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 (1914-1918) WWI Battles
AuthorMessage
anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/4/2017 2:50:53 PM
One hundred years on, Passchendaele is a black-edged byword for absolute futility. Passchendaele had mud and the intransigent incomprehension of remote “chateau generals”.

When Sir Launcelot Kiggell, a staff officer at British GHQ, visited the Passchendaele battlefield he is reported as weeping, “Good God, did we really send men to fight in that?”

By the time the British Commanderin-Chief, Douglas Haig, finally called off the Passchendaele offensive on November 10, 1917, upwards of 500,000 men had been killed or wounded, 244,897 of them British and Imperial troops.

A visit to the Menin Gate Memorial To The Missing in Ypres makes this heartbreakingly plain, thousands upon thousands of the dead simply disappeared for ever into the thick filth- that was Flanders mud.I think that c 45000 bodies were never found.

WHY a 3rd Battle of Ypres-one wonders today? What did this disgusting loss of life achieve?

Regards

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

Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
Posts: 2770
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/4/2017 4:01:55 PM
Jim,

That Commander could & should be referred as "The Butcher of Passchendaele"!

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

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5301
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/4/2017 4:11:11 PM
Welcome back Jim.

You may not have noticed but Phil also started a thread on Passchendaele.

Do you wish to continue here or join the other thread?

Cheers,

George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 2:39:05 AM
Hi George-I did look for a thread by Phil; but obviously missed it-how I do not know.My interest here is-1) the real objective of this monstrous affair and 2) Haig's apparent fixation with Ypres and 3) the absolute waste of it all.There can be no doubt that if Passchendaele did anything -it brought about a veritable "sea change" in the way the war was fought in 1918-mainly down to Dominion soldiers and the way they fought their actions.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 7:08:17 AM
Passchendaele . ...What's in a name ?

Well, this one conjures up everything that is notorious in the British experience of WW1.

You ask three questions about this battle, Jim.

I'll do my best to answer according to my lights.

Haig fixated on this region of Flanders for several reasons.

This was the place where he had made an excellent account of himself as commander of 1st Corps in that desperate First Battle of Ypres. Incidentally, anyone who insists that Haig was a chateau bound general who was remote from the frontline would do well to reflect on this battle and Haig's conduct in it .

His HQ was indeed in a chateau at Hooge, and it was hit by enemy shells, killing his fellow staff officers.

Haig knew this ground, and had compelling reasons to choose it for his field of endeavour.

It was close to the Channel Ports and was logistically feasible. It was the last piece of Belgium that had not been conquered by the Germans and that alone was a potent reason to push the enemy back. More than that, the German submarines had exacted such a toll of the British mercantile marine that the capture of the U Boat ports on the Belgian coast was a legitimate and even necessary aspiration, especially if this could be combined with an amphibious landing.

Haig realised that the Germans had a logistical vulnerability in Flanders with a railway bottleneck around Roulers.

Apart from these considerations, there were, I think, other things that motivated Haig in terms
of time and place.

We understand how Dominion commanders - Currie especially - had sought a measure of independence in the use of their forces ; the Canadians, above all, had demonstrated the efficacy of this at Vimy.

I think that Haig, likewise, wanted to demonstrate what the British Empire could achieve fighting more independently in ground of its own choosing .

The Somme and Arras had been battles that Haig consented to on account of his subservience to coalition strategy under French control.

Now, with the French wobbly and the Russians about to pack it in, he could show what his splendid British and Dominion troops could do.

More to come.

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: 5301
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 7:08:31 AM
Haig apparently felt that German morale was in such a sorry state that one more push and one more after that, would put them on the run.

Did he have sound intelligence to lead him to think that the Germans were emotionally fragile?

Were there other factors going on in Germany that perhaps influenced his thought processes?


Haig knew the terrain and how low it was. The torrential rains had turned the whole extended battlefield into a mire. One must question the decision to send men into those conditions and to expect them to prevail.

Cheers,

George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 7:37:43 AM

Quote:
Haig apparently felt that German morale was in such a sorry state that one more push and one more after that, would put them on the run.

Did he have sound intelligence to lead him to think that the Germans were emotionally fragile?

Were there other factors going on in Germany that perhaps influenced his thought processes?


Haig knew the terrain and how low it was. The torrential rains had turned the whole extended battlefield into a mire. One must question the decision to send men into those conditions and to expect them to prevail.

Cheers,

George


Thanks George for your forthright questions.My answers are as follows:-
A latter day historian said the the losses sustained by the Germans (260,000)were were more serious to the German war effort than the Allies losses(240,000)were to the Allied war effort- that I have to say left me gaping in amazement.But to answer your question- I do not think that Haig had a crystal ball which told him that "one more push
would topple them" I seriously think that HE believed that
because his staff had told him so -knowing that he believed them implicitly

As to matters in Germany at that time-it has to be a possibility; but I have not seen sound evidence to back that possibility.

As to timing and weather-well summer was nearing it's end and I assume autumn into winter was odds on to bring bad weather in the shape of rain falling on churned up ground-which produced a Slough of Despond into which 45,000 Allied soldiers disappeared.

Regards

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

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 8:04:43 AM
Phil

Jim Beach’s
Quote:
Haig’s Intelligence seeks to tackle one of the most enduring debates in the British historiography of the First World War: the question of Douglas Haig’s competence as commander of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on the Western Front. Beach scrutinizes this controversial military figure through the lens of the BEF’s intelligence gathering and analysis system, offering an avenue to assess how Haig formed his opinions of the German Army and its shifting battlefield capabilities. The intelligence machinery of General Headquarters (GHQ) at Montreuil -sur-Mer has been the subject of great debate, with criticisms raised as early as 1917 that it produced a "skewed interpretation of the military reality on the Western Front", which in turn led to poor decision-making from Haig. Lloyd George—no friend of Haig or his attritional method of conducting the war—argued...


I agree that the original intention was to beat passchendaele Ridge-drive into the Plain of Douai and thence advance towards Nieuport and occupy this Uboat base-so what happenened to this plan AFTER the Ridge was taken by the Canadians???? Answer-Nothing !!!!Why ???

Further -I must say that 3rd Ypres was a most unfortunate choice of battlefield to show off the mettle of British troops.This offensive went so badly that DLG stopped sending the BEF battle replacements.


Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 8:19:03 AM
Haig had an authentic reason for his view that one more push would do it : his own experience in that very area in the autumn of 1914. In that really touch and go battle - First Ypres - he had been astonished that the enemy had failed to clean up what was left of the BEF. He was determined not to repeat that mistake: he was mislead by his Intelligence chief, John Charteris, into believing that the Germans were on their last legs. He was being told what he wanted to hear....a pernicious feature of hierarchy and establishment. This does beg the question as to whether Haig had indeed become remote .....had this rendered him susceptible to such a syndrome ?

Incidentally, Jim, the story of Launcelot Kigell breaking down in tears and saying those things is bollocks....it makes good folklore, but it's not true.

Casualties at Third Ypres : British and Dominion, roughly one quarter of a million, of whom thirty per cent lost their lives.

The Germans lost somewhere between two thirds and three quarters of that number.

As Great War battles go, this was nowhere near as bad as some, although the conditions were as horrible as any.

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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 8:56:40 AM
So kiggell's outburst is bollocks; but he must have SAID something akin to what has been stated.


Quote:
As Great War battles go, this was nowhere near as bad as some, although the conditions were as horrible as any.


I take it we talking Western Front-because that is the only comparison; but if you are talking Eastern Front battles-they are out of context.

Losses at 3rd YpresPhil

"For 3rd Ypres, the British official tabulation is 36,000 killed, 30,000 missing and 172,000 wounded, a total of 238,000. Again, we have evidence from the CWGC that 77,000 British dead are buried or commemorated in the Salient from the fighting between July 31st and November 12th 1917, and more still died in the base hospitals away from Ypres.

The Germans tabulated their losses at 32,000 killed, 35,000 missing and about 150,000 wounded, but that was for a longer time span from June to November, and included losses at Messines.

Taking a stab at it, I would reckon that the actual Passchendaele casualties from July 31 to November 12 reached 250,000 for the British and 175,000 for the Germans, of whom 75000 and 50000 were killed (or died of wounds respectively). A better proportion for the British than the Somme."Phil-Although I accept your figures-I think the CWGC figures are correct but the German tabulation makes no mention of the missing or those returned to duty.

Regards

Jim

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

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 9:11:59 AM

Quote:
/In 1997, Griffith wrote that the bite and hold system kept moving until November, because the BEF had developed a workable system of offensive tactics, against which the Germans ultimately had no answer.


Was this manoeuvre general to all Allied forces or just to the Canadians ????

Note for phil re 1st Ypres 1914

British troops entered Ypres in October 1914. They were unaware of the size of the German force advancing on the town. However, numbers did not make up for experience as the Germans used what were effectively students to attack professional British soldiers based north of the town at a place named Langemark. Eyewitnesses claim to have seen the German troops, with just 6 weeks training, with arms linked singing patriotic songs as they advanced towards the British. 1,500 Germans were killed and 600 taken prisoner.


Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 9:44:50 AM
Jim,

There is a folklore industry devoted to the Great War that does its best to depict the High Command as out of touch and callous - not to mention incompetent -as possible.

An example is the story that a German officer described the British soldiers as Lions led by Donkeys . A fabrication by Alan Clark, who admitted inventing the thing himself. It makes good reading and inspired indignation, but it's not true.

Look no further than Joan Littlewod's Oh ! What a Lovely War ! There are other TV adaptations of the last two generations, and you'll see what I mean.

Nothing lends itself better to this folklore than Passchendaele. Suggest that you excercise maximum circumspection and discernment before accepting some of the stories.

The staff officer who broke down in tears at Passchendaele ? Yes, I daresay this is true....but if so, it wasn't Kigell ; and, if true, what does that tell you about the officer ?

The German figures you cite from one of my earlier posts are from their Medical History, the sanitsatsbericht . Another official German tabulation puts them at just over 200,000.....there is a degree of harmony between them. The big lie came from the British Official Historian, who advocated virtually doubling these totals, and suggesting that the Germans lost 400,000 men. How any one believes that, I'll never know.

The British figures are more amenable to being checked and cross checked, because we have the CWGC.

The Somme was much more expensive than Passchendaele for the British.

Arras, fought in April and May 1917, brought a much higher daily casualty rate.

This is not to downplay the cost of Passchendaele ; the horrific conditions and the dashing of hopes brought the British army to a low point, and a quarter of a million casualties, coming on top of the Somme and Arras, was a dismal signature to the year.

Haig tried to do too much, and failed to differentiate between reach and grasp. He believed what he wanted to hear. He was no more of a butcher than many other commanders of this or other wars, and, to do him justice, he did a lot more to help his veterans than most commanders have ever done after any war.

A good anecdote - and a true one this time - records the reaction of General Petain to Haig's proposed Flanders offensive - and I paraphrase here :

Boche is bad, and mud is bad, but bosche and mud together ? Oh, Dear !

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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 10:30:50 AM
Phil-one thing that I am not-is gullible.I do know that figures can tell different stories when slanted a particular way.I accept that the Butcher's Bill for the Somme was greater than 3rd Ypres; but it was just another disaster.-this time uncut wire ;barrage closing down as whistles blew all along the line (we are coming to attack you FFS) and the PBI had to walk-Yes Walk across no man's land in broad daylight loaded down with equipment-it is no wonder there were so many killed that day in 1916.Muddle personified.Again Haig did not know when to stop-reeks of incompetence.But gaining Passchendaele Ridge and then quitting beggars belief-the Germans took the whole bloody lot a short while later-it is little wonder that the top brass were seen as idiots and hence we have the sobriquet Lions led by Donkeys-QED!!!

Regards

Jim

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

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5301
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 11:36:18 AM

Quote:


Quote:
/In 1997, Griffith wrote that the bite and hold system kept moving until November, because the BEF had developed a workable system of offensive tactics, against which the Germans ultimately had no answer.


Was this manoeuvre general to all Allied forces or just to the Canadians ????


The Canadians under Currie had learned that bite and hold to secure short range objectives worked and saved lives. The trick was to stay and beat off the German counter attacks and to prepare for the next bite.

But these tactics had been discussed and taught to all British forces.

If I have my British Generals correct in my mind, it seems to me that Haig moved Gough's army to the north and Plumer's army took over the attack on Sept. 20 precisely because Plumer had embraced this strategy.

Gough was a proponent of the big push. He knew that artillery was important but he also like to bite off more than he could chew. He sometimes did not allow his troops sufficient time to consolidate before he ordered another push.

Plumer seemed to understand the value of limited objectives, consolidation and bringing the artillery up to bear on the next objective.


I did read an article somewhere that suggested that despite the differences in the two generals, the the stage of the battle in which Gough was the top dog, on July 31, the casualties were fewer than after Plumer took over.

Arthur Currie of the Canadian Corps seemed to have a good understanding of the need for clear and limited objectives right down to the platoon level. He insisted on overwhelming artillery support and managed to get Haig to agree to beefing up artillery when the Canadians were going in.

So the Canadians happened to be very good at a strategy that all British forces had embraced.


Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 11:50:41 AM
George,

You cite an article that suggests that the casualties sustained on 31 July were no worse than those suffered in the bite and hold phase between 20 September and earl October.

This is correct, as far as I can make out.

The British delivered a severe blow on the 31 July, taking several thousand prisoners at a cost of some sixteen thousand casualties that day...a bad enough loss, but hardly excessive by the standards of that war.

Jim,

You cited the story of Launcelot Kiggel breaking down in tears as if it were Gospel.

You'll forgive me, I hope, for challenging this account.

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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 12:58:59 PM

Quote:
When Sir Launcelot Kiggell, a staff officer at British GHQ, visited the Passchendaele battlefield he is reported as weeping, “Good God, did we really send men to fight in that?”


i would not think the above was Gospel- Phil

Siegfried Sassoon, whose poetry famously depicted the horrors of trench warfare, mentioned the battle in his poem Memorial Tablet. Penned a month before the war's end in October 1918 and first published in his 1919 collection Picture-Show, the poem is narrated by a dead soldier.

Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby’s Scheme). I died in hell -
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare;
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;
‘In proud and glorious memory’...that’s my due.
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.
Once I came home on leave: and then went west...
What greater glory could a man desire?


Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 2:17:20 PM
Jim,

Sassoon didn't believe in polishing turds, did he ?

Take a look at another poem of his, On Passing the New Menin Gate.... the unheroic dead who fed the guns .

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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 2:36:49 PM
Crudely renewed, the Salient holds its own.
Paid are its dim defenders by this pomp;
Paid, with a pile of peace-complacent stone,
The armies who endured that sullen swamp.

Here was the world's worst wound. And here with pride
'Their name liveth for ever', the Gateway claims.
Was ever an immolation so belied
as these intolerably nameless names?
Well might the Dead who struggled in the slime
Rise and deride this sepulchre of crime.


Siegfried Sassoon

Crikey-you are not kidding Phil-his words have cruel sneer in them.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/5/2017 3:44:49 PM
That's the problem about Passchendaele....it's the theme of the bitterest verse and the most damning polemic.

To challenge the depictions is to run the risk of being accused of complacency, or worse.

In the summer of 1917, Haig's army was the only one in the field which was in a condition to carry the fight to the enemy in the main theatre.

As such, it was incumbent upon it to do something. As to what that "something " was, I invite comment

We must not allow ourselves to imagine that the Germans were content to remain passive.

The situation was perilous.

In such circumstances, is it better to be bold, assertive and determined to seize initiative; or is it preferable to husband strength by dint of less ambitious undertaking and bide time ?

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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/6/2017 3:48:29 AM
From 9th April to 16th May 1917, troops from the four corners of the British Empire attacked trenches held by the army of Imperial Germany to the east of the French city of Arras.

The ground and date chosen for the battle was dictated by a desire to cooperate with the French, whose forthcoming offensive, planned by their General Nivelle, was to fall on the German positions topping the Chemin-des-Dames ridge, an area of high ground north west of Rheims.

Closer cooperation with the French was ruled out, as the devastation of the Somme battles in July to November 1916 had so destroyed the infrastructure behind the lines that another offensive physically linked to the right flank of the French armies was judged unlikely to succeed.

However, an attack in the Arras region was not the choice of the British Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal Haig, who wanted the main effort of his armies to be directed north, around the Ypres salient. He hoped to clear the Belgian coastline, increasingly important to the Germans’ submarine offensive, and capture the strategically important railhead of Roulers, whose loss to the Germans would seriously hamper their war effort on this sector of the Western Front.

Haig’s plan was overruled by Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister, who also made attempts to have Haig put under the direct control of Nivelle. Thankfully this did not happen because of what happened to the nivelle Offensive but British and Canadian armies did participate in the Arras offensive culminating in the canadian victory at Vimy Ridge but marred by Gough's Bullecourt or Blood Tub. Haig was now quite determined to fight the 3ed Battle of Ypres.

The Battle of Pilckem Ridge, 31 July – 2 August 1917, was the opening attack of the Third Battle of Ypres in the First World War. The British Fifth Army, Second Army and the French First Army on the northern flank, attacked the German 4th Army which defended the Western Front from Lille, to the Ypres Salient.This attack gained 2.4km for a loss of c32,000 casualties from 2000 Battalions-yes 2000. deployed.Could this compare favourably with the casualties incurred in the opening days of the Battle of the Somme???I think so. Gough's 5th army took the biggest knock.


Regards

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

phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/6/2017 11:39:04 AM
Two thousand battalions ?

That looks a bit unlikely.

You've posted a big chunk of narrative here, Jim, which you've graced with a few words of your own.

What source did you use ?

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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/6/2017 12:29:23 PM
It is a "bitsa" I fear-- part Centenary data,Wiki info.,Steel and Hart's "Passchendaele p 137 for figures (incl btns) and of course me-not so little. What's to dislike -thought it would give us something to talk about-particularly the figures- which are your forte.Thought you'd gone AWOL !!

PS-My Eyes are dim-------------

Regards

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

phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/6/2017 1:03:29 PM
Your eyes might be dim, but your wits are razor sharp, Jim ! How's that for poetry ?

When the British attacked on the Somme, on July 1st 1916, they deployed 143 battalions of infantry in the attack.

So we might dismiss talk of two thousand battalions on 31st July 1917 as a classic tenfold typo, to say the least.

Either that, or someone's trying to pull your wotsit.

I think that Fifth Army used about 100,000 infantry in the attack, in nine divisions. Including Second Army and French contingents, the divisions used amounted to thirteen along the entire frontage attacked. I don't know how many battalions that equated to, but I doubt that it exceeded 150.

The big difference was the huge artillery deployment : more than three thousand guns fired 4.3 million shells over fifteen days - and that was on the British sector only .... the French to the north enjoyed a lavish weight of artillery support, too.

No wonder the Germans lost so many men in the ten days up to and including 31 July.

The Somme bombardment by the British had been feeble in comparison.

This is reflected in the difference between 57,470 British casualties on the First Day of the Somme, against an estimated 8,000 German ; and 16,000 on 31st July 1917 against an equal number of German.

Artillery dominated, as those unheroic dead who fed the guns attest.

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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/6/2017 1:59:22 PM

Quote:
So we might dismiss talk of two thousand battalions on 31st July 1917 as a classic tenfold typo, to say the least.


There were three armies deployed-2 British and 1 French-say 650 Btns /army.Mmmmm !!-yes it looks to be a misprint-but that is shewn in Steel and Hart's book. NO by jove it isn't- 2000 relates to french casualties
Told you my eyes were dim-and I misread the text-ie. pulled my own wotsit.


Quote:
I think that Fifth Army used about 100,000 infantry in the attack, in nine divisions. Including Second Army and French contingents, the divisions used amounted to thirteen along the entire frontage attacked. I don't know how many battalions that equated to, but I doubt that it exceeded 150.


9 Divs,each with 3 or 4 brigades-each with 12 Btns. So 9 X say 36 + 234 Btns-bloody hell!!! You do the maths.
.
Regards

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

phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/6/2017 3:35:01 PM
Let me hazard a guess....one hundred and fifty thousand infantrymen were deployed for the battle of 31 July : I reckon that's got to be reasonably near the mark...and that would include the French.

I would be surprised if it was any more. It wouldn't surprise me if it was a bit less.

There would have been many thousands of gunners, too...and we musn't forget LOC contingents .

I should think that the proportion of casualties among those British gunners was a good deal higher than normal : the Germans deluged the salient with gas and shell, and were able to knock out a lot of men and horses.

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: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/6/2017 6:33:35 PM
The opening phase of this battle shows a pattern that is readily apparent in quite a few offensives on the Western Front in that war.

The attackers, backed up by an immense artillery preparation, make a lodgement in the enemy's lines, and succeed in killing and capturing many of the defenders ; sometimes even managing to inflict significantly heavier losses than they themselves sustain.

But, in the ensuing days, the defenders submit the attackers to deadly converging fire....they know the ground they have relinquished to the very inch, and their guns wreak havoc on attackers who are exhausted and sometimes bled excessively. Then the counter attacks come against the demoralised attackers who are trapped in a virtual salient ...

It looks as if the Germans might well have suffered heavier casualties than the British on 31st July 1917 : but the same sources indicate that in the following two or three days three British soldiers were knocked out for every German, with enfilade artillery fire from the German guns on the Gheluveld plateau taking a heavy toll.

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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 2:28:25 AM
Unseasonable Weather

During the last four/five days of the Pilkem Ridge attack, both sides made local forays to improve their positions, but much hampered by the wet weather.

The rains had a serious effect on operations in August, causing more problems for the British and French, who were advancing into the area devastated by artillery fire and partly flooded by the unseasonable rain.

A local British attack on the Gheluvelt Plateau was postponed because of the weather until 10 August and the second big general attack due on 4 August, could not begin until 16 August.

XVIII and XIX Corps both reached the Black line; but the Germans had caught them in a natural salient, as you said, and counterattacked,also caught them in enfilade and drove them back with considerable losses to to both Corps

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 4:31:36 AM
CWGC data indicate that, of the 32,000 British casualties in the first three days, eight thousand - one quarter - were killed or died from wounds.

This seems a grim cost, but compares very favourably with the opening of the Somme, when the first day cost more than 57,000 British casualties , one third of them fatal.

Clearly a higher proportion of the British soldiers who were hit in the Pilkelm Ridge battle were able to survive their wounds : better evacuation, and the simple fact that at least the wounded could be reached this time.

It's significant that the most highly acclaimed British successes in the Third Ypres battles occurred between September 20th and October 8th ; yet, in those nineteen days, more British soldiers were killed than in the first nineteen days of the offensive, which is not regarded as successful.

We seem to be the last two on our feet in this thread, Jim.

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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 5:10:23 AM
Battle of Broodseind Casualties from Wiki

A German officer wrote that the ordeal in the swampy area in the dark and the fog, was indescribable. In 1942, the German official historians recorded in Der Weltkrieg 35,000 casualties for the period 1–10 October.

The 45th Reserve Division had 2,883 casualties, whilst the 4th Guard Division suffered 2,786 casualties. 4,759 German prisoners were taken, c. 10,000 since 20 September.

Second Army casualties for the week ending 4 October were 12,256, II Anzac Corps lost 3,500 casualties (including 1,853 New Zealanders). The 21st Division had 2,616 casualties, the highest loss of a Second Army division.

Fifth Army losses for the week to 5 October were 3,305 men.

Calculations of German losses by the Official Historian have been severely criticised ever since.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 6:14:45 AM
Jim,

And you've just chucked a chunk of wiki at us, without adding your own comments.

No wonder we're the only ones left !

Here's something, though, that reaches out and grabs me : your article mentions 4,759 German prisoners taken in the Battle of Broodseinde : probably the hardest blow that Haig's army dealt the Germans throughout the offensive.

I researched the CWGC site to see how many British and Dominion soldiers are recorded as dying in Belgium that day - 4 October 1917 - and the figure is 4,779 : almost an exact tally of one life for every prisoner captured.

That might be a futile and meaningless speculation on my part....but I wanted to mention it, to show that I'm doing my best to add something original of my own.

Of course, those 4,779 deaths would need to be assessed as part of a casualty toll that would have included at least ten thousand wounded, so the likelihood is that total British and ANZAC casualties that day would have been in excess of 15,000.

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: 5301
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 6:49:22 AM
I am reading boys, with interest. My time is at a premium. We are getting prepared to move and shall be in preparation mode for another month.


Plus it is the long summer weekend here in Canada so the house is full of adult children and their friends so I have not been able to give this important thread, so important to Canadians, a great deal of attention.

It seems to me that no matter whose casualty rates are favoured, that there was some success early on.

When did the battle begin to bog down and why? Geography or tactics?


When I read accounts of the first few days, it seems that a great deal of planning and preparation had gone into the whole affair.

There was a creeping barrage to ensure that the soldiers could move forward.

The Germans countered with fewer men in the front trenches, employing a deeper defensive strategy.

Still the British boys did seize the front trenches.

And then the rains came. Was it as simple as that? Is that what stopped the British and forced them to repel German counter attacks?

Some maps that help me to understand:








I note the names of little villages. Names that were mentioned in other battles. St. Julien, Polygon Wood, Langemarck, Gravenstafel Ridge.

Thousands of men on both sides lost their lives or were wounded in that little bump-out, the Ypres salient, during this war. Crazy.







anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 7:42:59 AM
George-Tactical (Artillery Bombardments) Geography (soft farmland) and Meteorological(Incessant Rain )will make quagmires


Quote:
Throughout most of the Third Battle of Ypres, heavy rain poured upon the soldiers. The rain was the cause of multiple problems in the conflict. The heavy rain had caused the artillery holes to fill with water.

In addition, British artillery bombardment had damaged the local drainage system, flooding the depressions even more. "The British artillery bombardment...also wrecked the low-lying region's drainage system, and usually rainy weather turned the ground into a wasteland of mud and water-filled craters" (The Battle of Passchendaele (The Third Battle of Ypres), Library and Archives Canada).

The artillery craters that would have provided cover for advancing troops were filled, exposing the army to enemy fire. As well as being unable to shelter the Allies, the artillery holes were so many in number that they literally created strings of bogs, stretching the entire length of the battlefield, slowing down the advancing troops considerably.

As well as creating trouble for the Allies, the heavy rain had flooded defensive positions such as pillboxes, rendering them nonoperational.



[Read More]

Regards

Jim

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 8:09:36 AM
George,

Your kind expression of interest, and those wonderful maps, are a reassuring and much appreciated contribution.

The entire campaign of Third Ypres is quite hard to put into perspective : not least on account of the intense emotion it still generates....hyperbole flourishes and we can get bogged down in that as surely as our grandfathers got trapped in the quagmire of the Salient a century ago.

It's important to remember - I maintain - that the enterprise started auspiciously with the eradication of the German line in the South East sector of the Salient when those huge mines were sprung under Messines Wystchaete in early June.

This success - literally a stunnng one - was sufficient to whet the appetite for more endeavour. The excessive delay in moving things on immediately afterwards is something that demands explanation.

I do think that I might be on to something when I suggest that - just as Currie sought to fight with an independent Canadian contingent - so Haig aspired to do the same for the British and Dominion forces as a whole. He had endured some trying moments under the aegis of Joffre and Nivelle, committing the BEF to horrific casualties in pursuit of coalition duties. This had been harder still on account of the scheming of David Lloyd George, who he saw as conspiring against him and his military caste.

Now, with the French in serious trouble - and, of course, with the Russians teetering - it was time to show what he and his soldiers could do.

I simplify things rather too much ; but I tend to find that the simplistic assessment often turns out to be correct !

Hope all goes well with your move.

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: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 8:29:43 AM

Quote:
Jim,

And you've just chucked a chunk of wiki at us, without adding your own comments.

No wonder we're the only ones left !



As I've said before, and on more than one occasion, I refuse to "discuss" things with an article.
It not as if you haven't admonished Jim on this often enough. Some people simply will not take a hint.
---------------
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: 5301
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 9:37:43 AM
Phil, the French began this battle to the east or north of the British.

With the failure of the Nivelle offensive, what was the relationship between the French and the British? Had the Brits lost faith in their ally? The French army was in turmoil after Nivelle.

Was Haig operating independently at this point?

What was the British government's attitude toward the French, officially and otherwise?

Cheers,

George

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
Posts: 442
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 10:26:44 AM

Quote:
Was Haig operating independently at this point?--George


I think at this point the British Empire was largely operating independently. France was unofficially out of the war as offensive force and the Russians were trying on various new clothes of government.

Britain and her Dominions were on their own, at least until the Americans could come in numbers. The pressure had to be kept up to avoid the Germans taking the chance to finish off France and to try and win the war before the Germans could pull their many resources back from the east. It was a race against time.

I don't see what alternatives Haig had to the offensives he launched in 1917. Tactically, bad decisions were made, but strategically it was the correct call.

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: 5301
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 11:46:01 AM
Thanks Colin. I believe that the discussions between the French and the British at the end of 1916 indicated that should the Nivelle offensive fail, which it did, that Haig would still proceed with his attack near Ypres.

But I believe that he also agreed to the attack at Messines Ridge as a preliminary foray. I don't know whether that attack was decided upon in the 1916 discussions or as an afterthought once Nivelle had failed. As in, we better do something because the allies are in danger of collapse.

What would the purpose of the attack on Messines Ridge have been? Haig had indicated that he needed weeks to prepare for the 3rd Ypres offensive and he took those weeks.

Why bother with Messines? Was it necessary to seize that ridge to ensure that 3rd Ypres was successful.

Cheers,

George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 12:12:30 PM
The strategy behind the offensive at Messines was to force the Germans to move reserves to Flanders from the Arras and Aisne fronts, which relieved pressure on the French who were in trouble militarily via Nivelle's command.

Regards

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

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5301
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 12:15:15 PM
Thanks Jim. I am trying to determine whether Messine was part of the grand plan discussed in late 1916 or whether it was an added event prompted by the French failure.

From your report, it seems that it was part of a greater plan.

Cheers,

George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 1:14:13 PM
There was a tactical element in this attack at Messines;which was to capture the German defences on the ridge. These ran from Ploegsteert (Plugstreet) Wood in the south, through Messines and Wytschaete to Mt. Sorrel, thus depriving the German 4th Army of the high ground south of Ypres.So DH did get something out of the whole action-well we'll see.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 1:27:58 PM
George,

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have doubts.

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

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

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

Regards , Phil

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5301
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/7/2017 3:12:14 PM
Good post Phil. Thanks.

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

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

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

Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 2:16:11 AM
George,

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

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

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

It worked well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

French, 38,000 against 59,276 Germans



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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 9:41:50 AM

Quote:
Thanks Jim. I am trying to determine whether Messine was part of the grand plan discussed in late 1916 or whether it was an added event prompted by the French failure.

From your report, it seems that it was part of a greater plan.

Cheers,

George
--George


Hi

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

mike

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 9:52:47 AM
Thanks for the reminder Mike

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

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

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

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

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

Regards

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

Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
Posts: 2770
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 10:14:09 AM

Quote:
Haig apparently felt that German morale was in such a sorry state that one more push and one more after that, would put them on the run.

Did he have sound intelligence to lead him to think that the Germans were emotionally fragile?

Were there other factors going on in Germany that perhaps influenced his thought processes?


Haig knew the terrain and how low it was. The torrential rains had turned the whole extended battlefield into a mire. One must question the decision to send men into those conditions and to expect them to prevail.

Cheers,

George
--George




Your right George,

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

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

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

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5301
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 10:44:48 AM
Well, the casualty rate for officers was quite high Dave, especially at the platoon level.

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Cheers,

George


anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 11:30:00 AM
Well said Mr Borden;however- Passchendaele was certainly not highly regarded by DLG-indeed he was originally against this offensive; but AOTF Lord Jellicoe made him change his mind. Towards the end DLG did call twice for this battle to be halted- but to no avail.

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

Regards

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

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5301
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 11:42:24 AM
Jim, what is CEO. Did you mean CEF?

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 11:45:38 AM
...if there is a repetition of the battle of Passchendaele ...

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

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

Passchendaele resounded because of its cumulative effect.

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

Regards , Phil

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 12:25:44 PM
Yes George- sorry-have amended.

Regards


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

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
Posts: 442
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 4:17:25 PM

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


Phil,

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

Regards,

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

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5301
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 5:26:37 PM
Excellent point Colin. The people at home can accept casualties if it appears that objectives are being seized and the enemy is on the run.


Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/8/2017 6:30:22 PM
Colin,

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

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

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

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

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

Regards , Phil

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 5:01:39 AM
Haig's objectives for the 3rd Battle of Ypres were sound :-1 Capture the messines Ridge 2 To wear down the enemy 3 To Capture the Passchendaele Ridge and 4 thereby a) allow for a coastal force to secure the Belgian coast and the Uboat base at Nieuport b)secure the railhead at Roullers and reach the Dutch frontier.

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

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

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

Regards

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

phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 5:35:02 AM
Haig was being told what he wanted to hear.

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

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

The " one more push " syndrome held sway.

Haig was by nature optimistic.

I wonder how far optimism might be conflated with pride.

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

There's so much more we could suggest.

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

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 5:59:23 AM
Phil-I am well aware that the first objective was to "wear down the enemy" and that was all that was left for Haig to accomplish at whatever cost.

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

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

Regards

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

phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 6:33:59 AM
Jim,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards,

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5301
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 6:46:27 AM
Remembering that Haig was Canadian General Currie's commander, he could order the Canadian Corps into the fray.

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

But it was a costly decision to his reputation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 7:01:20 AM

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

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

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

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 7:48:42 AM
George,

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

This thread has a lot of life in it yet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 7:54:20 AM

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

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

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

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Jim,

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

As Punch says to Judy That's the way to do it !

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 8:17:57 AM
Jim and George, and all my other pals out there....

Do you know what ?

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

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

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

Is so, was Passchendaele an exemplar ?

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 8:19:43 AM
Yes Phil- Passcgendaele was the epitomy of ineptness and futility-the top commanders did not comprehend the situation; and were thus faced with enormous losses- until "the penny dropped" and the tactics were changed by subordinate commanders.

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

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

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

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


Regards

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

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
Posts: 442
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 8:51:52 AM

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

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

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


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

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

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

Cheers,

Colin


---------------
"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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 10:34:55 AM
The fear that Italy might be put out of the war,caused the French and British Governments to offer reinforcements.

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

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

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

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

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

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 10:51:33 AM

Quote:


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


--anemone



Jim,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 11:18:31 AM

Quote:

Quote:

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

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Hi Jim

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

Mike

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 11:48:19 AM
Phil-I have all my GF's letters to his wife whilst he was in France ie Mid December 1917 to 30 March 1918; and there never any mention of such horrors of war as rotting corpses.e was an accomplished artist and he would include cartoons but sometimes wrecked villages and towns drawn by hand.Frankly though I find your report that the British not only disallowed Germans truce to clean up their dead; but also were quite unmindful of their own dead-despite it being a disgusting charnel house.-which you say the Germans cleaned up on retaking the area.

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

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


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

Regards

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

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 12:19:04 PM

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

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

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Hi

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

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

Mike

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 12:21:57 PM
Third `Ypres coincided with the " Gotha Summer ", when German strategic bombing of London came as a tremendous shock to the British public.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Phil

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 12:52:15 PM
My sincere thanks to both Mike and Phil for the excellent postscripts giving me much food for thought.

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

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

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

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

Regards

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

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5301
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 3:01:20 PM
I thought that this CBC doc. aired in 1964 was enlightening.

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

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

[Read More]


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

[Read More]

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5301
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 3:03:04 PM
double

phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 5:38:20 PM

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

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

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

[Read More]


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

[Read More]
--George


Wonderful vignettes, George, thank you so much.

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

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

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/9/2017 5:47:02 PM
Jim,

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

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

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

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

Guesswork on my part.

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/10/2017 3:34:28 AM
Thank you Phil-I am well aware that casualty stats are your forte but nevertheless would like to make the following comment:-

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

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

Look forward to you response

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/10/2017 5:42:31 AM
Jim,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/10/2017 6:02:56 AM
Thanks Phil-I was not disputing your figures-it was more that I had concocted my figures because there was so much controversy over them

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

Close enough Phil ????

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

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

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


Regards

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

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
Posts: 442
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/10/2017 7:29:17 AM

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

Close enough Phil?--anemone


Bang on, I'd say.

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

Cheers,

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/10/2017 11:08:34 AM
A magazine I've received has been issued to commemorate the centennial of Passchendaele. One of the articles therein is based on the war diary of the 1st Battalion, the Prince of Wales's ( North Staffordshire ) Regiment ( 1/N Staffords ), on the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres ( Passchendaele ) 31 July 1917.

The Battalion recorded its casualties for one month in the Salient : 7 officers and 35 men killed ; 3 officers and 135 men wounded : a total of 180 casuaties. This does not seem too bad, does it , especially for an entire month ? It should be noted, however, that the toll on the officers was disproportionate, and, to make matters worse, the officers killed had included the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Dugmore DSO, and his second in command, Captain G H Robinson ; and then Major Arthur Conway DSO, who had succeeded in command, was also killed. The intelligence officer and medical officer were both wounded, and the replacement intelligence officer was wounded shortly afterwards. The adjutant, Captain PD Harris, had escaped unscathed but it was apparent that his nerve was gone ; small wonder !

Apart from anything else, this demonstrates how commanding officers at battalion level not only shared risk, but took more than their fare share.


But here's the sting in the tail, that revelation that makes the impact .....this was not in the Battle of Passchendaele , but during the month before the battle commenced, in a so called quiet period !

This was in June, 1917, after the Battle of Messines, and the battalion was doing a tour of duty in what might be called routine operations in the Salient in the Mount Sorrel sector.

This, then, was what occupying the Salient meant. This is what Haig's men were faced with, just by being there.

The Germans, we are constantly told, remained on the defensive. But what kind of defensive was this, that was exacting such a toll even in quiet periods ?

And what were the options that the British high command had to contend with ?

To continue holding that salient was to condemn,every week, hundreds - no, thousands - of British and Dominion soldiers to constant death and wounds from the harassing fire of an enemy that was determined to inflict constant punishment even during periods of low key activity. There were plenty of British officers who argued, at the time and subsequently, that it was a monstrous waste of British blood to keep hold of such expensive real estate.

BUT

To abandon the salient was to relinquish the last areas of Belgian soil to an enemy that had, arguably, provoked a world war by invading Belgium in the first place.
Britain and the Empire had gone to war for that very reason. What message would it send out to the Allies - not to mention the enemy - if a place of such symbolic importance was abandoned ? Especially at a time when the fragility of the Russian and French allies was all too apparent.

Then there was another option : rather than stay put and endure that constant slaughter, push the enemy off that encircling rim of ridges, and, if possible, exploit this and clear the Belgian coast, and, maybe, Flanders itself, from the harsh occupation of Imperial Germany. Even the capture of the UBoat ports on the Belgian coast would suffice as an objective, given the loss of merchant tonnage to those enemy submarines.

The eminent success of the Messines attack was bound to increase appetite.

It does make you appreciate, doesn't it, that the strategy pursued by Haig was not prompted purely by ludicrous hubris, but by a compelling pressure that needed to be dealt with ?

Editing here : I should add that when this battalion did go into battle on 31 July 1917, its casualties that day amounted to 269 killed, wounded and missing from the 550 it carried into action.

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: 5301
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/10/2017 12:52:52 PM
Hi Phil,

Those losses taken just prior to the jump off for 3rd Ypres are indicative of the high risk situation that those men were in.

I am curious though.

Were the losses due to artillery and sniper fire or were the North Staffordshires engaging in multiple trench raids? Perhaps they were training for the raid within range of German artillery. Men were often lost that way too.

Trench raiding was a bone of contention at least with the Canadian soldier. Officers felt the need to keep the men sharp while the men saw little purpose in sneaking over just to get into a costly fire fight and then to return to the relative safety of the home trenches, perhaps with a prisoner but often to count losses.


Cheers,

George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/10/2017 1:28:41 PM
George -I should imagine that any Allied unit doing a non operational tour in the Salient- post Messines- would be "used" by the the enemy for all manner of target practice.Artillery,M/c guns and snipers-these particularly hunting officers.

As you have said- trench raiding was a dangerous trade and IMO -calculated lunacy.

I have searched the web for 1/N Staffs details; but nothing of any real significance or relevance found.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/10/2017 2:18:26 PM

Quote:
Hi Phil,

Those losses taken just prior to the jump off for 3rd Ypres are indicative of the high risk situation that those men were in.

I am curious though.

Were the losses due to artillery and sniper fire or were the North Staffordshires engaging in multiple trench raids? Perhaps they were training for the raid within range of German artillery. Men were often lost that way too.

Trench raiding was a bone of contention at least with the Canadian soldier. Officers felt the need to keep the men sharp while the men saw little purpose in sneaking over just to get into a costly fire fight and then to return to the relative safety of the home trenches, perhaps with a prisoner but often to count losses.


Cheers,

George
--George


George

Artillery fire did the damage, at least in the main part, as far as I can tell. Had trench raiding been featured , I think the article would have specified. One way or another, one quarter of the battalion's complement was killed or wounded without taking part in a major action. I'm attempting to extrapolate what the arithmetical implications are. I have read in one journalistic account of the Passchendaele Campaign -IN FLANDERS FIELDS, by Leon Wolff - that British casualties in the Salient were averaging one thousand per day before the Third Ypres battles started. I have to say that that seems a tall figure....but it must not be dismissed out of hand.

It makes me think that if you're losing that quantity of men doing nothing, you may as well try conclusions in an attempted break out. That's a crude simplification, but it might have merit.

The Germans, I suppose, were pragmatic about retention of ground, and abandoned the Somme region in early 1917 to better husband their manpower.

Maybe the French insistence to hold ground at Verdun was imprudent.

In a sense, one might liken the British stance at Ypres to that of the French at Verdun.

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: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/10/2017 2:46:31 PM

Quote:


I have searched the web for 1/N Staffs details; but nothing of any real significance or relevance found.

Regards

Jim
--anemone



Jim,

The article stated that there was nothing particularly remarkable about the part played by the battalion on the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres.

Indeed, I sense that this was why it was chosen as a case study....to give an indication of how ubiquitous this experience was for the infantry battalions that served at Wipers.

On the big day itself, the Bn suffered about fifty per cent casualties : 269 from a strength of 550. A severe blow....but the other two battalions from the brigade, which took part in the same attack, took comparable or worse casualties : the 8/Queen's and the 7/Northamptons suffering 305 and 258 respectively.

George,

In answer to your question about the cause of the Bn's casualties during its tour in the " quiet " spell, it's significant that the Commanding officer and his second in command were both killed by shelling that hit their HQ ; and the succeeding Bn Commander was killed a few days later, again by shellfire falling on Bn Headquarters.

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: 5301
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/10/2017 6:57:41 PM
Thanks Jim and Phil. I suppose the only way to ensure a risk free environment was to be on leave.

Cheers,

George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/11/2017 3:25:50 AM

Quote:
I suppose the only way to ensure a risk free environment was to be on leave.
George

Or desert-however the desertion rate was at it's lowest in 1917 ie 7,41 per 1000 men at arms Previously it had been higher 1914=20.7,1916 9.19 and 1918 7.99 I must add that only a minority were caught=307 British Army and Commonwealth soldiers were "shot at dawn" after courts-martial for desertion and other capital offences during World War I.

Trench raiding
Trench raiding was encouraged by some elite units and much refined by the Canadians and Australians, was viewed by British military authorities as a means of reinforcing the 'offensive spirit' of front-line troops.

However the ordinary soldier had not much stomach for such attacks. As well as the dangers of taking part in them, there was the near certain risk of enemy retaliation afterwards.


Regards

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

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/11/2017 11:43:48 AM
In the wake of the disastrous Passchendaele Offensive-there were a number of changes to the BEF in F/F from top down.

On the advice of Kiggell who had seen the state of the ground that the men were fighting in- FM Haig sacked his Chief Intelligence Officer Charteris-he was the man who told Haig all the information that he wanted to hear-he was heavily lambasted for his fabrications.(Leon Wolff)

General Plumer was sent to Italy to take command of the British contingent sent there to bail out The Italian Army-Rawlinson took over 2nd Army.

The hardliner General Gough was virtually in disgrace and now only commanded XIX Corps. He was ultimately sent to south of the Somme to plug the gap between VII Corps and the French.This however is a different story

The British Army in France was recovering from a major reorganisation and was significantly under strength as the Prime Minister Lloyd George, mistrusting the British commander Douglas Haig, held troops back in Britain just when they were about to face the Kaiserschlacht in March 1018

Regards

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

scoucer
Berlin, Germany
Posts: 1923
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/11/2017 3:02:42 PM
My maternal grandfather was wounded at Passchendaele. Sufficiently enough to be transported back to England where he was treated at a hospital in Blackpool. The nurse was a charming young welsh lady from Llanrwst of welsh and Manx background. He was shipped back just in time to be captured during the Spring Offensive. He escaped and spent the rest of the war hiding out in Belgium. At wars end he returned to England and looked up the charming welsh nurse who became my maternal grandmother.

So some good came of it.

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

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

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5301
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/11/2017 4:19:05 PM
Good family story Trevor. Thanks

George

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/11/2017 4:59:54 PM

Quote:
My sincere thanks to both Mike and Phil for the excellent postscripts giving me much food for thought.

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

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

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

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

Regards

Jim
--anemone

Hi

Reference the 'paucity' of attacking aircraft, 'War in the Air Volume IV' page 201-202, has some of the statistics for RFC operations in the month of September 1917 sent by Haig to London. These include that the RFC undertook 226 bombing attacks by day and night dropping 7,886 bombs totalling 135 tons on enemy targets (the Germans dropped 969 bombs on targets within British lines). The RFC Corps squadrons helped range British artillery on 9,539 targets, mainly German batteries (the German aircraft ranged their guns on 743 targets). The RFC also exposed 14,678 photographic plates distributing 346,999 prints from those exposures. The two aircraft depots, working round the clock, standardized and issued 930 aeroplanes during September also reconstructing 116. It could be said that they were engaged in some work during the battle despite the weather.

Mike

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/12/2017 3:07:06 AM
Thanks Mike.

Those RFC figures astonish me : not in themselves, but in the margin over the enemy.

This was a huge preponderance.

The implications in terms of being the " eyes of the guns " are important.

How did the Germans cope with this material superiority ?

I think we need more focus on how this Flanders fighting impinged on the German High Command .

What comes to my mind is that old circus act when plates are spinning round and round on poles, and a poor fellow has to rush around frantically try and keep them all aloft and intact, as some of them teeter precariously, about to fall !

The Germans were still heavily engaged in a multi front war : Russia was obviously in dire trouble ; but the Kerensky Summer showed that its army was still large and supplied with guns and shells sufficient to launch an offensive. Romanians and Italians were not to be dismissed as foes. Above all, there was the Western Front ; and while Flanders was the main event there, the French were - despite their difficulties ( or even, perhaps , because of them ? ) - fighting with great effect in limited offensives. To make the cup run over, a Canadian diversion at Lens inflicted disproportionate damage.

The German achievement in holding things together under this pressure is something of a historical phenomenon : not only containing the Flanders offensive, but turning against the Russians, Romanians and Italians and inflicting enormous strategic defeats on them.

The final spasm on the Western Front - Cambrai - provides another example of German resilience and riposte.

Given this German success in not only holding its own, but also dealing out huge and fatal or near fatal blows, Haig's fixation that one more push in Flanders would bring Germany to her knees seems preposterously out of touch.

In the five months of war in 1914, German battle casualties on all fronts averaged 200,000 per month. In 1915 and 1916, they averaged 125,000 per month. In 1917, they dropped to 100,000 per month. The spring of 1918 allowed the Germans to deploy three and a half million men on the Western front and mass ten thousand guns and trench mortars against the British alone on the front of one offensive.

So much for Haig's attrition.

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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/12/2017 3:40:19 AM
The following figures are taken from the National Encyclopedia of the First World War and are at variance with yours Phil EXCEPT 1917 :-

Germany
1914=142,502
1915=628,445
1916=963,501
1917=1,227,273
1918=1,901,575

A considerable read

[Read More]


Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/12/2017 4:33:00 AM

Quote:
The following figures are taken from the National Encyclopedia of the First World War and are at variance with yours Phil EXCEPT 1917 :-

Germany
1914=142,502
1915=628,445
1916=963,501
1917=1,227,273
1918=1,901,575

A considerable read

[Read More]


Regards

Jim
--anemone


Jim,

Those are cumulative totals to each year's end .... not a total for each year ( except for 1914), and they are for DEATHS only. The figure for 1914 is understated by more than 100,000, with them being subsumed into the 1915 figure.

Sorry, this is getting a bit technical.

Here's a rough and ready summary of seven million German battle casualties, year by year :

1914: 1,000,000

1915 : 1,500, 000

1916: 1,500,000

1917 : 1,200, 000

1918 : 1,800, 000

Total: 7,000,000

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: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/12/2017 5:07:37 AM
Reflecting on what I've written above, I want to put Passchendaele into perspective: for the British Commonwealth, it dominates the year 1917, accounting for roughly one third of all battle casualties on all fronts .

For Germans, that was just one episode- albeit a testing one - that accounted for one sixth of the nation's battle casualties in that momentous year.

The statistical dimensions reveal the extent of Haig's fixation, and the delusion within .

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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/12/2017 5:13:20 AM
Sorry mate-jumped the gun there I fear.I never in my wildest dreams thought that 54.6% of the 13 million Germans in arms became casualties-it is staggering!!! I do hope that I have read the text accurately this time.I now wonder what proportion of all British and Colonials became casualties ??
Going for the ton

Regards

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

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5301
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/12/2017 6:49:10 AM
Jimmy what's this British and COLONIALS all about, my friend.

That's the sort of condescension that caused the Canadians, Aussies and Kiwis to grind their back teeth.

We're always watching for it. It seeps into the conversation. "So that's what they think of us".


From the far reaches of the Empiah, I remain,

Your humble colonist,


George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/12/2017 7:23:02 AM
Geez George- I do sometimes get awfully mixed up differentiating from Empire (now redundant) Commonwealth, Dominion and Colonials-they have been collectives for so long.

I do know that Canada remains a Dominion; but talking strictly in WW1 parlance-it is too easy to lump Empire, Commonwealth and Dominion together and say Colonials.

I "think" you are pulling my leg; but I stand corrected. Won't happen again Sar-standing at attention- Sar !!!

PS-I don't know who is daftest; but probably me.

Regards

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

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5301
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/12/2017 8:02:10 AM
I am pulling your leg Jim.


Quote:
I do know that Canada remains a Dominion;


We never use Dominion anymore though technically the term has never been rescinded from the constitution.

When 4 British colonies decided to Confederate to become Canada, the Fathers of Confederation wanted to call the new country the Kingdom of Canada.

Britain said no, that that would raise the ire of the Americans to the south.

So Dominion it was and it was mentioned in the British North America Act, the document that officially founded Canada.

But the Statute of Westminster of 1937 affirmed Canada's independence in foreign policy.

In 1982, we repatriated our original constitution, the BNA Act and added the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Nowhere in the new Constitution Act of 1982 or in the Charter does the word "Dominion" appear. But the old BNA is a part of the Constitution Act statute so technically, the word is still there.

But are we a Dominion in the old sense of the word? Absolutely not. Fully independent.

The word smacks too closely of colonial control.

Thank you for reading my long winded explanation.


anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/12/2017 8:23:32 AM
So George- given your Independence-Canada is now a self governing autonomous state- is there any "sort of connection" left with the UK-the Queen perhaps.????

Regards

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

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/12/2017 8:50:16 AM
British/-----Mobilised--K/DOW--Wounded-MIA/POW TOTAL CAS
Empire
--- 8,904,908,371.2,090,212.191,652.-3,190,235

ie. Approx 38.3% of the total mobilised became casualties.

Regards

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

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5301
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/12/2017 9:30:41 AM

Quote:
So George- given your Independence-Canada is now a self governing autonomous state- is there any "sort of connection" left with the UK-the Queen perhaps.????

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Of course, Elizabeth ll is our head of state.

That is fine with anyone who is a royalist in this country. But we have a quarter of the population who are French speakers and would likely not agree.

And there are thousands who emigrated here from countries that resented British colonial rule.

The divide is most noted when new Canadians are asked to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen. That is considered repugnant to them.

Old time Canadians are sometimes in agreement but more often would tell the new people that this is our way, live with it.

The Queen's status doesn't really affect us at all. It is a part of our history however and that is the bone of contention between those who would do away with her as head of state and those who wish to maintain the historical connection.

There are a couple of symbolic links with GB and many would like to see those eliminated because they are vestiges of a former colonial past.

example:

The Queen's Privy Council for Canada.

It is a group that is appointed in Canada by the Queen's representative, the Governor General. Among the members are former cabinet members, former GG's and honoured citizens.

The Privy Council (for short) is supposed to advise the Queen on matters relevant to Canada.

They almost never meet and never in the whole. About the only time that they would come together is to discuss the advent of a new monarch or some sort of discussion related to a request for a royal marriage in Britain. You know, let's ask the Commonwealth what they think of this marriage.


Quote:
The last formal gathering of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada was in 1981. The Privy Council was asked to give its formal consent to the marriage of the Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer.


It is a symbolic link as I said but serves little purpose and I do not know whether the Privy Council members get paid.


Jim, I don't mind discussing all of this but I note that we are on the Passchendaele thread and I fear that I am diverting us down an irrelevant path.

I do appreciate your interest, however.

Cheers,

George

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/12/2017 10:01:31 AM
Diversions -the whole question arose via a slip of nomenclature by me and you have set matters right-"Alles in ordnung mein freund"

Regards

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

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/12/2017 10:52:31 AM

Quote:
Thanks Mike.

Those RFC figures astonish me : not in themselves, but in the margin over the enemy.

This was a huge preponderance.

The implications in terms of being the " eyes of the guns " are important.

How did the Germans cope with this material superiority ?



Regards, Phil


--Phil andrade


Hi

The 'margin over the enemy' is not due on the whole to 'material superiority'. The Allied air assets from the Lys to the sea was 508 British aeroplanes (230 single-seat fighters), 200 French (about 100 single-seaters) and 40 Belgian aircraft, a total of 748 aeroplanes (330 fighters). There was also 104 RNAS aircraft in the Dunkirk area. By the 31st July the German Fourth Army had 600 aircraft, one third being single-seat fighters (not including German naval air units in the area). Not all the Allied aircraft or RNAS aircraft would be always available to fight over the battlefield they would have other tasks also to perform. In single-seat fighters the Allies had a superiority 3 1/2 to 2, although the British fighters were also performing ground attack missions which were rare operations for German single-seaters. (figures from War in the Air Volume IV', page 141-142).
One of the main differences is in how the aircraft were used. To enable the artillery aircraft (and 'Corps' operations) to operate more effectively the RFC operated in an 'offensive' way going quite a distance over German lines and engaging the enemy there, this could result in 'high' losses, however, throughout the war this enabled the air support operations of the RFC to do what was needed most of the time, as seen by the figures in my previous post. The German fighters rarely crossed the Allied lines in any depth and therefore did not provide as much protection to their artillery and other support aircraft (a policy not repeated by the Luftwaffe fighter arm during WW2). This is one of the reasons less artillery missions were flown by the Germans. The German fighter tactic did enable the pilots to achieve 'high scores', however, it could be argued that it provided less support to the troops on the ground overall and probably nor a 'war winning' tactic. That appears to have been agreed with by the Luftwaffe as, on the whole, they did not repeat the tactic in WW2.

Mike

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/12/2017 1:43:38 PM
Cracking post Mike -could you please show us the types of aircraft flown, both Allied and German; and the number of each type-a BIG ask I know; but it will indicate where the strengths and weaknesses were.eg were the British bomber DH types and the German fighters Fokker, Albatross and Pfalz ???

I had a great uncle (my GF 's cousin) who flew SE5 aircraft for 84 Sqdn RFC-AFAIK- in 1917 (12 confirmed kills and a double MC)-he survived the war.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/12/2017 2:11:09 PM
Yes, let me second Jim's approval of your post, Mike.

I had not looked beyond the huge disparity in bombs dropped and battery sightings etc : this speaks of a more intense exploitation of available resources , rather than a simple preponderance .

My GF was a motor bike dispatch rider in the RFC, and regaled me with many anecdotes.

He was taken up by a friend in an RE8, and flew over German lines.

That's what he told me.

My other GF a Welshman - was a chaplain in France, but never divulged much, except to tell me how shocked he was at the incidence of venereal disease among the troops.

Being on leave was not as risk free as George suggests !

His brother took a bullet through the arm at Mametz Wood in July 1916.

When he recovered, he was sent to East Africa, having been commissioned in the King's African Rifles.

The Welsh division participated in the opening attack at Third Ypres.

The name Passchendaele will always be associated with another Welshman : David Lloyd George.

He devoted an inordinate amount of his memoirs in pursuit of lambasting Haig for fighting that battle. The polemic is so venomous that one has to suspect that the Welsh Wizard sought to shift any blame from himself and find a safe scapegoat.

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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/12/2017 2:30:07 PM
DLG Talking about his reservations about the Passchendaele attack, He writes:


Quote:
Ought I to have vetoed it?... Ought I not to have resigned than acquiesce in this slaughter of brave men? I have always felt there are solid grounds for criticism in that respect. My sole justification is that Haig promised not to press the attack if it became clear that he could not attain his objectives by continuing the offensive.
(p.2036-7)

Just how true was the statement re. Haig's promise to halt the attack given that the objectives could not be attained-we shall never know-this was written after his death.

Regards

Jim

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/12/2017 4:08:24 PM
Jim,

Yes, indeed...written after the death of the man he sought to condemn.

Compare this with his protege, Winston Churchill : he had been an outspoken critic of the Passchendaele strategy - and of the Somme - at the time. He published his criticism of Haig's war when the latter was still alive. He didn't pull any punches, but he gave full and proper acknowledgement to the achievements of Douglas Haig, giving a much fairer and less toxic legacy to historians to chew over.

Haig and Churchill retained cordial relations, despite the fact that Haig was unhappy about Churchill's rendition.

And, significantly, Churchill declared that - when he came to reflect on the Great War as the second conflict approached - he realised that Haig had done a far better job than his World Crisis critique had allowed for.

He never relinquished his detestation of the Passchendaele saga, but he balanced it with an equanimity that the Welsh Wizard failed to exhibit.

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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/13/2017 3:39:23 AM
Reflecting upon the fact that – although Haig knew very well in January 1918 that the Germans were massing to attack on the Third and Fifth Armies – he did not take steps to reinforce them (see pages 1704-5), Lloyd George deduces:


Quote:
Haig’s action is unaccountable. History can recall many cases of men in great positions who have been known to do inexplicable things in a great emergency… It is difficult to find any favourable explanation for Haig’s extraordinary behaviour towards the Fifth Army… [Haig had been forbidden to continue his Passchendaele campaign and] constitutionally stubborn men such as Haig are apt to carry resentment so far into the realm of reluctance as to thwart and defeat the odious command and to punish with failure those who issued it. (pp.1706-7)


Here I get the impression that Gough and 5th army were going to suffer the full Weight of Operation Michael despite being undermanned and overstretched-which of course was exactly what did happen and Gough was sacked and sent home. Haig was vindictive

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/13/2017 3:57:03 AM

Quote:
DLG Talking about his reservations about the Passchendaele attack, He writes:


Quote:
Ought I to have vetoed it?... Ought I not to have resigned than acquiesce in this slaughter of brave men? I have always felt there are solid grounds for criticism in that respect. My sole justification is that Haig promised not to press the attack if it became clear that he could not attain his objectives by continuing the offensive.
(p.2036-7)

Just how true was the statement re. Haig's promise to halt the attack given that the objectives could not be attained-we shall never know-this was written after his death.

Regards

Jim

--anemone


The three big blows of Menin Road Ridge ( September 20th ), Polygon Wood ( September 26th ) and Broodseinde ( October 4th ) came when the weather improved, and were perhaps tantalising enough in their results to encourage continuation.

The subsequent and culminating phase of Poelcapelle and Passchendaele were dismal and notorious, with the rain and mud closing in and, literally, smothering the battle.

This final month of fighting, between 9th October and 12th November, was unspeakable and horribly expensive .

It's understandable that Haig has been blamed for continuing. He would have done better to draw a close after Broodseinde, ending on a relative " high ".

Some have said, though, that it was imperative to push on and secure Passchendaele , because the prospect of facing winter under the shadow of that ridge was simply unbearable. Do we have a form of mission creep here ? But, of course, Passchendaele had been the initial objective for the first attack at the end of July....

So the Canadians were put into the battle, and did what was asked of them.

It should not be forgotten that in the October fighting for Passchendaele , before the Canadians were sent in, the New Zealand division was deployed in a particularly disastrous action, and lost thousands of men. In terms of loss of life, this remains the worst day in New Zealand's history.

Its effects were still extant a generation later, when Bernard Freyberg insisted that the Abbey at Monte Casino be bombed. As a New Zealand commander, he had not forgotten what had happened that day in October 1917. When challenged as to the reasons for that controversial and futile bombing of the Abbey, his replied with one word .....Passchendaele .

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: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/13/2017 4:51:45 AM

Quote:
Cracking post Mike -could you please show us the types of aircraft flown, both Allied and German; and the number of each type-a BIG ask I know; but it will indicate where the strengths and weaknesses were.eg were the British bomber DH types and the German fighters Fokker, Albatross and Pfalz ???

I had a great uncle (my GF 's cousin) who flew SE5 aircraft for 84 Sqdn RFC-AFAIK- in 1917 (12 confirmed kills and a double MC)-he survived the war.

Regards

Jim
--anemone

Hi

The 'Development of German Warplanes in WW1' by Jack Herris contains the official German figures for type available on certain dates, these are a totals for all Theatres. For 31 October 1917 we have:

D-Type (Biplane fighters)- 1224, Mainly Albatros D.III (446) and D.V (526). The next highest type was the Pfalz D.III (145). There were 17 Fokker Dr.I Triplanes.

C-Type (Armed two-seat Biplane) used for 'supporting the ground forces' tasks - 1821, mainly DFW C.V (901), Rumpler C.IV (225) and LVG C.V (219).

G-Type (Twin-Engine bombers) - 116 of all types.

Mike

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/13/2017 4:53:47 AM

Quote:
Reflecting upon the fact that – although Haig knew very well in January 1918 that the Germans were massing to attack on the Third and Fifth Armies – he did not take steps to reinforce them (see pages 1704-5), Lloyd George deduces:


Quote:
Haig’s action is unaccountable. History can recall many cases of men in great positions who have been known to do inexplicable things in a great emergency… It is difficult to find any favourable explanation for Haig’s extraordinary behaviour towards the Fifth Army… [Haig had been forbidden to continue his Passchendaele campaign and] constitutionally stubborn men such as Haig are apt to carry resentment so far into the realm of reluctance as to thwart and defeat the odious command and to punish with failure those who issued it. (pp.1706-7)


Here I get the impression that Gough and 5th army were going to suffer the full Weight of Operation Michael despite being undermanned and overstretched-which of course was exactly what did happen and Gough was sacked and sent home. Haig was vindictive

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Gough was sacked because Lloyd George and Derby insisted.

Haig was under pressure from politicians.

He was not vindictive to Gough ; he was unhappy about dismissing him, and sought to put him back in command of a reserve army.

Hubert Gough was the scapegoat .

If vindictiveness played a part in his downfall, it stemmed elsewhere from Haig.


Editing here : Jim, I've just taken a look at the main wiki article on Gough. It's the best general summary of a military commander that I've ever seen on Wikipedia...suggest that you give it a brief look. It gives full countenance to all the arguments: Gough's reputation is subject to multiple interpretations.

Hubert's brother, Johnnie, had been a great favourite of Haig's, and had been mortally wounded in early 1915. Haig sought to replace him in his affections by nurturing the career of Hubert...so it's been suggested.

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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/13/2017 6:24:49 AM
I am afraid that I just cannot agree with you Phil-here I stress that this has nothing to do with our working together ; I still feel in my very bones that Haig was not only manipulative; but posed as an entirely reasonable,benevolent man-I'd rather walk with the Devil.

The Gough article which I read carefully is full of "smoke and mirrors-statements and denials -Neil Malcolm passing on what he thought was a fact about the use of cavalry- was according to Haig "mistaken" and was fired for his pains and given command of 66th Division in Gough's meagre 5th Army-what an irony. Gough's firing was most certainly contrived and Haig was "forced " to sack him with a gush of crocodile tears.

Trouble with Haig was that he had not seen a battlefield after 1915 (when he had had a hand in getting rid of French) and got others to do it for him eg Charteris -who always told him what he wanted to hear and eventually was peremptorily fired in anger- when the heat was on after Passchendaele. Haig's toll of staff was legion-he was selfish ,indolent and quite untrustworthy IMHO.I have to say that my mind is set against Haig.Many historians believe Haig was a callous leader who should bear the responsibility of dispatching hundreds of thousands of men to their deaths on the Western Front. He also stands accused of being a "Chateau-General" who lived in luxury a safe distance from the front line-ie 105Km away


PS Neil malvolm GOC of the riven 66th Division was wounded at Domart (further back from Demuin) on 29th March.On recovery shortly after-he was asked how he saw the war-he replied "Splendid-we have won the war" Mmmm-I wonder!????Was the Amiens Salient contrived???


Regards

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

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/13/2017 7:45:27 AM

Quote:
Ahead of the publication of the 1918 volume, Gough dined twice with Lloyd George and his historical adviser Liddell Hart. Gough was initially impressed by the former Prime Minister's charisma, and was almost persuaded that he had had nothing to do with his sacking in April 1918, until he remembered that both Esher and Birkenhead had told him the truth years earlier.

Lloyd George, who may well have been keen to appease a potential critic, eventually sent Gough a letter (described as "carefully worded" by Farrar-Hockley) claiming that new facts had come to his attention since that date, and admitting that Gough had been "let down" and that "no General could have won that battle"
General Sir Hugh Gough Biog.

Yes it is messy- but then again what else would it be.??? So much chicanery and covering up- plagued Gough from 1917 to 1937.The last line of the blog begs the question was he meant to win???


Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/13/2017 11:15:13 AM
The name Liddell Hart is a red rag to a bull for those who seek to protect Haig's reputation.

My eyes pricked up when I saw that passage. So LH was DLG's historical adviser ?

Now the dots begin to join up.

I really don't know what to make of Haig.

But if I had to choose one person's assessment of Haig's performance, that person would NOT be Lloyd George.

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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/13/2017 11:42:13 AM

Quote:
I really don't know what to make of Haig.


Well phil-I have and I have nailed my colours to the mast- on the above issue- and for me there is no shifting


Quote:
But if I had to choose one person's assessment of Haig's performance, that person would NOT be Lloyd George.


Nor me neither Phil-more slippery than an eel that one. However I have to say- that I am astonished at what I found after turning over a few stones-the bloody intrigue and the "diving for cover",the sackings tp placate higher authorities- even the King- via an envoy- refused permission for Gough to publish his side of this murky story.I find the whole business quite sickening.Much rather be in the trenches with the fighting men

Regards

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

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/13/2017 2:05:40 PM
RFC IN 1917

To support the Battle of Arras beginning on 9 April 1917, the RFC deployed 25 squadrons, totalling 365 aircraft, a third of which were fighters (scouts).

The British lost 245 aircraft with 211 aircrew killed or missing & 108 as prisoners of war. The German Air Services lost just 66 aircraft from all causes.

By the summer of 1917 at 4rd Battle of b/[] the introduction of the next generation of technically advanced combat aircraft (such as the SE5, Sopwith Camel and Bristol Fighter) ensured losses fell and damage inflicted on the enemy increased.

Close support and battlefield co-operation tactics with the British Army were further developed by November 1917, when low-flying fighter aircraft co-operated highly effectively with advancing columns of tanks and infantry during the Battle of Cambrai.

Despite the above- 1917 saw 2,094 RFC aircrew killed in action or missing.

GERMAN aIR sERVICE-1917

1917 Fokker D.I and D.II's were now swinging the pendulum back in the German Empire's favour with the single much more deadly IMG 08 gun. Then came the Fokker D.III with twin IMG 08 guns and the pendulum became a bloodbath for ground forces and the RFC ["Bloody April"].

The Allies adopted the same twin machine gun and set to work on reducing airframe vulnerabilities. They came in the form of the R.E.8 and F.K.8 modest enhancements, not stunning, but none the less more resilient to direct hits.

Then came the superb Bristol F.2b, Sopwith Camel and SE5 fighters and the Allies once again regained air superiority.

Regards

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

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/13/2017 4:30:01 PM

Quote:
RFC IN 1917

To support the Battle of Arras beginning on 9 April 1917, the RFC deployed 25 squadrons, totalling 365 aircraft, a third of which were fighters (scouts).

The British lost 245 aircraft with 211 aircrew killed or missing & 108 as prisoners of war. The German Air Services lost just 66 aircraft from all causes.

By the summer of 1917 at 4rd Battle of b/[] the introduction of the next generation of technically advanced combat aircraft (such as the SE5, Sopwith Camel and Bristol Fighter) ensured losses fell and damage inflicted on the enemy increased.

Close support and battlefield co-operation tactics with the British Army were further developed by November 1917, when low-flying fighter aircraft co-operated highly effectively with advancing columns of tanks and infantry during the Battle of Cambrai.

Despite the above- 1917 saw 2,094 RFC aircrew killed in action or missing.

GERMAN aIR sERVICE-1917

1917 Fokker D.I and D.II's were now swinging the pendulum back in the German Empire's favour with the single much more deadly IMG 08 gun. Then came the Fokker D.III with twin IMG 08 guns and the pendulum became a bloodbath for ground forces and the RFC ["Bloody April"].

The Allies adopted the same twin machine gun and set to work on reducing airframe vulnerabilities. They came in the form of the R.E.8 and F.K.8 modest enhancements, not stunning, but none the less more resilient to direct hits.

Then came the superb Bristol F.2b, Sopwith Camel and SE5 fighters and the Allies once again regained air superiority.

Regards

jim
--anemone

Hi

I not sure why you have mentioned Fokker D.I, D.II and D.III as being responsible for 'swinging the pendulum' back to the Germans, these aircraft were mediocre at best and not produced in great numbers. The best German fighters were the Albatros series D.I, D.II and D.III over this period. On 31 December 1916 there were 4 Fokker D.I, 68 D.II and 34 D.III. For the Albatros there were 39 D.I, 214 D.II and 13 D.III on this same date. By the 28 February 1917 there were 5 Fokker D.I, 49 D.II and 7 D.III. Albatros fighters on this date were 28 D.I, 150 D.II and 137 D.III. The Fokker products at this time were inferior to the Albatros series, it was these latter aircraft that created a better situation for the Germans although they still did not fight for air supremacy over allied lines and on the whole failed in preventing the RFC adequately undertaking their tasks for the ground troops despite their high losses. It was not just due to new allied aircraft that the German fighters became less effective after 'Bloody April' the Germans had problems continuing to fight at the high intensity of that month, even MvR had to go on leave!

Mike

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/14/2017 4:06:07 AM
Point taken Mike-you being the expert and certainly not me.
However many thanks for your valuable contribution- it is appreciated.

No harm done though- it was the last half of 1917 which is of interest and just how much aerial offence was meted out by the RFC; and what type of German aircraft were up against the RE8's and the DH4's during their bombing sorties and of course was trench strafing introduced in late 1917??-

Is it true to say that despite terrible losses, the RFC, supported by several fighter squadrons of the RNAS, continued their artillery spotting, army co-operation, bombing, and long-range reconnaissance missions.

In mid-1917, they regained some parity with the introduction of improved aircraft such as the Royal Aircraft Factory SE.5a, Sopwith Camel, and the revised Bristol F.2b Fighter.

For their part, the Germans introduced the distinctive Fokker Dr.1 Triplane and the upgraded Albatros DV.

In the latter half of 1917, particularly at Cambrai in November, both sides provided direct support to the soldiers on the ground through specific ground-attack roles.

Regards


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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/14/2017 5:07:22 AM
The last phase of the Passchendaele fighting that is most associated with the dismal culmination at Passchendaele itself might fairly be said to have started on 9 October with the battle of Poelcapelle, and to have ended on 12 November when the Canadian corps consolidated its capture of the notorious village.

This was a period of thirty five days : exactly one third of the 105 days officially ascribed to the Third Battle of Ypres.

More than one third of the deaths that CWGC record in Belgium during that period of 105 days can be attributed to those last thirty five days. This strikes me as an indicator of the evil reputation of the battle : the last phase not only coincided with the most ghastly conditions, it also entailed a loss of life that exceeded, on a daily average, that of the first thirty five day period.

I thought this worthy of mention : most such offensives on the Western Front were characterised by an initial phase that cost the highest casualty rate of the whole battle ....they then faded away into fighting on a rather smaller scale as local objectives defined outcomes.

In this sense, Passchendaele differed, with the last third of the battle being even more lavish of life than the first.

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: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/14/2017 5:18:12 AM

Quote:
Point taken Mike-you being the expert and certainly not me.
However many thanks for your valuable contribution- it is appreciated.

No harm done though- it was the last half of 1917 which is of interest and just how much aerial offence was meted out by the RFC; and what type of German aircraft were up against the RE8's and the DH4's during their bombing sorties and of course was trench strafing introduced in late 1917??-

Is it true to say that despite terrible losses, the RFC, supported by several fighter squadrons of the RNAS, continued their artillery spotting, army co-operation, bombing, and long-range reconnaissance missions.

In mid-1917, they regained some parity with the introduction of improved aircraft such as the Royal Aircraft Factory SE.5a, Sopwith Camel, and the revised Bristol F.2b Fighter.

For their part, the Germans introduced the distinctive Fokker Dr.1 Triplane and the upgraded Albatros DV.

In the latter half of 1917, particularly at Cambrai in November, both sides provided direct support to the soldiers on the ground through specific ground-attack roles.

Regards


Jim
--anemone


Hi

The RFC Communiques contain details of operations, Chaz Bowyer had an edited edition for 1917-1918 published by Grub Street in 1998. Random examples are:

Communique No. 99, 28 July-3 August 1917: 67 Tons of Bombs dropped. Over 13,000 photos taken. 1940 hostile batteries successfully engaged for destruction by artillery with aeroplane observation; 345 gun pits destroyed, 973 damaged, 953 explosions caused.

No. 103, 24-31 August 1917: (weather 'unfavourable' for aerial work during this period) 79 tons of bombs dropped. 11,000 photos taken. 1860 hostile batteries successfully engaged for destruction with aeroplane observation; 304 gun pits destroyed, 803 damaged, 764 explosions and 302 fires caused.

No. 107, 24-30 September 1917: 125 tons of bombs dropped. Over 16,000 photos taken. 1372 hostile batteries successfully engaged for destruction.

No. 110, 16-22 October 1917: 293 hostile batteries engaged for destruction and 523 zone calls sent. 23,851 rounds fired at ground targets. 4530 photos taken. Approximately 232 tons of bombs dropped.

The Albatros series of fighters were always in the majority even when the Fokker Dr.I was at its 'peak' of 171 at 30 April 1918. At the same time there were 174 D.III, 131 D.V and 928 D.Va of the Albatros series on all fronts. The D.V and Va did not restore the balance in Germany's favour nor did the Dr.I (despite the hype on this type the Albatros D.Va outlasted it).

Mike

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/14/2017 6:18:40 AM

Quote:
I am afraid that I just cannot agree with you Phil-here I stress that this has nothing to do with our working together ; I still feel in my very bones that Haig was not only manipulative; but posed as an entirely reasonable,benevolent man-I'd rather walk with the Devil.

The Gough article which I read carefully is full of "smoke and mirrors-statements and denials -Neil Malcolm passing on what he thought was a fact about the use of cavalry- was according to Haig "mistaken" and was fired for his pains and given command of 66th Division in Gough's meagre 5th Army-what an irony. Gough's firing was most certainly contrived and Haig was "forced " to sack him with a gush of crocodile tears.

Trouble with Haig was that he had not seen a battlefield after 1915 (when he had had a hand in getting rid of French) and got others to do it for him eg Charteris -who always told him what he wanted to hear and eventually was peremptorily fired in anger- when the heat was on after Passchendaele. Haig's toll of staff was legion-he was selfish ,indolent and quite untrustworthy IMHO.I have to say that my mind is set against Haig.Many historians believe Haig was a callous leader who should bear the responsibility of dispatching hundreds of thousands of men to their deaths on the Western Front. He also stands accused of being a "Chateau-General" who lived in luxury a safe distance from the front line-ie 105Km away


PS Neil malvolm GOC of the riven 66th Division was wounded at Domart (further back from Demuin) on 29th March.On recovery shortly after-he was asked how he saw the war-he replied "Splendid-we have won the war" Mmmm-I wonder!????Was the Amiens Salient contrived???


Regards

Jim
--anemone

Hi Jim

Oh dear!

The "Chateau-General" myth should be long gone by now with all that has been written on the subject of command and control in WW1. Of course an Army's GHQ is not going to be close to the firing line that would be gross stupidity (and no Army done it), also if it was close to one part of the line it would be even further from the other parts. GHQ was commanding five Army level HQs and had to be in contact with them through the telephone and telegraph systems and not be too far away so to be in direct personal contact. Haig is known to have visited down to Divisional HQ level to discuss with the commanders 'on the ground'. More often it was to higher command levels, for example, on the afternoon of 1 August 1917 Haig motored to visit the Fifth Army's Corps HQs in the following order II Corps, XIX Corps, XVIII Corps. He then visited the Army HQ speaking to General Uniacke.
GHQ and lower formation HQs also generally had forward HQs, this enabled the commanders to go further forward but the main HQ could remain fully operational and in contact with all its formations as well as the commander having direct communications with his main HQ from the forward HQ. Haig actually had a train that could move along the line to where operations were engaged in.
GHQ had rather wider responsibilities (logistics, training organisation, liaison with allies and national government etc)than 'just' fighting individual battles and these tasks had to be carried on even when major battles were going on.

Mike

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/14/2017 7:03:08 AM
OK mike -then how come it was Kiggell; late on in the battle, who discovered the dreadful conditions in which our men were fighting in the Passchendaele Offensive.

OK I suppose he did visit 5th Army HQ at the very start of the offensive; but why Uniacke and not Gough that he spoke to.I personally do not rate Haig as a C in C and have said so-he vacillated and passed on lies to Government far too much for my liking Mike.His treatment of subordinate who displeased him- was quick and final-no second chances.I would rather not talk about him- truth to tell.

I am not trying to be rude to you in any way, shape or form; and do not wish to avert you from providing your usual excellent "specialist" contributions. Phil is the man and probably others youn talk to about haig-I am the black sheep-I do hope that everything is OK between you and I.

Regards

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

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/14/2017 8:07:29 AM

Quote:
OK mike -then how come it was Kiggell; late on in the battle, who discovered the dreadful conditions in which our men were fighting in the Passchendaele Offensive.

OK I suppose he did visit 5th Army HQ at the very start of the offensive; but why Uniacke and not Gough that he spoke to.I personally do not rate Haig as a C in C and have said so-he vacillated and passed on lies to Government far too much for my liking Mike.His treatment of subordinate who displeased him- was quick and final-no second chances.I would rather not talk about him- truth to tell.

I am not trying to be rude to you in any way, shape or form; and do not wish to avert you from providing your usual excellent "specialist" contributions. Phil is the man and probably others youn talk to about haig-I am the black sheep-I do hope that everything is OK between you and I.

Regards

jim
--anemone

Hi

The problem is the 'Kiggell' story has been found to be a 'myth'. His name only became associated with the story in 1958, four years after he died, when Liddell Hart decided to say it was him. One book that covers this story in detail is 'Bloody Red Tabs', Davies and Maddocks, pages 16-21,it is highly likely that the 'incident' never happened. It is one of those stories (rather like alleged RFC Training deaths) that keeps getting repeated by both popular and some academic historians because it 'sounds good'. Sadly a lot of 'lying', or 'miss-interpretation', was going on post WW1. I have had to look at a lot of information on Command, Control, Communication and Training as it relates in my 'specialist' subject of air/ground co-operation in WW1 and I have become very 'wary' of much 'well known facts'. There is nothing personal in my comments just what I have been finding out during my own research, I am nor pro or against any particular personality.

Mike

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/14/2017 8:38:16 AM
Mike-Why I stuck with the Kiggell "story" was because it came from Leon Wolff's Book "In Flanders Fields" Kiggell having seen the conditions the men were fighting in; and here I discount the tears and the outburst as unprofessional.

He reported back to Haig and advised him to get rid of his CIO Charteris-the premier Yes Man- for fabricating his reports to the Chief-which he Charteris always thought that was what Haig had wanted- and this is true; but in times of crisis get rid of the evidence; and out went Charteris on grounds of ill health.I rest my case.

NB.From Adolf Hitler's War Record

In Flanders, Haig's officers are stunned by their own blundering. The maps don't reveal the mud. But British shellfire has destroyed Flanders' drainage systems. A British staff officer, Launcelot Kiggell, visiting the muck for the first time, gasps, "Did we really send men to fight in that?"

Regards

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

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/14/2017 10:31:53 AM

Quote:
Mike-Why I stuck with the Kiggell "story" was because it came from Leon Wolff's Book "In Flanders Fields" Kiggell having seen the conditions the men were fighting in; and here I discount the tears and the outburst as unprofessional.

He reported back to Haig and advised him to get rid of his CIO Charteris-the premier Yes Man- for fabricating his reports to the Chief-which he Charteris always thought that was what Haig had wanted- and this is true; but in times of crisis get rid of the evidence; and out went Charteris on grounds of ill health.I rest my case.

NB.From Adolf Hitler's War Record

In Flanders, Haig's officers are stunned by their own blundering. The maps don't reveal the mud. But British shellfire has destroyed Flanders' drainage systems. A British staff officer, Launcelot Kiggell, visiting the muck for the first time, gasps, "Did we really send men to fight in that?"

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Hi

All I will say is that a lot has been written since Wolff's 1958 book.

On the 'dangers' of 'well known facts' I shall return to RFC/RNAS/RAF Training deaths. In his 1982 book 'The First of the Few', Denis Winter, on page 36, states that, for the British:

"...official figures at the end of the war listed 14,166 dead pilots, of whom 8,000 had died while training in the UK."

Leaving aside the fact that the 'official figures' in the Official History did not say that, Winter's figures, directly or indirectly, have been stated ever since in both popular and academic books. Some of the most recent examples are the following:

'Reckless Fellows', 2016, by Professor Edward Bujak, on page 4:

"Shockingly, over half the 14,166 pilots who lost their lives in the war did so in training."

'The Battle of the Somme', 2016, Edited by Matthias Strohn, Chapter 4 'Air War over the Somme' by Dr James S. Corum, page 83, on British training methods:

"This informal and haphazard approach to training by the RFC killed far more British airmen than the German - the biggest cause of death for British airmen in World War I was training accidents. A total of 8,000 British aircrew were killed while training in the UK - a record of casualties per training hours that exceeded that of the Germans, French, and Americans by several times."

'Victory on the Western Front', 2016, by Dr. Michael Senior, page 66:

"According to one historian more pilots were killed during their training period (8,000) than in combat with the enemy (6,166)."

The problem is you will not find this number of dead listed on the CWGC Website, while 'Airmen Died in the Great War 1914-1918' (DVD-ROM), lists all British and Commonwealth Air Services of all ranks, men and women from all causes and comes up with a total of 9,350. Of these 3,592 were KIA (not just aircrew) and 2,844 were killed whist flying (accident), the deaths in training are included in this figure, looking through the individuals about 1,600 or so were killed in training accidents (another 396 Died of Wounds and 235 Died of Injuries during the war). The numbers of those killed in British training (throughout the world not just UK) is similar to the German figure for those killed, although the British trained more aircrew, so it is difficult to say the British system was 'more dangerous' than other nations.

During the war the 'British' KIA figures were not exceeded by accidental deaths while flying:

1914: 11 KIA, 11 KWF
1915: 73, 51.
1916: 318, 213.
1917: 1363, 841.
1918: 1827, 1728.

However, as Winter's figures keep being used by even professional historians the 'myth' will continue (and appear on websites). This is the same as other 'well known facts' that should really be looked at closely before accepting them.

Mike



anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/14/2017 11:08:09 AM
I can surely see where you are coming from Mike; but there are so many opinions old and new,it leaves one bewildered .Should the basis for belief be the very latest date published.?? Old beliefs can only be eradicated by proof positive that new proposition is intelligently sound and without doubt-that being even tad absent-it throws one back to the old belief.Question- who emphatically says Kiggell was never on the Passchendaele battlefield to see the state of the ground and what solid proof is offered ???.Of course in the long run -Does it really matter; or is the eradication of a presumed myth of vital importance ????

Coming to your statistical conundrum-I always think that mathematics is a simple science where deaths are apportioned to various pigeonholes :-
KIA ,DOW, MIA,Wnded in action and POW-these are all attached to being in action against an enemy.Other Casualties -Training KWF, DDT incl dying of injury, INJ WF,and sickness deaths.Given that all the deaths,wounded ,injured and sickness are correctly pigeon holed there should be no problem in total and believable tabulation.

Regards

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

MikeMeech
, UK
Posts: 303
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/14/2017 12:01:01 PM

Quote:
I can surely see where you are coming from Mike; but there are so many opinions old and new,it leaves one bewildered .Should the basis for belief be the very latest date published.?? Old beliefs can only be eradicated by proof positive that new proposition is intelligently sound and without doubt-that being even tad absent-it throws one back to the old belief.Question- who emphatically says Kiggell was never on the Passchendaele battlefield to see the state of the ground and what solid proof is offered ???.Of course in the long run -Does it really matter; or is the eradication of a presumed myth of vital importance ????

Coming to your statistical conundrum-I always think that mathematics is a simple science where deaths are apportioned to various pigeonholes :-
KIA ,DOW, MIA,Wnded in action and POW-these are all attached to being in action against an enemy.Other Casualties -Training KWF, DDT incl dying of injury, INJ WF,and sickness deaths.Given that all the deaths,wounded ,injured and sickness are correctly pigeon holed there should be no problem in total and believable tabulation.

Regards

Jim
--anemone

Hi

On the 'Kiggell' point I have given a reference for anyone interested to work from and they can make up their own mind.

On the aviation deaths the point is that figures appear to have been 'falsified' to support a theory that 'British' air crew training was much worse than anyone else's due to these 'high' death rates. However, as the deaths have been very much exaggerated the theory fails. The 'British' training system did have problems for various reasons, however, it was evolving all the time, as can be seen from even a brief reading of the histories.

Mike

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/14/2017 12:50:13 PM
Mike-I have to concede that Haig was not advised by Kiggell to sack Charteris; as Haig was was required to dismiss Charteris in Dec 1917.

Robertson had arrived at Haig's Headquarters with orders (signed by Derby) for his dismissal in his pocket, in case Haig refused to do as he was asked.

Haig claimed to his wife (14 December) that Charteris' work had been excellent; but he felt he had to sack him because he had "upset so many people".What a sad sack was this man Haig-he did not take the blame for anything

A common criticism is that Haig only accepted intelligence from Charteris (who told him what he wanted to hear) and did not cross-check it with other intelligence-failed again through indolence.

So I am on the cusp of giving up on Kiggell not being a witness to the conditions at Passchendaele-my apologies for the obfuscation.

I accept without equivocation your statement on aviation deaths

I have to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed these discussions; and as usual have learned a lot on the way -my sincere thanks for your patience Mike

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/14/2017 2:53:50 PM
Earlier on in this thread I divided the Third Battle of Ypres into three equal parts, and noted that the third and final part of 35 days between the 9th October and the 12th November 1917 appeared from CWGC data to be the most expensive in terms of life.

This by itself is hardly of use unless I supply my own interpretation.

The charge of culpable persistence levied against Haig in his Flanders offensive is bolstered up by this arithmetic.

The previous year, on the Somme, the final third of the battle's 141 days - that is, the 47 days between early September and mid November 1916 - was the least expensive in lives.

Passchendaele might be seen as an anomaly in this respect : the continuance of the offensive being attributable to Haig's insistence, and, with it, the consequential loss of life thereby.

I am pleased that Mike has challenged the story of Kigell and his outburst : there is too much hyperbole and apocryphal legend that does not stand up to scrutiny.

But the figures tell me that an awful lot of British and Dominion blood was poured out in continuing an offensive which could - and, IMHO, should - have been terminated weeks or even months earlier.

Regards, Phil

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 8/14/2017 3:16:32 PM
Yes Phil-Mike and I had a fair old chinwag over Kiggell among other issues-the mystery to me is how Kiggell was chosen to star in this so called myth- when either a)someone else saw this or b) nobody saw this or c)it was a wicked hoax.Anyway I have completely lost interest in this matter and am pleased to see you back on duty


Quote:
IMHO, should - have been terminated weeks or even months earlier.


and therein lies the rub-this was Haig's baby- he having fought and no doubt lied- to start this offensive-was not going to relinquish it lightly-so he wheedled the Canadians to finish the job for a further 16,000 casualties-does that cold fact not speak volumes about Douglas Haig. I've held the fort all day Phil and I'm off at 0430 tomorrow morning-so going off air for 28 days -See Ya.

ATVB

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

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 9/20/2017 10:51:10 AM
In retrospect the point of Passchendaele in this 3rd Battle of Ypres is really inexplicable.It can be said it took the pressure off the French after their bit of bother with mutineers; but I confess that I do not buy that-it is Haig's consuming passion to have something done which HE had set his mind on.

Haig had used up the very best Great Britain's infantry formations- the Guards,the Regular Divisions,the Scottish 9th,15th and 51st Divisions, the Welsh 38th Division ,the Irish 16th and 36th Divisions; and having used them up- then turned to the ANZAC and used them up too.All at a terrible cost in good men's lives-this tragedy was not missed by Lloyd George-who wanted Haig removed from post-so incensed was he at the profligacy of human life

Nevertheless not to be be outdone- Haig cajoled the Canadians to take on this Armageddon of mud and machine guns at a cost of a further 17000 casualties to win the ridge- which they did; and Haig lost interest at this juncture.

My God !! this man Haig was "acting as if he were either deranged or a cold blooded killer" who would sacrifice any number of men- to satisfy his lust for a victory.However it was not all doom and gloom -the GOM plumer pulled off quite and victory- a century ago- on the Menin Road AFAIK

REQUIUM FOR THE DEAD AND THE DISAPPEARED

The British lost an estimated 275,000 casualties at Passchendaele to the German's 220,000, making it one of the war's most costly battles of attrition.
.
Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 9/20/2017 1:04:51 PM
Jim,

Exactly one hundred years ago, this very day, Haig's British and ANZAC troops scored a significant success in the Battle of the Menin Road.

We must not allow the horrific memory of the culminating phase of Third Ypres - Passchendaele - to drown out the importance of this successful phase of the fighting.

Ludendorff was in dismay at the impact of the blow - to be followed on 26 September with another at Polygon Wood, and, on 4 October, with the most damaging of all at Broodseinde...one of Germany's " Black Days ".

I wonder how far these successes were almost pernicious , in so far as they encouraged persistence.

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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 9/20/2017 1:30:37 PM
No Phil it was not all bad-as news arrived back at GHQ of the great success of the Broodseinde attack, the head of GHQ Intelligence went to the Second Army headquarters to discuss exploitation.


Quote:
Plumer declined the suggestion, as eight fresh German divisions were behind the battlefield, with another six beyond them. Later in the day, Plumer had second thoughts and ordered I Anzac Corps to push on to the Keiberg spur, with support from the II Anzac Corps.

The II Anzac Corps commander wanted to advance north-east towards Passchendaele village but the I Anzac Corps commander preferred to wait until artillery had been brought up and supply routes improved.


Was this good sense or a missed opportunity.?? Yes Phil- a run of successes was habit forming -especially to GHQ staff.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 9/20/2017 3:22:28 PM
A new book on the battle : PASSCHENDAELE , Requiem for Doomed Youth, by the Australian Paul Ham is now on my shelves.

It's a journalistic account, based on interpretation and synthesis of secondary sources, bolstered up with a lot of wiki stuff, so those seeking primal archival research must look elsewhere....but it works.

The style is captivating , the evocation very compelling.

There are one or two errors ; but the power of anecdote and the seduction of the narrative outweighs the mistakes.

This is the joy of such works : the store of knowledge is not increased, but the emotions are fully engaged and the interest not only maintained, but flared up to a new pitch.

Recommended.

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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 9/21/2017 6:15:58 AM
Following the series of British successes-on 7 October, the German 4th Army again dispersed its troops in the front defence zone.

Reserve battalions moved back behind the artillery protective line and the Eingreif divisions were organised to intervene as swiftly as possible once an attack commenced, despite the risk of British artillery-fire.

Counter-battery fire to suppress the British artillery was to be increased, to protect the Eingreif divisions as they advanced.

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 9/21/2017 7:22:10 AM
Ten years ago I was taken round the Passchendaele battlefield by a Belgian guide who really knew his stuff.

One of the things he told us which I keep wondering about was his assertion that the German pill boxes were served by MG crews who fired from the top of the structures....not from the inside, firing through the slits, which is what I had always assumed.

Apparently, the crews sought shelter from the bombardments by hunkering down within ; but when the enemy infantry came into view, they lugged their MGs outside and took up firing positions on the roof .

This does not accord with accounts that I have read elsewhere ....but I suppose it's important to remember that these heavy MGs were not easy to handle,had to be laboriously sited and required frequent cooling, and could not traverse quickly. They had to be carefully calibrated and were not amenable to the sort of mobility we associate with the Lewis Gun : perhaps this made the roof of the concrete structure the more sensible place to mount them.

If any MHOers know about this, please pitch in.

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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 9/21/2017 7:47:45 AM
German machine-gunners were often housed inside pillboxes. With very thick walls, they were difficult to destroy by artillery barrages.

It was possible to fire through narrow slits in the wall.

However, during an enemy offensive, the machine-guns were placed either on the top, or at the side of the pillbox.


[Read More]

NB. I doubt that the machine guns used in those circumstances would be the particularly heavy type.Some of the guys will know

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 9/21/2017 12:58:59 PM
Perhaps the Germans heaped sandbags on top of the pillboxes, to provide an additional protective rampart, and afford the MG teams some extra cover.

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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 9/21/2017 1:05:42 PM
Both sides also used smaller machine-guns and posts. The British tended to use Bergmann machine-gun, rather than Maxims in these posts. Germans built machine-gun posts in large numbers all along the line at Ypres and Messines.

Machine-gunners were deeply hated by the infantry and they were more likely to be killed when captured than other soldiers.

Map-Expand
[Read More]

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 9/21/2017 3:19:39 PM
German MG tactics were predicated on enfilade and interlocking fields of fire.

Despite their notorious reputation as infantry slayers, machine gun bullets killed fewer than half as many men as artillery projectiles.

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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 9/22/2017 3:03:24 AM
The British plan for the Menin Ridge battle fought from 20–25 September, included more emphasis on the use of heavy and medium artillery to destroy German concrete pill-boxes and machine-gun nests, which were more numerous in the battle zones being attacked and to engage in more counter-battery fire.

The British had 575 heavy and medium and 720 field guns and howitzers, having more than doubled the quantity of artillery available at the Battle of Pilckem Ridge.

Aircraft were to be used for systematic air observation of German troop movements, to avoid the failures of previous battles, where too few aircraft crews had been burdened with too many duties and had flown in bad weather.

NB.It is often stated that most deaths on the Western Front were caused by artillery fire. But is there any evidence to support this statement?

Regards

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 9/22/2017 6:36:30 AM
Jim,

Evidence about ratios of casualties has to be based on wounds treated rather than deaths.

The evidence is overwhelming that artillery caused the preponderance of wounds : from more than fifty to seventy per cent overall, with variations according to theatre of operations and time. Plenty of medical statistics are available from official histories to support this.

This does, of course, raise the question as to how far ratios of wounds can be conflated with deaths....if a man is hit by MG fire, is he less likely to survive than a man hit by shrapnel ? Does this skew the ratios ?

I would have thought that high explosive and jagged, heavy shell fragments were more likely to kill a man outright than bullets....but there has to be an element of supposition in one's take on this.

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 9/22/2017 6:48:26 AM
Paul Ham, in his new book, offers a unique interpretation on the whys and wherefores of Passchendaele.

Basically, he sees it as the result of dysfunctional relationships between soldiers and politicians.

Lloyd George, thwarted in his aspiration for transferring British effort to Italy and/or the Balkans, and exposed as injudicious in espousing Nivelle's strategy, was determined to press his vendetta against Haig and his entourage.

Haig, mortified by his subservience to Nivelle and intent on pursuing his Flanders ambition, resorted more and more to relying on being told what he wanted to hear.

Haig's bitterness was understandable, but his psychological disposition regrettable. His motives for action were turning dangerously personal. A garrulous political monkey sat in judgement on his shoulder, waiting for him to fail. Haig would win this offensive and silence Lloyd George. How many young lives must be ruined or lost as a result of hasty decisions perverted into action by the smouldering hatred between two proud and wounded men ?

Page 187.

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: 2476
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 9/23/2017 4:22:26 PM
Today's Times newspaper carries a double page feature on tomorrow's elections in Germany, which the pundits think will go Angela Merkel's way.

There is no complacency, though, especially in view of the significant presence of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which could win up to 60 seats.

Many Germans, the article states, have been horrified by the words of the AfD co-candidate for chancellor, Alexander Gauland, who urged the nation to be proud of the actions of German soldiers in the two world wars.

This brings to mind the Lost Causers of the Southern United States, with their veneration of Confederate heroes.

But I have to say, on reading Paul Ham's book, that I, too, have been thinking about the sheer fighting prowess of those German soldiers who stood up to the overwhelming preponderance of material that the British Empire deployed against them one hundred years ago today in the Battle of the Menin Road ( 20-25 September 1917 ). Were I a German, whose grandfather had fought there, I would be tempted to heed the words of Gauland.

The odds facing those Germans were awful : for every shell their guns fired, the British fired four ; and these shells were vastly improved, with effective fuses that exploded on impact and enhanced the effect in qualitative as well as quantitative terms. The manpower arrayed against them was truly overwhelming...crack ANZAC and British troops - and South Africans - not only supported by a stupefying concentration of artillery, but also endowed with infantry trained in modern tactics of fire and movement, equipped with Lewis guns, rifle grenades and attributes of storm trooper fighting methods.

These German soldiers had been suffering from hunger, thirst, exhaustion and, to make the cup run over, a foul onslaught of intestinal illness caused by living in a putrid battlefield, surrounded by decomposing corpses and stagnant water in a field of shell holes. The relentless bombardments and the constant threat of gas must have made existence there all but unbearable.

By and large, British people are conditioned to think of Passchendaele as the ultimate martyrdom of the manhood of Britain and the Dominions in an appallingly futile and bloody series of battles.

This is all too understandable, and, to a degree, justifiable.

That the Germans managed to contain this monstrous offensive is a feature that compels more reflection and acknowledgement.

Regards, Phil






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"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: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 9/25/2017 11:18:42 AM
Haig, for Lloyd George, was a man out of his depth:(Extracts from GLG's Memoirs


Quote:
He was a second-rate Commander in unparalleled and unforeseen circumstances… He was not endowed with any of the elements of imagination and vision which determine the line of demarcation between genius and ordinary. And he certainly had none of that personal magnetism which has enabled great leaders of men to inspire multitudes with courage, faith and a spirit of sacrifice…
He was incapable of planning vast campaigns on the scale demanded on so immense a battlefield… When he had to fight battles in quagmires he had never seen and over an area extending to a hundred miles which he never did or could personally inspect, he was lost. (p.2014)

Joffre, Haig and Robertson had much in common… Patriotism, integrity, industry, study and some grain of experience were essentials of their high responsibility, but by no means the only attributes that leadership in such an immense undertaking demanded. There ought to have been initiative, resource, pliability, vision, imagination, aptitude to learn from experience, courage and skill to profit by, and not to persist in mistakes. In all these respects these men had grave deficiencies, and the world is suffering today from the results of their shortcomings. (870-1)


Regards

Jim
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Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 9/25/2017 1:54:56 PM
Siegfried Sassoon, whose poetry famously depicted the horrors of trench warfare, mentioned the battle in his poem Memorial Tablet. Penned a month before the war's end in October 1918 and first published in his 1919 collection Picture-Show, the poem is narrated by a dead soldier.


Quote:
Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby’s Scheme). I died in hell -
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare;
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;
‘In proud and glorious memory’...that’s my due.
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.
Once I came home on leave: and then went west...
What greater glory could a man desire


Regards

Jim
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Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 9/26/2017 7:56:32 AM
Cyril Falls of 36 Division, contrasted his experience under Gough with the one his unit had under Plumer at Messines:

“The System of liaison was practised by the Second Army as in no other. General Harington’s car (he was Plumer's Chief of Staff) stopped at every door, and the cheerful young staff officers, who knew every communication trench on the Army front, who drank with company commanders in their front-line dug-outs before coming back to tea with a Brigadier, or with General [Oliver] Nugent [GOC 36th Ulster Division] at his Headquarters, formed a very real link between the Higher Command and the troops…

The difficulties at Ypres were infinitely greater than at Messines; that everyone recognised. But (there was a real difference in) the (level of) precision, care, and forethought (between Second and Fifth Armies). The private soldier felt a difference"

Regards

jim.
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Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 5954
Re: 1917-Passchendaele-"A Sad Drawing Down of the Blinds"
Posted on: 9/29/2017 1:37:09 PM
MUD-it was unbelievable


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Regards

Jim
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Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper