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 (1914-1918) WWI Battles
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anemone
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The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 1/19/2018 4:03:41 AM
The overstretched British Army in France came close to defeat in March and April 1918. A shortage of manpower, when 100s of 1000s of men were being held at home, was a key factor. It led to the very brink of catastrophe.

In early October 1917, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George asked Commander-in-Chief Sir Douglas Haig to consider an extension of the line on the Western Front. He did not tell Haig that he had in fact already agreed with the French to do this. Haig reported on 8 October: he insisted that in view of the now-doubtful power of the French army to resist a German attack that all other British fronts should be placed on the defensive; all remaining force should be concentrated on the Western Front and take an offensive stance; the 62 Divisions now in France should be brought up to full strength and that the occupied line should not be extended

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Regawds

Jim]
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anemone
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in Januaryt 1918
Posted on: 1/19/2018 10:58:27 AM
Te BEf had in January 1018 some 68 Infantry Divisions Guards-32 Regular- 9 New Army-30 and,Territorial-21.Following the calamitous losses at 3rd Ypres-DLG had persuaded Government not to replenish ther British ranks; but order that each Infantry Division's Brigade with 4 Htns-except GDS to release one Battalion for redeployment. A mammoth task and at a a highly unpropitious time in the war--the imminent Kaiserschlacht.All selected Btns were transferred to the appropriate Divisional Depot Btns for reassignment

Regards

Jim
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anemone
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in Januaryt 1918
Posted on: 1/20/2018 7:19:13 AM
The Divisional Depot Battalion scheme set up on late 1027 or Divisional Wing ,as it was also referred to; was the last staging post for all reinforcements prior to joining a Battalion in the line.

It was commanded by a "senior"Captain (known as the Wing Commandant) and 3-4 other officers,one of whom was adjutant.A handful of NCOs who looked after the Orderly Room,

Drill and Arms practice,etc.Twenty to thirty ORs who were cooks, orderlies, batmen,grooms and even gardeners-all of these men would be classified as "unfit" for field service.

The task before them was to finally prepare reinforcements for Front Line service; and having done so sent them forward to their respective Battalions, as required by the parent

Dvision.Men returning from long term medical attention were also staged at DDP or Wing.

NB My GF commanded the 59th Divisional Depot Btnm in January 1018

RFegards

Jim

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George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in Januaryt 1918
Posted on: 1/20/2018 9:10:36 AM
Of note, General Arthur Currie of the Canadian Corps, refused the order to restructure his 4 divisions to create new units.

I believe that a division of 12 battalions was reduced to 9 in the British divisions.

The British plan for the Canadian Corps was to reduce the divisions to create two corps, each comprised of 27 battalions in 3 divisions.

There were Canadian officers and politicians who saw this as an opportune time to create a Canadian Army and Currie would have led that army.

Currie only saw two weaker divisions and he demurred.

He argued that the two weakened Corps would be committed to battle more often resulting in more losses and Canada too was struggling with reinforcements.

In fact, Currie disbanded the 5th division which was sitting in England and used the troops to beef up his single corps even more.

The commander of the 5th was Garnet Hughes, the son of the first Minister of Defence, Sam Hughes. Currie did not think much of the fighting skills of his old friend Garnet and not only did he eliminate his division, Currie refused to given Garnet a command in France. Currie earned the everlasting enmity of Garnet and Sam who worked tirelessly to impugn the character of Arthur Currie at home.

Currie was criticized by other officers who saw prestige in the creation of new units. Currie realized that but instead chose to maintain his Corps as he saw fit. I see it as a selfless act.

As a result, the Corps made up of over strength divisions was able to maintain the striking power that Currie envisioned.

Cheers,

George

anemone
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in Januaryt 1918
Posted on: 1/20/2018 10:52:35 AM
On 24 November 1917 Haig advised the War Office that unless more troops were forthcoming, he would have to break up 15 of his 57 Divisions to bring the remaining formations back up to strength.

The Cabinet Committee on manpower disagreed and proposed an alternative, reduction from 12 infantry battalions to 9 in every Division.

The military members of the Army Council protested against this move – which affected every regiment of infantry and cut through an organisational structure for which every officer and man had been trained – but to no avail.

The army moved to the 9-battalion structure in early 1918 and was still coming to terms with its effects well into the year.

As you can see George it is all pretty W"broad brtush" and I can see that Colonial Divisions would not be subject to this decree by whatever neans.If the Guards Diovisions were exempted why cause a rift in the colonial ranks

RFegards

Jim.
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MikeMeech
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in Januaryt 1918
Posted on: 1/20/2018 12:51:05 PM

Quote:
Of note, General Arthur Currie of the Canadian Corps, refused the order to restructure his 4 divisions to create new units.

I believe that a division of 12 battalions was reduced to 9 in the British divisions.

The British plan for the Canadian Corps was to reduce the divisions to create two corps, each comprised of 27 battalions in 3 divisions.

There were Canadian officers and politicians who saw this as an opportune time to create a Canadian Army and Currie would have led that army.

Currie only saw two weaker divisions and he demurred.

He argued that the two weakened Corps would be committed to battle more often resulting in more losses and Canada too was struggling with reinforcements.

In fact, Currie disbanded the 5th division which was sitting in England and used the troops to beef up his single corps even more.

The commander of the 5th was Garnet Hughes, the son of the first Minister of Defence, Sam Hughes. Currie did not think much of the fighting skills of his old friend Garnet and not only did he eliminate his division, Currie refused to given Garnet a command in France. Currie earned the everlasting enmity of Garnet and Sam who worked tirelessly to impugn the character of Arthur Currie at home.

Currie was criticized by other officers who saw prestige in the creation of new units. Currie realized that but instead chose to maintain his Corps as he saw fit. I see it as a selfless act.

As a result, the Corps made up of over strength divisions was able to maintain the striking power that Currie envisioned.

Cheers,

George
--George


Hi

The Canadian Corps did not just maintain its 'striking power' by the over strength divisions Currie's policy also depended on other divisions coming onto the strength of the Canadian Corps during the 100 days. In the OH of the CEF by Nicholson on page 468, he mentions:

"In the meantime on 16 October the 4th Canadian Division relieved the 56th British Division, whose continuous operations had left its troops too weak to carry out a vigorous pursuit of the enemy. Three Canadian divisions thus had the responsibility for twenty miles of front, and General Currie's scheme of having two Divisions in and two out" was interrupted. Next day the Germans began their retreat."

However, to have two in and two out meant Currie needed another Division. The 56th British Division had been in the middle of the Canadian Corps front between the 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions and had been involved in the attack on the Sensee Canal at Aubencheul on the 13 October, 1918. The British Divisions that had been under the command of Currie in the Canadian Corps (info by looking through Nicholson) had been nearly continuous since the end of August 1918 and include the 51st Highland Division, the 4th British Division, the 57th British Division, the 11th British Division and the 56th British Division mentioned previously. This meant that the Canadian Corps had become, at least in part, like the British Corps where divisions would move in and out of their command for particular operations and not be permanently attached.

I hope that is of interest.

Mike

anemone
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in Januaryt 1918
Posted on: 1/20/2018 1:05:05 PM
Thank you very much Mike-most interesting-do you know just how mayt Btns were in fact redeployed please????

Regards

Jim??
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MikeMeech
UK
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in Januaryt 1918
Posted on: 1/20/2018 1:18:09 PM

Quote:
Thank you very much Mike-most interesting-do you know just how mayt Btns were in fact redeployed please????

Regards

Jim??
--anemone


Hi

I am presuming that they took all their battalions with them. They may not have been at full strength of course, most of these divisions had been involved in the German Spring Offensive so probably 're-built' at least once. I have not gone through to find each division's ORBAT.
On another matter on Division size, I believe some/all divisions that returned from Italy after the German offensive started may of been of the original 13 Btn size (but I haven't checked back through my sources).

Mike

George
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in Januaryt 1918
Posted on: 1/20/2018 5:25:22 PM
Hello Mike, were the British divisions that became attached to the Canadian Corps, of the same size as the Canadian divisions?

Cheers,

George

anemone
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in Januaryt 1918
Posted on: 1/21/2018 4:05:29 AM
In February 1918, the army's divisions were reorganised from four infantry battalions per brigade to three, as the result of manpower shortages, caused in part by the British government's reluctance to send new recruits to be "wasted" on the Western Front.

50th Northumbrian Division
None of the division's battalions were disbanded, but it lost the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers to the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division, the 5th Durham Light Infantry transferred from the 150th Brigade to the 151st, from which the 5th Borderers and the 9th Durham Light infantry left the division, both to become pioneer battalions in the 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division and the 62nd Division respectively.

Regards

Jim
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MikeMeech
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in Januaryt 1918
Posted on: 1/21/2018 6:57:12 AM

Quote:
Hello Mike, were the British divisions that became attached to the Canadian Corps, of the same size as the Canadian divisions?

Cheers,

George
--George


Hi George

No, they were smaller due to the organizational changes mentioned. Indeed from some sources it appears when the 11th British Division was with the Canadian Corps it had two brigades, the 32nd and 33rd, and Brutinel's Brigade came under the 11th Division (ORBAT dated 27 September, 1918).

The BEF had quite a manpower crises in January 1918 as it had lost five British divisions to Italy (two, 5th and 41st, returned during April and March 1918 respectively, because of the German attack and went into action almost immediately it appears) and had to take over more of the French frontline. As well as all the other 'National priorities'.

Mike

anemone
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in Januaryt 1918
Posted on: 1/21/2018 9:09:12 AM
Operation Michael

The Fifth Army with only 12 depleted infantry divisions held the longest front of the BEF, with twelve divisions and three cavalry divisions, 1,650 guns, 119 tanks and 357 aircraft.

An average British division in 1918 consisted of 11,800 men, 3,670 horses and mules, 48 artillery pieces, 36 mortars, 64 Vickers heavy machine guns, 144 Lewis light machine-guns, 770 carts and wagons, 360 motorcycles and bicycles, 14 trucks, cars and 21 motorised ambulnces.

Regards

Jim
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Mike Johnson
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 1/21/2018 10:29:48 AM
Jim, this is significantly misunderstood.

The manpower crisis in January 1918 was not precipitated by losses on the battlefield. It was the result of a policy change requiring all combat units to be backed up by 4 months worth of replacements in manpower and equipment at intense combat rates. This was a change from 1 month to 4 months at intense combat rates.

This policy action was driven by offensives petering out after a month. The British high command came to consider it almost criminal to expend so much in terms of life and material, only to have the offense collapse because of lack of resources to sustain it. A four month supply would keep offensives going much longer.

It should be noted that the requirement applied to all combat units,whether on the front line, the second line, or in reserve--they just had to be in theatre. A four month supply of replacements at intense rates basically increased the manpower required by about 30% to maintain the same number of combat units.

In the British Army, this was accounted for in February 1918 by reducing one battalion in four in each brigade. The personnel and equipment remained, but they were redesignated from a combat unit to replacements (or actually reinforcements).

The Canadian and Australian forces chose to keep 4 battalions per brigade in line, but each converted a division then in training in England into replacements.

This policy decision had very significant results in sustaining the 100 day offensive that resulted in the end of the war.

The 4-month policy was in effect throughout WW2 as well. This was one of the sources of contention between the British and US armies in WW2. The US routinely suffered from divisions being substantially short on personnel and complained about the British policy of having large camps of personnel and equipment not online apparently doing nothing. The UK, in turn, thought that US policy of very limited replacements designed to maximize the number of units in field contributed to too high casualties among US units, casualties with limited effects on victory.

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 1/21/2018 12:47:12 PM
But did the war office not indicate in late 1917 that it would be unable to meet the reinforcement requirements?

The war office said that the 80,000 shortfall in late 1917 would have grown to over 300,000 by late 1918.

The British had already introduced conscription in 1916 and men were being called up.

How many British troops were trained and ready but not committed because of the 4 month replacement policy?


With respect to Canada, the army reported that it did not have sufficient replacement numbers enlisting by 1917. Canada's forces were all volunteer up until the Conscription Crisis of 1917.

The volunteer pool had dried up. And by late 1916, the British were appealing to the Dominions to furnish more troops.

PM Borden was determined that Canada would continue to establish itself on the world stage. He was a nationalist and an imperialist at the same time. He envisioned a grand nation that would leave colonial status behind.

Borden had travelled to GB and to France and had seen for himself the folly of Passchendaele and he returned home determined to engineer a positive vote for conscription.

Suffice it to say that with some Machiavellian manoeuvring he got the result that he wanted and it nearly tore the country apart.

There were riots in Québec city, on Easter weekend of 1918, and some people were killed in the streets. French-Canadians bolted for the woods. They weren't the only ones but as one of the founding cultures, they are the most reviled when people discuss this issue.

The riots in the street were precipitated by PM Borden's cancellation of all exemptions. 90% of French-Canadian men of age had applied for exemption.

Still after all of this social unrest I do not believe that conscription helped maintain the strength of Canadian Corps divisions. Only 50,000 conscripts were sent to France and of those, only 25,000 saw action.

Cheers,

George

George
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 1/21/2018 12:47:24 PM
double

anemone
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 1/22/2018 5:16:25 AM
Mike-is this statement true or falde?????

When Haig submitted his report to Lloyd George, he was conscious that the army in France was already significantly below planned establishment. The BEF was in the middle of fighting its third major engagement of the year (Arras, Messines, Ypres) and replacement drafts were not keeping up with losses. Haig was by now 70-80,000 men short in the infantry alone. The Army Council had been pressing insistently on the Government the need for more men, all through the second half of the year.

The War Office drops a bombshell
On 3 November 1917 the War Office informed Haig that they would not be able to replace expected losses. The current shortfall of 70-80000 would be closer to 256000 by 31 October 1918. Privately, Haig and his GHQ staff believed the gap might be as high as 460000.t

Unless more troops were forthcoming, he would have to break up 15 of his 57 Divisions to bring the remaining formations back up to strength. The Cabinet Committee on manpower disagreed and proposed an alternative, reduction from 12 infantry battalions to 9 in every Division. The military members of the Army Council protested against this move – which affected every regiment of infantry and cut through an organisational structure for which every officer and man had been trained – but to no avail. The army moved to the 9-battalion structure in early 1918 and was still coming to terms with its effects well into the year.


Regards

Jim
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Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 1/22/2018 9:50:44 AM
good points, Jim!

[Read More]

Here is a short video on that subject, & time frame!

Regards,
Dave
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George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 1/23/2018 7:57:36 AM
Thanks Dave,

Ok, the moderator may have answered my question.

He said that 450,000 trained and ready combat troops were waiting in the UK.

That seems to confirm Mike's contention that troops were available should the British wish to completely eliminate a replacement cadre.

But the man also implied that the troops were being held back by David Lloyd George and rather perversely at that. The moderator suggested that Lloyd George's views of Haig were so negative that he would not provide him with the resources needed.

So the question is, did the PM hold back the troops while the reorganization of British armies took place or after the number of divisions were reduced?


anemone
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 1/23/2018 9:29:07 AM

In the winter of 1917/18 Lloyd George secured the resignations of both the service chiefs. Removing the First Sea Lord Admiral Jellicoe earlier in 1917, as Lloyd George wanted, would have been politically impossible given Conservative anger at the return of Churchill (still blamed for the Dardanelles) to office as Minister of Munitions in July, and Lloyd George's preoccupations with Passchendaele, Caporetto and the Supreme War Council from July onward.

By December it was clear that Lloyd George would have to sack Jellicoe or lose Eric Geddes (First Lord of the Admiralty), who wanted to return to his previous job in charge of military transport in France. The Christmas holiday, when Parliament was not sitting, provided a good opportunity. B

efore Jellicoe left for leave on Christmas Eve he received a letter from Geddes demanding his resignation. The other Sea Lords talked of resigning but did not do so, whilst Jellicoe's ally Carson remained a member of the War Cabinet until he resigned in January over Irish Home Rule.

Regards

Jim
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MikeMeech
UK
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 1/23/2018 11:20:56 AM

Quote:
Unless more troops were forthcoming, he would have to break up 15 of his 57 Divisions to bring the remaining formations back up to strength. The Cabinet Committee on manpower disagreed and proposed an alternative, reduction from 12 infantry battalions to 9 in every Division. The military members of the Army Council protested against this move – which affected every regiment of infantry and cut through an organisational structure for which every officer and man had been trained – but to no avail. The army moved to the 9-battalion structure in early 1918 and was still coming to terms with its effects well into the year.


Regards

Jim
--anemone


Hi

It should be remembered that the British were following the French in reducing the size of their Infantry divisions. The French had decided to change from a four to a three-regiment division and this had not been completed by the end of 1917 so the reorganisation was still continuing into 1918. However, the 'firepower' of the division had been increasing during the period 1914-1918, so in that matter they were probably 'more powerful'.

Mike

anemone
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 1/23/2018 11:40:37 AM

Quote:
However, the 'firepower' of the division had been increasing during the period 1914-1918, so in that matter they were probably 'more powerf
u

How so Mikt when the Division was reduced from 12 Battalions to 9?Re riflemen??????

Regards

Jim'.
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MikeMeech
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 1/23/2018 1:15:21 PM

Quote:

Quote:
However, the 'firepower' of the division had been increasing during the period 1914-1918, so in that matter they were probably 'more powerf
u

How so Mikt when the Division was reduced from 12 Battalions to 9?Re riflemen??????

Regards

Jim'.
--anemone

Hi

The increasing use of the Lewis Gun and rifle grenade at the platoon level for instance. The British infantry battalion went to war with 2 x Vickers per battalion the rest had rifles. By the end of 1917 and into 1918 the British infantry platoon was going from one Lewis gun to two plus rifle-grenades, that provided more organic fire power per platoon. Also increasing amounts of mortars and artillery (and maybe more importantly more accurate and effective guns and shells/fuzes)to support an infantry division in attack or defence had been added.

Mike

Jim Cameron
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 1/23/2018 4:39:03 PM
The firepower of an infantry division was more than a matter of simple headcount. Increases in organic supporting weapons (machine guns, trench mortars, hand and rifle grenades, 37mm guns) allowed divisions to generate far more firepower than the rifle-heavy early war divisions, even with reduced manpower. Rifles alone simply couldn't generate the combat power made possible by the increasing number and variety of ancillary weapons. Evolving tactics also made the new firepower all the more effective, as did increasingly responsive indirect support by both organic and higher level artillery.
---------------
Jim Cameron

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

George
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 1/24/2018 7:55:28 AM
By the end of the war, there were two Lewis gun teams per platoon. But that section consisted of the gunner and 3 to 6 ammunition carriers who toted the 97 round pans for the gun.

But that wasn't all. There would be an extra 4 Lewis Guns per platoon assigned to anti-aircraft cover.

The gun was air cooled and mounted easily on a tripod.

The Canadian Corps ran a Canadian Corps Lewis Gun School for advanced training in its use and effective tactics.

All of the British forces made use of the weapon.

Anecdotal reports from soldiers indicate their praise for the Lewis gunners work. The weapon saved lives.



The Lewis gun was an important weapon as the tactics to reduce a pillbox for example, evolved. They were used in trench raids effectively.

I read somewhere that the Lewis was prone to jamming and the Lewis sections carried special cleaning implements just for this gun. Can't remember where I read it.

One British account described how the Lewis gun would be wrapped in flannel while the gunner waited at the jumping off point. The gunners kept the weapon under wraps especially in rainy or muddy conditions.

This gun was invented by a US military man. Did it not gain favour with US forces?

As I recall, in 1939 the Canadian army was still training with Lewis guns and they were mounted on RCN vessels.

Cheers,

George


Jim Cameron
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 1/24/2018 8:02:37 PM
The Lewis Gun was actually quite popular with U.S. troops, the Marines in particular.
---------------
Jim Cameron

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

anemone
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 1/25/2018 5:29:54 AM
The senior officers of the army smelled a rat. The “frocks” were covering up, denying that anything they had done had led to disaster, and by implication pointing the finger at the Generals and even at the troops themselves.

And it was not just the frocks who were covering up. Sir Henry Wilson, who by agreeing with and supporting Lloyd George’s strategic ideas had already manoeuvred his way to the post of Chief of the Imperial General Staff in place of Robertson, was also deeply implicated. Wilson would have known full well, as he was the British Permanent Military Representative at the Supreme War Council at the time, that the extension of the line had been not only discussed but proposed by him and his pe

rfEGARDS

jIM
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MikeMeech
UK
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 1/25/2018 9:45:47 AM

Quote:
By the end of the war, there were two Lewis gun teams per platoon. But that section consisted of the gunner and 3 to 6 ammunition carriers who toted the 97 round pans for the gun.

But that wasn't all. There would be an extra 4 Lewis Guns per platoon assigned to anti-aircraft cover.

The gun was air cooled and mounted easily on a tripod.

The Canadian Corps ran a Canadian Corps Lewis Gun School for advanced training in its use and effective tactics.

All of the British forces made use of the weapon.

Anecdotal reports from soldiers indicate their praise for the Lewis gunners work. The weapon saved lives.



The Lewis gun was an important weapon as the tactics to reduce a pillbox for example, evolved. They were used in trench raids effectively.

I read somewhere that the Lewis was prone to jamming and the Lewis sections carried special cleaning implements just for this gun. Can't remember where I read it.

One British account described how the Lewis gun would be wrapped in flannel while the gunner waited at the jumping off point. The gunners kept the weapon under wraps especially in rainy or muddy conditions.

This gun was invented by a US military man. Did it not gain favour with US forces?

As I recall, in 1939 the Canadian army was still training with Lewis guns and they were mounted on RCN vessels.

Cheers,

George


--George


Hi George

I am sure it was a Typo but it was four Lewis guns per battalion that were dedicated to anti-aircraft use not platoon.
The anti-aircraft use of Lewis and other mgs was generally laid down in the pre-battle orders and instructions, eg. 'IV Corps Order No. 320' dated 15th November 1917 has:

"14. From W day on, Divisions will arrange for Anti-Aircraft Lewis and Machine gun defence in depth. They will also take forward with them Anti-Aircraft Lewis and Machine Guns to deal with low flying aeroplanes."

Each Corps had training schools, the Lewis Gun School came under the Corps Infantry School. The courses would last for 12 working days and each course could take 6 Officers and 72 NCOs as students. They would be trained to teach others back at their units. The broad syllabus was:

1. The mechanism and characteristics of the Lewis Gun, including stripping, stoppages, and the use of various descriptions of mountings.
2. Training and drill of Lewis Gunners, allocation of duties in a Lewis Gun Section and organisation of Lewis Guns in a Company and Battalion. Attention should be paid to range discipline.
3. Tactics of Lewis Guns in - (a) The Attack. (b) The Defence.
4. Tactics of other arms and how Lewis Guns co-operate with them, including the use of ground, the use of scouts, all descriptions of offensive and defensive action. To be exemplified by tactical schemes worked out on the ground.
5. Map reading, including the fixing of co-ordinates and field sketching.
6. Classes in Anti-Aircraft Gunnery will also be held as required.

The various courses available were laid down in SS 152 'Instructions for the Training of the British Armies in France.', there were at least two editions, probably more, those relevant to the German Spring Offensive were issued in June 1917 and January 1918, these were sent down to Companies, Batteries and Squadrons. The January 1918 edition also mentions the GHQ Small Arms School which ran courses for (A) Machine Gun Branch. (B) Lewis Gun Branch. and (C) Hotchkiss Gun Branch. Basically the role of most of the higher level schools, Corps, Army and GHQ, were to train instructors to train others at unit level so they could pass on knowledge in a 'standardised' way and spread 'best practice' throughout the BEF. It is sometimes forgotten that there was a huge training organisation in France that also required manpower to run it efficiently.

Mike

George
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 1/25/2018 10:04:07 AM
Thanks for that Mike and the correction on the number of guns.

And I did read my source incorrectly.

From Canada at War


Quote:
A Lewis gun team in the latter part of the First World War consisted of a gunner and three to six men carrying loaded pans for the gun in canvas carriers. In early 1916 a Canadian battalion had an entitlement of 8 Lewis Guns, by early 1918 it had sixteen, or one per platoon with four extra for anti-aircraft protection. By the end of 1918, each battalion had 32 Lewis Guns, with two per platoon plus anti-aircraft guns (fired from a tripod, as illustrated at right).


I had to reread it a couple of times to understand.

Thanks again,

Cheers,

George

Andy235
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 2/9/2018 1:19:23 PM
I can understand Lloyd George's hesitation to give more troops to Haig after the appalling casualties of 1916 and 1917, but the fact remains that is where the British troops were needed. The war wasn't going to be won in Salonika nor Mesopotamia or by holding back much needed reinforcements. The best strategy would be to reinforce the West (particularly after the loss of Russia and the fact that the French Army was already so bloodied) and hold till fresh American troops could take over a significant section of the line.

Then again, had the Germans not lost so much men and have to cover so much new ground by "winning" several offensive battles in 1918, would it have taken well into 1919 to finally get them out of their defenses?

George
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 2/10/2018 12:13:18 PM
How long before the Americans were ready? State of readiness in Mar. of 1918.

They were game for sure but took heavy casualties because they had not yet learned the lessons of survival that the British and Commonwealth and French had taken three years to master.

As for Mesopotamia, the oil fields in the greater area were considered strategically important. That is why the Brits were there, partly.

The RN needed lots of oil.

The British also reinforced the Italians who were taking a beating at the hands of the Austrians and Germans at Caporetto. The Italian front had collapsed and to ensure that the Italians didn't quit, both the British and French were compelled to send reinforcements. That would have been
Oct. 27, 1917.

Would it have been possible or wise to recall all troops to the western front?

Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 2/10/2018 3:37:21 PM
An interesting feature of that war was the determination of belligerents to ensure that they held a presence in peripheral theatres, even if they were engaged in life or death fighting on their own soil.

France was determined to dispatch a significant force to the Dardanelles - and later on to Salonica - despite the dreadful burden of holding the Germans at bay in an existential struggle at home.

The Italians, smashed at Caporetto and undergoing a terrifying crisis, yet found men to send to France who fought in intense battles in the summer of 1918.

Other examples come to mind.

Of all the combatants, the British Empire was surely the most adapted - and the most inclined - to disperse effort most widely : maritime and imperial interest determined that.

Yet five and a half million British, Dominion and Indian troops were deployed on the Western front at one time or another, whilst all other theatres combined employed the efforts of three and a quarter million.

How should this distribution be assessed : an insufficient focus on the fields of France and Flanders ; or a failure to turn other options to proper account ?

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

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Jim Cameron
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 2/10/2018 7:33:54 PM

Quote:
How long before the Americans were ready? State of readiness in Mar. of 1918.


Some of the U.S. were at best marginally ready by mid-1918. Shortcomings reflected uneven training, inexperienced leadership, and inappropriate doctrine. Even by St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argone, where some of the better divisions were learning how to fight effectively, poor logistics and an inadequate replacement system would greatly constrain the effectiveness of the AEF.


Quote:


Would it have been possible or wise to recall all troops to the western front?


I would say not. The fact other fronts may have been peripheral didn't necessarily mean they were unimportant and could simply be abandoned.




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Andy235
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 2/10/2018 8:05:41 PM
How long before the Americans were ready? State of readiness in Mar. of 1918.

They were game for sure but took heavy casualties because they had not yet learned the lessons of survival that the British and Commonwealth and French had taken three years to master.

As for Mesopotamia, the oil fields in the greater area were considered strategically important. That is why the Brits were there, partly.

The RN needed lots of oil.

The British also reinforced the Italians who were taking a beating at the hands of the Austrians and Germans at Caporetto. The Italian front had collapsed and to ensure that the Italians didn't quit, both the British and French were compelled to send reinforcements. That would have been
Oct. 27, 1917.

Would it have been possible or wise to recall all troops to the western front?

Cheers,

George


The Americans were woefully under prepared to fight in large engagements even almost one year after the declaration of war. And it is true, even when they went into battle as an American force in September, they still had to learn from experience. The opening phases of the Meuse-Argonne battle were terribly mismanaged.

In Mesopotamia, the security of the oil fields was won relatively quickly. They did not need to push toward Baghdad. The British kept advancing farther and farther into present day Iraq (classic example of mission creep) even after their main objective (the Iranian oil fields) were secured. That is how they got into the disaster at Kut.

And Italy was an exception. When an ally has a strategic defeat of the magnitude of Caporetto, it is best to assist them in any way needed.

Cheers,

Andy


George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 2/10/2018 10:00:46 PM
The British and Indians did recapture Kut-al-Amar in 1917 after losing it to the Turks in 1916.

The Turks treated both the British and Indians very badly. A lot of them died on the death march to prison camp. Disgusting treatment.

The retaking of Kut-al-Amar allowed them to secure the oil fields in what is modern day Iraq. But that didn't happen until the end of the war, I don't think.

So Andy, are you suggesting that the oil fields were solidly in British hands well before the end of the war?

Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 2/11/2018 3:49:12 AM
If you try and take a general survey of the way the Western Front impinged on the overall geo strategic progress of the Great War, it’s apparent that, for the larger part of it, , the Germans succeeded in holding their conquered ground and containing the Allied counter attacks. I stress counter attacks because, ultimately , that’s what they were.....attempts to drive the invading Germans off Franco Belgian soil. Throughout 1915, 16 and 17 the French and British failed in their endeavours - although it must be conceded that they achieved local successes and demonstrated that, stage by stage, they were learning how to deal with the most formidable army in the world occupying positions of terrific strength. It was a horrific task, made all the more dreadful by the abilities of the Germans to make significant attacks of their own, best exemplified at Verdun in earlier 1916. The arithmetic of this warfare was favourable to the Germans in terms of the casualty exchange rate, although, again, their edge was diminishing as the war progressed. During this positional nightmare, the Allies sought consolation in claims that they were pinning the Germans and wearing them down ; despite the awful arithmetic that sometimes took two allied lives for every German. It seems, however, that it was the Germans who were pinning the Allies down in France and Flanders, and, in so doing, availed themselves of every strategic opportunity they could to exploit their own “ peripheral “ fronts : Serbia smashed and routed in 1915 ; Romania in 1916, and, of course, Italy sent reeling back in 1917. The fate of Tsarist Russia speaks for itself. So much for Germany being pinned in the West.

Ironically, it was when the Germans sought to seek conclusions in the West, in the spring of 1918, that they came unstuck.

I don’t know where I’m going with this.....I begin to get the uncomfortable feeling that Winston Churchill was right !

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 2/11/2018 7:31:25 AM
Quote Phil

"Ironically, it was when the Germans sought to seek conclusions in the West, in the spring of 1918, that they came unstuck.

I don’t know where I’m going with this.....I begin to get the uncomfortable feeling that Winston Churchill was right"

Please excuse my obvious ignorance; but what was Churchill right about in the instance you quote.

Regards

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

Michigan Dave
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 2/11/2018 9:04:49 AM
Jim,

In a nut shell what do you think finally got the BEF out of this 1918 crisis??

Regards,
Dave
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anemone
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 2/11/2018 9:46:12 AM
Dave-of that I am not so sure as you seem to be00Sorry

Official figures that while Lloyd George was right in that the total British strength in France had risen by some 324000 men, the mix had changed.

The effective fighting strength had fallen by as much as 7% in the year. It was this, plus the large extra commitment in terms of line to be held, that worried the army and was a serious contributory factor to the inability to hold the enemy in March 1918.

Much further correspondence later on demonstrates that there is no question that Lloyd George was in possession of correct facts, and chose the facts he used in Parliament very carefully.

rEGARDS

jIM
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Jim Cameron
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Posts: 763

Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 2/11/2018 10:22:50 AM

Quote:
Jim,

In a nut shell what do you think finally got the BEF out of this 1918 crisis??

Regards,
Dave
--Michigan Dave


I suspect I'm not the Jim your question was directed to, but my answer would be that attrition finally tipped the scales in favor of the Allies. "Attrition" in the broadest sense, not just losses in the field armies, but the effects of the blockade, loss of homefront morale, political upheaval, industrial capacity, financial resourses, everything that allowed a country to generate and project power.
As has been said, casualties along the war mattered less than who remained standing at the end.
---------------
Jim Cameron

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

Phil andrade
London, UK
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Re: The BEF in Crisis in January 1918
Posted on: 2/11/2018 10:52:51 AM

Quote:
Quote Phil

"Ironically, it was when the Germans sought to seek conclusions in the West, in the spring of 1918, that they came unstuck.

I don’t know where I’m going with this.....I begin to get the uncomfortable feeling that Winston Churchill was right"

Please excuse my obvious ignorance; but what was Churchill right about in the instance you quote.

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Churchill deplored the failure of British High Command to seek alternatives to chewing the barbed wire in France and Flanders.

He contended that better results could be obtained by exploiting the peripheral theatres.

He maintained this view in the Second World War.

The Soft Underbelly.

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

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