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 (1914-1918) WWI Battles
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Phil andrade
London, UK
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One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/20/2018 6:35:25 PM
March 21st , 1918.

One of the biggest battles ever fought.

Sixty three German divisions launched an attack on a frontage of about fifty miles, in the early hours of the morning, after a barrage unleashed by 6,500 guns and 3,500 trench mortars. The sector of the offensive was the Somme, in Picardy, between the Oise and Sensee rivers.

The British Fifth and Third Armies were hit.

For sheer scale, intensity and violence, this onslaught stands pre-eminent in the history of WW1.

It exemplifies German tactical skill and strategic incoherence.

A topic worthy of discussion over the next days and weeks.

Here’s hoping that we can do justice to it.

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

brian grafton
Victoria, BC, Canada
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/20/2018 9:20:27 PM
Phil, to my shame I had forgot. Let me try to regroup!

Cheers
Brian G
---------------
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly.

"The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.

Phil andrade
London, UK
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/21/2018 4:24:35 AM
Good morning, Brian.

One hundred years ago , almost to this very minute in North American time ( although you, in that far flung outpost in BC, Canada, will have three hours to go! ), the blow struck.

The sheer scale and intensity of it were stupefying.

The impression from British unit histories - or, more tellingly, the lack of them - is of great numbers of men being swept away.

It was not a surprise - the time and place were hardly secrets - but it was an immense shock.

There was, I suspect, bewilderment at GHQ.

Let me try to regroup ! , you say.....I bet that Haig and Co were saying that too as reports came back.

The “ fog of war “ was a literal truth that day, as the mist along that forty mile sector of heaviest attack, compounded by gas and explosive fumes, compounded chaos.

That old Latin phrase Furor Tuetonicus has never been better exemplified.

Sent with a very keen awareness of centennial significance,

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: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/21/2018 5:18:38 AM
Phil please excuse the raking over of old coals---On the 22nd my maternal Grandfather Capt J C Leask 5/N Fus b Dublin 1875- then in command of 50th Divisional Depot Btn-perhaps 300 or so officers and men was ordered to take all his men and march from Corbie to Villers Bretonneux to meet the following day a Major Kinghan-ex 7/8 RI Fus now a fellow Dubliner who was IC Musketry School at VB.

.On arrival that night Leask and his band slept in the stret.In tje morninf grandfather met Kinghan with 250 officers and men .Kinghan outranking GF took charge and they all marched out on the old Roman Road from VB to Peronne.

It was dark when they arrived in the depleted lines of the 66th Inf Div.where they were standing in defenc-having been driven gack from thr Somme Crossings[e near Framerville. Little to report that night.The 50th Div.had also vome into the line south of the 66th..

NB.66th (2nd East Lancs TF) Inf Div. XIX Corps,5th Army ,GOC Maj/Gen Neil Malcolm one time staff officer to Haig


Regards

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

MikeMeech
UK
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Posts: 400

Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/21/2018 6:26:16 AM

Quote:
March 21st , 1918.

One of the biggest battles ever fought.

Sixty three German divisions launched an attack on a frontage of about fifty miles, in the early hours of the morning, after a barrage unleashed by 6,500 guns and 3,500 trench mortars. The sector of the offensive was the Somme, in Picardy, between the Oise and Sensee rivers.

The British Fifth and Third Armies were hit.

For sheer scale, intensity and violence, this onslaught stands pre-eminent in the history of WW1.

It exemplifies German tactical skill and strategic incoherence.

A topic worthy of discussion over the next days and weeks.

Here’s hoping that we can do justice to it.

Regards, Phil

--Phil andrade



Hi

From North to South of the battlefront the German forces used on the 21st March were:

Seventeenth Army - XVIII, VI Reserve, XIV Reserve, XI Corps (there were three other Corps to the north that were not used on the 21st. This Army had 2,234 guns and 1,197 Trench mortars. Also 40 aviation squadrons in support.
Second Army - XIII, XXIII Reserve, XIV, LI Corps (XXXIX Corps in the north was used 'holding' rather than in the attack. This Army had 1,751 guns and 1,080 Trench mortars. Also 41 aviation squadrons in support.
Eighteenth Army - III, X, XVII, IV Reserve and Group Gayl Corps. This Army had 2,623 guns and 1,257 Trench mortars. Also 44 aviation squadrons in support.

The total of 125 squadrons was made up of 49 Observation, 27 Attack, 35 Fighter, 12 Bomber.

On the British side defending against these were:

Third Army - 14 Infantry Divisions (Army Reserve 4 Inf Divs) and 1,120 guns covering a 45 Km front.
Fifth Army - 12 Infantry Divisions, Three Cavalry Divisions (1 Infantry and 1 Cavalry Division in Army Reserve) and 1,566 guns covering 68 Km front.

The first day casualties appear to be over 78,000 about 40,000 for each side. Broken down the British had roughly 7,512 killed, 10,000 wounded, 21,000 POW. The Germans appear to have had 10,000+ killed, 28,778 wounded and 300 POW.

(Figures from Zabecki's 'The German 1918 Offensives' and Passingham's 'The German Offensives of 1918')

Mike

Phil andrade
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/21/2018 6:50:42 AM

Quote:
Phil please excuse the raking over of old coals---On the 22nd my maternal Grandfather Capt J C Leask 5/N Fus b Dublin 1875- then in command of 50th Divisional Depot Btn-perhaps 300 or so officers and men was ordered to take all his men and march from Corbie to Villers Bretonneux to meet the following day a Major Kinghan-ex 7/8 RI Fus now a fellow Dubliner who was IC Musketry School at VB.

.On arrival that night Leask and his band slept in the stret.In tje morninf grandfather met Kinghan with 250 officers and men .Kinghan outranking GF took charge and they all marched out on the old Roman Road from VB to Peronne.

It was dark when they arrived in the depleted lines of the 66th Inf Div.where they were standing in defenc-having been driven gack from thr Somme Crossings[e near Framerville. Little to report yhat night.

NB.66th (2nd East Lancs TF) Inf Div. XIX Corps,5th Army ,GOC Maj/Gen Neil Malcolm one time staff officer to Haig


Regards

Jim
--anemone



Hi Jim,

You, of all people, should have a place at Top Table here !

Pitch in and tell us more .

We can make a great account of this thread.

Regards,

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Phil andrade
London, UK
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Posts: 3213

Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/21/2018 7:09:13 AM

Quote:

Quote:
March 21st , 1918.

One of the biggest battles ever fought.

Sixty three German divisions launched an attack on a frontage of about fifty miles, in the early hours of the morning, after a barrage unleashed by 6,500 guns and 3,500 trench mortars. The sector of the offensive was the Somme, in Picardy, between the Oise and Sensee rivers.

The British Fifth and Third Armies were hit.

For sheer scale, intensity and violence, this onslaught stands pre-eminent in the history of WW1.

It exemplifies German tactical skill and strategic incoherence.

A topic worthy of discussion over the next days and weeks.

Here’s hoping that we can do justice to it.

Regards, Phil

--Phil andrade



Hi

From North to South of the battlefront the German forces used on the 21st March were:

Seventeenth Army - XVIII, VI Reserve, XIV Reserve, XI Corps (there were three other Corps to the north that were not used on the 21st. This Army had 2,234 guns and 1,197 Trench mortars. Also 40 aviation squadrons in support.
Second Army - XIII, XXIII Reserve, XIV, LI Corps (XXXIX Corps in the north was used 'holding' rather than in the attack. This Army had 1,751 guns and 1,080 Trench mortars. Also 41 aviation squadrons in support.
Eighteenth Army - III, X, XVII, IV Reserve and Group Gayl Corps. This Army had 2,623 guns and 1,257 Trench mortars. Also 44 aviation squadrons in support.

The total of 125 squadrons was made up of 49 Observation, 27 Attack, 35 Fighter, 12 Bomber.

On the British side defending against these were:

Third Army - 14 Infantry Divisions (Army Reserve 4 Inf Divs) and 1,120 guns covering a 45 Km front.
Fifth Army - 12 Infantry Divisions, Three Cavalry Divisions (1 Infantry and 1 Cavalry Division in Army Reserve) and 1,566 guns covering 68 Km front.

The first day casualties appear to be over 78,000 about 40,000 for each side. Broken down the British had roughly 7,512 killed, 10,000 wounded, 21,000 POW. The Germans appear to have had 10,000+ killed, 28,778 wounded and 300 POW.

(Figures from Zabecki's 'The German 1918 Offensives' and Passingham's 'The German Offensives of 1918')

Mike

--MikeMeech


Hi Mike,

Those figures were compiled by Martin Middlebrook, in his book The Kaiser’s Battle.

He’s better remembered for his ground breaking book on the First Day of the Somme, but he himself rates his book on the Kaiserslacht to be the better of the two.

He identified the British deaths by research into CWGC registers, and relied on more anecdotal evidence for his estimates of wounded and POWs. The reckoning of the British official historian is that thirty per cent of the British prisoners were either wounded or gassed. I think it was 30% ; I’d better check....it might have been 40%.

His figures for German losses are extrapolated from Regimental histories : he used a sample, and applied the average across the board.

The historiography of this fighting is as interesting as the epic narrative.

Regards, Phil


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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/21/2018 7:36:17 AM
On the morning of the 24th Kinghan's Force was subsumeb Lt Col Little's (ex OC 5/BorderForce-he had arrived a day earlier with 66th Div's Depot Btn.

Kinghan was ordered up onto the Roman Road where a contingent of the 39th Inf Div was in danger of being encircled by the enemy -After a brisk fight on the east side of the road -the way was clear for the 39th to escape the pincer.

The linr was establishe south of the RoLittle's Force placed on the southern flsank poured a witherinf rnfilde fire into the enemyman Road ie.39th,66 th with Little;s Force ,50th and nd the ingoming 8yh Diviion of Regularsr/
.

This liner moved back to a position in front of Harbonnieres where they would meet a very strong and determined German attack causing many casualtie including Brigadier HUrlbat of the 66th killed

The Germans overwhelmed the derenders and ut was hwere they had to retreat leaving their dead and non walking woundeds.
PS Pff line for a wee while

Regards

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

MikeMeech
UK
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/21/2018 10:14:49 AM
Hi

Zabecki, page 160, has the total casualties for the whole of Operation MICHAEL (sourced from 'Der WeltKrieg' Vol. 14, p.255), these are stated to be:

German: 239,800, made up of Seventeenth Army - 81,200, Second Army - 73,800, Eighteenth Army - 84,800.

For 'Allied' casualties the source has a total of 254,739, made up of British - 177,739 and French - 77,000.

This was not only expensive for the British but for the Germans it was very bad. Considering they hit with overwhelming artillery and infantry superiority as well as using 'new' tactics and protected by the fog initially it did not bode well. They did capture territory which did appear to be a 'victory' (even though a large chunk was ground they had taken was ground they had given up a year before), however, the 'new' methods of attack do not appear to have protected the German assault troops from a 'high' casualty rate even when the situation was in their favour. Probably Mangin was right in suggesting whatever you did would result in high casualties.

Mike

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/21/2018 12:15:30 PM
Mike were these "new tactics" anything that the British or French had not contemplated before?

Perhaps you would be so kind as to describe them.

Cheers,

George

anemone
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/21/2018 12:30:02 PM
The four almost spent Infantry Divisions moved back to Vauvillers on the 25th,-a village just south of the Roman Road; and there prepared for battle Little's Force-according to the man himself were chid from the battlefield as not required.

However Little would not be left out so he drew back some 800 yds to a vantage point to the south of Vauvillers and had a splendid view of the battle which ensued and typically poured a withering enfilade fire into the advancing grey hordes from the east side of the village.

This was really the last pitched battle for on the 26th yhe GOGs of each Dibision along with Watts GOC XIX Corps in vonference at Rosieres en Santere. decided on a spoof battle ,really fought by four Divisions from VII Corps; and they would quietly retire from the field and retreat west

8th Division traipsed along the north babk of the R Luce to Villers Bretommeux,39 th travelled along the Luce to Demuin where it's GOC Feetham was killed by a shell, 50th chose the south bank of the Luce to wind up in Moreuil and 66th the last to leave also came along the north bank of the Luce but got stuck by Herman enfillade fire from Hill 102 behind Demuin village. Maj /Gen Neil Malcolm was wounded by shrapnel on the 29th..


Regards

Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/21/2018 1:41:08 PM
Jim,

Interesting vignettes that you provide on the fighting ; made all the more poignant for you personally by the fate of your grandfather .

I revisited the official history to try and get a grip on the stats ; in the series of battles that raged between 21 March and 5 April, just over half of all the British casualties were posted as missing....about ninety thousand officers and men whose fate was yet to be certified. That’s an enormous number, speaking volumes about the catastrophic nature of the blow that fell. In the final reckoning, it appeared that about one tenth of those missing were unwounded men who had just been jarred loose from the ranks and who rejoined their units sooner or later. OTOH, another tenth of them were men who had been killed, or had been left to die in horrific circumstances , and whose fates were not officially acknowledged until weeks, months or even years had passed. The remaining seventy two thousand were prisoners, of whom it was reckoned that 30% were wounded and 10% gassed, implying that some 43,000 - about one quarter of the total - were men captured unscathed .

Was this a rout or a retreat ?

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
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Posts: 400

Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/21/2018 1:46:36 PM

Quote:
Mike were these "new tactics" anything that the British or French had not contemplated before?

Perhaps you would be so kind as to describe them.

Cheers,

George
--George


Hi

As far as the German artillery methods go, what is called the Bruchmuller-Pulkowski method, this was not really different than what the British (eg. at Cambrai) and French were using. The Germans, however, managed to an artillery advantage in numbers for the initial attack, they also used a lot of gas as well. The artillery tactics were good and worked as they did when the British and French used them.

The infantry tactics, or 'Stormtroop tactics' were also good. However, the Germans appear to have limited the 'special' training to 'assault formations'. These assault formations also suffered heavily in any attack and became a reducing resource. The follow on units appeared to be rather less well trained and there are reports of them attacking in 'waves'. The 'British' and French infantry appear to have a policy of spreading improved infantry tactics to all their infantry and this becomes apparent during the 100 days. However, the improved tactics did depend on the equipment needed being introduced, for example the rifle grenade and the Lewis gun (other light 'MGs' in the case of France and Germany) the Germans also used portable flame throwers rather more as well as 'infantry guns'. The 'British' had experimented with different infantry tactics during 1916 and adapted their tactics from the lessons learnt in those experiments and also from what the French infantry had been doing. New pamphlets were issued in early 1917 and these formed the basis of tactics to the end of the war, however, it did not remain static and changes were adapted into the training, for infantry platoons upwards,from experience right to the end of the war.
The Germans tend to be well covered with various books being published, for example Zabecki's 'Steel Wind' on 'Bruchmuller's' techniques, and 'Stormtroop Tactics' by Godmundsson. However, you would need to read more widely otherwise you would think no other nation was doing a lot to evolve tactics. A one volume primer for 'British' tactics in all fields is Paddy Griffith's 'Battle Tactics of the Western Front'(1994). For British Artillery development there is 'British Artillery on the Western front in the First World War' by Sanders Marble, however, this is an expensive book although it is based on a PhD which may still be available as a free download on-line. Marble has also produced a book with Paul Strong called 'Artillery in the Great War' (2011) which is of a much cheaper price (Pen & Sword)and deals with all nations artillery so gives a more inclusive 'overview'. Also from Pen & Sword is 'Machine Guns and the Great War' by Paul Cornish which gives a similar 'overview' for machine-gun use.
A good recent book that gives a good 'overview' of how the 'British' system of 'spreading knowledge' worked is Aimee Fox's 'Learning to Fight - Military Innovation and Change in the British Army, 1914-1918', Cambridge University Press, 1918. If you can get to read this book (and the others) via the library or purchase I would recommend it. As with most things during WW1 the actual story of what happened and how things were done or changed is rather more 'complicated' than what 'popular opinion' may suggest.

Mike

anemone
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/21/2018 2:06:27 PM
With yke main actors having lefy the stage Little's Force proceeded along th the south side of the Luce dropping my GF off at Aubercourt to repair the old Amiens Defence Lime which was a trench lone that went up the north bank of the Luce diagonally to Lamotte.

Little and Kinghan proceeded to Demuin and there left a Defence Company and vacated the village and entrenched a spur between ththe roads to Villers Bretinneux and Lamott awaiting the remnant f 66th Division to pass throgh but they were held in the old Defence Line by enfillade fire from the Germans on Hill 102.

Will finish tomorrow

Regards

Jim
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Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

George
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/21/2018 2:31:39 PM
Many thanks Mike for that excellent summary of tactics and the recommendations of resource material.

Cheers,

George


anemone
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/22/2018 5:47:32 AM
At Aubercourt my Gf had an officer -his adjutant0 Lt Herdman, half a dozen NCOs and just over a 100 infantrymen.At eventide on the 29th a Canadian Motoe machine gun unit across the Luce ravine near Lamotte spotted a movement of German troops starting to descend the hill slope towards Aubercourt and opened up on them -sending the message -"do not even think about it"-So GF was saved from a melee by sheer good fortune and quick thinking bythe Canadians.

At the extreme easterly end was at the the top of the hill 102 which leads into the village of Demuin.The Germans took it at 8am,my GF and his men took it back by 10am but were left in the village too long; 66th Div remnant and the remainder of Littles Force all managed to retreat towards Hangard, 20 Div. pulled back to realign and Demuin was isolated.

My GfF and his men were looked for at 2pm ,after Col Little was ordered to get them out;but most were either dead or wounded by then-my GF was never found.The Germans re-entered the village just after 2pm He was awarded the Military Cross for this action.

NB.Why GF remained in Demuin after he had cleared the village is unknown

Regards

Jim .
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anemone
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/22/2018 6:35:21 AM
There is a little PS. My GF was not reported as "Dead", altho' it was known that he was dead that day; but "wounded and MIA". Little cited him for a DSO,but this was downgraded to an MC,he being a substantive Capt.(Act Major); was deemed to be not of full field rank.He was Gazetted in May 1918 and deemed DEAD on 28 Dec.1918.This information is borne out by letters sent to my GM at the time.

PPS The French awarded him a posthumous C de G in1921.

Regards

Jim

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Phil andrade
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/22/2018 8:50:39 AM
Thanks, Jim.

The GF of a close friend of mine was wounded and captured in the days after March 21st. Being an officer, he had to answer to a court of enquiry after the war, and explain the whys and wherefores of his capture. An officer and a gentleman was not supposed to be taken prisoner !

There is a famous film footage sequence of British POWs being marched away from the front, and among them is an officer, clearly using his helmet to hide his face from the camera : the mortification at being identified as an officer who surrendered was clearly unbearable.

Your anecdote alludes to what I assume is a Canadian “ motorised “ machine gun unit. This intrigues me. Were the MGs carried along by motorbike , or by some form of car ; perhaps armoured car ? Were they fired on the move, or were they moved by motor to a point where they were taken down from whatever transport that moved them and deployed in the normal way for static fire ? A revealing episode in the development of fire and movement !

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Phil andrade
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/22/2018 9:14:43 AM
Great disparities in slaughter are apparent in battles in which one side is routed. No surprise there, of course. The worst damage is inflicted during the pursuit.

This is what happened in Alexander the Great’s victories, and in the Athenian triumph over the Persians at Marathon. A hard, stand up fight rages, with both sides taking roughly equal punishment ; and then one side breaks, and runs, and the slaughter becomes grotesquely one sided. This is how things happened at Marston Moor in the English Civil War ; it’s what happened to the Union soldiers of the Eleventh Corps at Gettysburg on Day One, and I’m sure it happened to the French armies in 1940, and, on a gigantic scale, to the Soviets one year later. Many other examples might be cited.

In a brutal kind of way, soldiers become feral when they see their enemies run. It arouses the killer instinct when they see the backs of the foe.

In that film Gettysburg, we see Lee rallying the shattered survivors of Pickett’s Division Never let them see you run ! he shouts, as he attempts to salvage their pride. But it’s not just a question of pride and honour, is it ? It’s a matter of life and death....to survive, you have a better chance if you stand and face the enemy. Lee, the professional warrior , would have known that, and sought to impart the lesson to men in extremes of peril and disarray .

With this in mind, I think the strikingly heavy casualties suffered by the Germans in their offensives against the British in March and April 1918 point to very steadfast and effective resistance by the BEF ; that said, there must have been moments in the course of the fighting when the deadly pursuit beckoned.

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
top 5
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Posts: 7834

Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/22/2018 1:01:03 PM

Quote:
Your anecdote alludes to what I assume is a Canadian “ motorised “ machine gun unit. This intrigues me. Were the MGs carried along by motorbike , or by some form of car ; perhaps armoured car ? Were they fired on the move, or were they moved by motor to a point where they were taken down from whatever transport that moved them and deployed in the normal way for static fire ? A revealing episode in the development of fire and movement !


The Canadian motorized MG's were created in Canada by an officer named Raymond Brutinel who had been a reservist and MG instructor with the French, prior to the war.

He managed to get approval for a motorized MG battalion from our eclectic Minister of Defence, Sir Sam Hughes. I may as well say it, some thought that Sam was crazy. He is the man who approved the Ross Rifle and the trench shovel with the hole in it so that a man could hold it up as a shield and peek through the hole. The fact that a bullet would go through the metal of the shovel didn't deter Sam.

On Aug. 24, 1914, the battalion was formed. Sam got that one right I think.

Brutinel went to the US and had his armoured trucks built to his specifications.

I seem to be stymied in any attempts to include photos now that Google has denied users the right to copy and paste images.

However, the following web site does include pictures of the original armoured vehicles and some of the history.

[Read More]

During the Spring offensive, it was the Canadian motorized MG's and cavalry units that fought.

Arthur Currie did not wish to have his Corps split up and sent willy nilly. Eventually, elements of one (perhaps 2) infantry divisions were taken and Currie and the Canadian government protested.

2nd division fought with a British Corps for several months much to Currie's chagrin.

Currie could see how desperate the situation was but of note is that fact that the position of the Corps near Vimy was a defensive nightmare for the Germans and under Currie's direction, the Corps had built a substantial defence in depth. The Germans did not attack there and he felt that if he did not maintain control, his Corps would be cut up piecemeal.

I do not think that it is a coincidence that the Canadian Corps was so effective during the counter attack beginning on Aug. 8 and was still an effective force on Nov. 11. The Australians who were not spared during the spring offensive were in pretty bad shape as the war wound down.

The motorized MG units expanded throughout the war in the Commonwealth forces. The Canadians did some great work during the spring offensive but these vehicles had their limitations.

They could not go cross country and needed to stay on the roads but they did intercept the Germans at road crossings on a number of occasions and cut them up badly. The infantry appreciated their work especially as they tried to retreat in good order.

The "motors" as they were known were called upon again and again to plug holes in the British line.

From small beginnings, the British eventually approved of a Canadian Machine Gun Corps under its own command.

The men were called the "Emma Gees" or they called themselves that. Sounds like a call sign.

By the time of the spring offensive, the platoons in the Corps were renamed batteries which sounds like an artillery term. But British and Commonwealth tactics had seen the MG evolve, and these motorized units were supporting artillery barrages by firing great numbers of bullets that fell in an elliptical pattern on the Germans. So the fire was indirect and called barrage fire I believe.

The motorized units could race up a road and provide enfilade in support and they did this during the spring offensive.

Cheers,

George




Phil andrade
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/22/2018 1:49:49 PM
Thanks, George.

As always, you come to the fore with help and information.

Much appreciated,

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

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Phil andrade
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/22/2018 2:28:44 PM
Following on from the theme I was developing about the feral behaviour of soldiers who see their enemies run, I want to cite an anecdote that’s pertinent to our thread - albeit in relation to an episode more than a month after the opening attack of 21 March - because it deals with the Australian counter attack at Villers - Brettoneux in late April.

This action was the theme of an essay in the magazine of the Western Front Association, specially brought out this month to commemorate the centennial of the German Spring Offensive. The thing is very relevant to the story of the battles that raged as a result of the Kaiserslacht, and gives us an insight into the character of the fighting. With apologies to Peter Pedersen, the author of the article Confrontations at Villers- Bretonneux , I quote the section dealing with a furious Aussie counter attack on Anzac Day, 25 April, 1918....

“.... For the time being, wrote Bean, the men had thrown off the restraints of civilised intercourse and were what the bayonet instructors of all armies aimed at producing - primitive, savage men. .....Segeant Downing almost pitied the Germans :

They had no chance in the wild onslaught of maddened men....Bayonets passed with ease through grey clad bodies, and were withdrawn with a sucking sound.....One huge Australian advanced firing a Lewis Gun from the shoulder, spraying the ground with lead.....One saw running forms in the dark, and the flashes of the rifles, then the evil pyre in the town flared and showed to their killers the white faces of Germans lurking in shell holes, or flinging their arms and trying to escape, only to be stabbed or shot down as they ran....It was impossible to take prisoners. ...”

Prior to this attack , an Australian Captain told his men Kill every bloody German you see, we don’t want any prisoners , and God bless you.

We have to wonder how many times this scenario had been reversed, with men in field gray skewering the men in khaki as they ran.

By and large, this war was an affair of long range and impersonal killing, with artillery fire claiming the preponderance of its victims. But there were episodes like the one related above, with hot blood and cold steel wreaking havoc.

George : there is another article in this magazine, describing the charge of Canadian cavalry at Moreuil Wood , which is every bit as dramatic and blood curdling as the Aussie epic at Villers-Bretonneux . I would like to deal with this in another post : I know you’ve posted about it before...but it stands repetition. According to an eye witness, in this action seventy Germans were killed by sword thrust alone.

For those who wish to disparage the role of cavalry on the Western Front, the story of these Canadian horsemen will make them reconsider. Indeed, it’s been suggested that, had the Germans possessed and used significant cavalry contingents after their breakthrough on 21 March, they could have made a proper and decisive exploitation of their success.

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."

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George
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/22/2018 3:02:15 PM
Hello Phil,

The description of the Australian charge indeed seems to indicate what happens to men in war.

Such hate and violence.

Historian Tim Cook wrote an excellent essay on the politics of surrender. I have posted it before.

But it seems that timing is everything when a man surrenders. He gave the example of a section or two of men charged with neutralizing a German MG nest.

The machine gunners did their job and cut down a number of attacking soldiers. When the men got close, the German gunner and loader threw up their hands to surrender. Acceptance wasn't likely in this instance. The officer dispatched them with his revolver even though their hands were up.

I know that the Australians and Canadians had a reputation for not taking prisoners and while there may be some truth in it, I believe that soldiers on both sides, if angry enough and if the surrender was too short a time after the fighting stopped, then those surrendering soldiers would be more likely to be killed.

The essay was written about Canadian soldiers but I believe that Cook's analysis will apply to soldiers from most armies. At least, I hope so.
Otherwise our people seem like a rather violent lot.

[Read More]

I look forward to the cavalry discussion.

It seems to me in the fog of my memory that Motorized MG units and cavalry worked together at times as the horses could go places that the armoured vehicles could not. Now where did I read that?

Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/23/2018 4:53:41 AM
George,

Such hate and violence

So much for the “ live and let live “ stories of that war that certain schools of historiography seek to promulgate.

I’ve always been intrigued by accounts of observers of wildlife who emphasise that, when confronted by a powerful animal that adopts a threatening posture, the worst thing you can do is turn and run. That will invite a real attack with potentially fatal consequences .

Human beings on the battlefield seem to demonstrate that syndrome .

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
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/23/2018 7:46:29 AM

Quote:

I look forward to the cavalry discussion.

It seems to me in the fog of my memory that Motorized MG units and cavalry worked together at times as the horses could go places that the armoured vehicles could not. Now where did I read that?

Cheers,

George
--George


Hi

Armoured cars had operated with cavalry previously during the war. An example is on the 14 July 1916 when the 9th LAC Battery operated with six Rolls-Royce armoured cars with the 2nd Indian Cavalry Division. The ACs were split with two with the 'Advance Guard' and four with the 'Main Body'. With the Division was the Canadian Cavalry Brigade with squadrons of the Fort Garry Horse with the 'Vanguard' and 'Advance Guard' carrying the portable trench bridges. However, the terrain was not good for the ACs as it was very muddy and they suffered from 'bogging down'. The horse was still more 'mobile' over poor terrain than WW1 motor vehicles even in 1918.
(see pages 59-66 in 'Horsemen in No Man's Land - British Cavalry & Trench Warfare 1914-1918' by David Kenyon).

Mike

George
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/23/2018 7:49:34 AM
Thanks Mike. Now that I think about it, my musing about co-ordination between cavalry and armoured vehicles may have come from something that you had written in the past on this forum.

Thanks again,

cheers,

George

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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/24/2018 6:18:46 AM
I have for some time suspected that the collapse of 5th Army was intended-indeed.

I mentioned at one time or another that they were the "fall guys" in this important German attack in March 1918.

The outcome of Operation Michael was that Germany wound up with a huge useless salient in which they had spent themselves in-not beaten by the Allies bit by themselves.

Of course this sound and probably is completely unlikely but the thought lingers on.

NB. Neil Malcom GOC 66th Infantry Division was wounded at Domart on 29 March 1918.When convalescing in England in April he was asked by journalists how the war was going .He is purported to have replied "Splendidley-we have won the war" A most strange thing to say !!!??

Regards

Jim
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Phil Andrade
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/24/2018 7:51:35 AM
There’s method in that madness, Jim.

The Fifth Army was the door that swung backwards; the Third Army and other British armies to the north were the hinge that had to hold fast.

The southern flank was Picardy, the centre was Artois, and the northern flank was Flanders : that’s my interpretation of the British deployment on the Western Front.

If it was a choice between Paris and the Channel Ports, no prizes for guessing where Albion’s priorities lay.

That said, the violence of the German attack and the great loss of men, material and territory that accompanied it were a frightening shock to the British and the French .

But if it had to be anywhere, better in the more expansive southern sector of the British Front than in the confined zone near the Channel Ports .

Haig displayed real anxiety in mid April when the fighting moved northward.

Amiens was damned important, but maybe Hazebrouk was even more so.

Yup, Fifth Army and it’s commander were the fall guys.

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: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/24/2018 8:37:07 AM
XIX Corps' four Divisions fought from the 21st to the 25th .At

Risieres en Santerre- on the 26ththese Divisions all left the field of

battle with Lt Gen Watts' blessing under cover of VOO C orps four

divisions; ans drew back another 20 miles to

take up a line Moreuil -Hangard -Hangard Wood and Villers Bretonneuux-

200 square miles of nothing left for the spent Germans.IF that was

planned it was brilliant.

Regards

Jim
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Jim Cameron
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/24/2018 10:25:42 AM
The initial German success points up how the Germans were learning to do with really good infantry what the Allies were doing with tanks. But Mangin was right. No matter what you did, you were going to loose a lot of men.

I think one reason for the high casualties among the German assault troops, regardless of new tactics, was the very fact so much reliance was placed on them. They were basically forced to keep on attacking until they were expended. Once exhausted, these highly trained formations were difficult, or impossible, to replace.
---------------
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/24/2018 10:56:59 AM
Got no reason to contest what you have posted Jim; but I would point out out That there was no one left to fight on the 5th Army froNt as from 26th March 1918-so their casualties must have accrued over the initial five days of combat-

they had all left the field to take up a position not two miles back bur twenty-thw attacking German troops were faced with an enormous epanse of empty ground.

Regards

Jim
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Phil Andrade
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/24/2018 11:00:44 AM
Yes, JC, the Germans sustained a terrific loss in qualitative, as well as quantitative, terms .
One of the most striking features of their casualty list in these battles was a uniquely high ratio of officers.

Regards, Phil
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"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: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/24/2018 11:23:00 AM
Extracted from Wikipedia--which does a wide apectrum of opinion

German casualties, from 21 March – 30 April, which includes the Battle of the Lys, are given as 348,300.[96] A comparable Allied figure over this longer period, is French: 92,004 and British: 236,300, a total of c. 328,000.

In 1978 Middlebrook wrote that casualties in the 31 German divisions engaged on 21 March were c. 39,929 men and that British casualties were c. 38,512 Middlebrook also recorded c. 160,000 British casualties up to 5 April, 22,000 killed, 75,000 prisoners and 65,000 wounded; French casualties were c. 80,000 and German casualties were c. 250,000 men I

n 2002, Marix Evans recorded 239,000 men, many of whom were irreplaceable Stoßtruppen; 177,739 British casualties of whom 77,000 had been taken prisoner, 77 American casualties and 77,000 French losses, 17,000 of whom were captured.

he Allies also lost 1,300 guns, 2,000 machine-guns and 200 tanks.[95] In 2004, Zabecki gave 239,800 German, 177,739 British and 77,000 French casualties.

Regards

Jim

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Phil Andrade
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/24/2018 1:27:06 PM
Those casualty figures are all the more monstrous when you remember that they apply only to those sectors of the Western Front where the principal battle raged.

To illustrate my point, the 348,300 casualties that the Germans reported for their main attacks in Picardy and Flanders in March and April 1918 were supplemented by another 100,000 that they suffered in subsidiary actions and along the so called “quiet “ sectors of the front in France and Belgium.

The same goes, of course, for the Allied armies.

If 160,000 British and Dominion casualties were sustained in the main battle of March 21st to April 5th, we can be fairly confident that another 40,000 were suffered elsewhere on the Western Front during those fifteen days.

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: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/24/2018 1:51:08 PM
Phil the figures I produced were for Operation Michael ie 21/3 to 4/4 of 1918.I am well aware that there were casualties elsewhere so with respect--what us your point ????Truth to tell my main worry was to their accuracy.

Regards

Jim
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Phil Andrade
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/24/2018 4:00:16 PM
Jim,
You ask what point I make.

These huge figures - and we’re talking about half a million if we aggregate German, French and British casualties - are not the whole story .

Like the teeth of the dragon, a multiplicity of fierce actions flared up along that huge front .

I remember visiting a little known Portuguese military cemetery at Neuve Chapelle where nearly two thousand soldiers are interred. These are mainly victims of the great attack of 9 April 1918, when the Portuguese Corps was swept away by the German offensive that opened the Battle of the Lys. But there were clusters of graves dated 21 March 1918, indicating how, even on that great day, while one of the biggest battles ever fought raged nearly a hundred miles away to the south, there were deadly encounters going on that we don’t know about .
That’s my point...a widely known figure of a quarter of a million - or whatever - casualties in a famous engagement, needs to be tempered by awareness that men perished all the time along that front, and the cost in blood and lives was thereby increased.

Your rendition of the casualties of the Michael Offensive is correct and properly cited.

I wanted to draw attention to the awful burden of the Front as a whole, with all those subsidiary actions and diversions that compounded the cost.

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Jim Cameron
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/24/2018 6:26:23 PM

Quote:
Yes, JC, the Germans sustained a terrific loss in qualitative, as well as quantitative, terms .
One of the most striking features of their casualty list in these battles was a uniquely high ratio of officers.

Regards, Phil

--Phil Andrade


And I would suspect, although perhaps harder to dig out from the casualty lists for "other ranks" (enlisted men, in U.S. usage), senior N.C.O's. Possibly a sign that by this stage in the war, if an attack was to be effective, it would take literally conspicuous leadership on the part of the officers.
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Jim Cameron

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Phil Andrade
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/25/2018 1:57:24 AM
An “ all or nothing “ approach seems to have captivated the Germans in this offensive, which imparted a recklessness that’s all too apparent in those immense casualty lists.

And surely the sudden spike in the proportion of officers killed attests this.

The attrition of the hardcore NCO cohort in previous battles is, as you imply Jim C, an important factor.

Delegation is a hallmark of professionalism , and the Germans prided themselves on the professionalism of their army.

Had this delegation overdrawn excessively on that NCO contingent ?

The story of March 21st 1918 tells us that the Germans knew how to win the greatest of battles, and lose the greatest of wars.

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: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/25/2018 4:01:21 AM
I am terribly sorry -I should have known better--21st March 1918 did not just open Operation Michael but the while German Offensive-the Kaiserschlacht.The penny dropped!!!!

Regards

Jim
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Jim Cameron
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Re: One Hundred Years Ago
Posted on: 3/25/2018 10:17:24 AM

Quote:
George,

Such hate and violence

So much for the “ live and let live “ stories of that war that certain schools of historiography seek to promulgate.

I’ve always been intrigued by accounts of observers of wildlife who emphasise that, when confronted by a powerful animal that adopts a threatening posture, the worst thing you can do is turn and run. That will invite a real attack with potentially fatal consequences .

Human beings on the battlefield seem to demonstrate that syndrome .

Regards, Phil
--Phil andrade


I suspect that rather than for "bayonet fighting", in the sense of men facing off and dueling to the death, bayonets were most often used to finish off enemy wounded, or the eliminate unwanted prisoners. The most difficult part of surrendering in the midst of battle was often having your surrender accepted.
---------------
Jim Cameron

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

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