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The current time is: 11/17/2017 5:41:38 PM
 (1914-1918) WWI Battles    
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Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
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Posts: 2528

Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 10/22/2017 10:27:44 AM
At the risk of going over old ground after last year’s centennial , I would like to invite comments on the extraordinary triumph of the French counter offensive that stormed Fort Douamont on October 24th, 101 years ago this coming week.

It was a superb achievement, and carried enormous symbolism as a kind of vengeance for the French humiliation of seven months earlier, when the Germans captured the fort with scandalous ease.

In May 1916, a French attempt to recapture it was repulsed murderously , with the twelve thousand infantrymen deployed suffering 5,640 casualties.

Now, exactly five months later, the troops directly involved in the attack captured the fort in short order with the loss of fewer than one thousand men.

The Germans were to suffer further defeat and humiliation by the time the battle ended in mid December 1916 .

To what might we attribute this astonishing French success ?

Was it a question of German demoralisation and abandonment, or was it just pure French magic, Nivelle and Mangin style ?

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: 6033
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 10/22/2017 11:43:31 AM
Phil-how much,if any ,of this this new initiative can be attributed to the dismissal of General Falkenhayn- a month previously.He was dismissed by Hindenburg for failure in this enormous undertaking; but was Hindenburg right in doing so???

Falkenhayn chose Verdun as the place to force the French to begin a counter-offensive and here it was, which would be defeated with huge losses to the French, inflicted by German artillery on the dominating heights around the city.

His 5th Army was yo begin a big offensive with limited objectives, to seize the Meuse Heights on the right bank of the river, from which German artillery could dominate the battlefield.

Thus by being forced into a counter-offensive against such formidable positions, the French Army would "bleed itself white

Falkenhayn was generally regarded as a clever general, inclined unfortunately with being somewhat secretive;but he was reasonably determined in his objectives. Well thought of by Winston Churchill-so he was nobody's fool.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2528

Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 10/22/2017 3:22:06 PM
Jim ,

You give a good summary which gains my respect.

Falkenhayn’s plan has confounded historians : the battle and its provenance remain enigmatic .

As you say. the man was notorious for his secrecy and this compounded hostility towards him in the historiography .

His initial refusal to agree to attacking on both sides of the Meuse , and his subsequent change of mind , has enhanced his alleged culpability .

In the opinion of the most recent researchers , his plan was more subtle and flexible than the simple attritional slug fest that is popularly attributed to his method .

The duumvirate of Hindenburg and Ludendorff were keen to disassociate themselves from Verdun as soon as they could after they replaced him .

I wonder if the German soldiers at Verdun felt themselves to be abandoned by virtue of this development : seventy percent of all Germans taken prisoner in ten months at Verdun were captured in the last two months of the fighting in 1916 .

There was also , of course, the immense strain of the Somme that diverted German strength away from Verdun.

The Germans who faced Nivelle and Mangin in the closing phase at Verdun were undermanned, outgunned and sick at heart ...underfed, too. Morale was poor, physical health dismal , conditions hideous .

Perhaps this accounts for Nivelle’s over confidence that was to have dire consequences for France in earlier 1917 .

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: 6033
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 10/23/2017 4:07:53 AM
I am of the firm opinion that Falkenhayn's dismissal was the catalyst and signal for the French to start their Counter Offensive of 24th September.

Following the tremendous artillery barrage-the Germans had partly evacuated Douaumont, which was recaptured on 24 October by French marines and colonial infantry- a veritable walkover for the Battle of Verdun IMHO.

At he outsetthe 5th Army’s objectives in early 1916 were more down to earth. Their attack order of 5 January 1916 set the eastern heights as their objective:


Quote:
"He who possesses the hills of the eastern bank f the Meuse; and has captured the fortifications on these heights is also in possession of the fortress….Indeed, even if the forts on the western bank are not occupied at first, the fortress will have lost its value for France when the eastern bank has been taken by us.!
Falkenhayn

Drawing on German experience of the war to date, the 5th Army believed seizing the French positions on the eastern bank in one quick manoeuvre was well within their ability.This objective makes abundant sense to ne
Falkrnhayn's execution of this plan was somewhat flawed and the whole operation lost momentum.


Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2528

Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 10/23/2017 8:25:44 AM
Did the French dance to Falkenhayn's tune and oblige by mounting a profligate defence ?

Churchill thought so.

One could argue that it was the other way round.

Falkenhayn died so soon after the war that we'll never know how he might have countered criticism in the long term....his memoirs are hard work to read and it's easy to imagine that he was difficut to work with, too.

I think he met his match in Petain, who, in some aspects of personality, resembled him.

The casualty figures from the battle are susceptible to widely differing interpretations ; not least because they themselves are a matter of dispute.

I think that the actual death toll from the 1916 battle was pretty evenly balanced between the two sides, with the French losing slightly more men killed ; the Germans, however, appear to have lost a greater number of men wounded, suggesting that they enjoyed better medical evacuation and care. The converging fire that swept the French army was so intense that it literally condemned their wounded to death, while their German counterparts were more likely to be evacuated.
The big difference was in the number of prisoners captured, the Germans claiming to have taken 66,000 French prisoners by mid July ; while the French claimed only 26,550 by the end of the battle in December - the great majority of these being taken in the counter offensives of October and December.

In terms of the fate of the wounded, my suspicion is that the tables were turned on the Germans in this respect , too, in the final phases of the 1916 fighting.

French casualty rates dropped spectacularly after July, while those of the Germans - relative to the French - rose commensurately.

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: 6033
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 10/23/2017 9:11:38 AM

Quote:
Did the French dance to Falkenhayn's tune and oblige by mounting a profligate defence ?


Yes- to some extent but with some reservation. German strategy in 1916 was to inflict mass casualties on the French, a goal achieved against the Russians from 1914 to 1915, to weaken the French Army to the point of collapse. T

However the French Army had to be drawn into circumstances from which it could not escape, for reasons of strategy and prestige.

German planning included the use of a large number of heavy and super-heavy guns to inflict a greater number of casualties than French artillery, which relied mostly upon the 75 mm field guns in this attritional offensive.-

The ability of the German army to inflict disproportionate losses had IMO been greatly exaggerated, partly because the 5th Army commanders had tried to "capture" Verdun and attacked regardless of loss; even when reconciled to Falkenhayn's attrition strategy,

However the French by feeding the grist mill were taking out a similar number of Germans over the period up to Falkenhayn's dismissal.

So the retaking of Fort Douamont had been successfully accomplished -Fort Vauz was to be a different "kettle of fish" but once again the ultra heavy French artillery would play a decisive role

Regards

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

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


Posts: 6033
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: quote]Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 11/8/2017 11:09:29 AM

Quote:
1étain used a rotation system, to relieve French troops at Verdun after a short period, which brought most troops of the French army to the Verdun front but for shorter periods than for the German troops. French will to resist did not collapse, the symbolic importance of Verdun proved a rallying point and Falkenhayn was forced to conduct the offensive for much longer and commit far more infantry than intended

By the end of April, most of the German strategic reserve was at Verdun, suffering similar casualties to the French army. The Germans believed that they were inflicting losses at a rate of 5:2; German military intelligence thought that French casualties up to 11 March, had been 100,000 men and Falkenhayn was confident that German artillery could easily inflict another 100,000 losses.

In May, Falkenhayn estimated that the French had lost 525,000 men against 250,000 German casualties and that the French strategic reserve had been reduced to 300,000 troops. Actual French losses were c. 130,000 by 1 May and the rotation system had enabled 42 divisions to be withdrawn and rested, when their casualties reached 50 percent. Of the 330 infantry battalions of the French metropolitan army, 259 (78 percent) went to Verdun, against 48 German divisions, 25 percent of the Westheer (western army).

85 French divisions fought at Verdun and that from February to August, the ratio of German to French losses was 1:1.1, not the third of French losses assumed by Falkenhayn.[88] By 31 August, 5th Army losses were 281,000 and French casualties numbered 315,000 men.


Regards

Jim

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

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


Posts: 6033
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: quote]Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 11/8/2017 12:34:11 PM
The French Riposte

The Germans counter-attacked several times in September from higher ground and holding the ground captured in August proved more costly to the French than taking it. Fayolle advocated a limited advance to make German counter-attacks harder, improve conditions in the front liand deceive the Germans about French intentions.

XV Corps attacked on 7 September which failed and XXXII Corps the next day which was a costly success. The attack continued and the trenches necessary for a secure defensive position were taken but not the last German observation point. Further attempts to advance were met by massed artillery-fire and counter-attacks; the French commanders ended the operation.

On 25 November after a five-hour hurricane bombardment, the 128th and 37th divisions, supported by 18-field artillery, 24 heavy and 9 trench artillery groups, conducted a raid in appalling weather. The operation on a 4 km (2.5 mi) front reached a line of pillboxes which were demolished and then the infantry retired to their own positions.The war weary German soldiers were exhausted.

Regards

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

 (1914-1918) WWI Battles    
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