MHO Home   Forum Home   Help   Register   Login
 
 
Welcome to MilitaryHistoryOnline.com.
You are not signed in.
The current time is: 11/19/2017 12:55:16 PM
 (1914-1918) WWI Battles    
AuthorMessage
anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6041
http:// 82.44.47.99
British Army Generalship/Leadership in the Great War
Posted on: 9/28/2017 8:54:15 AM

Quote:
The battles of 1917 particularly the Battle of Passchendaele and the Battle of Cambrai reveal a paralysis in the command structure of the British army not only at the highest level (GHQ or General Headquarters) but also between the command levels of army, corp and division. Both battles were continued to the point where any real aim or objective could be attained as British high command was a top down system that prevented the free flow of information, paralysed any discussion, made innovation difficult and allowed faulty decisions to stand even when the commanders at lower levels knew that there were serious problems. This has been termed �a pathway to misfortune�

At Cambrai in 1917-Haig's idea led by Byng's Corps- there was insufficient infantry support to exploit the gains made in the tank attack and the Cavalry was unable to get forward. The very idea that cavalry would be able to open up the holes made by the tanks in the German line shows how much thinking remained caught in the past and the initial gains were lost as the German�s deployed stormtroopers to counter-attack to the point that at the end of the battle the lines were back to where they were at the start.



[Read More]

NB.The generals had tried to deploy cavalry again. However, their vulnerability to fast-firing modern infantry weapons had already been shown. Experiments were carried out in using them alongside tanks, with the two fast-moving types of forces supporting each other. The ground suitable for tanks was different from what suited cavalry. Often one left the other behind. Even paired with the newest weapons, cavalry was proving obsolete.

Regards

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

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6041
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: British Army Generalship/Leadership in the Great War
Posted on: 9/29/2017 3:54:16 AM
In fact it can be argued that in early 1918- the leadership of GHQ was merely symbolic as they stuck to the same old tactics and showed little understanding of the new ideas of mechanised warfare with tanks and planes and that innovation was coming not from GHQ but from divisional and corp commanders who were producing their own ideas and tactics.

Haig did allow effective army commanders such as Rawlinson and corp commanders such as Currie, Haldane and Monash greater freedom to innovate in mid-late 1918.I firmly believe that this Haig had to do.

The key figure was General Rawlinson who seems to have exercised much greater influence on the war at this point in the summer of 1918 than Haig himself who tended to agree with every suggestion put forward by Rawlinson who suggested the attack at Amiens.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2537

Re: British Army Generalship/Leadership in the Great War
Posted on: 9/29/2017 7:19:05 AM
Jim,

Interesting that you separate Generalship from Leadership.

Does that also apply to Command and Leadership ?

I have heard scholars - military men - who have delivered lectures on this very theme....one of them suggesting that Haig was more of a commander than he was a leader.

This intrigues me : the notion that one can be a good leader , but a poor commander, and vice versa .

The conditions of 1914-18 engendered a need for management and governance of routines, rather than the inspirational leadership that we associate with Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great.

To a degree, I think that this accounts for the notorious reputation of WW1 generalship.

Regards, Phil

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6041
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: British Army Generalship/Leadership in the Great War
Posted on: 9/29/2017 7:45:10 AM

Quote:
.one of them suggesting that Haig was more of a commander than he was a leader
.

And therein lies the nub of the assertion-Haig gave commands for subordinates to comply with and someone else would supply the leadership. eg Haig commanded -OK after a bit of wheedling-Currie to take Passchendaele Ridge- which the Canadians achieved BUT under Currie's leadership.

Haig was not a leader per se; but he astute enough to spot leadership in a subordinate-hence the sea change in the summer of 1918.Thinking about the british Army Generals in the Great War -there were not many natural leaders-I can only think of two who displayed this talent- Smith- Dorrien and Allenby.


Quote:
The conditions of 1914-18 engendered a need for management and governance of routines, rather than the inspirational leadership that we associate with Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great.


Could not agree more;but the real problem of achieving such a goal was the cosy GHQ- where where hard truth was last in to bat.Real hard bitten driven homr facts would have shaken the torpor out of the staff and forced some realistic thinking- instead of pipe dreaming and telling the boss what he wanted to hear.











Regards

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

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6041
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: British Army Generalship/Leadership in the Great War
Posted on: 9/29/2017 1:28:50 PM
Where troops were experienced- it is a case of experienced in what? And as tanks were new; and the British were trying to learn and fight at the same time-little time was given to learning by top commanders-maybr quite understandable but wrong

Where new tactics and ideas were being tried it was at Corps and Divisional levels and quite detached from any contact from GHQ. As such little of any lasting effect would be learnt; and the nation that recognised the importance of tanks and tank tactics were the Germans-- not the British after 1918.

That is my honest opinion of the result of poor or non existent direct leadership at Army HQ level.Had Army commanders insisted on clear ,accurate and consistent reporting of what the "sharp end" were really accomplishing including the difficulties-all recorded for posterity.

Regards

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

MikeMeech
UK
top 30
E-5 Sergeant
Posts: 307

Re: British Army Generalship/Leadership in the Great War
Posted on: 10/1/2017 9:45:59 AM

Quote:
Where troops were experienced- it is a case of experienced in what? And as tanks were new; and the British were trying to learn and fight at the same time-little time was given to learning by top commanders-maybr quite understandable but wrong

Where new tactics and ideas were being tried it was at Corps and Divisional levels and quite detached from any contact from GHQ. As such little of any lasting effect would be learnt; and the nation that recognised the importance of tanks and tank tactics were the Germans-- not the British after 1918.

That is my honest opinion of the result of poor or non existent direct leadership at Army HQ level.Had Army commanders insisted on clear ,accurate and consistent reporting of what the "sharp end" were really accomplishing including the difficulties-all recorded for posterity.

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Hi

GHQ was not 'detached' at all in the development and training of the BEF as can be seen by going through the archive material available (I have a lever arch file fall of responses to a single request by GHQ, at the end of 1917, for opinions on Contact Patrol procedures with replies from Battalions, Squadrons etc upwards, via their respective Army HQs). GHQ promoted the use of various 'Schools' at different formation levels and liaised with the Home Base to get them to train 'relevantly' before arrival on the Western front (French was doing this during 1914 with him writing to the War Office in November to get RGA artillery officers at home to be instructed in the methods of directing artillery fire by aeroplane observation). It was Haig that sent Elles back to the UK to check on the capabilities of the 'Landships' he had heard about. It was GHQ that organised trips of BEF officers to visit the French at Verdun in late 1916 and early 1917. Haig viewed the 'new' infantry tactics introduced by Solly-Flood in February 1917 during a demonstration. GHQ distributed the various SS pamphlets around the whole army to try to spread 'best' practice and to 'standardize' tactics and procedures where possible (despite reluctance in some quarters). The 'Conference' procedures held at different levels was also important to spread ideas and information.

Much 'innovation' was, as was to be expected, undertaken at lower levels. However, at these levels opinions could differ and it was up to GHQ to organise trails to find out what worked best. This was generally delegated to an Army Command who were not involved in a current operation or planning one.

Tank and Air co-operation was developed by the RFC/RAF and the Tank Corps not by Corps Commanders (including Monash), they then supplied the result as for those commanders to use.

This is quite a big subject and there is a lot more detail out there.

Mike

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 6041
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: British Army Generalship/Leadership in the Great War
Posted on: 10/1/2017 10:57:23 AM
Hi Mike-I do admire your great attention to detail and thank you for your prodigious reply; but I did not state that the GHQ was detached, rather what I did say was-"Where new tactics and ideas were being tried- it was at Corps and Divisional levels and quite detached from any contact from GHQ".

Just a tad different surely IMHO ie. At lower command levels-trials and tweaks were carried independently of GHQ; and this where the detail was lost to posterity.I do however accept that GHQ had much to do with the general development and training of the BEF; but the "fine tuning" was the task of lower commands ie. Corps and Division.

I do have to admit that the above is what I believe; but I do pay heed to what I am told-so do not think for one minute that I am rubbishing what you say-I MOST CERTAINLY AM NOT.It was in fact Army HQ I was criticising.

Regards

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

scoucer
Berlin, Germany
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 1941

Re: British Army Generalship/Leadership in the Great War
Posted on: 10/1/2017 12:04:30 PM
Thank you Mike. This is a subject that I am really interested in.Always welcome zour opinion.

Trevor
---------------
`Hey don´t the wars come easy and don´t the peace come hard`- Buffy Sainte-Marie

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

 (1914-1918) WWI Battles    
 Forum Ads from Google