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 (1914-1918) WWI Battles    
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anemone
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1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/4/2017 2:50:53 PM
One hundred years on, Passchendaele is a black-edged byword for absolute futility. Passchendaele had mud and the intransigent incomprehension of remote “chateau generals”.

When Sir Launcelot Kiggell, a staff officer at British GHQ, visited the Passchendaele battlefield he is reported as weeping, “Good God, did we really send men to fight in that?”

By the time the British Commanderin-Chief, Douglas Haig, finally called off the Passchendaele offensive on November 10, 1917, upwards of 500,000 men had been killed or wounded, 244,897 of them British and Imperial troops.

A visit to the Menin Gate Memorial To The Missing in Ypres makes this heartbreakingly plain, thousands upon thousands of the dead simply disappeared for ever into the thick filth- that was Flanders mud.I think that c 45000 bodies were never found.

WHY a 3rd Battle of Ypres-one wonders today? What did this disgusting loss of life achieve?

Regards

Jim
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Michigan Dave
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/4/2017 4:01:55 PM
Jim,

That Commander could & should be referred as "The Butcher of Passchendaele"!

Sad, a terrible loss!
MD
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"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

George
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/4/2017 4:11:11 PM
Welcome back Jim.

You may not have noticed but Phil also started a thread on Passchendaele.

Do you wish to continue here or join the other thread?

Cheers,

George

anemone
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 2:39:05 AM
Hi George-I did look for a thread by Phil; but obviously missed it-how I do not know.My interest here is-1) the real objective of this monstrous affair and 2) Haig's apparent fixation with Ypres and 3) the absolute waste of it all.There can be no doubt that if Passchendaele did anything -it brought about a veritable "sea change" in the way the war was fought in 1918-mainly down to Dominion soldiers and the way they fought their actions.

Regards

Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 7:08:17 AM
Passchendaele . ...What's in a name ?

Well, this one conjures up everything that is notorious in the British experience of WW1.

You ask three questions about this battle, Jim.

I'll do my best to answer according to my lights.

Haig fixated on this region of Flanders for several reasons.

This was the place where he had made an excellent account of himself as commander of 1st Corps in that desperate First Battle of Ypres. Incidentally, anyone who insists that Haig was a chateau bound general who was remote from the frontline would do well to reflect on this battle and Haig's conduct in it .

His HQ was indeed in a chateau at Hooge, and it was hit by enemy shells, killing his fellow staff officers.

Haig knew this ground, and had compelling reasons to choose it for his field of endeavour.

It was close to the Channel Ports and was logistically feasible. It was the last piece of Belgium that had not been conquered by the Germans and that alone was a potent reason to push the enemy back. More than that, the German submarines had exacted such a toll of the British mercantile marine that the capture of the U Boat ports on the Belgian coast was a legitimate and even necessary aspiration, especially if this could be combined with an amphibious landing.

Haig realised that the Germans had a logistical vulnerability in Flanders with a railway bottleneck around Roulers.

Apart from these considerations, there were, I think, other things that motivated Haig in terms
of time and place.

We understand how Dominion commanders - Currie especially - had sought a measure of independence in the use of their forces ; the Canadians, above all, had demonstrated the efficacy of this at Vimy.

I think that Haig, likewise, wanted to demonstrate what the British Empire could achieve fighting more independently in ground of its own choosing .

The Somme and Arras had been battles that Haig consented to on account of his subservience to coalition strategy under French control.

Now, with the French wobbly and the Russians about to pack it in, he could show what his splendid British and Dominion troops could do.

More to come.

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."

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George
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 7:08:31 AM
Haig apparently felt that German morale was in such a sorry state that one more push and one more after that, would put them on the run.

Did he have sound intelligence to lead him to think that the Germans were emotionally fragile?

Were there other factors going on in Germany that perhaps influenced his thought processes?


Haig knew the terrain and how low it was. The torrential rains had turned the whole extended battlefield into a mire. One must question the decision to send men into those conditions and to expect them to prevail.

Cheers,

George

anemone
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 7:37:43 AM

Quote:
Haig apparently felt that German morale was in such a sorry state that one more push and one more after that, would put them on the run.

Did he have sound intelligence to lead him to think that the Germans were emotionally fragile?

Were there other factors going on in Germany that perhaps influenced his thought processes?


Haig knew the terrain and how low it was. The torrential rains had turned the whole extended battlefield into a mire. One must question the decision to send men into those conditions and to expect them to prevail.

Cheers,

George


Thanks George for your forthright questions.My answers are as follows:-
A latter day historian said the the losses sustained by the Germans (260,000)were were more serious to the German war effort than the Allies losses(240,000)were to the Allied war effort- that I have to say left me gaping in amazement.But to answer your question- I do not think that Haig had a crystal ball which told him that "one more push
would topple them" I seriously think that HE believed that
because his staff had told him so -knowing that he believed them implicitly

As to matters in Germany at that time-it has to be a possibility; but I have not seen sound evidence to back that possibility.

As to timing and weather-well summer was nearing it's end and I assume autumn into winter was odds on to bring bad weather in the shape of rain falling on churned up ground-which produced a Slough of Despond into which 45,000 Allied soldiers disappeared.

Regards

Jim
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anemone
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 8:04:43 AM
Phil

Jim Beach’s
Quote:
Haig’s Intelligence seeks to tackle one of the most enduring debates in the British historiography of the First World War: the question of Douglas Haig’s competence as commander of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on the Western Front. Beach scrutinizes this controversial military figure through the lens of the BEF’s intelligence gathering and analysis system, offering an avenue to assess how Haig formed his opinions of the German Army and its shifting battlefield capabilities. The intelligence machinery of General Headquarters (GHQ) at Montreuil -sur-Mer has been the subject of great debate, with criticisms raised as early as 1917 that it produced a "skewed interpretation of the military reality on the Western Front", which in turn led to poor decision-making from Haig. Lloyd George—no friend of Haig or his attritional method of conducting the war—argued...


I agree that the original intention was to beat passchendaele Ridge-drive into the Plain of Douai and thence advance towards Nieuport and occupy this Uboat base-so what happenened to this plan AFTER the Ridge was taken by the Canadians???? Answer-Nothing !!!!Why ???

Further -I must say that 3rd Ypres was a most unfortunate choice of battlefield to show off the mettle of British troops.This offensive went so badly that DLG stopped sending the BEF battle replacements.


Regards

Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 8:19:03 AM
Haig had an authentic reason for his view that one more push would do it : his own experience in that very area in the autumn of 1914. In that really touch and go battle - First Ypres - he had been astonished that the enemy had failed to clean up what was left of the BEF. He was determined not to repeat that mistake: he was mislead by his Intelligence chief, John Charteris, into believing that the Germans were on their last legs. He was being told what he wanted to hear....a pernicious feature of hierarchy and establishment. This does beg the question as to whether Haig had indeed become remote .....had this rendered him susceptible to such a syndrome ?

Incidentally, Jim, the story of Launcelot Kigell breaking down in tears and saying those things is bollocks....it makes good folklore, but it's not true.

Casualties at Third Ypres : British and Dominion, roughly one quarter of a million, of whom thirty per cent lost their lives.

The Germans lost somewhere between two thirds and three quarters of that number.

As Great War battles go, this was nowhere near as bad as some, although the conditions were as horrible as any.

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: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 8:56:40 AM
So kiggell's outburst is bollocks; but he must have SAID something akin to what has been stated.


Quote:
As Great War battles go, this was nowhere near as bad as some, although the conditions were as horrible as any.


I take it we talking Western Front-because that is the only comparison; but if you are talking Eastern Front battles-they are out of context.

Losses at 3rd YpresPhil

"For 3rd Ypres, the British official tabulation is 36,000 killed, 30,000 missing and 172,000 wounded, a total of 238,000. Again, we have evidence from the CWGC that 77,000 British dead are buried or commemorated in the Salient from the fighting between July 31st and November 12th 1917, and more still died in the base hospitals away from Ypres.

The Germans tabulated their losses at 32,000 killed, 35,000 missing and about 150,000 wounded, but that was for a longer time span from June to November, and included losses at Messines.

Taking a stab at it, I would reckon that the actual Passchendaele casualties from July 31 to November 12 reached 250,000 for the British and 175,000 for the Germans, of whom 75000 and 50000 were killed (or died of wounds respectively). A better proportion for the British than the Somme."Phil-Although I accept your figures-I think the CWGC figures are correct but the German tabulation makes no mention of the missing or those returned to duty.

Regards

Jim

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anemone
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 9:11:59 AM

Quote:
/In 1997, Griffith wrote that the bite and hold system kept moving until November, because the BEF had developed a workable system of offensive tactics, against which the Germans ultimately had no answer.


Was this manoeuvre general to all Allied forces or just to the Canadians ????

Note for phil re 1st Ypres 1914

British troops entered Ypres in October 1914. They were unaware of the size of the German force advancing on the town. However, numbers did not make up for experience as the Germans used what were effectively students to attack professional British soldiers based north of the town at a place named Langemark. Eyewitnesses claim to have seen the German troops, with just 6 weeks training, with arms linked singing patriotic songs as they advanced towards the British. 1,500 Germans were killed and 600 taken prisoner.


Regards

Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 9:44:50 AM
Jim,

There is a folklore industry devoted to the Great War that does its best to depict the High Command as out of touch and callous - not to mention incompetent -as possible.

An example is the story that a German officer described the British soldiers as Lions led by Donkeys . A fabrication by Alan Clark, who admitted inventing the thing himself. It makes good reading and inspired indignation, but it's not true.

Look no further than Joan Littlewod's Oh ! What a Lovely War ! There are other TV adaptations of the last two generations, and you'll see what I mean.

Nothing lends itself better to this folklore than Passchendaele. Suggest that you excercise maximum circumspection and discernment before accepting some of the stories.

The staff officer who broke down in tears at Passchendaele ? Yes, I daresay this is true....but if so, it wasn't Kigell ; and, if true, what does that tell you about the officer ?

The German figures you cite from one of my earlier posts are from their Medical History, the sanitsatsbericht . Another official German tabulation puts them at just over 200,000.....there is a degree of harmony between them. The big lie came from the British Official Historian, who advocated virtually doubling these totals, and suggesting that the Germans lost 400,000 men. How any one believes that, I'll never know.

The British figures are more amenable to being checked and cross checked, because we have the CWGC.

The Somme was much more expensive than Passchendaele for the British.

Arras, fought in April and May 1917, brought a much higher daily casualty rate.

This is not to downplay the cost of Passchendaele ; the horrific conditions and the dashing of hopes brought the British army to a low point, and a quarter of a million casualties, coming on top of the Somme and Arras, was a dismal signature to the year.

Haig tried to do too much, and failed to differentiate between reach and grasp. He believed what he wanted to hear. He was no more of a butcher than many other commanders of this or other wars, and, to do him justice, he did a lot more to help his veterans than most commanders have ever done after any war.

A good anecdote - and a true one this time - records the reaction of General Petain to Haig's proposed Flanders offensive - and I paraphrase here :

Boche is bad, and mud is bad, but bosche and mud together ? Oh, Dear !

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: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 10:30:50 AM
Phil-one thing that I am not-is gullible.I do know that figures can tell different stories when slanted a particular way.I accept that the Butcher's Bill for the Somme was greater than 3rd Ypres; but it was just another disaster.-this time uncut wire ;barrage closing down as whistles blew all along the line (we are coming to attack you FFS) and the PBI had to walk-Yes Walk across no man's land in broad daylight loaded down with equipment-it is no wonder there were so many killed that day in 1916.Muddle personified.Again Haig did not know when to stop-reeks of incompetence.But gaining Passchendaele Ridge and then quitting beggars belief-the Germans took the whole bloody lot a short while later-it is little wonder that the top brass were seen as idiots and hence we have the sobriquet Lions led by Donkeys-QED!!!

Regards

Jim

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George
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 11:36:18 AM

Quote:


Quote:
/In 1997, Griffith wrote that the bite and hold system kept moving until November, because the BEF had developed a workable system of offensive tactics, against which the Germans ultimately had no answer.


Was this manoeuvre general to all Allied forces or just to the Canadians ????


The Canadians under Currie had learned that bite and hold to secure short range objectives worked and saved lives. The trick was to stay and beat off the German counter attacks and to prepare for the next bite.

But these tactics had been discussed and taught to all British forces.

If I have my British Generals correct in my mind, it seems to me that Haig moved Gough's army to the north and Plumer's army took over the attack on Sept. 20 precisely because Plumer had embraced this strategy.

Gough was a proponent of the big push. He knew that artillery was important but he also like to bite off more than he could chew. He sometimes did not allow his troops sufficient time to consolidate before he ordered another push.

Plumer seemed to understand the value of limited objectives, consolidation and bringing the artillery up to bear on the next objective.


I did read an article somewhere that suggested that despite the differences in the two generals, the the stage of the battle in which Gough was the top dog, on July 31, the casualties were fewer than after Plumer took over.

Arthur Currie of the Canadian Corps seemed to have a good understanding of the need for clear and limited objectives right down to the platoon level. He insisted on overwhelming artillery support and managed to get Haig to agree to beefing up artillery when the Canadians were going in.

So the Canadians happened to be very good at a strategy that all British forces had embraced.


Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 11:50:41 AM
George,

You cite an article that suggests that the casualties sustained on 31 July were no worse than those suffered in the bite and hold phase between 20 September and earl October.

This is correct, as far as I can make out.

The British delivered a severe blow on the 31 July, taking several thousand prisoners at a cost of some sixteen thousand casualties that day...a bad enough loss, but hardly excessive by the standards of that war.

Jim,

You cited the story of Launcelot Kiggel breaking down in tears as if it were Gospel.

You'll forgive me, I hope, for challenging this account.

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: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 12:58:59 PM

Quote:
When Sir Launcelot Kiggell, a staff officer at British GHQ, visited the Passchendaele battlefield he is reported as weeping, “Good God, did we really send men to fight in that?”


i would not think the above was Gospel- Phil

Siegfried Sassoon, whose poetry famously depicted the horrors of trench warfare, mentioned the battle in his poem Memorial Tablet. Penned a month before the war's end in October 1918 and first published in his 1919 collection Picture-Show, the poem is narrated by a dead soldier.

Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby’s Scheme). I died in hell -
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare;
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;
‘In proud and glorious memory’...that’s my due.
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.
Once I came home on leave: and then went west...
What greater glory could a man desire?


Regards

Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 2:17:20 PM
Jim,

Sassoon didn't believe in polishing turds, did he ?

Take a look at another poem of his, On Passing the New Menin Gate.... the unheroic dead who fed the guns .

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: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 2:36:49 PM
Crudely renewed, the Salient holds its own.
Paid are its dim defenders by this pomp;
Paid, with a pile of peace-complacent stone,
The armies who endured that sullen swamp.

Here was the world's worst wound. And here with pride
'Their name liveth for ever', the Gateway claims.
Was ever an immolation so belied
as these intolerably nameless names?
Well might the Dead who struggled in the slime
Rise and deride this sepulchre of crime.


Siegfried Sassoon

Crikey-you are not kidding Phil-his words have cruel sneer in them.

Regards

Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 3:44:49 PM
That's the problem about Passchendaele....it's the theme of the bitterest verse and the most damning polemic.

To challenge the depictions is to run the risk of being accused of complacency, or worse.

In the summer of 1917, Haig's army was the only one in the field which was in a condition to carry the fight to the enemy in the main theatre.

As such, it was incumbent upon it to do something. As to what that "something " was, I invite comment

We must not allow ourselves to imagine that the Germans were content to remain passive.

The situation was perilous.

In such circumstances, is it better to be bold, assertive and determined to seize initiative; or is it preferable to husband strength by dint of less ambitious undertaking and bide time ?

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: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/6/2017 3:48:29 AM
From 9th April to 16th May 1917, troops from the four corners of the British Empire attacked trenches held by the army of Imperial Germany to the east of the French city of Arras.

The ground and date chosen for the battle was dictated by a desire to cooperate with the French, whose forthcoming offensive, planned by their General Nivelle, was to fall on the German positions topping the Chemin-des-Dames ridge, an area of high ground north west of Rheims.

Closer cooperation with the French was ruled out, as the devastation of the Somme battles in July to November 1916 had so destroyed the infrastructure behind the lines that another offensive physically linked to the right flank of the French armies was judged unlikely to succeed.

However, an attack in the Arras region was not the choice of the British Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal Haig, who wanted the main effort of his armies to be directed north, around the Ypres salient. He hoped to clear the Belgian coastline, increasingly important to the Germans’ submarine offensive, and capture the strategically important railhead of Roulers, whose loss to the Germans would seriously hamper their war effort on this sector of the Western Front.

Haig’s plan was overruled by Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister, who also made attempts to have Haig put under the direct control of Nivelle. Thankfully this did not happen because of what happened to the nivelle Offensive but British and Canadian armies did participate in the Arras offensive culminating in the canadian victory at Vimy Ridge but marred by Gough's Bullecourt or Blood Tub. Haig was now quite determined to fight the 3ed Battle of Ypres.

The Battle of Pilckem Ridge, 31 July – 2 August 1917, was the opening attack of the Third Battle of Ypres in the First World War. The British Fifth Army, Second Army and the French First Army on the northern flank, attacked the German 4th Army which defended the Western Front from Lille, to the Ypres Salient.This attack gained 2.4km for a loss of c32,000 casualties from 2000 Battalions-yes 2000. deployed.Could this compare favourably with the casualties incurred in the opening days of the Battle of the Somme???I think so. Gough's 5th army took the biggest knock.


Regards

Jim
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Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/6/2017 11:39:04 AM
Two thousand battalions ?

That looks a bit unlikely.

You've posted a big chunk of narrative here, Jim, which you've graced with a few words of your own.

What source did you use ?

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: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/6/2017 12:29:23 PM
It is a "bitsa" I fear-- part Centenary data,Wiki info.,Steel and Hart's "Passchendaele p 137 for figures (incl btns) and of course me-not so little. What's to dislike -thought it would give us something to talk about-particularly the figures- which are your forte.Thought you'd gone AWOL !!

PS-My Eyes are dim-------------

Regards

Jim
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Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/6/2017 1:03:29 PM
Your eyes might be dim, but your wits are razor sharp, Jim ! How's that for poetry ?

When the British attacked on the Somme, on July 1st 1916, they deployed 143 battalions of infantry in the attack.

So we might dismiss talk of two thousand battalions on 31st July 1917 as a classic tenfold typo, to say the least.

Either that, or someone's trying to pull your wotsit.

I think that Fifth Army used about 100,000 infantry in the attack, in nine divisions. Including Second Army and French contingents, the divisions used amounted to thirteen along the entire frontage attacked. I don't know how many battalions that equated to, but I doubt that it exceeded 150.

The big difference was the huge artillery deployment : more than three thousand guns fired 4.3 million shells over fifteen days - and that was on the British sector only .... the French to the north enjoyed a lavish weight of artillery support, too.

No wonder the Germans lost so many men in the ten days up to and including 31 July.

The Somme bombardment by the British had been feeble in comparison.

This is reflected in the difference between 57,470 British casualties on the First Day of the Somme, against an estimated 8,000 German ; and 16,000 on 31st July 1917 against an equal number of German.

Artillery dominated, as those unheroic dead who fed the guns attest.

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: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/6/2017 1:59:22 PM

Quote:
So we might dismiss talk of two thousand battalions on 31st July 1917 as a classic tenfold typo, to say the least.


There were three armies deployed-2 British and 1 French-say 650 Btns /army.Mmmmm !!-yes it looks to be a misprint-but that is shewn in Steel and Hart's book. NO by jove it isn't- 2000 relates to french casualties
Told you my eyes were dim-and I misread the text-ie. pulled my own wotsit.


Quote:
I think that Fifth Army used about 100,000 infantry in the attack, in nine divisions. Including Second Army and French contingents, the divisions used amounted to thirteen along the entire frontage attacked. I don't know how many battalions that equated to, but I doubt that it exceeded 150.


9 Divs,each with 3 or 4 brigades-each with 12 Btns. So 9 X say 36 + 234 Btns-bloody hell!!! You do the maths.
.
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jim
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phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/6/2017 3:35:01 PM
Let me hazard a guess....one hundred and fifty thousand infantrymen were deployed for the battle of 31 July : I reckon that's got to be reasonably near the mark...and that would include the French.

I would be surprised if it was any more. It wouldn't surprise me if it was a bit less.

There would have been many thousands of gunners, too...and we musn't forget LOC contingents .

I should think that the proportion of casualties among those British gunners was a good deal higher than normal : the Germans deluged the salient with gas and shell, and were able to knock out a lot of men and horses.

Regards , Phil
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/6/2017 6:33:35 PM
The opening phase of this battle shows a pattern that is readily apparent in quite a few offensives on the Western Front in that war.

The attackers, backed up by an immense artillery preparation, make a lodgement in the enemy's lines, and succeed in killing and capturing many of the defenders ; sometimes even managing to inflict significantly heavier losses than they themselves sustain.

But, in the ensuing days, the defenders submit the attackers to deadly converging fire....they know the ground they have relinquished to the very inch, and their guns wreak havoc on attackers who are exhausted and sometimes bled excessively. Then the counter attacks come against the demoralised attackers who are trapped in a virtual salient ...

It looks as if the Germans might well have suffered heavier casualties than the British on 31st July 1917 : but the same sources indicate that in the following two or three days three British soldiers were knocked out for every German, with enfilade artillery fire from the German guns on the Gheluveld plateau taking a heavy toll.

Regards , Phil

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anemone
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 2:28:25 AM
Unseasonable Weather

During the last four/five days of the Pilkem Ridge attack, both sides made local forays to improve their positions, but much hampered by the wet weather.

The rains had a serious effect on operations in August, causing more problems for the British and French, who were advancing into the area devastated by artillery fire and partly flooded by the unseasonable rain.

A local British attack on the Gheluvelt Plateau was postponed because of the weather until 10 August and the second big general attack due on 4 August, could not begin until 16 August.

XVIII and XIX Corps both reached the Black line; but the Germans had caught them in a natural salient, as you said, and counterattacked,also caught them in enfilade and drove them back with considerable losses to to both Corps

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Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 4:31:36 AM
CWGC data indicate that, of the 32,000 British casualties in the first three days, eight thousand - one quarter - were killed or died from wounds.

This seems a grim cost, but compares very favourably with the opening of the Somme, when the first day cost more than 57,000 British casualties , one third of them fatal.

Clearly a higher proportion of the British soldiers who were hit in the Pilkelm Ridge battle were able to survive their wounds : better evacuation, and the simple fact that at least the wounded could be reached this time.

It's significant that the most highly acclaimed British successes in the Third Ypres battles occurred between September 20th and October 8th ; yet, in those nineteen days, more British soldiers were killed than in the first nineteen days of the offensive, which is not regarded as successful.

We seem to be the last two on our feet in this thread, Jim.

Regards , Phil
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 5:10:23 AM
Battle of Broodseind Casualties from Wiki

A German officer wrote that the ordeal in the swampy area in the dark and the fog, was indescribable. In 1942, the German official historians recorded in Der Weltkrieg 35,000 casualties for the period 1–10 October.

The 45th Reserve Division had 2,883 casualties, whilst the 4th Guard Division suffered 2,786 casualties. 4,759 German prisoners were taken, c. 10,000 since 20 September.

Second Army casualties for the week ending 4 October were 12,256, II Anzac Corps lost 3,500 casualties (including 1,853 New Zealanders). The 21st Division had 2,616 casualties, the highest loss of a Second Army division.

Fifth Army losses for the week to 5 October were 3,305 men.

Calculations of German losses by the Official Historian have been severely criticised ever since.

Regards

Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 6:14:45 AM
Jim,

And you've just chucked a chunk of wiki at us, without adding your own comments.

No wonder we're the only ones left !

Here's something, though, that reaches out and grabs me : your article mentions 4,759 German prisoners taken in the Battle of Broodseinde : probably the hardest blow that Haig's army dealt the Germans throughout the offensive.

I researched the CWGC site to see how many British and Dominion soldiers are recorded as dying in Belgium that day - 4 October 1917 - and the figure is 4,779 : almost an exact tally of one life for every prisoner captured.

That might be a futile and meaningless speculation on my part....but I wanted to mention it, to show that I'm doing my best to add something original of my own.

Of course, those 4,779 deaths would need to be assessed as part of a casualty toll that would have included at least ten thousand wounded, so the likelihood is that total British and ANZAC casualties that day would have been in excess of 15,000.

Regards, Phil
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George
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 6:49:22 AM
I am reading boys, with interest. My time is at a premium. We are getting prepared to move and shall be in preparation mode for another month.


Plus it is the long summer weekend here in Canada so the house is full of adult children and their friends so I have not been able to give this important thread, so important to Canadians, a great deal of attention.

It seems to me that no matter whose casualty rates are favoured, that there was some success early on.

When did the battle begin to bog down and why? Geography or tactics?


When I read accounts of the first few days, it seems that a great deal of planning and preparation had gone into the whole affair.

There was a creeping barrage to ensure that the soldiers could move forward.

The Germans countered with fewer men in the front trenches, employing a deeper defensive strategy.

Still the British boys did seize the front trenches.

And then the rains came. Was it as simple as that? Is that what stopped the British and forced them to repel German counter attacks?

Some maps that help me to understand:








I note the names of little villages. Names that were mentioned in other battles. St. Julien, Polygon Wood, Langemarck, Gravenstafel Ridge.

Thousands of men on both sides lost their lives or were wounded in that little bump-out, the Ypres salient, during this war. Crazy.







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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 7:42:59 AM
George-Tactical (Artillery Bombardments) Geography (soft farmland) and Meteorological(Incessant Rain )will make quagmires


Quote:
Throughout most of the Third Battle of Ypres, heavy rain poured upon the soldiers. The rain was the cause of multiple problems in the conflict. The heavy rain had caused the artillery holes to fill with water.

In addition, British artillery bombardment had damaged the local drainage system, flooding the depressions even more. "The British artillery bombardment...also wrecked the low-lying region's drainage system, and usually rainy weather turned the ground into a wasteland of mud and water-filled craters" (The Battle of Passchendaele (The Third Battle of Ypres), Library and Archives Canada).

The artillery craters that would have provided cover for advancing troops were filled, exposing the army to enemy fire. As well as being unable to shelter the Allies, the artillery holes were so many in number that they literally created strings of bogs, stretching the entire length of the battlefield, slowing down the advancing troops considerably.

As well as creating trouble for the Allies, the heavy rain had flooded defensive positions such as pillboxes, rendering them nonoperational.



[Read More]

Regards

Jim

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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 8:09:36 AM
George,

Your kind expression of interest, and those wonderful maps, are a reassuring and much appreciated contribution.

The entire campaign of Third Ypres is quite hard to put into perspective : not least on account of the intense emotion it still generates....hyperbole flourishes and we can get bogged down in that as surely as our grandfathers got trapped in the quagmire of the Salient a century ago.

It's important to remember - I maintain - that the enterprise started auspiciously with the eradication of the German line in the South East sector of the Salient when those huge mines were sprung under Messines Wystchaete in early June.

This success - literally a stunnng one - was sufficient to whet the appetite for more endeavour. The excessive delay in moving things on immediately afterwards is something that demands explanation.

I do think that I might be on to something when I suggest that - just as Currie sought to fight with an independent Canadian contingent - so Haig aspired to do the same for the British and Dominion forces as a whole. He had endured some trying moments under the aegis of Joffre and Nivelle, committing the BEF to horrific casualties in pursuit of coalition duties. This had been harder still on account of the scheming of David Lloyd George, who he saw as conspiring against him and his military caste.

Now, with the French in serious trouble - and, of course, with the Russians teetering - it was time to show what he and his soldiers could do.

I simplify things rather too much ; but I tend to find that the simplistic assessment often turns out to be correct !

Hope all goes well with your move.

Regards, Phil





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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 8:29:43 AM

Quote:
Jim,

And you've just chucked a chunk of wiki at us, without adding your own comments.

No wonder we're the only ones left !



As I've said before, and on more than one occasion, I refuse to "discuss" things with an article.
It not as if you haven't admonished Jim on this often enough. Some people simply will not take a hint.
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 9:37:43 AM
Phil, the French began this battle to the east or north of the British.

With the failure of the Nivelle offensive, what was the relationship between the French and the British? Had the Brits lost faith in their ally? The French army was in turmoil after Nivelle.

Was Haig operating independently at this point?

What was the British government's attitude toward the French, officially and otherwise?

Cheers,

George

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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 10:26:44 AM

Quote:
Was Haig operating independently at this point?--George


I think at this point the British Empire was largely operating independently. France was unofficially out of the war as offensive force and the Russians were trying on various new clothes of government.

Britain and her Dominions were on their own, at least until the Americans could come in numbers. The pressure had to be kept up to avoid the Germans taking the chance to finish off France and to try and win the war before the Germans could pull their many resources back from the east. It was a race against time.

I don't see what alternatives Haig had to the offensives he launched in 1917. Tactically, bad decisions were made, but strategically it was the correct call.

Cheers,

Colin
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 11:46:01 AM
Thanks Colin. I believe that the discussions between the French and the British at the end of 1916 indicated that should the Nivelle offensive fail, which it did, that Haig would still proceed with his attack near Ypres.

But I believe that he also agreed to the attack at Messines Ridge as a preliminary foray. I don't know whether that attack was decided upon in the 1916 discussions or as an afterthought once Nivelle had failed. As in, we better do something because the allies are in danger of collapse.

What would the purpose of the attack on Messines Ridge have been? Haig had indicated that he needed weeks to prepare for the 3rd Ypres offensive and he took those weeks.

Why bother with Messines? Was it necessary to seize that ridge to ensure that 3rd Ypres was successful.

Cheers,

George

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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 12:12:30 PM
The strategy behind the offensive at Messines was to force the Germans to move reserves to Flanders from the Arras and Aisne fronts, which relieved pressure on the French who were in trouble militarily via Nivelle's command.

Regards

Jim
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George
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 12:15:15 PM
Thanks Jim. I am trying to determine whether Messine was part of the grand plan discussed in late 1916 or whether it was an added event prompted by the French failure.

From your report, it seems that it was part of a greater plan.

Cheers,

George

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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 1:14:13 PM
There was a tactical element in this attack at Messines;which was to capture the German defences on the ridge. These ran from Ploegsteert (Plugstreet) Wood in the south, through Messines and Wytschaete to Mt. Sorrel, thus depriving the German 4th Army of the high ground south of Ypres.So DH did get something out of the whole action-well we'll see.

Regards

jim
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