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Rising Sun*
02-01-2009, 05:37 AM
I haven't heard this before but, according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Australia had only one serious engagement in France in WWI with no success. Maybe it depends upon how one measures success, or no success.


On the morning of 19 July 1916, after a preliminary bombardment, the 5th Australian and 61st (South Midland) Divisions undertook what is officially known as the Attack at Fromelles. The 61st Division attack failed in the end, with the loss of over 1,000 officers and men out of 3,410 who took part in it. The Australian left and centre reached the German trenches and held their second line during the day and night, but the right was held off by a fierce machine-gun barrage and only reached the front line in isolated groups. The action was broken off on the morning of 20 July, after the 5th Australian Division had lost over 5,000 officers and men. It was the first serious engagement of the Australian forces in France, and the only one to achieve no success. V.C. Corner Cemetery was made after the Armistice. It contains the graves of over 400 Australian soldiers who died in the Attack at Fromelles and whose bodies were found on the battlefield, but not a single body could be identified. It was therefore decided not to mark the individual graves, but to record on a memorial the names of all the Australian soldiers who were killed in the engagement and whose graves were not known. The memorial, designed by Sir Herbert Baker, commemorates almost 1,300 Australian casualties. My emphasis. http://www.cwgc.org/search/cemetery_details.aspx?cemetery=78900&mode=1

pdf27
02-01-2009, 06:23 AM
I think "no success" = "stopped dead" (if you'll forgive the unfortunate choice of language). While the Australian and Canadian corps were better than average troops (with the real achievement being that the Australians and Canadians were uniformly good), they weren't spectacularly good compared to others - for every battle of Mont St Quentin, there was a counter-example like the storming of the St Quentin Canal by the British 46th Division.

Rising Sun*
02-01-2009, 06:44 AM
I think "no success" = "stopped dead" (if you'll forgive the unfortunate choice of language). While the Australian and Canadian corps were better than average troops (with the real achievement being that the Australians and Canadians were uniformly good), they weren't spectacularly good compared to others - for every battle of Mont St Quentin, there was a counter-example like the storming of the St Quentin Canal by the British 46th Division.

I'm wondering also whether the 'success' factor mentioned was temporary or permanent.

It's one thing to take a position, which is a success, but it's another to hold it, which is a different type of success.

If Australia had successes taking and holding positions in the many actions in which it engaged in France 1916 onwards then I'd expect that the front line wouldn't have been so static.

pdf27
02-01-2009, 08:02 AM
Simple - there were never enough Australians or Canadians to make a difference in a defensive role. That job was overwhemingly done by the French and British.

Lone Ranger
02-06-2009, 05:11 PM
Was it not the Canucks who perfected techniques of fire and movement and the use of artillery to take out battlefield obstacles that enabled WWI to leave behind the stalemate of trench warfare and break out into open warfare? Forget the battle, I'll look it up again.

Rising Sun*
02-07-2009, 02:01 AM
Was it not the Canucks who perfected techniques of fire and movement and the use of artillery to take out battlefield obstacles that enabled WWI to leave behind the stalemate of trench warfare and break out into open warfare? Forget the battle, I'll look it up again.

I know nothing about Canadian operations in WWII, so I'd be interested to learn about their contribution to breaking the trench warfare stalemate, which might correspond in a different way with Australia's contribution to breaking that stalement by a 'new', but really only largely a properly planned and properly co-ordinated 'all arms' operation at Hamel.


XV. Originality and Success: Lieutenant General Monash
and the Battle of Hamel, July 1918

Lieutenant Colonel Michael J. W. Silverstone, Australian Army

In ninety-three minutes on 4 July 1918, the Australian Corps, under its recently appointed commander, Lieutenant General Sir John Monash, advanced more than 2,000 yards in the vicinity of the villages of Ville and Hamel on the Somme River in France. At a cost of 1,400 casualties, it captured more than 1,600 Germans and 176 machine guns.1 Combining Mark V tanks from the British Tank Corps and supporting aircraft from the British Flying Corps, the attack employed brigades from a number of Australian divisions and four American rifle companies.

The effective integration of infantry, artillery, tanks, and aircraft characterized this battle as a noteworthy example of a successful. joint and combined offensive operation. It represented a dramatic shift from the gridlock battles of minimal gains and massive casualties typical of the earlier years of the war on the Western Front. Monash's intellect, combined with his command style, allowed him to plan and execute complex tactical plans in an innovative manner. Monash's vision of the enemy, his own forces, and the terrain allowed him to plan, prepare, and deploy his corps in a fashion ensuring battlefield success at an acceptable cost. Monash's performance, his command style, and planning method significantly contributed to his capacity for originality and led to his battlefield success. His capacity for effective battle command was based on an intellect developed through a broad, rigorous education.



Planning and Preparation

After the German spring offensive of 1918, the Western Front stabilized and the Allies sought to take the initiative and maintain pressure on the Germans. In support of this policy, brigades from two Australian divisions attacked and captured the village of Morlancourt to the north of the Somme River in mid-June 1918. This attack, however, left a German salient in the Australian line in the vicinity of the village of Hamel, Hamel Wood, and Vaire Wood south of the Somme. Consequently, the German guns near Hamel were "uncomfortably enfilading" the Australian's flank around Morlancourt.2 At this time, Marshal Foch, Allied supreme commander, requested minor offensives to disrupt the Germans' defensive organization.

In this period, Australian offensive operations were constrained by insufficient troop strength due to a decline in recruiting. Thus, commanders had to balance the need for offensive operations against the effect of casualties on operational readiness. The previous Australian Corps commander, General Birdwood, had resisted proposals for limited offensive operations since he wished to nurture Australian strength for future major offensives. Significant casualties incurred in small operations could result in the dissolution and amalgamation of the already understrength Australian divisions. Nevertheless, the pressure of the enfilading guns at Hamel in the north, combined with a perceived. threat of a German offensive in the south against Villiers-Bretonneux, threatened Amiens and focused interest on an Australian offensive around Hamel.3

Given the need to maintain offensive pressure on the Germans while minimizing casualties, a potential solution arrived in the form of the new Mark V tank. In mid-June, both the commander of the Fourth Army, General Henry Rawlinson, and Monash observed demonstrations of this new, more mobile, and effective tank. They concluded that it had the potential to minimize casualties in an attack on Hamel.4

On 21 June, Monash submitted a plan. to Rawlinson for approval. The plan envisaged employing one or two tank battalions supported by ten battalions of infantry. The assaulting infantry would be relieved immediately after the battle by two other brigades. In this way, and by building the force from three divisions, Monash hoped to avoid heavy casualties in any one division.5 The plan incorporated the latest tank doctrine.

As a result of the success at Cambrai, contemporary British tank doctrine conceived of using tanks to capture ground, with a large element of infantry and artillery assigned to support them by "overcoming strong-points, 'mopping-up' trenches, and consolidating the position."6 With the tanks advancing in three lines, however, there would be "no rigid creeping barrage to serve as a screen for the infantry."7 Due to the tanks vulnerability, an artillery-laid smokescreen at Hamel would conceal them from German artillery observers while aircraft harassed German antitank guns and neutralized their aircraft. As early as practicable after the attack, the tanks would withdraw to the rear.8

The prospect of an operation in cooperation with the tanks was greeted with skepticism by Monash's subordinates. The Australian experience with tanks was limited to an earlier operation at Bullecourt in April 1917. During that battle, the tanks had failed to arrive and the Australian 4th Division's infantry sustained heavy casualties while pressing the attack without tank and artillery support.9 Monash selected Major General MacLagan and his staff from the 4th Division for the attack on Hamel and took action to address the apprehensions prevalent among the Australian troops.

Monash, in association with the British Tank Corps, established a program of demonstrations and familiarization training for the tanks and infantry comprising the attack formations.10 Additionally, as the planning process continued, Monash advocated a departure from tank doctrine. He planned to use increased amounts of firepower, incorporating artillery, tanks, Lewis guns, and machine guns to reduce the numbers of infantry committed.11

As planning for the attack continued, Monash instituted within his new command the practice of detailed conferences. For example, at the final conference for the Battle of Hamel on 30 June 250 officers attended a four-and-one-half-hour meeting with 133 agenda items.12 These conferences incorporated an exhaustive discussion of a detailed draft plan that Monash was prepared to alter and adapt. By the end of the conference, he expected all major participants to understand the plan in detail. Once the battle plan was agreed to, no subsequent alterations were allowed. Monash believed that this


fixity of plan engendered a confidence throughout the whole command which facilitated the work of every commander and staff officer ... it obviated the vicious habit of postponing action until the last possible moment lest counter orders should necessitate some alternative action. It was a powerful factor in the gaining of time, usually all too short, for the extensive preparations necessary.13
During the conferences before the battle, opposition to the Tank Corps' doctrine emerged among Monash's subordinates. Thus, the draft plan was modified to include a creeping barrage, close behind which the infantry and tanks would advance.14 This approach required that the Tank Corps accept the risk attached to the vulnerability of their tall vehicles to friendly artillery fire that might fall short. Another aspect of armor-infantry cooperation to emerge from this planning process was Monash's insistence on placing the tanks under the command of local infantry commanders; this ensured tactical unity of command and cooperation.15 Through the conference process, Monash developed a plan that adapted existing doctrine to suit his operational intent, ameliorated his subordinates' skepticism, and ensured that all major participants were intimately familiar with the plan.

In developing the plan, Monash focused on numerous details, including tactical surprise and operational security. He took stringent care to deceive the enemy. In the days prior to the attack, he established routine artillery fires replicating the coming attack barrage. He also incorporated the use of gas mixed with smoke to condition the enemy to don his gas masks at the first sign of smoke. Gas was omitted from the smoke barrage on the day of the attack; this increased the fighting efficiency of the Australians while hindering that of the Germans, who, encumbered by their masks, were captured in large numbers. In addition, Monash had aircraft flights conceal the sound of the approaching tanks.16 Surprised by the tanks, many Germans surrendered on sighting them.17 Finally, Monash ordered two feints and a supporting attack on Ville to deceive the Germans as to the extent and strength of the attack.18

The incorporation of the American platoons in the operation also occurred during the planning phase. Units from the American Expeditionary Forces were attached to British units. Ten companies of the U.S. 65th Brigade were "sent to Monash for use in the Hamel attack."19 Their use would relieve the pressure of casualties on the Australians but was contrary to the policies of the American commander, General John Pershing. On 2 July, Pershing became aware of their imminent employment at Hamel, and withdrew six of the ten U.S. companies from Monash's corps on 3 July. He also threatened to withdraw the remaining four companies.20

Rising Sun*
02-07-2009, 02:02 AM
The Battle of Hamel
As the battle approached, uncertainty spread through Monash's headquarters. Pershing directed the exclusion of all American troops from the attack, and Monash was notified of this just eight hours before H-hour. Under pressure from Rawlinson to conduct the attack without the American troops, Monash informed him that it was too late to comply and that the attack would have to be abandoned if the Americans withdrew. Rawlinson requested guidance from Haig and was directed to retain the Americans in the attack.21

At 0310 on 4 July, the attack started with the battlefield obscured by heavy ground mist that impeded observation, hindered movement, but aided surprise. The attack was a complete success. The tanks, moving with the infantry, quickly neutralized resistance, with only three of the sixty tanks becoming disabled. The presence of tanks demoralized many of the enemy.22 Meanwhile, the tanks prcltected the infantry, which consolidated its position and dug in. During the consolidation, four tanks were specifically tasked to provide logistic support. These tanks delivered loads that would have required 1,200 men acting as carrying parties, Some junior commanders asserted that this was the outstanding lesson of the battle.23

During the consolidation, aircraft continued to support the ground troops overflying and mapping the new position to aid command and control. By 0600, most of the tanks had left the battlefield, and aircraft began dropping ammunition supplies to the forward troops. Additional aircraft attacked German artillery and infantry forward of the new position.24
As a result of tactical surprise and the rapid consolidation of the new position, no concerted German counterattack occurred until dusk on 4 July. Then, incorporating mustard and phosgene gas, the Germans counterattacked with only three rifle companies supported by a heavy artillery barrage. They were initially successful in penetrating the new line. However, an Australian counterattack, including some American volunteers,25 overwhelmed the enemy, capturing fifty-six men and ten machine guns.26

General Pershing, nonetheless, was not enthusiastic over the success at Hamel and the resulting 146 American casualties. He was surprised to learn "that four American companies of the 33rd Division had taken part in the attack."27 He quickly took action to prevent further circumvention of his intentions.

The Australians received congratulations from a range of higher headquarters, General Elles of the British Tank Corps later asserted that Hamel represented "the most successfully executed small battle of all arms."28 Additionally, France's President Clemenceau visited and congratulated the Australians.29


Monash as Battle Commander

After the war, Monash's capacity as a military commander was acclaimed by many. Field Marshal, Bernard Montgomery identified Monash "as the best general on the Western Front in Europe."30 In his war memoirs, Lloyd George alluded to Monash as "the only soldier thrown up by the British side, who possessed the necessary qualities for the position of commander-in-chief...."31 While the purpose of Lloyd George's remarks should be viewed with some skepticism, Monash's, emergence to prominence as a corps commander is especially significant given his background. Monash, who was Jewish, was a lieutenant colonel in the Intelligence Corps in the Australian Militia at the start of the war. .....

Rising Sun*
02-07-2009, 02:03 AM
The reasons for Monash's emergence lies in his experiences as a civilian. As a prominent civil engineer, he had a reputation for adopting innovative engineering techniques and had extensive experience in planning and supervising complex engineering projects. Additionally, he had a remarkably broad. education in the arts, sciences, and the law.32 These experiences and his well-developed organizational skills contributed to his capacity for critical thinking and innovation.

Hamel represented a small, even undramatic, battle and did not change the course of the war nor prefigure any great innovation. Nevertheless, in this battle, Monash innovatively synchronized the actions of four independent arms. His approach marked a shift from infantry-heavy attacks (apparent even at Cambrai) to the use of firepower to support and supplement the infantry, thus allowing a reduction in the number of infantry exposed in offensive operations. His conduct of this operation became a model for other British offensives.33 Monash demonstrated what his military biographer describes as a capacity for creative originality.34 This originality enabled him to solve tactical problems and avoid the overemphasis on will alone as a principal battle factor that had resulted in overwhelming casualties in the past and no meaningful gains. Monash asserted that the Battle of Hamel represented an example of how a "perfected modern battle plan is like nothing so much as a score for an orchestral composition."35 In asserting this, Monash brought to bear his extensive experience as a civil engineer. He valued detailed planning, immersing himself in the planning process in order to prepare and deploy his corps so that success was assured before H-hour. He accepted responsibility for ensuring that his subordinate commanders understood and were committed to the plan's successful execution. In this, he demonstrated aspects of Taylorism,36 a theory of "scientific management" prevalent in this period, and an attitude to planning reminiscent of Moltke the Elder.

In applying his method, Monash was well served by the tools at his disposal. By 1918, the Australian Corps was a superb fighting force. It possessed very high morale and a reputation for competence and aggressive action. Its commanders, at all levels, trained by years of war, were accustomed to exercising initiative. Monash's centralized planning process was complemented by an effective fighting force capable of decentralized execution.

Monash's performance, his command style, and planning method provide an example of how intellect, tempered by an extensive and disciplined education, can contribute to originality and success on the battlefield.
NOTES

C. E. W. Bean, Anzac to Amiens: A Shorter History of the Australian Fighting Services in the First World War (Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1961), 462.


C. E. W. Bean, The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18, Vol. 6, The AIF in France: May 1918-The Armistice (St. Lucia, Australia: University of Queensland Press, 1983), 242.


Ibid., 243-44,


Bean, Anzac to Amiens, 459; P. A. Pedersen, Monash as Military Commander (Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne University Press, 1985), 225; and Bean, The Official History, 246.


Bean, The Official History, 251


Ibid., 247.


Ibid.


Ibid.


Bean, Anzac to Amiens, 325-28.


Sir John Monash, The Australian Victories in France in 1918 (New York: E. P. Dutton & Coy, 1920), 49-50; and Bean, The Official History, 267.


R. Prior and T. Wilson, Command on the Western Front: The Military Career of Sir Henry Rawlinson, 1914-18 (Oxford, England: Blackwell, 1922), 297.


Pedersen, 230.


B. Callinan, Sir John Monash (Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne University Press, 1981), 13-14.


Prior and Wilson, 247; and Pedersen, 227.


Pedersen, 229; and Bean, The Official History, 269.


Bean, The Official History, 28.


Monash, 56-57.


Bean, 318-19.


Pedersen, 230.


Pedersen, 231; and Monash, 52-55.


Monash, 53-54.


Monash, 56-57.


Bean, The Official History, 305.


Ibid., 308.


Corporal R. H. Powell (Joliet), 131st Infantry; and his section volunteered. Corporal T. A. Pope (Chicago) rushed and seized a machine gun single-handedly. Pope received the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the U.S. Medal of Honor, while Powell received the Military Medal. In Bean, 316-17.


Ibid.


Ibid.


Ibid., 334.


Ibid., 234-35; and Monash, 61-62.


Callinan, 18.


Callinan, 17.


G. Serle, John Monash: A Biography (Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne University Press, 1982); and Pedersen.


Bean, Anzac to Amiens, 462.


Pedersen, 5, 301. J. F. C. Fuller and others have also expressed concern with this notion of creativity and originality. For example, see J. F. C. Fuller, Generalship: Its Diseases and Their Cure (Harrisburg, PA: Military Service Publishing Co.), 32.


Monash, 56.


The term "Taylorism" describes aspects of Frederick Taylor's (1856-1915) principles of scientific management which theorized that improved work practices were achievable through the scientific analysis of organizations. http://www-cgsc.army.mil/carl/resources/csi/battles/battles.asp#XV

pdf27
02-08-2009, 09:40 AM
I think the critical point to note here is the use of the phrase "all arms". What broke the stalemate in the West (and Lone Ranger, it only broke into something approaching open warfare in the last few weeks of the war - by which time the German army had been virtually destroyed as a fighting force) was the huge attrition inflicted on the German army by the all-arms battles it fought through the latter half of 1917 and 1918, combined with the sheer battering it took from the British and French (at horrendous cost) earlier in the war.

Cambrai was the first of the All-Arms battles fought by the British/Imperial forces (and I think it is pretty misleading to single out one single national origin over another - the troops were trained and fought according to the same model, were equipped almost identically and the supporting arms were totally shared), and the stunning success owed more to the new artillery techniques than to the generous tank support.
The really critical thing about Cambrai was that it demonstrated that the British could now blow through just about any defensive line, with acceptable casualties and could cause the Germans more attrition than they suffered. This - combined with the threat of massive reinforcements from the US - caused the Germans to undertake the massive gamble of their spring/summer offensive in 1918, and led to the destruction of the German Army from the battle of Amiens onwards.

It should also be noted here that the Canadians/Australians produced some very good infantry, but they really didn't contribute many of the other decisive implements of modern war. The air support, artillery, tanks, logistics, sea power, etc. were all provided by the British, with the artillery in particular being critical to the maintenence of the offensive. The artillery doctrine the British finally worked out (essentially a hurricane bombardment of light shells to force the enemy into dugouts and allow the attacking infantry to cross the enemy killing area unmolested, then lifting at preplanned intervals to allow a continued advance) was certainly in place at the start of WW2, explaining why the British artillery was rather lighter than everyone else's - and appears to have been highly successful.

TheBeam
02-10-2009, 08:05 AM
It should also be noted here that the Canadians/Australians produced some very good infantry, but they really didn't contribute many of the other decisive implements of modern war. The air support, artillery, tanks, logistics, sea power, etc. were all provided by the British, with the artillery in particular being critical to the maintenence of the offensive. The artillery doctrine the British finally worked out (essentially a hurricane bombardment of light shells to force the enemy into dugouts and allow the attacking infantry to cross the enemy killing area unmolested, then lifting at preplanned intervals to allow a continued advance) was certainly in place at the start of WW2, explaining why the British artillery was rather lighter than everyone else's - and appears to have been highly successful.

AND THE EARLIER QUOTE BY PDF

Simple - there were never enough Australians or Canadians to make a difference in a defensive role. That job was overwhemingly done by the French and British.

What? Sorry, but the Canadians were considered the Shock Troops and very much the best the 'British' had to offer. The Anzac forces also hit far harder than their numbers (especially compared to the French!) and the adaptive tactics leading to a much higher success rate applies equally well to the Aussies as it does for Canadians...and since both countries were founded by a self-reliant breed of men who weren't inclined to sit back and do nothing just because no one passed them an order....and so the Aussies were also considered Shock Troops who were sent to the areas that really needed to be taken.

Re: Canada in WWI...Somebody needs a history lesson:

Canada didn't lose a single battle since 1916 and this was not lost on the British High Command.

In fact, after months of dreadful attrition in Passchendaele, Haig insisted, that the Canadians go in to deliver a victory. And they did, thereby saving Haig's career.

(Aside: Currie, the Canadian Commander, protested fiercely against wasting his men to revive Haig's already stalled offensive and even predicted the exact number of losses...16, 000, to hold this bit of mud. )

It wasn't just the British who considered Canadian troops elite. The Germans tracked Canadian troop movements and consistantly placed some of their best units opposite them.

The fact is, the Canadians perfected advancing under a creeping barrage and developed advanced counter battery techniques coupled with innovative artillery gunnery that took took artillery into the modern era. Their coordinated attacks utilized infantry, air recon, artillery with detailed plans for supporting and holding objectives after they had been won.

They also practiced using decentralized command (as opposed to the British) allowing infantry the freedom to decide how to overcome obstacles as best as they saw fit becasue commanders at the rear were too far away and out of communication. Their training methods reflected this with Sgt's and Lt.'s & higher being removed as 'casualties' during elaborate training excercises. This doctrine of individuated structure was a key to their consistant success, along with meticulous planning that ensured that they never lost a battle in the last 2 years of the war. No other Corps had the same unbroken series of successes.

The Canadians definitely punched way harder than their weight.

Currie reshaped his units so they advanced with Lewis guns embedded in them, along with 3-inch mortars and heavier machineguns. He reshaped the machinegun companies into machinegun battalions, making them 3 times larger, per division, than the British. And commanders on the field were allowed to allocate these battalions to suppress resistance as they encountered it. The practices of suppressing enemy fire with Lewis guns and rifle fire while other units flanked them...was a doctrine that the Canadians were the first to adopt into formalized traing across all their Corps.

I think you'll agree that these tactics are the backbone of infantry in the modern era...as is firing artillery from map coordinates and crash bombardments.

Logistics? While the British were using 700 engineers to support each division, the Canadians prioritized the rapid delivery of ammunition, fresh troops and supplies to the newly captured areas with 3000 strong engineers per division to build the all important logistical system of roads, pontoons, and railways that allowed the infantry to move rapidly during the preparation phase as well as exploiting their success. (See The History of the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers, Vol. 1, for way more on this.) This added logistical support freed up the infantry from work parties and allowed them to focus on training for the upcoming battles.

The Canadians also passed out surveys to men to in the winters to do post battle reviews to see where improvements could be made (along with sending researchers to the British and French to assess their lessons learned as well.) But the their real skill was in rapidly implimenting the lessons learned across all their Divisions: resulting in flexible tactics and attack doctrines.

I grant that tanks were not a favorite of the Canadians...but the surveys and overal effectiveness of tanks in WWI showed that tanks were not really all that powerful a weapon, easily bogged down and destroyed by defending artillery. But these same surveys said, give out lots of rifle grenades...we can clear MG nests with them.

Sure, there were only 4 Canadian Divisions (the 5th being broken up to replace casualties) out of the 61 Divisions in the BEF --which included 5 Aussie and 1 NZ, but the Aussies and the Canadians were considered the best and used as shock troops because they had adapted more quickly to this new format of warfare. Sure, there were powerful British Divisions too, very worthy of note (9th, 29th, 50th & 51st + the Guards) but the adaptive doctrines employed by the colonials greatly increased their striking power well beyond their size.


And finally, defensively: who do you think held Vimy Ridge or Hill 70? The Canadians who took it. Canada didn't make a difference in defence, you say? During the major German offensives of March and April 1918, Canada held one-fifth of the entire British line!!!

Rising Sun*
02-10-2009, 08:49 AM
Sure, there were only 4 Canadian Divisions (the 5th being broken up to replace casualties) out of the 61 Divisions in the BEF --which included 5 Aussie and 1 NZ, but the Aussies and the Canadians were considered the best and used as shock troops because they had adapted more quickly to this new format of warfare. Sure, there were powerful British Divisions too, very worthy of note (9th, 29th, 50th & 51st + the Guards) but the adaptive doctrines employed by the colonials greatly increased their striking power well beyond their size.

My understanding is that as well as being used as shock troops the Dominion troops were often held in the line much longer than most British troops when in attack, as they were more 'durable' in attack than many British troops.

Thanks for your exposition on Canadian actions and tactical developments, which isn't something I knew about before.

Rising Sun*
02-10-2009, 08:57 AM
It wasn't just the British who considered Canadian troops elite. The Germans tracked Canadian troop movements and consistantly placed some of their best units opposite them.

Not trying to steal Canadian thunder, but I have seen various references to Germans being disconcerted when opposed to Australian units as the Australians had a well-deserved reputation for brutal trench raids even outside major offensives.

TheBeam
02-14-2009, 04:22 PM
You're absolutely correct about the Austrialian reputation for raiding. To paraphrase one German Sgt. who was stationed across from the Aussies, "They were frickin' ninjas! *** kickin' ninjas. Coming over over every cloudy night, slipping into our trenches, beating the crap outta us with homemade weapons of brutalization, throwing and melting into the dark before we knew what hit us."

The Aussies had a sort of competition going on between units, each trying for more kills, more daring raids and the biggest trophies of all: prisoners. There was a major disadvantage to this, which was, since they were so agressive, the raids lost the element of surprise as they were, in my opinion, too regular. However, the lack of surprise I'm sure didn't make it that much easier on the Germans. I mean, can you imagine trying to sleep knowing that the past two nights had terrible raids? Or if you had 2 nights with no raids...would you be able to sleep the 3rd?

The Aussies had a tremendous reputation but they earned it. The raids were risky and cost thousands of lives.

FYI, the Canadians didn't on well with the Aussies --at all. Being rivals as the best and most elite corps, with similar frontiersman initiative and a rough and tumble reputation to uphold...they fought constantly. (I'm talking about on leave!)

pdf27
02-14-2009, 04:46 PM
You're referring to "peaceful penetration" - the Australians started it, but everyone else used it by the end of the war.

Rising Sun*
02-15-2009, 04:07 AM
You're absolutely correct about the Austrialian reputation for raiding. To paraphrase one German Sgt. who was stationed across from the Aussies, "They were frickin' ninjas! *** kickin' ninjas. Coming over over every cloudy night, slipping into our trenches, beating the crap outta us with homemade weapons of brutalization, throwing and melting into the dark before we knew what hit us."

The Aussies had a sort of competition going on between units, each trying for more kills, more daring raids and the biggest trophies of all: prisoners. There was a major disadvantage to this, which was, since they were so agressive, the raids lost the element of surprise as they were, in my opinion, too regular. However, the lack of surprise I'm sure didn't make it that much easier on the Germans. I mean, can you imagine trying to sleep knowing that the past two nights had terrible raids? Or if you had 2 nights with no raids...would you be able to sleep the 3rd?

The Aussies had a tremendous reputation but they earned it. The raids were risky and cost thousands of lives.

I've think I've posted this somewhere else on the forum, but it's a lovely story apposite to your post.

Can't recall the source but I think it comes from a bemused British unit which was encountered by a drunken Aussie, voluntarily heading back to his unit after a bit of self-approved leave. The Aussie asked to borrow, from memory, a bayonet and a cosh or truncheon, which were duly supplied. He then headed off into no man's land and eventually returned with a dazed German prisoner, then headed back to his unit with prisoner in tow. He informed his British hosts that he figured he'd be in less trouble for being AWL if he returned to his unit with a prisoner.

Digger
04-02-2009, 02:54 AM
For those people interested in the story of the ANZACS without trolling through the numerous books on the subject try and get your hands on the 1985 five part mini series ANZACS.

Starring Paul Hogan of Crocodile Dundee infamy, this series while not entirely accurate does tell the story reasonably well if you ignore the useless romantic theme of one of the major characters.

digger

herman2
04-02-2009, 07:27 AM
For those people interested in the story of the ANZACS without trolling through the numerous books on the subject try and get your hands on the 1985 five part mini series ANZACS.

Starring Paul Hogan of Crocodile Dundee infamy, this series while not entirely accurate does tell the story reasonably well if you ignore the useless romantic theme of one of the major characters.

digger

WOW, I love Hulk Hogan! i hope I can find this series. I bet he rips them apart and shows it how it really was. They should have more history related stuff with famous people starring in them. thanks!

pdf27
04-02-2009, 01:33 PM
Uhh... Paul Hogan and Hulk Hogan are not the same person, as suggested by the fact that they don't have the same name!

herman2
04-02-2009, 02:28 PM
Uhh... Paul Hogan and Hulk Hogan are not the same person, as suggested by the fact that they don't have the same name!

So Sorry, for some reason I was thinking of Hulk Hogan cause I thought how cool he'd be in a war show ripping the enemy apart with his big brute muscles. I guess I need glass's. But just the same Hulk Hogan would fit in real good, especially when he turns green and starts ripping his clothes off. I mean Bill Bixby could be the war reporter and when someone pisses him off, he turns into Hulk:D Hogan!

navyson
04-02-2009, 07:40 PM
So Sorry, for some reason I was thinking of Hulk Hogan cause I thought how cool he'd be in a war show ripping the enemy apart with his big brute muscles. I guess I need glass's. But just the same Hulk Hogan would fit in real good, especially when he turns green and starts ripping his clothes off. I mean Bill Bixby could be the war reporter and when someone pisses him off, he turns into Hulk:D Hogan!

Wasn't that Lou Ferigno playing the Hulk?

TheBeam
04-03-2009, 08:32 AM
Wasn't that Lou Ferigno playing the Hulk?

OMG! This thread has taken a turn! I laughed out loud at "Uhh...Paul Hogan and Hulk Hogan are not the same person, as suggested by the fact that they don't have the same name!" <--That's gold there.

Personally, I think they should genetically splice Hulk Hogan, Paul Hogan and Lou Ferigno into a green wrestling ***-kickin'-Aussie. This whole kinda reminds me of the time someone mixed up Clinton's name and called him Lincoln instead. ;-)

Back on topic...

During the last 100 days of the war, I recently read some German reports that estimated the strength of an attacking Austrailian division at 3 divisions....while accurately estimated the British strength (and even slightly low balled them) and estimated the 4 Canadian divisions at 13 Divisions. And they were never attacking at the same time. In fact, the Germans threw 8 divisions at the Canadians to slow them down and then re-enforced them...making the final ratio of attacker to defender 1 : 4.5 ...and the Canadians still won. Typically, you'd want to have a ratio of 4:1 in order to take established defensive position.

Again, this shows that the Canadians and Aussies were both hitting well above their strength...from the German intelligence estimating that each Aussie was worth 3 Brits...and each Canadian at 4.2 Brits. Ok, I'm extrapolating a little bit.

But if you're in the trenches with a huge green Aussie who's body slamming every Hun in sight...you'd wish you had at least 3 men to subdue him.

pdf27
04-03-2009, 10:55 AM
Ummm.... remember that the Canadian Divisions for certain (and I think the ANZAC ones too, although I am NOT at all sure on this) were significantly stronger in bayonet strength than the British divisions (from memory a Canadian division was twice the strength of a British one, and an American one bigger still). So just because the Germans rated a Candian division as stronger than a British one should not by itself come as any surprise.

In any case, they were all operating as part of a concerted plan. The Canadian Corps (and to a lesser extent the ANZACs) were held back as specialised assault troops, with the unpleasant and bloody work of holding trenches from day to day being overwhelmingly carried out by the British and French. All the units operated in roles suited to them, and the net result was the destruction of the German army as a cohesive force on the field of battle - something that Lloyd George and various German Politicians were to spend the next 20 years trying to conceal.

Schuultz
04-03-2009, 02:01 PM
All the units operated in roles suited to them, and the net result was the destruction of the German army as a cohesive force on the field of battle - something that Lloyd George and various German Politicians were to spend the next 20 years trying to conceal.

Can you elaborate on that, I don't really understand what you mean?

TheBeam
04-05-2009, 02:12 AM
Yeah, I'm not really sure what you're talking about there either (my post/non-war history is terrible) but I'm curious too.

That's an excellent point that the Canadians were using oversized divisions and so that would definitely account for some of the German estimate (and the difference between their estimates of the Canadian force vs. #s of Brit div.) ...but certainly not all of their estimate as they sent 170 000 men to defend ground from 55 000.

I think you're right about the ANZAC divisions being oversized too but a quick google search revealed it to be 1500 men...and if that's true, the Aussies were clearly the most badass troops, ever. ;-) Bless the net.

I was just thinking, I don't know much about the Austrailian airforce in WWI. Know anything interesting about that?

And a fun fact about America in WWI: when their first fighter patrols were sent into the sky, they'd forgot something to add to their planes: machineguns.

Rising Sun*
04-05-2009, 07:51 AM
I think you're right about the ANZAC divisions being oversized too but a quick google search revealed it to be 1500 men...and if that's true, the Aussies were clearly the most badass troops, ever. ;-) My emphasis

More like 15,000. 1,500 is barely two battalions.

However, that is divisional strength, which is considerably larger with artillery, support services, etc than the much smaller infantry elements in a division.


I was just thinking, I don't know much about the Austrailian airforce in WWI. Know anything interesting about that?

Ask, and ye shall receive. :D


Australian Military Aviation and World War One


Although Australian Military aviation can be traced to flights made by a Royal Engineer Balloon Section at the Sydney Agricultural Ground on 7-8 January 1901, it wasn't till late 1910 that a plan for an Australian Aviation Corps was submitted to the Military Board. Final approval to establish the Australian Flying Corps was promulgated in Military Order No.570 on 22 October 1912, with orders placed for two B.E.2a, two Deperdussin and a Bristol Boxkite to equip the new air arm.

Two pilots, Henry Petre and Eric Harison, and four mechanics - R.H Chester, G.A Fonteneau, C.V. Heath and A.E. Shorland were appointed to create a flying school. 734 acres of grazing land was purchased at Point Cook, Victoria at a cost of over £6,000 ($12,000), and the creation of the Central Flying School was announced on 7 March 1913. The first flying training course commenced on 17 August 1914. The four candidates on the course were Lieutenant R. Williams, Captain T.W. White, Lieutenant G.P. Merz and Lieutenant D.P. Manwell.

On 8 February 1915 the Government of India sought the assistance of the Australian Government to supply trained airmen, aircraft and transport for service in Mesopotamia (Iraq). The Australian Government replied that men and transport would be provided, but aircraft they could not. The unit (known as the Mesopotamian Half-Flight) was under the command of Petre and comprised White, Merz and Lieutenant W.H. Treloar and 41 other ranks. The Mesopotanian campaign culminated in the tragic siege of Kut and the subsequent ignominious surrender of the garrison included nine mechanics of the First Half-Flight.

Four Australian Flying Corps (AFC) squadrons also joined the British during World War I. No 1 Squadron flew against the Turks and Germans in the Middle East, while Squadrons 2, 3 and 4 served on the Western Front between September 1917 and November 1918. A variety of aircraft were flown, including Sopwith Camels and Snipes, RE8s, SE5 and DH5s. The Australian airmen engaged in photographic reconnaissance, artillery spotting and strafing and bombing raids on enemy troops and positions, and German aircraft. Additional Australian units were based in the United Kingdom. Nos 5, 6, 7 and 8 Squadrons were established to train aircrew for service in the four front line squadrons of the AFC.

The only Victoria Cross (VC) awarded to an AFC member was to Lieutenant F.H. McNamara of 1SQN for his heroism on 20 March 1917. However, the leading scorer of the AFC was 24 year old Captain A.H. Cobby from No 4 Squadron, who was credited with 29 aerial victories and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross [DFC] (with two bars) and a Mention in Dispatches (MID).

During World War I Australian airmen also served with distinction with Royal Flying Corps/Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force Units in Europe and the Middle East. Richard Williams commanded a Royal Air Force Wing and S.J. Goble flew operationally with the Royal Naval Air Service and commanded a squadron in France. When the Royal Australian Air Force was established on 31 March 1921, these men played prominent roles, Williams reaching the rank of Air Marshal and Goble the rank of Air Vice-Marshal.

But it was not only the new Service which was to benefit from the experience of World War I. Many of the pioneers of civil aviation (Charles Kingsford-Smith, Ross and Keith Smith and Hudson Fysh for example) gained their basic flying experience in the skies over France and the Middle East. Between 16 November-12 December 1919 Captain Henry Wrigley and Sergeant Arthur Murphy flew a BE2E from Point Cook to Darwin to meet Ross and Keith Smith. This was the first transcontinental flight. http://www.raaf.gov.au/raafzone/html/history/wwI.html

pdf27
04-05-2009, 04:32 PM
Can you elaborate on that, I don't really understand what you mean?
Two aspects to that - the "stab in the back" myth and the more pernicious "lions led by donkeys" myth. They're essentially parts of the same myth - that the German army was significantly better than the Allied forces, and only collapsed in the end due to political events at home.
The behaviour on the part of the German Generals is understandable, but what is not understandable is that they were allowed to get away with it. Lloyd George for his part massively did-down the achievement of the BEF as a way to get at Haig, it's commander. Haig's achievement was immense, particularly since prior to him the largest army ever commanded by a British general in battle was by Wellington at Waterloo. Yet Lloyd George intensely disliked him (to the extent of starving him of reinforcements during the German offensive of spring 1918 to limit his freedom of action - thus nearly losing the Allies the war to satisfy a personal dislike) and his memoirs are essentially devoted to slandering the achievements of the BEF in general and Haig in particular.

Schuultz
04-05-2009, 05:35 PM
Well, no insult meant to the other forces, but on its own, the German Army was the most powerful army in the world back then. Neither the British, the French, the Italians or the Russians would have been able to defeat them on their own.
If it hadn't been for the incompetence and lack of boldness of a single general in 1914/15, Paris would have been captured in those two years, most probably leading to the surrender of the French and the retreat of the British.
United, however, the Allied were able to slowly grind down the German army and eventually force them to surrender, though it was the US with its huge resources that broke the German army's back in 1917.

Without trying to downplay the sacrifice that the Allied soldier gave on the battlefield, but how well does it speak for the individual armies' fighting power if it took no less than 30 nation's armies to defeat the armies of 4 (naval blockaded and/or landlocked) nations, and that only after 4 years of complete warfare?

Nickdfresh
04-05-2009, 05:55 PM
Well, no insult meant to the other forces, but on its own, the German Army was the most powerful army in the world back then. Neither the British, the French, the Italians or the Russians would have been able to defeat them on their own.
If it hadn't been for the incompetence and lack of boldness of a single general in 1914/15, Paris would have been captured in those two years, most probably leading to the surrender of the French and the retreat of the British.
United, however, the Allied were able to slowly grind down the German army and eventually force them to surrender, though it was the US with its huge resources that broke the German army's back in 1917.

Without trying to downplay the sacrifice that the Allied soldier gave on the battlefield, but how well does it speak for the individual armies' fighting power if it took no less than 30 nation's armies to defeat the armies of 4 (naval blockaded and/or landlocked) nations, and that only after 4 years of complete warfare?

The German soldiers were at their breaking point of human endurance long before they were near Paris...

And one could just as easily state that had the French not stupidly attacked into German eviscerating some of their best formations, they may have stopped the German Army farther East...and the German Armies were not defeated by 30 nations at Verdun...

Schuultz
04-05-2009, 07:28 PM
The German soldiers were at their breaking point of human endurance long before they were near Paris...

So you say the German soldiers were at their breaking point already in 1914? How would that work out?


And one could just as easily state that had the French not stupidly attacked into German eviscerating some of their best formations, they may have stopped the German Army farther East...and the German Armies were not defeated by 30 nations at Verdun...

True, but as critical as Verdun was, it wasn't the entire war. And in the end, the economies and manpower of the 30 nations defeated the 4 nations, not the superiority on the battlefield.

Also, the numerical superiority of the Allies comes into play at Verdun, too, as British army and their international sub-units at the Somme were the ones that stopped the German reinforcements from getting to Verdun in the first place, so you could say that the 30 nations came into play at Verdun, too.

Cojimar 1945
04-06-2009, 01:11 AM
Poor morale among German soldiers and the mass surrenders of the German troops in 1918 were also a big problem for the German army. The soldiers who surrendered were also difficult to replace.

Schuultz
04-06-2009, 06:26 AM
My understanding was that the defeat of the Russians actually gave them quite the morale boost. But I'm not arguing whether Germany could have still won after 1917 (it couldn't).

Different question: Where was Austria fighting all along? Balkans and Italy? Was there an Austria-Hungarian Navy, and if yes, how successful was it?

pdf27
04-06-2009, 12:27 PM
United, however, the Allied were able to slowly grind down the German army and eventually force them to surrender, though it was the US with its huge resources that broke the German army's back in 1917.
Uhhh.... that's utter bollocks. It was summer 1918 (indeed late summer - after the defeat of the German offensive) before any significant numbers of US troops were committed to the Western Front. Prior to that they were making less of a commitment to it than Belgium.


Without trying to downplay the sacrifice that the Allied soldier gave on the battlefield, but how well does it speak for the individual armies' fighting power if it took no less than 30 nation's armies to defeat the armies of 4 (naval blockaded and/or landlocked) nations, and that only after 4 years of complete warfare?
Not a lot - at that particular point in history the weapons of defence were significantly stronger than those of attack.
Germany kicked off the war with an attack launched as a strategic surprise - and were stopped dead when the effects of that surprise petered out. It then took a significant amount of time for the Allies to mobilise (the first significant battle fought by the British was the Somme, almost two years after they declared war - the New Army simply wasn't remotely battle-ready before then) while Germany, fighting a planned war from a baseline of peacetime conscription, was at the same level of readiness in 1914.
To comprehensively destroy an enemy armed forces (and we're not talking about an army here - but several Army Groups plus a fleet and air service) inside two years without a significant numerical superiority and at a time when the weapons of defence were so superior to those of attack is an astounding achievement.


True, but as critical as Verdun was, it wasn't the entire war. And in the end, the economies and manpower of the 30 nations defeated the 4 nations, not the superiority on the battlefield.
Not really - that's just a refinement of the Dolchstoßlegende, implying that the German armies were undefeated and let down by the home front. Yes, the Allied material and industrial superiority made their eventual victory assured in a pure war of attrition - but that wasn't the case with WW1. The German army was ground down by Allied victories on the field of battle, to the point where it eventually collapsed.
A good example of this is the capture of the Hindenberg line in 1918. The allied forces (principally British & Imperial) blew through it in a matter of days - but were convinced that the defences were so strong that had the Germans of 1916 been manning it they could have died of old age holding it.


Also, the numerical superiority of the Allies comes into play at Verdun, too, as British army and their international sub-units at the Somme were the ones that stopped the German reinforcements from getting to Verdun in the first place, so you could say that the 30 nations came into play at Verdun, too.
And? All that does is demonstrate stupidity on the part of the Germans for attacking a group of nations stronger than they are!

Schuultz
04-06-2009, 12:51 PM
Uhhh.... that's utter bollocks. It was summer 1918 (indeed late summer - after the defeat of the German offensive) before any significant numbers of US troops were committed to the Western Front. Prior to that they were making less of a commitment to it than Belgium.

Did I say troops only? The resources, that means both weapons industry, food and monetary resources were what I was talking about.


To comprehensively destroy an enemy armed forces (and we're not talking about an army here - but several Army Groups plus a fleet and air service) inside two years without a significant numerical superiority and at a time when the weapons of defence were so superior to those of attack is an astounding achievement.

You're really trying to tell me that the Allied nations had no numerical superiority to the Central Powers?
And again, it was 4 years, it almost sounds like in your mind, WW1 started with the Somme?


Not really - that's just a refinement of the Dolchstoßlegende, implying that the German armies were undefeated and let down by the home front. Yes, the Allied material and industrial superiority made their eventual victory assured in a pure war of attrition - but that wasn't the case with WW1. The German army was ground down by Allied victories on the field of battle, to the point where it eventually collapsed.

WW1 was very much a war of attrition. Whenever I read any German soldier's memories (including fiction like "All Quiet on the Western Front") you read about their frustration that they don't have enough food and their artillery being overused, with the barrels growing more and more inaccurate and unreliable, as they couldn't get replaced.
I don't know how this sounds to you, but to me that sounds very much like the results of attrition.


A good example of this is the capture of the Hindenberg line in 1918. The allied forces (principally British & Imperial) blew through it in a matter of days - but were convinced that the defences were so strong that had the Germans of 1916 been manning it they could have died of old age holding it.

It's actually a really good example. Doesn't this again imply that the Allied forces had ground down the German army?


And? All that does is demonstrate stupidity on the part of the Germans for attacking a group of nations stronger than they are!

I'm not trying to defend the foreign policy of Wilhelm II. I'm talking about the military ability.

Nickdfresh
04-06-2009, 07:57 PM
So you say the German soldiers were at their breaking point already in 1914? How would that work out?


Because they were exhausted from hundreds of miles of relentless marching and fighting in an abnormally hot Autumn. Not to mention that the battle for Belgium also disrupted their planning and sapped their power...


True, but as critical as Verdun was, it wasn't the entire war. And in the end, the economies and manpower of the 30 nations defeated the 4 nations, not the superiority on the battlefield.

Most of the "30 nations" barely provided anything of note...the War was essentially three (the Allies) versus two (the Central Powers), until the Americans entered fairly late in the War. Germany bore the brunt of the fighting because the Austro-Hungarians were a hopeless lot of a multi-ethnic state with divided loyalties and the Italians never posed a serious threat to either German or the AH empire...


Also, the numerical superiority of the Allies comes into play at Verdun, too, as British army and their international sub-units at the Somme were the ones that stopped the German reinforcements from getting to Verdun in the first place, so you could say that the 30 nations came into play at Verdun, too.

But the German manpower surpassed that of the French as did the birthrate of both nations. And the vaunted German military superiority was unable to overcome a like number of French troops, and the German Army initially outnumbered the French garrisons IIRC...

Nickdfresh
04-06-2009, 08:02 PM
Poor morale among German soldiers and the mass surrenders of the German troops in 1918 were also a big problem for the German army. The soldiers who surrendered were also difficult to replace.


Not too mention that many German soldiers advancing in the final offensive simply decided to stop so they could eat and loot...

Cojimar 1945
04-07-2009, 12:47 AM
The British were heavily engaged in the fighting long before the Somme. British casualties of course were higher in 1916 than in previous years but they were still significantly engaged earlier on.

Cojimar 1945
04-07-2009, 01:02 AM
The Germans did not attack Britain initially though going through Belgium seems like a bad idea. Perhaps Kaiser Wilhelm did not think the British would declare war since he was a grandson of Queen Victoria. Surely the British wouldn't fight one of their own.

pdf27
04-07-2009, 02:20 AM
And again, it was 4 years, it almost sounds like in your mind, WW1 started with the Somme?

The British were heavily engaged in the fighting long before the Somme. British casualties of course were higher in 1916 than in previous years but they were still significantly engaged earlier on.
The British contribution is an odd one. Yes, the New Army was committed to battle as early as Loos in late 1915. It was essentially their only significant action prior to the Somme 9 months later, and it should be remembered that the BEF at the time of Loos was still pretty small - only about 20 divisions. By the end of the battle of the Somme, the British had over 50 divisions deployed in that sector alone.
So yes, as far as I'm concerned, WW1 started on the Somme for the British Army.


WW1 was very much a war of attrition. Whenever I read any German soldier's memories (including fiction like "All Quiet on the Western Front") you read about their frustration that they don't have enough food and their artillery being overused, with the barrels growing more and more inaccurate and unreliable, as they couldn't get replaced.
I don't know how this sounds to you, but to me that sounds very much like the results of attrition.
Variable. In Storms of Steel is the only one of those that I've read, and he only makes passing references to shortages (mainly of food). Having said that, Junger was a junior officer and their job in any army is to be incurably optimistic...

Rising Sun*
04-07-2009, 06:28 AM
Variable. In Storms of Steel is the only one of those that I've read, and he only makes passing references to shortages (mainly of food).

A long time ago when I was a history undergraduate I did an original research paper (which I am smugly pleased to report got first class honours from an eminent scholar on modern German history :)) on food shortages in Germany in WWI and how they contributed to Germany's defeat.

I'm rusty on detail some 35 years later but, even allowing for the military being given food priority, the shortage of food was a constant and increasing problem which sapped civilian and military energy and adversely affected morale in the later years of the war.

Civilian food riots were an increasing problem in Germany in the last year of the war, accentuated by the realisation that the rich were still being fed well while the rest of the population weren't. These deprivations were replicated to some extent in the armed forces.

The primary cause was simply that Germany lacked the ability to produce what it needed. I can't recall the figures but there was a steady decline in food production during the war and in the calories and range of foods available to both civilians and the military.

One of the reasons, which Germany could not overcome by alternative measures, was that in rural Germany women usually worked the farms with the men. That was much less so in Britain, where women were more able to replace male labour taken into the armed forces so that Britain was better able to maintain its food production.

Schuultz
04-07-2009, 06:36 AM
The British contribution is an odd one. Yes, the New Army was committed to battle as early as Loos in late 1915. It was essentially their only significant action prior to the Somme 9 months later, and it should be remembered that the BEF at the time of Loos was still pretty small - only about 20 divisions. By the end of the battle of the Somme, the British had over 50 divisions deployed in that sector alone.
So yes, as far as I'm concerned, WW1 started on the Somme for the British Army.

So you don't count the First Battle of Ypres (1914) into WW1? IIRC, the BEF played an important role in its victory, no matter how small in comparison to the later forces.

I don't think it would be fair to say that the British involvement only really started in 1916.

Nickdfresh
04-07-2009, 09:37 AM
A long time ago when I was a history undergraduate I did an original research paper (which I am smugly pleased to report got first class honours from an eminent scholar on modern German history :)) on food shortages in Germany in WWI and how they contributed to Germany's defeat.

I'm rusty on detail some 35 years later but, even allowing for the military being given food priority, the shortage of food was a constant and increasing problem which sapped civilian and military energy and adversely affected morale in the later years of the war.

Civilian food riots were an increasing problem in Germany in the last year of the war, accentuated by the realisation that the rich were still being fed well while the rest of the population weren't. These deprivations were replicated to some extent in the armed forces.

The primary cause was simply that Germany lacked the ability to produce what it needed. I can't recall the figures but there was a steady decline in food production during the war and in the calories and range of foods available to both civilians and the military.

One of the reasons, which Germany could not overcome by alternative measures, was that in rural Germany women usually worked the farms with the men. That was much less so in Britain, where women were more able to replace male labour taken into the armed forces so that Britain was better able to maintain its food production.

John Keegan made mention in his overview of WWI that even the appearance of the German soldier by 1918 revealed some mild malnutrition as their rations had become increasingly deficient and quality food stuffs were "cut" with basically what were fillers. They had something of a pasty appearance and seemed prone to search for food and of course any alcohol rather than fight when swooping into towns previously held by the British and French...

pdf27
04-07-2009, 10:42 AM
So you don't count the First Battle of Ypres (1914) into WW1? IIRC, the BEF played an important role in its victory, no matter how small in comparison to the later forces.
Not really - the BEF made a minor contribution at places like Mons and Le Cateau in slowing down the German advance, which may have helped the French stop the German advance before it reached Paris. However, the forces involved were so tiny in comparison to those of the rest of the combatants (it really was a contemptible little army, although the troops themselves were first class) that I simply don't count the UK as a major land combatant until the New Armies were able to take to the field.

Cojimar 1945
04-07-2009, 11:11 AM
Based on the figures I have seen, BEF combat deaths on the western front in 1915 alone exceeded US combat deaths in the entire Vietnam war. If we include 1914 and the part of 1916 prior to the Somme, the BEF had probably lost over 85,000 soldiers killed, died of wounds, or permanently missing on the western front. These figures are lower than in subsequent periods but they still seem significant to me.

pdf27
04-07-2009, 12:02 PM
Depends how you look at them. That's roughly the first half of the war (OK, a little under) and the UK/Dominions/Empire suffered a little under 10% of their total casualties for the war.
A more relevant measure would be to compare British, French, Russian and German casualties over that period. I'd bet that the British casualties would be pretty insignificant as a fraction of the whole prior to the Somme.

TheBeam
04-08-2009, 09:36 AM
My emphasis

More like 15,000. 1,500 is barely two battalions.

However, that is divisional strength, which is considerably larger with artillery, support services, etc than the much smaller infantry elements in a division.



Ask, and ye shall receive. :D

http://www.raaf.gov.au/raafzone/html/history/wwI.html

I KNOW 1500 is not a division! I was making a joke that if Austrialian divisions were 1500 men, they were the most kick-*** soldiers ever. ;) Hmmmm....factual error found on internet. I should report it immediately.

Thanks for the summary of the airpower! It does sound like they fielded a very small air force...despite actually having an airforce before the outbreak of the war. I liked the level of detail in the article. Cheers.

TheBeam
04-08-2009, 09:57 AM
Two aspects to that - the "stab in the back" myth and the more pernicious "lions led by donkeys" myth. They're essentially parts of the same myth - that the German army was significantly better than the Allied forces, and only collapsed in the end due to political events at home.
The behaviour on the part of the German Generals is understandable, but what is not understandable is that they were allowed to get away with it. Lloyd George for his part massively did-down the achievement of the BEF as a way to get at Haig, it's commander. Haig's achievement was immense, particularly since prior to him the largest army ever commanded by a British general in battle was by Wellington at Waterloo. Yet Lloyd George intensely disliked him (to the extent of starving him of reinforcements during the German offensive of spring 1918 to limit his freedom of action - thus nearly losing the Allies the war to satisfy a personal dislike) and his memoirs are essentially devoted to slandering the achievements of the BEF in general and Haig in particular.

Ahhh....I see. Well, I'd have to disagree with Haig's achievements being immense. Passable, maybe, but not immense. Lloyd George saw Haig as wasting troops by throwing them into the meatgrinder of futile offensives like Passendale where tens of thousands were killed for no appreciable gain. It was in fact Currie and the Canadians that Haig eventually called upon to deliver a victory at Passendale and save Haig from being fired. Lloyd George rightly saw Haig as wasting troops -- a view that has become much more popular after the war, as Haig was reasonably well respected during the war. Llyod George withholding reinforcements during the spring 1918 offences was due to Haig's previous, poor performance and partly due to George thinking that the war would last into 1919 and 1920 and he was saving the troops for later use.

I think that often Haig is credited with victories provided by his incredibly talented subordinates...men like Currie and Bill Glasglow.

TheBeam
04-08-2009, 10:31 AM
If it hadn't been for the incompetence and lack of boldness of a single general in 1914/15, Paris would have been captured in those two years, most probably leading to the surrender of the French and the retreat of the British.
United, however, the Allied were able to slowly grind down the German army and eventually force them to surrender, though it was the US with its huge resources that broke the German army's back in 1917.


Incompetence and lack of boldness? What general are you referring to? Considering the aggressive doctrines of the time all based around large offensives, a lack of boldness would not be tolerated.

From my understanding, the main problem was the Schlieffen Plan (the main prewar German battle plan that was designed to overcome the fortified frontiers of France and then break the 'great fortress' around Paris -- as the city was surrounded by modern fortifications.

The plan was, from it's inception, unworkable. It required all the German troops at the front and yet also required them to guard the railways, supply network, and occupy Belgium and NW France. Also, no contingency for British resistance was made in the very tight timetable. (And so, the British played an absolutely key role in the early stages of the war -- and this role has been mistakenly downplayed in this thread due to statements about relatively low numbers of casualties instead of stategic impact.)

But the major flaw of the Schlieffen Plan was the right wing of the advance: the plan was modified and called for an additional "8 new corps" in order to succeed in taking Paris...but these corps were to arrive magically as they couldn't possibly march as fast as required to reach their destination in time. Additionally, the road network that they were to march upon was already occupied (read clogged) with existing German troops leading to a traffic jams at a time where speed was of the essence.

Therefore, the whole plan was doomed to failure before the whole show got on the road and couldn't have possibly captured Paris before the British could commit troops that would diffuse the German thrust at the French.

TheBeam
04-08-2009, 10:36 AM
...and the German Armies were not defeated by 30 nations at Verdun...

The German plan at Verdun, I believe, was not to have a strategic victory but a victory of attrition by taking a fortress that had great French nationalistic pride associated with it and so the French would feel duty bound to expend great numbers of troops trying to retake it. It was designed as a battle of attrition and the end result was about 400 000 French casualties...which is significant. Unfortunately, it also cost the Germans about 400 000 casualties and so, while achieving the objective of 'bleeding the French white' it seems more like a draw to me than anything else.

TheBeam
04-08-2009, 11:32 AM
Germany kicked off the war with an attack launched as a strategic surprise - and were stopped dead when the effects of that surprise petered out. ... while Germany, fighting a planned war from a baseline of peacetime conscription, was at the same level of readiness in 1914.

Yes, the Allied material and industrial superiority made their eventual victory assured in a pure war of attrition - but that wasn't the case with WW1. The German army was ground down by Allied victories on the field of battle, to the point where it eventually collapsed.

A good example of this is the capture of the Hindenberg line in 1918. The allied forces (principally British & Imperial) blew through it in a matter of days - but were convinced that the defences were so strong that had the Germans of 1916 been manning it they could have died of old age holding it.


And? All that does is demonstrate stupidity on the part of the Germans for attacking a group of nations stronger than they are!


I think it's important to note the Germany was drawn into the conflict that became WWI as a result of prewar treaties. Germany was not aggressor nor the instigator of the war but honoured their strategic alliances and that is why they fought.

The strategic surprise...being the Blitzkrieg?? lol. Assuming it was attacking through Belgium...as I posted earlier, this WAS the reason they were stopped dead...not the 'petering out of the effect of the surprise'. And given the weeks of buildup before the war...it could hardly be called a surprise attack.

In August, 1914, the Germans had 98 regular divisions, Austria-Hungary had 48 for a total of 146 divisions in the field.

The Allies had: Russia = 102, France = 72, Serbia = 11, Belgium = 7 and BEF = 6. Total = 212.

However, the Russian divisons were so weak and poorly outfitted in stark contrast to the high level of German training, equipment and leadership that I'd say the forces were very evenly matched at the outbreak of the war. (If you disagree, then maybe the first 3 years of fighting wasn't a statemate.) So instead of " stupidity on the part of the Germans for attacking a group of nations stronger than they are!" I would substitute, "Germans honouring treaties causing them to attack a group of nations not significantly weaker than they are."

Germany and Austria also had a significant logistical advantage with their rail network able to deliver troops quickly to key locations.

FYI, all armies except the British practiced peacetime conscription in 1914.

The Belligerents also produced 2 million more metric tons of steel than the Allies in 1914 (17 vs. 15). So the material and industrial advantage was that supposedly ensured the Belligerent defeat was only greatly shifted well after the war was underway when the U.S. entered the war. Also, the blockade and stranglehold of the landlocked nations was significant in weakening the industrial output as the war progressed.

The US joining the war was significant in breaking down the German morale, far more on a psychological level than on the battlefield -- and in combination with the limited rations the Germans had (starving troops) the German army had indeed begun to rot in 1918.

TheBeam
04-08-2009, 11:46 AM
Whenever I read any German soldier's memories (including fiction like "All Quiet on the Western Front") you read about their frustration that they don't have enough food and their artillery being overused, with the barrels growing more and more inaccurate and unreliable, as they couldn't get replaced.
I don't know how this sounds to you, but to me that sounds very much like the results of attrition.

Food shortages were very common for German troops. However, all sides suffered greatly from artillery being overused. See, massive, very intense barrages were essential to cover advancing infantry by keeping the enemy troops in shelters and therefore not shooting the advancing troops. These intense barrages required large amounts of shells fired from guns in a very short period of time. The result of such rapid firing was the melting of gun barrrels, which of course, threw off the accuracy of the shells (mostly making shells fall short).

One favourite story regarding food shortages: The Canadians, seeing that the Germans were so hard up for food, were sick to death of their tough, dreaded bully beef. So they decided to throw some of their rations to the Germans. The Germans would swarm the food and the Canadians would shout complaints about having to eat the same damn food everyday and please, eat this crap. They'd then throw more cans of bully beef. Then even more. Finally, they'd throw grenades which landed amongst the unsuspecting Germans with a similar thud to the beef cans. Then the Germans weren't hungry anymore.

pdf27
04-08-2009, 12:22 PM
Ahhh....I see. Well, I'd have to disagree with Haig's achievements being immense. Passable, maybe, but not immense.
He is and remains the ONLY British General to defeat the main power of a continental enemy on the field of battle. Before him (and with the arguable exception of Sir John French, who was clearly out of his depth in the job) the largest army previously commanded by a British General had been that under Wellington at Waterloo. This in the midst of a technological revolution unsurpassed since the introduction of Gunpowder which also left him unable to exercise timely command and control of his subordinates while leaving the weapons of defence superior to those of attack. In this situation he had to fight and win an offensive war of attrition (the Germans being on occupied territory had no incentive to come and attack him). The fact that he went and did so, while fighting a coalition war of a size unsurpassed in British history (before or since) and while experiencing massive technological change is an outstanding achievement.
To look at it another way, who else can his achievements be compared to? The list is very, very short - Eisenhower and Foch are his only peers, with Eisenhower coming a very poor third.


Lloyd George saw Haig as wasting troops by throwing them into the meatgrinder of futile offensives like Passendale where tens of thousands were killed for no appreciable gain.
If so, then Lloyd George was even more of a moron than I've given him credit for. The entire Allied grand strategy for the war was to use their superiority in manpower and resources (thanks to the RN blockade of Germany) to fight and win a war of attrition with Germany, and this came about once the front solidified in late 1914 and it became evident that a breakthrough would not be possible. That given, the role of the Allied armies on the Western Front was to fight offensive battles of attrition in order to wear down the German armies in the field.
And there was a very clear gain at Passchendaele - not measured in the number of acres of shell-torn mud of little value (not none however - the high ground conferred major advantages in artillery observation to those who had it, thus supporting the allied higher command's intention of attriting the German army. Lloyd George will have understood this perfectly - so if he later claimed that Haig was wasting troops in these attacks then frankly he's an out and out liar, which I can perfectly well believe.


It was in fact Currie and the Canadians that Haig eventually called upon to deliver a victory at Passendale and save Haig from being fired.
Not exactly - Passchendaele itself needed to be taken in order to provide the British with a defensible line once the operation was over - and it only took as long as it did due to the unexpected weather. Lloyd George tried repeatedly to fire Haig, and failed each time for two very good reasons:
1) The rest of the cabinet disagreed
2) There was nobody remotely capable of replacing him


Lloyd George rightly saw Haig as wasting troops -- a view that has become much more popular after the war, as Haig was reasonably well respected during the war.
To be exact, it has become much more popular as the very troops he is accused of butchering died off. An excellent example is Alan Clarke's book The Donkeys, one of the first to accuse Haig and his subordinates of being incompetent butchers (as distinct from viewing WW1 as a tragic waste, a view that itself didn't take off until the 1930s and the great depression), which came out in 1965. By then, of course, the majority of the troops who served under Haig would be dead or in their dotage.
To give you an idea of just how well thought of by the troops Haig was, look at the history of the Royal British Legion. For a long time (until about 1990 in fact!) the poppies sold in England and Wales had "Haig Fund" on the centre, and Haig only took the role after a great deal of prodding from the ex-service organisations (and after they agreed to all merge together - he was well aware of the need to put pressure on the Government in later years!).


Llyod George withholding reinforcements during the spring 1918 offences was due to Haig's previous, poor performance and partly due to George thinking that the war would last into 1919 and 1920 and he was saving the troops for later use.
That says two things:
1) Lloyd George was out of touch with reality - Haig was doing significantly better than anyone else at his level of command.
2) He also had no concept of military operations - since there is both no sensible way of rationing troops (the more you use, the less you lose) and the Allies came close to losing the war due to this very lack of troops. Indeed, there is a fair bit of truth to the assertion that Haig holding his nerve while Gough lost it is what saved the day for the British in summer 1918.


I think that often Haig is credited with victories provided by his incredibly talented subordinates...men like Currie and Bill Glasglow.
Of course he is. That is both their job and his. Ultimately, however, as the Commander in Chief of the BEF their successes or failures were Haig's responsibility. I notice you're quick to place the blame for failures by his subordinates on Haig (Passchendaele, the Somme) - so why should credit for his successes not go to him too?
Secondly, and rather obviously, Haig was also responsible for appointing these men in the first place....

Schuultz
04-08-2009, 01:00 PM
And there was a very clear gain at Passchendaele - not measured in the number of acres of shell-torn mud of little value (not none however - the high ground conferred major advantages in artillery observation to those who had it, thus supporting the allied higher command's intention of attriting the German army. Lloyd George will have understood this perfectly - so if he later claimed that Haig was wasting troops in these attacks then frankly he's an out and out liar, which I can perfectly well believe.

So you think the gains made up the losses? It sure doesn't seem that way to me...


Not exactly - Passchendaele itself needed to be taken in order to provide the British with a defensible line once the operation was over - and it only took as long as it did due to the unexpected weather. Lloyd George tried repeatedly to fire Haig, and failed each time for two very good reasons:
1) The rest of the cabinet disagreed
2) There was nobody remotely capable of replacing him

Well, but maybe this one would have finally lead the cabinet to agree. And there's always an alternative.


To be exact, it has become much more popular as the very troops he is accused of butchering died off. An excellent example is Alan Clarke's book The Donkeys, one of the first to accuse Haig and his subordinates of being incompetent butchers (as distinct from viewing WW1 as a tragic waste, a view that itself didn't take off until the 1930s and the great depression), which came out in 1965. By then, of course, the majority of the troops who served under Haig would be dead or in their dotage.
To give you an idea of just how well thought of by the troops Haig was, look at the history of the Royal British Legion. For a long time (until about 1990 in fact!) the poppies sold in England and Wales had "Haig Fund" on the centre, and Haig only took the role after a great deal of prodding from the ex-service organisations (and after they agreed to all merge together - he was well aware of the need to put pressure on the Government in later years!).

Soldiers - or people in general - tend to glorify people that lead them to victory, no matter whether it could have been done better or not. We're not arguing that Britain didn't win under his command, but we do argue that he did a poor job at it, anyway.

The German monarchy counted on the exact same principle: They noticed that the Social Democrats were growing ever stronger in their parliament, and they didn't want to be forced to give up too much power. So when the war came along, they saw it as an opportunity to bring people back on their side through a victory. Just putting that out there...

pdf27
04-08-2009, 02:42 PM
And so, the British played an absolutely key role in the early stages of the war -- and this role has been mistakenly downplayed in this thread due to statements about relatively low numbers of casualties instead of stategic impact.
I assume you're talking about me here. I've already mentioned Mons and Le Cateau. The reality is that the troops involved were a mere handful, and that French troops in the same place would have done nearly as well. The fact that the British were there was all about their proximity to the Channel Ports and the strategic suprise achieved by the Germans pulling most of the French out of position. Essentially I am not persuaded either that the delay caused by these battles was enough to make the difference at the Marne, or indeed that had the British not been there at all these battles would never have been fought with the results experienced.


I think it's important to note the Germany was drawn into the conflict that became WWI as a result of prewar treaties. Germany was not aggressor nor the instigator of the war but honoured their strategic alliances and that is why they fought.
Ummm.... the official Casus Belli was that the Germans were honouring their treaty commitments. However, events were very clearly also manipulated by the Germans to produce such a war (e.g. their giving the Austro-Hungarians the green light to hand over such a provocative ultimatum), and there is some evidence that they had been planning exactly the war they eventually fought for at least a decade. Fritz Fischer, for instance, has produced some highly persuasive work arguing that Germany was running headlong into WW1 from about 1900 onwards.


The strategic surprise...being the Blitzkrieg?? lol. Assuming it was attacking through Belgium...as I posted earlier, this WAS the reason they were stopped dead...not the 'petering out of the effect of the surprise'. And given the weeks of buildup before the war...it could hardly be called a surprise attack.
Note that I said STRATEGIC surprise, not TACTICAL surprise. The timing of the war was a strategic surprise (Germany was fully mobilized for war on both a military and industrial level, her enemies were not yet - but were rapidly getting there). The attack through Belgium was also a surprise (although it should not have been), leaving the French fortifications and troops out of position.


I'd say the forces were very evenly matched at the outbreak of the war. (If you disagree, then maybe the first 3 years of fighting wasn't a statemate.) So instead of " stupidity on the part of the Germans for attacking a group of nations stronger than they are!" I would substitute, "Germans honouring treaties causing them to attack a group of nations not significantly weaker than they are."
In an industrialised total war (which any prolonged European conflict would inevitably become, as far back as the end of the Napoleonic wars) the number of divisions available at the start of the war doesn't mean a lot. Unless the disparity was big enough to allow for a quick victory, it is the industrial base that matters. That is a measure of the available workforce, capital, raw materials (both domestic and importable) and installed industrial capacity. The RN gives the Entente powers a massive advantage here, and means that in any extended war unless the Germans can break the blockade (something they were never strong enough to do) or impose an effective counter-blockade (something guaranteed to bring the US into the war) that is one Germany can do nothing about.


Germany and Austria also had a significant logistical advantage with their rail network able to deliver troops quickly to key locations.
Which helps them at the start of the war - but railway lines can be built quickly, so that isn't a significant advantage in a prolonged one.


FYI, all armies except the British practiced peacetime conscription in 1914.
Good lord, this appears to be a flash of the blindingly obvious. I think you mean "the major European armies" did - the US and Commonwealth/Empire countries didn't either.


The Belligerents also produced 2 million more metric tons of steel than the Allies in 1914 (17 vs. 15). So the material and industrial advantage was that supposedly ensured the Belligerent defeat was only greatly shifted well after the war was underway when the U.S. entered the war. Also, the blockade and stranglehold of the landlocked nations was significant in weakening the industrial output as the war progressed.
Hardly - the UK for instance was able to freely import steel (indeed, finished munitions) from day 1 of the war. The very nature of the mobilization system in any case renders prewar production figures irrelevant - any form of mobilization will remove men from the factories and so reduce production, and how it is handled will have a massive impact on output.
Indeed, the food crisis experienced in Germany was in large part down to the way in which farm labourers and railway staff were mobilized - thus cutting down on both food production and distribution.


The US joining the war was significant in breaking down the German morale, far more on a psychological level than on the battlefield -- and in combination with the limited rations the Germans had (starving troops) the German army had indeed begun to rot in 1918.
Agreed - although I would go further and state that the majority of the effect of US entry to the was was Psychological and Financial rather than military.

pdf27
04-08-2009, 03:06 PM
So you think the gains made up the losses? It sure doesn't seem that way to me...
You're suffering from a classic case of "the other side of the hill", looking at the sufferings and tribulations of the British army. Instead, you need to look at the effect of the battles on the German army. It was bled very badly in 1916 at Verdun and the Somme (with no less a personage than Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria pointing out at the time that by the end of that battle the German Army had expended all of it's first class prewar infantry, and as for Passchendaele, just read Junger on the battle. From his viewpoint (a German junior officer) the Germans were getting absolutely hammered by the allies and suffering badly, and only managed to hang on due to attacks not being pressed home (a symptom of the poor comms of the time).


Soldiers - or people in general - tend to glorify people that lead them to victory, no matter whether it could have been done better or not. We're not arguing that Britain didn't win under his command, but we do argue that he did a poor job at it, anyway.
Ummm... how many soldiers do you know? The ones I know (including myself for that matter) are far more intersted in a high command that cares about their welfare and won't get them killed unnecessarily. Glory is a nebulous concept that Civvies revere and soldiers generally care little for - particularly citizen soldiers.

Schuultz
04-08-2009, 03:20 PM
Ummm... how many soldiers do you know? The ones I know (including myself for that matter) are far more intersted in a high command that cares about their welfare and won't get them killed unnecessarily. Glory is a nebulous concept that Civvies revere and soldiers generally care little for - particularly citizen soldiers.

You got me there. I don't know any soldiers who were on the winning side in either World War.:mrgreen:

However, I've read plenty of soldiers testimonies from 19th century, mainly French, Austrian and Prussian, and that's the conclusion I got to. Of course most of these were written by soldiers who wrote their biographies 20, sometimes 30 years after the war(s), so maybe that's something that comes with the time?

Just out of curiosity: How many soldiers who served under Haig did you know?

pdf27
04-08-2009, 03:38 PM
None personally, although as far as I can work out a couple of great uncles did but died before I was born. My grandfather doesn't talk about them much, but they were the right age and aren't in the CWGC records.
What I have done, however, is had both firsthand indoctrination in the British army's collated experience of what motivates men in battle (e.g. a lecture I had at Sandhurst from the guy who commanded CIMIC house in Al Amarah when things were getting very hot indeed out there) and my own experience of what drives people on (not from actual war, but as close as they could manage).

Cojimar 1945
04-09-2009, 01:28 AM
Even when the BEF was most heavily engaged on the western front their casualties do not approach the worst losses of the French and French colonials who had around 340,000 men killed on the western front in 1915 alone.

Wouldn't the Gallipolli campaign also count as a major battle for the British and dominion forces?

Rising Sun*
04-09-2009, 06:26 AM
Wouldn't the Gallipolli campaign also count as a major battle for the British and dominion forces?

It certainly was a major campaign so far as casaulties were concerned.

Casualty figures vary depending upon which source you use. The following figures are the upper ones, which may be up to about 10% to even 20% higher than the lower ones.

About 26,000 Britons were killed; about 8,500 Australians; about 2,500 New Zealanders; and about 1,300 Indians, along with much smaller numbers from other parts of the British Empire.

What is often overlooked, or even unknown, to many many in Britain and the dominions is that France's dead and casualties were about the same as Australia's.

So, again as with other aspects of WWI, it was a combined operation which, as perhaps too often happens with Anglo-centric histories, tends to ignore or understate the French contribution.

Indeed, in popular culture in Australia and New Zealand, where Gallipoli was and is hugely significant for all sorts of reasons to do with establishing and reinforcing national identity, most people have little or no knowledge of the British contribution, let alone the French one.

On a different aspect, would the army and naval forces and related resources committed to Gallipoli from the end of April 1915 to the withdrawal aroound the end of the year have made any useful difference if committed to the Western Front during the same period?

pdf27
04-09-2009, 06:56 AM
Probably not - the land forces involved were just too small, and the naval forces couldn't really be used anywhere else anyway.

I suspect they could probably have usefully been committed to supporting an advance from say Egypt northwards however, or in Mesopotamia. The Dardanelles were just too hard a nut to crack with the technology of the time.

Rising Sun*
04-09-2009, 07:45 AM
Probably not - the land forces involved were just too small, and the naval forces couldn't really be used anywhere else anyway.

I suspect they could probably have usefully been committed to supporting an advance from say Egypt northwards however, or in Mesopotamia. The Dardanelles were just too hard a nut to crack with the technology of the time.

Taking the opposite view, if the forces originally determined as necessary for Gallipoli, which from distant memory I think were approaching about twice what was actually used, had been applied, would that have weakened the Western Front to a dangerous degree?

And assuming that the larger force at Gallipoli would have beaten the Turks and opened the Dardanelles, which it probably would have (or which the forces actually used could or should have done if better led and co-ordinated) and opened the route to Russia, would that have significantly altered the course of the war as intended?

Cojimar 1945
04-13-2009, 01:14 PM
One breakdown of BEF combat deaths on the western front by year gives the following figures (1914-17,174), (1915-66,415), (1916-150,131), (1917-190,015) and 1918-162,613. One of the most-reliable sources on BEF casualties seems to be the book Medical Services: Casualties and Medical Statistics from 1931. This source gives a lower figure for combat deaths but it only mentions the categories killed in action and died of wounds so perhaps it excludes guys who were missing in action.

Cojimar 1945
04-21-2009, 12:14 AM
If defense was so superior to offense in this period how do people account for Caporetto and the Brusilov Offensive?

Schuultz
04-21-2009, 08:04 AM
If defense was so superior to offense in this period how do people account for Caporetto and the Brusilov Offensive?

Of course there were offensives, but pdf definitely has a point. The armies of the world had heavy machine guns, mines, barbed wire and artillery for defense, but were using almost exclusively infantry and cavalry with bolt-action rifles, supported by artillery, for offensives - that the defender has a distinct advantage is pretty obvious.

TheBeam
04-21-2009, 12:05 PM
If defense was so superior to offense in this period how do people account for Caporetto and the Brusilov Offensive?

How easy is this going to be? Caporetto, also known as "the 12th Battle of Isonzo" (shall I stop here?) had the Italian defences fairly effectively neutralized by a heavy mist which allowed the Germans a significant element of surprise. And the mist prevented the machine guns (defence) from neutralizing the advancing infantry (the offence). As a result of this, and also the use of on an new innovation of storm troop tractics...which took from 1914 to 1916 to develop (Caporetto being in Oct. 1917, if memory serves) to break the defensive lines. And the Italian morale was suffering heavily already from attrition in the trenches which helped the Germans breakthrough. Ummmm...and 12th battle, does that sound like defences caved on the first go?

On to the Brusilov Offensive. This is the first battle where Russians utilized to Storm Troops/Shock tactics instead of the bloody 'human wave' formations that they used before AND afterwards with limited success. Any battle with over 1.5 million casaulties I don't can be held up as a glowing example of superior offensive power. Besides, the length of the frontline and types of defences on the Eastern front were far more diffused and not nearly the same as the powerful trench networks of the Western front....and so the defences were weaker here than almost every other major front. Oh, and the Russians had more men. Still, I think Russia suffered around half a million casualties-- ahhh, to be the victor in the Great War.