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 (1914-1918) WWI Battles    
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Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
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Posts: 687

Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/28/2017 4:53:52 PM

Quote:
Hello Mike,

For the USA, their AEF didn't have sufficient time in combat to experience what the other nations had.

Some of our American posters have noted that in the history of their country, the first war takes a back seat to the second world war.



Very much so. WW2 has always been "our" war.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

MikeMeech
UK
top 30
E-5 Sergeant
Posts: 322

Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/28/2017 5:16:25 PM

Quote:
Hello Mike,

For the USA, their AEF didn't have sufficient time in combat to experience what the other nations had.

Some of our American posters have noted that in the history of their country, the first war takes a back seat to the second world war.

The Russians experienced heavy casualties in WW1 and even heavier in WW2. So I understand that the Great Patriotic war would resonate with the Soviet Union/Russia more than in WW1.

But I was surprised to see your inclusion of the Germany as one country that would see WW2 as more horrific than WW1. Is that because of the terrible civilian casualties that Germany did not experience in WW1?


Cheers,

George
--George

Hi George

Why wouldn't it be more 'horrific' in WW2 than WW1 for Germany? They had more military casualties, more civilian casualties, Germany became a total battlefield as the Allied armies fought their way to Berlin. Germany was then occupied and split up until 45 years later, Political and military leaders were put on trial, some executed, some imprisoned and the population 're-educated'.
The Versailles Treaty of 1919 was a 'soft option' in comparison, no 'stab in the back' myth could be advanced by the German General Staff this time!

Mike

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5714

Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/28/2017 5:37:19 PM
I see your point Mike. Germany did not experience devastation in the homeland in the first war.

And I think that they had 2 million military deaths in WW1 and over 5 million in the second. So again, I see your point.

George


Phil Andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2598

Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/28/2017 5:42:41 PM
Up until June 1944, German military deaths were fewer than the total for 1914-18. But in the final eleven months of WW2, German military fatalities assumed such catastrophic dimensions that the final total for 1939 - 45 was double that of WW1.

This outrageous loss was largely attributable to many hundreds of thousands of German POWs who died in Soviet captivity.

The Soviets themselves suffered 8.7 million military deaths 1941-45...all nations combined 1914-18 had lost ten million.

So I must accept that my description of WW1 being "transcendental " in its slaughter needs to be put into perspective.

For Western Europe, the description is valid.

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
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2598

Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 3:47:49 AM

Quote:
I see your point Mike. Germany did not experience devastation in the homeland in the first war.

And I think that they had 2 million military deaths in WW1 and over 5 million in the second. So again, I see your point.

George


--George


George,

This huge figure for German WW2 military deaths - about 5.35 million - has been revealed by the research of the German historian Overmans. Not sure if I've spelt his name right.

It's such an immense number that I have my doubts - I know that our Rich Anderson has challenged it.

If we're to accept the figure, then I would suggest that the figure of just over 2 million for WW1 would also need to be adjusted upwards, to conform to the same method of compilation. The upshot would be, I contend, that the disparity between German military deaths in the two wars would be in the order of two to one.

Set against these terrifying figures, the toll of Haig's generalship begins to seem almost insignificant ; but I defy anyone to countenance the Battle of the Somme - and other episodes of that war - without recoiling from the scale of the slaughter, especially given the confined areas in which it occurred , and the prolonged static nature of the fighting, with attendant conditions.

Even John Terraine, proponent of dismantling the hyperbole surrounding the Great War, conceded that the grisly static nature of that war's battles did lend them a unique horror.

Editing here : reflecting on what I've written above, I'm bound to ask : was it those horrific conditions, rather than the sheer numbers of men who were killed, that imparted to WW1 generalship a uniquely bad reputation in British folklore ? Not forgetting, of course, those eloquent enemies that Jim Cameron alluded to...in Haig's case, the venom of David Lloyd George and the impact of the war poets.


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
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5714

Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 7:06:50 AM
Phil there is little doubt that the WW1 soldier fought in appalling conditions and often using tactics that were bound to lead to heavy casualties.

I don't blame the generals. The static war meant that the enemy had to be ferreted out of protective lair.

Even successful operations like Vimy Ridge, still had a large number of casualties.

While all arms combat became the norm in the second half of WW1, I think that the more effective artillery and air power of the second war allowed commanders to husband their human assets, the foot soldier.

I can think of a couple of instances north of Falaise where technology like tanks was not available or employed in support of the infantry leading to predictable results in terms of casualties.

So when we assess a general and find him wanting, is it his sheer incompetence or the circumstances in which the man found himself that led to his vilification. We know that some generals are better than others. What makes a great general?

Just a thought here that may not be relevant.

Some of the American battles fought in the Pacific were in horrendous conditions as well. Is there any way to compare the casualty rates in that theatre with what was happening at a place like the Somme? Not total numbers but percentages of soldiers killed or wounded.

For me the Somme stands alone as a place of unfathomable loss.

I am wondering whether battle conditions force the hand of the general in command at times and the great number of casualties that ensue are the cause.

So if a British general was assigned a particularly difficult sector and conditions in which to attack, did he and higher command accept higher casualties and a greater likelihood of failure?

Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
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Moderator
Posts: 2598

Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 9:25:19 AM
George,

You suggest a comparison between the Pacific Theatre in WW2 and WW1 battles in terms of casualty rates.

The two examples that come to mind are Iwo Jima and Gallipoli.

I don't have stuff to hand, but I'm confident in stating that seventy thousand British and ANZAC troops landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 ; within two weeks more than twenty thousand had become casualties, of whom over six thousand had been killed. This was just the beginning of the campaign : some of the worst casualty rates of all were to occur in the August battles.

I suspect that this exceeded the casualty rate suffered by the USMC at Iwo Jima.

Of course, Gallipoli was small scale compared with the Somme...but in terms of intensity, it was pretty awful.

Editing : I think that the seventy thousand I alluded to might include the French contingent.

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: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 9:45:22 AM
Iwo Jima was the only Marine battle where the American casualties, 26,000 incl 6,800 dead, exceeded the Japanese --ie although most of the 22,000 defending the island died.
Source Battle of Iwo Jima intro.
The 6,800 American servicemen killed doubled the deaths of the Twin-Towers of 9/11

The battle of Okinawa, also known as Operation Iceberg, took place in April-June 1945. It was the largest amphibious landing in the Pacific theatre of World War II. It also resulted in the largest casualties with over 100,000 Japanese casualties and 50,000 casualties for the Allies.Source-Battle of Okinawa intro


Regards

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

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5714

Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 10:04:57 AM

Quote:
Iwo Jima was the only Marine battle where the American casualties, 26,000 incl 6,800 dead, exceeded the Japanese --ie although most of the 22,000 defending the island died.

The 6,800 American servicemen killed doubled the deaths of the Twin-Towers of 9/11

The battle of Okinawa, also known as Operation Iceberg, took place in April-June 1945. It was the largest amphibious landing in the Pacific theatre of World War II. It also resulted in the largest casualties with over 100,000 Japanese casualties and 50,000 casualties for the Allies.


Regards

Jim
--anemone


Jim, please cite your sources if you are going to copy and paste.


I was looking for evidence that the conditions of battle are related to an increase in casualties.

Amphibious landings are precarious if the defenders choose to defend.

I was wondering whether the dug in positions of the Japanese were in any way comparable to what the allies faced in WW1. Note, not on scale.

The WW1 defensive installations were more elaborate but did Americans suffer because of the terrain and the dug in nature of the Japanese during WW2.

And, was there any way that a commanding general in the Pacific could avoid the losses any more than a British general could have in WW2?

Apples and oranges perhaps but I am trying to build a case in defence of some of the commanders on the British side during the Great War.


Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2598

Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 10:19:53 AM
George,

Currie must stand as the exemplar of a WW1 general who correctly predicted the casualty figures for an attack in a sector which entailed great difficulties and terrible conditions. He reckoned on sixteen thousand casualties in taking Passchendaele, and that's the figure - within 3%. - that the Canadian corps suffered.

As to wether he was reconciled to such a figure - or saw it as acceptable - is something to ponder.

It seems that British and Dominion generals in that war were realistic about the likely cost in casualties : there were some notorious failures in this respect - most notably the opening of the Battle of the Somme, when Haig referred to forty thousand in two days, when in fact the real total was close to fifty per cent higher in one day.

British generalship was very successful in the management of the health of their troops. Hygiene was given a high priority. Millions of British soldiers were admitted to hospital suffering from various ailments ; but the number who died was infinitesimally small in relative terms, escpecially when compared with previous wars.

Provision of food, entertainment and recreation was good, I think.

Many of the soldiers had never experienced such plentitude.

This must not obscure the fact that the toll of battle was terrific.

Overall mortality was reduced, because hygiene was immeasurably improved : but the chance of being killed in action was significantly higher than it had been in previous warfare.

If considerations of welfare are reckoned to be important features of generalship, then I would give the British generals of the Great War high marks.

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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Posts: 6103
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 10:21:48 AM
Did not the Japanese use caves as defence points on Okinawa ?? Iwo Jima they used covered foxholes- against which the Americans used flame throwers.

NB.I apologise for intervening during a private debate-I won't comment further

Regards

jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5714

Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 11:45:12 AM

Quote:
Did not the Japanese use caves as defence points on Okinawa ?? Iwo Jima they used covered foxholes- against which the Americans used flame throwers.

NB.I apologise for intervening during a private debate-I won't comment further

Regards

jim
--anemone


There are no private discussions on an open forum Jim. What did you mean by that comment?

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 12:11:31 PM
When it came to the Pacific War, didn't one of the great commanders advocate letting the enemy wither on the vine ?.

This was not an option available to the commanders who faced the Germans in France and Belgium in WW1.

I've always felt that the predicament of the Franco British generals on the Western Front in the Great War was a particularly nasty one.

They were more or less compelled to evict the enemy from Allied soil. They were not afforded the luxury of doing nothing ; to have sat tight under enemy fire would have exposed their men to terrible loss....we mustn't forget that the Germans occupied the best ground, and were intent on exploiting their advantage.

Any attempt to drive the Germans from that ground was likely to prove expensive, and was bound to be difficult.

The attempt to circumvent this horror by finding another line of approach resulted in Gallipoli : another nightmare, albeit on a smaller scale.

Gallipoli itself resulted in British and Dominion casualty rates even higher than those suffered by the US Marines on Tarawa and Iwo Jima ( this I suppose to be so ; I haven't checked properly ). The Ottoman soldiers at Gallipoli exhibited the same determination to fight to the death as did their Japanese counterparts thirty years later.. Scores of thousands were killed ; very few taken prisoner.

The hazards of amphibious assault ; a determined enemy well dug in on ground suited to defence.....you could draw parallels between this fighting in the Dardanelles and the Pacific warfare a generation later.

The British commanders at Gallipoli have been given a much harsher press than the US commanders who pressed home their attacks on the Japanese.

I suppose the crushing failure of the one stands in contrast with the victorious outcome of the other.

Yet the British generals in France and Flanders gained victory, and commentary has been anything but kind to them.

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
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5714

Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 4:01:37 PM
I don't know Phil. The events of 1918 weren't happenstance. Somebody was leading the defence during the German spring offensive and somebody was leading the offensive that carried the war to its conclusion.

But you are correct. The generals don't seem to get much credit for the victory.

The terrible losses of 1915-1917 are blamed on the generals.

The victory march, also at a huge cost in 1918 is rarely credited to the men in charge.

Cheers,

George

MikeMeech
UK
top 30
E-5 Sergeant
Posts: 322

Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 4:52:41 PM

Quote:
I don't know Phil. The events of 1918 weren't happenstance. Somebody was leading the defence during the German spring offensive and somebody was leading the offensive that carried the war to its conclusion.

But you are correct. The generals don't seem to get much credit for the victory.

The terrible losses of 1915-1917 are blamed on the generals.

The victory march, also at a huge cost in 1918 is rarely credited to the men in charge.

Cheers,

George
--George

Hi

The OH Vol. 4 1918 page 516-517, has the casualties between 8th August and 26 September 1918 as:

First Army: Officers - 1,365, ORs - 28,680.
Third Army: 3,472, 74,395.
Fourth Army: 3,805, 78,259.

Tank Corps between 8th August and 27th September: 408, 1,759.

There would have other casualties not included in these figures(applies for figures below as well).

OH Vol. 5, 1918, page 560-562, has the casualties for infantry and cavalry between 27th September and 12th November 1918 as:

First Army: 936, 25,469.
Second Army: 656, 16,872.
Third Army: 1,384, 39,933.
Fourth Army: 915, 23,202.
Fifth Army: 24, 530.

Cavalry Corps: 29, 465.

Tank Corps, between 21 August to 12th November: 404, 2,012.

Machine-Gun Corps, between 21 Aug. and 12th Nov.: 761, 12,904.

Mike

Phil andrade
London, UK
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 5:47:48 PM
Mike,

Thanks for the breakdown.

Interesting that the Cavalry Corps account for about eight per cent of total casualties : so much for the cavalry being redundant.

Clearly they had a major role to play. I note that a tabulation of French deaths in various sector of the army, year by year, reveals that in 1918 the Cavalry accounted for 3.4% of the total deaths ; the implication is that the British used their cavalrymen far more than their allies, and I wonder if this might serve as a form of vindication of the " cavalry minded " British commanders.....the victorious phase of the war seeing them put to effective use.

CWGC commemorates 88,723 deaths in the Army from all causes in France and Belgium in the period 8 August to 11th November 1918.

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
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5714

Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 7:00:55 PM
How many of the occasions that the cavalry were used were in a dismounted infantry role especially from Aug. 8, 1918?

The cavalry charge at Moreuil Wood during Operation Michael, Mar. 30, is sometimes called the last great cavalry charge of the war.

Even there, prior to the charge by Lt. Flowerdew and his squadron, several cavalry squadrons had fought the Germans in the wood but dismounted.

Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/30/2017 2:23:36 AM
George,

This is a question that I would like to answer. I'd need to do some reading first !

I do know that, at one minute to eleven o'clock in the morning, on the eleventh of November , 1918, a cavalry squadron charged the Germans to seize a bridge at a place called Lessines. The charge was led by Bernard Freyberg, New Zealander - although the unit was British.

I like this story : it demonstrates how the war for the British on the Western Front ended - as it had begun - with a cavalry action.

The fact that it was a Dominion soldier who led the charge lends the story a special potency : well, it does for me, anyway.

I'm convinced that the cavalry would have been fighting dismounted most of the time ; the crucial thing being their mobility enabling them to deploy quickly and effectively in the intense and mobile fighting of the Hundred Days.

If memory serves me, the Germans were terrified of the prospect of their retreat being harried by enemy cavalry : this, combined with attacks by aircraft, made them feel fatally vulnerable.

This is an aspect of the Great War that must not be overlooked : when it reached its culminating phase, when the fighting became more " modern", so to speak, the cavalry had a significant role to play.

Edit...just made a wiki search, and seen that total british cavalry casualties through the war were just over twenty thousand, making the figure of 29,000 plus for the Hundred Days in Mike's tabulation look very suspect. It did surprise me, as you can see from my post alluding to it. Did I misread it ?

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
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
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Posts: 2598

Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/30/2017 3:39:46 AM
Mike,

A horrible realisation hits me : I suspect that I've misconstrued your table of Hundred Days casualties.

My frantic attempts to acknowledge this have been thwarted : this site tends to crash about 7.30 am UK time, and I lose posts.

Those Cavalry Corps casualties : I took them to be 29,465 - no wonder I was surprised !

I now realise that they amount to 29 officers and 465 other ranks.

Apologies.

I must recalibrate my entire approach now......

Instead of equating to eight per cent of total British casualties in that period, they now amount to a fraction of one per cent.

Much chastened !

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
London, UK
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Posts: 2598

Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/30/2017 4:21:26 AM
Only one decent British/Dominion cavalry action in this period of the war on the Western Front reaches out from my books : the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, along with the British 6th Cavalry Brigade, 3rd Dragoon Guards and Royal Dragoons leading, charged the Germans in an action on October 9th, 1918, in the vicinity of Le Cateau, around a place called Montigny.

It was a striking success, the Canadians making the most splendid account of themselves.

Five hundred prisoners were taken. The Canadian cavalrymen suffered 168 casualties, with 171 horses disabled ; their British counterparts, 161 and 255 respectively.

This was a solitary success.

The Hundred Days was not the British Cavalry's Finest Hour. That accolade belongs to their performance at First Ypres four years earlier, when, fighting dismounted, they literally saved the day.

OTOH, testimony from a British officer in the desperate days of the German Spring Offensive earlier in 1918 needs to be cited :

It was a crowning mercy that [the Germans ] had no cavalry. How many times during the retreat did we thank heaven for this ! The sight of a few mounted men in the distance would at once start a ripple of anxiety....Cavalry was the one factor which would have smashed the morale of the defence in a twinkling.

This was probably what I was thinking of when I claimed that the Germans dreaded the appearance of cavalry as they were being routed in the last battles.

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
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5714

Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/30/2017 6:56:52 AM
Hello Phil,

I am reading a PHD thesis entitled, "Smile and Carry On: Canadian Cavalry on the Western Front, 1914-1918".

In this paper, which is as much about British cavalry as Canadian, she reminds us that British cavalry doctrine changed greatly in the years up to the start of the war.

She also suggests that Haig and French were not dimwitted cavalrymen holding on to a method of war fighting that was passé. Some have suggested that they refused to embrace technology.

But she says that as early as 1890, Haig had written that the cavalry would no longer be useful unless it learned to fight in a dismounted role.

That doesn't mean that Haig didn't see a role for the cavalry. But Haig was one of the cavalrymen who supported the addition of the rifle to the arms of the cavalryman.

The views expressed in this thesis are contrary to those of some historians who, writing after the war, described the generals who were cavalrymen as anachronisms who had failed to adjust to modern warfare.

However, it is quite clear that the cavalry would not be the break through arm of the British forces as it had been in past wars.

We know that the cavalry fought dismounted and in the trenches.

But the role of cavalry as a recce arm is sometimes overlooked as is the rather mundane "police" work undertaken by the cavalry in the rear areas or to control troop movements.

So I think that those dramatic charges by men on horse with sabres flashing was less the norm during WW1.

Cavalry Doctrine and Reform. 1900-1914

The author devoted a chapter to doctrinal changes in the British cavalry.

The Boer War indicated to the British that the changes in cavalry armament advocated since the 1880's were necessary. And so cavalry soldiers carried carbines. The use of lances was minimized.

Not to say that there weren't some brilliant traditional cavalry charges during the Boer War.

French and Haig supported the use of MG and artillery fire in support of the cavalry. This was 1892 and both men insisted that the cavalry must practise dismounted cavalry actions.

There was debate over whether the cavalry should use their carbines while riding or whether they should race to a position, dismount and then fire.

The US Civil War had been studied to determine how successful those cavalrymen equipped with sabre, rifle and revolver were in using a "hybrid" model for tactics.

The Boer War indicated that the cavalry was lacking in horsemanship. At least, the critics of French suggested that.

But it was also clear that they lacked reconnaissance skills and that skill became very important in the Great War.


I will provide the link to the thesis below. It is about the Canadian Cavalry but relevant to discussions of all British cavalry.

But it seems clear that the role of cavalry had changed and this role was not forced by the 1st war. The commanders of the cavalry had realized years before that the cavalry would not be the great exploitative force of centuries past. They may have dreamed of that but the nature of warfare had changed.

Germane to this discussion is the contention by the author that French and Haig, portrayed as butchers were able to adjust to the conditions of the new war and in fact had embraced changes in the cavalry well before this conflict.

They loved their cavalry but could see that the role of this arm had to change.

Many historians like Lidell Hart would have a dissenting view.

EDIT: To be fair, the author does include examples of the reluctance of French and Haig to completely reform the cavalry. e.g. the elimination of the lance as a cavalry weapon caused a great deal of angst for both men.


[Read More]


Cheers,

George









MikeMeech
UK
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Posts: 322

Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/30/2017 7:18:28 AM
Hi

Cavalry were not just in the Cavalry Corps of course, the Cavalry Corps casualties do not include cavalry units within the armies. During the '100 Days', there was a shortage of cavalry for all the tasks needed, in part to disbanding cavalry units earlier in the war to be used as infantry. To supply cavalry to the armies Haig had the 2nd Cavalry Division broken up to send a brigade to each of the First, Third and Fourth Armies, despite his desire to keep the Cavalry Corps as strong as possible. These brigades provided 27 squadrons to add to the 12 squadrons still with the Corps cavalry regiments (these were mainly Dominion units as these had not been disbanded to provide infantry as much as the British units). This provided 39 squadrons to be available to the 59 BEF infantry divisions the:

"...duties of these small parties of mounted men, operating often in small troop or patrol-sized units, were unglamorous but constant, keeping advancing infantry in touch with the enemy." (source page 216,'Horsemen in No Man's Land', by David Kenyon.)

The Cavalry were needed and used by the 'infantry' commanders and they felt the shortage, as T Preston stated in the Cavalry Journal in 1934:

"There can, however, be no doubt that the decision to break up one cavalry division was the only wise one under the circumstances. Some people might think that 'army' cavalry was a luxury, but in September 1918 'divisional' cavalry was clearly a necessity. Once the final British advance began, infantry divisional commanders and brigadiers needed mounted men almost every day." (Kenyon, page 216).

So there were a lot of 'cavalry' operations going on during the advance.

Mike

Phil andrade
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/30/2017 8:04:57 AM
George,

Thanks so much for these items you put to us. You do us a great service thereby, and I'm hoping to get a good chance to read what you've just sent.

On Sunday Lynn and I celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary - the so called " Ruby". The next day we fly to Puglia in Southern Italy for a week. It should be a lovely place to visit ; but I'm anxious that there should be wi-fi connection in the hotel where we're going to be staying, so that I can read these articles !

Mike,

You've been kind enough to post these tabulations from the Official Histories. Would you please give us the Cavalry Corps casualties for the 1914 fighting in France and Belgium ? I'd like to see what percentage they represent from the total suffered by the BEF that year.

I remember reading that the standards of horsemanship and marksmanship were very high in the BEF at that time. The subsequent performance of the corps at First Ypres fully justified the pride that was upheld. One anecdote stays in my mind : British troopers were appalled at the way their French counterparts treated their mounts. The French cavalry could be detected at a distance on account of the smell of saddle sores ; the poor horses were not being used with decent consideration.

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

MikeMeech
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/30/2017 12:14:43 PM

Quote:
George,

Thanks so much for these items you put to us. You do us a great service thereby, and I'm hoping to get a good chance to read what you've just sent.

On Sunday Lynn and I celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary - the so called " Ruby". The next day we fly to Puglia in Southern Italy for a week. It should be a lovely place to visit ; but I'm anxious that there should be wi-fi connection in the hotel where we're going to be staying, so that I can read these articles !

Mike,

You've been kind enough to post these tabulations from the Official Histories. Would you please give us the Cavalry Corps casualties for the 1914 fighting in France and Belgium ? I'd like to see what percentage they represent from the total suffered by the BEF that year.

I remember reading that the standards of horsemanship and marksmanship were very high in the BEF at that time. The subsequent performance of the corps at First Ypres fully justified the pride that was upheld. One anecdote stays in my mind : British troopers were appalled at the way their French counterparts treated their mounts. The French cavalry could be detected at a distance on account of the smell of saddle sores ; the poor horses were not being used with decent consideration.

Regards , Phil
--Phil andrade

Hi

The OH 1914 Vol.2, page 466, has the casualties listed for between 14 October and 30 November 1914 as:

1st Cavalry Division: Officers - 84, ORs - 719.
2nd Cavalry Division: - 75, - 734.
3rd Cavalry Division: - 109, - 1,896.

The total BEF casualties for this period was worked out in the post war period as a grand total of - 58,155. In 1914 from casualties reported to the Adjutant-General in France they were thought to be: Officers - 2,268, ORs - 51,807.

Mike

Phil andrade
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/30/2017 12:26:03 PM
Many thanks, Mike!

That's about one in every sixteen BEF casualties in that period being a cavalryman.

Forgive me for pushing my luck here, but do you have figures for the August and September fighting ?

The same source that I used for French army casualties earlier on indicates that only 1.3% of French dead in 1914 were from the cavalry.

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

MikeMeech
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/31/2017 10:10:20 AM

Quote:
Many thanks, Mike!

That's about one in every sixteen BEF casualties in that period being a cavalryman.

Forgive me for pushing my luck here, but do you have figures for the August and September fighting ?

The same source that I used for French army casualties earlier on indicates that only 1.3% of French dead in 1914 were from the cavalry.

Regards , Phil
--Phil andrade

Hi

Sorry for the delay but the OH Volumes I have are on a DVD-ROM, so not as easy to 'flick through' as a book. Also the early volumes tend to have the casualties in the text (as they were relatively 'smaller' than in later battles). there are two fairly detailed casualty statistics that are useable:
Page 238, British Losses between 23rd to 27 August 1914.
Total for 23rd - 1,638. Cavalry share of these - 6 (Mons).
for 24th - 2,606. Cavalry share - 252 (Mons)
for 25th - 905. Cavalry share - 123 (Le Cateau)
for 26th - 8,482. Cavalry share - 15 (Le Cateau)
for 27th - 1,180. Cavalry share - 14. (Le Cateau)

Page 363, Total British Casualties from 6th to 10th September 1914:
I Corps - 779.
II Corps - 654.
III Corps (4th Div. and 19th Bde) - 133.
Cavalry Division - 135.
Total _ 1,701.

Mike

Jim Cameron
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/31/2017 11:54:30 AM

Quote:
Many thanks, Mike!

That's about one in every sixteen BEF casualties in that period being a cavalryman.

Forgive me for pushing my luck here, but do you have figures for the August and September fighting ?

The same source that I used for French army casualties earlier on indicates that only 1.3% of French dead in 1914 were from the cavalry.

Regards , Phil
--Phil andrade


Could that reflect a greater tendency for the British cavalry to fight dismounted, essentially, as mounted infantry?
The SMLE would have allowed them to do so more effectively than the French, with their less effective cavalry carbines. The down side being that doing so would have exposed them to higher losses.
---------------
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/31/2017 12:15:59 PM

Quote:

Quote:
Many thanks, Mike!

That's about one in every sixteen BEF casualties in that period being a cavalryman.

Forgive me for pushing my luck here, but do you have figures for the August and September fighting ?

The same source that I used for French army casualties earlier on indicates that only 1.3% of French dead in 1914 were from the cavalry.

Regards , Phil
--Phil andrade


Could that reflect a greater tendency for the British cavalry to fight dismounted, essentially, as mounted infantry?
The SMLE would have allowed them to do so more effectively than the French, with their less effective cavalry carbines. The down side being that doing so would have exposed them to higher losses.

--Jim Cameron



Yes, undoubtedly : this was the perfect example of cavalry making an excellent account of itself fighting dismounted.

Buford's boys at Gettysburg multiplied tenfold.

This was encounter battle ; both sides seeking to outflank, vital ground and golden moments...any combination of mobility and firepower was bound to be at a premium .

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

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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/31/2017 1:45:53 PM
Perhaps also one reason the idea of cavalry as a viable asset persisted. It wasn't simply a quaint romantic notion on Haig's part. Rather, cavalry did have a role to fulfill, using it's mobility and ability to fight effectively dismounted to sieze and hold ground while the less mobile infantry came up. Granted, this didn't happen very often, but the potential was still there.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

George
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/31/2017 2:41:23 PM
There were places that the horse could go that the fairly new armoured cars or motor machine gun corps could not.


Quote:
The cavalry was expected to use its superior mobility to perform reconnaissance, delaying actions, and pursue the retreating enemy.

Cavalry also had several important roles to play in rear areas, such as traffic control, escort duties, mounted police work, and any duties that required the mobility of a mounted force.
. (source: PHD thesis provided in a previous post)

So it seems that the cavalry was employed in a variety of roles.

With the Germans in retreat often during the Last 100 Days, I wonder how often was it that cavalry units were used to maintain contact with a fleeing enemy heading for its next defensive stand.


Cheers,

George

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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/31/2017 4:12:36 PM

Quote:

Quote:
Many thanks, Mike!

That's about one in every sixteen BEF casualties in that period being a cavalryman.

Forgive me for pushing my luck here, but do you have figures for the August and September fighting ?

The same source that I used for French army casualties earlier on indicates that only 1.3% of French dead in 1914 were from the cavalry.

Regards , Phil
--Phil andrade

Hi

Sorry for the delay but the OH Volumes I have are on a DVD-ROM, so not as easy to 'flick through' as a book. Also the early volumes tend to have the casualties in the text (as they were relatively 'smaller' than in later battles). there are two fairly detailed casualty statistics that are useable:
Page 238, British Losses between 23rd to 27 August 1914.
Total for 23rd - 1,638. Cavalry share of these - 6 (Mons).
for 24th - 2,606. Cavalry share - 252 (Mons)
for 25th - 905. Cavalry share - 123 (Le Cateau)
for 26th - 8,482. Cavalry share - 15 (Le Cateau)
for 27th - 1,180. Cavalry share - 14. (Le Cateau)

Page 363, Total British Casualties from 6th to 10th September 1914:
I Corps - 779.
II Corps - 654.
III Corps (4th Div. and 19th Bde) - 133.
Cavalry Division - 135.
Total _ 1,701.

Mike
--MikeMeech


Mike,

Thanks for your time and trouble.

Looks like cavalry casualties in these first battles represent about 3.5 % of BEF total : a proportion barely half that sustained in the First Ypres fighting.

Stephen Badsey has written some superb stuff about the part played by British cavalry in the Great War on the Western Front.

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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Posts: 2598

Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/1/2017 3:01:47 AM
First Ypres keeps cropping up all the time : it certainly demonstrates how effectively british cavalry could be, especially fighting as infantry .

It was a series of crises : infantry, artillery and, as we note, cavalry, all fought to the utmost.

This compels me to the conclusion that we ought to assess British Army generalship in that war by the standards of that battle.

Could it be regarded as the army's Finest Hour ?

It must have been one of the sternest tests ever for British soldiers, from top to bottom.

It was the furnace that forged the steel, so to speak.

In the process, it destroyed too much of the professional cadre.

It might well be that further study reveals terrible flaws, and we'll end up with another perception that suggests that too much lipstick is being slapped on .

I hope not.

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
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/1/2017 5:20:44 AM
Some historians believe it was an error to hold on to the Ypres Salient long after the Germans had captured all of the ground that had any tactical value. Most soldiers do not think in terms of "the policy of holding ground";but these men had hallowed what they had fought for- with the blood of their comrades;and so they hung on and thus died-hardly a regiment had more than an officer and 30 men- when they ultimately left- like 2/HLI. Lest We Forget.

Regards

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

phil andrade
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/1/2017 6:52:39 AM
The aftermath of First Ypres is one thing ; the terrific fight to contain the Germans there in the autumn of 1914 is another.

The " Finest Hour " allusion I make refers to the First Battle, October- November, 1914.

Most would agree that the retention of so much of that salient was an error that cost so many lives : especially given that some of it was abandoned in April 1918 anyway.

But it's important to remember that Ypres itself was just about the last bit of Belgian territory that had not been conquered ; in that respect I can appreciate the rationale for defending it.

If the First Battle of Ypres is a worthy contender for the title " Finest Hour " of the British Army, then I suppose we must allow that honour to be bestowed on those in command as well as on the men they commanded.

As far as Haig is concerned , this battle was the making of him. It certainly determined his outlook for the remaining four years of war.

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
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/1/2017 8:06:29 AM

Quote:
As far as Haig is concerned , this battle was the making of him. It certainly determined his outlook for the remaining four years of war.


Phew!! Phil-that is quite a claim-the performance of the British Army in 1915 into 1916 was abysmal-I agree however the Sir John French was Supremo until after Loos; but where did DH shine in this period.All he had learned from 1st Ypres was that whatever you take you hold irregardless of cost and/or tactical value.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/1/2017 8:48:59 AM
Maybe he was the brightest star in a rather lacklustre firmament !

His attack at Neuve Chapelle in March 1915 gained a striking initial success : even the disdainful officers in the French High Command were impressed.

I would argue that he deserves much credit for holding things together at First Ypres.

He was influenced by the German failure to exploit there : he believed that, had the Germans pressed their advantage, the BEF would have suffered catastrophic defeat. He was determined that he would never make the same mistake....in this sense that battle was the making of him.

This, however, persuaded him to persist in his offensives in the mistaken belief that one more push would do it. He was susceptible to being told what he wanted to hear ; if ntelligence gathered from the paybooks of German dead or prisoners revealed that a German regiment from a particular division had been engaged, it was taken to mean that an entire enemy division had been fighting....this accounts for his extravagant claims regarding German losses.

We have to wonder, though, if British generalship is to be judged as lacklustre , how far that of the other armies might also be adjudged.

Viewed in this light, didn't the British commanders contend with the enormous task of improvising a citizen army and engaging in unprecedented warfare rather well ?

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
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/1/2017 9:09:29 AM

Quote:
We have to wonder, though, if British generalship is to be judged as lacklustre , how far that of the other armies might also be adjudged.

Viewed in this light, didn't the British commanders contend with the enormous task of improvising a citizen army and engaging in unprecedented warfare rather well ?


Lacklustre-Not at all Phil-just a lack of experience against a well armed, determined enemy.The frontal assaults were without doubt muedrous-as the french had experienced in 1914; and for us to emulate them for so long- did show a lack of imagination.There was little in the way of outflanking attacks and feints- as shown on the Aisne in 1914. 1915 was mostly battering ram tactics and abject failure IMHO

Regards

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

Phil andrade
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/1/2017 9:20:36 AM
Outflanking tactics are fine if there are flanks.

That was what First Ypres was all about : the culmination of both sides trying to outflank the other.

That in itself degenerated into all out frontal assaults, albeit conducted mainly by the Germans.

Those 1915 battles you allude to were, in a sense, attempts to excercise a flanking manoeuvre , by pinching out an enormous German salient...attacking the northern flank in the Artois, the southern in Champagne.

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
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/1/2017 10:11:16 AM
I assume Phil hat you refer to the disastrous attack on Aubers- that cost 11,000 British casualties- for no material gain- it was a minor supporting operation to a much larger French attack- known as the Second Battle of Artois in May 1915.

As the French attack in Artois continued, the British were called upon to continue offensive operations at Festubert. Minor gains were made; but at another heavy cost in casualties.Phil-let us face it -1915 was a bloody awful year for the British Army.

regards

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

Jim Cameron
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/1/2017 2:41:57 PM
The problem with giving up Ypres was that good options behind it were scarce. You were on the coast, with a series of valuable ports to worry about. Plus, there was the political and symbolic question of abandoning the unoccupied area of Belgium.

As to flanks, a Western Front salient didn't really have them. It had shoulders, which to be sure we're vulnerable points (the classic means of reducing a salient was to pinch out the shoulders), but the shoulders themselves were tied into and protected by the rest of the line.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

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