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 (1914-1918) WWI
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john hayward
Allenstown NH USA
Posts: 871
Joined: 2004
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/20/2020 10:44:00 PM

George
One thing that surprised me is that at Soissons the Marines and other US and French divisions had no air cover. They saw German planes overhead that called down artillery fire not only on Marine positions but advancing tanks and even HQ positions. They would see a cluster of men or men coming and going from a particular spot and call for artillery rounds. The men were even strafed by German fighters. There is no mention of Allied air cover at all
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 4879
Joined: 2004
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/21/2020 5:40:03 AM

John,

You asked “ What tactics did the BEF use in the final 100 days ? “

Shock and awe, 1918 style .

The combined arms battle.

Determination to replace flesh and blood with metal.

Flexibility to move the attack from one sector to another, rather than bludgeoning too long in the same place.

Relentless, intensive and resolute , from top to bottom.

Artillery still very much the dominant arm, but rendered especially effective by virtue of concerted action by all parts of the army, and, significantly, the Air Force.

For an example from the textbook , take a look at Hamel , 4 July 1918. A small affair, but very portentous .

This is a very simplified and brief summary, but I reckon it works.

The French had been showing the way ahead with this two years earlier, on the Somme.

It took the attrition of the failed German spring offensives to bring the method to fruition, because another essential ingredient was a weakened and demoralised enemy.

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: 11426
Joined: 2009
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/21/2020 9:12:16 AM

Quote:
George
One thing that surprised me is that at Soissons the Marines and other US and French divisions had no air cover. They saw German planes overhead that called down artillery fire not only on Marine positions but advancing tanks and even HQ positions. They would see a cluster of men or men coming and going from a particular spot and call for artillery rounds. The men were even strafed by German fighters. There is no mention of Allied air cover at all



I just recently finished a book about the battle at Cantigny. Was that at your recommendation John?

And the US troops were strafed at will by the Germans and they had no air cover in response. The German planes were acting as artillery spotters too.
I wondered why there was no response in the air. If the planes available were French, at the time, would communication with the US forces have been a problem?

And you say that there was no air cover at Soissons too. Wonder why the ground troops were not protected???

Cheers,

George
john hayward
Allenstown NH USA
Posts: 871
Joined: 2004
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/21/2020 10:02:27 AM

George
Yes it was. Hope you enjoyed the read.

In my recent reads on the Soissons battle I can find no mention of Allied air support. Plenty of blame for lack of coordination between American infantry and artillery support. Then they go on to mention German spotter planes and observation balloons. They comment on the accuracy of the German artillery and at one point a squad of the 6th Marines decided it was better to remain at the woods edge then move across an open field to attack. Not because of machine fire but they could see a German plane circling above. They knew if they advanced it would call fire down upon them. The fact that the squad was down to 10 uninjured men might have something to do with it too.

Again nowhere in the initial plans is there mentioning of air support. Tanks artillery yes Planes no

One other thing about the Marine attack at Soissons. Two companies of Marine machine guns were ordered to support the attack. The men arrived in time but their machine guns were delayed by the traffic jam behind the front. The guns were carried by trucks that were seperated from the men. The guns finally arrived and the men rushed after the advancing Marines. In the end the guns provided support to hold positions, not advance them.
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 4879
Joined: 2004
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/21/2020 12:51:08 PM

Might it be that, because the Soissons fighting was actually part of the great counter attack that the Allies launched on 18 July, when the German attack was beginning to flounder , it was all part of a reflexive, opportunistic battle rather than an offensive launched when the ducks were all lined up ? I’m wondering whether this might account for the lack of aerial support lamented by the US contingents.

I noted that in the early day of the German attacks, British airmen were active and successful in attacking the German soldiers : I read one German account of a British aircraft dropping bombs ( or a single bomb) on a vulnerable formation and causing 133 casualties .

I must cite the reference and give more details.

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
john hayward
Allenstown NH USA
Posts: 871
Joined: 2004
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/21/2020 3:15:16 PM

Phil
"Might it be that, because the Soissons fighting was actually part of the great counter attack that the Allies launched on 18 July, when the German attack was beginning to flounder , it was all part of a reflexive, opportunistic battle rather than an offensive launched when the ducks were all lined up ? I’m wondering whether this might account for the lack of aerial support lamented by the US contingents."

Definitely see that in the attack on July 18-19. It also explains why the Marine machine gun supports were tangled up in the traffic jam. As the attack went in there were a lot of assumptions being made as to who was on the flank, boundaries, time of attack etc. On the 19th French tanks were ordered to meet up with the 6th Marine. The Marine attack was set for 6AM. The tankers were told 7AM.

Just surprising as the attack went on no one requested air cover. Could it be the brigade commanders assumed the division would ask for it and the division assumed the Corps would? Or the commanders just not thinking 3 dimensional?
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11426
Joined: 2009
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/21/2020 3:16:41 PM

After the initial shock and the retreat, did the BEF begin to manage the retreat or was it largely a rout until the Germans outran their supply chain.

By managed, I think that I mean did they identify specific key areas to defend and then to send reinforcements to this area?

Were the British in control of the situation at any time and if so, when? And again, if so, how did they regain control of the situation?

I ask because the prevailing view is that the German storm troopers could not be supplied after a few days and that the tired infantrymen stopped to pilfer food and lost the will to continue the fight.

Was this a well managed retreat?

Cheers,

George



john hayward
Allenstown NH USA
Posts: 871
Joined: 2004
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/21/2020 4:06:20 PM

George

May I recommend the book "Five Days From Defeat" by Walter Reid. It covers from March 21 to March 26 1918. I found it a quick and interesting read. It anawered a lot of questions for me and gave me insight to many things I did not know, like how close the Germans were to success.
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11426
Joined: 2009
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/21/2020 9:04:13 PM

Thanks John, I just ordered the kindle version of the book.

George
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 4879
Joined: 2004
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/22/2020 2:48:25 AM

Quote:
George

May I recommend the book "Five Days From Defeat" by Walter Reid. It covers from March 21 to March 26 1918. I found it a quick and interesting read. It anawered a lot of questions for me and gave me insight to many things I did not know, like how close the Germans were to success.



John,

A remarkable feature of Reid’s book is that the author emphasises that he has changed his mind.

He had previously extolled Haig as the “ Architect of Victory”, and went to pains to dispel the negative commentary about the C-i-C of the BEF.

Now he’s stating that Haig carried significant culpability for the dire situation during those five days in March 1918.

Reid actually declares that he was determined not to allow himself to be under the sway of consistency, which he describes as that “ hobgoblin “ of small minds !

I haven’t bought his book, but I might do so now.

I’ve always felt that this was a really close business, touch and go, and that some commentators have taken a rather complacent view, insisting that the German offensive was doomed to failure, on account of logistical over reach.

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
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 4879
Joined: 2004
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/22/2020 3:19:29 AM

George and John,

One of the joys of discussing topics on MHO is that it gets me to visit my shelves and discover books that I’ve ignored or underrated. New gems come to the fore.

One such is a small pamphlet written by Randal Gray, dealing specifically with the Kaiserslacht, and part of the Osprey Campaign Series.

There is a fabulous array of interesting photographs, along with clear maps and much about arms, uniforms and technical paraphernalia . The text is also disciplined and informative , with interesting anecdotal accounts to back up the narrative of the huge battles of March and April 1918.

Gray is particularly strong on the story of the airmen’s war, and we get a proper appreciation of how important this was. I alluded to one particular incident, and wanted to cite the source. Page 59 of his book yields us this...... The Royal Flying Corps had thrown itself heart and soul into the ground battle as a result of Major-General Salmond’s....order to “ bomb and shoot everything they can see ” on the German side....Over 100 aircraft of all types.... responded so that German regimental histories record swarms of 15-30 low flying airmen attacking them. An elite regiment of 23rd Division lost 133 casualties to three bombs near Athies from No.5 ( Naval) Squadron......Night bombers struck Perrone and Bapaume with 287 bombs. German operations suffered from the unprecedented advance causing airfield and coordination difficulties.

The allusion to those difficulties might be pertinent to Franco American air support failure at Soissons .

The episode with three bombs was on 25 March, the same day as that photo of the Franco British soldiers in those scrapes near Nesle.

It’s only when I read that account that I fully appreciated the role played by my paternal grandfather who was a motorbike dispatch rider for the RFC, and spoke with some animation about how busy he had been in that period of the war.

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
john hayward
Allenstown NH USA
Posts: 871
Joined: 2004
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/22/2020 8:24:58 AM

Phil
There may have been a number of factors regarding air cover at Soissons. You hit on one which was it was a rush job, This shows up in the massive traffic jam during the move up the night of July 17. Units were tangled up. There were few maps made available and many arrived at their jump off point moments before they went in.

The US troops were still under French command at this point. I don't know anything about how the French used their air support. Maybe this attack had low priority.

The AEF command and staff were still learning and suffering from growing pains

About this time the Americans air squadrons were switching from Nieuport 28 to the SPAD 13. The switch to the SPAD with its V-8 engine was causing delays as American mechanics were learning to repair it. Estimates state that this switch took about a week to go into effect

And finally the attack was under the direction of French Gen Charles Mangin. Known for his aggressive all out offensive tactics, Mangin's nickname was 'The Butcher or Man-eater." Artillery and infantry seems to be his choice of weapon
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11426
Joined: 2009
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/22/2020 8:36:58 AM

Phil and John, there was a US Air Service attached to the AEF. I do not know whether they were operating independently of the French Aéronautique Militaire or integrated into the French force.

John mentioned that Pershing was wedded to the concept of the proficient and aggressive rifleman as the key to success on the battlefield but I was wondering whether the USAAS could have been assigned to assist the infantry forces in the early battles of 1918. The Army Air Service is dated from May of 1918 but there were organizations that preceded it in the US system.

Cantigny was fought in May and Soissons in July.

Cheers,

George

EDIT: John must have been typing at the same time as I was. I see from his post that the US Air Service was under French command.
john hayward
Allenstown NH USA
Posts: 871
Joined: 2004
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/23/2020 10:33:24 AM

George

By the beginning of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive the Air Service AEF consisted of 32 squadrons (15 pursuit, 13 observation, and 4 bombing) at the front, while by November 11, 1918, 45 squadrons (20 pursuit, 18 observation, and 7 bombardment had been assembled for combat. On March 5 it took over the line and began operations supporting the U.S. 1st Division, becoming the "first complete American Air Service unit in history to operate against an enemy on foreign soil." This may explain the lack of air cover during the Soissons battle as the US 2nd Division was the one involved and attached to the French at this time. Even at Cantigny, May 28 1918 an US officer wrote "I would like to state here that there is hardly anything so depressing to troops as to see the sky filled with enemy planes and none of yours in sight."
.
During the war, these squadrons played important roles in the St-Mihiel Offensive, and the Meuse-Argonne. At St-Mihiel September 12-15 1918, 3 US Army fighter / bomber groups were engaged.
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 4879
Joined: 2004
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/24/2020 5:41:03 AM


The US troops were still under French command at this point. I don't know anything about how the French used their air support. Maybe this attack had low priority.



John,

On the first day of April, 1918, the RAF was born. It was delivered into a maelstrom of blood and thunder, had a lot to do, and did it pretty well.

That very day, the French demonstrated their intent and also their ability.

Foch sent to GHQ his 1 April instructions to General Fayolle on Anglo - French air co-operation. Clearly the third dimension of the battle was being studied. These instructions laid down the axes of reconnaissance to ensure complete combined coverage : concentration of bombing on key rail junctions, especially St Quentin, Jussy, Ham and Peronne ; priority to ground attack and mutual reinforcement ; and centralised dissemination of intelligence by radio, courier aircraft, or daily motor vehicle to Foch's HQ.

A mainstay of the French aerial arm was the Breguet 14B2 biplane bomber.

I've been copying all this from that little book by Randal Gray.

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
Lightning
Glasgow  UK
Posts: 671
Joined: 2005
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/24/2020 6:07:26 AM

How delighted I am to see Walter Reid cited on here, as he is a native of my home village!

His books are well worth reading, although I haven’t quite got around to “Five Days from Defeat” yet.

Cheers,

Colin
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"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: 4879
Joined: 2004
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/24/2020 10:25:06 AM

A delight for me, too, Colin : he’s an alumnus of my old stomping ground, Jesus College 😊

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
john hayward
Allenstown NH USA
Posts: 871
Joined: 2004
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/25/2020 12:09:17 PM

Phil
Did the Germans have a better handle on air support at this time? Didnt they use planes as part of their offensive in the early stages? Also didn't they design an all metal fighter Junker D.1 with some idea of using it in such a role?
----------------------------------
"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11426
Joined: 2009
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/25/2020 1:40:57 PM

The German air force amassed a large number of aircraft for the initial attack and they outnumbered the British planes initially.
But by the end of the offensive, the British and French could not find many German planes in the air.

According to Group Captain John Alexander, the AF's of the major participants had similar structures but different numbers of planes in the categories of Fighters, Observers and Bombers in 1918

eg. By 1918 the French had 34% fighters, 51% observation aircraft, and 15% bombers.

The British preferred more fighters at 55%, observation aircraft at 23% with 22% bombers.

Germany at 42% fighters, 50% observation aircraft and 8% bombers.

To a certain extent, this determined how the different countries would use their AF's. Within these broad categories, different countries employed specialist squadrons.

e.g. Germany and France employed squadrons that specialized in long range artillery, photographic and high altitude recce.

During Operation Michael, Capt. Alexander had this to say about the German air service

Quote:
Thus, for Operation Michael the German Air Service concentrated 820 aircraft against 645 Allied aircraft, gaining control of the air for the first three days of the offensive. German economy of force, however, meant its observation aircraft were often at a disadvantage; reduced German opposition meant British fighters could be allocated to ground attack.


Quote:
Failing logistics, a lack of forward airfields and limited aircraft endurance, however, rapidly degraded German control of the air.


As the battle progressed, the British air service took the initiative and went on the attack.

Quote:
Major General John Salmond, on 25 March concentrated 50% of his fighter strength (27 squadrons) on reserve airfields in support of the British Third and Fifth Armies, ordering every available RFC aircraft to ‘bomb and shoot up everything they can see on the enemy’s side of the line.’ General Duval, commanding the French Air Service, ordered ground attacks from 25 March and one of Foch’s first actions as Allied Supreme Commander was to order on 1 April the ‘first duty of aeroplanes is to assist the troops on the ground by incessant attacks’.[19]


Quote:
By 31 March the RFC was struggling to find German air opposition.


This was all very costly for the British. Even as the German reports indicated that their troops were suffering from "hostile airmen", British planes were being shot down at a rapid rate. And the pilots did not enjoy assignments to engage in low level strafing because they were more easily hit from the ground.

I thought that this article by Capt. Alexander and written in 2019 was detailed and informative with respect to the air services involved in 1918. The article may answer many questions.

To John's question, if I understand Capt. Alexander's article, Germany could not match the allied industrial capacity but were selective about using the aircraft that they had, bringing them together for an important attack.

[Read More]

Cheers,

George
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 4879
Joined: 2004
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/25/2020 4:03:18 PM

Quote:
Phil
Did the Germans have a better handle on air support at this time? Didnt they use planes as part of their offensive in the early stages? Also didn't they design an all metal fighter Junker D.1 with some idea of using it in such a role?

John,

A woeful lack of knowledge on my part here.

Thank goodness for George, coming to our aid with his superb contribution.

Where would we be without him ?

Regards , Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
MikeMeech
 UK
Posts: 508
Joined: 2012
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/25/2020 4:40:47 PM

Quote:
The German air force amassed a large number of aircraft for the initial attack and they outnumbered the British planes initially.
But by the end of the offensive, the British and French could not find many German planes in the air.

According to Group Captain John Alexander, the AF's of the major participants had similar structures but different numbers of planes in the categories of Fighters, Observers and Bombers in 1918

eg. By 1918 the French had 34% fighters, 51% observation aircraft, and 15% bombers.

The British preferred more fighters at 55%, observation aircraft at 23% with 22%

Germany at 42% fighters, 50% observation aircraft and 8% bombers.

To a certain extent, this determined how the different countries would use their AF's. Within these broad categories, different countries employed specialist squadrons.

e.g. Germany and France employed squadrons that specialized in long range artillery, photographic and high altitude recce.

During Operation Michael, Capt. Alexander had this to say about the German air service

Quote:
Thus, for Operation Michael the German Air Service concentrated 820 aircraft against 645 Allied aircraft, gaining control of the air for the first three days of the offensive. German economy of force, however, meant its observation aircraft were often at a disadvantage; reduced German opposition meant British fighters could be allocated to ground attack.


Quote:
Failing logistics, a lack of forward airfields and limited aircraft endurance, however, rapidly degraded German control of the air.


As the battle progressed, the British air service took the initiative and went on the attack.

Quote:
Major General John Salmond, on 25 March concentrated 50% of his fighter strength (27 squadrons) on reserve airfields in support of the British Third and Fifth Armies, ordering every available RFC aircraft to ‘bomb and shoot up everything they can see on the enemy’s side of the line.’ General Duval, commanding the French Air Service, ordered ground attacks from 25 March and one of Foch’s first actions as Allied Supreme Commander was to order on 1 April the ‘first duty of aeroplanes is to assist the troops on the ground by incessant attacks’.[19]


Quote:
By 31 March the RFC was struggling to find German air opposition.


This was all very costly for the British. Even as the German reports indicated that their troops were suffering from "hostile airmen", British planes were being shot down at a rapid rate. And the pilots did not enjoy assignments to engage in low level strafing because they were more easily hit from the ground.

I thought that this article by Capt. Alexander and written in 2019 was detailed and informative with respect to the air services involved in 1918. The article may answer many questions.

To John's question, if I understand Capt. Alexander's article, Germany could not match the allied industrial capacity but were selective about using the aircraft that they had, bringing them together for an important attack.

[Read More]

Cheers,

George


Hi

it is a pity that Grp. Capt. Alexander repeats the 'myth' of the Junkers J.1 being used as a ground attack aeroplane by the 'Schlachtstaffeln', it was not. It was an infantry aeroplane used to undertake 'Contact Patrols', it was armed with one machine gun in the observer's position (except for a few armament experiments), it lacked speed (slower than an RE.8) and manoeuvrability at low level as well as weapon carrying ability for ground attack. The 'Schlasta' did use a few Albatros J.1s during the Spring offensive but the majority aircraft used were unarmoured or lightly armoured CL types (see 'Schlachtflieger!' by Duiven & Abbott). These aircraft had the speed and manoeuvrability as well as weapon carriage to undertake ground attacks.
it is of interest to note how often it is said that RFC/RAF pilots 'did not like' ground attacks at low level, usually quoting a 'fighter' pilot, strangely RFC/RAF pilots and observers of Corps squadrons spent a large amount of their flying time at these low levels undertaking Contact/Counter Attack/Low patrols as well as ground attack! I suspect that Corps pilots and observers, who later became pilots, flying fighters may well have felt that doing ground attacks in faster and more manoeuvrable aircraft at the same heights and spending less time at low level than when they were flying RE.8 or FK.8 aircraft was rather 'less' dangerous.
It is also said that 30% of fighters were lost on ground attack missions, sometimes yes, but not always. Taking the 27 March 1918 for example No. 4 AFC Sqn. (Camel) undertook 38 aircraft sorties dropping 75 25-lb bombs as well as lots of MG ammo at German ground forces, losing one aircraft with the pilot wounded (he returned to the sqn.). On the same day No. 19 Sqn. (Dolphin) put up three multi-aircraft patrols to undertake ground attacks, first 10 am. dropped 34 bombs and fired 2,450 rounds. Second 1.45 pm. dropped 27 bombs and fired 1,850 rounds. Third 5 pm dropped 11 bombs and fired 1,400 rounds. They had no losses to enemy ground fire or fighters. Now I am sure there were bullet holes in the aircraft. Other squadrons were not so lucky No. 70 Sqn. (Camel) had four casualties.

I will continue later.

Mike
MikeMeech
 UK
Posts: 508
Joined: 2012
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/25/2020 5:51:28 PM

Hi
Because of ground MG and rifle fire it was decided (by HQ RAF France it appears from the archives) to put armour plates on the pilots seat to give a bit of extra protection (actually returning to having 'armoured seats' as quite a few of the RFC aircraft that went to France in 1914 had them fitted, mentioned in McCudden's 'Flying Fury' and in 'Knights of the Skies' by Michael C Fox). This started to happen from April 1918, they were supposed to be easy to fit and take off again as the weight would hinder climb performance if on a normal higher level patrol. No. 4 Sqn. AFC was one of the squadrons that undertook trials along with 203 and 208 Sqns. A letter dated 9 July 1918 indicates that all Camel squadrons (Nos. 73, 43 and 54) of the 9th Brigade RAF has six plates issued to each sqn. Another letter dated 8 June, 1918 states that No. 22 Sqn. Bristol Fighters, should indent for the "RE.8 type of armoured seat", that suggests that RE.8 squadrons were already using them, probably only for their low level work.
The Junkers D.1 was only around in limited numbers at the end of the war and was all metal rather than armoured it appears. The Sopwith Salamander armoured ground attack aeroplane was also around in limited numbers when the war ended (and had a higher max speed at low level than the D.1). Both were '1919' service types.
It appears that the RAF were more 'advanced' in the use of FGA aircraft during WW1, using them for ground attack missions, also sending fighters out fitted with bombs to drop on targets then climbing to height to undertake a normal patrol ('Combat Report' by Bill Lambert gives some examples of this when he was flying SE.5a aircraft with No. 24 sqn. during 1918). Also in air/tank support, which was worked out between the Tank Corps and the RAF a which then came as a 'package' when supporting other ground formations. Alongside No. 8 Sqn. (FK.8) No. 73 Sqn. (Camel) showed why single seat fighters were useful as they dived on individual German guns that were being used for anti-tank purposes using MG fire and bombs, either killing or forcing gun crews away until the infantry and tanks over ran the position. Weather was always the biggest hindrance to air support.
During 1918, especially the '100 Days' German formations did get larger and they could inflict high casualties on the British and other allies, however, doing these concentrations meant that other parts of the German line were left almost unprotected and the German troops suffered for it. In many ways the German 'Jasta' method appeared more to keep German pilot's scores up than a major effort to protect their ground troops, but that is only an opinion.

Mike
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11426
Joined: 2009
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/25/2020 6:48:51 PM

Mike, I was hoping that you would jump in on this topic. Very informative post. My knowledge is rather limited I am afraid.

I have a question about communications between aircraft and land forces. I believe that you may have answered this before but as the British air service attempted to co-ordinate efforts, were the infantry and the tankers able to request specific target, air support if they encountered a sticking point while trying to advance? If so, how quickly would an aircraft be able to respond?

Cheers,

George
john hayward
Allenstown NH USA
Posts: 871
Joined: 2004
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/25/2020 9:37:00 PM

Mike
Thanks for your explanation. I had only a little knowledge (which is dangerous) about the Germans and esp. the Junker metal plane

George
During the Meuse-Argonne I believe the AEF attempted to use panels to contact their planes. Also talked about some infantry having colors on their packs. I found nothing that said they tried it or was it successful. The dense forest may have hindered this.
----------------------------------
"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11426
Joined: 2009
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/25/2020 10:19:11 PM

John,

I recall reading somewhere that by 1918 that wireless communication existed for the infantry and tanks. I wondered whether Mike knew whether wireless communication from ground to air and air to ground was employed as well.

I found this image of a wireless communications tank



I was poking about and found an article in the International Encyclopaedia. I cannot vouch for its accuracy.

However, it does say this with respect to the use of wireless communication:

Quote:
The Allies most successfully implemented this tactic at their devastating attack on the Germans at Le Hamel in July 1918, which employed wireless to coordinate tanks, infantry, artillery, and aerial observation.


[Read More]

Cheers,

George

MikeMeech
 UK
Posts: 508
Joined: 2012
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/26/2020 10:41:53 AM

Quote:
Mike
Thanks for your explanation. I had only a little knowledge (which is dangerous) about the Germans and esp. the Junker metal plane

George
During the Meuse-Argonne I believe the AEF attempted to use panels to contact their planes. Also talked about some infantry having colors on their packs. I found nothing that said they tried it or was it successful. The dense forest may have hindered this.


Hi

The US Army in France was mainly working with the French forces and so used French procedures (as laid down and translated into English in 'Liaison for All Arms') for 'Contact Patrols' and equipment for showing their location. The panels used were 50 by 40 cm, white on one side and 'neutral tint' on the other, 64 were supposed to be issued to each company. Ground flares would also be used. 'Colours' worn on the back, usually cloth were used on occasion in various armies as were shiny tin discs of different types, the problem with this type of equipment was that if it was on show all the time it would not actually show the 'Frontline'. For the US used procedures 'Aerial Observation the Airplane Observer, the Balloon Observer, and the Army Corps Pilot' by Harold E Porter and the four volumes of Maurer Maurer's 'The US Air Service in World War I' give a fair bit of useful information. Both these publications are still available in both print and online download form I believe.

For an overview of British systems used by the Infantry to show their location there is my article 'Showing the Line on the Western Front in World War One' that appeared in The Society for Army Historical Research Commemorative Special Publication No. 18 'A Long, Long Trail A-Winding' of 2018, edited by Dr Andrew Cormack. I believe this is still the only piece that covers the subject in any detail, for those interested.

Mike
MikeMeech
 UK
Posts: 508
Joined: 2012
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/26/2020 5:46:52 PM

Quote:
Mike, I was hoping that you would jump in on this topic. Very informative post. My knowledge is rather limited I am afraid.

I have a question about communications between aircraft and land forces. I believe that you may have answered this before but as the British air service attempted to co-ordinate efforts, were the infantry and the tankers able to request specific target, air support if they encountered a sticking point while trying to advance? If so, how quickly would an aircraft be able to respond?

Cheers,

George


Hi George

Basically, without going back to look at my files for detail, 'requests' could be made via the Battalion signal panel (Popham 'T' Panel during 1918) which had a numerical code which included for being held up by various enemy means. The Contact or Counter Attack Patrol machine for that unit could use wireless telegraphy to call down artillery fire on the problem, use its own weapons or call in other aircraft (which would be on stand-by) to make attacks. Very lights could also be fired from the Corps machine to attract other aircraft in the area that were already in the air. After experience of August 1918 when low-flying squadrons missed opportunities to attack concentrated enemy targets due to not getting the information back in time to be effective, the Wireless Central Information Bureau (CIB) was set up, initially at Villers-Bretonneux, information would be sent by wireless (generally from Corps machines) about targets suitable for machine-gunning or bombing (if out of range of artillery), the artillery 'calls', 'L.L.' in this case were used. The system was also used so aircraft or ground units could report enemy air activity so squadrons could take off to intercept. It would not take long for aircraft operating from advanced landing grounds (where they could re-arm and re-fuel) to get to the target area.
Tanks could use the system as well, by similar means as the infantry, or using pyrotechnic signals (during 1918 various methods of signalling were used including flags were tried out) to indicate problems. The Tank support aircraft (FK.8 of 8 Sqn) would be looking out for guns etc. that were used against tanks and could attack them themselves and call in other aircraft, so similar to infantry support. It could all be fairly rapid if the weather was not bad.

I am working on a series of articles on British air/ground, ground/air communication devices used during WW1 (I have had at present already had an article on the pre-war communication experiments published and these future ones follow on from that).

Mike

George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11426
Joined: 2009
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/26/2020 6:12:26 PM

Many thanks Mike. You bring a great depth of knowledge to this subject and I appreciate that you would share with us.

You mentioned that in 1918, the response time for low flying squadrons was improved by placing the CIB in Villers-Bretonneux. Where was the CIB prior to this and was the distance the reason for the delay in passing information?

George

MikeMeech
 UK
Posts: 508
Joined: 2012
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/27/2020 8:27:11 AM

Quote:
Many thanks Mike. You bring a great depth of knowledge to this subject and I appreciate that you would share with us.

You mentioned that in 1918, the response time for low flying squadrons was improved by placing the CIB in Villers-Bretonneux. Where was the CIB prior to this and was the distance the reason for the delay in passing information?

George



Hi

The CIB was an addition to the Central Wireless Station (CWS) which would be based near to the HQ of the Corps Heavy Artillery which had been introduced in later 1916 and all Corps Wings had them prior to the Spring of 1917. The CIB at Villers-Bretonneux just appears to be the first. The CIB incresed the co-operation between the corps and army wings of the RAF Brigades, the CIB having Continuous Wave wireless links to the army squadrons and provide a more efficient application of force. The CWS already linked the Corps sqns. with the artillery so it could be said the Corps machines were 'controlling' much of the response on the battlefield as it became more 'open' warfare, this is what cut down the delay. It became apparent during the August 1918 fighting, an after action report 'Notes on Corps Squadron Work During the Somme Offensive, August 1918' stating:
"As operations tend more towards open warfare, this necessity for co-ordination will further increase and every means of securing it need to be developed."

A memorandum, dated 14th August 1918, signed by Brig.-Gen. Charlton GOC V Brigade RAF toO/Cs of 15th and 22nd Wings, mentions that:
"As is well known by now to all pilots and observers of Corps squadrons, their wireless calls will largely control the action of the low-flying scouts, subsequent to zero hour."

A later (14th September 1918) 'after action' report by HQ RAF 'Notes on Corps Squadrons Work on the First and Third Army Fronts During Recent Operations.', after the introduction of the CIB system mentions, under 'Counter Attack Patrol Work' that:
"This was combined on the First Army front with artillery patrol work, and in both armies the work of artillery and counter attack patrols was co-ordinated with that of Scouts by the Central Information Bureau, usually established at Central Wireless Stations."

This is all basically one of the responses to the changing warfare of 1918.

Scouts armed with bombs and MG could be on stand-by at advanced landing grounds waiting for the 'call' for example, we should remember that the Scout (fighter) squadrons had already used fighters waiting on stand-by on their airfields waiting for calls from 'Compass Stations', where wireless intelligence would listen for active German artillery machines, which the fighters would then take off to intercept.

Mike
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11426
Joined: 2009
German Spring Offensive 1918
9/27/2020 8:31:47 AM

Wonderful post Mike. I learned a lot from it.

Thank you,

George
MikeMeech
 UK
Posts: 508
Joined: 2012
German Spring Offensive 1918
10/2/2020 8:09:58 AM

Quote:
John,

I recall reading somewhere that by 1918 that wireless communication existed for the infantry and tanks. I wondered whether Mike knew whether wireless communication from ground to air and air to ground was employed as well.

I found this image of a wireless communications tank


I was poking about and found an article in the International Encyclopaedia. I cannot vouch for its accuracy.

However, it does say this with respect to the use of wireless communication:

Quote:
The Allies most successfully implemented this tactic at their devastating attack on the Germans at Le Hamel in July 1918, which employed wireless to coordinate tanks, infantry, artillery, and aerial observation.


[Read More]

Cheers,

George



Hi George

I don't think I have totally answered this question in my other posts, so I shall try to give some more detail.

Reference wireless Tanks these were in use in July 1917, for example 'C' Battalion, Heavy branch Machine Gun Corps used one when supporting the 15th Division. However, when putting up these aerials the Tanks were static and were targeted by enemy artillery. Work by the RAF (and earlier RFC) with the Tank Corps were working on Wireless Telephony, No. 8 Sqn. in July 1918 in conjunction with the Tanks had a series of experiments concerning the aerial to be used in a moving Tank, the best was found to be a 'whip' aerial based on 'fishing rod' sections wrapped in copper wire. The problem with telephony was its short range and the problems of noise caused by Tanks when receiving (aeroplanes receiving had a similar problem), thunderstorms also caused problems in reception.

From reading various works you can sometimes get the impression that the British did not do much with wireless pre-WW1, however, reading through the records and some books you will find experiments with wireless from free balloons (from 1907 Captain Evans and Lt Aston, both RE with a receiving set), then in 1908 Aston with Capt. W A de C King RE with a transmitter. In 1910 the airship Andes used a transmitter and receiver, also in 1910 was the first British use of wireless from an aeroplane. A whole series of experiments are undertaken up to the outbreak of was including artillery spotting with wireless from at least May 1913. The problem was always the weight of the equipment on the early aeroplanes. (more information on this can be found in my Cross & Cockade, Winter 2019, article 'Communication and Aircraft: The British Military Experience - Pre-First World War Experiments and Practice', for those interested). The first British official standard instruction document that included wireless for artillery spotting appears in December 1914, after experience of use on the battlefield. The introduction of the 'Sterling' transmitter that was smaller and lighter than previous sets, which came into use during 1915, was an improvement, although it was a Morse set. Interestingly 4 of the 'Sterling' sets were 'borrowed' by the BEF ground forces in June 1915 and were used in experiments in the use of 'Trench' sets, these were considered successful. Two-way between the ground and aeroplanes for long-range artillery fire was experimented with during the battle of Messines in 1917, these were also successful. During the first part of 1918, Bristol Fighters with the equipment were introduced, about two machines were added to a chosen Corps squadron in each Army. Later in 1918 L, M, N, O and P Flights were formed to operate these aircraft, one flight to each Army. Wireless telephony was also being introduced for different tasks during 1918, including Home Defence and air to air uses.

That is very brief but I hope it is of some use.

Mike


john hayward
Allenstown NH USA
Posts: 871
Joined: 2004
German Spring Offensive 1918
10/3/2020 7:44:53 AM

Mike
Amazing information. Thank you

Do you know if the French used any thing like the British or did they develop their own method? Since the American forces were under their command for the most part, would their air squadrons use whatever the French use? This discussion raised the question why did the Germans control the air at Belleau Wood and Soissons and where was the Allied air cover?
----------------------------------
"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11426
Joined: 2009
German Spring Offensive 1918
10/3/2020 8:22:47 AM

Another excellent post, Mike. Thanks again.
MikeMeech
 UK
Posts: 508
Joined: 2012
German Spring Offensive 1918
10/4/2020 10:42:36 AM

Quote:
Mike
Amazing information. Thank you

Do you know if the French used any thing like the British or did they develop their own method? Since the American forces were under their command for the most part, would their air squadrons use whatever the French use? This discussion raised the question why did the Germans control the air at Belleau Wood and Soissons and where was the Allied air cover?


Hi

Basically the wireless equipment and use was the similar for all combatants during WW1, they all had the same limitations of the technology of the time. Although there were some interesting developments going on during the war before the start there had been a lot of co-operation over wireless technology between the companies of different nations, IIRC Marconi (Britain) and Telefunken (Germany) had a technology sharing agreement, although in 1915 Mr Marconi had sailed to New York to give evidence in a lawsuit against Telefunken.

I am not sure of the exact situation over Belleau Wood and Soissons but both the RAF and French Air Arm were not sitting round doing nothing as they were quite busy in the air in the period. Indeed the RAF had sent the RAF IX Brigade south to support the French in June 1918. Hooton in 'War over the Trenches' indicates that the German Air Arm was having problems, although slightly 'eased' by the introduction of the Fokker DVII but despite that they still had to concentrate their air assets to make an impact leaving other parts of the front with rather less support than were needed.

Mike
MikeMeech
 UK
Posts: 508
Joined: 2012
German Spring Offensive 1918
10/4/2020 10:44:09 AM

Quote:
Mike
Amazing information. Thank you

Do you know if the French used any thing like the British or did they develop their own method? Since the American forces were under their command for the most part, would their air squadrons use whatever the French use? This discussion raised the question why did the Germans control the air at Belleau Wood and Soissons and where was the Allied air cover?


Hi

Basically the wireless equipment and use was the similar for all combatants during WW1, they all had the same limitations of the technology of the time. Although there were some interesting developments going on during the war before the start there had been a lot of co-operation over wireless technology between the companies of different nations, IIRC Marconi (Britain) and Telefunken (Germany) had a technology sharing agreement, although in 1915 Mr Marconi had sailed to New York to give evidence in a lawsuit against Telefunken.

I am not sure of the exact situation over Belleau Wood and Soissons but both the RAF and French Air Arm were not sitting round doing nothing as they were quite busy in the air in the period. Indeed the RAF had sent the RAF IX Brigade south to support the French in June 1918. Hooton in 'War over the Trenches' indicates that the German Air Arm was having problems, although slightly 'eased' by the introduction of the Fokker DVII but despite that they still had to concentrate their air assets to make an impact leaving other parts of the front with rather less support than were needed.

Mike
john hayward
Allenstown NH USA
Posts: 871
Joined: 2004
German Spring Offensive 1918
10/5/2020 10:19:51 AM

Mike
Marine aviation in WWI consisted 3 companies that flew DH-4s and some DH-9s bombers. They were assigned to RAF 218 Squadron. They flew a total of 43 raids with them. Four Marine aviators were killed in combat. The Marine First Aviation Force flew 14 missions as an independent unit. By March 1919 Marine aviation was disbanded. It didn't really end there. In the 1920-30's the Marines developed an "air force" while fighting the the Banana Wars in Central America and the Carib. There it developed close air support, air to ground communication, dive bombing, and aerial evacuation of wounded. The lack of their own air support during WWI drove the Marine higher command to find a way to create their own
----------------------------------
"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
MikeMeech
 UK
Posts: 508
Joined: 2012
German Spring Offensive 1918
10/6/2020 8:20:06 AM

Quote:
Mike
Marine aviation in WWI consisted 3 companies that flew DH-4s and some DH-9s bombers. They were assigned to RAF 218 Squadron. They flew a total of 43 raids with them. Four Marine aviators were killed in combat. The Marine First Aviation Force flew 14 missions as an independent unit. By March 1919 Marine aviation was disbanded. It didn't really end there. In the 1920-30's the Marines developed an "air force" while fighting the the Banana Wars in Central America and the Carib. There it developed close air support, air to ground communication, dive bombing, and aerial evacuation of wounded. The lack of their own air support during WWI drove the Marine higher command to find a way to create their own


Hi

In the WW1 Western Front context 'permanently dedicated' air assets were generally not a good idea. Some air assets could be 'dedicated', for example Corps squadrons to support particular Corps, squadrons to support Tanks or Cavalry formations etc., however, if their particular 'Corps' was not involved in operations then they were used for other tasks, there was not a great surplus of air assets doing nothing. As we see in 1918, IX Brigade RAF was moved to support the French, during the later American attacks the RAF's Independent Force (and French air assets) was used to support Mitchell's air plans. The US Marine element on the western front was small compared with the overall forces engaged and any of their 'dedicated' air assets would still have to be under the control of a higher command so they could be used effectively.

When you mention the 'developments' of US Marine "air force" during 1920' and 1930s, I hope you don' think these things were not being done during WW1?

Mike
john hayward
Allenstown NH USA
Posts: 871
Joined: 2004
German Spring Offensive 1918
10/6/2020 12:56:57 PM

Mike
By no means. I believe the Marine Corps in the 1920-30's was looking to develop their own air assests. During WWI they were way down the pecking order being just a small part of the AEF and not "Army".
The Navy was supposed to provide the air force but as things developed, the two branches had different needs and ideas.
----------------------------------
"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
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