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 (1914-1918) WWI Battles    
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Phil andrade
London, UK
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 1:27:58 PM
George,

Messines was truly a horrible thorn in the flesh and needed to be extracted as a matter of tactical urgency, with or without a grand scale strategic agenda.

That position gave the Germans a commanding field of fire, which they turned to deadly account.

Day by day, week by week, month by month, British soldiers were being slaughtered by artillery fire from German guns deployed along the Messines Wystschaete Ridge, even when things were supposedly routine.

To contemplate a major offensive in the Flanders Salient, exposed to the raking fire from that place, would have been an invitation to massacre.

The Battle of Messines was the essential prelude to Haig's endeavour : it was also an action compelled by local necessity.

The alleged condition of the French army in the summer of 1917 gave Haig and his supporters a very good retrospective justification for Passchendaele .

I have doubts.

There was no question of another grand offensive by the the French at that time. But, in local battles and limited attacks, the French made an excellent account of themselves, especially in retaking the Morte Homme at Verdun in August. In October, they launched a big attack at Malmaison which was a masterpiece .....far more efficacious in terms of the casualty exchange than anything the British managed at Third Ypres.

In Flanders itself, the French First Army, under the command of Antoine, made significant progress at minimal cost, attacking on the northern flank of the British.

Adding an edit : there are British commentators who insist that the French were only able to achieve their spectacular successes at Verdun and Malmaison because the British drew the Germans into Flanders. No doubt Haig drew away a large part of the German forces to fight that nightmare in the mud ; but to deny the French their due credit for success strikes me as singularly ungracious .

Regards , Phil

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 3:12:14 PM
Good post Phil. Thanks.

The French do take a beating at times in analysis. Unfair considering the awful losses that they suffered in this war.

Were the French troops on the left flank of the British following Haig's plan at that point or did Antoine develop the plan in conjunction with Haig?

I am just trying to determine whether the division of powers among the allied troops had shifted because of the problems that the French were having in bringing a mutinous army under control.

Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 2:16:11 AM
George,

The French presence in this battle was, I think, largely contrived by Petain as a means of restoring confidence and morale in the French army.

It was a collaborative effort, and Haig was given notional authority to direct the general theme of the offensive. In practice, though, Anthoine was strictly mandated by Petain to ensure that the battle was to be conducted with one thing in mind : to deploy artillery as the main agent, and to use infantry in the supporting role.

There was agreement that this business in the North was to be a " British show " : but there was a French agenda....participation was to be determined by the need to uphold the image of the French Army as alive and kicking, to counter the sense that things were too fragile for comfort.

It worked well.

At a cost of 8,527 casualties ( 1,625 killed or missing ) the troops of Anthoine inflicted disproportionately heavy loss and secured objectives. Throughout, the French demonstrated what lavish artillery could accomplish when conjoined with good aerial reconnaissance and economy of infantry.

There was a virtual expiremental role to this French deployment in Flanders, which bore fruit in that magnificent achievement at Malmaison in later October.

Haig gave extravagant praise to the French First Army in his public dispatches, but in private he was always complaining.

Suggest reflection on some casualty figures to exemplify the performance of the French Army under the application of the Petain method, with his simple exhortation Le feu tue .....

These are figures for killed, missing and prisoners only, so account for only a fraction of total casualties :

August to December 1917 : British , 92,459 against 89,478 Germans

French, 38,000 against 59,276 Germans



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
UK
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Posts: 303

Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 9:41:50 AM

Quote:
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
--George


Hi

We should remember that the tunnelling companies had been working their way under Messines ridge from January 1916. The result of this long labour was when 19 mines exploded at 3.10 am on the 7 June 1917. That is about 18 months of preparation.

mike

anemone
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 9:52:47 AM
Thanks for the reminder Mike

"The inception of a deep mining offensive on the Second Army front dated from July, 1915; but the proposal to conduct offensive mining on a grand scale was not definitely adopted till January, 1916.

From that date onwards, as the necessary labour became available from UK coal miners, deep mining for offensive purposes gradually developed, in spite of great difficulties from water-bearing strata and active counter-mining by the enemy.

In all, twenty-four mines were constructed, four of which were outside the front ultimately selected for our offensive, while one other was lost as the result of a mine blown by the enemy. Many of these mines had been completed for twelve months prior to our offensive, and constant and anxious work was needed to ensure their safety.

The enemy also had a deep mining system, and was aware of his danger. At Hill 60 continuous underground fighting took place for over ten months prior to our attack, and only by the greatest skill, persistence and disregard of danger on the part of our tunnellers were the two mines laid by us at this point saved from destruction."

Sir Douglas Haig's Dispatch- shewn currently in the "Battle of Messines" thread.

Regards

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

Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 10:14:09 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
--George




Your right George,

Officers making such orders should draw their sabers & lead the charge!??

Then you wonder if they would order troops to almost certain death!!

Bad General! Bad!
MD
---------------
"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 10:44:48 AM
Well, the casualty rate for officers was quite high Dave, especially at the platoon level.

During the static phase of WW1, there is no shortage of examples of combat in impossible conditions. Passchendaele is one of the worst.

The Canadian Corps was asked to finish the job that so many British and Anzac troops had tried to finish and they did so but at a cost of nearly 16,000 casualties.


When Canada's PM Robert Borden came to England for the minister's war cabinet conference he got into it with British PM David Lloyd George.

The details of the incident were reported by Borden's nephew who was assisting him.

Henry Borden said that Lloyd George had made some comment and it angered PM Borden.


Quote:
“During the afternoon, at the tea hour,” Henry Borden recalled in 1970, “I found myself in the room with those members of the cabinet who had

arrived. The discussion naturally revolved around the war, disposition of troops and matters of that kind. I do not remember the statement

of Mr. Lloyd George which provoked my uncle’s remarks, but I have never forgotten his words, the pointed finger, his voice shaking with emotion:

‘Mr. Prime Minister, I want to tell you that, if there is a repetition of the battle of Passchendaele [where the Canadian Corps suffered about 16,000 casualties], not a Canadian soldier will leave the shores of Canada so long as the Canadian people entrust the government of their country to my hands.’ ”


Borden was a royalist and a Canadian nationalist but the type of combat that our soldiers and all of the British and Commonwealth soldiers participated in, was bound to cause a rift between the Commonwealth leaders and the mother country.

Cheers,

George


anemone
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 11:30:00 AM
Well said Mr Borden;however- Passchendaele was certainly not highly regarded by DLG-indeed he was originally against this offensive; but AOTF Lord Jellicoe made him change his mind. Towards the end DLG did call twice for this battle to be halted- but to no avail.

It is a strange irony that the CEF lost 45,835 casualties in the Last Hundred Days in 1918.I say this- but mean no disrespect- absolutely unequivocally.

Regards

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

George
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 11:42:24 AM
Jim, what is CEO. Did you mean CEF?

George

Phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 11:45:38 AM
...if there is a repetition of the battle of Passchendaele ...

It was not the numbers of casualties - dreadful though they were - but the dubious value of the objective that brings the notoriety ; and , of course, the unspeakable conditions in which those casualties were sustained.

Some accounts of veterans who endured both the final stages of the Somme battles in 1916, and of the Passchendaele fighting of 1917, state that, of the two, the conditions of the Somme were worse.

Passchendaele resounded because of its cumulative effect.

Clearly Canada was prepared to continue to pour out the blood of its manhood - as the Hundred Days was to show - but not in the Passchendaele manner.

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: 8/8/2017 12:25:44 PM
Yes George- sorry-have amended.

Regards


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

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
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Posts: 442

Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 4:17:25 PM

Quote:
Clearly Canada was prepared to continue to pour out the blood of its manhood - as the Hundred Days was to show - but not in the Passchendaele manner.--Phil andrade


Phil,

This is a crucial point and I wouldn't like it to be overlooked. 1918 was by a margin the bloodiest year for the British and Dominion forces, but because ground was being taken, prisoners captured and German armies pushed back, the heavy death tolls were accepted. You can understand the anger of everyone concerned when tens of thousands of casualties were suffered for no discernible advantage, as was (and is) the public perception of the Somme and Passchendaele.

Regards,

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: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 5:26:37 PM
Excellent point Colin. The people at home can accept casualties if it appears that objectives are being seized and the enemy is on the run.


Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 6:30:22 PM
Colin,

1918 cost the British and Dominion troops in France and Flanders 875,000 casualties compared with 750,000 in 1917. The big BUT is that a large portion of those 1918 casualties were prisoners, and an equally large portion were gassed. In terms of killed, 1917 was the worst year of the war for Haig's armies.

About one third of all British and Dominion soldiers who were killed in France and Flanders in 1917 were victims of Passchendaele.

If we were to survey the entire war on the Western Front 1914-18, one tenth of all British Empire deaths there were attributable to that battle.

In that sense, Passchendaele corresponds with Verdun in the French experience.

And, like Verdun, the notoriety of Passchendaele is disproportionate to the loss of life suffered...it looms larger in the perception than its actual death toll merits.

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: 8/9/2017 5:01:39 AM
Haig's objectives for the 3rd Battle of Ypres were sound :-1 Capture the messines Ridge 2 To wear down the enemy 3 To Capture the Passchendaele Ridge and 4 thereby a) allow for a coastal force to secure the Belgian coast and the Uboat base at Nieuport b)secure the railhead at Roullers and reach the Dutch frontier.

Gough's Fifth Army was to spearhead the northern operation and the coastal force.Timescale (obscure-to say the least) for all the above was one week for Messines and several weeks for the rest.Truth to tell i cannot think that several weeks would have been more than two months-ie.Augusst and September.However by 4th October we commenced the Battle of Broodseind-ie way,way behind schedule; and the butcher's bill mounted.

The seemingly excellent plan was, strictly speaking- a failed project at this juncture.Question is why Haig persisted; and the only reason I can come up with- was his pride.????

IMO it is little wonder that DLG went spare; and demanded that Haig discontinue the useless slaughter of hie troops-this demand went unheeded AFAIK.

Regards

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

phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 5:35:02 AM
Haig was being told what he wanted to hear.

Inflated estimates of enemy casualties encouraged his view that the Germans were on their last legs.

He was determined not to repeat the mistake that he was convinced the Germans had made on the same battlefield three years earlier : they had not followed through in the First Battle of Ypres when Haig's own force had been falling apart.

The " one more push " syndrome held sway.

Haig was by nature optimistic.

I wonder how far optimism might be conflated with pride.

A few random thoughts to try and answer your questions, Jim.

There's so much more we could suggest.

Do you think my answers are convincing, or am I being too kind to the whisky distiller's son ?

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: 8/9/2017 5:59:23 AM
Phil-I am well aware that the first objective was to "wear down the enemy" and that was all that was left for Haig to accomplish at whatever cost.

Haig may well have been an optimist and liked being told what he wanted to hear; but at heart he was IMO- cold and ruthless-he told DLG that the British public better get used to high casualty rates-if we are to win the war.

I think that is quite cynical; in so far that the only way to win a fight- was to EXPECT and ACCEPT you will get hurt. Haig IMO was a poor tactician-he seemingly had no idea how to minimise his troop loss in an encounter with the enemy.It is said that he knew Ypres ground well-I have my doubts about that.It is not ground that is primarily important -it is morale-hence when the British units were done in- he implored the Canadians to finish the job-bloody man had no conscience.

Regards

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

phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 6:33:59 AM
Jim,

Haig's first objective was not to wear down the enemy, but to break through and then break out.

Attrition only became justification when the break out plan was clearly a failure.

I remember attending a lecture by Robin Prior, who explained this to us.

Haig was not an attritionist....I wish to God that he had been ! ...that's what he said.

Had he started out with purely attritional goals, rather than with the most grandiose of objectives - i.e clearing the Belgian coast and pushing the Germans out of Flanders altogether - then the dashing of hopes and the futility of persisting would not have coloured our perceptions so vividly.

But - and this is important - even in attritional terms, the fighting was unsuccessful, in so far as the Germans succeeded in inflicting at least twenty five per cent more casualties than they themselves sustained.

True, German population was smaller than that of the Entente and other Allies.....but with Russia about to depart, the French fragile at best, the Italians smashed at Caporetto and the Americans not yet effectively deployed on the field, the British were less able to afford prodigal fighting.

Petain, the pessimist, was wise....he conducted limited, local and brilliantly successful offensives, and made the most excellent account of himself as an attritionist in the process.

Regards,

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Posts: 5293

Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 6:46:27 AM
Remembering that Haig was Canadian General Currie's commander, he could order the Canadian Corps into the fray.

But Haig acknowledged the burgeoning nationalism of the Dominions and so while nonplussed, did listen to Currie's arguments when he is reported to have said:


Quote:
“I will not waste 16,000 good soldiers on such a hopeless objective,”


At a staff meeting of the Corps, Currie apparently raged:


Quote:
“Why? What’s the good of it? Passchendaele! A name for a lot of mud and grief, for a lot of crack brain fools in London to play with! What do they care? Do they get killed? Or wounded, or choked in the mud? What’s the good of it? Let the Germans have it! Rot in the mud! There’s a mistake somewhere. It must be a mistake. It isn’t worth a drop of blood.”


So he met with Haig and Haig told him that while he could not reveal the overall strategy, he wanted Currie to know that the seizure of Passchendaele Ridge was critical to further success. That was not true, I don't believe.

So Currie, still not convinced but ever the good soldier, proceeded to plan meticulously and to drill his men until they knew exactly what they had to do.

By this time, the reputation of the Canadians as shock troops had been cemented with great victories at Vimy (under Julian Byng) and at Hill 70 (Lens).

I have read some comments from historian Tim Cook about Passchendaele and he seems to think that Haig has been too harshly judged and that he had no choice but to press on at Passchendaele.

But it was a costly decision to his reputation.

For Arthur Currie, his reputation with his men also suffered.

They began to criticize him as a grand stander who was willing to do the bidding of the British no matter the cost to the Corps.

Unlike Vimy, there was no great celebration after Passchendaele. The men were shocked at what they had been asked to do under appalling conditions.

I expect that the whole BEF was shocked. By the time the Canadians got into it, I believe that British and Commonwealth deaths were 240,000. Have I got that right Phil?

Currie, who preferred to use a massive artillery assault rather than to waste mens' lives, began to be thought of as a butcher, by his own men.

Currie was never loved by his troops and Passchendaele had something to do with that.

Cheers,

George

anemone
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 7:01:20 AM

Quote:
Haig's objectives for the 3rd Battle of Ypres were sound :-1 Capture the messines Ridge 2 To wear down the enemy 3 To Capture the Passchendaele Ridge and 4 thereby a) allow for a coastal force to secure the Belgian coast and the Uboat base at Nieuport b)secure the railhead at Roullers and reach the Dutch frontier.
Jim

Phil-the above is not what I thought; but what I read into Terraine's "To win A War" and i would respectfully point out to you- that breakthrough could only be achieved by "wearing down the enemy" via attrition. The fatal flaw in this concept was of course in the manner in which the wearing down was executed.

In this- General Gough was not known for his concern about troop losses-battering ram tactics in a man made marshland was hapless in the extreme. Why did we not use poison gas to kill or maim the Germans-did have to be HE all of the time making traverse worse to impossible.Could aircraft not continually bomb and strafe enemy positions???

Regards

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

Phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 7:48:42 AM
George,

That post of yours has made a terrific impression on me. Thanks.

This thread has a lot of life in it yet.

And Jim, I must say how much I appreciate your last two posts ( Crikey ! Last Posts...that's an evocation ! ).

Your pitching in with ideas and arguments...this is a vastly welcome change from chunks of wiki or other history articles.

I wonder if you're right about Haig' failure to adapt to different methods.

I understand that he was a general who welcomed novelties : no technophobe he.

George : your allusion to 240,000 deaths needs to be refined....there were 244,897 recorded casualties. Of these, only about fifteen per cent were confirmed as killed ; but most of the missing - who numbered thirty thousand - had shared their fate. Of the 175,000 or so wounded ( and gassed ) at least fifteen thousand would die from their wounds after admission to medical care. And so the fifteen per cent originally confirmed as killed gets increased to about thirty per cent fatalities from approximately a quarter of a million casualties. A CWGC search for total British Empire army deaths in Belgium between 31 July and 12 November 1917 reveals a figure in excess of 76,000 deaths from all causes.

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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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 7:54:20 AM

Quote:
Phil-I am well aware that the first objective was to "wear down the enemy" and that was all that was left for Haig to accomplish at whatever cost.

Haig may well have been an optimist and liked being told what he wanted to hear; but at heart he was IMO- cold and ruthless-he told DLG that the British public better get used to high casualty rates-if we are to win the war.

I think that is quite cynical; in so far that the only way to win a fight- was to EXPECT and ACCEPT you will get hurt. Haig IMO was a poor tactician-he seemingly had no idea how to minimise his troop loss in an encounter with the enemy.It is said that he knew Ypres ground well-I have my doubts about that.It is not ground that is primarily important -it is morale-hence when the British units were done in- he implored the Canadians to finish the job-bloody man had no conscience.

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Jim,

Your post might not win my agreement ....but it certainly wins my admiration !

As Punch says to Judy That's the way to do 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
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 8:17:57 AM
Jim and George, and all my other pals out there....

Do you know what ?

Today is the tenth anniversary of the great financial crisis that kicked off with BNP in Europe, Northern Rock in the UK and Lehman Bros in USA. Sub prime meltdown....we're still reeling.

Listening to the BBC news as I write, I'm struck by the candid admission of former high powered officials who state that they failed to understand the interaction of financial systems. These men, experts in their field, were steeped in technical knowledge, but somehow failed to understand its implications.

Might the same be said of the military commanders in the Great War of 1914-18 ?

Is so, was Passchendaele an exemplar ?

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: 8/9/2017 8:19:43 AM
Yes Phil- Passcgendaele was the epitomy of ineptness and futility-the top commanders did not comprehend the situation; and were thus faced with enormous losses- until "the penny dropped" and the tactics were changed by subordinate commanders.

The "bite and hold" system developed by the Canadians kept things moving during November to it's end,the BEF also having developed a similar system of offensive tactics, against which the Germans ultimately had no answer-which finally brought things to a close.

the variation in the casualty count for both sides beggars description.Sheffield closing at 200,000-220,000 apiece- sounds about right.

However Ludendorff said that his 4th army "had been reduced to militia" by this offensive-his words not mine.

NB. my maternal GF started his active service as a "relief officer" for the 5th Btn Northumberland Fusiliers (50th TF Division) stationed on Passchedaele Ridge during Xmas period of 1917 and into the New Year 1918 as as Acting CO of the Btn. Little action but desultory shelling during the night.


Regards

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

Lightning
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Posts: 442

Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 8:51:52 AM

Quote:
Today is the tenth anniversary of the great financial crisis that kicked off with BNP in Europe, Northern Rock in the UK and Lehman Bros in USA. Sub prime meltdown....we're still reeling.

Listening to the BBC news as I write, I'm struck by the candid admission of former high powered officials who state that they failed to understand the interaction of financial systems. These men, experts in their field, were steeped in technical knowledge, but somehow failed to understand its implications.

Might the same be said of the military commanders in the Great War of 1914-18 ?--Phil andrade


An interesting comparison, Phil. Certainly it could be said of the senior leaders of both the financial system and the military in 194-18 that their more expert middle ranking colleagues repeatedly warned of dangers to come; there were no shortage of warnings from the 1980s up to 2007 about the seeming inevitability of financial meltdown. The senior leaders in finance and Government chose to believe otherwise.

Similarly, the middle ranking officers of the pre-war armies quickly realised (when into the fighting) the complete dominance of artillery and machine guns and the heavy advantage that entrenched defenders had over the attackers. Phrases from senior generals like "push the objective home with the bayonet" might have been relevant in the numerous colonial campaigns before the war, but had little grounding in reality.

The expertise of senior leaders in any sector shouldn't be overestimated; their station is to (generally) make decisions and let the machinery beneath them work out the details.

Cheers,

Colin


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"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: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 10:34:55 AM
The fear that Italy might be put out of the war,caused the French and British Governments to offer reinforcements.

British and French troops were swiftly moved during the period 10 November – 12 December.

This diversion of resources from the BEF forced Haig to conclude the Third Battle of Ypres.

An attack short of Westrozebeke was the last substantial British attack on 10 November.

Thus the main objectives of the 3rd Ypres offensive-The coastal drive to secure the Belgian coast ,the capture of Roullers railhead and the foray to the Dutch border- were cancelled.

On March 21st 1918, the Germans launched a massive offensive in the Ypres area and Passchendaele which was retaken on April 16th.

Regards

Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 10:51:33 AM

Quote:


NB. my maternal GF started his active service as a "relief officer" for the 5th Btn Northumberland Fusiliers (50th TF Division) stationed on Passchedaele Ridge during Xmas period of 1917 and into the New Year 1918 as as Acting CO of the Btn. Little action but desultory shelling during the night.


--anemone



Jim,

Your GF must have seen - and smelt - the horrible nature of the battlefield , even if enemy fire was minimal.

One of the most disgusting features of the ground was the immense number of dead bodies that remained unburied.

I mention this because, when the ground was relinquished to the enemy in April 1918, Hindenburg mentioned in his memoir that his soldiers were appalled at the failure of the British to bury this multitude of corpses, which had been rotting for six months.

It's interesting to read how German soldiers were determined to tidy up the battlefield whenever circumstances allowed. There were occasions when they attempted to declare a truce in order to do this, and the British local commanders refused....even when the great majority of the corpses were British.

This might reflect the difference between an invading army which retains conquered territory , and the opposing army, which seeks to expel that invader and recover home or Allied soil.

The Germans, as the invaders, wished to hold on to what they had gained : by clearing things up, consolidating trenches and burying the dead, they were sending out a message to friend and foe alike that they were there to stay.

For the French and British, such activity might imply acceptance of the territorial status quo....their reluctance to deal with battlefield clearance was to result in such enormous numbers of unrecovered dead as to leave an open charnel house as testimony to the nature of this conflict .

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: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 11:18:31 AM

Quote:

Quote:

In this- General Gough was not known for his concern about troop losses-battering ram tactics in a man made marshland was hapless in the extreme. Why did we not use poison gas to kill or maim the Germans-did have to be HE all of the time making traverse worse to impossible.Could aircraft not continually bomb and strafe enemy positions???

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Hi Jim

I don't quite understand this. Gas was being used throughout the battle. Aircraft were also being used for bombing, strafing, artillery spotting, contact patrols, counter attack patrols etc, however, they were very weather dependent. If you think it was difficult to do things on the ground in the heavy rain what do you think were the difficulties in flying through it and undertaking operations. Aircraft were going up in some very poor weather conditions but sometimes they could not fly at all so very hard to undertake 'continuous' operations.

Mike

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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 11:48:19 AM
Phil-I have all my GF's letters to his wife whilst he was in France ie Mid December 1917 to 30 March 1918; and there never any mention of such horrors of war as rotting corpses.e was an accomplished artist and he would include cartoons but sometimes wrecked villages and towns drawn by hand.Frankly though I find your report that the British not only disallowed Germans truce to clean up their dead; but also were quite unmindful of their own dead-despite it being a disgusting charnel house.-which you say the Germans cleaned up on retaking the area.

The 50th Division on 13 December and the area to the east and south of Passchendaele was held by posts, those to the east being fairly habitable, unlike the southern ones; from Passchendaele as far back as Potijze, the ground was far worse. Each brigade spent four days in the front line, four in support and four in reserve.

On 18 December, thirteen Germans with four machine-guns were captured, having got lost in no man's land. The area was quiet apart from artillery-fire and the 50th Division was relieved by the 33rd Division from 4–6 January 1918,


Mike-i made mention of poison gas and strafing aircraft because I had not read any reports which included their use.however if you say so then I stand corrected.I do know that by the time the war ended, the main user of poison gas was Germany, followed by France and then Britain.Re. the use of aircraft- was the RFC under a separate command or were they used as ordered by the Army.???Perhaps their task was spotting for the artillery.???

Regards

Jim
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MikeMeech
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 12:19:04 PM

Quote:
Phil-I have all my GF's letters to his wife whilst he was in France ie Mid December 1917 to 30 March 1918; and there never any mention of such horrors of war as rotting corpses.e was an accomplished artist and he would include cartoons but sometimes wrecked villages and towns drawn by hand.Frankly though I find your report that the British not only disallowed Germans truce to clean up their dead; but also were quite unmindful of their own dead-despite it being a disgusting charnel house.-which you say the Germans cleaned up on retaking the area.

Mike-i made mention of poison gas and strafing aircraft because I had not read any reports which included their use.however if you say so then I stand corrected.I do know that by the time the war ended, the main user of poison gas was Germany, followed by France and then Britain.Re. the use of aircraft- was the RFC under a separate command or were they used as ordered by the Army.???

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Hi

For British Gas use see Palazzo's 'Seeking Victory on the Western Front', page 124 mentions that the Fifth Army had accumulated 154,000 chemical rounds for use in the preliminary bombardment at Passchendaele. Although the supply never kept up with demand at this time.
The Germans had problems with one of their chemical weapons during 1917 and to the end of the war, this was the 'Blue Cross' (arsenic-based compound). Palazzo calls this "one of the great gas fiascos of the war" as the Germans produced and fired 'millions' of these rounds never apparently realizing that they didn't work! He suggests that the Germans failed to test the rounds adequately as the force of the shell's detonation was failing to adequately pulverize the agent into a fine particulate cloud that was needed for it to be a success.

The RFC was part of the BEF and the air plan was worked out with the battle planers. A large part of the air arm was directly supporting the ground troops, these were the 'Corps' squadrons. 'Fighters' and 'Bombers' in the 'Army' squadrons also supported the ground troops when needed, for example 'strafing' with machine-gun and light bombs or bombers making attacks on train stations, airfields, munitions dumps etc. It still undertook all these tasks when it became the RAF in April 1918.

Mike

Phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 12:21:57 PM
Third `Ypres coincided with the " Gotha Summer ", when German strategic bombing of London came as a tremendous shock to the British public.

There was a diversion of front line aircraft and their crew to Home Defence that must have deprived Trenchard of the resources that he needed to help out in Flanders.

Jim : I hope I haven't been guilty of sensationalised or excessively lurid depictions of the Ypres battlefield. I don't know for a fact that the Germans cleared up after they retook Passchendaele in April 1918, but I can state as fact that the Germans were shocked by the thousands of unburied dead they encountered there.

I can also vouch as fact that at Fromelles, in the Aubers Ridge sector , the repulse of the Australian and British troops who attacked in mid July 1916 was the occasion of the requested truce to clear the field of dead ; the British commander refused. This was recorded wth dismay by his German counterpart, who said that this had happened before - presumably in the previous offensive there in May 1915.

In the event, the Germans did the dirty work, and recorded the burial of hundreds of Australian dead in mass graves at a place called Pheasant Wood. Their remains were exhumed about ten years ago. It was only the persistent work of a retired Australian schoolteacher that brought this about. It's a very unedifying story for the British authorities, who for a long time sought to evade the job.

A forensic anthropologist was employed in this work, and I remember him telling me that large numbers of gas cape buttons were found strewn along near the surface of the ground. This was because the German soldiers, reluctant to handle these festering corpses in the summer heat, used the gas capes of the dead Australian soldiers to drag their bodies along to the pits. As they were being dragged along the ground, the buttons broke off from the capes and remained there for ninety years, evidence of the gruesome task that those Germans were commanded to perform by their commanding officer. The hapless undertakers were all issued with extra rations of tobacco in order to fight the stench.

Adolf Hitler served in that sector, and might well have witnessed this.

Regards, Phil

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 12:52:15 PM
My sincere thanks to both Mike and Phil for the excellent postscripts giving me much food for thought.

I rather fancy that you were right Phil re. the possible paucity of "attacking" aircraft at 3rd Ypres.

I have now learned that the the British poison gas was Yperite; but was in fairly short supply in 5th Army.

I understand that Passcghendaele Ridge was relinquished during Operation Georgette (KaIserSchlacht) in April 1918 to a rebuilt German 4th Army-the original adversary."Sic Transit Gloria !"

Phil-give us a realistic Butcher's Bill for Passchendaele

Regards

Jim
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George
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 3:01:20 PM
I thought that this CBC doc. aired in 1964 was enlightening.

It contains the comments of a few Canadian vets who fought at Passchendaele including George Pearkes who won the VC.

It's 13 minutes long. About half way through there is a short series of ads. You can't delete them but be patient and the tape will continue.

[Read More]


As well, from the Library and Archives Canada, some photographs but also 3 interviews with veterans of the battle. You may read the text or listen to the man's account.

[Read More]

George
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 3:03:04 PM
double

phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 5:38:20 PM

Quote:
I thought that this CBC doc. aired in 1964 was enlightening.

It contains the comments of a few Canadian vets who fought at Passchendaele including George Pearkes who won the VC.

It's 13 minutes long. About half way through there is a short series of ads. You can't delete them but be patient and the tape will continue.

[Read More]


As well, from the Library and Archives Canada, some photographs but also 3 interviews with veterans of the battle. You may read the text or listen to the man's account.

[Read More]
--George


Wonderful vignettes, George, thank you so much.

I loved seeing those old gentlemen being interviewed . The first one, for some reason, seemed especially convincing to me....he alluded to millions of tons of earth being shifted to move men out of their positions, and, to my mind, this encapsulates so much of that war. The others were great to see, too. Sad to say, my critical mind couldn't help but notice that the film footage was from other battles - principally from the classic film of the Somme. But that's me being picky...it's a wonderful thing to see. A rather frightening reminder of how quickly life passes...those veterans were not so very old then, were they ?

I looked at your second link, and read the text. The last guy struck me as the most compelling...he fixed on those minutiae of memory, seemingly trivial things that actually loom large in recollection .

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: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 5:47:02 PM
Jim,

You ask me for a realistic butcher's bill for Passchendaele .

You know how fixated I am on these things....are you sure that' you really want to be subjected to this ?

I reckon that the official figure of 245,000 British and Dominion casualties is understated...but not by much : about ten per cent should be added, and I would hazard a guess that it cost about 270,000 killed, wounded, gassed or taken prisoner : 75,000 killed or died from wounds/gas; 185,000 wounded/gassed and 10,000 taken prisoner.

German losses : 50,000 killed or died from wounds/gas ; 120,000 wounded/gassed and 25,000 taken prisoner.

Guesswork on my part.

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: 8/10/2017 3:34:28 AM
Thank you Phil-I am well aware that casualty stats are your forte but nevertheless would like to make the following comment:-

Your British and Empire dead (75,000) tallies almost with the CWGC figure of 76,000; however the Tyne Cot Memorial commemorates a further 42,000 dead who have no known grave-making a grand total of 118,000 dead.This would bring the total casualties to over 300,000

Re. German casualties-50,000 dead -this figure IMO is a long way short of actual-they too must have several thousands of dead who also have no known grave and thousnds who died of their wounds. Regarding wounded @ 120,000-did not the German Army exclude many thousands of lightly wounded who were deemed returnable to duty in a fairly short time- say a day to a couple of weeks maximum.I should say that the Germans lost 80,000 dead and 140,000 wounded plus 24,000 POWs=244,000

Look forward to you response

Regards

Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/10/2017 5:42:31 AM
Jim,

This needs a good deal of clarification. The CWGC figure of 76,000 includes all commemorations which, by definition, includes most of the missing on the Tyne Cot Memorial and some of those on the Menin Gate, too, as well as all identified burials.

When you search for the CWGC data, the figures include anyone who died, whether he was buried or not, identified or not.

My notional figure of fifty thousand German dead likewise includes not only those posted as confirmed killed in action, but all those missing who were subsequently declared dead, and, of course, the many who died from wounds.

It is, I confess, a guess on my part, but - I hope - a reasonably informed one.

The insistence that the German army excluded lightly wounded is nothing more than a mendacious conjuring trick by the British Official Historian, who sought to inflate the German figures to make them more supportive of British fighting methods under Haig. I have seen the German lists, and they include all categories of wounded, from slight to serious.

I would contend, in general terms, that the British fought the campaign in the face of very severe difficulties that were bound to confer advantages on the Germans.
The weather, obviously, was one of them. The lie of the land was an even more severe disadvantage for the attackers. The German defenders had the better field of fire, compounded by the fact that they could enjoy the lethal application of converging artillery and enfilade fire from machine guns.

I would feel confident that the British lost three killed to every two Germans ....actually, thinking about it, that speaks well of the skill and resolve of those Tommies and their Dominion brethren who took on such a dreadful task. To have gained even five miles, and inflicted such loss as they did, attests to their ability and determination, and the business did shake the Germans up badly.

There's some more I'd like to say, but grandchildren are proving too demanding : I've just found some really interesting and illuminating stuff in the literature , and when circumstances permit I'll be back with some revelations.

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: 8/10/2017 6:02:56 AM
Thanks Phil-I was not disputing your figures-it was more that I had concocted my figures because there was so much controversy over them

A. J. P. Taylor in 1972, wrote "that the Official History had performed a "conjuring trick" on the figures and that no one believed these "farcical calculations". Taylor put British wounded and killed at 300,000 and German losses at 200,000."

Close enough Phil ????

PS.
Quote:
There are now 11,961 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in Tyne Cot Cemetery. 8,373 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to more than 80 casualties known or believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials commemorate 20 casualties whose graves were destroyed by shell fire. There are also 4 German burials, 3 being unidentified.

The TYNE COT MEMORIAL forms the north-eastern boundary of Tyne Cot Cemetery and commemorates nearly 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom and New Zealand who died in the Ypres Salient after 16 August 1917 and whose graves are not known. The memorial stands close to the farthest point in Belgium reached by Commonwealth forces in the First World War until the final advance to victory.
CWGC

PPS There are other much smaller cemeteries nearby which contain perhaps another 300 or so


Regards

Jim
---------------
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Lightning
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Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/10/2017 7:29:17 AM

Quote:
Taylor put British wounded and killed at 300,000 and German losses at 200,000."

Close enough Phil?--anemone


Bang on, I'd say.

Phil, do report back on the illuminating new info when you get a chance...

Cheers,

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

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