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 (1914-1918) WWI Battles    
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anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/1/2017 5:57:59 AM
The Germans had captured 3,100 km2 (1,200 sq mi) of France and advanced up to 65 km (40 mi) but they had not achieved any of their strategic objectives. Over 75,000 British soldiers had been taken prisoner and 1,300 artillery pieces and 200 tanks were lost.

It was of little military value with the casualties suffered by the German elite troops and the failure to capture Amiens and Arras. The captured ground was hard to move over and difficult to defend, as much of it was of the shell-torn wilderness left by the 1916 Battle of the Somme.

Elsewhere the transport infrastructure had been demolished and wells poisoned during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line in March 1917.

The question is --was the German offensive really finished in this sector.ie Albert-Villers Bretonneux-Hangard-Moreuil and became of those Britisg Infantry Divisions which were very badly mauled during the Retreat ?????

Regards

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

Phil Andrade
London, UK
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/1/2017 6:41:28 AM
Jim,

The big push was finished there, and the axis of German attention moved north up to Flanders .

But it was no quiet sector.

Vicious fighting spluttered on, and the Germans did launch some fierce local attacks : that at Villers Bretonneux being the most famous.

I’ve read accounts of British soldiers who were astonished at the size of the German cemeteries they discovered there when the Germans were pushed out in the Allied advance. These were Germans who had been killed in great numbers : not only in the huge battles of late March and early April ; but also in the following weeks when they suffered converging British artillery fire in the salient that their very attacks had created.

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: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/1/2017 7:07:09 AM

Quote:
Vicious fighting spluttered on, and the Germans did launch some fierce local attacks : that at Villers Bretonneux being the most famous.
-

On 4 April, the Germans attempted to capture the town with 15 divisions but were repulsed by troops from the British 1st Cavalry Division and Australian 9th Brigade during the First Battle of Villers-Bretonneux.

After the first battle, the forces that had secured the town were relieved and by late April the area around Villers-Bretonneux was largely held by the 8th Division. Although it had been one of the best British divisions it had suffered badly in the German attacks of March, losing 250 officers and about 4,700 men, reducing its infantry by half.

Replacements in the latest draft from Britain included 18-year-olds with little training.It was just not fit for purpose--and the town was lost by a Regular Infantry Division made up with Companies of Boys

NB Both 50th and 66th TF Divisions were sent back to England for reconstruction 39th was disbanded

Regards

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

Phil Andrade
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/1/2017 8:08:22 AM

Quote:

Quote:
Vicious fighting spluttered on, and the Germans did launch some fierce local attacks : that at Villers Bretonneux being the most famous.
-

On 4 April, the Germans attempted to capture the town with 15 divisions but were repulsed by troops from the British 1st Cavalry Division and Australian 9th Brigade during the First Battle of Villers-Bretonneux.

After the first battle, the forces that had secured the town were relieved and by late April the area around Villers-Bretonneux was largely held by the 8th Division. Although it had been one of the best British divisions it had suffered badly in the German attacks of March, losing 250 officers and about 4,700 men, reducing its infantry by half.

Replacements in the latest draft from Britain included 18-year-olds with little training.It was just not fit for purpose--and the town was lost by a Regular Infantry Division made up with Companies of Boys

NB Both 50th and 66th TF Divisions were sent back to England for reconstruction 39th was disbanded

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Fifteen divisions ! Crikey, that’s a huge deployment ! I wonder if that means that there fifteen divisions in the region, ready to exploit any advantage that might accrue from the attack.

The actual attack itself was probably made by only a fraction of that mass ; it was, of course, unique in so far as the Germans actually used tanks, and there was an ensuing tank versus tank battle : Great War equivalent of the Monitor versus the Merrimack !

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: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/1/2017 8:33:58 AM
15 Divisions has to be a misprint Phil- maybe 5; but even that number seems high.Come to think about it- it may have been the 15th Bavarian Division.Sorry Phil-not yet up to speed

Regards

Jim
---------------
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Phil Andrade
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/1/2017 8:58:49 AM
Now it occurs to em that this might have been the final spasm of the big March offensive : March 21st to April 4th. If so, then perhaps the fifteen divisions did attack. I might have to do the apologising here, Jim !

I was thinking of fighting at Villers Bretonneux that occurred later on in April : I think that was when the tank battle happened.

It was also one of the legendary Australian feats of the war : again, later in April, I think.

Time for me to check 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

Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/1/2017 9:46:11 AM

Quote:
The Germans had captured 3,100 km2 (1,200 sq mi) of France and advanced up to 65 km (40 mi) but they had not achieved any of their strategic objectives. Over 75,000 British soldiers had been taken prisoner and 1,300 artillery pieces and 200 tanks were lost.

It was of little military value with the casualties suffered by the German elite troops and the failure to capture Amiens and Arras. The captured ground was hard to move over and difficult to defend, as much of it was of the shell-torn wilderness left by the 1916 Battle of the Somme.

Elsewhere the transport infrastructure had been demolished and wells poisoned during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line in March 1917.

The question is --was the German offensive really finished in this sector.ie Albert-Villers Bretonneux-Hangard-Moreuil and became of those Britisg Infantry Divisions which were very badly mauled during the Retreat ?????

Regards

Jim
--anemone



Jim,

For the British to have lost 75,000 troops, 1,300 artillery pieces, & 200 tanks, their command must have had a bad day?

Or do you attribute it to German brilliance?

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

anemone
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/1/2017 9:50:54 AM
GOTCHA!!!!!!
Day 14, 4 April[edit]
The final German attack was launched towards Amiens. It came on 4 April, when fifteen divisions attacked seven Allied divisions on a line east of Amiens and north of Albert (towards the Avre River). Ludendorff decided to attack the outermost eastern defences of Amiens centred on the town of Villers-Bretonneux.

His aim was to secure that town and the surrounding high ground from which artillery bombardments could systematically destroy Amiens and render it useless to the Allies.

The fighting was remarkable on two counts: the first use of tanks simultaneously by both sides in the war and a night counter-attack hastily organised by the Australian and British units (including the exhausted 54th Brigade) which re-captured Villers-Bretonneux and halted the German advance.

Regards

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

MikeMeech
UK
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Posts: 322

Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/1/2017 10:55:06 AM

Quote:

Quote:
The Germans had captured 3,100 km2 (1,200 sq mi) of France and advanced up to 65 km (40 mi) but they had not achieved any of their strategic objectives. Over 75,000 British soldiers had been taken prisoner and 1,300 artillery pieces and 200 tanks were lost.

It was of little military value with the casualties suffered by the German elite troops and the failure to capture Amiens and Arras. The captured ground was hard to move over and difficult to defend, as much of it was of the shell-torn wilderness left by the 1916 Battle of the Somme.

Elsewhere the transport infrastructure had been demolished and wells poisoned during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line in March 1917.

The question is --was the German offensive really finished in this sector.ie Albert-Villers Bretonneux-Hangard-Moreuil and became of those Britisg Infantry Divisions which were very badly mauled during the Retreat ?????

Regards

Jim
--anemone



Jim,

For the British to have lost 75,000 troops, 1,300 artillery pieces, & 200 tanks, their command must have had a bad day?

Or do you attribute it to German brilliance?

Cheers,
MD
--Michigan Dave


Hi

The German command were far from 'brilliant' at the operational and strategic levels of course, Zabecki's opinion in 'The German 1918 Offensives', page 167 comments that:

"Operation MICHAEL reached culmination, but it did not culminate solely because of supply failures or because of any other single reason. It reached culmination because of a combination of factors, including supply problems, troop fatigue, length of lines of communications, lack of battlefield mobility, and most importantly, poor operational design and a series of bad decisions made during the execution of the operation."

This appears confirmed by Rupprecht's diary entry on 5th April:

"It is obvious that one cannot discern a proper purpose in all OHL's directives. They always mention certain landmarks which should be reached, and one gets the impression that OHL lives from hand to mouth, without acknowledging a fixed purpose."

Just after the end of the war General Otto von Moser commented:

"We find that Ludendorff's plan of attack and first attack order for 1918, as opposed to the operations of 1914 and 1915 in the East, lacked not only the great, bold, clear, and simple outline, but also the idea intelligible to everybody that will kindle enthusiasm of both subordinate leaders and troops."

It is hard to discern 'brilliance' at the highest command level from these comments and what the result of the operation was in the end.

Mike

MikeMeech
UK
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Posts: 322

Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/1/2017 11:12:46 AM

Quote:
The Germans had captured 3,100 km2 (1,200 sq mi) of France and advanced up to 65 km (40 mi) but they had not achieved any of their strategic objectives. Over 75,000 British soldiers had been taken prisoner and 1,300 artillery pieces and 200 tanks were lost.

It was of little military value with the casualties suffered by the German elite troops and the failure to capture Amiens and Arras. The captured ground was hard to move over and difficult to defend, as much of it was of the shell-torn wilderness left by the 1916 Battle of the Somme.

Elsewhere the transport infrastructure had been demolished and wells poisoned during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line in March 1917.

The question is --was the German offensive really finished in this sector.ie Albert-Villers Bretonneux-Hangard-Moreuil and became of those Britisg Infantry Divisions which were very badly mauled during the Retreat ?????

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Hi

One example of what happened to a British Division is the 59th(2nd North Midland) Division. This was the Third Army's worst hit division (see 'Kaiserschacht 1918' by Randal Gray, page 88) which had 6,038 casualties. After fighting at Lys 14-18 April it was reduced to cadre and then re-formed during May and June. Then 21-22 August at Albert it advanced towards Henin. During September it advanced from Lestrem towards Mauquissart and Picantin. On 4th October at Lens it advanced from Fleurbaix to the Haute Deule Canal. On 18-21st October at Lille it crossed the canal north of Lille and advanced to the river Schelde. On 9-11th November at Ath it crossed Schelde at Havron and advanced to Dendre Canal ('British Army Handbook 1914-1918' by Andrew Rawson, page 218).

Mike

Phil andrade
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/1/2017 5:23:18 PM
There were two battles at Villers Bretonneux in April 1918 : the first was a really big German attack on 4th April. This was the fifteen division affair.

The second came nearly three weeks later, and entailed the first tank v tank battle. This was momentous, but on a relatively small scale.

Australian soldiers played a prominent role in both.

I had to consult wiki to get my ducks lined up here.

I should have known better !

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: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/2/2017 2:45:43 AM
Take a look at the British casualties on the Western Front March and April 1918 : just over 300,000.

Of these, 240,000 were attributed to the two main battles of 21 March to 5 April, and 9-29 April.

My point : a full sixty thousand sustained on quiet sectors or subsidiary operations.

The main events were enormously expensive ; but their aftermaths also exacted their toll.

True for the Germans as well.

Regards, Phil

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Phil andrade
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Posts: 2597

Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/2/2017 2:59:32 AM
Regarding the outlook for the end of the German offensives in this region, do I remember correctly if I state that Ludendorff was intent on renewing the big attacks against the British in Picardy and Flanders/Artois ?

He moved against the French in May and June, but cherished a hope that he could turn north and settle accounts with the British.

That’s something that appears to be overlooked : when Haig and co launched the brilliantly successful attack at Amiens on 8 August, it was still far from clear that the Germans had finished their offensives .....the thing appeared more risky and fragile at the time than we, looking back with a century’s hindsight, might appreciate.

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
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/2/2017 9:52:31 AM

Quote:
Regarding the outlook for the end of the German offensives in this region, do I remember correctly if I state that Ludendorff was intent on renewing the big attacks against the British in Picardy and Flanders/Artois ?

He moved against the French in May and June, but cherished a hope that he could turn north and settle accounts with the British.

That’s something that appears to be overlooked : when Haig and co launched the brilliantly successful attack at Amiens on 8 August, it was still far from clear that the Germans had finished their offensives .....the thing appeared more risky and fragile at the time than we, looking back with a century’s hindsight, might appreciate.

Regards, Phil
--Phil andrade


Is this what you allude to in yr first pare Phil????

An attempt by the Germans to renew the offensive on 5 April failed and by early morning, the British had forced the enemy out of all but the south-eastern corner of the town. German progress towards Amiens had reached its furthest westward point and Ludendorff terminated the offensive.

Regards

Jim




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

MikeMeech
UK
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/2/2017 10:09:53 AM

Quote:
Regarding the outlook for the end of the German offensives in this region, do I remember correctly if I state that Ludendorff was intent on renewing the big attacks against the British in Picardy and Flanders/Artois ?

He moved against the French in May and June, but cherished a hope that he could turn north and settle accounts with the British.

That’s something that appears to be overlooked : when Haig and co launched the brilliantly successful attack at Amiens on 8 August, it was still far from clear that the Germans had finished their offensives .....the thing appeared more risky and fragile at the time than we, looking back with a century’s hindsight, might appreciate.

Regards, Phil
--Phil andrade


Hi

A quick review of the German Offensives during 1918 are as follows:

Op MICHAEL (and MARS?)[against British]- 21 March to 5 April - 67 Divisions, 6,608 Guns - Sector Width 103 kms. 1.5 kms. per division, 99 guns per division, 64 guns per km.
Op GEORGETTE [against British]- 9 - 29 April - 36 Divisions, 2,210 guns - Sector width 44 kms. 1.2 kms per div., 61 guns per division, 50 guns per km.
Op BLUCHER (and GOERZ and YORCK?)[against French plus British IX Corps]- 27 May - 5 June - 42 Divisions, 5,263 guns - Sector Width 100 kms, 2.4 kms per div., 125 guns per div., 53 guns per km.
Op GNEISENAU [against French]- 9 - 15 June - 24 Divisions, 2,276 guns - Sector width 45 kms. 1.9 kms, 95 guns per div., 51 guns per km.
Op MARNESCHULTZ-REIMS [against French]- 15 July - 3 August - 48 Divisions - 6,353 guns - Sector width 119 km,2.5 kms per div., 132 guns per div., 53 guns per km. (main data from page 322 of Zabecki).

'Allied' attacks, although relatively small compared with these German operations, were taking place during this period including La Becque (that I mentioned on anther thread) on 28 June, Hamel on 4th July with Amiens 8 August. Other German attacks that were being planned were 'postponed'.

Mike

Phil andrade
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/2/2017 11:39:27 AM
Excellent rendition, Mike, thanks !

Very revealing in terms of density per km of front attacked. Seems that Michael was preeminent in terms of mass.

Would add that trench mortars were also deployed in great numbers : some 3,500 on 21st March, if memory serves me.

Huge, huge power wielded by an enemy that Haig thought had been on his last legs six months earlier.

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
top 30
E-5 Sergeant
Posts: 322

Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/2/2017 12:27:01 PM

Quote:
Excellent rendition, Mike, thanks !

Very revealing in terms of density per km of front attacked. Seems that Michael was preeminent in terms of mass.

Would add that trench mortars were also deployed in great numbers : some 3,500 on 21st March, if memory serves me.

Huge, huge power wielded by an enemy that Haig thought had been on his last legs six months earlier.

Regards, Phil


--Phil andrade


Hi

Six months or so earlier the strategic situation had been very different. The Russian Front had since then totally collapsed, British and French troops, artillery and aircraft had been sent to Italy therefore weakening the 'allied' forces on the Western front. The 'allies' were expecting the Germans to increase their strength on the WF, which they did, and were expecting a German Offensive 'somewhere' on the WF during the spring of 1918. The winter of 1917/1918 was spent with the 'allied' leaders discussing what form their defensive measures would take and where. To add to Haig's particular problems was the taking over more of the front line from the French which stretched his available forces. Again a lot of problems.

Mike

Phil andrade
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/2/2017 3:50:09 PM
Six months before the onslaught of the Kaiserslacht -almost to the very day - Haig had secured a significant tactical success at the Menin Road.

This local victory - to be followed by two more over the next couple of weeks - encouraged him to push on in Flanders with a prodigality that, arguably, compounded those problems that he was to face in the spring of 1918.

I’ll go and sniff around in his diary, and see what he was writing about the general strategic situation at that time ( September -October 1917 ).

Then I’ll see how it compares with what he was writing in the following spring.

I wonder how much of this stuff had been doctored so as to present the most favourable view possible.

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: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/2/2017 4:21:21 PM
A little aware that I might be displaying ‘ confirmation bias “, I seek some statements from Hiag’s diary and letters to give some indication of how he viewed the general situation at the time of the Passchendaele and Cambrai fighting .

10 November 1917 :

I pointed out the importance of the Belgian coast to Great Britain, and urged that nothing should be done to stop our offensive next spring .

28 November 1917 :

So we both agreed that Enemy is at present suffering from the blows that we have dealt him this year, and is very short of men , that therefore the best plan is to continue to attack him with the utmost of our power .

7 January 1918 :

As regards the Enemy’s action, I stated that I thought that the coming four months would be the critical period . Also that it seemed possible that the Enemy would attack both the French and ourselves... In my opinion the best defence would be to continue our offensive in Flanders .

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
top 30
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Posts: 322

Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/2/2017 5:07:23 PM

Quote:
A little aware that I might be displaying ‘ confirmation bias “, I seek some statements from Hiag’s diary and letters to give some indication of how he viewed the general situation at the time of the Passchendaele and Cambrai fighting .

10 November 1917 :

I pointed out the importance of the Belgian coast to Great Britain, and urged that nothing should be done to stop our offensive next spring .

28 November 1917 :

So we both agreed that Enemy is at present suffering from the blows that we have dealt him this year, and is very short of men , that therefore the best plan is to continue to attack him with the utmost of our power .

7 January 1918 :

As regards the Enemy’s action, I stated that I thought that the coming four months would be the critical period . Also that it seemed possible that the Enemy would attack both the French and ourselves... In my opinion the best defence would be to continue our offensive in Flanders .

Regards, Phil
--Phil andrade


Hi

You would also note that on 7 December 1917 Haig attended a conference with the Army Commanders at Doullens, where:

"The main topic was the organisation of our defensive lines in view of the Russians having dropped out of the war. This will allow the Germans to employ some 30 more divisions on this front. These can be brought here at a rate of 8 to 10 per month if the Enemy will it."

On 20 December:

"Charteris reported this morning that Third Army were of the opinion (and he concurred) that the Enemy had stopped its offensive on the Cambrai sector for the time being. Charteris thought that the Enemy's big blow would not fall until March."

For the 7 January after "the French and ourselves" he goes on with "and hold reserves ready to exploit wherever he succeeded." This is followed by:

"I felt too, that if the French were heavily attacked they would ask for support either in the shape of British reserves, or by our taking over some of their line in order to free French troops. In either case the British front would be seriously weakened."

He then goes on with the "best defence would be to continue our offensive in Flanders" followed by:

"because we would then retain the initiative and attract the German reserves against us. It is doubtful whether the French [will stand] for long, a resolute and continued offensive on the part of the Enemy."

It appears his comments relate to worries over the condition of the French Army.

GHQ in January 1918 issued a memorandum on "The Employment of the Royal Flying Corps in Defence". They also early in the practised the effectiveness of air attack against tanks (also guns and infantry). A suitable marking was found through trial so friendly tanks could be identified. This may go back to the diary's 10 December comments which mentioned:

"Charteris reported that the information indicates that the Enemy had been manufacturing Tanks since April last. We must arrange our defences for dealing with a tank attack."

This probably also led to the publication of SS 203 'Instructions for Anti-Tank Defence' in February, 1918.

Mike

Phil andrade
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top 5
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/3/2017 2:46:27 AM
Mike,

Do you think that Haig grasped - and grasped fully - the sheer scale, intensity and violence of the onslaught that the enemy was about to unleash ?

He was clearly aware that an attack was coming.

As to whether the severity of the blow came as a shock rather than a surprise....that’s what I’m wondering.

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
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Posts: 6103
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/3/2017 4:33:45 AM
On our side our dispositions to meet the expected offensive were as complete as the time and troops available could make them. The front of the Fifth Army, at that date commanded by General Sir H. de la P. Gough, K.C.B., K.C.V.O., extended from our junction with the French just south of Barisis to north of Gouzeaucourt, a distance of about forty-two miles, and was held by the III, XVIII, XIX and VII Corps, commanded respectively by Lieut.-General Sir R. H. K. Butler, K.C.M.G., C.B., Lieut.-General Sir I. Maxse, K.C.B., C.V.O., D.S.O., Lieut.- General Sir H. E. Watts, K.-C.B., C.M.G., and Lieut.-General Sir W. N. Congreve, V.C., K.C.B., M.V.O.

Over 10 miles of this front between Amigny Rouy and Alaincourt were protected by the marshes of the Oise River and Canal, and were therefore held more lightly than the remainder of the line but on the whole front of the Army the number of divisions in line only allowed of an average of one division to some 6,750 yards of front

NB Haug does NOT say in his despatch-that he told to Gough that his defencs were far from reaey but as he had no more mwn to give him----"Do your best"

Regards

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

MikeMeech
UK
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Posts: 322

Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/3/2017 5:48:43 AM

Quote:
Mike,

Do you think that Haig grasped - and grasped fully - the sheer scale, intensity and violence of the onslaught that the enemy was about to unleash ?

He was clearly aware that an attack was coming.

As to whether the severity of the blow came as a shock rather than a surprise....that’s what I’m wondering.

Regards, Phil
--Phil andrade


Hi

The British and French military leadership (you cannot just talk about Haig) realised that the Germans would have a superiority in forces on the Western Front by the spring of 1918 due to the changed strategic circumstances. However, they disagreed where they thought the main blow would come. The French of course believed it would come against them which is one of the reasons they wanted (and got) the British to take over more of the line so they could form a better reserve. This in turn gave Haig a problem as it would spread his troops more thinly along the line (plus he also had to try to keep some reserve). However, the 'allies' still did not know where the actual primary attack would come. The British lines had less depth behind them so any German advance there would be problematic, this was particularly so in the north of the British line but less so in the south where the Fifth Army in particular had taken over the French positions. So I believe it was perfectly a reasonable decision to have stronger levels of troops in the northern part of the line than in the south where there was 'more room' to be 'flexible' over territory. If commanders had the troops then all areas would have been strongly defended and if there had been more time there would have been stronger defences in the south (as it was it appears many of the 'retreating' or 'running away' troops in the Fifth Army were actually unarmed members of the Labour Corps judging by comments from reinforcing troops (the Labour Corps had been working on defences and infrastructure in the former French area so it was all a work in progress).
I expect there was some 'shock' in the blow delivered by the Germans and that was not confined to Haig or the British.

However, I expect the biggest 'shock' came later when the German troops, commanders and then the German people realised this massive and expensive (in all meanings of the word) operation that was supposed to be 'war winning' failed in its objectives and led to their retreat towards Germany.

Mike

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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/3/2017 7:13:21 AM
A Tribute to the Missing of British 5th Army during
The German Spring Offensive of March 1918

I never met my maternal Grandfather - James Cunliffe Leask - he died some years before I was born, but what I do know about him I obtained from his letters to his wife, what I was told about him by my mother, and from documents obtained from the PRO whilst researching his military service during the Great War,

He was the second son of Robert Leask, a civil engineer and his wife Anna Louise, nee Malloy, born on the 7 of December 1875 in Dublin. James, as well as having an older brother, HM"old; who was also a civil engineer, also had four siblings; two brothers and two sisters. The family lived in large house in the Rathimines area of the city.

His education started i 1880 at a Private School in the city,after which there were two more before he was
finished at Fanagh School in Co.West Meath aged 17yrs.
Following school, he joined the Gresham Insurance Coy, which was based in the city and which his father was a stockholder. He gradually worked his way up the ladder of promotion.However his overwhelming passion, was for all things military-uniform,headgear,accoutrements,etc.added to which he was a gifted artist in this particular field. In l898 he joined a rather exclusive band of men-the Dublin Detatchment of the 5th (Vol.) Battalion of the Black Watch (The Royal Highlanders)
and went to summer camp with 30 some men each in Scotland.He had also become a MM.

In 1901 he married Mary Anderson,also of the city and there were two children to the marriage viz. Clara Gladys born April 1902 and James Ronald Sigurd born in July 1907.James was transferred to Belfast in 1902 as an Insurance Superintendant and it was during this time that his children were born.He also became, for a 4yr tenure, The Commandant of the 1000 strong Belfast Boys Brigade. The Cardwell Reforms of the British Army in 1908, brought about a numbe of changes-one of which affected Cpl. Leask of the Dublin Detatchment-the Volunteers were to be subsumed into the new Territorial Force; whose particular function was to be Home Defence.

This apparently was not to his liking, so "he resigned his position for private reasons'He was returned back to Dublin;- but was ultimately transferred again to Newcastle upon Tyne-this time as District Inspector in late 1911,where he took up residence in the suburb of Gosforth.

Between 1910 and 1914 he co-wrote, with Maj.L McCance late R. Munsters and illustrated The Records of the Royal Scots (The Lothian Regiment) which was published in Dublin in 1915. He
also provided a number of Uniform Plates for the Black Watch, The Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders,the Leicestershire Regiment and,of course the Northumberland Fusliers.-which prestigious Regiment he gained a commission into the 5 TF Battalion as a 2° Lieutenant in 1912 .

The Northumberland Fusliliers aka The Fighting Fifth was raised in 1674, as the 5 Regiment of Foot.He spent the next two years very happily in this new gentleman's club and made many friends. He was taught to ride a horse-all officers rode horses.'Such idyllic days; but war was looming and getting ever closer.

The Great War started in Aug. 1914 and the British Army was mobilised,every officer and man were called to the "Colours".5 Batt. Nthld Fus.after serving on R. Tyne Defences was sent to France in May 1915 as part of the 50 Division;which was given a Baptism of Fire when committed to the Battle of Loos—the Division was decimated. James Leask however missed all of this bloodshed as he was deemed too old for a subaltern's command in the field.In any event he was transferred to the Regiment's 4th Reserve Batt.;in which he served until Dec. 1917.

He was given a Medical and sent to France/Belgium to relieve front line officers for leave. James Leask,now a captain was sent to his 5th batt.serving with 50 Dvision on Passchaendale Ridge in Dec 1917.His first assignment was to relieve the CO who went on a Training Course;followed by two Coy Commanders for Xmas/NY leave and finally the 2nd IC when the CO returned.This period in the front line trenches, often under
artillery fire;was his baptism of fire-his letters to his wife were always cheerful.With this relief period over,he was not sent back to England because Colonel Wright,the CO wanted him as 2nd IC when the existing 2nd IC got a command of his own.He was offered and accepted the post of Wing Commandant ie the CO of the 50 Divisional Depot Batt.which was situated at XIX Corps HQ.and given the rank of Acting Major.-more about this post later.

All went smoothly until Feb.l918,when the British Army was reorganised.Each Brigade which had 4 Batts. was reduced to 3 and the surplus Batts.posted to other Divisions -this was brought about by the Government of the Day's refusal to send further reinforcements to maintain Divisions at their regular strength and this had serious repercussions; as shall be seen.

Following the reorganisation, 50 Division was ordered south to the old Somme Battlefield and here was placed in GHQ Reserve in the Moreuil Area .XIX Corps followed and so too did James Leask's little band -the 80ml train journey from the Ypres area to Corbie took 4 days and they arrived at Corbie on 18 March 1918.

On the 21 of March the much heralded German Spring Offensive (Kaiserslacht) began .At daybreak all the front line positions of the British 3rd and 5th Armies were deluged by 1000s of gas
and HE shells.British 3rd Army had 14 Divisions defending 28mls of front line south of the R.Somme,along with British 5th Army which had 13 Divisions defending 43mls-this critical disparity was to have serious consequences for the 5th Army, because not even the C in C FM Haig do anything to level up the strengths of the two Armies-he did however tell the GOC 5th Army "to do his best"

Throughout the next few days there was some gallant but desperate defending; but to no real avail the German Steamroller kept up the relentless pressure and the British Armies were driven back despite GHQ releasing the 8th,20th and 50th Divisions to attempt 5th Army to halt the German advance. By the 24 March every available soldier was called to the
Front. Capt. Leask and his ofificers,NCOs and men-perhaps 250 all told, were ordered to march to Villers Bretonneux on the afternoon of the 25th March; where they arrived after nightfall and were obliged to sleep in the street .

In the morning of the 26 Ct. Leask met fellow Dubliner Major R W,Kinghan late of the7/8th Batts .R Irish Fusliers- and now Head of 5 Army School of Musketry at Villers Bretonneux-along with his staff and pupils,perhaps another 200 all told. Major Kinghan was to be the officer commanding(he had fought in the Battle of the Somme) and Capt.Leask was 2nd IC. After picking up some stragglers Kinghan's Force numbered just short of 500; and to each of 4 Officers he allotted a Company of 125 men -all ranks.Weapons having been checked,3 or 4 mc guns scrounged; they started their march to the front line and arrived before nightfall.They were in front of the badly mauled 66th Division facing Framerville and to the north of the also newly arrived
Little's Force-another scratch unit also hastily put together at Corbie of the 66th Div. Depot Batt.-Lt Col W B Little DSO MC 0C 5th Batt. Border Regt.-66 Div's Pioneer Batt. The night passed without much incident.In the morning of the 27 Kinghan were detached to assist the 39 Division who were almost encircled by the enemy north of the road between St Quentin and Villers Bretonneux .They and the 16th Irish Division fought the 39 out of trouble, but not without loss to themselves.

The next 2-3 days saw much bitter fighting particularly in rearguard actions and this incurred casualties-mostly "missing".The German advance was relentless at this stage.On the 28th Kinghan's was amalgamated into Little's Force, in order to tidy up the various "commands";and during this day they witnessed the savage battle for Harbonniers who's defence was placed on the 8th.50th and 66th Divisions against five German Divisions. Littles Force defence line poured murderous fire into the exposed flank of the German advance and thereby reduced the possibility, of the now seriously depleted 66 Div;.giving way. However the outcome was inevitable-another retreat!

That night they quietly marched west to Rosierre en Santerre.On the morning of the 29 the 39 Division were engaged in battle at Wiencourt I'Equipe and when Little offered to assist was, as he put it, "chid from the field" and ordered to Demuin/Aubercourt to prepare the old Army Defence Line for the 39th to fall back on.During this General Feetham GOC 39th Div.was killed by a shell in Demuin and General Malcom GOC 66th Div. wounded nearby, after a meeting of the generals at Rosierres; to determine strategy!-that Strategy was RETREAT!


On the evening of the 29.first the 39 Div. (Remnant) and then 66 Div.(Remnant) fell back to the Aubercourt Defence Line. Little's Force who had been in Demuin on the 29th,but had abandoned it, but left Icoy in the village for it's defence; after heavy shelling;came into a defence position in trenches just North of the village -these trenches faced Demuin and were across the spur of the high ground between the roads to Villers Bretonneux and Marcelcave. The night was uneventful and the 39th Div .were able to to retreat through Aubercourt (Leask's position) behind Little's Force and go into a support position behind a spur of high ground between Demuin and Hangard.The other hard fought Divisions the 8th and 50th were on the south side of the R.Luce in the vicinity of Moreuil. The 61" Div.was 54 ml west of Marcelcave and the 20th Division was deployed along the Demuin to Moreuil road.

At first light the Germans attacked along both sides of the R.Luce,after a 90 minute bombardment of all British positions; but particularly the flanks of 61st and 20th Divisions. Two German Divs- the 19th and Guards Ersatz attacked the northern positions and the 208th and 243rd attacked on the south
side of the river .As the attack on the south side progressed elements of the German 208th Division occupied the high ground to the SE of Demuin and infiltrated Demuin village itself-the defence coy put up a desperate fight, despite being reinforced by two additional platoons; but were eventually driven out and across the R Luce to Little's position.

66th Div were now in serious trouble being threatened by enfilade fire from Demuin village and also from guns on the high ground above the village. This brought about the urgent need for a safe withdrawal of the 66th Div.troops.
To expedite tins move, Lt Col Little requested that Captain Leask at Aubercourt;to organise and lead a counterattack on Demuin with the objective of clearing the village of the enemy and holding for as long as possible; such that 66th Div could be extricated.

This task was carried out in the wordsof the Official Communique "in remarkably little time"and were able to hold the village so that 66th were withdrawn and having done so, proved to be Capt. Leask's undoing. Prior to 66th Div's withdrawal, 20th Divs 61st Brigade had maintained contact with the extreme west end of Demuin. Now with 66 Div .relocated further west,20 div conformed by pulling its forces back to the new line.This had several effects a)The Aubercourt Defence Line was lost to the Germans and b)The troops of the 208th German Div. who had managed to escape from Leask's cotmterattack came back to fight and c) Leask's men were running out of ammunition-their task accomplished this was now turning into a siege!

Little's men had also retreated up the Villers Bretonneux road to safety and a counterattack by troops of the 39 Div. failed and it was not until 2pm when someone woke up and ORDERED LittUe to get his men out. This order came too late for many, including Capt. Leask and his sergeant who had been wounded by a shell burst-his corporal and a man went to find a stretcher but when they returned there was nothing of Capt. Leask to carry away. His body was never recovered and he was reported on the day as "wounded whereabouts unknown"

For his action at Demuin ,Little recommended him for the Distinguished Service Order but this was downgraded to a Military Cross as he was not of field rank and not declared to be dead-the award was duly gazetted. His death was declared official on the 28th Dec. 1918. As he has no known grave, his name is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial to the Missing Dead of the Somme.

Captain Leask was awarded the following awards for his Great War Service:-

The MiUtary Cross -4th Army Order of 17.5.18-London Gazette 26.7.18, British War and Victory Medals with Oakleaf Emblem-mentioned to the Secretary of State for War "for good service to the war effort 1.1.18 Territorial Force War Medal Croix de Guerre avec Star-a belated French award made in 1921!
Bronze Death Plaque bearing his name.

Major Kinghan was wounded during a final counterattack to retake Demuin at 3pm on the 30th.He spoke to a wounded sergeant in the Casualty Clearing Station who told him that he had been
wounded by the same shell that had killed Capt.Leask.Kinghan was also awarded the Military Cross and for him the war was over.Lt.

Col.Little went to command the 6 Royal DubUn Fusiliers
the unit which replaced the 5 Nthld FusiUers in the reconstituted 50 Div. He got a bar to his DSO
for Demuin and another for the Hindenburg Line Battle later in the war, as well as many foreign decorations incl. The American Distinguished Service Cross.

General Hubert Gough GOC 5 Army was sacked on the 28 Mar.and his Army given to a General who had lost his on the Somme in 1916-A scapegoat and the old pals act at work!

The above narrative is drawn from The Official History theWar,.Archive Military Records,Military Unit Histories.Personal letters of the time (various) and my own observations. I have visited Demuin several times in the last 12 yrs or so, to look at village and it's surroundings
(Geographical and Topographical) in order to try to understand what happened there on the 30th of March 1918-1 think I have a modicum of what the truth might be,but I fear that I shall never knowwhat really happened and WHY?One thing that I am sure of is, that THE FOG OF WAR played a major role

Regards

Jim
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phil andrade
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/3/2017 7:26:36 AM
Jim,

Your own grandfather was killed in this fighting, wasn’t he ?

Do I remember correctly, from one of your earlier posts about this March 1918 fighting, that he blurted out We’ve won the war ! , even though his position was overrun ?

That in itself raises the question as to how imperilled the Allies were in this critical time of the Great War.

Some contend that the Germans overreached themselves so much that they were never going to be able to exploit any tactical advantage : so flawed were their logistical provisions, and so incoherent were their strategic arrangements.

My own feeling is that this business was truly frightening , and that the Germans did stand a decent chance of winning.

Haig himself issued his famous Order of the Day and the implications of his words are clearly that things were critical.

More unequivocal, and portentous for a future generation, was Petain’s astonishing comment at Doullens ( ?) that Haig was beaten, and would capitulate in the field, and that the French themselves would follow suite in the weeks thereafter !

Petain’s pessimism seems contemptible now : even though he stands head and shoulders above many of his peers as a superb tactician.

Haig’s excessive optimism in the autumn of 1917 arouses my contempt....but I give him full honours for his performance in extremis in 1918, and for his resilience and resourcefulness in the riposte .

Mike : I like your attribution of the biggest “ shock” coming to the Germans when they countenanced the failure of that massive offensive effort.

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: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/3/2017 7:55:28 AM
It was Maj.Gen.Malcom GOC 66th Infantry Division who when asked how he saw the war at the end of March(he was wounded at Domart) replied "Splendid-we have won the war"

NB. My GF's story is above your last post Phil

Regards

Jim
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Jim Cameron
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/3/2017 11:00:47 AM
Phil,
I believe that the Germans would have stood a good chance of winning, which I would define as forcing the Allies to the bargaining table, but only had they been able to separate the British and French forces and reach the major rail centers supporting the BEF. Once that didn't happen, and the offensives ran out of steam (and particularly so when multiple offensives had to be shut down), the handwriting was on the wall.
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Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/4/2017 3:14:37 AM
Jim C,

Once that didn’t happen ....exactly : to stop that from happening entailed desperate fighting.

It would be instructive to investigate the tenor of Anglo French relations ; the likelihood of separation was significant enough to make things critical.

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

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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/4/2017 10:40:38 AM
he German attack took place on 27 May, between Soissons and Reims. The sector was partly held by six depleted British divisions which were "resting" after their exertions earlier in the year.

In this sector, the defences had not been developed in depth, mainly due to the obstinacy of the commander of the French Sixth Army, General Denis Auguste Duchêne.

As a result, the Feuerwalze was very effective and the Allied front, with a few notable exceptions, collapsed. Duchêne's massing of his troops in the forward trenches also meant there were no local reserves to delay the Germans once the front had broken.

Despite French and British resistance on the flanks, German troops advanced to the Marne River and Paris seemed a realistic objective.

There was a frenzied atmosphere in Paris, which German long-range guns had been shelling since 21 March, with many citizens fleeing and the government drawing up plans to evacuate to Bordeaux.

Trgards

Jim
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scoucer
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/4/2017 11:00:39 AM

Quote:


Hi

The German command were far from 'brilliant' at the operational and strategic levels of course, Zabecki's opinion in 'The German 1918 Offensives', page 167 comments that:

"Operation MICHAEL reached culmination, but it did not culminate solely because of supply failures or because of any other single reason. It reached culmination because of a combination of factors, including supply problems, troop fatigue, length of lines of communications, lack of battlefield mobility, and most importantly, poor operational design and a series of bad decisions made during the execution of the operation."

This appears confirmed by Rupprecht's diary entry on 5th April:

"It is obvious that one cannot discern a proper purpose in all OHL's directives. They always mention certain landmarks which should be reached, and one gets the impression that OHL lives from hand to mouth, without acknowledging a fixed purpose."

Just after the end of the war General Otto von Moser commented:

"We find that Ludendorff's plan of attack and first attack order for 1918, as opposed to the operations of 1914 and 1915 in the East, lacked not only the great, bold, clear, and simple outline, but also the idea intelligible to everybody that will kindle enthusiasm of both subordinate leaders and troops."

It is hard to discern 'brilliance' at the highest command level from these comments and what the result of the operation was in the end.

Mike

--MikeMeech


Agree completely Mike. Rüpprecht, and most commanding Generals, had lost all confidence in Ludendorff whose power-base was the greatly expanded General Staff and control of the Kaiser. Rüpprecht had, however, lost all influence through the Bavarian Court and Bundesrat as Ludendorff had ousted Bethmann-Hollweg replacing him with the lackies Michealis as Chancellor and Von Stein as War Minister. By expanding the powers of the Deputy Corps Commanders, answerable directly to him, Ludendorff had virtually imposed martial law . Even the Kaiser had lost confidence in Ludendorff. After Ludendorff had presented his plans for 1918, the Kaiser called General Max Hoffmann, Chief of Staff OBEROST, to an interview with himself and the Military Cabinet. Asked his opinion, Hoffmann declared that he found the plans terrible. He explained that they should stay on the defensive in the West and rather than expansion in the East that they should take Petrograd and destroy the new bolshevik gouvernment supporting the independence of the former subject states ( Ukraine, Finland, Poland etc.) which then would gladly trade the foodstuffs that Germany desperately needed. Hearing of this Ludendorff burst into the Kaiser´s rooms and threw a temper tantrum threatening that he and Hindenburg would resign unless his plans were accepted. The Kaiser accepted and General Von Plessen of the Military Cabinet had to be stopped from running after Ludendorff with a pistol determined to shoot him.

General Georg Weltzell, Head of Operations on the General Staff and future commander of the Reichswehr would say of Ludendorff that he was maybe a good organiser but no strategist.

Trevor
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/4/2017 3:30:14 PM
Today I lunched at a riverside pub in London called the Mayflower, in the company of some old friends, companions of my schooldays and steadfast for the past fifty years or so.

One of them announced to me - quite unexpectedly - that he’s going on a trip to France next March to mark the centennial of his grandfather’s capture in the Kaiserslacht.

Neil’s GF was an officer - a captain, I think - and he was captured sometime around 25th March 1918, in the vicinity of the Albert Road in the Somme sector.

He was a decorated officer - Military Medal, I think - but his return to Blighty post war was marred by an official enquiry into the whys and wherefores of his capture.

The British army did not cope well with the idea of its officers being taken prisoner , and this enquiry was a symptom of that discomfiture.

It seems incredible that in a catastrophic battle, in which seventy five thousand British soldiers were captured in a couple of weeks - most of them in the first few days - there should have been such an investigation into the reasons for an officer and a gentleman allowing himself to be taken.

He was, of course, exonerated from any charge....but the implication left a dirty taste in his mouth .

This was, I understand, a routine matter in that war.

There is some famous film footage of hordes of British POWs being marched away by the Germans, and one of them - an officer - is at pains to hide his face by putting his helmet up in front of it ; an indication of the stigma attached to the fate of being taken prisoner if you held the King’s Commission.

Edit : I should mention that Neil’s grandfather was wounded when he was captured.


Regards, Phil
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Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/5/2017 5:07:00 AM
The End for General Gough

Gough set up Reserve Army HQ at Crecy on 3 April – this would later form the nucleus of the reconstituted Fifth Army under Birdwood (remnants of Gough's previous army were now renamed the Fourth and under Rawlinson).

Haig defended Gough to Lloyd George during a car journey (3 April) – he recorded that Lloyd George was looking for a scapegoat for the manpower problem and for his attempts to redeploy divisions to the Middle East contrary to Robertson's advice, and that Lloyd George demanded Gough's dismissal on the grounds that he had neither held nor destroyed the Somme bridges.

Haig, by his own account, replied that "could not condemn an officer unheard" and refused to sack him unless given a direct order to do so.

The next day (4 April) Haig received a telegram from Lord Derby ordering that Gough be dismissed altogether on the grounds of "having lost the confidence of his troops". Haig held a farewell lunch with Gough on 5 April.

NB I thought the reason given for Gough#s removal was quite spurious---it was purely to maintain the Entente Cordiale

Regards


Jim
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George
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/5/2017 6:56:43 AM
Gough's departure was not lamented in all quarters. General Currie did not want his Canadian Corps anywhere near the man. He didn't trust him.

When assigned to take Passchendaele, Currie asked Haig to make his Corps part of Plumer's 2nd Army to get them away from Gough. The request was granted.

Cheers,

George

George
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/5/2017 6:59:43 AM
Gough's departure was not lamented in all quarters. General Currie did not want his Canadian Corps anywhere near the man. He didn't trust him.

When assigned to take Passchendaele, Currie asked Haig to make his Corps part of Plumer's 2nd Army to get them away from Gough. The request was granted.

Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/5/2017 7:05:43 AM
Gough’s ghost still rides high in the folklore of Ulster.

He was very much to the fore in the Curragh Incident.

It surges into prominence today , as the impact of the DUP on Brexit negotiations throws the fat into the fire.

Sorry to breach protocol and delve into the politics of today, but sometimes I can’t help but see the continuities.

History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes ....

Mark Twain knew whereof he spoke !

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: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/5/2017 8:14:18 AM
The King wrote to Asquith requesting that he be consulted before any further steps were taken.

Gough, summoned to the War Office, confirmed (Sunday 22 March) that he would have obeyed a direct order to move against Ulster. When he saw the King that evening, French, advised by Haldane (Lord Chancellor) that Paget should not have asked officers about "hypothetical contingencies," also threatened to resign if Gough were not reinstated.

Paget was ordered to report to London, Macready was sent out to Belfast (but without official announcement) while Asquith informed the King that Paget had indeed exceeded his instructions, that only safeguarding of ammunition stores had been intended, that the naval deployment had been cancelled, and that there would be no further troop movement without consulting the King.Thus Gough escaped an early denoument.

Regards

Jim
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Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/5/2017 9:32:11 AM

Quote:
Gough's departure was not lamented in all quarters. General Currie did not want his Canadian Corps anywhere near the man. He didn't trust him.

When assigned to take Passchendaele, Currie asked Haig to make his Corps part of Plumer's 2nd Army to get them away from Gough. The request was granted.

Cheers,

George
--George




George,

Do you blame him!?

MD
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George
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/5/2017 10:41:16 AM
Currie's concerns with Gough came before Currie became the commander of the Corps.

But if you are asking whether Gough should be blamed for the problems that the Germans presented during Operation Michael, then I am not so sure.

When the Germans attacked, they did push back Gough's 5th army to the south.

To the north, General Byng's 3rd army fought hard to slow the Germans.

But as Gough's army engaged in a retreat and it was a fighting retreat, it became necessary to move Byng's army back too

The fear was that if Gough was routed then the right flank of Byng's army would be exposed. I don't know what would have happened had the Germans come between the two armies.

So I guess the question is whether Gough's retreat became necessary because of his failure or otherwise.

It's not like Gough's men were running as I understand it. They made the Germans pay for every step.

There seems to be a lot of praise for Gough's handling of the fighting retreat but he was relieved of command on the same day that Ludendorff turned 29 divisions on General Byng's army. "Bungo" Byng's boys stopped the Germans. That didn't help Gough.

Now from memory, it seems to me that Gough's defences were not as complete as Byng's and his divisions were spread out over a large area in the hope that the Germans would not drive a wedge between the British and the French.

So Gough had not had time to complete his trench systems and the ones that were there weren't very well maintained when Gough moved into the area.

Gough also knew that he had few reserves if a battle should come his way. He knew that his sector was vulnerable.

And the Germans knew all of this, hence the attack at the weakest points in the British defensive systems.

There are historians who feel that Gough was treated as a scapegoat for the losses incurred by the British during Op. Michael.



George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 5704

Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/5/2017 10:48:34 AM
I do have a question about the American forces available when Michael took place.

There were probably one quarter of a million US troops in France by the spring of 1918 and more arriving every day.

We know that they were green but was there ever any request made to bring the US forces into the fray?

I do know that Pershing was opposed to sending Americans into battle, piecemeal. He wanted them to fight as an American army.

I can sympathize with that as a Canadian.

But I believe that he was ordered by someone in the US chain of command, to co-operate during Operation Michael.

What did that entail?

Cheers,

George

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


Posts: 6103
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Re: Operation Michael--the Aftermath
Posted on: 12/5/2017 11:34:02 AM
George--I read your post with interest and found it more than fair.
I thought 5th Army did pretty well in the Retreat-it
did not become a rout..


Regards

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

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