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 (1914-1918) WWI Battles
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anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/4/2018 6:02:07 AM
The 'Great War' was the first World War-- nothing like anything anyone had ever known--except perhaps the American Civil War which had been seriously ignored.

It was said to be the war to end all wars... of course we know that wasn't true but the scale of it was to great that the soldiers who went out, fought, lied about their ages etc didn't know what they were facing.

Things like shell-shock had never been seen and things like trench foot made the front line hell on earth. Furthermore, the officers in charge of men were often completely incapable and a lot had never experienced warfare so led their men inadequately with very little expertise or equipment: most soldiers didn't even have shoes.

Deep depression had set in-in all the Armies by late 1917-for the French -the Nivee Offensive and ensuing mutimn-for the British Passcgendaele-trgic and quite fruitless.There had to be a significant change in attitude to the the prosecution of the war to break the torpor .The Germans had their Kaeiserschlacht in March 1918 and the British taking the lead with Amiens in August 1918.

The question is--WHAT brought about this enormous change in resolve????

Was there a catalyst ???

Regards

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

Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/4/2018 8:16:23 AM
Hi Jim,

The answers to each comment is?

Yes

Yes

Yes

& Yes

And it would seem the change in their resolve,

was they wanted to rise up and end that, "hell on earth war!"

& War is hell!
MD


---------------
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anemone
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/4/2018 8:49:31 AM
Thank you Dave but the real answer was not to be as simple as you put it--as I said both sides had to shake off the torpor and do something quite different from what had been the norm for nigh on on four years.

Regards

Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/4/2018 9:29:52 AM
Jim,

Let me invite you to reconsider.

There was no lack of inventiveness , right from the start.

People on both sides were trying everything they could think of in their resolve to break the impasse.

By land, sea and air, every expedient was tried.

Strategic endeavours to exploit the periphery : Gallipoli.

Unrestricted U-boat warfare ; chemical weapons ; blockade ; aerial bombing ; elaborately choreographed artillery programmes ; attempts to fight with metal rather than manpower ; code breaking ; propaganda ; espionage ; tanks ; every single attribute of human ingenuity was turned to account.

I don’t think that the war was conducted by an array of obstinate dunderheads who refused to contemplate change . On the contrary, it is arguable that people strained to the utmost to be flexible and adapt to unprecedented challenge.

The horror of it lay in the awful equilibrium : the fact that the opponents were so evenly balanced that they were bound to slug it out in a war of exhaustion. This was a war of unique and sustained intensity : its character determined more by human ingenuity and the evenly matched belligerents, rather than by ineptitude and ignorance.

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: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/4/2018 10:30:10 AM
Phil--I have no argument with lot of what you have said BUT you have not addressed the main issues --what made 1918 different from all the preceding years-- because there was a catharsis- starting with Operation Michael--the Germans go over to the offensive--this great heave to gain Amiens failed by clever--yes clever use of useless space in which the storm was brought to a grinding a halt.

Haig's last offensive in 1917 was an abject failure due to extremely poor operational planning--this is a given by most reputable historians however by thy the tuen of the year both the Canadians and the Australians had made textbook assaults on their objectives by NOT being lumbered by British generalship.Were they the catalyst to the about turn in the British attitude to the war????

Regards

Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/4/2018 5:01:01 PM
What was the catalyst ? The German offensive, I suppose.

Ludendorff took the great risk, and it backfired.

Germany staked everything on it, and its failure was catastrophic.

What rendered it so catastrophic was the adroit and effective Allied counter attack, in which the British - benefiting from the superb Dominion shock troops - played the principal role after 8 August . The French must be given credit for turning the tide in mid July. The Americans made an extremely significant contribution.

You give a very unflattering depiction of British generalship in this phase of the war, Jim !

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

brian grafton
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/4/2018 10:54:18 PM
Phil, I tend to agree with your assessment. But part of me feels the catalyst was US entry to the war. Without wanting to insult my US friends more than I usually do, and in contrast to you, I don't think US forces played any major part in WW1 as fighters. But I think US commitment to the war was an incitement to all belligerents to reassess the current stalemate and get this over with before the strength of a relatively unknown brute was allowed to play.

That's flippant, of course. But I mean it.

You also raise what to me seems to be one of your major issues. I think you're right in arguing that we still read a preponderance of material that suggest British leadership was vapid and inadequate and that WW1 tactics and approaches were reflections of British command capability. And I tend to agree with you that there were attempts by the military brass to make tactics, strategy, troops, equipment and hosts of other things more effective as the war continued and remained in relative stalemate.

This time you write:
Quote:
You give a very unflattering depiction of British generalship in this phase of the war, Jim !
I can't speak for Jim, of course, and I don't mean to sound insulting, but I think Jim is talking from one reality and you from another.

I could write a few words on the difference between using an army effectively and leading an army effectively. I bet we all could, on this thread. To be honest, I remain unconvinced that Haig and his coterie saw a Tommy differently in 1918 than they did in 1916 (using the 1916 "K-troops" as a norm). If I'm correct — admittedly a huge "if" — then all the efforts to reshape army techniques and approaches and strategies and the like failed because of the attitude held by the brass about the nature of "a Tommy". Committing troops to battle in a new way is well and good. But without getting specifics, if you develop new strategies or approaches without rethinking OR capabilities, you're still not acting effectively.

Just something to think about.

Cheers
Brian G
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anemone
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/5/2018 3:33:58 AM
So now we have three catalysts 1 The German Spring Offensive,2 The Entry of of the US into the War and 3 (my choice) the exploits of the the two Commonwealth Corps which when undertaking an offensive action under their own command were brilliant.This had not gone unnoticed by British High Command and it was the 4th Armyy GOC Rawlinson who formulated a plan for a major offensive in August of 1918 named the Battle of Amiens using three Corps.British III Corpps attacking from north of the Somme, then the Australian Corps attacking from the Villers Bretonneusx area and finally the Canadian Corps attacking along the valley of the R Luce--all attacking as stormtrooper units.


Regards

Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/5/2018 3:44:50 AM
Brian,

Thanks for your comprehensive and cogent reply. So much to think about here ! It’s very hard to “ get a grip “ on this war. WW2 and the ACW are easier to understand and interpret. I wish I could be more articulate here ; but what is it about 1914-18 that defies our attempts to “ fix it “ ?

Jim,

Your thread title includes the phrase Attitude to Warfare .

That’s a significant thing that we ought to reflect on.

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: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/5/2018 3:56:01 AM
In a nutshell-I think the new Attitude to Warfare changed from "We will do our Best" to "We are going to win come what may"


Regards

Jim
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wazza
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/5/2018 5:16:36 AM
Don't dismiss Loyd George screaming and wailing in the background either!

Phil andrade
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/5/2018 7:33:37 AM
Brian,

You raise interesting questions about the attitude of the British High Command to Tommy Atkins.

I would argue - with a healthy degree of diffidence, but with some conviction, too - that the manner in which the war was being fought in 1918 was so different from the way it had been conducted in 1914, that it was incumbent on Haig and his entourage to be very aware of the suseptibilites of soldiers in a mass citizen army.

The tactics used in 1918 required a degree of specialisation and independence from infantrymen ( not to mention vital other arms ) that could only be attained by what we might describe as “ enlightened “ approach.

There are people vastly more informed than I about the weapons and tactics. In essence, the infantry of 1918 went into battle in smaller groups, equipped with more automatic firepower, and were required to deploy in a way which demanded as much from individual intelligence as it did from obedience. The decimation ( an understatement ) of manpower entailed social mobility as men were promoted and commissioned : “ temporary gentleman “ was the phrase used to describe men from lower middle class and working class backgrounds who found themselves wearing pips on their shoulders.

To effect this transformation would have been an impossible task without a concomitant evolution of thought among the strata of high command.

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

ColonelMac1775
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/5/2018 10:48:27 AM
In nothing I have ever read have I seen any change in attitude on the part of either Foch or Haig. Even with the U.S. entry into the war, both were still imbued with the "cult of the offensive". Foch was adamant in his insistence that Pershing simply provide U.S. troops as "replacements" to be inserted into French and British commands, simply more cannon fodder for the "breakthrough" that they had been seeking since 1914. As late as August 1918, Haig was still ordering cavalry charges in hopes of breaking through to ride willy-nilly through the enemy's rear area ala J.E.B. Stuart. This doesn't reflect a change of attitude at all.

While American entry into the war cannot be counted as the deciding factor by itself, the first operation of the AEF was to eliminate the St. Mihiel salient that had been lodged in the Allied front since 1914. This opened the Paris-Nancy railroad for the use of the Allies. A continuation of that drive would have given an excellent chance to capture Metz and to continue on to the Thionville-Longuyon-Sedan railroad, without which the Germans could not have remained in France.

As it happened, Foch yielded to Haig's demand that the direction of the American attack be moved West. This would produce an American offensive tending toward converging with Haig's offensive around Cambrai. But, it meant abandoning the opportunity opened by the dislocation of the German troops from the St. Mihiel salient and attacking through the Meuse-Argonne, protected by a German defense system some 12 miles deep.

Other than American entry into the war, the most significant changes in 1918 were technological, with greater use of the airplane and the tank. Once tanks became available in large numbers, they were finally able to achieve the strategic breakthrough that had been sought all along.

anemone
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/5/2018 1:26:55 PM
Stormtroops- Canadians and Australians, became renowned for this role, what exactly made them so good for it?

I find it hard to believe that simply being from those countries meant they had a better grasp of these tactics.

Was it something to do with the training of these soldiers? After all, they weren't mobilised in the millions like British soldiers, so did this mean they were able to be given more specialised training for this role?

Regards

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

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/5/2018 1:27:27 PM
Not to sound simplistic but why did the British select Amiens as an appropriate place to begin a major offensive?

What had intelligence reports told them of the capabilities of the Germans in that area?

What had their own assessments of the assets that they had available told them about the time frame to seek the initiative?

Preparation meets opportunity.

Perhaps that is the catalyst that we seek.

Cheers,

George

Jim Cameron
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/5/2018 2:49:57 PM

Quote:
What was the catalyst ? The German offensive, I suppose.

Ludendorff took the great risk, and it backfired.

Germany staked everything on it, and its failure was catastrophic.

What rendered it so catastrophic was the adroit and effective Allied counter attack, in which the British - benefiting from the superb Dominion shock troops - played the principal role after 8 August . The French must be given credit for turning the tide in mid July. The Americans made an extremely significant contribution.

You give a very unflattering depiction of British generalship in this phase of the war, Jim !

Regards, Phil
--Phil andrade


Couldn't agree more, with both of your posts.

The German offensives were a risk that went bad not only because of effective Allied counter attacks, but precisely because the offensives were launched at a time when the Allies had reached a level material superiority and tactical ability which allowed them to respond so effectively. Anything less than perfection in both planning and execution was almost foredoomed to failure. The Germans were coming up on the short end of the attrition equation.
---------------
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: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/5/2018 4:34:13 PM

Quote:
Stormtroops- Canadians and Australians, became renowned for this role, what exactly made them so good for it?

I find it hard to believe that simply being from those countries meant they had a better grasp of these tactics.

Was it something to do with the training of these soldiers? After all, they weren't mobilised in the millions like British soldiers, so did this mean they were able to be given more specialised training for this role?

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Remembering that there were also many outstanding imperial divisions and corps, I can only guess as to why the two Dominions did so well in the role described.

The Canadian Corps adopted and refined the changes in tactics that all British units had learned.

Canadian divisions were larger than British divisions and the fact that the divisions within the Corps remained essentially intact throughout the war gave great continuity. British divisions were often moved in and out of corps. Not so with the Canadian divisions.

The Canadians benefitted from the addition of many fine British officers especially at HQ and the Canadians learned from them and eventually replaced them but never, repeat never completely.

The commander, Arthur Currie also insisted upon time to plan and time to drill. He balked when asked to toss his precious Corps into battles without preparation time.

And when he failed to follow his own rules, bad things happened. Look at the Battle of Hill 70 which was superbly planned and carried out by the Corps. But the attack on the town of Lens, at the base of Hill 70 was not given the same attention and yet Currie ordered his men to give it a go and they did not succeed and it was costly.

Currie made great use of British and Canadian Corps artillery as well and by the end of the war, British and Dominion forces were capable of executing complex fire plans that helped the infantry to achieve their objectives.

British intelligence and planning was important to the success.

I will say that the Canadians and the Australians did maintain an esprit de corps that made them think that they were pretty special troops.

Toward the end of the war, the senior staff and divisional commanders who had taken over from less proficient officers were very good, in both Corps.

The Canadian Corps in particular was adamant that the Corps would stay intact. Currie, with the backing of his government would, for the most part, insist that elements of his Corps should not be taken piecemeal to assist in plugging holes.

However, during the German Spring offensive, one division and the motorized MG units were taken. Currie told Haig that he wanted them back ASAP. The British must have grown tired of the backing that Currie received from his government which was very nationalistic especially after the slaughter at Passchendaele.

This in fact accounts for the fact that the Canadian Corps, whose divisions were oversized by British standards was fresh when the Battle of Amiens took place.

The Australians went into Amiens after having been in heavy combat during the Spring offensive.


And we must note that despite evidence of bravery and willingness to fight, in the early years of the war, the Dominion troops made mistakes, the mistakes of the inexperienced.

By 1918, they were excellent troops. They had learned their craft.

I am not trying to diminish what they did because both the Australians, Kiwis and the Canadians proved to be superb combat soldiers.

Both countries are extremely proud of what their men accomplished. Rightly so.

But they had to earn that respect and that included some tough lessons on the early battle fields.

Sometimes too much is made of the fact that the Canadians and Australians were better nourished. The Canadians were all volunteers until the last part of the war. Too much is made of that as well.

Both the Australians and the Canadians made their contribution and were outstanding during the final 100 days but so were many imperial troops.

For the Canadians, there were a number of battles fought in the final 100 days that were a tribute to their effectiveness.

Lastly, while feeling very "Canadian" especially after the Battle of Vimy Ridge, we must acknowledge that the Canadian Corps was composed of mostly British immigrants in the early days. Some had come to Canada as children but many were teens of adults when the war began in 1914.

It is worth noting that the Australian enlistment consisted of a much, much larger percentage of native born Australians than did the Canadian enlistment.

I must acknowledge that when Canada was forced to introduce conscription it was because the pool of volunteers had dried up and the English speaking Canadian born were not volunteering in numbers.

French Canada making up 25% of the population refused to volunteer. They were not pro-British and did not wish to fight an imperial war.
I think that they were wrong to believe that but what it meant was that the Canadian Corps was drawing from a pool made up of only 75% of the available men in the country.

And even with that, the country of fewer than 8 million managed to put 620,000 in uniform.

Cheers,

George



phil andrade
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/6/2018 4:02:32 AM
Huge numbers of British men emigrated to the Antipodes and North America in the decades leading up to the Great War.

These were bound to be people of a more adventurous nature, characterised by physical and physchological robustness, and endowed with attributes of courage and initiative that fosters a martial spirit.

Is there a “ frontier : ethos that makes men good warriors ? Think of the Texans who made a name for themselves as the shock troops of Lee’s army in the American Civil War.

They also might have a point to prove : that they’re enlightened in outlook and vigorous in action. What greater spur is there to a young man’s ego than to show off his prowess to his doting parents ?

There was also the simple bond of affection that united Britons from the utmost ends of the earth.

There are British historians and commentators - and, to be fair, Australian, Canadians and Kiwis, too - who are determined to remind us that there were excellent British contingents who have been overlooked in repute by the more glamorous depictions of Dominion soldiers.

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

brian grafton
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/6/2018 10:13:50 PM

Quote:
Stormtroops- Canadians and Australians, became renowned for this role, what exactly made them so good for it?

I find it hard to believe that simply being from those countries meant they had a better grasp of these tactics.

Was it something to do with the training of these soldiers? After all, they weren't mobilized in the millions like British soldiers, so did this mean they were able to be given more specialised training for this role?
Jim, there are probably oodles of studies and textbooks — medical, psychological, sociological, nutritional — on the issue you raise. Even some of my school-day readers had stories about "Canada's Shock Troops", telling tales of bravery in WW1. I started school in 1946, so there were no stories about WW2 as yet. It was too recently concluded.

Some of the arguments I've seen about the "colonials" — and let's not forget the Kiwis and the South Africans, who also had recognition as fine fighters — are the following:
They were frontiersmen, so had to know how to hunt and shoot.
This may have applied to some of the young lads who went off to war, but it' an artificial descriptor as a general rule. Ask George or Steve C and you'd soon find out that the majority of settled Canada was not anything like frontier. My father's family were pioneers, it is true, arriving on the West Coast in 1886 and homesteading free land. But my mother's family was registered in Rhode Island in 1629, and was farming in New Brunswick (they were Tories) by 1790. This might have been a challenging life, but it is hard to call a person a frontiersman when he is living on land that may have been in his family for 150 years.
They had a more nutritious diet, and so were bigger, stronger, and tougher.
There might be something in this, but it's not a sufficient issue to explain differences between troops on a national basis. Most Canadians with even a fleeting interest in history know of graveyards showing the ravages of disease and famine. I remember running into one such on a country side-road between Hamilton and Guelph, Ont. No town left, just the crumbled remains of a Kirk and perhaps a manse or an assembly hall. In the graveyard beside the Kirk, amongst other stones, were 11 in a row representing a single Scottish family — all dead in the space of two winters. I believe the dates on those stones were from 1842 and 1843, but I'm not sure. My paternal family had treed acreage with a lake for fresh water and ocean access for an outrageous abundance of fish. And they didn't face the viciousness of most of Canada's winter weather. But for everyone, death was potentially just one bad harvest away.
They breathed cleaner air, and therefore had more stamina.
This must be one from "tree-huggers", and I say that as a tree-hugger. Coal, wood and peat were the home heaters: all fouled the air, whether in Canada or elsewhere. Canada has steel mills, and coal or other mines, just like many towns in the British midlands.
They were more likely to have received an education.
Simply don't buy it, at least as an argument. Again, my province may be different from others because of its isolation and relative youth, but I don't think education is an issue. Illiteracy would be, of course, a drawback. But even in the rather helter-skelter system of education developing through the second half of the 19th and first years of the 20 century, there were still basic schools whose function was to teach numbers and letters. My great-grandma was functionally illiterate, though the Salvation Army (in London, England) taught here enough so that she could read the
Bible.

IIUC, Canadian soldiers receive on the most basic of training in Canada. They were British troops, and would be taught real soldiering under British command. Yes, they increasingly kept Canadian troops together, just as they kept various ANZAC or other colonial troops together. But this was a British war, directed by British policy and directed by British military authority.

I do have some thoughts on why colonials generated such a reputation, of course, and I'm certain it has little to do with different training or greater educational capability. I bet Wazza and George and some others do as well.

Cheers
Brian G
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Phil andrade
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/7/2018 2:49:57 AM
Whenever I encounter stories about the reputation of the Mississippians, Louisianans and Texans who fought with Barksdale, Gregg and Starke for the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War, I am reminded of the reputation of the Anzacs and Canadians who fought in WW1.

Men came from far flung places, and they were endowed with - and thrived by - a certain mystique .


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

Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/7/2018 7:22:45 AM

Quote:

Quote:
Stormtroops- Canadians and Australians, became renowned for this role, what exactly made them so good for it?

I find it hard to believe that simply being from those countries meant they had a better grasp of these tactics.

Was it something to do with the training of these soldiers? After all, they weren't mobilized in the millions like British soldiers, so did this mean they were able to be given more specialised training for this role?
Jim, there are probably oodles of studies and textbooks — medical, psychological, sociological, nutritional — on the issue you raise. Even some of my school-day readers had stories about "Canada's Shock Troops", telling tales of bravery in WW1. I started school in 1946, so there were no stories about WW2 as yet. It was too recently concluded.

Some of the arguments I've seen about the "colonials" — and let's not forget the Kiwis and the South Africans, who also had recognition as fine fighters — are the following:
They were frontiersmen, so had to know how to hunt and shoot.
This may have applied to some of the young lads who went off to war, but it' an artificial descriptor as a general rule. Ask George or Steve C and you'd soon find out that the majority of settled Canada was not anything like frontier. My father's family were pioneers, it is true, arriving on the West Coast in 1886 and homesteading free land. But my mother's family was registered in Rhode Island in 1629, and was farming in New Brunswick (they were Tories) by 1790. This might have been a challenging life, but it is hard to call a person a frontiersman when he is living on land that may have been in his family for 150 years.
They had a more nutritious diet, and so were bigger, stronger, and tougher.
There might be something in this, but it's not a sufficient issue to explain differences between troops on a national basis. Most Canadians with even a fleeting interest in history know of graveyards showing the ravages of disease and famine. I remember running into one such on a country side-road between Hamilton and Guelph, Ont. No town left, just the crumbled remains of a Kirk and perhaps a manse or an assembly hall. In the graveyard beside the Kirk, amongst other stones, were 11 in a row representing a single Scottish family — all dead in the space of two winters. I believe the dates on those stones were from 1842 and 1843, but I'm not sure. My paternal family had treed acreage with a lake for fresh water and ocean access for an outrageous abundance of fish. And they didn't face the viciousness of most of Canada's winter weather. But for everyone, death was potentially just one bad harvest away.
They breathed cleaner air, and therefore had more stamina.
This must be one from "tree-huggers", and I say that as a tree-hugger. Coal, wood and peat were the home heaters: all fouled the air, whether in Canada or elsewhere. Canada has steel mills, and coal or other mines, just like many towns in the British midlands.
They were more likely to have received an education.
Simply don't buy it, at least as an argument. Again, my province may be different from others because of its isolation and relative youth, but I don't think education is an issue. Illiteracy would be, of course, a drawback. But even in the rather helter-skelter system of education developing through the second half of the 19th and first years of the 20 century, there were still basic schools whose function was to teach numbers and letters. My great-grandma was functionally illiterate, though the Salvation Army (in London, England) taught here enough so that she could read the
Bible.

IIUC, Canadian soldiers receive on the most basic of training in Canada. They were British troops, and would be taught real soldiering under British command. Yes, they increasingly kept Canadian troops together, just as they kept various ANZAC or other colonial troops together. But this was a British war, directed by British policy and directed by British military authority.

I do have some thoughts on why colonials generated such a reputation, of course, and I'm certain it has little to do with different training or greater educational capability. I bet Wazza and George and some others do as well.

Cheers
Brian G
--brian grafton




Hi Brian,

One of my Ancient World History Teachers in College, said in a clash between two cultures, the one that came from the hardiest climate and area usually prevailed in a war!? Examples Greeks over Persians, Romans over Carthage, & Vikings over most of their victims!? So he would concur with you!

Not sure if he was right, but just his 2 cents!?

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

George
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/7/2018 7:36:25 AM
Some data from the Canadian War Museum regarding the Canadian soldiers.

Note that the first contingent that was sent overseas was 70% British born. That could mean that they were fairly recent arrivals in Canada or that they had arrived as children.

Even so, these men identified as Canadians and as the reputation and myth surrounding the capability of the Corps grew, they were quick to identify themselves as Canadians and not British.

This war was instrumental in creating a national identity that had nothing to do with Vimy Ridge.

According to the article, British officers found the level of indiscipline of the Canadian troops off putting. Drinking and brawling and a lack of deference to the officer class were characteristics that a British officer would find unacceptable.

Brian alluded to the literacy level of the Canadian soldier and the article says that while most were literate, formal education stopped in elementary school for most of the men.

Men who had worked together in mines or in the same urban centre often found themselves in the same regiment. However, one may have been a reservist and became an NCO or an officer while another would be a private soldier. And so it was not uncommon for that private soldier to address his NCO or officer by first name, if he knew the man.

I believe that the highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases was recorded in the Canadian Corps. This upset the Canadian military as much as the British.

The stories of the Australians are similar except that the native born Australians enlisted in far greater numbers than did their counterparts in Canada.

I believe that the fact that the Canadian Corps was maintained, for the most part, as an intact group had more to do with creating efficiencies.

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Cheers,

George

MikeMeech
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/7/2018 9:26:41 AM
Hi

1918-Significant Change of Attitude to Warfare? Probably more a change of circumstances.

The ACW was studied at Staff Collages, however, lessons learned were mixed for example how would the successful use of well armed cavalry making deep penetrations into enemy territory fit with WW1? Also the French and German staffs would have probably considered the 1870 Franco-Prussian war more relevant for a future war over the same enemy and terrain than the ACW. The Russian Japanese War would also have been more relevant than the ACW especially the use of modern weapons (as would the Anglo-Boer war to some extent).

What changed in 1918, well the Russians had 'left' the war (in part due to the encouragement of revolutionaries by Germany, which backfired to some extent as those revolutionary ideas also spread into Germany) which gave Germany extra troops and guns to send to the Western Front to give them a 'temporary' superiority over the French and 'British' forces before the Americans were ready. This meant the German army could put in a great superiority of force at certain points on the 'Allied' front line during the Spring Offensive. Using 'Stormtroops' to attack after massive artillery barrages enabled them to achieve tactical victories but still at a high cost in casualties. The British troops (and Portuguese) took the brunt of these attacks (no Dominion troops were in the line where these massive attacks took place so never suffered the same force of attack) so suffered the most casualties and killed the most German 'Stormtroopers' of the early waves. Ten British Divisions had to be 'reduced to cadre' because of these losses and had to be rebuilt with 'new recruits', that is equivalent in divisional terms to the Canadian, Australian Corps and the New Zealand Division. The Canadian Corps was the least used of troops during the Spring Offensive, indeed the Canadian 2nd Division, that was in the line, complained about the rest of the Canadian Corps 'resting' since the first week of May while they were still in the "thick of it" (see page 400 of 'Shock Troops' by Tim Cook).
The German 'tactical victories' meant that the Germans troops were now out of their well prepared defences and small engagements such as La Becque on 28th June and Hamel on 4th July showed the weakness of the German defences. This led to the decision to attack another 'weak spot' at Amiens with larger forces which was successfully done. It should be noted that the British III Corps were the weakest force (it had also seen much fighting during the year and it was decided not to replace the divisions as it was considered another secret move too far if surprise was to be achieved), it also had to traverse the most difficult terrain, which was also not suitable for tanks (hence the limited tank deployment). Just prior to the Amiens attack III Corps units had suffered a German attack but the British troops captured kept their mouths shut and it appears the Germans did not get any information on the Amiens attack.
The Hundred Days campaign did not just rely on the Dominion Forces, the BEF had five Armies in the front line. The 'high point' of Dominion Corps use was August and September (prior to that the Canadian Corps was not as active as the British formations or the Australians and the NZ Division), after the beginning of October the Australian Corps was withdrawn from the battlefield (part of Australian 1st Division had 'mutinied' on 19 September) due to their manpower crises, due in part to their lack of conscription and probably over expansion into five divisions. Incidentally the Australian 4th Division was regarded as a more 'frontier' division as they 3 battalions from Western Australia and 4 from Queensland, however, due to sparse populations they were hard to replace, most Australian troops were 'townsmen'(see 'The War with Germany' - The Centenary History of Australia and the Great War Volume 3).
The Canadian Corps during the Hundred Days was also dependent to some extent on being reinforced by a British Division for their battles, this was to keep Currie's policy of "two Division in and two out". Nicolson (Chapter XV) relates that during the period the British Divisions under Currie's command from August include the 51st Highland, 4th, 57th, 11th and finally the 56th Division. The last division had to be replaced by the 4th Canadian on 16 October due to their being too weak to carry out a vigorous pursuit of the enemy after their continuous operations under the command of Currie. Presumably if the Canadian Corps were 'stormtroops' these British Divisions would have to be included, plus the fact that they could be part of the Canadian Corps at relatively short notice their training and operational doctrine was basically the same.
With five Armies on operations Dominion troop could not be 'stormtroops' all along the front. The weakest British Army was the Second, commanded by Plumer, this had four Corps but only ten divisions (all British) six of which had faced the Michael Offensive, five of these had also been hit by the Georgette Offensive when they had been sent to recuperate in that area. Five of the divisions under Plumer had been reduced to cadre in May 1918 and had been rebuilt with new drafts (many appear to have been B1 and B2 a others from Labour Battalions as well as new conscripts),the Army did not have any tanks attached. Plumer's force became part of the French and Belgian forces in Flanders under the command of King Albert a became its main strike force noted for its 'rolling series of limited-objective and all-arms attacks' (in this case all-arms means infantry/artillery/aircraft) which were conducted on an almost daily basis, basically they could classed as King Albert's 'stormtroops' (se 'War of Liberation' by Dennis Williams in 'Changing War' edited by Sheffield and Gray).

1918 was rather more complicated than the Dominion forces being the 'stormtroops' of the BEF and their 'good performance' should not become the 'only performers' as if they were the war would not have been ended in November 1918.

Mike

George
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/7/2018 10:16:11 AM

Quote:
Like the Australians, the Canadians were drawn from the Empire’s outer reaches and viewed as rugged northern warriors, if ill-disciplined.
Much of this was simple mythmaking or imagination forged through years of novels and fanciful travel literature to feed widespread notions in Britain that the Canadians were all Voyageurs and Mounted Police. Canadians were not born with a gun in their hands; they were not innate hunters and trackers, and the majority of the CEF was drawn from urban centres where the recruiting was fiercest and where pre-war militias were most prevalent.
. source: The Canadian Encyclopaedia.

So while I recognize and am proud of the accomplishments of the Canadian Corps and while the Australians rightly share pride in their own, I think that searching for some sort of innate ability to fight or a personality that explains proficiency in combat is going to be fruitless.

Both Corps were among the best that the British army had to offer. The battle honours attained prove that but they were not super humans.

That the British senior command recognized that they were effective troops seems to be understood and so they did assume the role of shock troops and especially in the latter part of the war, they were outstanding.

They were well trained and well prepared by their officers and for the Canadians more so than the Australians, they were allowed to stay together as a Corps of 4 divisions.

I will note that the Canadian and Australian governments were eager to see their own officers develop to the point that they could assume critical positions.

However, there were British officers in key positions at least in the Canadians Corps.

Both the Australians and the Canadians, by the end of the war, were commanded by countrymen who were not professional soldiers when the war started. John Monash and Arthur Currie were also among the best that the British Army had to offer.

Cheers,

George


MikeMeech
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/7/2018 11:48:48 AM

Quote:
In nothing I have ever read have I seen any change in attitude on the part of either Foch or Haig. Even with the U.S. entry into the war, both were still imbued with the "cult of the offensive". Foch was adamant in his insistence that Pershing simply provide U.S. troops as "replacements" to be inserted into French and British commands, simply more cannon fodder for the "breakthrough" that they had been seeking since 1914. As late as August 1918, Haig was still ordering cavalry charges in hopes of breaking through to ride willy-nilly through the enemy's rear area ala J.E.B. Stuart. This doesn't reflect a change of attitude at all.

While American entry into the war cannot be counted as the deciding factor by itself, the first operation of the AEF was to eliminate the St. Mihiel salient that had been lodged in the Allied front since 1914. This opened the Paris-Nancy railroad for the use of the Allies. A continuation of that drive would have given an excellent chance to capture Metz and to continue on to the Thionville-Longuyon-Sedan railroad, without which the Germans could not have remained in France.

As it happened, Foch yielded to Haig's demand that the direction of the American attack be moved West. This would produce an American offensive tending toward converging with Haig's offensive around Cambrai. But, it meant abandoning the opportunity opened by the dislocation of the German troops from the St. Mihiel salient and attacking through the Meuse-Argonne, protected by a German defense system some 12 miles deep.

Other than American entry into the war, the most significant changes in 1918 were technological, with greater use of the airplane and the tank. Once tanks became available in large numbers, they were finally able to achieve the strategic breakthrough that had been sought all along.
--ColonelMac1775

Hi

I don't quite understand how 'Haig' would have been demanding that the AEF would be "converging with Haig's offensive around Cambrai". To do that the AEF would have been crossing in front of the Fourth, Fifth Tenth and First French Armies and the British Fourth and Third? That is a long way!

Pershing was rather 'imbued' with the 'cult of the offensive' or rather the 'offensive of rifle and bayonet' it took him a while to change, officers at the lower level in the US Army were slightly quicker to see the folly.

Cavalry were still, in 1918, the only mobile exploitive arm available, which is why Haig did keep a small cavalry arm (this had shrunk in actual size and even more as a proportion of the Army) and it is regarded that there was a shortage of cavalry for all tasks during 1918 (see 'Horsemen in No Man's Land' by David Kenyon). The 'charge' is one of the tactics used by the cavalry arm, the main one was riding forward and dismounting when strong opposition is encountered and using rifle and MG fire against them while infantry follow up. They also kept their 'reconnaissance' tasks for the different levels of command to the end of the war.

Mike

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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/7/2018 7:48:56 PM
Phil, we seem to tilt at each other about every two years on this subject, don't we. Has it been noted in this particular thread that 1918 brought warfare not seen in the Western Front since 1914, when tactics, weaponry, mobility and a host of other military issues were vastly different? [EDIT: I note it has since I started writing this yesterday evening.] The German Spring Offensive and its collapse, coupled with the Allied counteroffensive, is to some extent exactly what all armies expected in 1914, but with totally different weaponry and with a history of three years of slaughter for gains of scant yards between campaigns of movement.

You note:
Quote:
In essence, the infantry of 1918 went into battle in smaller groups, equipped with more automatic firepower, and were required to deploy in a way which demanded as much from individual intelligence as it did from obedience. The decimation ( an understatement ) of manpower entailed social mobility as men were promoted and commissioned : “ temporary gentleman “ was the phrase used to describe men from lower middle class and working class backgrounds who found themselves wearing pips on their shoulders.

Am I a victim of the propaganda surrounding the "Old Contemptibles" when I say I see little difference between expectations of the Old Contemptibles by their various regiments and the expectations of NCO and lower grade officers by army brass in 1918 except for changes in equipment, tactics and scale? I think the K-troops were viewed more like cattle than conscripts (see Ian Hay's First Hundred Thousand: 'K(1)', e.g.) The men of Kitchener's army weren't unintelligent; they were unblooded. And I see no indication that the brass did much to train them how to better understand the nature and demands of trench warfare. What they learned they seem to have gained largely from enduring the horror they were left in by the brass, who themselves had little understanding of how to break the pattern of 3 years in trenches.

During the Spring Offensive, I think there was sufficient chaos that units of various sizes found themselves making their own decisions on how to counter-react to German attacks. Sure as hell, Haig's "Backs to the Wall" speech wasn't a strategic plan. I guess I'm arguing that 1918 simply generated a different response than 1915/6: even with different emphases, I think we agree on that. My question would be whether that reflected a change by Haig and the Brass, or a relatively severed disruption of military order, leading to necessary adaptation by lower officer ranks, which might even include some of those "temporary gentlemen".

Maybe Haig and his cohort did change their minds about the capabilities of their troops along with their attitudes about them. But maybe they realized the war was out of their control, and that they had nothing further to offer to its winning, so they let the men who had endured the barrage do their duty as they knew it.

Personally, I gotta say that the term "temporary gentleman" screams to me that British Society had not changed its mind about rigidity and "rightness" of the social order. The mindset behind that label — that you can't lead men unless you are gentle-born, and without gentle birth you can never be a real gentleman — is anathema to me.

It didn't go away militarily after the war. The "City" squadrons of RAF Fighter Command wrote their own rules to survive the war in style, because they were "gentlemen". The "Wavy Navy" continued to exist through WW2, and no RN worth his status accepted a person with wavy stripes. IMHO, the events north of Oxford and Cambridge over the years following the war suggest that while the "temporary humans" were allowed to die in new ways at the front, and might be promised a "Home for Heroes" if they survived, it was clear there would be little change in the reality of how they were viewed, how they were looked after, or whether anything might be done that would help the people but might cause some disquiet to the toffs.

Sorry, this might move clear of the thread. To be honest, I don't think it does. I think WW1 tested the values of the British class system, and that the traditional attitudes held firm. I believe that the rulers manipulated the lower classes, and that there was never any attempt or desire to alter the world of privilege they had enjoyed for so long.

Gotta stop. This is turning into one of my Homeric rants (not for quality, but for length).

Cheers
Brian G
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/8/2018 3:32:50 AM
Brian,

Regarding that soubriquet “ Temporary gentlemen “ ...... The mindset behind that label.....is anathema to me .

There was, I suspect, a sardonic emphasis implicit in the title, that suggests it was regarded as an abomination by them , as well.

You will find, I think, in Haig’s writings that he becomes more and more aware of the debt that British society owes to its soldiers - officers and other ranks - and his determination to see that this debt is honoured.

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

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MikeMeech
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/8/2018 6:49:04 AM

Quote:

Personally, I gotta say that the term "temporary gentleman" screams to me that British Society had not changed its mind about rigidity and "rightness" of the social order. The mindset behind that label — that you can't lead men unless you are gentle-born, and without gentle birth you can never be a real gentleman — is anathema to me.

It didn't go away militarily after the war. The "City" squadrons of RAF Fighter Command wrote their own rules to survive the war in style, because they were "gentlemen". The "Wavy Navy" continued to exist through WW2, and no RN worth his status accepted a person with wavy stripes. IMHO, the events north of Oxford and Cambridge over the years following the war suggest that while the "temporary humans" were allowed to die in new ways at the front, and might be promised a "Home for Heroes" if they survived, it was clear there would be little change in the reality of how they were viewed, how they were looked after, or whether anything might be done that would help the people but might cause some disquiet to the toffs.

Cheers
Brian G
--brian grafton


Hi

I presume by "City" squadrons you are referring to Auxiliary Air Force (later 'Royal' Aux. AF) which were formed between the wars. The most exclusive of these was No. 601 (County of London) Squadron which was referred to, when formed, as 'The Millionaires' Squadron' when it was commanded by Lord Edward Grosvenor in 1924. However, once the war started this did not last long as casualties and promotions soon made the squadron like many others as the recruits came through the RAF Training system. The American 'Billy' Fiske served on this squadron as did the son of the first air VC winner in WW1 Rhodes-Moorhouse, both killed in 1940. It certainly was not an 'upper-class' unit during WW2 it was completely mixed both by 'class' and nationality. The commanding officer during June to September 1943 was Sqn. Ldr. Stanislaw Skalski of the Polish Air Force, he was followed by Maj. M S Osler of the South African Air Force (Sept. 43 - March 44). Expansion of the RAF and casualties ended any 'exclusiveness'.
This is rather like the 'Pals' Battalions which were 'exclusive' to trade, occupation, Sport, area and indeed class (eg. Public School Battalion), many of the middle class volunteers did not want to serve with 'working class' (and vice-versa) as they did not have much in common.
However, again with casualties, promotions etc. this all became a bit meaningless. With conscription the terms of Regular, Territorial or Kitchener formations also became meaningless in reality, as by 1918 they would all be full of conscripts and 'Temporary' Officers. Also by 1918 Scottish, Irish and Welsh formations were also receiving a large number of English conscripts as there were not enough of 'national' conscripts to fill the demand (despite Haig's order in late 1917 that all Scottish conscripts had to go to Scottish Regiments while English could go to Scottish or English Regiments, they were alrady in Irish and Welsh before this time). This is one way in which the BEF had changed by 1918, it was less 'exclusive' in many ways not just 'class'.

Mike

Phil andrade
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/8/2018 1:01:31 PM
How did other armies compare when it came to changing attitudes ?

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

brian grafton
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/8/2018 7:43:38 PM
Yes, Mike, I was thinking of Squadron 601 in particular. Hence my screwup with using "City" rather than "County". My comment was based on a lovely series of anecdotes Len Deighton tells in his Fighter (p. 67). Of No. 601, he writes of the lack of reputations in Territorial Army divisions to
Quote:
...match that of the 'millionaire's squadron' that was to carve such a name for itself during the battle [of Britain]. At the outbreak of war the 'millionaires' were concerned about the prospect of petrol rationing and how it would affect their private transport. And officer was assigned to the task of buying petrol. He came back having bought a service station but announced that the pumps there were only half-full. This situation was remedied when another pilot remembered that he was a director of Shell. His secretary arranged a delivery."


Deighton points out that No 601 Squadron made a name for itself. I concur with him, and I agree with you. I'm not questioning their bravery, or their honour, or their loyalty to their country. I was talking about the carryover of privilege and gentility between the wars. There were some 20 AAF squadrons in 1939, one quarter of RAF active squadrons. And at least a percentage of those had restrictive practices ranging from niggling to destructive.

IIUC correctly, all pilots in AAF squadrons between the wars were officers. In 1936, the RAFVR (Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve) was created to train even more pilots. On completion of their training, they all became sergeants. AAF and RAFVR wouldn't even mess together! Of course, with time AAF pilots were lost and replaced by RAF and RAFVR pilots. Drawing from Deighton again (as I have for much of this post), we read the following:
Quote:
More than one pilot was less than enthusiastic about the AAF squadrons. Skilled RAFVR sergeant pilots, such as 'Ginger' Lacey, posted to an AAF squadron sometimes found them a 'a rather snobbish preserve of the rich'. 'Johnnie' Johnson, another of the RAF's top fighter aces, remained convinced that he had failed to get into an AAF squadron when the interviewing officer discovered that he was not a fox-hunting man. On another AAF squadron there was always 'a social test' in which a prospective officer candidate would be given Sunday lunch, and 'several glasses of sherry' to discover 'if his parlance was no longer that of a gentleman'.


Just from this short list of anecdotes it is at least suggested that AAF squadrons were desirable places to be, at least for some. It might be argued that Johnnie Johnson, e.g., was disappointed at his failure to "make the grade" to an AAF squadron.

Personally, I think the emphasis on wealth, power and class was a negative force for the British military, navy and air force. But all I'm arguing at present is that it did not disappear prior to 1918, and was in fact still present in 1939, a generation later. Just one last look at Deighton's comments. If I've followed his writing accurately, the following applies to a "regular" RAF or RAFVR pilot's attitude to the role of status and class in RAF Fighter Command:
Quote:
Said one of them, 'Auxiliaries are gentlemen trying to be officers, Rgulars are officers trying to be gentlemen, VRs are neither trying to be both.'


I can see where you're going with your discussion of WW1 "Pals" Battalions, and to some extent I get it. At the same time, it could be argued that your argument underlines how class and social standing had fragmented British society.

In the larger issue you raise concerning the "cross-pollination" of regiments as the war grew to a close, my understanding agrees with yours. And I'm not using "cross-pollination" as derogatory in any sense. My point would be, however, that we're looking at integration by necessity rather than policy, and that in fact Haig's comments – if his values could be said to be official – suggest the Army didn't approve of this kind of "mingling".

Cheers
Brian G
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/9/2018 1:22:31 AM

Quote:
How did other armies compare when it came to changing attitudes ?

Regards, Phil
--Phil andrade



As soon as I pitched that question, I chided myself for failing to state the bleeding obvious : a rather significant change in attitude occurred in the German army after mid July, 1918. Thenceforward German soldiers surrendered in great numbers : one half of all German prisoners captured on the Western Front throughout the fifty one months of war were taken in the the last three and a half months.

This change in attitude was largely forced by stunningly successful Allied tactics. The feats of the British and Dominion troops speak for themselves.

The Germans themselves had expended life and blood too prodigally in their offensives, especially in March and April, when their loss in killed reached staggering proportions. They must have lost heart.

It must not be forgotten , though, that Allied success came at the price of in excess of a million casualties in the fighting from the Marne counter attack to the Armistice.

I suppose the German “ Attitude “ had undergone its own evolution.

In 1914, the attempt to win all out at phenomenal speed.

Falkenhayn changed that approach by adopting a strategy more consistent with Germany’s strategic predicament, and seeking to limit goals to more realistic levels. He was challenged by Ludendorff, and his dummy Hindenburg, who agitated for more grandiose aspirations.

They were to have their day, and, in pursuit of the smashing victory, managed to smash up the German army.

Is “ Attitudinal “ a proper word ? If so, it applies to the changing fortunes of the German Army in 1918.

Regards, Phil

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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/9/2018 7:16:49 AM
British war correspondent Philip Gibbs noted Amiens' effect on the war's tempo, saying on 27 August that, "the enemy...is on the defensive" and, "the initiative of attack is so completely in our hands that we are able to strike him at many different places." Gibbs also credits Amiens with a shift in troop morale, saying, "the change has been greater in the minds of men than in the taking of territory.

On our side the army seems to be buoyed up with the enormous hope of getting on with this business quickly" and that, "there is a change also in the enemy's mind. They no longer have even a dim hope of victory on this western front.

All they hope for now is to defend themselves long enough to gain peace by negotiation."[

Regards

Jim
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Phil Andrade
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/9/2018 8:39:04 AM
The suddenness of all this needs to be reckoned with.

It’s too easy to view the commencement of the Hundred Days at Amiens and see the thing as the final phase.

We must remember that Haig and co embarked on the Battle of Amiens whilst they were still feeling the threat of further huge German attacks.

There was , I suspect, a greater sense of fragility in the Entente camp than we might suppose, and Amiens was still threatened as a vital juncture and railhead.



Things had to be done on the hoof, reflexively , under great pressure, with a sense of place and time being paramount.


Viewed in this light, the achievement of that battle, and the subsequent relentless fighting, is all the greater.

Regards, Phil

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

George
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/9/2018 9:06:34 AM
Hello Phil,

Foch had been pushing Haig to start another offensive farther north in France.

I do not know why Foch felt that the period just a few months after the German Spring Offensive was a propitious time to attack.

What were his reasons.

Burned many times by fighting in the lower and wetter lands of north east France, Haig opted for the more movement friendly area around Amiens.

Was that his only reason? What were the German defences in the area opposite Amiens?


We are in discussion regarding changes in attitude. I have presumed that the decision to attack on Aug. 8 was not whimsical as in, "let's have a go".

Surely there was solid intelligence that led both Foch and Haig to determine that the time and place selected were the right ones.

Or am I being overly optimistic and giving to much credit to those who chart the progress of war?


Cheers,

George

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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/9/2018 9:44:09 AM
Phil said and I quote:="I chided myself for failing to state the bleeding obvious : a rather significant change in attitude occurred in the German army after mid July, 1918. Thenceforward German soldiers surrendered in great numbers : one half of all German prisoners captured on the Western Front throughout the fifty one months of war were taken in the the last three and a half months."

You seemed to have backtracked somewhat in your next post--the Germans still making vigorous attacks--what after ,id July 1018--surely they were fast becomin a spent force in comnparisin to March 1918 ???


Regards

Jim
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Phil Andrade
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/9/2018 12:16:41 PM

Quote:
Phil

You seemed to have backtracked somewhat in your next post--the Germans still making vigorous attacks--what after ,id July 1018--surely they were fast becomin a spent force in comnparisin to March 1918 ???


Regards

Jim
--anemone


Not quite, Jim.

I said that Haig and co still faced the threat of German attack : there was still a massive German presence in front of the British, and, for all Haig knew, that was about to erupt. Ludendorff still aimed to strike more blows through the waning summer, with an especial focus on the British.

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

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anemone
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/9/2018 1:49:26 PM
The Kaiserschlacht offensives had yielded large territorial gains for the Germans, in First World War terms. However, victory was not achieved and the German armies were severely depleted, exhausted and in exposed positions. The territorial gains were in the form of salients which greatly increased the length of the line that would have to be defended when Allied reinforcements gave the Allies the initiative.

In six months, the strength of the German army had fallen from 5.1 million fighting men to 4.2 million.[32] By July, the German superiority of numbers on the Western Front had sunk to 207 divisions to 203 Allied, a negligible lead which would be reversed as more American troops arrived.[29] German manpower was exhausted.

The German High Command predicted they would need 200,000 men per month to make good the losses suffered. Returning convalescents could supply 70,000–80,000/month but there were only 300,000 recruits available from the next annual class of eighteen-year-olds. Even worse, they lost most of their best-trained men: stormtrooper tactics had them leading the attacks. Even so, about a million German soldiers remained tied up in the east.indeed until the end of the war.

Regards

Jim
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Phil Andrade
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/9/2018 6:12:33 PM
Killing at least two birds with one stone, let me cite some stuff from Haig’s correspondence that throws light on “ Attitude “ regarding the nature of the British army, and also on the threat of German attack that still held sway even as the counter attack at Amiens was being discussed.

19 July, 1918, he writes to his wife :

The Officer Class is now very different to what it was in the case of the old regular Army. Now the Officer in many cases has risen from the ranks, and in most cases is quite without means outside his pay. They are also very numerous,about 90,000 in France alone. So you will thus see that the suffering after the war will be very great indeed unless something is arranged soon for their benefit. You are doing splendid work my darling, in interesting yourself so intensely in their claims...... I still expect to be attacked on the Hazebroucke - Ypres front.

Three days later, he writes :

If Rupprecht does not attack me, but his reserves are drawn off elsewhere, I recommend a surprise attack to improve our position east of Amiens .

Note the awareness of likely German attack, and also the need to consolidate hold on Amiens, which is so important as a main railway communication zone and also the junction between the French and the British.

There is optimism here, and a determination to exploit any opportunity, but it is balanced by a healthy respect for the threatened German attacks. Haig is not out of the woods yet. The situation is still dangerous.

Even at Amiens itself, the Germans launched a fierce local attack on 6 August, two days prior to the Allied Offensive there.

The tactical potential demonstrated by the Australian and American attack at Hamel on 4 July , and another British success in late June ( which I’ll try and learn about : I think Mike Meech might have alluded to it ) suggested that the ground around Amiens would be ideal for this method to be used on the grand scale.

George has asked twice about the provenance of the Amiens operation, and I would like to try and do justice to his questions.

More to come,

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

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

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/10/2018 3:12:37 AM

Quote:
I still expect to be attacked on the Hazebroucke - Ypres front.

Three days later, he writes :

If Rupprecht does not attack me, but his reserves are drawn off elsewhere, I recommend a surprise attack to improve our position east of Amiens .

Note the awareness of likely German attack, and also the need to consolidate hold on Amiens, which is so important as a main railway communication zone and also the junction between the French and the British.


I am sorry Phil--I know that I will never know for sure; but I always suspect that anything he says-especially to his wie; about war activities-- are the thoughts of his staff. Of course this all stemsfrom the manner he runs GHQ

Regards

Jim
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Phil Andrade
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Re: 1918--a Significant Sea Change in Attitude to Warfare
Posted on: 5/10/2018 3:26:05 AM
Jim,

Your suspicions about the things Haig committed to his correspondence are quite legitimate : there is plenty of scope for circumspection.

I do think, though, that his worries about more German attacks were real ; we now know, of course, that Ludendorff had pretty well shot his bolt by this time....but we need to appreciate how real the threat seemed at that moment : I reckon we can only do proper justice to the enormity of the Allied achievements in the ensuing campaign if we take account of how dangerous the situation appeared to be.

Editing : sad to say, Jim, the link you sent failed to open.

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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