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Cojimar 1945
05-31-2008, 09:17 PM
I don't see how you can credit the British Expeditionary Force with winning the first world war. The French alone appear to have inflicted higher casualties on the Germans than the British empire and also suffered considerably higher casualties so giving Haig credit seems a bit silly.

Nickdfresh
05-31-2008, 10:24 PM
I don't see how you can credit the British Expeditionary Force with winning the first world war. The French alone appear to have inflicted higher casualties on the Germans than the British empire and also suffered considerably higher casualties so giving Haig credit seems a bit silly.

Um, which post are you quoting?

But yes, the French did a large part for victory at Verdun...

Cojimar 1945
06-01-2008, 12:34 AM
An earlier post by PDF27 suggested that the British Expeditionary force was the most decisive factor in the first world war and I disagreed with this assessment. I don't see how you can give them the most credit for winning the war when their contribution to victory was less than that of France alone to say nothing of the other allies.

pdf27
06-01-2008, 04:55 PM
The French stopped the Germans. The British beat them. The war in the west can essentially be divided into two phases (it would have been three had the war continued into 1919).
1) German attacks. This phase essentially lasted from the declaration of war until the first day of the Somme. By and large, it consisted of Germans attacking and French largely fighting and dying in place (with some local counterattacks) to hold them. The Battle of Verdun (while it continued after the first day of the Somme) belongs in this phase. Essentially, the French army was tactically successful in it's objective of holding the Germans and stabilizing the front and failed strategically in that it was bled white and until the German army had been run through the mincing machine in 1916/17 was unable to carry out successful offensive actions. They played a (successful) minor part on the Somme, fought a number of successful defensive actions in summer 1918 (although the British took the brunt of the offensive) and were nearly broken by their own offensive in the Chemin des Dames.
2) Allied attacks. Prior to the hundred days, this was largely a British/Dominion affair. While they had a very bloody apprenticeship (notably at the start of the battle of the Somme), it had the desired effect of running the Germans through a meat grinder (for instance roughly 80 German divisions were crippled or destroyed on the Somme). Apart from the Chemin des Dames offensive, the French were pretty quiet in this area until the hundred days, when Foch was convinced that the Germans had shot their bolt and ordered all the Allied armies into the attack together.
3) Had the war continued into 1919, the US contribution would have become decisive - towards the end of the war their contribution was roughly similar to that of Belgium, but was rapidly ramping up to be equivalent to all the other states put together.

A good example of the way the Germans went through the meat grinder at the hands of the British from 1916-18 can be found in the breaking of the Hindenberg line (OK, more than breaking - the whole thing was taken by storm, largely by the British).

"Had the Boche not shown marked signs of deterioration during the past month, I should never have contemplated attacking the Hindenburg line. Had it been defended by the Germans of two years ago, it would certainly have been impregnable…"
Another one is at Ypres. In 1918, the British and Belgians captured in 2 days what had taken them 3 months in 1917. The only plausible explanation is that the German army was coming apart at the seams, and the overwhelming majority of the fighting between November 1917 and August 1918 was done by the BEF.

In terms of casualties, French casualties for the war as a whole were roughly 10-20% higher than British/Dominion casualties. However, the French started the war with very badly flawed tactics (counterattacking bayonet charges against machine guns for instance) and a concept that nothing mattered except the advance, carried out with the bayonet and driven through with French élan.
Accordingly, they suffered horrendously in the initial German attack (far worse than the British on the first day of the Somme) and this largely accounts for their high casualties. Take this out, and the French casualties would have been marginally lower than those of Britain and the Empire.

Oh, and some numbers for you from the hundred days offensive:
The BEF captured 188,700 prisoners and 2,840 guns.
The French and Belgians combined captured 154,700 prisoners and 2,354 guns.
The Americans captured 43,000 prisoners and 1,421 guns.

It should be noted at this point that the French army of 1918 was substantially larger than the BEF...

Nickdfresh
06-01-2008, 05:29 PM
I agree with most of the above assessment. Unfortunately the French leadership was very uneven and their initial counter-thrust into German was poorly though out. But Verdun may have been the single biggest factor in the defeat of the German Army in WWI. But the French were damaged to the point of mutiny making them only effective in defensive actions and combat ineffective until at least 1918 in offensive ones.

The British offensives were ever important. But we cannot forget that the American contribution is what drove the Germans to launch a desperate offensive in 1918 in order to knock France out of the War before the US could overwhelm them. In a sense, even the threat of US arms haunted German commanders and forced desperate gambles that caused them to attrit their forces. Despite fumbling badly as far as tactics (US commanders often arrogantly dismissed British advice), the Belleau Wood (showing that even green US Marines could quickly match German experience with higher morale and the blissful ignorance of the horrors of War) and the sheer exuberance overall of fresh US soldiers and Marines demoralized the Germans, whose soldiers had been ground down by fours years of near constant battle.

Also, it should be noted that German advances in 1918 were severally hindered not just by Allied resistance, but by the fact that their own Army was becoming unglued and German soldiers began to ignore orders and gorged themselves in captured French towns on foodstuffs and alcohol as they devolved often into a looting mob. I think this was no small problem according to some historians as the British, French, and certainly the US troops were much better fed and it was noticed that while German soldiers were certainly not emaciated, the blockade had no small effect on the overall poor nutrition and redundant died of German soldiers, and certainly of German's overall...

pdf27
06-01-2008, 06:37 PM
But we cannot forget that the American contribution is what drove the Germans to launch a desperate offensive in 1918 in order to knock France out of the War before the US could overwhelm them.
Was it? I'm just not sure about that one. There were a hell of a lot of factors at work, and that is only the most commonly quoted one. Off the top of my head and in no particular order...
1) With the capitulation of the Russians at Brest-Litovsk, the Germans suddenly had a sizeable army doing nothing. It was always going to go to the Western Front, as that was the decisive theatre of the war, and just leaving it as a reserve is the sort of strategy that will never appeal to any army commander unless they're on the verge of defeat and screaming out for more men. Realistically, it was always going to be used for an attack somewhere as and when it became available.
2) The German supply situation was parlous and getting more so, despite the huge areas of farmland, etc. taken from the Russians. Substantial numbers of people were suffering from malnutrition in Germany by this point.
3) The Germans had finally realised from the battering they took in 1916/17 that being on the defensive in a war of attrition didn't mean they would take substantially lower casualties, and they also knew that taking equal casualties to the allies would mean they lost the war. Hence, business as usual would lead to them losing.
4) The US had entered the war, with the promise of substantial additional strength arriving in late 1918/early 1919. This has the same effect as (3) - both mean that war past the end of 1918 is bad news for Germany.
5) The British at Ypres and Cambrai had demonstrated the ability to crack just about any German defensive position, and the first glimmerings of mobile warfare were starting to reappear. This raised the possibility of successfully fighting a war of manouver, and offered hope of a way out of the stalemate*.


Despite fumbling badly as far as tactics (US commanders often arrogantly dismissed British advice), the Belleau Wood (showing that even green US Marines could quickly match German experience with higher morale and the blissful ignorance of the horrors of War) and the sheer exuberance overall of fresh US soldiers and Marines demoralized the Germans, whose soldiers had been ground down by fours years of near constant battle.
Agreed on the first point, not nearly so convinced on the second - I would expect the reverse to be true, and the Germans to be relieved to be fighting a less effective enemy.

The American Infantry is very unskilful in the attack. It attacks in thick columns, preceded by tanks. This sort of attack offers excellent objectives for the fire of our Artillery, Infantry and Machine Guns
Taken from "Forgotten Victory" by Gary Sheffield, page 254.


Also, it should be noted that German advances in 1918 were severally hindered not just by Allied resistance, but by the fact that their own Army was becoming unglued and German soldiers began to ignore orders and gorged themselves in captured French towns on foodstuffs and alcohol as they devolved often into a looting mob. I think this was no small problem according to some historians as the British, French, and certainly the US troops were much better fed and it was noticed that while German soldiers were certainly not emaciated, the blockade had no small effect on the overall poor nutrition and redundant died of German soldiers, and certainly of German's overall...
I think the effect this had on the German offensive can easily be overstated. I've just finished reading Ernst Jünger's Storm of Steel (In Stahlgewittern), about his time in the trenches, and from it it is clear both that the German troops in the offensive at this time were amazed at the amount of food/equipment they found in the trenches they took and that they did indeed participate in a certain amount of looting (as Jünger did himself). However, if his account is anything to go by it had a pretty minor effect on the offensive and indeed may have helped it by reducing the logistics difficulties. Far more problematical for them was the fact that they simply outran their artillery support, and so were unable to deal with the improvised British defences towards the rear areas.

* Interestingly the British drew the opposite conclusion from these same successes - that fighting battles for very limited territorial objectives and stopping before you outrun your artillery was the way forward. This largely explains why the Kaiserslacht ground to a halt when and where it did, while the British offensive of the hundred days just kept grinding on and on.

Nickdfresh
06-01-2008, 08:00 PM
...

Agreed on the first point, not nearly so convinced on the second - I would expect the reverse to be true, and the Germans to be relieved to be fighting a less effective enemy.

Taken from "Forgotten Victory" by Gary Sheffield, page 254.

Yes well, how did they explain the fact that they were defeated in a culmination of three successive battles, then? :lol:

Even an inferior enemy was blunting their attacks and this as the French urged the Marines to retreat. And I think his commentary must have been about the wheat field attack which was only a small part of the battle, most of which was in the wooded area...



I think the effect this had on the German offensive can easily be overstated. I've just finished reading Ernst Jünger's Storm of Steel (In Stahlgewittern), about his time in the trenches, and from it it is clear both that the German troops in the offensive at this time were amazed at the amount of food/equipment they found in the trenches they took and that they did indeed participate in a certain amount of looting (as Jünger did himself). However, if his account is anything to go by it had a pretty minor effect on the offensive and indeed may have helped it by reducing the logistics difficulties. Far more problematical for them was the fact that they simply outran their artillery support, and so were unable to deal with the improvised British defences towards the rear areas.
...

I recall this, but I think John Keegan goes into some depth about this. Unfortunately, the book is not with me...

Cojimar 1945
06-01-2008, 08:05 PM
My understanding was that the French inflicted heavier casualties on the Germans than the British empire did in 1914, 1915 and 1916. They may also have killed and wounded more Germans in 1918 though the British empire may have captured more Germans this year. If the British contribution was so decisive than what about all the Germans killed, wounded and captured on the French sector of the front?

Churchill tries to provide a breakdown of German casualties oppossite the Franco-Belgian and British empire fronts during the war but this is not very satisfactory because the losses are not differentiated by sector for 1914, the stats for Germans missing and POW seem to be inaccurate and there was also an underreporting of casualties that was not corrected until later.

Cojimar 1945
06-01-2008, 08:09 PM
I have seen different numbers given for BEF casualties on the western front but I believe the vast majority of French casualties were on the western front. It appears that French combat deaths on the western front were higher than BEF combat deaths there in 1914, 1915, 1916 and 1918 while BEF combat deaths were only higher in 1917. Just what exactly was killing all these Frenchmen if the BEF was doing most of the fighting?

Chevan
06-02-2008, 12:11 AM
Lads what to hell the France in ww1 has deel to Eastern front brutality in during ww2?

Cojimar 1945
06-02-2008, 01:25 AM
Well I believe that many German Generals of WWII were veterans of the first conflict. Why were the German veterans of the first conflict so much more brutal the second time? What casued the people to change so much?

Chevan
06-02-2008, 02:01 AM
Well I believe that many German Generals of WWII were veterans of the first conflict. Why were the German veterans of the first conflict so much more brutal the second time? What casued the people to change so much?

Nazy race ideology....
Did hear about it?
What make the "veteran of ww1" Adolf Hitler to start the ethnicl clearising and persecutions in GErmany?

Nickdfresh
06-02-2008, 09:53 PM
Good question.

What did convert the WWI Germans into Nazis with their anti-Semitic and Lebensraum and anti-Eastern European views?

There's no connection between Western Front experiences of the likes of Hitler and Goering and their later genocidal obsessions.

Deserves a separate thread.

There was the common (mis)perception that the German Army was "never defeated in the field" and was "stabbed in the back" by (Jewish?) bankers...

Chevan
06-03-2008, 03:03 AM
There was the common (mis)perception that the German Army was "never defeated in the field" and was "stabbed in the back" by (Jewish?) bankers...
I think the "Jewish bankers" has rised on the surface bit later.
Initially Hitler blaimed the "National traitors from Gov" in 1918 fro German final failure.

Rising Sun*
06-03-2008, 08:25 AM
I think the "Jewish bankers" has rised on the surface bit later.
Initially Hitler blaimed the "National traitors from Gov" in 1918 fro German final failure.

At the point of surrender, or strictly the Armistice, the German military leadership knew it was beaten. Ludendorff had sufficient power to wage his total war for a couple of years (with no success) and to force the Foreign Minister to resign when in mid-1918 the Minister suggested negotiating with the Allies. When Ludendorff's final offensive failed, he was the one who recognised that Germany was beaten, courtesy of his various failures, and his actions and decisions and those of the military he led were the source of Germany's surrender.

The 'stab in the back' claims came later. That was just a beaten military and beaten nation looking for an excuse for its military failure, and the nation understanably looking all the harder because of the misrepresentation of its successes from the leadership during the war.

The stab in the back claim is always a convenient excuse for military and / or political failure, as described in more detail in the article quoted below.

There is no sense in the Nazis blaming the WWI surrender on powerful Jewish interests as a stab in the back when the basis of Nazi propaganda was that Jews were untermensch. Untermensch could hardly get themselves into positions of power to defeat ubermensch. Nonetheless, like much Nazi propaganda and other stab in the back theories, it didn't have to make sense, just identify a minority group which somehow undermined the much more powerful government and the military and forced them to surrender at the point of victory, which excuses all military and political failures. Like the peace movement which in the minds of some deprived America of military victory in Vietnam rather than, say, the bunch of corrupt bastards running SVN and its military who had rather more to do with military failure in the field than a bunch of students occupying a university building in California.

Here is an interesting exploration of the stab in the back notion as a form of nationalism and then its relationship with specific elements of German cultural history.


Every state must have its enemies. Great powers must have especially monstrous foes. Above all, these foes must arise from within, for national pride does not admit that a great nation can be defeated by any outside force. That is why, though its origins are elsewhere, the stab in the back has become the sustaining myth of modern American nationalism. Since the end of World War II it has been the device by which the American right wing has both revitalized itself and repeatedly avoided responsibility for its own worst blunders. Indeed, the right has distilled its tale of betrayal into a formula: Advocate some momentarily popular but reckless policy. Deny culpability when that policy is exposed as disastrous. Blame the disaster on internal enemies who hate America. Repeat, always making sure to increase the number of internal enemies.

As the United States staggers past the third anniversary of its misadventure in Iraq, the dagger is already poised, the myth is already being perpetuated. To understand just how this strategy is likely to unfold—and why this time it may well fail—we must return to the birth of a legend.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The stab in the back first gained currency in Germany, as a means of explaining the nation's stunning defeat in World War I. It was Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg himself, the leading German hero of the war, who told the National Assembly, “As an English general has very truly said, the German army was ‘stabbed in the back.’”

Like everything else associated with the stab-in-the-back myth, this claim was disingenuous. The “English general” in question was one Maj. Gen. Neill Malcolm, head of the British Military Mission in Berlin after the war, who put forward this suggestion merely to politely summarize how Field Marshal Erich von Ludendorff—the force behind Hindenburg—was characterizing the German army's alleged lack of support from its civilian government.

“Ludendorff's eyes lit up, and he leapt upon the phrase like a dog on a bone,” wrote Hindenburg biographer John Wheeler-Bennett. “‘Stabbed in the back?’ he repeated. ‘Yes, that's it exactly. We were stabbed in the back.’”

Ludendorff's enthusiasm was understandable, for, as he must have known, the phrase already had great resonance in Germany. The word dolchstoss—“dagger thrust”—had been popularized almost fifty years before in Wagner's Götterdämmerung. After swallowing a potion that causes him to reveal a shocking truth, the invincible Teutonic hero, Siegfried, is fatally stabbed in the back by Hagen, son of the archvillain, Alberich.

Wagner had himself lifted his plot device from a medieval German poem, which was inspired in turn by Old Norse folklore, and of course the same story can be found in a slew of ancient mythologies, whether it's the fate of the Greek heroes Achilles and Hercules or the story of Jesus and Judas. The hero cannot be defeated by fair means or outside forces but only by someone close to him, resorting to treachery.

The Siegfried legend in particular, though, has nuances that would mesh perfectly with right-wing mythology in the twentieth century, both in Germany and in the United States. At the end of Wagner's Ring Cycle, the downfall of the gods is followed by the rise of the Germanic people. The mythological hero has been transformed into the volk, just as heroic stature is granted to the modern state. Siegfried is killed just after revealing an unwelcome truth—much as the right, when pressed for evidence about its conspiracy theories, will often claim that these are hidden truths their enemies have a vested interest in concealing. Hagen, as a half-breed, an outsider posing as a friend, stands in for something worse yet—the assimilated Jew, able to betray the great warrior of the volk by posing as his boon companion.

It was an iconography easily transferable to Germany's new, postwar republic. Hitler himself would claim that while recuperating behind the lines from a leg wound, he found Jewish “slackers” dominating the war-production bureaucracy and that “the Jew robbed the whole nation and pressed it beneath his domination.” The rape imagery is revolting but vivid; Hitler was already attuned to the zeitgeist of his adopted country. Even before the war had been decided, a soldier in his company recalled how Corporal Hitler would “leap up and, running about excitedly, say that in spite of our big guns, victory would be denied us, for the invisible foes of the German people were a greater danger than the biggest cannon of the enemy.”

It didn't matter that Field Marshal Ludendorff had in fact been the virtual dictator of Germany from August of 1916 on, or that the empire's civilian leaders had been stunned by his announcement, in September of 1918, that his last, murderous offensives on the western front had failed, and that they must immediately sue for peace. The suddenness of Germany's defeat only supported the idea that some sort of treason must have been involved. From this point on, all blame would redound upon “the November criminals,” the scheming politicians, reds, and above all, Jews.

Yet it was necessary, for the purging that the Nazis had in mind, to believe that the national degeneration went even further. Jerry Lembcke, in his brilliant work, The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam, writes of how the Nazis fostered the dolchstosslegende in ways that eerily foreshadowed returning veteran mythologies in the United States. Hermann Göring, the most charismatic of the Nazi leaders after Hitler, liked to speak of how “very young boys, degenerate deserters, and prostitutes tore the insignia off our best front line soldiers and spat on their field gray uniforms.” As Lembcke points out, any insignia ripping had actually been done by the mutinous soldiers and sailors who would launch a socialist uprising shortly after the war, tearing them off their own shoulders or those of their officers. Göring's instant revisionism both covered up this embarrassing reality and created a whole new class of villains who were—in his barely coded language—homosexuals, sexually threatening women, and other “deviants.” All such individuals would be dealt with in the new, Nazi order. http://www.harpers.org/archive/2006/06/0081080

Nickdfresh
06-12-2008, 11:29 PM
Lads what to hell the France in ww1 has deel to Eastern front brutality in during ww2?

Oh, okay Mr. threadjacker! ;)

Nothing, that's why pdf split it off...

Cojimar 1945
06-12-2008, 11:50 PM
I do not like to refer to the 1914-18 and 1939-45 as WWI and WWII because I am doubtful whether these conflicts should be numbered that way. They may have been world wars but the War of the Austrian Succession, Seven Years War and Napoleonic Wars also seem worthy of being called world wars so I will refer to the conflicts as the 1914-18 and 1939-45 conflicts.

Anyway, one problem I have with comparing the Soviet contribution in 1939-45 and the BEF in 1914-18 is that it appears a far larger proportion of German casualties were suffered on the eastern front in 1939-45 than against the BEF in 1914-18. It has been convincingly argued that the eastern front accounted for over 80% of German military fatalities suffered over the course of the entire war. However, I have not found any source that claims that the BEF accounted for anywhere near such a high percentage of German casualties and fatalities. Does anyone feel that more than 80% of German combat deaths over the entire course of the war were inflicted by the BEF? I don't see how you can credit them with inflicting casualties to compare with the Soviets.

German allies such as Finland, Hungary and Romania also suffered most (if not all) of their casualties on the eastern front whereas I do not think this is the case for any of Germanys allies on the western front in 1914-18 regardless of what one thinks the BEF was doing.

Cojimar 1945
06-12-2008, 11:52 PM
It also appears that the eastern front accounted for a greater percentage of the fighting in 1939-45 than the western front in 1914-18. In 1914-18 there was also a great deal of carnage on the western front and the Italian front.

Cojimar 1945
06-13-2008, 12:03 AM
I have seen different figures given for British empire casualties during the war and for the western front. Winston Churchill suggests the BEF suffered 684,000 fatalities on the western front while another source claims the British army had 616,552 dead of all causes in France along with 239,580 prisoners or missing.

pdf27
06-13-2008, 02:39 AM
Anyway, one problem I have with comparing the Soviet contribution in 1939-45 and the BEF in 1914-18 is that it appears a far larger proportion of German casualties were suffered on the eastern front in 1939-45 than against the BEF in 1914-18. It has been convincingly argued that the eastern front accounted for over 80% of German military fatalities suffered over the course of the entire war. However, I have not found any source that claims that the BEF accounted for anywhere near such a high percentage of German casualties and fatalities. Does anyone feel that more than 80% of German combat deaths over the entire course of the war were inflicted by the BEF? I don't see how you can credit them with inflicting casualties to compare with the Soviets.
To say that they "broke the main strength of the German army in the field" does not imply that it caused 80% of the German casualties. Rather, they caused sufficient casualties that the German army could no longer hold positions against them and had to sue for peace. This can be credited to the BEF because they were doing the majority of the fighting - from about Verdun until 2nd Marne the French fought few battles and achieved less. The Italians did very little apart from lose badly - e.g. Caporetto - while the US never really arrived in strength before the Armistice. The Russians did reasonably well early in the war, but were broken by internal revolution very early.

Cojimar 1945
06-20-2008, 12:59 PM
I would think the Italian and eastern fronts would have been important in that they tied down large numbers of enemy troops and inflicted substantial casualties.

The Russian Army in the World War indicates that the Russians captured more prisoners than the French, British, Americans and Belgians put together on the western front. Chronicle of the First World War puts Austro-Hungarian casualties on the eastern front at 2,770,428+.

pdf27
06-22-2008, 06:08 AM
Pretty much irrelevant, as neither the Austro-Hungarians, Turks, or any of the other minor powers had much effect on the outcome of the war. This is a fallacy shared commonly by quite a few other people - notably the likes of Churchill and Lloyd-George, that they could somehow "knock the props out" from under the German empire. In reality of course the minor powers could keep fighting as long as the Germans could keep supporting them, and indeed did.
The war was won when the German field army was destroyed as a fighting force. This was done on the Western front, and principally by the British Expeditionary Force.

Rising Sun*
06-22-2008, 06:52 AM
The war was won when the German field army was destroyed as a fighting force. This was done on the Western front, and principally by the British Expeditionary Force.

Wasn't it the case that this was the result of a long process in which the French made at least as great, many might say greater, contribution?

I take your comment to mean that the BEF did the final damage in the final battles. If so, it's rather like lionising the sportsman who scores the final and 'winning' goal, but without the efforts and successes of his team mates earlier his goal would not have mattered.

We could equally see the entry of America as the winning goal kicker running onto the field.

I don't think the defeat of Germany can be apportioned primarily to any one nation, regardless of when they suffered unexpected early defeats (as the French did) or entered the war (although America often seems to think it won the war merely by arriving in time for the finish and etstablishing its tradition of arriving fashionably late in a world war ;) ).

Take any of France, Britain and its imperial forces, and America out of the equation at any of the points they fought and Germany was unlikely to have been defeated.

The defeat of Germany was a team goal, not an individual striker's brilliant effort.

I wouldn't limit the win to the field. German domestic problems contributed to the reaslisation that the jig was up.

pdf27
06-22-2008, 08:35 AM
Agreed on France - my attitude to them is that the French stopped the Germans and held them long enough for the British to create the force that beat them. It also follows from this, however, that the French contribution was one of time and space rather than one of the destruction of German forces. The battle which convinced the Germans that the war was lost (Amiens) and those which wore down the German army to the point we could inflict such a defeat on them (3rd Ypres and the Kaiserslacht mainly) were overwhelmingly British/Imperial battles. The French contribution to wearing down the German army - principally at Verdun and 2nd Marne - was significant but not as great as the British contribution.
I don't agree on the US contribution - militarily the result would have been the same whether or not the US was in the war. Psychologically is an interesting question - both as to whether there would have been a negotiated peace in 1917 and as to whether the Kaiserslacht would have been launched. The latter was a massive defeat for Germany with minimal US involvement, arguably triggered by US entry to the war. Personally, I think that after Brest-Litovsk something similar would always have happened, but proving that is next to impossible.

It is also rather easy to overrate German domestic problems when it comes to the end of the war. It was the battle of Amiens for instance that convinced Ludendorff that the war was lost, and the effect of the home front problems was from then on one of timing - he wanted to be able to withdraw troops to deal with threatened revolution at home, thus hurrying the capitulation.

Rising Sun*
06-22-2008, 09:10 AM
It is also rather easy to overrate German domestic problems when it comes to the end of the war. It was the battle of Amiens for instance that convinced Ludendorff that the war was lost, and the effect of the home front problems was from then on one of timing - he wanted to be able to withdraw troops to deal with threatened revolution at home, thus hurrying the capitulation.

I was thinking less of the purely military / political and other strategic dimensions than the steady impact of the war upon the people, notably food and other shortages, which translated into political considerations of a different form which weakened whatever popular resolve might have existed to continue the war.

I was putting it as a significant, rather than decisive, influence among the many which brought Ludendorff and others to realise that they were on a hiding to nothing if they continued to fight. Food riots and so on by the lower orders demonstrated to the higher orders that conflict, and risks to the established order, were not limited to military defeat on the Western Front, while those domestic problems were a consequence of pursuing rather optimistic military ambitions on that Front and bleeding the nation for no demonstrable benefit after years of war and civilian privation.

If we go deeper we find that, for example, the food riots demonstrated that Germany had exhausted its food production capacity and could not sustain its population at home or the front at long term politically acceptable levels, which were already being tested by the food riots.

Germany was starting to fracture, militarily, politically and domestically. Certainly the military aspect bore down most upon Ludendorff and his crew, but they and, more importantly, other leaders who finally were asserting a bit of independence of Ludendorff et al were not ignorant of the other factors which indicated that continuing with the war would end in both military and domestic disaster.

pdf27
06-22-2008, 10:59 AM
Agreed that the other (non-army) leaders had a much clearer idea of reality at home, but the fact remains that Germany was ruled by what can only be described as a military Junta at that point in time, and said rulers were very disconnected from what was happening at home. To them the home population were not much above serfs, who would continue to play their assigned part no matter what and didn't really have anything in the way of political conciousness. This idea changed of course as soon as they realised they had lost on the Western Front, but not really before then.

Nickdfresh
06-22-2008, 12:44 PM
Agreed on France - my attitude to them is that the French stopped the Germans and held them long enough for the British to create the force that beat them. It also follows from this, however, that the French contribution was one of time and space rather than one of the destruction of German forces. The battle which convinced the Germans that the war was lost (Amiens) and those which wore down the German army to the point we could inflict such a defeat on them (3rd Ypres and the Kaiserslacht mainly) were overwhelmingly British/Imperial battles. The French contribution to wearing down the German army - principally at Verdun and 2nd Marne - was significant but not as great as the British contribution.
I don't agree on the US contribution - militarily the result would have been the same whether or not the US was in the war. Psychologically is an interesting question - both as to whether there would have been a negotiated peace in 1917 and as to whether the Kaiserslacht would have been launched. The latter was a massive defeat for Germany with minimal US involvement, arguably triggered by US entry to the war. Personally, I think that after Brest-Litovsk something similar would always have happened, but proving that is next to impossible.

It is also rather easy to overrate German domestic problems when it comes to the end of the war. It was the battle of Amiens for instance that convinced Ludendorff that the war was lost, and the effect of the home front problems was from then on one of timing - he wanted to be able to withdraw troops to deal with threatened revolution at home, thus hurrying the capitulation.

Um, firstly the French were very much a part of the "Hundred Days Offensive" as they pushed into Amiens and provided the bulwark of the Southern flank of the offensive. And I find it doubtful that any overwhelming victory could have been won by the Allies had swarms of US troops not been arriving in France and not balanced out decimated Allied formations. I dunno, a Grand offensive was in itself enabled by a successful Allied counteroffensive which answered the German "war winning" Offensive that was to knock France out before US soldiers could even deploy to the front. And it was US soldiers that led the assault on the Hindenburg Line...Quite simply, if the Americans hadn't been there, Germany still would have had more options and I seriously doubt a decisive Allied victory would even have been possible as Germany, and her Austro-Hungarian partners still had the manpower to deal with Britain, Italy and France.

The German social order was collapsing by the end. I've read that in addition to food shortages, that it was noticed by his captors that even the German soldier had a pallor from malnutrition and that German isdustrial output was only about half of what it was pre-war...

pdf27
06-22-2008, 03:36 PM
Um, firstly the French were very much a part of the "Hundred Days Offensive" as they pushed into Amiens and provided the bulwark of the Southern flank of the offensive.
They were there, but theirs was very much a secondary contribution. At Amiens, the French attack didn't particularly get anywhere due to limited tank support (Whippets only). The main axis of attack was the Australian and Canadian corps, with III (British) Corps north of the Somme hardly getting anywhere (so far as I can figure out, they had little or no armoured support, and were never intended to get much further due to the presence of the town of Albert and the Army boundary on their left flank).


And I find it doubtful that any overwhelming victory could have been won by the Allies had swarms of US troops not been arriving in France and not balanced out decimated Allied formations.
Oh, sure, the US were there in great numbers. However, how many of those actual US divisions actually fought, and of those that fought what was their performance/persistence like compared to allied divisions? If you read up on it, it was a stunningly low percentage of US forces that actually got into combat, and those that fought rarely did as well as comparable allied divisions, taking far heavier casualties and often being rendered ineffective by supply problems. It is surprisingly hard to make a case that the US army of mid-late 1918 was all that effective a fighting force. Had the war continued into 1919 the US army would have been fearsomely effective by the standards of the day, but by the end of the war in 1918 they were still on a very steep learning curve and hampered by some truly awful doctrine. (Pershing at the time still adhered to the concept of Infantry as the decisive army, with limited support from other arms subordinated to the infantry and the idea that unlimited offensives leading to breakthroughs were possible. These ideas were what caused the horrendous bloodshed at Verdun, the Somme and parts of 3rd Ypres - and had accordingly been abandoned by the other allies because they simply didn't work. Pershing wasn't willing to learn from this.)
Also, by the end of the Kaiserslacht the British at least were receiving major reinforcement from both the UK, Italy and the Middle East. Lloyd-George finally released the very large numbers of troops he had been keeping at home (deliberately to hamstring Haig), while the improving situation in Italy and Turkey allowed further troops from there to be moved to the Western Front.


I dunno, a Grand offensive was in itself enabled by a successful Allied counteroffensive which answered the German "war winning" Offensive that was to knock France out before US soldiers could even deploy to the front.
By the counteroffensive (2nd Marne), or by the various defensive battles fought in stopping the German offensive in the first place? 2nd Marne came right at the end of the German offensive when it was starting to peter out after the casualties suffered by the storm troops. Since it is the relative condition of two armies, rather than the ground held, which determined the fitness to attack or otherwise, I would suggest that casualties taken and inflicted is a better measure of what battles enabled the allied counteroffensive.


And it was US soldiers that led the assault on the Hindenburg Line...
Bollocks. The Hindenburg line (specifically the Siegfried Stellung, generally considered the strongest) was first penetrated by British, Newfoundland and Indian troops in 1917 at Cambrai. In 1918, the first to break through it in parts were the ANZACs on the 18th of September. Two US divisions were involved on the 27th of September at the St Quentin canal, but even there they had major issues with mopping-up and coordination with artillery. US reports from the time (linky (http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9904EFD6173AE532A25751C0A9679C946095D6CF)) indicate that the majority of German machine-gunners, etc. were killed with bayonets rather than anything else.
In any case, the US involvement was rendered rather moot when the British 46th (North Midland) division launched a successful assault crossing of the St Quentin canal and outflanked the German positions in front of the US forces.
Oh, and the total US forces involved were as far as I can tell 2 divisions. The British had 4 whole armies involved, plus a French army. That's a total allied force of just under 50 divisions...


Quite simply, if the Americans hadn't been there, Germany still would have had more options and I seriously doubt a decisive Allied victory would even have been possible as Germany, and her Austro-Hungarian partners still had the manpower to deal with Britain, Italy and France.
Did they? I know the allies at the time thought they did, but that isn't the same thing. Looking at the way the German forces fell apart in late 1918, I'm far from convinced this is true.


The German social order was collapsing by the end. I've read that in addition to food shortages, that it was noticed by his captors that even the German soldier had a pallor from malnutrition and that German isdustrial output was only about half of what it was pre-war...
Storm of Steel is quite illuminating on this point, when Junger describes his attacks as part of the Kaiserslacht. The amazement at the living standards and level of food supply in the captured British trenches is well worth noting, as are his mentions of the general physical weakness of the German troops of the time. Right from the start his descriptions of the diet available to the German soldiers are surprising for how poor it is, and by the end of the book there is enough to give the strong suspicion that a large number of frontline troops were suffering from malnutrition badly enough to decisively affect their fighting ability.

Firefly
06-23-2008, 04:22 PM
Despite all the blood-letting and attritional warfare Germany was slowly ground down behind its borders. One could argue a very valid point that the Royal Navy actually won ww1 by using the tried and tested blockade tactic. The USA entered the war for the sole reason that German subs were ordered to carry out unrestricted warfare in order to try and impose their own blockade on the UK.

So for all the armies valiant efforts it was ultimately the failure of the Kreigsmarine to lift the blockade or indeed the wrong strategic choice of Germany to instigate unrestricted U boat attacks.

Sure, by 1918 the British/Dominion Army was probably better than any other in the field at the time, but by this time they were already fighting a very much diminished foe, crippled by a blockading RN.

32Bravo
06-24-2008, 08:20 AM
Taking a broader view, one could argue that WW1 and WW2 and the intervening years were all a part of the same conflict, and even with the re-uniting of Germany and the collapse of the Soviet Union, it isn't over yet.

We are, historically speaking, very close to the event. For instance: after the Cr'ecy (1346) and Poitiers (1356) campaigns the first peace was agreed in 1360, which lasted until 1369. Other campaigns (Azincourt 1415) and treaties followed, but now we look at the whole series of campaigns and events as the Hundred Years War.

32Bravo
06-24-2008, 08:37 AM
Despite all the blood-letting and attritional warfare Germany was slowly ground down behind its borders. One could argue a very valid point that the Royal Navy actually won ww1 by using the tried and tested blockade tactic. The USA entered the war for the sole reason that German subs were ordered to carry out unrestricted warfare in order to try and impose their own blockade on the UK.

So for all the armies valiant efforts it was ultimately the failure of the Kreigsmarine to lift the blockade or indeed the wrong strategic choice of Germany to instigate unrestricted U boat attacks.

Sure, by 1918 the British/Dominion Army was probably better than any other in the field at the time, but by this time they were already fighting a very much diminished foe, crippled by a blockading RN.

The Royal Navy's contiribution was a part of the overall strategy.

Similar arguments have been made as to who won the Battle of El Alamein, on account of the RN's and RAF's blockading North Africa.

Perhaps we should ask 'Who lost?'

Cojimar 1945
07-09-2008, 08:53 PM
Austria-Hungary and Turkey might be less powerful than Germany but their soldiers were still perfectly capable of killing allied soldiers. Trying to argue that somehow inflicting massive casualties on them is irrelevant seems rather odd. Care to elaborate on this point?

Cojimar 1945
07-09-2008, 09:01 PM
Churchill cites figures for casualties suffered by the British and the French during different periods of the war on the western front. Although British casualties are higher than French casualties through most of 1917, French casualties are higher than British empire casualties throughout 1918. This would appear to contradict the notion that the British empire forces were doing the vast majority of the fighting.

Acco

pdf27
07-10-2008, 02:28 AM
Austria-Hungary and Turkey might be less powerful than Germany but their soldiers were still perfectly capable of killing allied soldiers. Trying to argue that somehow inflicting massive casualties on them is irrelevant seems rather odd. Care to elaborate on this point?
In terms of infantry they were pretty similar, but that doesn't mean very much - WW1 was an industrial war, and the infantry didn't actually do very much of the killing. Industrially, Germany was supporting the entire Central Powers effort. Only when Germany was prostrate could the war be won - and thus the German army had to be defeated in the field before anything else.


Churchill cites figures for casualties suffered by the British and the French during different periods of the war on the western front. Although British casualties are higher than French casualties through most of 1917, French casualties are higher than British empire casualties throughout 1918. This would appear to contradict the notion that the British empire forces were doing the vast majority of the fighting.
As I've previously mentioned, during the last hundred days the BEF took almost as many prisoners and artillery pieces as all the other allied armies put together. The Kaiserslacht was mainly aimed at breaking the right flank of the BEF on the Somme, and didn't really hit the French badly until just before 2nd Marne.
The difference may be in the ratio of enemy to friendly casualties. While the BEF (in the shape of the New Army) was finding it's feet it suffered far higher casualties for the same effect on the enemy than the French - a good example of this is the fate of the British and French troops on the Somme, with the French being a great deal more successful. The BEF of 1918 however was arguably the first recognisably modern army, as evinced in their victories of the hundred days - still the greatest string of victories in British military history.

Cojimar 1945
07-31-2008, 09:54 PM
The number of prisoners captured is not the only important factor when looking at levels of contribution. The number of enemy soldiers killed and wounded also seems important. The British empire forces appear to have captured more Germans from July 18-November 11, 1918 than they did in all of 1917 and all of 1918 prior to July 18th but I am doubtful that they killed more Germans in this period than in the earlier period.

Churchill mentions the following figures on French casualties on the western front by period
Aug-November 1914--854,000
Dec 1914-Jan 1915--254,000
Feb-Mar 1915--240,000
Apr-June 1915--449,000
July-Aug 1915--193,000
Sep-Nov 1915--410,000
Dec 1915-Jan 1916--78,000
Feb-June 1916--442,000
July-Oct 1916--341,000
Nov-Dec 1916--93,000
Jan-Mar 1917--108,000
Apr-July 1917--279,000
Aug-Dec 1917--182,000
Jan-Feb 1918--51,000
Mar-June 1918--433,000
July-Nov 1918--531,000

Cojimar 1945
09-14-2008, 01:06 AM
One thing I find interesting is that the Americans are credited with capturing nearly as many guns as the French from July 18-November 11th (1421 vs 1880) yet the figures given for French casualties from July through November appear to be far greater than the casualties suffered by the Americans during this period. Some people have suggested that the Americans were not very effective on inflicting casualties on the enemy but these figures would seem to suggest otherwise.

Do people think the American forces were also considerably more effective than the French?

pdf27
09-14-2008, 05:56 AM
Nope - the Americans were still learning how to fight a modern war (Pershing had some VERY obselete ideas), something the French had over the course of 4 years become very good at. However, from July onwards the French really were bled white and couldn't really participate fully in most of the offensives - there was some limited participation, but largely they were just holding in place. The Americans were doing little but attack - thus explaining their higher number of captured guns - but the forces they had in action were dwarfed by the French ones, thus explaining their relatively low casualties.

Cojimar 1945
12-03-2008, 02:24 PM
The stats I have seen for captures by the allies from July 18-November 11, 1918 are as follows. The first figure is the number of enemy soldiers captured while the second figure refers to guns captured.
BEF 188,700--2,840 French and Italians 139,000--1,880 Americans 43,300--1,421 Belgians 14,500--474.

Cojimar 1945
02-05-2010, 12:40 PM
I believe that Chronicle of the First World War credits the BEF with taking 319,138 German prisoners on the western front during the entire war. The total figure of captured Germans is given as 774,000 but I haven't found a breakdown for the other allies.

It appears that the British and commonwealth forces are credited with taking 34,046 POW in the battle of Vittorio Veneto.

PIKZAK
02-19-2010, 01:17 AM
I believe that Chronicle of the First World War credits the BEF with taking 319,138 German prisoners on the western front during the entire war. The total figure of captured Germans is given as 774,000 but I haven't found a breakdown for the other allies.

It appears that the British and commonwealth forces are credited with taking 34,046 POW in the battle of Vittorio Veneto.

188,700 POW taken by the BEF in the last months of the war looks a bit low. Everyone probably knows what BEF means but that it should include all, British Empire Forces, usually.

If we do a breakdown.

British First Army- 23,000
Second Army - 17,200
Third Army - 67,000
Fourth Army - 79,743
Fifth Army - 1,000

For a total of 187,943 POW taken

Canada was with Fourth Army for a couple weeks but with First Army for the remainder and counted 31,537 POW taken in the hundred days. I assume, since the number of POW taken by Canada is larger than the First Army number, the number of POW taken by First Army does not include POW taken by Canada. So, from that I also assume that the POW taken by Australians is not included in the Fourth Army number. Also, and somebody stop me if you think I’m blowing chunks here, 4 CEF divisions were able to take 31,537 prisoners so it is very likely the 12 UK divisions of the Fourth Army, not counting 5 AIF divisions, would take at least 79, 743 by themselves considering they were fighting near continually from near beginning of August on and a main offensive army. The Canadians spent most of September waiting. So with an additional 29,144 POW taken by the Australia til Oct. 5, the British Empire’s tally is 248,681 and perhaps without POW taken by NZ.


You said captured “Germans” first but POW taken at Vittorio by the British were Austrian.

Cojimar 1945
02-26-2010, 04:16 PM
I believe the figures for the western front only include Germans. The figure for 188,700 German POWs taken seems to be cited by quite a few sources including some British ones like "Chronicle of the First World War". I have also seen a slightly lower figure given for German prisoners captured from August 8-November 11, 1918. Some Austro-Hungarian prisoners were also captured by the BEF on the western front but I don't think they are included in the 188,700 figure though I could be wrong.

The figures for Vittorio Veneto are presumably Austro-Hungarian as you point out.