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 (1914-1918) WWI Battles
AuthorMessage
anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/19/2017 6:42:42 AM
From "Oh What a Lovely War" to "Blackadder Goes Forth", popular culture has alternately attacked and ridiculed their lack of tactical imagination and consistently over-optimistic view of the conflict.This emphasis on British commanders does overlook the fact that strategy on the Western Front was heavily influenced by the French.

However in the imagination of the populace- the grim statistics of the First World War (on average around 5,000 soldiers were killed for every single day of the war) and the perceived pointlessness of many of the assaults combined to produce a picture of a British High Command, presided over by Douglas Haig, almost more dangerous than the enemy. This was not necessarily the view during and immediately after the war.

Was the British Army- Lions overseen by Donkeys ????

Regards

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

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
Posts: 442
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/19/2017 7:13:09 AM
If they were donkeys, then they were brave donkeys. I understand well over 200 officers above Brigade command were killed or wounded, with a fatality rate of nearly 80 (IIRC). Mistakes were no doubt made, but I refuse to accept that the general officers of the British Army were anything other than reasonably competent men (with variances towards both inspired talent and catastrophic ineptitude) thrown into a world of rapidly evolving technological change on the battlefield and beyond.

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."

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/19/2017 7:38:01 AM
We have the image of the officer class in the British imperial forces as coming from the upper class and perhaps unfairly labelled as effete.

Is it fair to say that most imperial officers at the highest levels were professional soldiers? Even if wealthy and perhaps securing a commission through networking, were they all trained at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst?

I am talking about the officer corps that existed in Aug. of 1914. Was it possible to be an officer in the peace time army without the proper connections?

I have read that when the BEF was all but destroyed in the initial stages of the war, that not only was it necessary to rebuild Kitchener's army but also the officer cadre associated.

So Officer Cadet Battalions were established in 1916 and began to churn out officers from "non-traditional backgrounds", in a 4 month training period.


Quote:
Over the next 4 years, the British Army grew from 730,000 men & five divisions to 3,560,000 & fifty divisions, drawn from the Territorial Army in 1915, Kitchener’s New Army in 1916 & the 'Conscripts' of 1917 & 1918.

There was an increase in the number of officers, from 12,000 to 164,000.

In all, 247,061 commissions were granted during the war, about 100,000 from pre-war OTCs, & tens of thousands more from the ranks, men who were commissioned as ‘Wartime Temporary’ officers, after four months training in Officer Cadet Battalions (OCB), formed early in 1916.


This quote was taken from the following website:

[Read More]


Did any senior imperial officers of note arise from this new class of officer recruit, those who may have come from "non-traditional backgrounds"?

Now that I think about it, I really don't know what "non-traditional background" means in the British army.

I had assumed that most senior officers came from the well placed and well to do upper crust.

Was it possible for a regular working guy of modest means to find himself in an Officer Cadet Battalion?


Cheers,

George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/19/2017 7:53:10 AM
Hi Colin

The manner of the 1918 victory clearly demonstrates the dreadful military mistakes of the i914-17 years of the war. There was- I must admit- a ‘new willingness to terminate attacks in good time in 1918’, emphasising the old tendency to press assaults long after the position had become hopeless eg the Somme and 3rd Ypres.

The rise of new generals such as Allenby,Byng. Henry Rawlinson,Arthur Curry and John Monash came at the expense of of generals such as Hubert Gough, sacked in March 1918.

It almost appeared miraculous that Haig could have such a turn around in attitude in 1918; but he did have some very determined senior generals- whom he heeded when they called a timely halt.

Regards

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

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/19/2017 8:20:57 AM

Quote:
The rise of new generals such as Henry Rawlinson,Arthur Curry and John Monash came at the expense of of generals such as Hubert Gough, sacked in March 1918.


I must point out that Curry and Monash were not "born" to the task of leadership as Rawlinson was.

Rawlinson was Eton educated and then on to Royal Military College. For me, he represents the primary source of leadership in the British army before the events of 1914/15 shredded the 5 division army of pre-war Britain.

That doesn't mean that he wasn't good. Just being rich and privileged does not mean that a person cannot be effective.

Curry and Monash were products of the Dominions.

They had more modest beginnings though Monash was university educated and was a civil engineer.

Arthur Currie was born in farm country in Ontario. He was bright but financial constraints precluded university education until later. But he left university before he finished.
Became a teacher as a last resort in British Columbia.
Became involved in real estate.

Both Monash and Currie were militia men.

Could a man from the UK with similar background have reasonably expected to become a general in the imperial forces?

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
Posts: 442
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/19/2017 9:06:03 AM

Quote:
Could a man from the UK with similar background have reasonably expected to become a general in the imperial forces?
--George


Hi George,

Sir William Robertson, of meagre family means (though not empoverished) enlisted as Private and ended up a Field Marshal (and CIGC during WW1), the only British soldier ever to achieve such a feat. It wasn't impossible, but was quite rare.

Pre-war, most the non-Guards infantry officers (and also Indian Army regiments) could just about manage to live a decent lifestyle expected of an officer on their salary without family assistance. This was impossible in the Guards units and the cavalry, where the demands of extravagant uniform and mess fees were well beyond the pay on offer.

During the war, I expect these financial costs went down. The demands of war no doubt superseded those of mess traditions. There was a war to win, afterall.

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."

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/19/2017 9:26:24 AM

Quote:
Both Monash and Currie were militia men.

Could a man from the UK with similar background have reasonably expected to become a general in the imperial forces?


Straight answer to a straight question-Absolutely not IMHO.All officers of General rank had to pass out at the Royal Military Academy,Sandhurst
where the vetting appraisal was extremely stringent and had everything to do with class,as opposed to ability.

Regards

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

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
Posts: 442
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/19/2017 10:09:49 AM

Quote:


Straight answer to a straight question-Absolutely not IMHO.All officers of General rank had to pass out at the Royal Military Academy,Sandhurst
where the vetting appraisal was extremely stringent and had everything to do with class,as opposed to ability.

Regards

jim
--anemone


Jim,

I see you ignored the example of Wullie Robertson in that ridiculous statement. The academic criteria for RMS was stringently high, so much so that even Winston Churchill failed to sufficiently pass his examinations there and ended up in the Hussars, the cavalry version of a reject pile for surplus sons of the aristocracy. For all its ills, British Army officers were quite well trained and educated once the purchase of commissions was abolished.

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."

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/19/2017 10:48:02 AM
So OK -one distinguished junior officer did manage to gain entry; but failed so he persevered and made the grade.A "one off" does not make my statement ridiculous-"one swallow does not a summer make"-however it is propitious to know where you are coming from

Robertson applied to attend Staff College at Camberley. Unlike most applicants, he could not afford to take extended leave from his job (on the intelligence staff at Simla) to attend a crammer, and had he failed he would have been too old to apply again, so he rose between 4 and 5 am each day to study mathematics, German, and French with the assistance of his wife. He later qualified as an interpreter in French.

He just missed a place, but was given a nominated place on the recommendation of Sir George White (Commander-in-Chief, India). In 1897, accompanied by his wife and baby son, he became the first former ranker to go there .

Regards

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

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/19/2017 11:57:25 AM
Hi Colin,

I was aware that officers purchased uniforms. What exactly are "mess fees"?

And in Canada at the start of the war, some regiments were raised by private citizens, something that I always found rather odd.

So a rich man would offer to raise and pay for a regiment. Hamilton Gault was one such man. He contacted the Dept. of Militia and Defence with an offer of $100,000 (2 million today) to raise a regiment.



Militia and Defence offered to buy some equipment and so Colonel Gault set about recruiting and the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry was born.

Did this sort of thing happen in the UK? The PPCLI is often noted as the last privately raised regiment in the British Empire. So I presume that prior to their creation, the same thing must have happened in the UK.

BTW, I don't believe that Gault paid wages to the soldiers. He just paid the start-up costs.

As well, he was a militia man and so he became the 2IC of the regiment. Boer war vet so not without experience.

Cheers,

George

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
Posts: 442
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/19/2017 12:23:17 PM
Hi George,

"Mess fees" would include the required dress uniform, the food, wine, spirits, sport (and associated kit), shared cost of social events, accommodation and so on. They would also be expected to top up the pay of servants and batmen, as per the patrician spirit of the time. It was expensive being an army officer, which meant many men from lower social status often refused the offer of a commission.

For example, Colour Sergeant Bourne (already the youngest Colour Sergeant in the army), who fought at Rourke's Drift in 1879, was offered a commission in the aftermath. I don't remember the exact quote and my books are currently packed away due to a house refurb, but I believe he said something along the lines of "being the last son in line and the family exchequer exhausted, I had to refuse", as the pay on offer was not enough to live as an officer expected.

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."

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
Posts: 442
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/19/2017 12:33:13 PM
Jim,

At least cite wiki as your source before you lift a whole chunk from an article, please. Still, had you read further on the wiki article, you would have read that WR came second in his staff class and ranked lower in certain examinations, so he was hardly a prodigal and mercurial talent. Rather, he was a competent grafter, with a talent for logistics and organsiation.

The Haldane reforms professionalised the British staff officers, creating the Staff College, as well as creating efficient "back office" functions away from the trenches. The army postal system, for example, was expanded with relative ease as the army expanded massively in size. Untrained staff officers would have been found out instantly, as men would have gone hungry without competency. I can't find any examples of hungry British soldiers in many wars after South Africa, situation permitting.

Becoming an army officer wasn't easy - plenty of rich young men were turned away as they were too stupid or inept to get by. Of course, strings were pulled, as so aptly demonstrated by Lord Roberts' son (Frederick), who failed umpteen exams despite all the advantages of his Field Marshal father, was finally granted a commission and promptly died, gallantly, at the hands of the Boers in South Africa.

The combat officers were taught small arms tactics; how to co-ordinate in offensive and defensive action with the artillery; how to use cavalry as mounted infantry and how to use terrain appropriately. The French were astonished to see the professional BEF using the hedgerows as camoflauge cover, whilst they marched in line towards the German guns. Obviously tactics evolved and time went on, but the British army officers were at least the equal of their French and German counterparts in terms of training and professionalism.

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."

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/19/2017 12:56:00 PM
John Keegan in The New Statesman in 1979, referred to 'that hideously unattractive group, the British generals of the First World War' (he hasn't changed his mind); The same enlightened publication, in 1979, accused me of fantastic philistinism for suggesting 'that generals who presided over the demolition of a whole British generation are something more respectable than idiots'

[Read More]

If this is unfair comment by a noted historian-please tell me why it is unfair.

Regards

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

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/19/2017 1:26:56 PM
Hi

It appears that the 'Social eliteness', if it really was, was not the preserve of the British Army, it also appears in the AIF. In Cutluck's 'War letters of General Monash', p233 has Major General Monash writing on the Australian 3rd Division that:

"The Officers...represent the cream of our professional and educated classes, young engineers, architects, medicals, accountants, pastoralists, public school boys and so on."

Basically the same groups as the WW1 BEF recruited their officers from (not to mention the large numbers recruited from the ranks during the war).

Michael Molkentin mentions in an article in the Journal of the Australian War memorial, that the AFC had a preference for the privately educated when recruiting pilots and observers. Again the same that is alleged about the RFC.

A lot of recruitment for the officer class was more about 'education' in most cases, that would at the time be the middle or upper classes.

'Generals' in the BEF would have been in the army a long time before WW1 and would have had to go through the army 'education' system at different levels from Sandhurst, Woolwich and later Staff College at Camberley or Quetta in India. That would 'weed' out many, as did active service in different parts of the Empire. Did some 'fail' yes as did German, French and other nations 'Generals', it was after all a rather 'difficult' war to manage and posed huge problems at all levels of command not to mention at the tactical and technical level.

Mike

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/19/2017 1:43:40 PM
Thanks Mike.

I have often wondered whether command issues in the Canadian Corps had anything to do with the selection process for officers.

Our Minister of Defence, Sam Hughes, a man who was unstable was fond of promoting people into important positions just because they were friends.

Even his own son Garnet rose to prominence in the Corps until Arthur Currie imposed a ceiling on his advancement.

Frankly, there was far too much patronage going on.

I don't know whether that happened in a more professional army like the British army.

Canada had so much less to choose from when compared to the British and so they looked to militia officers or men who had served with the British forces.

But Sam Hughes was vindictive so if an officer opposed something like the Ross Rifle, he was toast.

Even very good militia officers lost their commands when Sam was assembling his little army at Valcartier. Not being a Tory was sufficient grounds for Sam Hughes.

As well, well known Conservatives in the militia expected to be rewarded with advancement.

On the other hand, he did approve of Arthur Currie who was a Liberal but also a good friend of his son Garnet.

And he would reject professional soldiers who had perhaps served with the British because he was convinced that the citizen volunteer army would fight better than any professional army.

Sounds rather chaotic doesn't it?

Cheers,

George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/19/2017 1:46:28 PM

Quote:
it was after all a rather 'difficult' war to manage and posed huge problems at all levels of command not to mention at the tactical and technical level.


Thank you for your interest and input Mike.I would however be most grateful to see you enlarge on this last statement Mike. Would you say that British generalship was successful in the management of this difficult war-if so -in what way Mike.I do however accept that some generals were better than others- as one might expect.

Regards

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

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/20/2017 6:34:23 AM

Quote:

Quote:
it was after all a rather 'difficult' war to manage and posed huge problems at all levels of command not to mention at the tactical and technical level.


Thank you for your interest and input Mike.I would however be most grateful to see you enlarge on this last statement Mike. Would you say that British generalship was successful in the management of this difficult war-if so -in what way Mike.I do however accept that some generals were better than others- as one might expect.

Regards

Jim
--anemone

Hi

Without writing an essay (and there are whole books on the various aspects on the 'management' of the war by the GHQ). First GHQ had to manage the expansion of the BEF from its small professional base, many of whom had been lost, through a mass volunteer then conscript army on a continental scale. It had to do this with a very limited number of 'experts' and therefore organize a whole training system involving 'schools' and pamphlets to spread 'best' practice. All this ultimately succeeded, not without difficulty on the way.
GHQ also oversaw a whole range of trials of tactics and new equipment to see what worked and what didn't throughout the war, this was then spread through the 'schools' and pamphlets. GHQ tried to work at a standardization of methods, this was actually quite difficult as formations whether Armies, Corps, Divisions and even Battalions had there own ideas of what worked and what didn't "for them". Again a reason for trials and experiments was to 'prove' what worked for the 'most on the most occasions' whether tactics or equipment and then passed on through the systems mentioned. While 'individuals' are mentioned reference certain tactics or introduction of equipment it was usually rather more complicated.
GHQ also had to work with its allies, the French being 'senior partner' of course and had to co-ordinate its efforts with what the French 'wanted'. GHQ also had to deal with 'British and Empire' politicians and try to get its needs on supply, manpower and improved weapons and equipment through them and home industry via the War Office.
There was also a lot of trying to co-ordinate with the home training system to keep them up to date with the current methods of warfare, it appears the home training establishment were quite keen on this judging by correspondence in the archives.
All this caused 'problems' for GHQ, the shortage of trained Staff Officers to find 'solutions' did not help, but ultimately GHQ oversaw relatively 'successful' solutions to the problems it was faced with.
That is a short answer to a rather more complex subject and is also probably inadequate in covering all the work done.

Mike

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/20/2017 6:57:59 AM
Thank you Mike-my big concern is with the k Divisions- sent out from UK as complete units; but were pretty badly used-particularly at Loos and the Somme.The manner of attack-full frontal and loaded down with equipment-going forward at walking pace in broad daylight into uncut wire and pre warned German m/c guns- was singularly idiosyncratic IMHO.If this was bringing these units up to Western Front standards-I stand aghast.Smacks of 18th Century Marlborough's "Bid the Soldiers Shoot"
The 36th Ulster Division had cottoned on to the right approach by lying out on the tapes close the enemy positions and when the attack went in they were completely successful BUT as they were the only Division to do this- were naturally cut off and took heavy casualties for their ingenuity.

Regards

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

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/20/2017 9:45:35 AM

Quote:
Thank you Mike-my big concern is with the k Divisions- sent out from UK as complete units; but were pretty badly used-particularly at Loos and the Somme.The manner of attack-full frontal and loaded down with equipment-going forward at walking pace in broad daylight into uncut wire and pre warned German m/c guns- was singularly idiosyncratic IMHO.If this was bringing these units up to Western Front standards-I stand aghast.Smacks of 18th Century Marlborough's "Bid the Soldiers Shoot"
The 36th Ulster Division had cottoned on to the right approach by lying out on the tapes close the enemy positions and when the attack went in they were completely successful BUT as they were the only Division to do this- were naturally cut off and took heavy casualties for their ingenuity.

Regards

Jim
--anemone

Hi Jim

I thought the subject of the 'Somme Tactics' had been covered before on the Forum. Prior and Wilson in 'The Somme' point out on page 115 that:

"..for the 80 battalions that went over the top in the first attack on 1 July, 53 crept out into no man's land close to the German wire before zero and then rushed the German line, while ten others rushed the line from their own parapet. This leaves just 17 battalions, 12 of which advanced at a steady pace and five for which no evidence exists.
There is a further complicating factor here. At least some of the battalions who walked across no man's land at a steady pace did so because they were following a creeping barrage. These were some of the most successful units of all on the first day."

Rawlinson's pre-Somme 'Tactical Notes' did not lay down any particular doctrine for the best method of advancing. It was basically left to the local commander, 'man on the spot', to decide depending on the terrain and circumstances. P & W point out that the prohibitive numbers of deaths and other casualties were due to :

"As long as most German machine-gunners and artillerymen survived the British bombardment, the slaughter of attacking infantry would occur whatever infantry tactics were used."

It all depended on the Artillery Plan. However, we also see that having overwhelming artillery and infantry in attack with a mist that could hide you still could mean heavy casualties, as in the first day of the German Spring Offensive in 1918, Op Michael. Despite the above and using 'infiltration' tactics the Germans suffered about 40,000 casualties on day one, and that was advancing over ground the Germans had given up willingly in the Spring of 1917, without the mist there would probably been even more casualties!
On the 1 July 1916 it was not just the 36th Division who 'cottoned on' to the 'right approach'.

Mike

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/20/2017 11:29:28 AM
I really do appreciate your enduring patience Mike-I do have Prior and Wilson's book (but not read as yet-my eyesight is now so weak- I cannot read the printed word) and therefore am obliged to recant what I stipulated about 36th Ulster Divisions tactic.


Quote:
It was basically left to the local commander, 'man on the spot', to decide depending on the terrain and circumstances. P & W point out that the prohibitive numbers of deaths and other casualties were due to :

"As long as most German machine-gunners and artillerymen survived the British bombardment, the slaughter of attacking infantry would occur whatever infantry tactics were used."


So this attack was doomed to failure-which was "almost" the considered outcome- which was not good-now put down to artillery support failure.

With 53 Btns rushing the German positions-did all of them suffer the same fate as the Btns of the 36th Division ie. caught in isolation.???

Another serious problem that Haig had to contend with was the poor quality of ammunition supplied for much of the war by British factories. Shells would either not explode with sufficient force or not explode at all. And yet, even when this became clear, Haig continued to put far too much faith into the power of artillary bombardment and he consistently underestimated German defences.

It took years for the British High Command to learn these lessons and to develop effective ways to use the new forms of military equipment available to them – aircraft, tanks and gas weapons.

Regards

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

Riaindevoy
Geelong, Australia
Posts: 1067
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/20/2017 8:14:36 PM
The Western Front was a very different war than what these senior officers were expecting after decades of career soldiering. Instead of mixing movement with weapons employment it was all about meticulous employment of weapons and other technology, so much of their training and experience was wasted and the other part had to be developed on the job in the face of the most tactically proficient army in the world. Their 'fault' was that they didn't adapt quickly enough, however the British army was expanding rapidly and needed all the officers it could get, so didn't have the luxury of sacking Army, Corps and Divisional commanders secure in the knowledge that their successful subordinates could be promoted into the vacant positions.

A pretty bad situation to be in.

---------------
Vegetarian: the ancient tribal word for the villiage idiot; who was too stupid to hunt, fish and ride!

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 3:51:59 AM
I cannot do other than agree with your comments Riain. The officer corps of Britain’s pre-war professional army was trained to fight small colonial wars in far off places such as the Sudan, South Africa and India’s North-West Frontier, against indigenous people armed with spears, swords and ancient muskets.

What the British Army — apart from a few visionaries — was not expecting was to be pitched against a huge modern war machine equipped with heavy artillery and machine guns and trained to fight and win on the fields of Europe. But that is exactly what they got in 1914 and for ensuing years.As most of the High Command were cavalry officers-they had a long and difficult learning curve in a difficult war-this brought many failings to the fore in what for them- was for the most part- was an "attacking" infantry war.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 5:24:40 AM
What are the citeria of assessment that we should use when we evaluate British generalship 1914-18 ?

Ability to deliver victory ?

No doubt about the answer to that.

Was the cost excessively high ?

Here the answer is more complex....roughly one million dead from the British Empire is a mind boggling figure ; sufficient to engender such intense emotion that scapegoats are sought : who better than the Generals, especially if they are caricatured as upper class ?

Set against the enormity of the task that was required of them, is there scope for reconsideration and revision ?

When he assumed high command in late 1915, Haig wrote that three years of warfare and the destruction of one tenth of Britian's manhood was a price worth paying for the defeat of German militarism.

He was proved correct in his reckoning of duration and cost : was he right in advocating this as a price worth paying ?

And is it arguable that his victory failed in its alleged purpose ?

The militarism that he sought to defeat emerged in the folllowing generation in a yet more atrocious form.

I'll be reflecting on this, and hope to make some decent contributions.

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
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 5:25:40 AM
Double post
---------------
"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

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
Posts: 442
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 6:32:53 AM

Quote:
The officer corps of Britain’s pre-war professional army was trained to fight small colonial wars in far off places such as the Sudan, South Africa and India’s North-West Frontier, against indigenous people armed with spears, swords and ancient muskets.

What the British Army — apart from a few visionaries — was not expecting was to be pitched against a huge modern war machine equipped with heavy artillery and machine guns and trained to fight and win on the fields of Europe. But that is exactly what they got in 1914 and for ensuing years.As most of the High Command were cavalry officers-they had a long and difficult learning curve in a difficult war-this brought many failings to the fore in what for them- was for the most part- was an "attacking" infantry war.

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Jim,

With respect, that's not entirely true. The South African War could hardly be described as small (500k Imperial troops deployed) nor against ill-armed natives, as the Boer artillery and Mauser rifles were at least the equal of the kit that the British employed. It was this war that taught the army the vital need for prepared defensive positions such as trenches when facing an enemy with artillery; for planned artillery bombardment supporting advancing infantry; the abandonment of volley rifle fire in favour of suppressive high rate fire instead; that cavalry was better deployed as mounted infantry; and so on. These lessons weren't lost on the British, nor was the fact that during the war they had no friends to call on (other than the fledgling "white" colonies) had the Germans went to war with them over the blockade.

It was the war and the feeling of dangerous political isolation that led to further reforms of the army structure (including the creation of the a Territorial Army and Army Reserve to increase trained manpower), better training for staff officers (supply had been a big issue during the SA war), along with diplomatic overtures to France in particular to heal old wounds and create a united front against German (Prussian) militarism. This is in turn led to the creation of a six division expeditionary force, specifically designed for continental warfare against a common foe and able to be deployed relatively swiftly. There can be no doubt that the British army pre-1914 knew exactly which enemy they were planning and training to fight; and the enemy certainly wasn't armed with sticks, clubs and muskets.

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."

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 6:36:45 AM
Strange that the Germans suffered twice as many military deaths as the entire British Empire - and three times as many as the United Kingdom- and they lost ....but their generals escaped the opprobrium that was heaped on Haig.

Editing : perhaps not so strange after all....why blame generals when you can blame Jews and socialists instead ?

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 6:46:56 AM

Quote:
What are the criteria of assessment that we should use when we evaluate British generalship 1914-18 ?

Ability to deliver victory ?

No doubt about the answer to that.

Was the cost excessively high ?


For the years 1915,16 and 17 there were few discernible victories-apart from those won by Dominion troops under Dominion command eg Vimy Ridge ans Mount Sorrel.

The numerous small, but costly relatively small operations of 1915; added to the Armageddons of 1916 and 17 were all the more deplorable due to an inability to call a halt to battles which were continued long after the objective was obviously unattainable.

1918 was a different "kettle of fish" The Kaiserschlacht was bravely fought with admirable determination and and for once we ran out the winners IMHO.The Last Hundred Days offensive was the resolute determination to end this ghastly war-which was achieved at great cost for sure; but the Allies had won emphatically.

Regards

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

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 8:40:17 AM
Colin


Quote:
The second Boer War did have a major impact on British tactics leading up to WW!. The war had shown that modern rifles and artillery provided greater accuracy, range and rates of fire than before.

This led to the belief in a fire zone of increased depth and danger, and the need for formations that were more open. One of the most useful lessons was the necessity of cover for the attackers
-but was this acted upon in WW1 ???


Quote:
During the war in South Africa, clear terrain had been sought when on the offensive, and rough terrain in defence. The new emphasis on fields of fire meant a reversal in policy
BBC News.Was this policy used in WW1-I think not


Quote:
Finally, following the French, the British began to consider frontal attacks as decisive, giving them official sanction in the 1912 field service regulations. This marked the greatest diversion from the Boer War experience and the flank attacks of Lord Roberts
.And what did frontal attacks achieve-nothing in my opinion; but an unacceptable butcher's bill.

NB.There was some fearful failures during 1899 including :- Magersfontein,Stormburg,Colenso,Talana Hill,Elandslaadt and Spion Kop to name but a few.

Regards

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

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 9:48:02 AM
Jim, if you please, would you cite your sources.

Some of the last post referring to the Boer War, comes from the BBC-history web site.

It is dishonest to plunk full text in a post as if to claim it as one's own. Put it in quotations and then make your own comment.

I think that you would get more response if you did so.

Believe me, I am trying to be helpful.


Cheers,

George


anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 10:05:10 AM
Done George -many thanks for the "wake up call"

Regards

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

Phil Andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 11:18:00 AM
Jim,

You allude to the "unacceptable butcher's bill".

What differentiates the acceptable from the unacceptable: the absolute size, or the more relative aspects as determined by success or failure ?

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

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
Posts: 669
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 11:18:02 AM

Quote:
What are the citeria of assessment that we should use when we evaluate British generalship 1914-18 ?

Ability to deliver victory ?

No doubt about the answer to that.

Was the cost excessively high ?

Here the answer is more complex....roughly one million dead from the British Empire is a mind boggling figure ; sufficient to engender such intense emotion that scapegoats are sought : who better than the Generals, especially if they are caricatured as upper class ?

Set against the enormity of the task that was required of them, is there scope for reconsideration and revision ?



Before British generalship is written off as incompetent, even criminally so, with "chateau generals" throwing away the lives of their men for little gain, one must consider the all but intractable situation they were faced with. Faced with well sited, carefully engineered defensive zones all but immune to a breakthrough, massive artillery and machine gun fire, reinforcements​ fed in by sophisticated rail nets all but immune to interdiction, no flanks to turn, what were the alternatives? Any course of action was going to cost men. Yes, tactics and weapons would evolve, but so did the enemy response. Eventually, the stalemate would be broken, but doing so would take years. Tanks didn't just appear out of nowhere. Rolling barrages and the infantry/artillery coordination necessary to make them effective, took years of trial and error to perfect. And as has been said of attritional warfare, casualties along the way mattered less than who was still standing at the end.

What could have been done differently? Unless both sides are willing to talk peace, what choice is there except to keep fighting?
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

Phil Andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 11:57:15 AM
Your argument wins my heated agreement, Mr Cameron.

There is a determination to attribute culpability to British generalship in that war.

This determination remains especially strong in British folklore.

A sense of outrage unmatched in any other of the nations that fought.

One must wonder why.

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 12:14:02 PM
Many thanks Jim for your interest and input.Your statement below set me thinking.


Quote:
And as has been said of attritional warfare, casualties along the way mattered less than who was still standing at the end.

What could have been done differently? Unless both sides are willing to talk peace, what choice is there except to keep fighting?


By 1916/17 the situation on the Western Front was stalemated-what could have been done?? Well a second front could have been opened; and not under the noses of the enemy- as at Gallipoli; but in Normandy well to south of the war zone.Troops could have been withdrawn from the minor theatres of war; and as in WW2-the US may have participated.The troops landed at the ports of Le Havre, Rouen, Caen and Cherburg.

This Second front army of say 100,000 men (8 Infantry divisions with artillery) could have been tasked to roll up the enemy's southern flank while the main existing front kept the enemy occupied where they were- by making selected attacks.Far fetched you say-yes I suppose so but- it could- in my opinion-have possibly been done.

Regards

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

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 1:32:38 PM

Quote:
Many thanks Jim for your interest and input.Your statement below set me thinking.


Quote:
And as has been said of attritional warfare, casualties along the way mattered less than who was still standing at the end.

What could have been done differently? Unless both sides are willing to talk peace, what choice is there except to keep fighting?


By 1916/17 the situation on the Western Front was stalemated-what could have been done?? Well a second front could have been opened; and not under the noses of the enemy- as at Gallipoli; but in Normandy well to south of the war zone.Troops could have been withdrawn from the minor theatres of war; and as in WW2-the US may have participated.The troops landed at the ports of Le Havre, Rouen, Caen and Cherburg.

This Second front army of say 100,000 men (8 Infantry divisions with artillery) could have been tasked to roll up the enemy's southern flank while the main existing front kept the enemy occupied where they were- by making selected attacks.Far fetched you say-yes I suppose so but- it could- in my opinion-have possibly been done.

Regards

Jim
--anemone

Hi Jim

I am not sure where you want this attack to happen? Do you mean from the French part of the line just south of the BEF? Or further south (Nancy to Swiss border?). If from the French part of the line surely then you would have the French Army involved? The US Army would not be available in large numbers and equipped until about mid 1918 whatever the circumstances so really any earlier they are not in play. At what date are you contemplating this 'second front', I don't see any 'southern flank' to 'roll up', you would still have to break in and then break through German defences. I can't see why this would 'work' more than other attacks that happened?

Mike


Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 1:38:22 PM
When it comes to culpability , Passchendaele stands preeminent in notoriety : not on account of the number - the Somme cost many more British lives ; Arras had a higher casualty rate ; and the German Spring Offensive cost as many British casualties in six weeks as Passchendaele cost in fifteen - but because it was uniquely futile , and predicated on delusion.

A quarter of a million casualties sustained in capturing a quagmire in 105 days in 1917 ; a quarter of a million in an existential struggle against a mighty German offensive in forty days in 1918...the same butcher's bill, but somehow more unacceptable in the former.

I would judge Haig culpable for Passchendaele , but not for the Somme or Arras : OTOH, let those who blame him give him credit for his successes....

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 2:10:17 PM
Mike-I was thinking to link up with Gen.Castleneau near Nancy in 1917; and break the German line there abouts and start the roll up. I appreciate what I have written about "a roll up of the southern flank" may well be nonsense because there isn't a southern flank as you point out; but it might just have worked- given that the German defences in that part of France were not as strong as further north.It was just a thought that if Gallipoli was thought easy-this may have been easier.

Regards

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

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 2:24:44 PM

Quote:
I would judge Haig culpable for Passchendaele , but not for the Somme or Arras : OTOH, let those who blame him give him credit for his successes....


Phil i do not hold Haig responsible for the Somme-he was obliged to undertake this bloody horror via the French predicament at Verdun.

3rd Ypres is very much down to him-no question about that-he thought that breaking through to the Plain of Douai he could get to Antwerp.When he did- via the Canadians- who took Passchendaele Ridge-his plan for Antwerp was gone.A bloodbath for absolutely nothing.The same goes for Gough at the Bloodtub battle at Bullecourt.

Regards

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

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
Posts: 669
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 3:01:24 PM

Quote:
Many thanks Jim for your interest and input.Your statement below set me thinking.


Quote:
And as has been said of attritional warfare, casualties along the way mattered less than who was still standing at the end.

What could have been done differently? Unless both sides are willing to talk peace, what choice is there except to keep fighting?


By 1916/17 the situation on the Western Front was stalemated-what could have been done?? Well a second front could have been opened; and not under the noses of the enemy- as at Gallipoli; but in Normandy well to south of the war zone.Troops could have been withdrawn from the minor theatres of war; and as in WW2-the US may have participated.The troops landed at the ports of Le Havre, Rouen, Caen and Cherburg.

This Second front army of say 100,000 men (8 Infantry divisions with artillery) could have been tasked to roll up the enemy's southern flank while the main existing front kept the enemy occupied where they were- by making selected attacks.Far fetched you say-yes I suppose so but- it could- in my opinion-have possibly been done.

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Normandy certainly wasn't well to the south of the war zone, but in any event I don't see a 100,000 man army rolling up the German southern flank. From where?
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
Posts: 669
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 3:49:07 PM

Quote:
Your argument wins my heated agreement, Mr Cameron.

There is a determination to attribute culpability to British generalship in that war.

This determination remains especially strong in British folklore.

A sense of outrage unmatched in any other of the nations that fought.

One must wonder why.

Regards, Phil


--Phil Andrade


I believe that you have hit on the crux of the matter. It has become part of British folklore. Ongoing scholarship may chip away at it, but it being a matter of perception I suspect that the tendency to attribute culpability will linger.

It is interesting that this seems largely a British thing. As suggested above, the Germans found other scapgoats. The French had no choice but to fight, their country having been invaded and occupied. The British, however, could be said to have decided to enter the war, which perhaps made the resulting casualties harder to justify.

The same thing might well have happened with the Americans, especially had to war lasted into 1919. As it was, in the inter-war years many Americans felt that they had been taken advantage of and "sold a bill of goods" by the Allies. But the Armistice helped keep U.S. casualties to a relative minimum, despite the poor state of training of much of the AEF. Had U.S. losses been heavier, however, one could easily see the rather stiff and remote Pershing being seen as another Haig.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
Posts: 442
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 4:17:21 PM
Jim (anemone),

What would make an offensive at Nancy any more likely to breakthrough than the other umpteen assaults across the Allied line that failed?

I note your comments about South Africa, although in truth your (largely uncited) quotes do more to support my argument than yours.

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."

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 5:01:56 PM
I am confused.

Is there a map that would show the disposition of troops that would entertain a second front at Nancy?

Were the Germans particularly weak there?

This isn't a great map but it does show trenches from the channel to Switzerland.



Why Nancy?


Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 5:21:21 PM

Quote:

Quote:
Many thanks Jim for your interest and input.Your statement below set me thinking.


Quote:
And as has been said of attritional warfare, casualties along the way mattered less than who was still standing at the end.

What could have been done differently? Unless both sides are willing to talk peace, what choice is there except to keep fighting?


By 1916/17 the situation on the Western Front was stalemated-what could have been done?? Well a second front could have been opened; and not under the noses of the enemy- as at Gallipoli; but in Normandy well to south of the war zone.Troops could have been withdrawn from the minor theatres of war; and as in WW2-the US may have participated.The troops landed at the ports of Le Havre, Rouen, Caen and Cherburg.

This Second front army of say 100,000 men (8 Infantry divisions with artillery) could have been tasked to roll up the enemy's southern flank while the main existing front kept the enemy occupied where they were- by making selected attacks.Far fetched you say-yes I suppose so but- it could- in my opinion-have possibly been done.

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Normandy certainly wasn't well to the south of the war zone, but in any event I don't see a 100,000 man army rolling up the German southern flank. From where?

--Jim Cameron



Might it be that Jim ( anemone ) is alluding to a suggestion made by Churchill - at the outset of hostilities, or even before - that the BEF would have been better deployed in Normandy, rather than to the left of the French, as agreed by the Entente governments ?

Churchill contended that the British contingent would be best held back from the initial clash ; that it would be able to increase in size, and then make a first class contribution in the counter attack that, he believed, was bound to come when the Germans had shot their bolt.

In the event, of course, the BEF was placed in the eye of the storm right from the start, and was catastrophically damaged in the ensuing three months. The reserve of professional skill was overdrawn, leaving subsequent British cohorts vulnerable and fighting on the back foot.

Adding an edit here : this suggested deployment in Normandy, and the subsequent counter attack, was predicated on the fighting still being mobile : it would not be reconcilable with a front that had stabilised and entrenched from the North Sea to the Swiss border.

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

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
Posts: 669
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/21/2017 6:55:30 PM
I guess Jim (Anemone) will have to explain what he meant. The front ended at the Swiss border, so active or not there was no second front to open, not to mention, no way a mere 100,000 man army was going to be able to roll up the German front. The Allies, moreover, could land troops pretty much at will anywhere in France.

Churchill may have had a point that it would have been better for the BEF to hold it back and allow it to grow before committing it to battle, but given the situation in France in the first weeks of the war that simply wasn't going to happen. Especially with the French having to back and fill after Joffre was wrong-footed as to German intentions.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 3:24:44 AM
OK-so the proposition that I put forward was not feasible; but it was put forward as a "possibility" following Jim Cameron's "what else could be done" or words to that effect-yes-it was born of a Churchill type brain child. However- I note that it it has provoked some comment for which I am pleased.I am also reminded of this old adage-"The man who never made a mistake-made nothing"

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 3:26:16 AM

Quote:


Churchill may have had a point that it would have been better for the BEF to hold it back and allow it to grow before committing it to battle, but given the situation in France in the first weeks of the war that simply wasn't going to happen. Especially with the French having to back and fill after Joffre was wrong-footed as to German intentions.
--Jim Cameron


Churchill's suggestion might be vindicated.

Imagine, though, what such a deployment would have meant in terms of the Franco British levels of trust, which were fragile.

To have reneged on the commitment to deploy on the left, and leave the French to stand alone, would have been a monstrous affront.

In the years before the war, the French made a legendary statement in conversations if the English send us only one man, we will make sure he is killed ! .

I think the whole critique levelled against British generalship on the Western Front needs to be tempered by awareness of how much the British High Command was under pressure to conform to the needs of coalition warfare.

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 4:27:30 AM

Quote:
I think the whole critique levelled against British generalship on the Western Front needs to be tempered by awareness of how much the British High Command was under pressure to conform to the needs of coalition warfare.


Yes Phil-I have to agree that the years 1914,15 and 16 British generals were operating under French war demands by force of coalition; but IMO 1917 was down to British (Haig's) strategy and subsequent horrendous losses. Cambrai-the so called Great Experiment-failed miserably via poor planning,indifferent generalship- not taking the chances that fell to them-The GOC 51st Highland Division did not like tanks so operated without them to the detriment of the objective-a break through.British losses- from all causes- was c 40,000.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 4:45:19 AM
Let me recommend a superb new book by Jack Sheldon.... FIGHTING THE SOMME : German Challenges, Dilemmas & Solutions.

I was more than flattered when the publishers asked me to review it, and you'll see one of my reviews on the Amazon site. I was mortified to see that I made a typo and alluded to " Bellow" instead of " Below" when referring to the commander of German 2nd Army.

The thing about this book is that it makes clear how command folly was not a solely British phenomenon 1914-18. Of course, we all know this, but it doesn't do any harm to appreciate how flawed German methods could be, too. More especially given the legendary professional skills of the Great General Staff. The individual talents of these German experts were immense ; the standards of work and devotion commensurate. But things didn't harmonise...there were failures of communication and coordination, obstinacies and personal bickerings that fatally undermined the German army at a time of existential crisis. The taciturn manner of Falkenhayn - enigmatic is a fair word - amplified the effects of these flaws.

I was reminded of Gillian Tett's study of the Tunnel Vision and Tribalism syndrome that has wreaked havoc in financial institutions in recent years.

While Sheldon necessarily focuses on the German experience, he mentions the performance of Haig, and, to my surprise - indeed, I rather tend to disagree with his analysis - contends that Haig was wrong in his insistence that the British exploit success in the southern sector of the battle rather than conform with Joffre's preference for maintenance of pressure in the north around the Thiepval Spur, where British failure had been catastrophic.

The Somme - particularly its first day - has set in stone the British public's sense of societal trauma that remains a century after the Great War ; to imagine that the British commanders were uniquely culpable is all too easy. Jack Sheldon's new book will lend a different perspective.

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 6:20:00 AM
The "Official History of the War", writing of the first attack, says:

"For the disastrous loss of the finest manhood of the United Kingdom and Ireland there was only a small gain of ground to show...."

Summing up the effect on the British Army of the whole battle it says:

"Munitions and the technique of their use improved, but never again was the spirit or the quality of the officers and men so high, nor the general state of the training, leading and, above all, discipline of the new British armies in France so good. The losses sustained were not only heavy- but irreplaceable."

PS Could not not find FIGHTING THE SOMME only The German Army on the Somme-are one and the same Phil ??

Regards

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

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 7:48:05 AM
The Allenby v Haig Controversy in 1917


Quote:
At first, the Arras offensive went well with the Third Army breaking through the German lines and advancing three and half miles in one day. In a letter to his wife on 10 April 1917, Allenby wrote: "I had a very big success yesterday. I won all along the line; killed a host of Boche and took over 7, 500 prisoners...We have, at last, brought off what I been working on all winter. My staff has been splendid".

There were weeks of heavy fighting during 3rd Army's offensive at the Battle of Arras in the Spring of the 1917, where an initial breakthrough had deteriorated into trench-fighting positional warfare—once more with heavy casualties to 3rd Army's units involved.

Allenby lost the confidence of his Commander-in-chief, Haig. He was promoted to full General on 3 June 1917, but he was replaced at the head of 3rd Army on 9 June 1917 and returned to England and assigned to the Middle East Command
Wiki


Removing a thorn in the side

It was a known fact that Allenby disagreed with Haig's tactics-he fumed over Haig's orders; and despite swearing his officers to secrecy -word did get out and naturally to Haig himself.Realising that he had a malcontent in his camp

Haig bided his time and got Allenby off guard after the Breakthrough had failed and the operation had lapsed into trench fighting.

Haig declared that Allenby had lost the confidence of his CinC; and was removed from command of 3rd Army command. Allenby however was promoted to full General-possibly to prevent any altercation and sent back to England.All of which was was well enough handled IMO.

Regards

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

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
Posts: 442
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 8:16:30 AM
Jim,

Two consecutive posts of lifted text and very little commentary. I'd like to hear what you've got to say.

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."

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 8:46:19 AM
Colin =have partially rectified your complaint-see above
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
Posts: 442
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 9:04:37 AM
Thanks Jim. It's always a pleasure to hear your own views.

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."

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 9:33:28 AM
Jim,

No, The German Army on the Somme and Fighting the Somme are two separate books, albeit by the same author, Jack Sheldon.

Go on Amazon UK books and enter Fighting the Somme, and you'll go to the right book .

The thing that gets to me about Haig is that he puts so much lipstick on the pig.

Yes, it's vital to uphold an optimistic approach : but there are times when I find myself recoiling from what Haig writes in his diary.

OTOH, I hate seeing him unfairly traduced.

Churchill criticises intensely, but has the grace to give credit, too. Lloyd George is vituperative and pretty atrocious.

No other British commander has ever had to face the challenge that confronted Haig : in terms of scale and intensity, the fight that he undertook was unique in this nation's history.

Fifty or so years after the Somme, Bernard Law Montgomery wrote his History of Warfare, and passed this judgement on Haig :

He was competent by his own lights. They were dim.

How do you feel about that ?

I have two conflicting reactions....

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 10:36:49 AM
Sir Douglas Haig's awareness of the British Army practices was sufficient enough for him to manage his huge task- albeit that he was a cavalryman. He was a man of strong nerve, resolute, patient, somewhat cold,taciturn to the point of being inarticulate; and quite reserved in temper.He was not thrown off balance either by calamity nor success. He came to his opinions very slowly, and stuck rigidly to them.He may have appeared dim due to his background and upbringing

DH was of the opinion in 1915- that the war could only be won on the Western Front, and only on the Western Front. He acted on this view, and, at the finish, he was right; though that mat be open to discussion-but I do not think so- victory might have been won sooner elsewhere; but that too is debatable- but again- not by me.

The F/M's manner of winning the war was somewhat pedantic, grossly expensive of life- making him appear callous, and was based for far too long on a misreading of the facts-rose tinted glasses were an essential part of his ensemble.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 12:29:22 PM
....grossly expensive of life...

That sums up just about everything in that war, whoever commanded.

Mangin - The Butcher - said it all : whatever you do, you lose a lot of men...


I don't think Haig was more profligate than his French, German, Russian, Austrian, Italian or Turkish counterparts.

If anything, he might compare favourably...but I don't want to push my luck here !

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 12:51:38 PM

Quote:
Mangin - The Butcher - said it all : whatever you do, you lose a lot of men...


I am certainly coming round to that conclusion myself Phil-yet it still seems horribly wrong to have to accept that assessment.I do not think that the British Army of WW2 fought in such a manner- that great loss of life was inevitable.The Battle of El Alamein was no 3rd Ypres.Was Monty right then- was DH indeed dim.???

Regards

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

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
Posts: 669
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 1:03:22 PM
The German Army on the Somme is excellent. Most works on the Somme approach the battle from the British perspective - the French being generally all but ignored - with the Germans little more than a vaguely defined target off in the distance.

Fighting the Somme just came out the end of February. Here in the States at least it still appears to be in pre-order status on Amazon.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
Posts: 669
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 1:16:21 PM
Speaking of Haig's diary, which I have never read, and his "putting lipstick on a pig", is the diary "his", or edited or otherwise rewritten post war? As an example, Pershing's "My Experiences in the World War" is often described as his "diary", whereas it is at best based on his wartime diary.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 2:36:02 PM
Postscript


Quote:
One cannot ignore the appalling waste of human life in World War One. Some of these losses were undoubtedly caused by incompetence.

Many more were the result of decisions made by men who, although not incompetent, were like any other human being prone to making mistakes.

Haig's decision to continue with the fighting at Passchendaele in 1917 after the opportunity for real gains had passed comes into this category.

In some ways the British and other armies might have grasped the potential of technology earlier than they did. During the Somme, Haig and Rawlinson failed to understand the best way of using artillery.
Prof. Gary Sheffield

I cannot argue about the basic truths in the above

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 5:03:39 PM

Quote:

Quote:
Mangin - The Butcher - said it all : whatever you do, you lose a lot of men...


I am certainly coming round to that conclusion myself Phil-yet it still seems horribly wrong to have to accept that assessment.I do not think that the British Army of WW2 fought in such a manner- that great loss of life was inevitable.The Battle of El Alamein was no 3rd Ypres.Was Monty right then- was DH indeed dim.???

Regards

Jim
--anemone


The British army in WW2 never had to fight such battles : the soviets did that job for them. What happened in France and Flanders 1914-18 was to be surpassed threefold in the Russo German clash of 1941-45.

El Alamein was fought against a handful of German divisions: perhaps fifty thousand Germans and sixty thousand Italians confronted the Commonwealth forces ( 220,000) there. On March 21st, 1918, eight hundred thousand Germans were pitched against the 250,000 British on a sixty mile front.

How would Monty have coped with such an onslaught ? Perhaps his lights might have flickered a bit.

I don't think that Haig was dim.

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
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 5:06:16 PM

Quote:
Speaking of Haig's diary, which I have never read, and his "putting lipstick on a pig", is the diary "his", or edited or otherwise rewritten post war? As an example, Pershing's "My Experiences in the World War" is often described as his "diary", whereas it is at best based on his wartime diary.
--Jim Cameron


Not sure about this, Jim.

I suspect that there was a good deal of post war doctoring.

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
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 5:06:46 PM

Quote:
Speaking of Haig's diary, which I have never read, and his "putting lipstick on a pig", is the diary "his", or edited or otherwise rewritten post war? As an example, Pershing's "My Experiences in the World War" is often described as his "diary", whereas it is at best based on his wartime diary.
--Jim Cameron


Not sure about this, Jim.

I suspect that there was a good deal of post war doctoring.

Editing : sorry about these double posts. I'm having a helluva problem with this site at the moment : posts disappear or double up too often.

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
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/22/2017 5:19:31 PM
A thought before I turn in for the night ....British generals 1914-18 were held to strict account by the civilian government.

I do not think that the same constraints were imposed on Falkenhayn, Joffre, Hindenburg, Ludendorff, Conrad or Cadorna....let alone the Tsarist commanders- not forgetting that Tsar Nicholas himself assumed supreme command in the field.

A fierce surveillance confronted Haig. To my mind, this argues in his favour : he had to contend with so much more than the mighty foe he faced on the battlefield.

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 4:07:36 AM
Haig's reputation has acquired a great deal of baggage.When an accusation is constantly repeated it begins to take effect despite evidence to prove it false.A huge number of people will hate Haig-many of them born after his death- blaming him for the disasters of the Great War and the deaths of their forebears.Almost a hundred years have past and Haig is still a controversial figure.

The charges of incompetence can be dismissed as easily for Haig; as any other general, because the actions for which they are accused were forced on them by circumstances out with their control. Soldiers will always die in war and the only way to prevent that-is for them to stay away from conflict.

Regards

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

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 7:59:31 AM

Quote:

Quote:
Speaking of Haig's diary, which I have never read, and his "putting lipstick on a pig", is the diary "his", or edited or otherwise rewritten post war? As an example, Pershing's "My Experiences in the World War" is often described as his "diary", whereas it is at best based on his wartime diary.
--Jim Cameron


Not sure about this, Jim.

I suspect that there was a good deal of post war doctoring.

Editing : sorry about these double posts. I'm having a helluva problem with this site at the moment : posts disappear or double up too often.

Regards, Phil
--Phil andrade

Hi

Haig's Diaries in their latest form are available as 'Douglas Haig War Diaries and Letters 1914-1918' edited by Gary Sheffield and John Bourne, Phoenix paperback 2006. The introduction covers the 'history' of the diaries, the editors state that (page 2):

"Haig's diary is a controversial document, though on close examination it is difficult to see why. Controversy partly arises because there are two versions of the diary. The first version written by hand, almost on a daily basis, during the war. The second version was typed after the war. Haig included with this version a considerable number of supplementary papers, mainly letters and memoranda, and took the opportunity to make alterations, corrections and additions, though - significantly - very few major deletions. Both versions have been publically available in the National Library of Scotland since March 1961 and may readily be compared."

There is no need to speculate at all about Haig's diaries the information is fully available.

Mike

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 8:43:21 AM
Jim,

Forgive me for sounding a tad anxious here, but I'm worried about your comment that the British army did not fight WW2 in such a manner, as if great loss of life was inevitable.

You don't need me to tell you this, but I need to get it off my chest....

The British army 1939-45 never had to engage the main body of the enemy in the main theatre.

That job fell to the Russians, who paid the price on an unimaginable scale.

Nothing the British army experienced in WW2 entailed anything like the scale and intensity of the combat that it had to face 1914-1918. In NW Europe, 1944-45, the British infantry at the sharp end did endure casualty rates that - on some occasions - approached those suffered a generation earlier : but the numerical scale of their commitment was incomparably smaller, and the total casualties commensurately so.

It is essential that this be taken into account if we are to compare the experience of the British soldiers in the two world wars.

British army combat fatalities 1939-45 were only one fifth what they had been 1914-18 ; but this reflects the different nature of the task involved rather than an innate callousness or ineptitude of British generals in the earlier war.

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 9:46:31 AM

Quote:
In NW Europe, 1944-45, the British infantry at the sharp end did endure casualty rates that - on some occasions - approached those suffered a generation earlier : but the numerical scale of their commitment was incomparably smaller, and the total casualties commensurately so.


Phil-Can you give an example of that which is emboldened please-I appreciate that you are not talking "actual numbers but percentages" I presume.

Regards

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

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
Posts: 442
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 10:14:50 AM
I believe Phil is referring to fighting around Caen during the Normandy invasion in 1944. Truly awful stuff for the Commonwealth forces fighting there. I don't think enough credit is given to Monty (on this occasion) on getting out of that hellhole with his forces in fighting condition.

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."

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 10:36:12 AM
The War Office had forecast that the 21st Army Group would have suffered 65,751 casualties from 9 June to 7 August; but actual casualties were 50,539 men all causes in c. 60 days.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 11:03:16 AM

Quote:

Quote:
In NW Europe, 1944-45, the British infantry at the sharp end did endure casualty rates that - on some occasions - approached those suffered a generation earlier : but the numerical scale of their commitment was incomparably smaller, and the total casualties commensurately so.


Phil-Can you give an example of that which is emboldened please-I appreciate that you are not talking "actual numbers but percentages" I presume.

Regards

Jim

--anemone



Let me seek some wriggle room, please, Jim....I need to get some research lined up here.

I would think it fair to say, though, that it was as dangerous to carry rifle and bayonet into battle, and close with the enemy, in 1944, as it had been in 1917....the big factor being that a damned sight fewer men had to do it in the British army in WW2 : hence the much smaller casualty totals.

Colin is right about Caen : the attrition in the British rifle companies was alarming. I've read that the Canadian infantry casualties - again, I stres that this was in the rifle companies only - in the fighting in Belgium and Holland in late 1944 and early 1945 were similar, in percentage terms , to those of Passchendaele .

I must be wary of pushing this too far. Make no mistake : the slaughter of Tommy Atkins reached a notorious pinnacle in the Great War. My Dad served at El Alamein and in Italy, and although he lost friends, he always felt fortunate that he was born too late to have served in fourteen eighteen.

Editing : Thank God I wasn't in that one ! , Dad would blurt out when he watched film footage of the Battles of WW1.


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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 11:15:23 AM

Quote:
Operation 'Epsom', which began on 25 June, was another attempt to outflank Caen and force a German withdrawal from the city. Once again, the patchwork terrain of small fields, sunken lanes, streams, and dense hedgerows slowed the advance.

The Germans, defending in depth as usual, used the network of ancient fortified villages to bolster their positions. There was no breakthrough, and British losses were heavy. 15th (Scottish) Division, leading the assault, lost 2,331 killed, wounded or missing.
15th Scottish blog

Regards

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

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
Posts: 669
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 11:45:37 AM

Quote:
I believe Phil is referring to fighting around Caen during the Normandy invasion in 1944. Truly awful stuff for the Commonwealth forces fighting there. I don't think enough credit is given to Monty (on this occasion) on getting out of that hellhole with his forces in fighting condition.

Cheers,

Colin
--Lightning


I have read comments to the effect that one side effect of the British attacks around Caen being very tank intensive was that while material losses were heavy, personnel losses were minimized. Contrary to the impression given by the movies, where when a tank is knocked out the entire crew generally dies, when a medium tank was knocked out the crew had on average a one in five chance of becoming a casualty.

The number of tanks involved may not have been high specifically to limit infantry losses. It may have been more a matter of the anticipated German armor threat. But it does seem to have helped economize on British manpower.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 12:06:24 PM
You are absolutely right Jim-the Sherman tank was knicknamed the Tommy Cooker.Outside the village of Villers Bocage- in fewer than 15 minutes, the British lost 13–14 tanks, two anti-tank guns and 13–15 transport vehicles- all had been destroyed by the 2nd Company, schwere SS-Panzer Abteilung, many by Michael Wittmann. Quite a feat.

Regards

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

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 1:13:56 PM
Hi

At the risk of getting even further from the topic, WW2 for the 'British' was rather different. Although less 'army' dead, it had larger numbers killed in the air arm (@ 72,000+ instead of 9,000+), more killed in the Royal Navy (@51,000 instead of 32,000+ [not including RN Division]), and of course rather more civilians killed by air attack (60,000+ instead of 1400+). That was a consequence of what happened early in the war with the fall of France etc.
The trouble of 'blaming' Generals for the numbers of dead is that you would have to explain why the German and Soviet Generals were so 'useless' as to get even more of their men killed in WW2 than WW1! It does not take account of the intensity of fighting and the need to 'win'. A German victory in WW2 would not have been good for Europe and it would not have been in WW1, judging on what the Brest/Litovsk 'peace' treaty would have done to the Russians.

Mike

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 1:22:00 PM
Jim,

Having been rather assertive in my suggestion that British casualties in the rifle companies in WW2 rivalled those of their counterparts 1914-18, I now have to confess that a little bit of research indicates that this claim does not pass the sniff test.

Thank goodness I asked for wriggle room !

In all conscience,though, the infantry casualties in WW2 were bad enough : the hardest hit at El Alamein was the 51st Highland Division, which suffered about 2,850 casualties : but since the vast majority of these were in the rifle companies - whose strength was about 6,750 - it's legitimate to assume that their casualty rate was about 40%....no picnic, by any reckoning.

I think there has been some distortion by Haig supporters, who wish to take the heat away from him by arguing that the infantry casualty rates in the British army in NW Europe 1944-45 rivalled those of the Somme or Passchendaele .

This is one of those historiographical twists....using statistics in a disingenuous way : to make Haig look better, let's exaggerate the losses run up by his WW2 counterparts.

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 1:42:27 PM
Thank you Phil-hereunder the actual details given by CWGC for WW2.

Total war related deaths reported by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: UK and Crown Colonies (383,786); India-(British colonial administration) (87,032), Australia (40,464); Canada (45,383); New Zealand (11,929); South Africa (11,903).

Total military dead for the United Kingdom alone(according to preliminary 1945 figures): 264,443. Royal Navy (50,758); British Army (144,079); Royal Air Force (69,606)

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/23/2017 5:23:05 PM
Thanks for those figures, Jim.

A reflection : in WW1, about one tenth of all military dead, from all belligerents, were from the British Empire.

In WW2, perhaps as few as one in fifty of the world total of military dead were from the British Commonwealth.

What an astonishing difference ; especially given the existential peril that Britain faced in the second conflict.

It's all too understandable that British society continues to express a greater sense of revulsion at the cost of the first conflict ; and, by proxy, that those in command 1914-18 are viscerally reviled.

It's an irony, IMHO, that the British army in 1914, through its own success in helping to contain the German invasion and retain its stance on Franco Belgian soil, committed its soldiers to four years of sustained killing ; while its WW2 counterpart, by suffering shattering defeat in 1940 and being expelled from the continent, was thereby saved from the ordeal of such prolonged slaughter.


Editing here : to consummate the irony, we contemplate - in WW1 - the greatest military victory ever attained by a British army, and we abhor the generalship ; with WW2 we have a British army that did not contribute anything like the same measure of success, and we regard the generalship as superior !


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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/24/2017 3:37:41 AM

Quote:
while its WW2 counterpart, by suffering shattering defeat in 1940 and being expelled from the continent, was thereby saved from the ordeal of such prolonged slaughter.


We did fight the Axis out of North Africa 1940/43 (incl. Greece and Crete) and thence into Sicily and Italy.The Longest War was in Burma against the Japanese -a long fighting retreat up Burma; but from 1944/45 the Japanese were driven out of this country.So we did continue the fight; but as you say Phil not on the scale of WW1.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/24/2017 6:06:23 AM
That's the crucial point, Jim.

Fighting in the Far East and the Mediterranean did not equate to all out war of the highest intensity against the main enemy on the main front for several years ...which was what the warfare in France and Flanders 1914-18 amounted to.

Six weeks in 1940 was all it took to expel the British army from the continent. Had the Franco British forces not been so defeated, I wonder if our WW2 dead might have amounted to three times what we actually lost 1939-45.

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/24/2017 7:31:23 AM
Comparing the Field Marshals and one Army commander of each war. Montgomery was a showman who "ran off at the mouth"-causing American distrust; whereas Haig was taciturn and almost unobstrusive at times-neither were good with the rank and file.Both had an unshakeable belief in themselves and were immune to criticism and carried on regardless of it-because "they were right".

General Miles Dempsey was blessed with an active and incisive mind, a phenomenal memory and a unique skill in reading maps and I would rank him General Herbert Plumer who had a similar eye for detail-both were professional infantry soldiers-Plumer turned the offer of CIGS to remain at the front; and see the war out on the Western Front.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/24/2017 8:47:31 AM
Plumer is remembered as an outstandingly good army commander from WW1.

What is not so widely known is that he came within a gnat's eyelash of being sacked by Haig in the earlier part of 1916 : he had not been sufficiently vigilant in the maintenance of defences in his sector.

Haig let him off with a final warning, and sent him a first rate chief of staff ( Harington ).

A couple of years later, Haig lost patience when he heard people enthusing about Plumer, and blurted out You would never have heard of him if I hadn't sent him Harington !

I think this anecdote is worth citing, because it reveals aspects of Haig's generalship that are not generally acknowledged....his surveillance of, and support of, those deputy commanders who were to receive so much credit.

It also demonstrates that Haig - renowned for being a lacklustre character - could, on occasions, let fly and use a sharp tongue.

On another occasion, Haig was visited by the then PM Herbert Asquith.

Haig nicknamed him " Squiffy ", on account of his fondness for the booze.

Haig's family provenance - legendary distillers of whisky - endowed him with a knowledge of drink and how to use it properly. He plied Joffre with superb brandy and won him over in difficult meetings.

On the occasion of Asquith's visit, the PM enjoyed the brandy so much that he kept suggestively offering his glass in the hope of a refill ; a gesture that Haig failed to acknowledge.

When Philip Sassoon, Haig's secretary, commented on this, Haig remarked dryly if Squiffy hasn't got the guts to ask me directly for another glass of brandy, than he's not bloody well fit to be Prime Minister !

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/24/2017 10:50:51 AM
When Haig,a cavalryman- was given command of the BEF-he had doubts about those in Army Command that he had not appointed-one was the "Old Man" -Plumer,an Infantryman; and thought to get rid of him-so he was given "a rocket" about his defences- to which he added "Shape Up or Ship Out"-that in my eyes makes him an elitist and a bully-no gentleman he.

He did not get on with Allenby-a cavalryman and so he promoted him to full general and sent him home from where he was given command of the Middle East theatre of operations and was very successful.Replaced by Byng another cavalryman

His final line was Horne RHA- 1st Army,Plumer Infantry- 2nd Army,Byng cavalryman- 3rd Army ,Rawlinson cavalryman- 4th Army and Gough cavalryman- 5th Army. Gough took the blame for the failure of 5th Army in the German Spring Offensive
but Haig knew that this formation would not be strong enough to hold the Germans

Regards

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

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/24/2017 12:09:21 PM

Quote:
When Haig,a cavalryman- was given command of the BEF-he had doubts about those in Army Command that he had not appointed-one was the "Old Man" -Plumer,an Infantryman; and thought to get rid of him-so he was given "a rocket" about his defences- to which he added "Shape Up or Ship Out"-that in my eyes makes him an elitist and a bully-no gentleman he.

He did not get on with Allenby-a cavalryman and so he promoted him to full general and sent him home from where he was given command of the Middle East theatre of operations and was very successful.Replaced by Byng another cavalryman

His final line was Horne RHA- 1st Army,Plumer Infantry- 2nd Army,Byng cavalryman- 3rd Army ,Rawlinson cavalryman- 4th Army and Gough cavalryman- 5th Army. Gough took the blame for the failure of 5th Army in the German Spring Offensive
but Haig knew that this formation would not be strong enough to hold the Germans

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Hi

I think you will find that Rawlinson was an Infantryman, commissioned into the KRRC and later transferred to the Coldstream Guards. Byng had started his career in the 7th Battalion KRRC but transferred to the 10th Hussars. Horne was commissioned into the Royal Artillery after Woolwich and then transferred into the RHA. From 1906 he was mainly in Royal Artillery posts. Gough of course commanded mounted infantry in the South African campaign.

Mike

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/24/2017 12:28:43 PM
Hi

The Allenby story is rather complicated as in part he was undermined by three of his divisional commanders, Major Generals Wilkinson (50th), de Lisle (29th) and Robertson (17th), apparently with the tacit support of Corps level command, directly 'complaining' to GHQ about Allenby's 'tactics'. This appears to have been about undertaking isolated operations which had exposed their men to flanking fire resulting in 'large' casualties. It appears to have had some effect as Haig halted operations for a week. (Source, 'Haig's Generals' ed. Beckett & Corvi, page 27, this is Chapter 1 on Edmund Allenby by Matthew Hughes. Allenby was successful in Palestine, this may have been in part due to the different fighting conditions. Some historians have suggested that Gough may have been more of a 'success' during the 100 days style of warfare as it aligned more with his 'tactical abilities and methods', but we will never know.

Mike

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/24/2017 12:40:17 PM
Arthur Currie had no time for Hubert Gough as he felt that the losses experienced by the Canadians on the Somme were due to inadequate planning by Gough.

When Haig wanted Currie to take Passchendaele, one of the promises that Currie extracted was that his Corps would not have serve under Gough.

Haig was taken aback but agreed with the request.

The story that the British troops were led by donkeys is unfair but it is true that the Canadians at least, had a preference for British generals.

And that stems from experiences early on in the war.

Cheers,

George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/24/2017 12:58:46 PM
Thanks Mike re.General Rawlinson-he was Infantry of course-that'll learn me not to judge a General by his "jodhpurs and spurred boots".

Regards

Jim
---------------
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anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/24/2017 2:32:58 PM
George am I right in saying that the CEC sustained 24,000 casualties from September to mid October, but were they under Byng or Gough ???

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/24/2017 3:05:24 PM
Those 24,000 Canadian casualties of the Somme in 1916 were very closely matched by those of the Australians . New Zealand casualties were in the order of 8,000 ; the South Africans took 3,500 and then there was the destruction of the Newfoundlanders on the first day : but even with these awful experiences , the fact remains that the UK contingents took eighty five per cent of the entire British Empire casualties of the battle.

I intend to assess how far the Somme compares with Third Ypres and other battles, in respect of the preponderance or otherwise of UK casualties vis a vis those of the Dominion contingents.

This was a touchy subject at the time, and remains so today.

Haig alluded to it several times in his diary.

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
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/24/2017 7:13:18 PM

Quote:
George am I right in saying that the CEC sustained 24,000 casualties from September to mid October, but were they under Byng or Gough ???

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Byng was the Corps commander at St. Eloi and Mt. Sorrel so he would have been Corps commander on the Somme.

You are referring to 1916 aren't you Jim.

I would note the Gough, newly installed as CO of 5th Army also ran afoul of the ANZAC Corps.

He wanted to toss them into an attack on Pozieres on July 19,.1916, on 24 hours notice.

ANZAC HQ had not even arrived on the front. There had been no preparation.

It was a British officer named Walker, CO of the 1st Aus. Div. who fought with Gough over sending the ANZAC's in with insufficient artillery and from a direction in which other British units had failed.

Gough eventually claimed that he ordered the change in direction of the attack but it was Walker who told him that that is what should happen.

So the attack on Pozieres was delayed until July 22 and the ANZAC's did well, thanks to more artillery and a chance to plan the attack.

Walker wrote harshly in 1928 in reference to Gough's mismanagement:


Quote:
"the very worst exhibition of Army commandship that occurred during the whole campaign, though God knows the 5th Army [as Reserve Army was later designated] was a tragedy throughout"
. (source: Revolvy.com)


Gough was considered an aggressive commander but not one who planned well.


He was quick to take credit if an attack went well but even quicker to point fingers or suggest a lack of moral fibre in his troops, including the Canadians in a couple of cases.


Phil Andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/25/2017 2:24:38 AM
At the very moment that Gough was proposing to order the Australian attack at Pozieres, the worst twenty four hours in the history of the Australian people were about to commence in Artois, in a diversionary attack at Fromelles. I had not included the Australian casualties there when I mentioned how their Somme losses rivalled those of Canada.

This action at Fromelles was - and still is - especially resented by Australia.

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/25/2017 3:23:07 AM

Quote:
Some historians have suggested that Gough may have been more of a 'success' during the 100 days style of warfare as it aligned more with his 'tactical abilities and methods', but we will never know.
Mike

I confess I did not see much skill in his "defence" of 5th Army's liner in the German Spring Offensive.Do you think Gough would nave been more of a success in the Last Hundred Days.?????Where would he fit in-in Haig's line up ???


Regards

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

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/25/2017 3:53:41 PM

Quote:

Quote:
Some historians have suggested that Gough may have been more of a 'success' during the 100 days style of warfare as it aligned more with his 'tactical abilities and methods', but we will never know.
Mike

I confess I did not see much skill in his "defence" of 5th Army's liner in the German Spring Offensive.Do you think Gough would nave been more of a success in the Last Hundred Days.?????Where would he fit in-in Haig's line up ???


Regards

Jim

--anemone

Hi

A fair few historians appear to believe that he was not totally to blame for the defence during the German Spring Offensive when the 5th Army. They believe he should have been sacked in 1917 instead. However, in the circumstances of taking over a 'large' part of the French line and not having enough troops to man it or enough time to complete the new defence system then being hit by overwhelming artillery fire followed up by overwhelming numbers of German infantry in the mist, then he was less to blame.

The 100 Days use of Gough is that he was seen as a 'Thruster' and 'risk' taker, during the 100 Days risks were taken in the advanced which would have got commanders sacked during 1917, this was to keep the offensive moving. In many actions there was not the time for long detailed planning, in fact in many cases less than 24 hours, it meant many orders were delivered 'verbally' rather than being written. 'Set piece battles' became less the norm, command and planning for engagements became more 'Divisional' than 'Corps' let alone Army.
As I mentioned previously we will never know if Gough would or would not have been more successful at the 100 Days 'style' of warfare because he was 'gone'.

Mike

Phil Andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/26/2017 3:17:20 AM
Normally pretty disdainful of Wikipedia, I have to say that the wiki article on Hubert Gough is one of the best online renditions I've ever read.

Gough is truly what we British would describe as a "Marmite " character.

There seems to be about him the smell of a Patton, a Mangin or a Phil Sheridan.

He certainly shares Irish provenance with the last mentioned.

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/26/2017 3:32:04 AM
5th Army had 26 miles of line to defend with ten Divisions,shortage of time and manpower to prepare properly in depth. Outlined in his book 'The Fifth Army',Gough said that the cavalry forces were spread too widely. The tendency was for men to bunch together and this left gaps.This of course was down to individual commanders.

When Haig visited Gough's HQ- he told Gough that he had no more men to give him-he knew Gough had a mammoth task in rendering his defences fit for purpose but told him "To do his best with what he had"

Regards

Jim
---------------
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Phil Andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/26/2017 4:22:54 AM
And so poor old (young, actually) " Goughie" was the scapegoat, and went from hero to zero: with " Daddy " Plumer it was the other way round.

You have to wonder how far the machinations of British generals in this war were predicated on protecting their own reputations...not a syndrome unique to armies, but one that has catastrophic ramifications for the lives of unknown thousands of men.

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/26/2017 6:05:49 AM
You certainly "hit that on with a straight bat Phil". When the French were clamouring for Gough's head; Haig could well have been looking ahead for ways to end this war- and this being paramount -poor old Goughie "walked".

He was raised to GCB by Geo.V sometime after the war as a consolation.5th Army's Retreat had sucked the Germans into a ruddy great salient- that was of no use to them; and had failed in their mission to take Amiens

Regards

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

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/26/2017 6:48:01 AM
Gentlemen, the comments from his British peers would indicate that Gough was not well respected by some.

He seems to have butted heads with a number of people of equal and lesser rank. Is it all attributable to professional jealousy?

I have mentioned before that Arthur Currie did not trust Gough's troop management and felt that men got killed under his command because of lack of preparation and planning.

With Gough it seems that did not always understand the importance of artillery and was for too long, a proponent of the cavalry to charge into the breach.

Was Gough a micromanager who would not consider the opinions and ideas of his corps commanders?

I concede that Gough had as much to learn about tactics in this new type of warfare as anyone else.

Is there evidence that he did learn and was able to implement the new tactics developed by the British and Commonwealth and the French?

Or were the reservations that the Dominion troops had about him, still valid, up until he was moved?

I think that he had lost the confidence of the men that he commanded. Fair or unfair?


Cheers,

George



Phil Andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/26/2017 7:03:49 AM
He antagonised staff officers.

He was a thruster.

I suspect that he had a good rapport with his soldiers.

My father in law, born in the years after the Great War, was christened " Hubert". He always wondered why. I believe his dad had served in the ranks - as a private - of the 5th Army.

A tentative suggestion, I confess: but if the enlisted men chose to name their sons after their army commander, there is the prospect that the general was highly thought of in the ranks.

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/26/2017 7:43:37 AM

Quote:
There is good evidence to show that Gough had grave concerns of the ground he had to cover, with less men, worse prepared defences and more line than 3rd Army under Sir Julian Byng.

Concerns he had voiced but that seem to have been ignored. The conduct of Gough in these few trying days bears well, he did not panic, his men whilst admittedly withdrawing did so with guts and determination.

His dismissal from command was seen by many who made up 5th Army as an insult not just to their commander but to the rank and file, who had fought gallantly.
The Life of General Gough/

My own personal opinion is that he did his best with the forces at his disposal; and I thought his Evacuation of the Rosierres pocket was brilliant-making the useless salient even bigger- to the exhaustion of the German attackers.However I do accept the Canadian view- that he did not know when to stop.

regards

Jim
---------------
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George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/26/2017 8:06:17 AM
Phil has indicated that Gough was popular with a segment of the men who served under him.

But I also read that the requests for transfer by the lowest of private soldiers from Gough's 5th Army was very high. And the numbers were significantly high enough to catch the attention of Haig.

Is this just a case of wanting to sack a general and then building the case for it?

Or was there a case to be made for the general demoralization of the 5th Army because of Gough's command decisions?

I realize that we are discussing one general here. The discussion was to be more about generalship in the British forces, in general.

So I don't think that my concerns or the concerns expressed by the Canadians and Australians for the command capabilities of Hubert Gough suggest that all generalship was flawed.

Cheers,

George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/26/2017 8:27:42 AM
[Quote]But I also read that the requests for transfer by the lowest of private soldiers from Gough's 5th Army was very high. And the numbers were significantly high enough to catch the attention of Haig
[/Quote].George

George-Geewhizz!-where on earth did you find the aforementioned quote ???-Was this pre or post the Kaisersclacht in March 1918.???I am well aware that Dominion troops would bot fight under him and that would be a clincher for Haig.

Regards

Jim
---------------
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Phil Andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/26/2017 8:39:11 AM
Plodders or thrusters, Herberts or Huberts , Plumers or Goughs, you can almost hear Tommy Atkins moaning "...They're all the bleeding same, Mate! "

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/26/2017 8:44:47 AM
About says it all Phil-the PBI were notorious grousers.

Regards

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

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/26/2017 9:39:55 AM
General Horace Smith-Dorrien was sacked by Sir John French because he did not like Smith-Dorrien- despite his heroics during the retreat from Mons (he basically stopped the German army and saved the BEF) Despite all of this- the "odious" (IMO) French undermined him,side-lined and criticised him

Finally he sacked him for ceasing to make French's fruitless attacks at Ypres- despite French allowing his replacement do what Smith-Dorrien had wanted to do! A sad end to a glorious career!I wonder how he would have fared under Haig.

NB.I think this bad feeling started when French approached Snith- Dorrien for a loan to get him out of "delicate situation" re. one of French's paramours-SD being a devout Christian refused him-however Haig bailed French out.Quite a ball of wax was thus created!!!

Regards

Jim
---------------
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George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/26/2017 11:13:12 AM

Quote:
[Quote]But I also read that the requests for transfer by the lowest of private soldiers from Gough's 5th Army was very high. And the numbers were significantly high enough to catch the attention of Haig
[/Quote].George

George-Geewhizz!-where on earth did you find the aforementioned quote ???-Was this pre or post the Kaisersclacht in March 1918.???I am well aware that Dominion troops would bot fight under him and that would be a clincher for Haig.

Regards

Jim
--anemone




It's from a Gary Sheffield quote. I don't have the exact words. Perhaps from "Command and Control".


The following is a very interesting lecture given by Gary Sheffield at Oxford University.

He titled his lecture: "Victorious Donkeys? British Generals and Generalship of the First World War Revisited"

[Read More]

Some great comments on how the British army of 1914 was never intended to fight a war on the scale of the Great War.

Solid support for Haig. Criticism of the governments of the UK for not spending enough money to create an army capable of more than it was.

Nothing specific to Gough or any other army commanders.

Cheers,

George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/26/2017 12:44:07 PM
Whatever be the truth about men wanting to leave 5th Army-the fact remains that Haig was prepared for 5th Army to make measured withdrawals; but perhaps not telling the French- in such a way as to use up the energy put into the attack.Withdrawal was therefore a legitimate army manoeuvre to draw the enemy on to you; but leave them punching air.

Regards

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

Phil Andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/26/2017 4:42:47 PM
George,

Are you convinced by Garry Sheffield's rendition?

I find myself wobbling a bit.

On reflection, I put my vote with the Sheffield school....but I'm never sufficiently comfortable. I reckon British people still invest their perceptions of 1914 -18 wth a lot of emotion: do Canadians view WW1 with a greater degree of equanimity?

The disparity in the loss of life in the two world wars was less marked in the case of the Dominions than it was for the UK.

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
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/26/2017 8:21:19 PM
Phil, I don't know enough about Haig. Sheffield is considered an expert and he does not seem to feel that Haig was the dull witted fool that some contend.

I was surprised to hear his views that traditionally, the British army has been beggared by governments that felt that the RN was all that was needed to defend the country.

I knew that the British army was small in numbers but the word has always been that they were consummate professionals. Sheffield didn't deny that but he did say that this was an army that was ill prepared and trained for the type of warfare that was encountered.

And when those men were killed, the volunteer new army was even farther behind in preparation for war.

I had not considered that they were learning on the job and a tough job it was. Sheffield contrasted that with the bulk of Britain's WW2 army which was able to train to higher level of efficiency at home before heading into combat.

The Canadian experience was shocking and not just for the troops.

But the deaths of 64-66 K from a population of less than 8 million did give pause for citizens and soldiers to wonder whether it was worth it.

Post war, there was a growing peace movement and a sentiment in some quarters that Canada should not participate in something like this again.

And of course we had the problem in Québec with the Conscription Crisis. Safe to say that the French-Canadians comprising 25% of the population had no time for this war anyway.
When conscription came in there were riots and 4 people were killed.

Quebec has a monument to those killed in the Easter Riots of 1917.

EDIT: Québec Printemps 1918. (Quebec Spring 1918). That's what some Quebeckers remember of the Great War.



The Great War does not resonate with Québec except as a time to remember the oppression of conscription thrust upon them by the English speaking majority. They have no time for a "British war".

That doesn't mean that the veterans weren't proud of their accomplishments and many were impatient for the Vimy Ridge Memorial to be finished in France. That didn't happen until 1936.

Shortly, the second war was upon Canada and the Great War faded into the background.

But you know, there was no official history of the Canadian Corps completed in the years immediately following the war. It was as though it was not a time to remember with any pleasure. The attempt to write one resulted in a single volume that was supposed to be an 8 volume work.

Nicholson's Official History of the Canadian Army, 1914-1919 wasn't published until 1962.


Cheers,

George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/27/2017 2:47:04 AM

Quote:
Haig was no technophobe and he encouraged the development of advanced weaponry such as tanks, machine guns and aircraft. He, like Rawlinson and a host of other commanders at all levels in the BEF, "learned from experience".

The result was that by 1918 the British army was second to none in its modernity and military ability. It was led by men who, if not military geniuses, were at least thoroughly competent commanders. The victory in 1918 was the payoff. The 'lions led by donkeys' tag should be dismissed for what it is - a misleading caricature.
Gary Sheffield

NB.I have no real argument with the above- other than it is a tad trite-I do not believe it was EXACTLY as Sheffield states


Quote:
Years later after the war- voices began to be raised against the tactics employed during the conflict. Some of the most vigorous statements were made by David Lloyd George.

Writing in 1938 the former Prime Minister aggressively planted the blame for the destructiveness of the conflict on his General’s ‘narrow, selfish and unimaginative strategy and…the ghastly butchery of vain and insane offensives’.

However, in blaming his own High Command, Lloyd George neatly shifted the responsibility for the conflict from Britain’s political class who had brought Britain into the war and overseen it.
National Arhives

NB.Lloyd George was very much an arch enemy of Haig and his Armies.Cutting reinforcements- just as the Germans were about to commence the Kaiserschlacht- was stupid and dangerous in the extreme

Regards

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

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/27/2017 3:23:26 AM
Aftermath of the Great War


Quote:
In contrast to the improved life expectancy of working-class men who had been old enough to evade war service, servicemen and servicewomen returning from the front-lines were physically devastated. Writing in 1917 about Brighton, pacifist Caroline Playne admitted to being full of "sickness and horror" at the "sights of hundreds of men on crutches going about in groups."

More than 41,000 men had their limbs amputated during the war; 272,000 suffered injuries in the legs or arms that did not require amputation; 60,500 were wounded in the head or eyes; and 89,000 sustained other serious damage to their bodies.

The home front eventually welcomed back men and women whose war service abroad had left scars, both visible and invisible, which were often difficult to speak about. As Vera Brittain put it in her memoir, Testament of Youth (1933), the war had erected a "barrier of indescribable experience between men and the women they loved". Brittain's brother, fiancée and two close male friends were killed in the war, but she rightly observed that "the war kills other things besides physical life". Phyllis Kelly, who mourned the death of her beloved Eric, would have agreed.
Prof.Joanna Burke

NB.The above brings back those memories -as a child of the 1930's I saw the widows and the limbless in my little township-a constant reminder that my forebear didn't make it back and was never found.Sad memories.

Regards

Jim







---------------
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Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
Posts: 669
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/27/2017 1:12:17 PM

Quote:
George,

Are you convinced by Garry Sheffield's rendition?

I find myself wobbling a bit.

On reflection, I put my vote with the Sheffield school....but I'm never sufficiently comfortable. I reckon British people still invest their perceptions of 1914 -18 wth a lot of emotion: do Canadians view WW1 with a greater degree of equanimity?

The disparity in the loss of life in the two world wars was less marked in the case of the Dominions than it was for the UK.

Regards , Phil
--Phil Andrade


Haig continues to suffer from much the same handicap as Montgomery, Douglas MacArthur, or, George B. McClellan. All had the misfortune of being presented to History largely by their detractors. Not that all of them didn't manage to provide their critics with a good deal of ammunition, much of it by virtue of their own rather prickly personalities. None of them generate much sympathy.

In Haig's case, he suffered the additional misfortune to hold command for an extended period of time, in a situation where casualties were guaranteed to be high, and results, meagre. When you rack up hundreds of thousands of losses for a few miles of mud, there's no way your reputation isn't going to suffer. And the very fact he proved all but immune to being replaced meant that he would accumulate frustrated, and, unfortunately for him, often eloquent, enemies.




---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/27/2017 1:39:08 PM
I just noticed that I had not linked the Gary Sheffield lecture properly.

So I fixed it in the original post and have included it again below.

As he is considered an excellent scholar with respect to Haig, the generals and the war, I thought that he may have some interesting insights. And he did.

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Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/28/2017 5:24:15 AM
George,
Your original link worked well enough for me to listen to it on my iPhone in our caravan.

Thanks.

I always enjoy listening to Garry Sheffield.

Dealing with Haig is still a poisoned chalice....you're damned one way or another.

Sheffield used to espouse the argument that perceptions of Haig's generalship should be recalibrated by reflecting on the suggestion that British infantry casualties in Normandy and NW Europe 1944-45 rivalled or exceeded those of the Somme and Passchendaele, if the analysis is conducted on a proportionate basis.

This argument has now been discredited ...and I hope I won't be thought of as vain if I declare that I was the guy who led the charge against it.

It's gratifying to see that Garry did not resort to it in this lecture.

One thing especially is lacking in his rendition of British Generalship in the Great War : he needs to cite what the Germans thought of 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

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/28/2017 6:47:02 AM

Quote:
George,
Your original link worked well enough for me to listen to it on my iPhone in our caravan.

Thanks.

I always enjoy listening to Garry Sheffield.

Dealing with Haig is still a poisoned chalice....you're damned one way or another.

Sheffield used to espouse the argument that perceptions of Haig's generalship should be recalibrated by reflecting on the suggestion that British infantry casualties in Normandy and NW Europe 1944-45 rivalled or exceeded those of the Somme and Passchendaele, if the analysis is conducted on a proportionate basis.

This argument has now been discredited ...and I hope I won't be thought of as vain if I declare that I was the guy who led the charge against it.

It's gratifying to see that Garry did not resort to it in this lecture.

One thing especially is lacking in his rendition of British Generalship in the Great War : he needs to cite what the Germans thought of it.

Regards , Phil


--Phil andrade


Hi

According to 'Colossal Cracks' by Stephen Ashley Hart, which is about the 21st Army Group in Northwest Europe, page 47, between 6 June 1944 and 8 December 1944 there were 109,396 casualties in the Group.

For WW1 the casualties of the First, Third and Fourth Armies between 8th August and 26th September 1918 were 8,642 Officers and 181,334 ORs. (OH Vol. 4 1918 pages 516-517).
Between 27th September and 12th November 1918 the total casualties for the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Armies plus the Cavalry Corps were 3,944 Officers and 106,477 ORs, infantry and cavalry. So a total of 12,586 Officers and 287,811 ORs. Although there would have been casualties of other arms and support troops as well.

In both WW2 and WW2 these were both advances to victory. it is of course quite difficult to really compare but in WW1 the 'British' had a much bigger force in the field than in the Battle of Normandy. In many ways the casualties in WW2 were 'worse' as the UK and Canada had a severe shortage of Infantry to replace the casualties.

Mike

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/28/2017 6:58:55 AM
Yes the Battle of Normandy was particularly costly in WW2. It is gratifying to see that some historians have re-examined the claims that the British and Canadians and others were moving too slowly and cautiously.

To Mike's point, the lack of reinforcements for British and Commonwealth troops was also evident during the Italian campaign.

But is the purpose of casualty comparisons really a worthy attempt to compare the deadliness of the types of combat faced? There should be other criteria for assessment as well though beyond my expertise.

Or do we accept that lessons learned in the Great War were applied successfully in the second?

Cheers,

George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/28/2017 9:03:24 AM
Some lessons from WW1 were applied or grew from them. Bigger and better armaments ie Aircraft for strategical(bombing) and tactical warfare (strafing),B Echelons attached to all tank units to follow up with all supplies and maintenance,larger calibre guns on tanks and some better armour.Anti tank weaponry.The introduction of AGRA's for major bombardments,small calibre automatic weapons,better communications between the Rear and the Sharp End. Airborne assaults by parachute.Apologies for the pot pourri.

NB.An Army Group Royal Artillery (AGRA) was a British Commonwealth military formation type during the Second World War and shortly thereafter, generally assigned to Army corps. An AGRA was mainly composed of medium artillery regiments but heavy regiments and field regiments were also used. They were moved at need from corps to corps within an army.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/28/2017 12:56:00 PM
George,

But is the purpose of casualty comparisons really a worthy attempt to compare the deadliness of the types of combat faced ?

This is where the historiography kicks in : the reputation of the Great War being so notorious that some historians have argued for a more sober assessment.

It's no coincidence that this school of historians tends to be pro Haig.

It reached its apogee with Gordon Corrigan, who was determined to demonstrate that the casualties among the troops at the sharp end in Normandy were even higher than they had been on the Somme. This became a kind of trope, and I was dismayed to see it being used by Garry Sheffield . The facts do not bear it out.

The pro Haig school will insist that - grievous though British casualties were in the Great War - they were no more than what might be expected from warfare of such sustained intensity against a first class foe ; that previous wars, and WW2, gave ample evidence that this was bound to be the case.

To a degree, this is incontestable ....but there is still something stupefyingly awful in the dimensions of slaughter 1914-18 : it was truly transcendental.

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
Posts: 303
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/28/2017 2:53:31 PM

Quote:
George,

But is the purpose of casualty comparisons really a worthy attempt to compare the deadliness of the types of combat faced ?

This is where the historiography kicks in : the reputation of the Great War being so notorious that some historians have argued for a more sober assessment.

It's no coincidence that this school of historians tends to be pro Haig.

It reached its apogee with Gordon Corrigan, who was determined to demonstrate that the casualties among the troops at the sharp end in Normandy were even higher than they had been on the Somme. This became a kind of trope, and I was dismayed to see it being used by Garry Sheffield . The facts do not bear it out.

The pro Haig school will insist that - grievous though British casualties were in the Great War - they were no more than what might be expected from warfare of such sustained intensity against a first class foe ; that previous wars, and WW2, gave ample evidence that this was bound to be the case.

To a degree, this is incontestable ....but there is still something stupefyingly awful in the dimensions of slaughter 1914-18 : it was truly transcendental.

Regards , Phil


--Phil andrade

Hi

However, while it was less 'bloody' in military deaths during WW2 for Britain, France (although they were defeated and occupied) and Italy (again surrendered then their country was fought through) it was not for the USA, Germany and Soviet Union (Russia in WW1). So while WW1 may have been 'stupefying awful in the dimensions of slaughter' for the UK, WW2 was rather worse in that measure for others. The UK was 'lucky' in that respect in WW2 but that war was even more awful than WW1 for many.

Mike

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/28/2017 3:22:36 PM
Hello Mike,

For the USA, their AEF didn't have sufficient time in combat to experience what the other nations had.

Some of our American posters have noted that in the history of their country, the first war takes a back seat to the second world war.

The Russians experienced heavy casualties in WW1 and even heavier in WW2. So I understand that the Great Patriotic war would resonate with the Soviet Union/Russia more than in WW1.

But I was surprised to see your inclusion of the Germany as one country that would see WW2 as more horrific than WW1. Is that because of the terrible civilian casualties that Germany did not experience in WW1?


Cheers,

George

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
Posts: 669
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/28/2017 4:53:52 PM

Quote:
Hello Mike,

For the USA, their AEF didn't have sufficient time in combat to experience what the other nations had.

Some of our American posters have noted that in the history of their country, the first war takes a back seat to the second world war.



Very much so. WW2 has always been "our" war.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/28/2017 5:16:25 PM

Quote:
Hello Mike,

For the USA, their AEF didn't have sufficient time in combat to experience what the other nations had.

Some of our American posters have noted that in the history of their country, the first war takes a back seat to the second world war.

The Russians experienced heavy casualties in WW1 and even heavier in WW2. So I understand that the Great Patriotic war would resonate with the Soviet Union/Russia more than in WW1.

But I was surprised to see your inclusion of the Germany as one country that would see WW2 as more horrific than WW1. Is that because of the terrible civilian casualties that Germany did not experience in WW1?


Cheers,

George
--George

Hi George

Why wouldn't it be more 'horrific' in WW2 than WW1 for Germany? They had more military casualties, more civilian casualties, Germany became a total battlefield as the Allied armies fought their way to Berlin. Germany was then occupied and split up until 45 years later, Political and military leaders were put on trial, some executed, some imprisoned and the population 're-educated'.
The Versailles Treaty of 1919 was a 'soft option' in comparison, no 'stab in the back' myth could be advanced by the German General Staff this time!

Mike

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/28/2017 5:37:19 PM
I see your point Mike. Germany did not experience devastation in the homeland in the first war.

And I think that they had 2 million military deaths in WW1 and over 5 million in the second. So again, I see your point.

George


Phil Andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/28/2017 5:42:41 PM
Up until June 1944, German military deaths were fewer than the total for 1914-18. But in the final eleven months of WW2, German military fatalities assumed such catastrophic dimensions that the final total for 1939 - 45 was double that of WW1.

This outrageous loss was largely attributable to many hundreds of thousands of German POWs who died in Soviet captivity.

The Soviets themselves suffered 8.7 million military deaths 1941-45...all nations combined 1914-18 had lost ten million.

So I must accept that my description of WW1 being "transcendental " in its slaughter needs to be put into perspective.

For Western Europe, the description is valid.

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
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 3:47:49 AM

Quote:
I see your point Mike. Germany did not experience devastation in the homeland in the first war.

And I think that they had 2 million military deaths in WW1 and over 5 million in the second. So again, I see your point.

George


--George


George,

This huge figure for German WW2 military deaths - about 5.35 million - has been revealed by the research of the German historian Overmans. Not sure if I've spelt his name right.

It's such an immense number that I have my doubts - I know that our Rich Anderson has challenged it.

If we're to accept the figure, then I would suggest that the figure of just over 2 million for WW1 would also need to be adjusted upwards, to conform to the same method of compilation. The upshot would be, I contend, that the disparity between German military deaths in the two wars would be in the order of two to one.

Set against these terrifying figures, the toll of Haig's generalship begins to seem almost insignificant ; but I defy anyone to countenance the Battle of the Somme - and other episodes of that war - without recoiling from the scale of the slaughter, especially given the confined areas in which it occurred , and the prolonged static nature of the fighting, with attendant conditions.

Even John Terraine, proponent of dismantling the hyperbole surrounding the Great War, conceded that the grisly static nature of that war's battles did lend them a unique horror.

Editing here : reflecting on what I've written above, I'm bound to ask : was it those horrific conditions, rather than the sheer numbers of men who were killed, that imparted to WW1 generalship a uniquely bad reputation in British folklore ? Not forgetting, of course, those eloquent enemies that Jim Cameron alluded to...in Haig's case, the venom of David Lloyd George and the impact of the war poets.


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
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 7:06:50 AM
Phil there is little doubt that the WW1 soldier fought in appalling conditions and often using tactics that were bound to lead to heavy casualties.

I don't blame the generals. The static war meant that the enemy had to be ferreted out of protective lair.

Even successful operations like Vimy Ridge, still had a large number of casualties.

While all arms combat became the norm in the second half of WW1, I think that the more effective artillery and air power of the second war allowed commanders to husband their human assets, the foot soldier.

I can think of a couple of instances north of Falaise where technology like tanks was not available or employed in support of the infantry leading to predictable results in terms of casualties.

So when we assess a general and find him wanting, is it his sheer incompetence or the circumstances in which the man found himself that led to his vilification. We know that some generals are better than others. What makes a great general?

Just a thought here that may not be relevant.

Some of the American battles fought in the Pacific were in horrendous conditions as well. Is there any way to compare the casualty rates in that theatre with what was happening at a place like the Somme? Not total numbers but percentages of soldiers killed or wounded.

For me the Somme stands alone as a place of unfathomable loss.

I am wondering whether battle conditions force the hand of the general in command at times and the great number of casualties that ensue are the cause.

So if a British general was assigned a particularly difficult sector and conditions in which to attack, did he and higher command accept higher casualties and a greater likelihood of failure?

Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 9:25:19 AM
George,

You suggest a comparison between the Pacific Theatre in WW2 and WW1 battles in terms of casualty rates.

The two examples that come to mind are Iwo Jima and Gallipoli.

I don't have stuff to hand, but I'm confident in stating that seventy thousand British and ANZAC troops landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 ; within two weeks more than twenty thousand had become casualties, of whom over six thousand had been killed. This was just the beginning of the campaign : some of the worst casualty rates of all were to occur in the August battles.

I suspect that this exceeded the casualty rate suffered by the USMC at Iwo Jima.

Of course, Gallipoli was small scale compared with the Somme...but in terms of intensity, it was pretty awful.

Editing : I think that the seventy thousand I alluded to might include the French contingent.

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 9:45:22 AM
Iwo Jima was the only Marine battle where the American casualties, 26,000 incl 6,800 dead, exceeded the Japanese --ie although most of the 22,000 defending the island died.
Source Battle of Iwo Jima intro.
The 6,800 American servicemen killed doubled the deaths of the Twin-Towers of 9/11

The battle of Okinawa, also known as Operation Iceberg, took place in April-June 1945. It was the largest amphibious landing in the Pacific theatre of World War II. It also resulted in the largest casualties with over 100,000 Japanese casualties and 50,000 casualties for the Allies.Source-Battle of Okinawa intro


Regards

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

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 10:04:57 AM

Quote:
Iwo Jima was the only Marine battle where the American casualties, 26,000 incl 6,800 dead, exceeded the Japanese --ie although most of the 22,000 defending the island died.

The 6,800 American servicemen killed doubled the deaths of the Twin-Towers of 9/11

The battle of Okinawa, also known as Operation Iceberg, took place in April-June 1945. It was the largest amphibious landing in the Pacific theatre of World War II. It also resulted in the largest casualties with over 100,000 Japanese casualties and 50,000 casualties for the Allies.


Regards

Jim
--anemone


Jim, please cite your sources if you are going to copy and paste.


I was looking for evidence that the conditions of battle are related to an increase in casualties.

Amphibious landings are precarious if the defenders choose to defend.

I was wondering whether the dug in positions of the Japanese were in any way comparable to what the allies faced in WW1. Note, not on scale.

The WW1 defensive installations were more elaborate but did Americans suffer because of the terrain and the dug in nature of the Japanese during WW2.

And, was there any way that a commanding general in the Pacific could avoid the losses any more than a British general could have in WW2?

Apples and oranges perhaps but I am trying to build a case in defence of some of the commanders on the British side during the Great War.


Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 10:19:53 AM
George,

Currie must stand as the exemplar of a WW1 general who correctly predicted the casualty figures for an attack in a sector which entailed great difficulties and terrible conditions. He reckoned on sixteen thousand casualties in taking Passchendaele, and that's the figure - within 3%. - that the Canadian corps suffered.

As to wether he was reconciled to such a figure - or saw it as acceptable - is something to ponder.

It seems that British and Dominion generals in that war were realistic about the likely cost in casualties : there were some notorious failures in this respect - most notably the opening of the Battle of the Somme, when Haig referred to forty thousand in two days, when in fact the real total was close to fifty per cent higher in one day.

British generalship was very successful in the management of the health of their troops. Hygiene was given a high priority. Millions of British soldiers were admitted to hospital suffering from various ailments ; but the number who died was infinitesimally small in relative terms, escpecially when compared with previous wars.

Provision of food, entertainment and recreation was good, I think.

Many of the soldiers had never experienced such plentitude.

This must not obscure the fact that the toll of battle was terrific.

Overall mortality was reduced, because hygiene was immeasurably improved : but the chance of being killed in action was significantly higher than it had been in previous warfare.

If considerations of welfare are reckoned to be important features of generalship, then I would give the British generals of the Great War high marks.

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 10:21:48 AM
Did not the Japanese use caves as defence points on Okinawa ?? Iwo Jima they used covered foxholes- against which the Americans used flame throwers.

NB.I apologise for intervening during a private debate-I won't comment further

Regards

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

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 11:45:12 AM

Quote:
Did not the Japanese use caves as defence points on Okinawa ?? Iwo Jima they used covered foxholes- against which the Americans used flame throwers.

NB.I apologise for intervening during a private debate-I won't comment further

Regards

jim
--anemone


There are no private discussions on an open forum Jim. What did you mean by that comment?

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 12:11:31 PM
When it came to the Pacific War, didn't one of the great commanders advocate letting the enemy wither on the vine ?.

This was not an option available to the commanders who faced the Germans in France and Belgium in WW1.

I've always felt that the predicament of the Franco British generals on the Western Front in the Great War was a particularly nasty one.

They were more or less compelled to evict the enemy from Allied soil. They were not afforded the luxury of doing nothing ; to have sat tight under enemy fire would have exposed their men to terrible loss....we mustn't forget that the Germans occupied the best ground, and were intent on exploiting their advantage.

Any attempt to drive the Germans from that ground was likely to prove expensive, and was bound to be difficult.

The attempt to circumvent this horror by finding another line of approach resulted in Gallipoli : another nightmare, albeit on a smaller scale.

Gallipoli itself resulted in British and Dominion casualty rates even higher than those suffered by the US Marines on Tarawa and Iwo Jima ( this I suppose to be so ; I haven't checked properly ). The Ottoman soldiers at Gallipoli exhibited the same determination to fight to the death as did their Japanese counterparts thirty years later.. Scores of thousands were killed ; very few taken prisoner.

The hazards of amphibious assault ; a determined enemy well dug in on ground suited to defence.....you could draw parallels between this fighting in the Dardanelles and the Pacific warfare a generation later.

The British commanders at Gallipoli have been given a much harsher press than the US commanders who pressed home their attacks on the Japanese.

I suppose the crushing failure of the one stands in contrast with the victorious outcome of the other.

Yet the British generals in France and Flanders gained victory, and commentary has been anything but kind to them.

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
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 4:01:37 PM
I don't know Phil. The events of 1918 weren't happenstance. Somebody was leading the defence during the German spring offensive and somebody was leading the offensive that carried the war to its conclusion.

But you are correct. The generals don't seem to get much credit for the victory.

The terrible losses of 1915-1917 are blamed on the generals.

The victory march, also at a huge cost in 1918 is rarely credited to the men in charge.

Cheers,

George

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 4:52:41 PM

Quote:
I don't know Phil. The events of 1918 weren't happenstance. Somebody was leading the defence during the German spring offensive and somebody was leading the offensive that carried the war to its conclusion.

But you are correct. The generals don't seem to get much credit for the victory.

The terrible losses of 1915-1917 are blamed on the generals.

The victory march, also at a huge cost in 1918 is rarely credited to the men in charge.

Cheers,

George
--George

Hi

The OH Vol. 4 1918 page 516-517, has the casualties between 8th August and 26 September 1918 as:

First Army: Officers - 1,365, ORs - 28,680.
Third Army: 3,472, 74,395.
Fourth Army: 3,805, 78,259.

Tank Corps between 8th August and 27th September: 408, 1,759.

There would have other casualties not included in these figures(applies for figures below as well).

OH Vol. 5, 1918, page 560-562, has the casualties for infantry and cavalry between 27th September and 12th November 1918 as:

First Army: 936, 25,469.
Second Army: 656, 16,872.
Third Army: 1,384, 39,933.
Fourth Army: 915, 23,202.
Fifth Army: 24, 530.

Cavalry Corps: 29, 465.

Tank Corps, between 21 August to 12th November: 404, 2,012.

Machine-Gun Corps, between 21 Aug. and 12th Nov.: 761, 12,904.

Mike

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 5:47:48 PM
Mike,

Thanks for the breakdown.

Interesting that the Cavalry Corps account for about eight per cent of total casualties : so much for the cavalry being redundant.

Clearly they had a major role to play. I note that a tabulation of French deaths in various sector of the army, year by year, reveals that in 1918 the Cavalry accounted for 3.4% of the total deaths ; the implication is that the British used their cavalrymen far more than their allies, and I wonder if this might serve as a form of vindication of the " cavalry minded " British commanders.....the victorious phase of the war seeing them put to effective use.

CWGC commemorates 88,723 deaths in the Army from all causes in France and Belgium in the period 8 August to 11th November 1918.

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
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/29/2017 7:00:55 PM
How many of the occasions that the cavalry were used were in a dismounted infantry role especially from Aug. 8, 1918?

The cavalry charge at Moreuil Wood during Operation Michael, Mar. 30, is sometimes called the last great cavalry charge of the war.

Even there, prior to the charge by Lt. Flowerdew and his squadron, several cavalry squadrons had fought the Germans in the wood but dismounted.

Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/30/2017 2:23:36 AM
George,

This is a question that I would like to answer. I'd need to do some reading first !

I do know that, at one minute to eleven o'clock in the morning, on the eleventh of November , 1918, a cavalry squadron charged the Germans to seize a bridge at a place called Lessines. The charge was led by Bernard Freyberg, New Zealander - although the unit was British.

I like this story : it demonstrates how the war for the British on the Western Front ended - as it had begun - with a cavalry action.

The fact that it was a Dominion soldier who led the charge lends the story a special potency : well, it does for me, anyway.

I'm convinced that the cavalry would have been fighting dismounted most of the time ; the crucial thing being their mobility enabling them to deploy quickly and effectively in the intense and mobile fighting of the Hundred Days.

If memory serves me, the Germans were terrified of the prospect of their retreat being harried by enemy cavalry : this, combined with attacks by aircraft, made them feel fatally vulnerable.

This is an aspect of the Great War that must not be overlooked : when it reached its culminating phase, when the fighting became more " modern", so to speak, the cavalry had a significant role to play.

Edit...just made a wiki search, and seen that total british cavalry casualties through the war were just over twenty thousand, making the figure of 29,000 plus for the Hundred Days in Mike's tabulation look very suspect. It did surprise me, as you can see from my post alluding to it. Did I misread 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
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/30/2017 3:39:46 AM
Mike,

A horrible realisation hits me : I suspect that I've misconstrued your table of Hundred Days casualties.

My frantic attempts to acknowledge this have been thwarted : this site tends to crash about 7.30 am UK time, and I lose posts.

Those Cavalry Corps casualties : I took them to be 29,465 - no wonder I was surprised !

I now realise that they amount to 29 officers and 465 other ranks.

Apologies.

I must recalibrate my entire approach now......

Instead of equating to eight per cent of total British casualties in that period, they now amount to a fraction of one per cent.

Much chastened !

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
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/30/2017 4:21:26 AM
Only one decent British/Dominion cavalry action in this period of the war on the Western Front reaches out from my books : the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, along with the British 6th Cavalry Brigade, 3rd Dragoon Guards and Royal Dragoons leading, charged the Germans in an action on October 9th, 1918, in the vicinity of Le Cateau, around a place called Montigny.

It was a striking success, the Canadians making the most splendid account of themselves.

Five hundred prisoners were taken. The Canadian cavalrymen suffered 168 casualties, with 171 horses disabled ; their British counterparts, 161 and 255 respectively.

This was a solitary success.

The Hundred Days was not the British Cavalry's Finest Hour. That accolade belongs to their performance at First Ypres four years earlier, when, fighting dismounted, they literally saved the day.

OTOH, testimony from a British officer in the desperate days of the German Spring Offensive earlier in 1918 needs to be cited :

It was a crowning mercy that [the Germans ] had no cavalry. How many times during the retreat did we thank heaven for this ! The sight of a few mounted men in the distance would at once start a ripple of anxiety....Cavalry was the one factor which would have smashed the morale of the defence in a twinkling.

This was probably what I was thinking of when I claimed that the Germans dreaded the appearance of cavalry as they were being routed in the last battles.

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
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/30/2017 6:56:52 AM
Hello Phil,

I am reading a PHD thesis entitled, "Smile and Carry On: Canadian Cavalry on the Western Front, 1914-1918".

In this paper, which is as much about British cavalry as Canadian, she reminds us that British cavalry doctrine changed greatly in the years up to the start of the war.

She also suggests that Haig and French were not dimwitted cavalrymen holding on to a method of war fighting that was passé. Some have suggested that they refused to embrace technology.

But she says that as early as 1890, Haig had written that the cavalry would no longer be useful unless it learned to fight in a dismounted role.

That doesn't mean that Haig didn't see a role for the cavalry. But Haig was one of the cavalrymen who supported the addition of the rifle to the arms of the cavalryman.

The views expressed in this thesis are contrary to those of some historians who, writing after the war, described the generals who were cavalrymen as anachronisms who had failed to adjust to modern warfare.

However, it is quite clear that the cavalry would not be the break through arm of the British forces as it had been in past wars.

We know that the cavalry fought dismounted and in the trenches.

But the role of cavalry as a recce arm is sometimes overlooked as is the rather mundane "police" work undertaken by the cavalry in the rear areas or to control troop movements.

So I think that those dramatic charges by men on horse with sabres flashing was less the norm during WW1.

Cavalry Doctrine and Reform. 1900-1914

The author devoted a chapter to doctrinal changes in the British cavalry.

The Boer War indicated to the British that the changes in cavalry armament advocated since the 1880's were necessary. And so cavalry soldiers carried carbines. The use of lances was minimized.

Not to say that there weren't some brilliant traditional cavalry charges during the Boer War.

French and Haig supported the use of MG and artillery fire in support of the cavalry. This was 1892 and both men insisted that the cavalry must practise dismounted cavalry actions.

There was debate over whether the cavalry should use their carbines while riding or whether they should race to a position, dismount and then fire.

The US Civil War had been studied to determine how successful those cavalrymen equipped with sabre, rifle and revolver were in using a "hybrid" model for tactics.

The Boer War indicated that the cavalry was lacking in horsemanship. At least, the critics of French suggested that.

But it was also clear that they lacked reconnaissance skills and that skill became very important in the Great War.


I will provide the link to the thesis below. It is about the Canadian Cavalry but relevant to discussions of all British cavalry.

But it seems clear that the role of cavalry had changed and this role was not forced by the 1st war. The commanders of the cavalry had realized years before that the cavalry would not be the great exploitative force of centuries past. They may have dreamed of that but the nature of warfare had changed.

Germane to this discussion is the contention by the author that French and Haig, portrayed as butchers were able to adjust to the conditions of the new war and in fact had embraced changes in the cavalry well before this conflict.

They loved their cavalry but could see that the role of this arm had to change.

Many historians like Lidell Hart would have a dissenting view.

EDIT: To be fair, the author does include examples of the reluctance of French and Haig to completely reform the cavalry. e.g. the elimination of the lance as a cavalry weapon caused a great deal of angst for both men.


[Read More]


Cheers,

George









MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/30/2017 7:18:28 AM
Hi

Cavalry were not just in the Cavalry Corps of course, the Cavalry Corps casualties do not include cavalry units within the armies. During the '100 Days', there was a shortage of cavalry for all the tasks needed, in part to disbanding cavalry units earlier in the war to be used as infantry. To supply cavalry to the armies Haig had the 2nd Cavalry Division broken up to send a brigade to each of the First, Third and Fourth Armies, despite his desire to keep the Cavalry Corps as strong as possible. These brigades provided 27 squadrons to add to the 12 squadrons still with the Corps cavalry regiments (these were mainly Dominion units as these had not been disbanded to provide infantry as much as the British units). This provided 39 squadrons to be available to the 59 BEF infantry divisions the:

"...duties of these small parties of mounted men, operating often in small troop or patrol-sized units, were unglamorous but constant, keeping advancing infantry in touch with the enemy." (source page 216,'Horsemen in No Man's Land', by David Kenyon.)

The Cavalry were needed and used by the 'infantry' commanders and they felt the shortage, as T Preston stated in the Cavalry Journal in 1934:

"There can, however, be no doubt that the decision to break up one cavalry division was the only wise one under the circumstances. Some people might think that 'army' cavalry was a luxury, but in September 1918 'divisional' cavalry was clearly a necessity. Once the final British advance began, infantry divisional commanders and brigadiers needed mounted men almost every day." (Kenyon, page 216).

So there were a lot of 'cavalry' operations going on during the advance.

Mike

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/30/2017 8:04:57 AM
George,

Thanks so much for these items you put to us. You do us a great service thereby, and I'm hoping to get a good chance to read what you've just sent.

On Sunday Lynn and I celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary - the so called " Ruby". The next day we fly to Puglia in Southern Italy for a week. It should be a lovely place to visit ; but I'm anxious that there should be wi-fi connection in the hotel where we're going to be staying, so that I can read these articles !

Mike,

You've been kind enough to post these tabulations from the Official Histories. Would you please give us the Cavalry Corps casualties for the 1914 fighting in France and Belgium ? I'd like to see what percentage they represent from the total suffered by the BEF that year.

I remember reading that the standards of horsemanship and marksmanship were very high in the BEF at that time. The subsequent performance of the corps at First Ypres fully justified the pride that was upheld. One anecdote stays in my mind : British troopers were appalled at the way their French counterparts treated their mounts. The French cavalry could be detected at a distance on account of the smell of saddle sores ; the poor horses were not being used with decent consideration.

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
Posts: 303
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/30/2017 12:14:43 PM

Quote:
George,

Thanks so much for these items you put to us. You do us a great service thereby, and I'm hoping to get a good chance to read what you've just sent.

On Sunday Lynn and I celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary - the so called " Ruby". The next day we fly to Puglia in Southern Italy for a week. It should be a lovely place to visit ; but I'm anxious that there should be wi-fi connection in the hotel where we're going to be staying, so that I can read these articles !

Mike,

You've been kind enough to post these tabulations from the Official Histories. Would you please give us the Cavalry Corps casualties for the 1914 fighting in France and Belgium ? I'd like to see what percentage they represent from the total suffered by the BEF that year.

I remember reading that the standards of horsemanship and marksmanship were very high in the BEF at that time. The subsequent performance of the corps at First Ypres fully justified the pride that was upheld. One anecdote stays in my mind : British troopers were appalled at the way their French counterparts treated their mounts. The French cavalry could be detected at a distance on account of the smell of saddle sores ; the poor horses were not being used with decent consideration.

Regards , Phil
--Phil andrade

Hi

The OH 1914 Vol.2, page 466, has the casualties listed for between 14 October and 30 November 1914 as:

1st Cavalry Division: Officers - 84, ORs - 719.
2nd Cavalry Division: - 75, - 734.
3rd Cavalry Division: - 109, - 1,896.

The total BEF casualties for this period was worked out in the post war period as a grand total of - 58,155. In 1914 from casualties reported to the Adjutant-General in France they were thought to be: Officers - 2,268, ORs - 51,807.

Mike

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/30/2017 12:26:03 PM
Many thanks, Mike!

That's about one in every sixteen BEF casualties in that period being a cavalryman.

Forgive me for pushing my luck here, but do you have figures for the August and September fighting ?

The same source that I used for French army casualties earlier on indicates that only 1.3% of French dead in 1914 were from the cavalry.

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
Posts: 303
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/31/2017 10:10:20 AM

Quote:
Many thanks, Mike!

That's about one in every sixteen BEF casualties in that period being a cavalryman.

Forgive me for pushing my luck here, but do you have figures for the August and September fighting ?

The same source that I used for French army casualties earlier on indicates that only 1.3% of French dead in 1914 were from the cavalry.

Regards , Phil
--Phil andrade

Hi

Sorry for the delay but the OH Volumes I have are on a DVD-ROM, so not as easy to 'flick through' as a book. Also the early volumes tend to have the casualties in the text (as they were relatively 'smaller' than in later battles). there are two fairly detailed casualty statistics that are useable:
Page 238, British Losses between 23rd to 27 August 1914.
Total for 23rd - 1,638. Cavalry share of these - 6 (Mons).
for 24th - 2,606. Cavalry share - 252 (Mons)
for 25th - 905. Cavalry share - 123 (Le Cateau)
for 26th - 8,482. Cavalry share - 15 (Le Cateau)
for 27th - 1,180. Cavalry share - 14. (Le Cateau)

Page 363, Total British Casualties from 6th to 10th September 1914:
I Corps - 779.
II Corps - 654.
III Corps (4th Div. and 19th Bde) - 133.
Cavalry Division - 135.
Total _ 1,701.

Mike

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
Posts: 669
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/31/2017 11:54:30 AM

Quote:
Many thanks, Mike!

That's about one in every sixteen BEF casualties in that period being a cavalryman.

Forgive me for pushing my luck here, but do you have figures for the August and September fighting ?

The same source that I used for French army casualties earlier on indicates that only 1.3% of French dead in 1914 were from the cavalry.

Regards , Phil
--Phil andrade


Could that reflect a greater tendency for the British cavalry to fight dismounted, essentially, as mounted infantry?
The SMLE would have allowed them to do so more effectively than the French, with their less effective cavalry carbines. The down side being that doing so would have exposed them to higher losses.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/31/2017 12:15:59 PM

Quote:

Quote:
Many thanks, Mike!

That's about one in every sixteen BEF casualties in that period being a cavalryman.

Forgive me for pushing my luck here, but do you have figures for the August and September fighting ?

The same source that I used for French army casualties earlier on indicates that only 1.3% of French dead in 1914 were from the cavalry.

Regards , Phil
--Phil andrade


Could that reflect a greater tendency for the British cavalry to fight dismounted, essentially, as mounted infantry?
The SMLE would have allowed them to do so more effectively than the French, with their less effective cavalry carbines. The down side being that doing so would have exposed them to higher losses.

--Jim Cameron



Yes, undoubtedly : this was the perfect example of cavalry making an excellent account of itself fighting dismounted.

Buford's boys at Gettysburg multiplied tenfold.

This was encounter battle ; both sides seeking to outflank, vital ground and golden moments...any combination of mobility and firepower was bound to be at a premium .

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

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
Posts: 669
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/31/2017 1:45:53 PM
Perhaps also one reason the idea of cavalry as a viable asset persisted. It wasn't simply a quaint romantic notion on Haig's part. Rather, cavalry did have a role to fulfill, using it's mobility and ability to fight effectively dismounted to sieze and hold ground while the less mobile infantry came up. Granted, this didn't happen very often, but the potential was still there.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/31/2017 2:41:23 PM
There were places that the horse could go that the fairly new armoured cars or motor machine gun corps could not.


Quote:
The cavalry was expected to use its superior mobility to perform reconnaissance, delaying actions, and pursue the retreating enemy.

Cavalry also had several important roles to play in rear areas, such as traffic control, escort duties, mounted police work, and any duties that required the mobility of a mounted force.
. (source: PHD thesis provided in a previous post)

So it seems that the cavalry was employed in a variety of roles.

With the Germans in retreat often during the Last 100 Days, I wonder how often was it that cavalry units were used to maintain contact with a fleeing enemy heading for its next defensive stand.


Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 5/31/2017 4:12:36 PM

Quote:

Quote:
Many thanks, Mike!

That's about one in every sixteen BEF casualties in that period being a cavalryman.

Forgive me for pushing my luck here, but do you have figures for the August and September fighting ?

The same source that I used for French army casualties earlier on indicates that only 1.3% of French dead in 1914 were from the cavalry.

Regards , Phil
--Phil andrade

Hi

Sorry for the delay but the OH Volumes I have are on a DVD-ROM, so not as easy to 'flick through' as a book. Also the early volumes tend to have the casualties in the text (as they were relatively 'smaller' than in later battles). there are two fairly detailed casualty statistics that are useable:
Page 238, British Losses between 23rd to 27 August 1914.
Total for 23rd - 1,638. Cavalry share of these - 6 (Mons).
for 24th - 2,606. Cavalry share - 252 (Mons)
for 25th - 905. Cavalry share - 123 (Le Cateau)
for 26th - 8,482. Cavalry share - 15 (Le Cateau)
for 27th - 1,180. Cavalry share - 14. (Le Cateau)

Page 363, Total British Casualties from 6th to 10th September 1914:
I Corps - 779.
II Corps - 654.
III Corps (4th Div. and 19th Bde) - 133.
Cavalry Division - 135.
Total _ 1,701.

Mike
--MikeMeech


Mike,

Thanks for your time and trouble.

Looks like cavalry casualties in these first battles represent about 3.5 % of BEF total : a proportion barely half that sustained in the First Ypres fighting.

Stephen Badsey has written some superb stuff about the part played by British cavalry in the Great War on the Western Front.

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
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/1/2017 3:01:47 AM
First Ypres keeps cropping up all the time : it certainly demonstrates how effectively british cavalry could be, especially fighting as infantry .

It was a series of crises : infantry, artillery and, as we note, cavalry, all fought to the utmost.

This compels me to the conclusion that we ought to assess British Army generalship in that war by the standards of that battle.

Could it be regarded as the army's Finest Hour ?

It must have been one of the sternest tests ever for British soldiers, from top to bottom.

It was the furnace that forged the steel, so to speak.

In the process, it destroyed too much of the professional cadre.

It might well be that further study reveals terrible flaws, and we'll end up with another perception that suggests that too much lipstick is being slapped on .

I hope not.

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/1/2017 5:20:44 AM
Some historians believe it was an error to hold on to the Ypres Salient long after the Germans had captured all of the ground that had any tactical value. Most soldiers do not think in terms of "the policy of holding ground";but these men had hallowed what they had fought for- with the blood of their comrades;and so they hung on and thus died-hardly a regiment had more than an officer and 30 men- when they ultimately left- like 2/HLI. Lest We Forget.

Regards

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

phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/1/2017 6:52:39 AM
The aftermath of First Ypres is one thing ; the terrific fight to contain the Germans there in the autumn of 1914 is another.

The " Finest Hour " allusion I make refers to the First Battle, October- November, 1914.

Most would agree that the retention of so much of that salient was an error that cost so many lives : especially given that some of it was abandoned in April 1918 anyway.

But it's important to remember that Ypres itself was just about the last bit of Belgian territory that had not been conquered ; in that respect I can appreciate the rationale for defending it.

If the First Battle of Ypres is a worthy contender for the title " Finest Hour " of the British Army, then I suppose we must allow that honour to be bestowed on those in command as well as on the men they commanded.

As far as Haig is concerned , this battle was the making of him. It certainly determined his outlook for the remaining four years of war.

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/1/2017 8:06:29 AM

Quote:
As far as Haig is concerned , this battle was the making of him. It certainly determined his outlook for the remaining four years of war.


Phew!! Phil-that is quite a claim-the performance of the British Army in 1915 into 1916 was abysmal-I agree however the Sir John French was Supremo until after Loos; but where did DH shine in this period.All he had learned from 1st Ypres was that whatever you take you hold irregardless of cost and/or tactical value.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/1/2017 8:48:59 AM
Maybe he was the brightest star in a rather lacklustre firmament !

His attack at Neuve Chapelle in March 1915 gained a striking initial success : even the disdainful officers in the French High Command were impressed.

I would argue that he deserves much credit for holding things together at First Ypres.

He was influenced by the German failure to exploit there : he believed that, had the Germans pressed their advantage, the BEF would have suffered catastrophic defeat. He was determined that he would never make the same mistake....in this sense that battle was the making of him.

This, however, persuaded him to persist in his offensives in the mistaken belief that one more push would do it. He was susceptible to being told what he wanted to hear ; if ntelligence gathered from the paybooks of German dead or prisoners revealed that a German regiment from a particular division had been engaged, it was taken to mean that an entire enemy division had been fighting....this accounts for his extravagant claims regarding German losses.

We have to wonder, though, if British generalship is to be judged as lacklustre , how far that of the other armies might also be adjudged.

Viewed in this light, didn't the British commanders contend with the enormous task of improvising a citizen army and engaging in unprecedented warfare rather 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

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/1/2017 9:09:29 AM

Quote:
We have to wonder, though, if British generalship is to be judged as lacklustre , how far that of the other armies might also be adjudged.

Viewed in this light, didn't the British commanders contend with the enormous task of improvising a citizen army and engaging in unprecedented warfare rather well ?


Lacklustre-Not at all Phil-just a lack of experience against a well armed, determined enemy.The frontal assaults were without doubt muedrous-as the french had experienced in 1914; and for us to emulate them for so long- did show a lack of imagination.There was little in the way of outflanking attacks and feints- as shown on the Aisne in 1914. 1915 was mostly battering ram tactics and abject failure IMHO

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/1/2017 9:20:36 AM
Outflanking tactics are fine if there are flanks.

That was what First Ypres was all about : the culmination of both sides trying to outflank the other.

That in itself degenerated into all out frontal assaults, albeit conducted mainly by the Germans.

Those 1915 battles you allude to were, in a sense, attempts to excercise a flanking manoeuvre , by pinching out an enormous German salient...attacking the northern flank in the Artois, the southern in Champagne.

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/1/2017 10:11:16 AM
I assume Phil hat you refer to the disastrous attack on Aubers- that cost 11,000 British casualties- for no material gain- it was a minor supporting operation to a much larger French attack- known as the Second Battle of Artois in May 1915.

As the French attack in Artois continued, the British were called upon to continue offensive operations at Festubert. Minor gains were made; but at another heavy cost in casualties.Phil-let us face it -1915 was a bloody awful year for the British Army.

regards

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

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
Posts: 669
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/1/2017 2:41:57 PM
The problem with giving up Ypres was that good options behind it were scarce. You were on the coast, with a series of valuable ports to worry about. Plus, there was the political and symbolic question of abandoning the unoccupied area of Belgium.

As to flanks, a Western Front salient didn't really have them. It had shoulders, which to be sure we're vulnerable points (the classic means of reducing a salient was to pinch out the shoulders), but the shoulders themselves were tied into and protected by the rest of the line.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/1/2017 3:55:39 PM
You've summed it up pretty well, Mr C.

That huge bulge in the Western Front invited attention at the shoulders....but those shoulders were themselves horrifically strong defensive positions.

Jim A., yes...the Aubers and Festurbert attacks were British supporting attacks in Artois, as was the Loos offensive. A dreadful testimony to British determination to play her part in coalition warfare.

I really need to wriggle a bit with Haig. I can't make up my mind.

In the Somme fighting, he determined to exploit the advantage in the southern sector of his offensive, attacking northwards and eastwards from where he had effected a lodgement. He was really trying to make a kind of flanking attack here ; Joffre was furious, and insisted that Haig press on in the northern sector, attacking frontally where he had been catastrophically repulsed on the opening day.

Sheldon thinks that Joffre was right.

Baffling.

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

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
Posts: 669
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/1/2017 5:03:14 PM
Support success, not failure.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/2/2017 2:21:56 AM
The episode I allude to in the Somme fighting is significant as an indicator of how Haig conducted himself as a coalition commander who was yet accountable to his national government .

I don't have Haig's diary to hand, so I hope I'm getting this right.

Apparently, Joffre , in a state of some agitation, insisted that Haig abandon his proposal to attack from the southern lodgement , and ordered him to persist in attacking along the northern sector at the Thiepval Spur.

Haig - according to his diary - calmly remonstrated that, while he was intending to conform with Entente strategy, he was ultimately responsible to the British government, and would not be taking " orders" from the French. He did this in a firm but most gracious manner, and - in an almost condescending way - describes how Joffre, flushed and inarticulate , conceded the point and agreed to the British general's proposal.

The poor man can hardly read a map ! was Haig's comment on Joffre's comportment in this heated and crucial encounter.

I reckon this is a crucial piece of narrative for different reasons.

It throws light on how Haig perceived his ally, his role as a coalition warrior, and his determination to stand firm as a British commander accountable principally to his national government. He clearly saw himself as Joffre's superior in terms of martial bearing and tactical prowess. How far ought we to trust Haig's account ?

The ensuing fighting brought British gains in the Bazentin sector and helped redress the one sided nature of the repulse suffered along the Thiepval Spur to the north.

Sheldon, however, sees this as Haig letting the Germans off the hook.

Editing : my supposition is that Sheldon sees Joffre as the " big picture " guy, aware of the need to keep Anglo French forces from diverging, thinking about the Russians in their Brusilov endeavour, and the Italians struggling in the Trentino ; while Haig is seeing the hill directly in front of him.

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/2/2017 4:17:00 AM
I have to admit here that the BEF in 1915 were seriously hampered by a lack of artillery and reliable ammunition for same; which was a main reason for the failure at Aubers Ridge and Festubert-two battles that I came down heavily on-due in the main- to the failure of the artillery to break the enemy defences.This came to light as the Shell Scandal as reported below :-

Festubert

Quote:
The British bombardment opens with a total of 433 guns and howitzers firing on a 5000 yard front. The 36 six-inch howitzers would fire on the enemy breastwork parapet, to blow gaps through which the infantry could pour; the 54 4.5-inch would hit the German support lines, as would a portion of the field guns.

The majority of the 210 eighteen-pounder field guns aimed at the German wire, firing shrapnel which was known to be an ineffective weapon for this task – but there was no High Explosive available.

The bombardment was observed in detail: even early on there were reports of a high proportion of dud shells failing to explode – especially the howitzers. Firing day and night, more than 101,000 shells were fired.
The Long Long Trail


Quote:
On 15 May 1915 an article appeared in The Times, written by military correspondent Colonel Repington and based on information given to him by an exasperated Commander-in-Chief, Sir John French. The latter also sent copies of all correspondence between him and the Government on the question of the supply of ammunition to David Lloyd George, Arthur Balfour and Bonar Law, MP’s.

The scandal that broke as the public read that Tommies were losing their lives unnecessarily as a result of the shortages proved to be the downfall of the Liberal Government under Asquith. The formation of a Coalition Government and the appointment of Lloyd George as first Minister of Munitions was an important step towards ultimate victory.
The long,Long Trail

Regards

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

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/2/2017 5:56:47 AM

Quote:
I have to admit here that the BEF in 1915 were seriously hampered by a lack of artillery and reliable ammunition for same; which was a main reason for the failure at Aubers Ridge and Festubert-two battles that I came down heavily on-due in the main- to the failure of the artillery to break the enemy defences.This came to light as the Shell Scandal as reported below :-

Festubert

Quote:
The British bombardment opens with a total of 433 guns and howitzers firing on a 5000 yard front. The 36 six-inch howitzers would fire on the enemy breastwork parapet, to blow gaps through which the infantry could pour; the 54 4.5-inch would hit the German support lines, as would a portion of the field guns.

The majority of the 210 eighteen-pounder field guns aimed at the German wire, firing shrapnel which was known to be an ineffective weapon for this task – but there was no High Explosive available.

The bombardment was observed in detail: even early on there were reports of a high proportion of dud shells failing to explode – especially the howitzers. Firing day and night, more than 101,000 shells were fired.
The Long Long Trail


Quote:
On 15 May 1915 an article appeared in The Times, written by military correspondent Colonel Repington and based on information given to him by an exasperated Commander-in-Chief, Sir John French. The latter also sent copies of all correspondence between him and the Government on the question of the supply of ammunition to David Lloyd George, Arthur Balfour and Bonar Law, MP’s.

The scandal that broke as the public read that Tommies were losing their lives unnecessarily as a result of the shortages proved to be the downfall of the Liberal Government under Asquith. The formation of a Coalition Government and the appointment of Lloyd George as first Minister of Munitions was an important step towards ultimate victory.
The long,Long Trail

Regards

Jim
--anemone

Hi

The quote that "firing shrapnel which was known to be an ineffective weapon for this task" is totally untrue for 1915 as many sources point out.
'British Artillery on the Western Front in the First World War' by Sanders Marble, page 72, points out that in trials of wire-cutting abilities in January 1915: "..., shrapnel performed better than HE in these tests."
'History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery Western Front 1914-18' by General Sir Martin Farndale, page 86, mentions that: "Experiments showed that 18-pounders firing shrapnel were very effective in cutting wire and could do it in thirty-five minutes if the fire was really accurate."
'The Evolution of Victory', by Andy Simpson, page 35, reference Aubers Ridge: "Furthermore, the Germans had learned from Neuve Chapelle. They had appreciated the effectiveness of shrapnel against barbed wire, and so placed much of the latter in trenches, which the 18-pounders, with there flat trajectory, were unable to reach except in the case of a direct hit."
'Battle Tactics of the Western front', by Paddy Griffith, page 139-140 discusses the problem:

"Shrapnel was also found to be the best available means of cutting barbed wire, which was often a sine qua non for infantry attacks. The importance of this factor had already been fully understood during the winter of 1914-15, but the evolution of reliable wire-cutting techniques came only slowly. Tests were made with machine guns, but they were unsatisfactory. More heroic solutions such as Bangalore torpedoes or hand-held wire-cutters could sometimes work, but only for as long as the enemy was prevented from shooting the men using them. Before 1917, moreover, the fuses available on HE shells delayed detonation for too long to cut wire effectively, so the projectile buried itself in the earth and force of its explosion was channelled directly upwards. That left only artillery shrapnel or trench-mortar bombs. Both of these could cut the wire well enough, although progress always still had to be constantly monitored by personal reconnaissance, which might prove dangerous and, perhaps more importantly, time-consuming - thereby sacrificing the element of surprise. Even then it might not be totally successful."

You cannot 'condemn' Generals for using their best available means, at the time, to undertake their mission. Later better means became available, the 106 Fuse and tanks, but they were not available in 1915. When they came available the Generals used them.

Mike

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/2/2017 7:03:19 AM
Many thanks Mike for your most interesting post- pointing out the merits of shrapnel fire against barbed wire.However the website "The Long Long Trail"is usually "fairly reliable" in its views; and this has set me wondering as to whether their statement was "tinged" by the very real dilemma at that time- of "dud shells during an action" and I mean all shells-of course I am only guessing; but I hope you can see where I am coming from.In the long run however I must accept your overwhelming evidence.

I hasten to add that I do not "condemn Generals for using their best available means,at the time; to undertake a mission" but I do condemn them for wasting lives- when all hope of attaining an objective has disappeared.This practice went on for far too long IMHO.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/2/2017 8:30:33 AM
In my mind's eye I see the high explosive shells of 1915 simply lifting the barbed wire up into the air, only to have it crashing down to earth again, intact and randomly as obstructive as ever.

The attack at Aubers was assisted by the detonation of a mine in one sector...it seems that very device available was being used.

The Germans , apparently, were easily available to repulse the attacks that day, although they were badly shaken up by the mine explosion which wiped out the best part of a hundred men.

There was little quarter given ...I've even read one account by a British officer who claimed that the Germans petrol bombed british wounded who were trapped in the wire.

Whenever mines are used, it seems, the ensuing close quarters combat is especially vicious : think of the Petersburg Mine at the end of July 1864.

Soldiers are reduced to a frenzy of rage when their comrades are buried alive or blown high sky by an explosion from beneath.

The use of the word murderous is perhaps over used when it comes to battlefield histories : this time it's all too apt.

It would be instructive to read how this horrible affair impinged on the mind set of the British High Command.

At the same time as this battle took place, the British and Dominion troops, along with a significant French contingent , were struggling in equally horrific fighting at Gallipoli ; and all the while the clamour for more and heavier shells was unremitting from both theatres of operations.

To be a British general in 1915 was to be given a draught from a very poisoned chalice.

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/2/2017 8:56:06 AM
Resolution of the Shell Shortage


Quote:
Following the creation of the Ministry of Munitions under Lloyd George, new munitions factories began to be built across the country for the mass production of munitions.

The construction of these factories took time and in order to ensure that there was no delay in the production of munitions to deal with the Shell Crisis, the Government turned to railway companies to manufacture materials of war.

Railway companies were well placed to manufacture munitions and other war materials, with their large locomotive and carriage works and skilled labourers, and by the end of 1915 the railway companies were producing between 1,000 and 5,000 6-inch. H.E. Shells per week.

As well as the components for a number of different types of shell, the Railway companies - under the direction of the Railway Executive Committee's Railway War Manufactures Sub-Committee - produced mountings for larger artillery, water-tank carts, miners’ trucks, heavy-capacity wagons, machinery for howitzer carriages, armoured trains and ambulances.
Wikipedia

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/2/2017 9:01:03 AM
A few comments of your own, please , my old china ?

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/2/2017 9:18:40 AM
I have been to do just that; but the creation of a new Government function; was not something that I was au fait with-hence the C & P.I was hoping to see whether there was a discernible improvement in quantity and quality of shells supplied. Mike -where are you !!??

PS. Truth to tell-I am almost blind in my left eye- following an eye injection two days ago.However will try harder

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/2/2017 9:57:11 AM
Now you make me feel like a complete shit, Jim. I just get a bit twitchy when I see a wiki paste without you making your own observations ....

There is something of a story to be told about DLG and his work at the Ministry of Munitions ; the fact that he was followed in this role by his protege WSC makes the thing particularly pertinent .

It's especially significant that both these politicians were visceral critics of the British High Command in France and Flanders : Lloyd George the more vituperative, while Churchill tempered his criticisms with a deal of something which - if not sympathy - at least had the attributes of good grace.

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/2/2017 10:42:28 AM
One thing that struck me about the Shell Shortage- was in some way paradoxical.The Generals knew they were fighting an artillery war-so when they got an exorbitant number of shell failures-the length of a bombardment was extended to compensate- thus exacerbating the actual problem.Fortunately they did not realise this; and they complained to the "frocks"-who did manage to get the problem under control.

Regards

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

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/2/2017 1:03:58 PM

Quote:
I have been to do just that; but the creation of a new Government function; was not something that I was au fait with-hence the C & P.I was hoping to see whether there was a discernible improvement in quantity and quality of shells supplied. Mike -where are you !!??

PS. Truth to tell-I am almost blind in my left eye- following an eye injection two days ago.However will try harder

Regards

Jim
--anemone

Hi

'Shell Shortage' is a rather simple term for a rather more complicated problem. The problems are covered in 'The Official History of the Ministry of Munitions, Volume X' in rather a lot of detail. A rather shorter piece on the '1915' problem can be found in the OH 1915 Volume 1, pages 55-58. Basically there was more of a Fuze shortage than a shell shortage. The shell's fuze being rather more complicated to manufacture than the shell, for example page 55 has the statement that: "By the end of May (1915) less than half the contract delivery of No.80 fuze for the 18-pdr. had been made (870,000 instead of 1,770,000), and those for other natures of gun were equally behindhand." This difficulty persisted as in August 1916 there were still "25 million 18-pdr. shell lying in stock awaiting fuzes."(page 56).
Shell production had increased for example, sticking to the 18-pdr., shells July 1914 production was 3,000 rounds per month. January 1915 it was 93,000 per month, April 1915 it was 225,000 per month. However, on the frontline the reality was that in February 1915 CinC BEF limited expenditure of 18-pdr. shell to 10 rounds per gun per day, 4.5-inch Howitzers to 8. In April 1915 it was reduced to 3 rounds for both weapons.
Page 57 has the comment that in May 1915 "What the BEF lacked was heavy guns firing HE shell not HE for field artillery which can accomplish little against material objects. There were at the time in France 1,263 field guns and howitzers but only, as before stated, 105 heavy guns and howitzers."
There were other problems with shells of course due to the large orders that had been contracted to manufacturers at home and abroad, during 1915 there were particular problems in US manufactured shells whose 'thin driving bands' made them even less dependable.
Most of the bulk of the orders that were contracted to those manufacturers were not received until later in 1915. The strain on the munition supply was "increased by the opening of naval and military operations against the Dardanelles." (page 57).
The problems of military and industrial expansion during 1915 are obvious, there was also a problem of organizing labour (page 57), this is one of the main roles for the Ministry of Munitions to try to solve. It is also stated (page 57) that if all the shell contracts had been 'delivered' then at the end of May 1915 there would have been "not 10 but 45 rounds a day for the 18-pdr., and 288 heavy guns and howitzers instead of 105."

Britain was not the only country with 'shell problems' as at this stage of 1915 the French were having some severe problems with their 75s, with a lot of 'premature' explosions when the barrels got hot during rapid fire, with bad consequences for the artillerymen.

Mike

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/2/2017 1:20:01 PM
AS usual Mike-you mine of information-you have done us proud again-I stand astonished at the amount of data you have at your disposal-hence "Mike-where are you!!??".

I take it that new government initiative got this problem sorted out eventually- to the satisfaction of the British Army. Again-My sincere thanks.

Best Regards

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

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/2/2017 3:11:43 PM
The shell scandal also hit Canada where contracts were awarded through patronage.

There was an accusation of a scandal surrounding fuzes.

The Canadian Shell Committee butted heads with the British who had placed the orders of course.

Investigation proved that a small group of favoured business people were making excess profit.

That Shell Committee was replaced by the Imperial Munitions Board which was British but with a Canadian, Joseph Flavelle at its head.

Flavelle was in charge of all war related production including shells.

The IMB eventually expanded shell production to include casings, fuzes and propellants and all made in Canada.

By 1917, 1/3 of British shells were manufactured in Canada.

Cheers,

George


George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/2/2017 3:11:57 PM
d

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/2/2017 5:01:01 PM

Quote:
The shell scandal also hit Canada where contracts were awarded through patronage.

There was an accusation of a scandal surrounding fuzes.

The Canadian Shell Committee butted heads with the British who had placed the orders of course.

Investigation proved that a small group of favoured business people were making excess profit.

That Shell Committee was replaced by the Imperial Munitions Board which was British but with a Canadian, Joseph Flavelle at its head.

Flavelle was in charge of all war related production including shells.

The IMB eventually expanded shell production to include casings, fuzes and propellants and all made in Canada.

By 1917, 1/3 of British shells were manufactured in Canada.

Cheers,

George


--George

Hi

According to OH of MoM, Volume X, Part V, page 72, the total number of filled and completed rounds of ammunition completed in a little over 4 years was more than 196,000,000 from factories at home and another 21,000,000 from Canada and the United States.
The figures for production during 1917 for all types of complete shells (pages 78-79) were:
1st Quarter: Home - 21,028,300, Abroad - 1,565,500.
2nd: - 20,812,600, - 3,110,900.
3rd: - 18,335,700, - 4,788,800.
4th: - 16,072,100, - 1,962,800.

Mike

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
Posts: 669
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/2/2017 6:44:26 PM
In the case of the U.S., as I understand it is was found to be more efficient to ship raw materials or components, and allow the Allies to complete final production. Especially once their factories were fully ramped up and had achieved satisfactory quality control.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5271
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/2/2017 8:26:41 PM
Mike's numbers on munitions don't match those from the Canadian Dept. of External Affairs or the information published by the Canadian war museum.

The War Museum says that 1/3 of all shells were coming from Canada by the end of the war.

The Information Branch of the Dept. of External Affairs in a 1921 publication confirmed that 65 plus million shells were produced in Canada.

The document was called, "Canada's Part in the Great War".

Canada's contribution to the Imperial War effort did not consist only of shells.

The tonnage shipped on Canadian ships and others was massive and included munitions and foodstuffs.

Many items were donated to Britain including millions of tons of wheat and fresh fruit.

As well Canada produced blankets for the French and Italians and other articles of clothing.

I tried to copy and paste the relevant sections but it would not work so here is the whole document.

Scroll down to page 22 to see the quantity of shells, fuzes, and chemicals of all kinds that were produced here.

[Read More]

Lastly, from the Imperial War Cabinet report on production in 1917:


Quote:

Canada's contribution for the last year (1917) has been striking. 15 per cent of the total expenditure of the Ministry of Munitions in the last 6 months of the year was incurred in that country.
She has manufactured nearly every type of shell including the 18 pounder to the 9.2 inch.
In the case of the 18 pounder, no less than 55% of shrapnel shells in the last 6 months came from Canada, and most of these were complete shells that went directly to France.
Canada also contributed 42% of the total 4.5 inch shells, 27% of the 6 inch shells, 20% of the 60 pounder H.E. shells, 15% of the 8 inch, and 16% of the 9.2 inch.


The article is worth a read. The production levels for a country of fewer than 8 million people were astounding especially when we consider the pre-war production levels.

Cheers,

George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/3/2017 8:26:22 AM
The Haig/French Relationship

IIRC-The immediate aftermath of the Battle of Loos revealed a rather questionable side to Haig’s character. Haig- it would seem- conspired towards the removal of General French,in order for him- to get his position.

Although there is evidence to suggest Haig was active ‘behind the scenes’as it were, He was not alone in his criticism of French. The criticism of French was not exclusively the result of the fiasco at Loos.

French had shown signs of temperamental instability; and that he was increasingly out of his depth in the conduct of a war- that was never within his scope of comprehension.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/3/2017 9:37:23 AM
If memory serves me, Haig had mentioned French's unsuitability for high command right back at the start of the war ; this suggests that there had been an authentic and consistent theme in Haig's conduct, rather than a conspiratorial development that took place after Loos.

Haig did, of course, have " the ear of the King", in so far as his wife was Lady in Waiting to Queen Mary.

French subsequently took against Haig : he stated his view that the Flanders strategy espoused by DH in the summer of 1917 was not the best way forward.

This might indicate that French bore a grudge.

He was a temperamental man, with a penchant for slow horses and fast women : it's widely known that Haig came to his rescue financially.

I would hazard a suggestion here, based on general impression rather than depth of knowledge : for all the shenanigans among the British High Command, and the attendant political tensions, those among the Germans were more pernicious.

There was a robustness and flexibility in British society that carried it through without the trauma that affected continental powers. This probably seems a complacent judgement, and I would hate to understate the difficulties and real sense of peril that British leaders - both civilian and military - had to contend with.

Did Haig presume too much on this quality in his quest for victory ; or did he achieve that success because he was correct in his discernment of the timbre of this British characteristic ?

He often expressed a profound confidence in the innate superiority of Britain and the Empire, which, along with his religious conviction, kept his resolve intact.

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
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/3/2017 10:20:32 AM
Agreed Phil- but surely the result at Loos was the final "catalyst"for Haig to make his last surreptitious moves- to unseat French and seize the reins.???

Regards

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

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/3/2017 10:37:00 AM

Quote:
If memory serves me, Haig had mentioned French's unsuitability for high command right back at the start of the war ; this suggests that there had been an authentic and consistent theme in Haig's conduct, rather than a conspiratorial development that took place after Loos.

Haig did, of course, have " the ear of the King", in so far as his wife was Lady in Waiting to Queen Mary.

French subsequently took against Haig : he stated his view that the Flanders strategy espoused by DH in the summer of 1917 was not the best way forward.

This might indicate that French bore a grudge.

He was a temperamental man, with a penchant for slow horses and fast women : it's widely known that Haig came to his rescue financially.

I would hazard a suggestion here, based on general impression rather than depth of knowledge : for all the shenanigans among the British High Command, and the attendant political tensions, those among the Germans were more pernicious.

There was a robustness and flexibility in British society that carried it through without the trauma that affected continental powers. This probably seems a complacent judgement, and I would hate to understate the difficulties and real sense of peril that British leaders - both civilian and military - had to contend with.

Did Haig presume too much on this quality in his quest for victory ; or did he achieve that success because he was correct in his discernment of the timbre of this British characteristic ?

He often expressed a profound confidence in the innate superiority of Britain and the Empire, which, along with his religious conviction, kept his resolve intact.

Regards , Phil
--Phil andrade

Hi

Haig was not the only person who had the 'the ear of the King' and not just through his wife. The King had asked Haig for his views on French and was in regular correspondence, the King had also asked Smith-Dorrien to keep him informed about II Corps. French was already in correspondence as were other senior officers throughout the war. King George V was very well informed of what was going on it was not down to having a wife as a 'Lady in Waiting' the system was much more direct. (see page 192 of 'Haig's Generals' ed. Beckett & Corvi, for instance).

Mike

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/3/2017 10:57:16 AM
Let us "cut to the chase" here-who did cause French's fall from grace-The King,the Prime Minster,the CIGS; or the man himself-I believe he "fell on his sword" finally.

So I guess it was not the Who but What; and that was his inept handling of the Battle of Loos, along with his "consent "to fight this battle on such "unfavourable ground".

Regards

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

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
Posts: 669
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/3/2017 11:53:31 AM
Lots of talk about Haig. What role did Kitchener play in French's removal?


---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/3/2017 12:56:18 PM
It was Kitchener and not French who sanctioned the Battle of Loos-he aspiring to be Western Front Supremo- thus undermining French who was against Loos; but forced to agree-thus he was "framed"A pretty dirty piece of work IMO.However his popularity was on the wane and this did not help.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2474
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/3/2017 3:24:26 PM
Kitchener was also an advocate of the Dardanelles campaign.

Incidentally, we'll be in Puglia, southern Italy , on Monday for a week : the reason I'm saying this is because one of the local townships down there is called Gallipoli .

Now what is the provenance of that name ?

We shall probably be visiting the place, along with Lecce, Otranto and Bari, but rest assured that I'll be thinking about MHO, and reflecting on the Gallipoli campaign .

A much touted film about Churchill is about to hit the screens next week ; it deals with his anguish over the launching of Operation Overlord, and much of his distress emanates from memories of his espousal of the Dardanelles foray a generation earlier.

Haig described the Dardanelles campaign as a " sink"....posh army parlance for a latrine ?

How might he have viewed it if he had been selected to command there ?

Editing the morning after : the reason for my last question.....Haig was bound to obey the orders of the British government. I wonder how far he regarded his theatre of operations as a fiefdom which needed to be protected from the demands of other British commanders in other fronts. It was a stark thing to contemplate, when the moment the shell scandal was developing at home, as a result of the dismal Artois offensives in the early summer of 1915, the British commander at Gallipoli was also crying out for more shells.....not loud enough, according to some. Hamilton was too much of a " gentleman " to press the point with sufficient vigour, apparently. The competing demands of the different theatres must have engendered a this front first ! clamour.

Did Haig's disdain for the Dardanelles emanate from a genuine conviction that the only way to win was to try conclusions with the main enemy on the main front ; or was he motivated by a narrower fixation on what he was trying to do in France and 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

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5934
Re: British Army Generalship in the Great War of 1914/18
Posted on: 6/4/2017 5:05:56 AM
Maj.Gen.Horne was given command of the 2nd Division. In May 1915, Horne's division participated in the first British night attack of the war, distinguishing itself at the Battle of Festubert; the attack however faltered, partly because the artillery ran out of ammunition. This started the so called Shell Scandal

The media launched vicious attacks on the Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener;however the blame was eventually laid on General French who had leaked the information to the press-he was forced to resign after the lamentable Battle f Loos.

Horne went on to become GOC British 1st Army- which he commanded with distinction to the war's end.

Regards

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