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(1914-1918) WWI
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Phil andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 10/22/2017 10:27:44 AM

At the risk of going over old ground after last year’s centennial , I would like to invite comments on the extraordinary triumph of the French counter offensive that stormed Fort Douamont on October 24th, 101 years ago this coming week.

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

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

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

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

To what might we attribute this astonishing French success ?

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

Regards. Phil
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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: 7899
Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 10/22/2017 11:43:31 AM

Phil-how much,if any ,of this this new initiative can be attributed to the dismissal of General Falkenhayn- a month previously.He was dismissed by Hindenburg for failure in this enormous undertaking; but was Hindenburg right in doing so???

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

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

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

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

Regards

Jim
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Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper
Phil andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 10/22/2017 3:22:06 PM

Jim ,

You give a good summary which gains my respect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards

Phil
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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: 7899
Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 10/23/2017 4:07:53 AM

I am of the firm opinion that Falkenhayn's dismissal was the catalyst and signal for the French to start their Counter Offensive of 24th September.

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

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


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

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


Regards

Jim
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Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper
Phil andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 10/23/2017 8:25:44 AM

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

Churchill thought so.

One could argue that it was the other way round.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, Phil





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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: 7899
Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 10/23/2017 9:11:38 AM


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards

Jim
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Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper
anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS
 UK
Posts: 7899
Re: quote]Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 11/8/2017 11:09:29 AM


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

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

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

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


Regards

Jim

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Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper
anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS
 UK
Posts: 7899
Re: quote]Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 11/8/2017 12:34:11 PM

The French Riposte

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

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

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

Regards

Jim
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Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper
scoucer
Berlin
 Germany
Posts: 2778
Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 4/15/2018 3:45:11 AM


Quote:
Phil-how much,if any ,of this this new initiative can be attributed to the dismissal of General Falkenhayn- a month previously.He was dismissed by Hindenburg for failure in this enormous undertaking; but was Hindenburg right in doing so???


Jim
--anemone


Falkenhayn was not dismissed by Hindenburg. He was replaced by Hindenburg who had been his subordinate.Nor was Falkenhayn dismissed because of failure at Verdun. Falkenhayn resigned , officially , because of the entry of Rumania in the war which he had said would not happen. In truth, Falkenhayn resigned because of the massive number of intrigues going on, in the General Staff, amongst his subordinates, at the various german courts, in the A-H command . Falkenhayn had good reasons to be sectretive. In point of fact, Falkenhayn resigned to spare the Kaiser having to dismiss him who indeed couldn´t hold back the tears as he accepted the resignation seeing Falkenhayn as one of the few he could trust.

Falkenhayn wrote his memoirs 1920/21 as he was dying of cancer in Schloß Lindstedt,Potsdam.



His memoirs are, in translation, very difficult to read as are many translations of the time, coming over as very "dry".
More so as Falkenhayn , unlike others writing backside-covering half-truths blaming all except themselves, refused to criticise fellow soldiers and particularly the Kaiser and Kaiserin for their meddling. It left him unable to face his critics.
His daughter Erika would marry Henning von Tretschow and become a key figure in the german resistance.

Illness over the last two years has kept me from keeping everyone up to the lastest on Verdun but I have been reading intensely new german research about Verdun. After having learnt so much lately, with lots of new information coming from the Bundesarchiv, I´m beginning to think that no other general, in WW1, held so much responsibility, faced so much intrigue and had to deal with so much political interference, as Falkenhayn.

Watch this space.

Trevor
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`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.
Phil andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 4/16/2018 1:09:40 AM

This is truly exciting , Trevor.

Can’t wait for more 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
scoucer
Berlin
 Germany
Posts: 2778
Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 4/16/2018 3:36:38 PM

There´s a hell of a lot Phil. But it brings out one of my pet complaints. There are so many brilliant books being published by excellent, and young historians ( why are historians under 60 refered to as "young"? ) in Germany and so much information/finds coming out of the Bundesarchiv from the masses of sources they´ve got in the last few years ( ie. 40,000 tons of unsorted records from the russian archives just to mention one ) but they are completely ignored by the anglo-centred history world because they don´t get translated.Being published by small University presses who just do not have the finances. There are so many historians, so-called "world acclaimed", belting out and repeating the old myths.

Trevor
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`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.
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 4/18/2018 4:38:51 PM

Things are changing, aren’t they, Trevor ?

The big established institutions are being discredited ; the little people are springing up like the teeth of the Dragon.

Perhaps it’s the same with history research.

Let’s hope those small university presses can cut the mustard.

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: 7899
Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 4/19/2018 11:47:44 AM

Germany’s preparations for the Battle of Verdun involved one of World War I’s largest buildups of men and equipment. Using rugged terrain and a huge air presence to screen their movements, Falkenhayn’s men spent seven weeks constructing new railway lines, assembling heavy concrete bunkers to house troops, and stockpiling more than 1,200 artillery pieces.

A staggering 2.5 million shells were shipped to the front using 1,300 munitions trains. Despite the massive engineering project going on right under their noses, the French were largely unprepared for a German attack.

The forts surrounding Verdun had seen little action during the early stages of the war, and many of their garrisons and artillery pieces had been moved to hotter sectors. The French managed to make last minute preparations after poor weather delayed the German onslaught....Mother Nature the Auld Bitch!!!.

Regards

Jim
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Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper
Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan
MI USA
Posts: 5893
Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 12/12/2018 4:14:53 PM

Jim,

You have a way with words!?

MD
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"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."
john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 12/13/2018 8:22:11 AM

Did Falkenhayn view Verdun in his original plan view Verdun as a battle of attrition? In other words kill as many Frenchmen as possible?

It brings up the saying as the Kilkenny cats and which one had the longer tail
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS
 UK
Posts: 7899
Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 12/13/2018 9:05:26 AM

The short answer to that question is that Falkenhayn intended "to bleed the French dry"

Regards

Jim
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Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper
anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS
 UK
Posts: 7899
Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 12/13/2018 9:05:40 AM

The short answer to that question is that Falkenhayn intended "to bleed the French dry"

Regards

Jim
----------------------------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper
john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 12/13/2018 11:47:00 AM

Having failed to take Verdun. wouldn't digging in deep or even withdrawing have the same result? The french batter themselves try to retake the land.

It seems every offensive operation on the Western Front ended up the same. If successful it created a huge salient in the lines or if unsuccessful it was because the shoulders of the attack failed allowing the enemy to shell/attack one's flanks
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS
 UK
Posts: 7899
Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 12/13/2018 12:11:11 PM

After repeated offensive actions--Falkenhayn stopped attacking a stubborn French defence; and fell back on the defensive. Petain who had replaced Nivelle went on the attack and retook a lot ground which had been lost-A dispirited Falkenhayn was recalled and Verdun remained French.That is about it in a nutshell.

The Battle of Verdun in 1916 was the longest single battle of World War One.

The casualties from Verdun and the impact the battle had on the French Army was a primary reason for the British starting the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 in an effort to take German pressure off of the French at Verdun.


Regards

Jim
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Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper
scoucer
Berlin
 Germany
Posts: 2778
Re: Verdun + 101 : some thoughts..
Posted on: 12/19/2019 5:21:33 PM

Bump up.

Trevor
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`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.

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