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 (1914-1918) WWI Battles    
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Lightning
Glasgow, UK
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 4:17:21 PM
Jim (anemone),

What would make an offensive at Nancy any more likely to breakthrough than the other umpteen assaults across the Allied line that failed?

I note your comments about South Africa, although in truth your (largely uncited) quotes do more to support my argument than yours.

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."

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 5:01:56 PM
I am confused.

Is there a map that would show the disposition of troops that would entertain a second front at Nancy?

Were the Germans particularly weak there?

This isn't a great map but it does show trenches from the channel to Switzerland.



Why Nancy?


Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 5:21:21 PM

Quote:

Quote:
Many thanks Jim for your interest and input.Your statement below set me thinking.


Quote:
And as has been said of attritional warfare, casualties along the way mattered less than who was still standing at the end.

What could have been done differently? Unless both sides are willing to talk peace, what choice is there except to keep fighting?


By 1916/17 the situation on the Western Front was stalemated-what could have been done?? Well a second front could have been opened; and not under the noses of the enemy- as at Gallipoli; but in Normandy well to south of the war zone.Troops could have been withdrawn from the minor theatres of war; and as in WW2-the US may have participated.The troops landed at the ports of Le Havre, Rouen, Caen and Cherburg.

This Second front army of say 100,000 men (8 Infantry divisions with artillery) could have been tasked to roll up the enemy's southern flank while the main existing front kept the enemy occupied where they were- by making selected attacks.Far fetched you say-yes I suppose so but- it could- in my opinion-have possibly been done.

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Normandy certainly wasn't well to the south of the war zone, but in any event I don't see a 100,000 man army rolling up the German southern flank. From where?

--Jim Cameron



Might it be that Jim ( anemone ) is alluding to a suggestion made by Churchill - at the outset of hostilities, or even before - that the BEF would have been better deployed in Normandy, rather than to the left of the French, as agreed by the Entente governments ?

Churchill contended that the British contingent would be best held back from the initial clash ; that it would be able to increase in size, and then make a first class contribution in the counter attack that, he believed, was bound to come when the Germans had shot their bolt.

In the event, of course, the BEF was placed in the eye of the storm right from the start, and was catastrophically damaged in the ensuing three months. The reserve of professional skill was overdrawn, leaving subsequent British cohorts vulnerable and fighting on the back foot.

Adding an edit here : this suggested deployment in Normandy, and the subsequent counter attack, was predicated on the fighting still being mobile : it would not be reconcilable with a front that had stabilised and entrenched from the North Sea to the Swiss border.

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

Jim Cameron
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 6:55:30 PM
I guess Jim (Anemone) will have to explain what he meant. The front ended at the Swiss border, so active or not there was no second front to open, not to mention, no way a mere 100,000 man army was going to be able to roll up the German front. The Allies, moreover, could land troops pretty much at will anywhere in France.

Churchill may have had a point that it would have been better for the BEF to hold it back and allow it to grow before committing it to battle, but given the situation in France in the first weeks of the war that simply wasn't going to happen. Especially with the French having to back and fill after Joffre was wrong-footed as to German intentions.
---------------
Jim Cameron

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

anemone
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 3:24:44 AM
OK-so the proposition that I put forward was not feasible; but it was put forward as a "possibility" following Jim Cameron's "what else could be done" or words to that effect-yes-it was born of a Churchill type brain child. However- I note that it it has provoked some comment for which I am pleased.I am also reminded of this old adage-"The man who never made a mistake-made nothing"

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 3:26:16 AM

Quote:


Churchill may have had a point that it would have been better for the BEF to hold it back and allow it to grow before committing it to battle, but given the situation in France in the first weeks of the war that simply wasn't going to happen. Especially with the French having to back and fill after Joffre was wrong-footed as to German intentions.
--Jim Cameron


Churchill's suggestion might be vindicated.

Imagine, though, what such a deployment would have meant in terms of the Franco British levels of trust, which were fragile.

To have reneged on the commitment to deploy on the left, and leave the French to stand alone, would have been a monstrous affront.

In the years before the war, the French made a legendary statement in conversations if the English send us only one man, we will make sure he is killed ! .

I think the whole critique levelled against British generalship on the Western Front needs to be tempered by awareness of how much the British High Command was under pressure to conform to the needs of coalition warfare.

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: 5/22/2017 4:27:30 AM

Quote:
I think the whole critique levelled against British generalship on the Western Front needs to be tempered by awareness of how much the British High Command was under pressure to conform to the needs of coalition warfare.


Yes Phil-I have to agree that the years 1914,15 and 16 British generals were operating under French war demands by force of coalition; but IMO 1917 was down to British (Haig's) strategy and subsequent horrendous losses. Cambrai-the so called Great Experiment-failed miserably via poor planning,indifferent generalship- not taking the chances that fell to them-The GOC 51st Highland Division did not like tanks so operated without them to the detriment of the objective-a break through.British losses- from all causes- was c 40,000.

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: 5/22/2017 4:45:19 AM
Let me recommend a superb new book by Jack Sheldon.... FIGHTING THE SOMME : German Challenges, Dilemmas & Solutions.

I was more than flattered when the publishers asked me to review it, and you'll see one of my reviews on the Amazon site. I was mortified to see that I made a typo and alluded to " Bellow" instead of " Below" when referring to the commander of German 2nd Army.

The thing about this book is that it makes clear how command folly was not a solely British phenomenon 1914-18. Of course, we all know this, but it doesn't do any harm to appreciate how flawed German methods could be, too. More especially given the legendary professional skills of the Great General Staff. The individual talents of these German experts were immense ; the standards of work and devotion commensurate. But things didn't harmonise...there were failures of communication and coordination, obstinacies and personal bickerings that fatally undermined the German army at a time of existential crisis. The taciturn manner of Falkenhayn - enigmatic is a fair word - amplified the effects of these flaws.

I was reminded of Gillian Tett's study of the Tunnel Vision and Tribalism syndrome that has wreaked havoc in financial institutions in recent years.

While Sheldon necessarily focuses on the German experience, he mentions the performance of Haig, and, to my surprise - indeed, I rather tend to disagree with his analysis - contends that Haig was wrong in his insistence that the British exploit success in the southern sector of the battle rather than conform with Joffre's preference for maintenance of pressure in the north around the Thiepval Spur, where British failure had been catastrophic.

The Somme - particularly its first day - has set in stone the British public's sense of societal trauma that remains a century after the Great War ; to imagine that the British commanders were uniquely culpable is all too easy. Jack Sheldon's new book will lend a different perspective.

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: 5/22/2017 6:20:00 AM
The "Official History of the War", writing of the first attack, says:

"For the disastrous loss of the finest manhood of the United Kingdom and Ireland there was only a small gain of ground to show...."

Summing up the effect on the British Army of the whole battle it says:

"Munitions and the technique of their use improved, but never again was the spirit or the quality of the officers and men so high, nor the general state of the training, leading and, above all, discipline of the new British armies in France so good. The losses sustained were not only heavy- but irreplaceable."

PS Could not not find FIGHTING THE SOMME only The German Army on the Somme-are one and the same Phil ??

Regards

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

anemone
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 7:48:05 AM
The Allenby v Haig Controversy in 1917


Quote:
At first, the Arras offensive went well with the Third Army breaking through the German lines and advancing three and half miles in one day. In a letter to his wife on 10 April 1917, Allenby wrote: "I had a very big success yesterday. I won all along the line; killed a host of Boche and took over 7, 500 prisoners...We have, at last, brought off what I been working on all winter. My staff has been splendid".

There were weeks of heavy fighting during 3rd Army's offensive at the Battle of Arras in the Spring of the 1917, where an initial breakthrough had deteriorated into trench-fighting positional warfare—once more with heavy casualties to 3rd Army's units involved.

Allenby lost the confidence of his Commander-in-chief, Haig. He was promoted to full General on 3 June 1917, but he was replaced at the head of 3rd Army on 9 June 1917 and returned to England and assigned to the Middle East Command
Wiki


Removing a thorn in the side

It was a known fact that Allenby disagreed with Haig's tactics-he fumed over Haig's orders; and despite swearing his officers to secrecy -word did get out and naturally to Haig himself.Realising that he had a malcontent in his camp

Haig bided his time and got Allenby off guard after the Breakthrough had failed and the operation had lapsed into trench fighting.

Haig declared that Allenby had lost the confidence of his CinC; and was removed from command of 3rd Army command. Allenby however was promoted to full General-possibly to prevent any altercation and sent back to England.All of which was was well enough handled IMO.

Regards

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

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 8:16:30 AM
Jim,

Two consecutive posts of lifted text and very little commentary. I'd like to hear what you've got to say.

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."

anemone
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 8:46:19 AM
Colin =have partially rectified your complaint-see above
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
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Posts: 459

Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 9:04:37 AM
Thanks Jim. It's always a pleasure to hear your own views.

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."

Phil andrade
London, UK
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 9:33:28 AM
Jim,

No, The German Army on the Somme and Fighting the Somme are two separate books, albeit by the same author, Jack Sheldon.

Go on Amazon UK books and enter Fighting the Somme, and you'll go to the right book .

The thing that gets to me about Haig is that he puts so much lipstick on the pig.

Yes, it's vital to uphold an optimistic approach : but there are times when I find myself recoiling from what Haig writes in his diary.

OTOH, I hate seeing him unfairly traduced.

Churchill criticises intensely, but has the grace to give credit, too. Lloyd George is vituperative and pretty atrocious.

No other British commander has ever had to face the challenge that confronted Haig : in terms of scale and intensity, the fight that he undertook was unique in this nation's history.

Fifty or so years after the Somme, Bernard Law Montgomery wrote his History of Warfare, and passed this judgement on Haig :

He was competent by his own lights. They were dim.

How do you feel about that ?

I have two conflicting reactions....

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: 5/22/2017 10:36:49 AM
Sir Douglas Haig's awareness of the British Army practices was sufficient enough for him to manage his huge task- albeit that he was a cavalryman. He was a man of strong nerve, resolute, patient, somewhat cold,taciturn to the point of being inarticulate; and quite reserved in temper.He was not thrown off balance either by calamity nor success. He came to his opinions very slowly, and stuck rigidly to them.He may have appeared dim due to his background and upbringing

DH was of the opinion in 1915- that the war could only be won on the Western Front, and only on the Western Front. He acted on this view, and, at the finish, he was right; though that mat be open to discussion-but I do not think so- victory might have been won sooner elsewhere; but that too is debatable- but again- not by me.

The F/M's manner of winning the war was somewhat pedantic, grossly expensive of life- making him appear callous, and was based for far too long on a misreading of the facts-rose tinted glasses were an essential part of his ensemble.

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: 5/22/2017 12:29:22 PM
....grossly expensive of life...

That sums up just about everything in that war, whoever commanded.

Mangin - The Butcher - said it all : whatever you do, you lose a lot of men...


I don't think Haig was more profligate than his French, German, Russian, Austrian, Italian or Turkish counterparts.

If anything, he might compare favourably...but I don't want to push my luck here !

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: 5/22/2017 12:51:38 PM

Quote:
Mangin - The Butcher - said it all : whatever you do, you lose a lot of men...


I am certainly coming round to that conclusion myself Phil-yet it still seems horribly wrong to have to accept that assessment.I do not think that the British Army of WW2 fought in such a manner- that great loss of life was inevitable.The Battle of El Alamein was no 3rd Ypres.Was Monty right then- was DH indeed dim.???

Regards

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

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 1:03:22 PM
The German Army on the Somme is excellent. Most works on the Somme approach the battle from the British perspective - the French being generally all but ignored - with the Germans little more than a vaguely defined target off in the distance.

Fighting the Somme just came out the end of February. Here in the States at least it still appears to be in pre-order status on Amazon.
---------------
Jim Cameron

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

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 1:16:21 PM
Speaking of Haig's diary, which I have never read, and his "putting lipstick on a pig", is the diary "his", or edited or otherwise rewritten post war? As an example, Pershing's "My Experiences in the World War" is often described as his "diary", whereas it is at best based on his wartime diary.
---------------
Jim Cameron

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

anemone
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 2:36:02 PM
Postscript


Quote:
One cannot ignore the appalling waste of human life in World War One. Some of these losses were undoubtedly caused by incompetence.

Many more were the result of decisions made by men who, although not incompetent, were like any other human being prone to making mistakes.

Haig's decision to continue with the fighting at Passchendaele in 1917 after the opportunity for real gains had passed comes into this category.

In some ways the British and other armies might have grasped the potential of technology earlier than they did. During the Somme, Haig and Rawlinson failed to understand the best way of using artillery.
Prof. Gary Sheffield

I cannot argue about the basic truths in the above

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: 5/22/2017 5:03:39 PM

Quote:

Quote:
Mangin - The Butcher - said it all : whatever you do, you lose a lot of men...


I am certainly coming round to that conclusion myself Phil-yet it still seems horribly wrong to have to accept that assessment.I do not think that the British Army of WW2 fought in such a manner- that great loss of life was inevitable.The Battle of El Alamein was no 3rd Ypres.Was Monty right then- was DH indeed dim.???

Regards

Jim
--anemone


The British army in WW2 never had to fight such battles : the soviets did that job for them. What happened in France and Flanders 1914-18 was to be surpassed threefold in the Russo German clash of 1941-45.

El Alamein was fought against a handful of German divisions: perhaps fifty thousand Germans and sixty thousand Italians confronted the Commonwealth forces ( 220,000) there. On March 21st, 1918, eight hundred thousand Germans were pitched against the 250,000 British on a sixty mile front.

How would Monty have coped with such an onslaught ? Perhaps his lights might have flickered a bit.

I don't think that Haig was dim.

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: 2596

Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 5:06:16 PM

Quote:
Speaking of Haig's diary, which I have never read, and his "putting lipstick on a pig", is the diary "his", or edited or otherwise rewritten post war? As an example, Pershing's "My Experiences in the World War" is often described as his "diary", whereas it is at best based on his wartime diary.
--Jim Cameron


Not sure about this, Jim.

I suspect that there was a good deal of post war doctoring.

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: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 5:06:46 PM

Quote:
Speaking of Haig's diary, which I have never read, and his "putting lipstick on a pig", is the diary "his", or edited or otherwise rewritten post war? As an example, Pershing's "My Experiences in the World War" is often described as his "diary", whereas it is at best based on his wartime diary.
--Jim Cameron


Not sure about this, Jim.

I suspect that there was a good deal of post war doctoring.

Editing : sorry about these double posts. I'm having a helluva problem with this site at the moment : posts disappear or double up too often.

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: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 5:19:31 PM
A thought before I turn in for the night ....British generals 1914-18 were held to strict account by the civilian government.

I do not think that the same constraints were imposed on Falkenhayn, Joffre, Hindenburg, Ludendorff, Conrad or Cadorna....let alone the Tsarist commanders- not forgetting that Tsar Nicholas himself assumed supreme command in the field.

A fierce surveillance confronted Haig. To my mind, this argues in his favour : he had to contend with so much more than the mighty foe he faced on the battlefield.

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: 5/23/2017 4:07:36 AM
Haig's reputation has acquired a great deal of baggage.When an accusation is constantly repeated it begins to take effect despite evidence to prove it false.A huge number of people will hate Haig-many of them born after his death- blaming him for the disasters of the Great War and the deaths of their forebears.Almost a hundred years have past and Haig is still a controversial figure.

The charges of incompetence can be dismissed as easily for Haig; as any other general, because the actions for which they are accused were forced on them by circumstances out with their control. Soldiers will always die in war and the only way to prevent that-is for them to stay away from conflict.

Regards

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

MikeMeech
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 7:59:31 AM

Quote:

Quote:
Speaking of Haig's diary, which I have never read, and his "putting lipstick on a pig", is the diary "his", or edited or otherwise rewritten post war? As an example, Pershing's "My Experiences in the World War" is often described as his "diary", whereas it is at best based on his wartime diary.
--Jim Cameron


Not sure about this, Jim.

I suspect that there was a good deal of post war doctoring.

Editing : sorry about these double posts. I'm having a helluva problem with this site at the moment : posts disappear or double up too often.

Regards, Phil
--Phil andrade

Hi

Haig's Diaries in their latest form are available as 'Douglas Haig War Diaries and Letters 1914-1918' edited by Gary Sheffield and John Bourne, Phoenix paperback 2006. The introduction covers the 'history' of the diaries, the editors state that (page 2):

"Haig's diary is a controversial document, though on close examination it is difficult to see why. Controversy partly arises because there are two versions of the diary. The first version written by hand, almost on a daily basis, during the war. The second version was typed after the war. Haig included with this version a considerable number of supplementary papers, mainly letters and memoranda, and took the opportunity to make alterations, corrections and additions, though - significantly - very few major deletions. Both versions have been publically available in the National Library of Scotland since March 1961 and may readily be compared."

There is no need to speculate at all about Haig's diaries the information is fully available.

Mike

Phil andrade
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 8:43:21 AM
Jim,

Forgive me for sounding a tad anxious here, but I'm worried about your comment that the British army did not fight WW2 in such a manner, as if great loss of life was inevitable.

You don't need me to tell you this, but I need to get it off my chest....

The British army 1939-45 never had to engage the main body of the enemy in the main theatre.

That job fell to the Russians, who paid the price on an unimaginable scale.

Nothing the British army experienced in WW2 entailed anything like the scale and intensity of the combat that it had to face 1914-1918. In NW Europe, 1944-45, the British infantry at the sharp end did endure casualty rates that - on some occasions - approached those suffered a generation earlier : but the numerical scale of their commitment was incomparably smaller, and the total casualties commensurately so.

It is essential that this be taken into account if we are to compare the experience of the British soldiers in the two world wars.

British army combat fatalities 1939-45 were only one fifth what they had been 1914-18 ; but this reflects the different nature of the task involved rather than an innate callousness or ineptitude of British generals in the earlier 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: 5/23/2017 9:46:31 AM

Quote:
In NW Europe, 1944-45, the British infantry at the sharp end did endure casualty rates that - on some occasions - approached those suffered a generation earlier : but the numerical scale of their commitment was incomparably smaller, and the total casualties commensurately so.


Phil-Can you give an example of that which is emboldened please-I appreciate that you are not talking "actual numbers but percentages" I presume.

Regards

Jim
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Lightning
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 10:14:50 AM
I believe Phil is referring to fighting around Caen during the Normandy invasion in 1944. Truly awful stuff for the Commonwealth forces fighting there. I don't think enough credit is given to Monty (on this occasion) on getting out of that hellhole with his forces in fighting condition.

Cheers,

Colin
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 10:36:12 AM
The War Office had forecast that the 21st Army Group would have suffered 65,751 casualties from 9 June to 7 August; but actual casualties were 50,539 men all causes in c. 60 days.

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Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 11:03:16 AM

Quote:

Quote:
In NW Europe, 1944-45, the British infantry at the sharp end did endure casualty rates that - on some occasions - approached those suffered a generation earlier : but the numerical scale of their commitment was incomparably smaller, and the total casualties commensurately so.


Phil-Can you give an example of that which is emboldened please-I appreciate that you are not talking "actual numbers but percentages" I presume.

Regards

Jim

--anemone



Let me seek some wriggle room, please, Jim....I need to get some research lined up here.

I would think it fair to say, though, that it was as dangerous to carry rifle and bayonet into battle, and close with the enemy, in 1944, as it had been in 1917....the big factor being that a damned sight fewer men had to do it in the British army in WW2 : hence the much smaller casualty totals.

Colin is right about Caen : the attrition in the British rifle companies was alarming. I've read that the Canadian infantry casualties - again, I stres that this was in the rifle companies only - in the fighting in Belgium and Holland in late 1944 and early 1945 were similar, in percentage terms , to those of Passchendaele .

I must be wary of pushing this too far. Make no mistake : the slaughter of Tommy Atkins reached a notorious pinnacle in the Great War. My Dad served at El Alamein and in Italy, and although he lost friends, he always felt fortunate that he was born too late to have served in fourteen eighteen.

Editing : Thank God I wasn't in that one ! , Dad would blurt out when he watched film footage of the Battles of WW1.


Regards, Phil


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anemone
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 11:15:23 AM

Quote:
Operation 'Epsom', which began on 25 June, was another attempt to outflank Caen and force a German withdrawal from the city. Once again, the patchwork terrain of small fields, sunken lanes, streams, and dense hedgerows slowed the advance.

The Germans, defending in depth as usual, used the network of ancient fortified villages to bolster their positions. There was no breakthrough, and British losses were heavy. 15th (Scottish) Division, leading the assault, lost 2,331 killed, wounded or missing.
15th Scottish blog

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Jim
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Jim Cameron
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 11:45:37 AM

Quote:
I believe Phil is referring to fighting around Caen during the Normandy invasion in 1944. Truly awful stuff for the Commonwealth forces fighting there. I don't think enough credit is given to Monty (on this occasion) on getting out of that hellhole with his forces in fighting condition.

Cheers,

Colin
--Lightning


I have read comments to the effect that one side effect of the British attacks around Caen being very tank intensive was that while material losses were heavy, personnel losses were minimized. Contrary to the impression given by the movies, where when a tank is knocked out the entire crew generally dies, when a medium tank was knocked out the crew had on average a one in five chance of becoming a casualty.

The number of tanks involved may not have been high specifically to limit infantry losses. It may have been more a matter of the anticipated German armor threat. But it does seem to have helped economize on British manpower.
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 12:06:24 PM
You are absolutely right Jim-the Sherman tank was knicknamed the Tommy Cooker.Outside the village of Villers Bocage- in fewer than 15 minutes, the British lost 13–14 tanks, two anti-tank guns and 13–15 transport vehicles- all had been destroyed by the 2nd Company, schwere SS-Panzer Abteilung, many by Michael Wittmann. Quite a feat.

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Jim
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MikeMeech
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 1:13:56 PM
Hi

At the risk of getting even further from the topic, WW2 for the 'British' was rather different. Although less 'army' dead, it had larger numbers killed in the air arm (@ 72,000+ instead of 9,000+), more killed in the Royal Navy (@51,000 instead of 32,000+ [not including RN Division]), and of course rather more civilians killed by air attack (60,000+ instead of 1400+). That was a consequence of what happened early in the war with the fall of France etc.
The trouble of 'blaming' Generals for the numbers of dead is that you would have to explain why the German and Soviet Generals were so 'useless' as to get even more of their men killed in WW2 than WW1! It does not take account of the intensity of fighting and the need to 'win'. A German victory in WW2 would not have been good for Europe and it would not have been in WW1, judging on what the Brest/Litovsk 'peace' treaty would have done to the Russians.

Mike

Phil andrade
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 1:22:00 PM
Jim,

Having been rather assertive in my suggestion that British casualties in the rifle companies in WW2 rivalled those of their counterparts 1914-18, I now have to confess that a little bit of research indicates that this claim does not pass the sniff test.

Thank goodness I asked for wriggle room !

In all conscience,though, the infantry casualties in WW2 were bad enough : the hardest hit at El Alamein was the 51st Highland Division, which suffered about 2,850 casualties : but since the vast majority of these were in the rifle companies - whose strength was about 6,750 - it's legitimate to assume that their casualty rate was about 40%....no picnic, by any reckoning.

I think there has been some distortion by Haig supporters, who wish to take the heat away from him by arguing that the infantry casualty rates in the British army in NW Europe 1944-45 rivalled those of the Somme or Passchendaele .

This is one of those historiographical twists....using statistics in a disingenuous way : to make Haig look better, let's exaggerate the losses run up by his WW2 counterparts.

Regards , Phil
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anemone
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 1:42:27 PM
Thank you Phil-hereunder the actual details given by CWGC for WW2.

Total war related deaths reported by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: UK and Crown Colonies (383,786); India-(British colonial administration) (87,032), Australia (40,464); Canada (45,383); New Zealand (11,929); South Africa (11,903).

Total military dead for the United Kingdom alone(according to preliminary 1945 figures): 264,443. Royal Navy (50,758); British Army (144,079); Royal Air Force (69,606)

Regards

Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 5:23:05 PM
Thanks for those figures, Jim.

A reflection : in WW1, about one tenth of all military dead, from all belligerents, were from the British Empire.

In WW2, perhaps as few as one in fifty of the world total of military dead were from the British Commonwealth.

What an astonishing difference ; especially given the existential peril that Britain faced in the second conflict.

It's all too understandable that British society continues to express a greater sense of revulsion at the cost of the first conflict ; and, by proxy, that those in command 1914-18 are viscerally reviled.

It's an irony, IMHO, that the British army in 1914, through its own success in helping to contain the German invasion and retain its stance on Franco Belgian soil, committed its soldiers to four years of sustained killing ; while its WW2 counterpart, by suffering shattering defeat in 1940 and being expelled from the continent, was thereby saved from the ordeal of such prolonged slaughter.


Editing here : to consummate the irony, we contemplate - in WW1 - the greatest military victory ever attained by a British army, and we abhor the generalship ; with WW2 we have a British army that did not contribute anything like the same measure of success, and we regard the generalship as superior !


Regards , Phil

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"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: 5/24/2017 3:37:41 AM

Quote:
while its WW2 counterpart, by suffering shattering defeat in 1940 and being expelled from the continent, was thereby saved from the ordeal of such prolonged slaughter.


We did fight the Axis out of North Africa 1940/43 (incl. Greece and Crete) and thence into Sicily and Italy.The Longest War was in Burma against the Japanese -a long fighting retreat up Burma; but from 1944/45 the Japanese were driven out of this country.So we did continue the fight; but as you say Phil not on the scale of WW1.

Regards

Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/24/2017 6:06:23 AM
That's the crucial point, Jim.

Fighting in the Far East and the Mediterranean did not equate to all out war of the highest intensity against the main enemy on the main front for several years ...which was what the warfare in France and Flanders 1914-18 amounted to.

Six weeks in 1940 was all it took to expel the British army from the continent. Had the Franco British forces not been so defeated, I wonder if our WW2 dead might have amounted to three times what we actually lost 1939-45.

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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