can be seen from the heights of Vimy Ridge.

And 4th Division which had taken The Pimple moved into Givenchy.

British 1st Corps to the left of the Canadians was also on the move and all of 1st Army moved another 1000 yards the next day, the 14th.


The Canadians and British did make contact with German rearguard units so there was some action.

The Germans were on the run and they abandoned artillery weapons and gas shells. The British and Canadian artillery hadn't caught up and so the German weapons were turned on them.

The Canadian gunners knew how to operate the German guns. They had 9 of them, howitzers and 77 mm so they just fired them at the Germans using the German shells. They even fired their own gas shells at them.


General Byng listened to reports and then decided that the Canadians should set up defensive positions from the town of Willerval to the south bank of the Souchez River and so it remained until the 100 day assault began. The Germans didn't attack here during the Spring Offensive.

All of this comes from Nicholson's Official History.

So it confirms that the troops were in action but doesn't tell us how many casualties there were on the 13th and 14th.


Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/28/2017 2:20:37 AM
George,

It's apparent from CWGC that there were 360 Canadian deaths attributable to the 13th and 14th of April : about one tenth of the total for the battle.

My supposition is that many of these would have been wounded in the initial assault, and died several days later.

I think that the medical aspects of the battle merit more study.

It would also be instructive to gauge the proportion of Canada's dead who were denied identified burial.

Are all the Canadian " missing " commemorated on the Vimy memorial, or are there other memorials to their missing elsewhere in France and Belgium ?

Regards , Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Phil andrade
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/28/2017 2:26:20 AM

Quote:
Phil-Casualty Clearance was exceptionally poor at Vimy Ridge and subsequently many of the severely wounded died before receiving medical aid
A past relative of my daughter in law-a stretcher bearer himself- was severely wounded; but was left to die-a form of triage perhaps.


Regards

Jim
--anemone


Thanks for telling us this, Jim.

Isn't this surprising ? You would think that Currie's meticulousness might have prevailed here, and provided for recovery and evacuation of wounded.

Of all things deleterious to battlefield morale, insufficient medical care for wounded men ranks very high on the list.

It certainly counted for a lot in the crisis in the French army a week or so later.

Regards , Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/28/2017 4:04:14 AM
Thank you Phil-Byng's attack was based on speed-despite casualties- over the distance and obviously areas like 4th division's 145- where a brigade was caught in enfilade- there were many casualties-some serious .How stretcher bearers could do their job in such circs beggars belief.Further I suspect that the FAP's were not advanced with the general advance.It is a fact that Canadian Army casualties were so serious in WW1- that half the nation's physicians served overseas with the armed forces.I have read in a number of cases "triage" was applied in the cases of the very seriously wounded ie those whose wounds appeared fatal.This was a decision carried out by stretcher bearers

Regards

Jim
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George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Posts: 5313

Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/28/2017 6:44:35 AM

Quote:
Are all the Canadian " missing " commemorated on the Vimy memorial, or are there other memorials to their missing elsewhere in France and Belgium ?


Phil, many thanks for doing the research on the casualties taken on Apr. 13/14.

There are over 11, 285 names of Canadians who are, "missing and presumed dead" in France on the Vimy Memorial.

There are more on the Menin Gate in Belgium but offhand I do not know how many. There were 1900 missing during the Battle of Mount Sorrel and they are on it.

Canada has been doing a pretty good job of identification of bodies as they are discovered in France or Belgium.

Four whose names are inscribed on the Vimy Memorial were identified recently. I don't know what that means for the inscriptions already on the monument. I think that they should leave them.


Just two years ago, a mass grave was discovered on the Vimy site. 44 soldiers of the Canadian Scottish (CDN 1st Division) were placed in a large crater and buried together. I believe it was called the Zivy Crater. Apparently the larger craters had names.

1st div fought on the far right of the Canadian advance at Vimy.

A single marker, CA40 was placed over the crater. The plan was to exhume the bodies and bury them after the war. It never happened.

One of our historians has taken it upon himself to make sure that these men are given a proper burial.

The government only gets involved once remains have been discovered and these bodies are still 9 metres below the surface and the historian needs money to help him complete his research.

[Read More]

Cheers,

George
.


George
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/28/2017 7:52:03 AM
With regard to the evacuation and treatment of the wounded, it seems that General Byng was concerned about that.

The extensive tunnel systems running from Arras to Vimy not only sheltered soldiers waiting for battle but also served as cover for aid posts and transport of the wounded.

Given all the preparation for the care of the wounded, one wonders at the high number of casualties at Vimy and the inordinate number of deaths.

Could it be that the problem is with initial transport of the wounded, just to remove them from the battlefield.


I do know that Currie, the 1st div commander at Vimy, identified care of the wounded as an area to be improved.

There is a section in a book that I read entitled Hill 70 that deals with transportation, including the transportation of wounded during this battle.

Granted a higher degree of autonomy than other British Corps Commanders, Currie developed a transportation system that made better use of the narrow gauge railways and the diesel-electric engines that pulled them.

Currie extended the motorized sections of these lines right to the battlefield. Apparently the British would allow the installation of the tracks up to a certain point and then trucks would carry the freight. Once near the battlefield, goods were off loaded onto hand push carts.

Currie decided that it would be better to extend the actual track so that the engines could move the goods closer. Motor transport was at a premium and he felt that the rail lines were necessary.

This was a factor in the speedy removal of wounded from Hill 70 and Lens.

The Royal Canadian Medical Corps reported that it had processed 7,000 men in the course of the battle.


Gen. Currie was reminded by his CO, Gen. Horne of British 1st Army that the decision to build these rail lines rested solely with GH.



Horne's staff told him that if he built lines then the rolling stock could only be moved by horse or man power.

Currie argued that that only endangered the lives of his men. He said that GH was fighting a battle according to the transportation schedules to the rear and ignored the needs of the soldiers at the front.

He won his argument and the movement of men and ammunition to the front and of wounded to the rear noticeably improved.

Currie wasn't the only Corps commander who pushed for the extension of narrow gauge rail. The French and Germans had been using them so it made sense that where the tracks existed, why not use them rather than horse or man power.

By late 1917 the Canadians had raised battalions of railroad crews to attend to transport. They weren't actually working for the Corps but for the Imperial army. So these transport battalions could be employed anywhere that the British forces need them. Many were railway workers back in Canada.

Included was a battalion of black Canadians from Nova Scotia. These men had been forbidden to enlist in infantry regiments and had been told that this war, "was a white man's war". They were the only segregated unit ever to fight with the Canadian forces. Nothing to be proud of there.

They Corps was in the forefront of rail transport and it made a difference to efficiencies.

Royal Canadian Military Corps reported processing some 7, 000 wounded during the Battle for Hill 70 and the speed at which the wounded were removed from the field to the RAP and then the rear was much improved. Of course, the condition of the battle field was much better than an Vimy or Passchendaele.

I do have a lecture given by Dr. Andrew Iarocci who has written extensively on Transportation and Supply Schemes of the British forces during WW1.

This lecture is about 55 minutes long and unfortunately, Dr. Iarocci disappears from the screen as he walks over to some visual aid or picture that he is using during the talk.

[Read More]


Cheers,

George

MikeMeech
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/28/2017 7:54:10 AM

Quote:

Quote:
Phil-Casualty Clearance was exceptionally poor at Vimy Ridge and subsequently many of the severely wounded died before receiving medical aid
A past relative of my daughter in law-a stretcher bearer himself- was severely wounded; but was left to die-a form of triage perhaps.


Regards

Jim
--anemone


Thanks for telling us this, Jim.

Isn't this surprising ? You would think that Currie's meticulousness might have prevailed here, and provided for recovery and evacuation of wounded.

Of all things deleterious to battlefield morale, insufficient medical care for wounded men ranks very high on the list.

It certainly counted for a lot in the crisis in the French army a week or so later.

Regards , Phil

--Phil andrade


Hi

The pre-battle orders contain the medical details (Canadian ones are available on line)for the BEF these are basically a 'standard' layout. The 13th Brigade orders has 'Medical' as section 20 on page 5. It gives the location of the Regimental Aid Posts each with their own lines of evacuation as well as the Advanced dressing Station and the Main Dressing Station, these are fairly 'meticulous' as they are in most orders I have read.
For the 14 Royal Warwicks the orders state that they:

"...will establish a Regimental Aid Post in Sapper Dug out after assaulting Battn. have moved from position of assembly. Lines of evacuation by NEUVILLE TRAM or DENIS LE ROCK Trench."

For 2 KOSB and 1 Royal West Kents:

"...will establish their Aid Posts near CRAMER HAUS, informing Staff Captain of Map Reference as soon as possible, that Ambulance Bearers may be sent up."

For 15 R.War.R:

"...near VOLKER Dug out."

The Canadian units are all in similar detail. These locations were unlikely to be changed while the battle was going on as the units would need to know where they were. Of course problems could arise if enemy artillery took out your aid posts or a large number of your stretcher bearers became casualties.

Mike

anemone
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/28/2017 8:20:53 AM
General Byng was said to be much interested in the evacuation of the wounded. However-it is reported that stretcher bearers ie.the few allotted to eacn Btn ie. seven stretchers and five chair lifts ; could not find their way to the wounded, and that Field Dressing Stations were overwhelmed with injured and dying men.


Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Posts: 5313

Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/28/2017 8:59:15 AM
There were sections of the battle field whereby retrieval of the wounded was impossible. If a man was badly wounded and in the bottom of a deep crater, often with other dead bodies, a decision had to made as to whether he could be retrieved or should be

As Jim mentioned, there were so many wounded that the stretcher bearers had to make difficult decisions about who deserved to be transported.

Wrong word. Everyone deserved to be transported. It just wasn't possible to do it. If a man looked to be too far gone, he was left to die.


In other instances, it was impossible to get to the wounded because of the rifle and MG fire of the Germans.

In the attacks on Hill 145 which could not be taken until the second day, there were wounded laying in front of the German positions in piles.

German unit diaries described how, "mounds of khaki began to form in front of us" as they continued to fire into the advancing Canadians.

Men were dead and dying in those mounds. They would have been 4th division men.

When the fighting stopped on April 9, the Germans did allow the Canadians to come forward to retrieve the wounded in those piles.

The eastern side of the hill was not taken until the next day.

It was pretty horrific in some parts of the battle field.

Cheers,

George

anemone
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/28/2017 9:51:17 AM

Quote:
German unit diaries described how, "mounds of khaki began to form in front of us" as they continued to fire into the advancing Canadians.

Men were dead and dying in those mounds. They would have been 4th division men.

When the fighting stopped on April 9, the Germans did allow the Canadians to come forward to retrieve the wounded in those piles.

The eastern side of the hill was not taken until the next day.

It was pretty horrific in some parts of the battle field.


In all probability --too late George- to save those men in the mounds and this IMO is another factor influencing the excessive number of dead in this battle.

Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

phil andrade
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/28/2017 11:41:17 AM
Currie predicted the number of casualties his corps would sustain in the capture of Passchendaele with astonishing accuracy : to within three per cent, IIRC.

I wonder if any such prediction had been ventured in regard to Vimy Ridge.

And, perhaps, it's plausible that Currie was determined that the mortality suffered in the earlier battle would not be replicated in the autumn struggle.

By mortality, I refer to the ratio of fatalities among the total casualties - not the actual number : more Canadians died at Passchendaele.

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

George
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/28/2017 11:57:19 AM
The Canadian Corps at Vimy was very much Julian Byng's corps. The men loved him in a way that they would never love Arthur Currie.

Currie was admired by his staffers but he did not relate well to the privates and NCO's.

The men called themselves "Byng's boys". I don't think that that would have happened with Currie and yet Currie was their leader during the period in which their fame was cemented.

I have mentioned that Byng was appointed Governor General of Canada and was much loved even though he crossed a line and tried to interfere in the process of government at a time when GG's were learning that the Canadians saw the position as more symbolic. He had a little war with PM King and the "King-Byng Affair" was a newsworthy item for a while.

Currie was Byng's top divisional commander though and he was the man that Byng sent to those meetings with the French, charged to bring home a report on best practices.

EDIT: Currie was determined that casualties should be limited. He knew that you could not avoid men being killed but he felt that as commander, he should do everything that he could to increase their chances of survival, all the while seeking to meet objectives.
His men never appreciated that his demands for time to prepare, his demands for more artillery, his demands for better transport were all to make sure that the men had a fighting chance.
And yet some men felt that he was accepting greater challenges handed him by the Brits just to enhance his reputation.
Problems at home with former Defence Minister Sam Hughes who slandered Currie right and left and called him a butcher in public, did nothing to dispel the image of Currie as a glory hound. He was not. He cared and worried for his troops.

The process or evolution to a superior fighting force took time. It took time to introduce knew tactics that the British and Commonwealth forces would employ and Byng had a lot to do with that when he was the commander.

The Corps didn't go from raw and untried to competent and then superior overnight. Byng whipped them into form. Currie molded them into one of the finest corps in the British army.

Currie was an innovator in his own right and he took the Corps to the next level. His appointment as Corps commander was with the approval of Byng and of course, the Canadian government.

Currie benefitted from the nationalistic policies of the Canadian government and he was able to do some things and get some concessions that other British Corps commanders did not.

George

MikeMeech
UK
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/28/2017 1:19:53 PM
Hi

The Light Rail system was well used for taking supplies forward and bringing wounded back, for example in Wolmar's 'Engines of War', page 185, (quoting W J K Davies, the Light Rail historian) he states:

"it took only sixty hours after Passchendaele had been occupied for a light railway to be operating right into the village, bringing up stores and taking back wounded."

However, it had its limitations in that it, like motor transport, could not cross the 'crater-land' which in some places were 8 miles deep. For this terrain Aerial Ropeway systems were being developed but had very limited use before the war ended (OH of The Ministry of Munitions Volume XII, Part V, page 3). There were also supply problems during 1918, first the German Offensive in the Spring not only gave the system a 'busy' time 250,000 tons were transported in a single week, also equipment was lost or destroyed. The shortage of all rail equipment led to about three 18 pdr shell factories closing so rolling mills could supply rolled steel for railways. Even tanks became a lower priority in production compared with rail equipment.

During the German Offensive it was not only light rail that went forward to pick up the wounded, hospital trains did as well:

"As we were proceeding along the seven miles or so to Tricourt, the noise increased, until when we reached the latter place shells were bursting some few hundred yards from the train, the shrapnel falling quite close to one end of it....[I]t turned out we were clearing the C.C.S. of patients prior to its removal from the line. Eventually the train was loaded and we moved out, unloading at Rouen at midnight." ('The Medical War', by Mark Harrison, page 85).

There was never a great 'surplus' of equipment that GHQ could supply all commanders, all that they wanted, all the time. It was always a compromise.

Mike

George
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/28/2017 1:39:06 PM
Thanks for that Mike.

The supply situation at Hill 70 was becoming more stressed because the motor transport was spread too thin, as you mentioned.

That is why Currie asked to extend the narrow gauge as far as he could and this meant a shorter distance to move the materials by horse or man pushed tram.

And the geography allowed for it. There were thousands of men whose job it was to build and repair rail transport and to get the goods to the front.

The job of planning this whole operation for any of the armies involved must have been challenging.

George
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/28/2017 3:58:58 PM
I have a book entitled Battle of Hill 70 and in that battle is a section on medical preparation and services during the battle.

The evacuation chain worked extremely well at Lens partly because the CAMC had taken it upon themselves to determine why the casualty rate and death rate at Vimy was so high.

The Canadian evacuation chain was no different than that for any British battalion in any Corps.

Stretcher bearers remove wounded to RAP

From there wounded go to the Advance Dressing Station

From there if necessary they go to the Field Ambulance main dressing station

Corps rest stations

Casualty Clearing stations. (outside the Corps area)

Ambulance to the railhead where they are taken to a distribution zone

Patients sent to General Hospitals, or hospital ships for transfer to England.


All of that worked extremely well at Hill 70 but not as effectively at Vimy.

Medical services so far as possible had been centralized at the Corps level.

Despite all the preparation, the CAMC report on Vimy noted:

1. Bad weather, crater pocked terrain and poor traffic control left little room for vehicles moving back with casualties

2. There were so many casualties that they began to back up at the Advanced Dressing Station with wounded men laying all about on the ground

3. Roads were clogged with supply vehicles (MT and horse drawn) that prevented vehicles carrying wounded from getting the wounded to the main dressing stations

4. Staff planners seriously underestimated the ratio of stretcher cases to walking wounded. They had planned for a ratio of 3:1, not 1:1.

5. This miscalculation led to a shortage of stretcher bearers, stretchers and field accommodations for the seriously wounded

6. The narrow gauge trains operating in the 4th divisions sector which attacked Hill 145 and later the Pimple was in full view of the Germans. The operated in daylight and many of the tracks were destroyed. These tracks were supposed to carry the wounded back in trains. Trains can carry many more wounded than push carts, obviously.


So what did they do differently at Hill 70. It's hard to compare because the terrain was different and it was dry.

These are the noted changes in approach:

1. The area had been occupied by British divisions for months and they had done a wonderful job of creating deep dugouts, cellars and mine shafts that were in protected areas. The advanced dressing stations could each hold 500 stretcher cases if a backup did occur.

2. Extra stretcher bearers were assigned at every position in the evacuation chain between the RAP's and the field ambulances.

3. Extra stretcher bearers were held in reserve at brigade HQ, ready to respond if any battalion needed help in clearing casualties.

4. Special parties were created who advanced with the last wave of attack. These men would locate wounded men and call for a stretcher.

5. Battalions held back infantrymen who would serve as stretcher bearers if needed.

6. The 4 forward brigades at Lens each had 100 extra bearers assigned to assist the regimental bearers in moving men to the ambulances

7. Even the 107th Canadian Pioneer Battalion which would normally be keeping communication trenches open and repairing the tramways, stood by to be stretcher bearers if needed.

8. The narrow gauge rail system had been expanded and improved upon. Large numbers of men could be moved by these trains back to the broad track trains at the rail head.

Lastly it was noted or confirmed that the advanced stretcher bearers were charged with triage duties. It was these men who decided who should be taken to the RAP. I am pretty sure that they had been doing this in other battles already.

Source of this information: Douglas E. Delaney (Editor), Serge Marc Durflinger(Editor), Capturing Hill 70: Canada's Forgotten Battle of the First World War












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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/28/2017 6:21:03 PM
George,

You've given a first rate answer here : going to the trouble of picking out some material which really deals with the questions that were bothering me.

Thanks so much.

I'm still left wondering why the ratio of severe wounds was so high at Vimy ; quite apart from the insufficient evacuation of casualties, the reasons for the severity of the wounds themselves require explanation. It's not as if the weapons deployed by the Germans were different at Lens from what they had been at Vimy.

The answer probably lies in the exposed ground which the Canadians had to advance over. I am also suspecting that the attacking formations were insufficiently dispersed ....too much " bunching ", perhaps ?

The few months that separated Vimy from Lens might have seen significant improvements in deployment of attacking infantry : " blobs" rather than " waves", more Lewis Gun and rifle grenade teams etc.

It's worth noting that the British and Australian contingents in the Arras offensive also sustained enormous casualties with a significantly high proportion of fatalities among them.

There was something distinctly ghastly about this fighting , even by the standards of WWI.

In terms of numbers posted as killed in action, April 1917 was - with the exception of July 1916 - the worst single calendar month of the entire war for the British and Dominion forces.

When it comes to the number reported as died from wounds, it was exceeded only by July 1916 and April 1918.

And the Germans' record testifies to similar extremes : only five other months on the Western Front brought them a higher number of confirmed killed in action.

For the French, of course, that month was one slaughter too far.

Regards , Phil





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George
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/28/2017 7:49:33 PM
Your questions will be difficult to answer Phil and they are valid. The casualty total and the number of killed is puzzling.

I think that the British doctrine had changed with respect to assaults.

Gen. Byng embraced all of it. So did his divisional commanders, especially Arthur Currie of the 1st division.

The bite and hold tactics were in effect. Every man knew his sequence of objectives as did every squad.

Maps were available with clear objectives marked.

They had practiced for weeks on mock-ups of the battle field.

The preliminary bombardment was extensive and went on for days.

The Canadians engaged in many trench raids which while costly in terms of casualties, were praised because of the important intelligence that they yielded.

The artillery shoot on April 9 was magnificent. Alan Brooke devised an extremely difficult creeping barrage with precise lifts and every soldier knew how long they would wait and then advance.

Andy McNaughton was in charge of counter battery fire and the targets had been identified weeks before. Apparently his gunners took out 83% of the specified targets.


Still the Germans were well entrenched and they were good soldiers.

The Canadians said that they were being sniped at with rifle fire all the time and the Germans had plenty of heavy Maxim MG's that they used to effect.

There were many that simply refused to quit.

The Prussians who held the Pimple had every reason to quit on April 12, but they did not and they were dug out through hand to hand combat in many cases.

Hand to hand seemed to be quite prominent in this battle in many places. That could have influenced the casualty figures.

But I'm just speculating as you can see.



So you've got me. Why so many casualties? Why so many deaths among them?

Do you think that it could just be geography and the weather that created conditions that made war fighting more difficult?

There were several instances whereby Canadians were caught in the open because they could not keep up with the barrage because they were stuck in deep mud. That resulted in many casualties.

Most of the accounts of the battle allude to the superb training that the Corps had undergone and to their physical fitness. They were well rested and very healthy.


So I don't know how to explain it.


Cheers,

George

scoucer
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/28/2017 8:12:57 PM
George,

Just one point. The germans at Vimy were Bavarians , not prussians.

Trevor
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Some swim with the stream. Some swim against the stream. Me - I´m stuck somewhere in the woods and can´t even find the stupid stream.

George
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/28/2017 10:42:58 PM

Quote:
George,

Just one point. The germans at Vimy were Bavarians , not prussians.

Trevor
--scoucer


Thanks Trevor. I did see reference to the Bavarian regiments on the maps that I provided.

What then is the Prussian Guard? Or the 261st Prussian Reserve Infantry Regiment?


My source, (Cook, Shock Troops) refers to the Prussian Guard as the unit that was moved in at the end to defend the Pimple, the last part of Vimy Ridge still in German hands and taken on April 12. I don't think that they were there until the Canadians had taken everything but the east side of Hill 145 and the Pimple.

And on April 10, when hill 145 was taken it was the 261st Prussian Reserve Infantry Regiment that commented that, "corpses accumulate and form small hills of khaki."

The last reference to Prussians that I found was in a letter from General Byng to his wife after he visited the Ridge and he wrote:

"I went over the Pimple yesterday. It is a sight: the dead are rather ghastly but a feat of arms that will stand forever. Poor old Prussian Guard.

What a mouthful to swallow being beaten to hell by what they called, 'untrained Colonial levies'. "

I wonder whether the British referred to any Gardekorps unit as Prussian Guard? Does that sound plausible?

Am I correct in saying that Prussians and Bavarians are friendly rivals?


In my search, I never saw any reference to "Prussians" anywhere but on the highest point of the ridge.


Cheers,

George



Phil andrade
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/29/2017 5:44:31 AM
Reflecting on this rather shocking Canadian casualty list, I've been becoming a bit circumspect about the depiction of Vimy Ridge as Canada's most celebrated triumph in the Great War.

And yet, in a sense, those very casualties themselves attest the magnitude of that achievement : only soldiers of supreme resolve, endowed with profound national pride and a special sense of identity, could have taken such punishment and yet accomplished that.

Regards , Phil

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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/29/2017 7:07:49 AM
Phil-Your second para could equally be applied to that most noble of causes of all- "The Last Hundred Days"-the determined Allied effort to knock Germany out of the war-which was accomplished- but at a cost of 700.000 (ie 7000 per day) Allied casualties-something less than the vanquished side- whose casualties were 760.000; which makes the losses at Vimy Ridge pale into insignificance -numbers wise.

Regards

Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/29/2017 7:19:15 AM
Jim,

Those figures you cite are well short of the mark for the Hundred Days. Did you get them from wiki ?

Three hundred and fifty thousand British and Dominion, a similar number of French and in excess of two hundred thousand Americans, plus Belgian and Italian contingents : we're sniffing around the one million mark, I reckon.

And that's without the Germans.

Incidentally, Canada's casualties in the Hundred Days were in the order of forty five thousand...but - and this is of note - " only" one quarter of them were dead. Overall, barely more than one fifth of all British casualties August to November 1918 were fatal.

As we've noticed, more than one third of Canadian casualties at Vimy were fatal.

Very large numbers of the casualties of the 1918 battles were caused by gas. This inflated numbers, but resulted in relatively very few deaths. No complacency here about the unpleasantness of the ordeal ; or of the long term effects.
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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: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/29/2017 7:47:23 AM
I checked with three seperate sources-Encyclopedia of the Great War,Wikipedia and the Long Long Trail; and they all tallied.Can't say that i am vexed that my figures were too little-your 1,000,000 Allied (ie 10,000 per day) casualties-20% of whom were dead -man that is a helluva lot of corpses-indicating that it was a true Armageddon.

PS Lost the first post- looking for gas casualties-Twit!!!

Regards

Jim
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George
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/29/2017 7:49:54 AM

Quote:
Reflecting on this rather shocking Canadian casualty list, I've been becoming a bit circumspect about the depiction of Vimy Ridge as Canada's most celebrated triumph in the Great War.


Indeed it was not. I mentioned that Arthur Currie did not consider it so and the Corps received praise from allies for victories in other battles.

Currie would have been proud of Hill 70 and of the Battle of Canal-du-Nord during the Last 100 Days, the latter being one of the most audacious and risky initiatives of the war, I think.

But Vimy was reflective of the evolution of this corps into an outstanding fighting force and one that was employed in a number of key battles subsequently.

The list of accomplishments of the Corps is one of which to be proud for Canadians.

And that includes the Last 100 days, beginning with Amiens and finishing at Mons on Nov. 11.

Vimy did not turn the tide of war. Hell it was part of a greater battle of Arras in which British and Commonwealth men died in numbers to placate the French. Strategically, how much did Arras really accomplish.

But Vimy roused a nationalistic spirit in the people of Canada and if Canadians can recall anything of the exploits of the Canadian Corps, they will recall Vimy.

Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/29/2017 8:07:54 AM

Quote:
I checked with three seperate sources-Encyclopedia of the Great War,Wikipedia and the Long Long Trail; and they all tallied.Can't say that i am vexed that my figures were too little-your 1,000,000 Allied (ie 10,000 per day) casualties-20% of whom were dead -man that is a helluva lot of corpses-indicating that it was a true Armageddon.

PS Lost the first post- looking for gas casualties-Twit!!!

Regards

Jim
--anemone


A helluva lot of corpses, indeed !

But don't overlook the difference between multiple armies attacking along hundreds of miles for a hundred days, and four divisions going into a tiny tongue of ground and suffering thousands of casualties in a couple of days.

Of the two, I wonder which felt more like Armageddon.

Regards , Phil
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anemone
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/29/2017 8:32:11 AM
Hey now Phil- I am not in any way, shape or form- trying to trivialise the Battle of Vimy Ridge.All I was attempting to do- was to put it into perspective with other bloodbaths- such as the Somme and Passchendaele-all Armageddons in my opinion. Passchendaele IMO being the most hellish.

R%egards

Jim
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Lightning
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/29/2017 9:03:41 AM

Quote:
All I was attempting to do- was to put it into perspective with other bloodbaths- such as the Somme and Passchendaele-all Armageddons in my opinion. Passchendaele IMO being the most hellish.--anemone


Hi Jim,

Without the "bloodbaths" stated above, there would have been no victory in 1918, as it was during these undoubtedly awful engagements that the British, Imperial and Commonwealth forces learned their craft.

Despite honing their skills at places like Loos, the Somme and Vimy Ridge, 1918 was still subsequently the most costly year of the war for the British Empire. These grievous losses were tolerated by the civilian leadership and population because victory was in sight, but I've always wondered what would have become of the morale of the Allied nations had the war run on into 1919 with no sign of let up.

Cheers,

Colin
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/29/2017 9:47:00 AM
Hi Colin-long time -no hear.If I read you correctly I suppose you mean-it was the result of those bloodbaths- of say- 1916 and 1917- that brought about a "sea change" in how the generals were going to fight the war in 1918-I must confess that I am having difficulty in accepting that premise.1917 closed with a disastrous defeat at Cambrai; and 1918 kicked off with the Kaiserschlact-where France came in to bail us out- in the Michael Operation.

I am of the opinion that these two events brought about a serious rethink and a resolve to finish the war that year.The flow of manpower had recommenced in late March; and Haig had seen the potential of storm troopers and also realised that he too had two Corps of such troops -Canadian and ANZAC; and plans- strategic ,tactical,manpower and logistical were made in deepest secrecy- to strike Germany with a sudden and massive blow in August 1918- Ludendorff's Blackest Day

The idea of prolonging the war into 1919 was not a good one-it gave the Germans time to recuperate-when they should be taken out of the war by "coup de main"- Pronto.

Regards

Jim
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scoucer
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/29/2017 9:54:48 AM
Will check George.

Trevor
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Lightning
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/29/2017 10:06:42 AM

Quote:
Hi Colin-long time -no hear.If I read you correctly I suppose you mean-it was the result of those bloodbaths- of say- 1916 and 1917- that brought about a "sea change" in how the generals were going to fight the war in 1918-I must confess that I am having difficulty in accepting that premise.1917 closed with a disastrous defeat at Cambrai; and 1918 kicked off with the Kaiserschlact-where France came in to bail us out- in the Michael Operation.

I am of the opinion that these two events brought about a serious rethink and a resolve to finish the war that year.The flow of manpower had recommenced in late March; and Haig had seen the potential of storm troopers and also realised that he too had two Corps of such troops -Canadian and ANZAC; and plans were secretly made to strike Germany with a suddeen and massive blow in August 1918- Ludendorff's Blackest Day

The idea of prolonging the war into 1919 was not a good one-it gave the Germans time to recuperate-when they should be taken out of the war by "coup de main"- Pronto.

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Jim,

Indeed, it's been a while since I commented on a WW1 thread. It's nice to be back.

My point was more about the nuts and bolts of warfare; how to co-ordinate artillery, how to effectively knock out machine gun posts, how to raid trenches, how to deploy divisions, brigades and battalions, how to supply the troops and how to deploy reserves. These were all things that the British-led forces weren't particularly good at in the earlier parts of the war, but became highly effective at by the end.

Put it this way - could the Allies have won the war in 1918 using 1916 tactics? If so, why didn't they win the war earlier?

Cheers,

Colin
---------------
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anemone
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/29/2017 10:30:36 AM
Ah!- but Colin-your original premise was to do with the bloodbaths-no mention of technology nor tactics; but straight away- I have to admit that the enormous strides made in the effectiveness of artillery was demonstrated at Cambrai- when the secretly laid and sudden, predicted artillery fire- spread shock and awe in the ranks of the enemy.

As far as the rest is concerned- this penny dropped IMO in 1918- with the German Spring Offensive.It goes without saying that should Allies continued the war in 1918 with 1916/17 tactics-it would have gone on much longer-notwithstanding the naval blockade of Germany.I do sincerely think that the "turn around" in strategic and tactical thinking- was in itself quite remarkable.

Regards

Jim
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Lightning
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Re: The Battle of Vimy Ridge--9--12 April 1917
Posted on: 3/29/2017 11:22:32 AM

Quote:
Ah!- but Colin-your original premise was to do with the bloodbaths-no mention of technology nor tactics; but straight away- I have to admit that the enormous strides made in the effectiveness of artillery was demonstrated at Cambrai- when the secretly laid and sudden, predicted artillery fire- spread shock and awe in the ranks of the enemy.


Jim, my argument is that the "bloodbaths" were caused by poorly refined skills on the battlefield. 1918 was costly, but would have been costlier still if nothing had been learned in the preceding years of combat. You cannot have the victory without the learning curve.


Quote:
As far as the rest is concerned- this penny dropped IMO in 1918- with the German Spring Offensive.It goes without saying that should Allies continued the war in 1918 with 1916/17 tactics-it would have gone on much longer-notwithstanding the naval blockade of Germany.I do sincerely think that the "turn around" in strategic and tactical thinking- was in itself quite remarkable--anemone


Yet the stormtrooper tactics of the German army both failed to break the Allied lines and also failed to strengthen Germany's strategic position, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of casualties, many of whom were irreplaceable seasoned veterans. If there was a sea change, it wasn't due to the German innovations, but more to do with the refinement of combined arms tactics, coupled with the morale boost of ten thousand Doughboys arriving every day to boost the Allied ranks.

Cheers,

Colin
---------------
"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."

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